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[Mission 2024] Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 27 April 2024

 

NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same

 

Answer the following questions in 150 words:


General Studies – 1


 

1. India’s contributions play a vital role in sustaining the efficiency and effectiveness of the global shipping industry. Discuss.

Reference: The Hindu , Insights on India

Introduction

India has a coastline that is more than 7,517 km long, interspersed with more than 200 ports. Most cargo ships that sail between East Asia and America, Europe, and Africa pass through Indian territorial waters. The ports sector in India is being driven by high growth in external trade.

Amid rising safety concerns among Indian seafarers following the recent attacks on commercial ships in sensitive geographical areas such as the Red Sea and the Strait of Hormuz, India submitted three papers to the 111th Session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Legal Committee (LEG).

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Contributions of India to the Global Shipping Industry:

  • Seafarers:
    • India ranks third globally in providing seafarers, following China and the Philippines.
    • Indian seafarers constitute nearly 10% of the global maritime workforce.
    • Their presence on both domestic and foreign ships makes them globally dispersed.
  • Shipbuilding:
    • India has a significant shipbuilding industry, contributing to the global fleet.
    • The country’s shipyards construct various types of vessels, including cargo ships, tankers, and offshore platforms.
  • Port Operations:
    • India handles approximately 95% of its external trade by volume through ports.
    • The country has 12 major and over 200 minor and intermediate ports.
    • Efforts are underway to develop six new mega ports under the Sagarmala initiative.
  • Maritime Services and Logistics:
    • India’s ports and shipping sector plays a crucial role in economic progress.
    • The sector contributes significantly to trade, transportation, and logistics services.
    • Initiatives like mechanization, deepening drafts, and efficient operations enhance performance.

Major Issues Faced by Indian Shipping Industry:

  • Infrastructure Challenges:
    • Inadequate port infrastructure, outdated facilities, and equipment lead to congestion and inefficiencies.
    • Investment in modernization and expansion is essential.
  • Container Shortage:
    • Persistent scarcity of shipping containers affects trade.
    • Measures to increase container availability are crucial.
  • Regulatory Hurdles:
    • Cumbersome regulations impact efficiency.
    • Streamlining processes and reducing bureaucratic hurdles are necessary.
  • Skill Gap:
    • Bridging the gap in technical skills and technology adoption is vital.
    • Training programs and skill development initiatives can address this challenge.

Measures Needed to Overcome Challenges:

  • Investment in Infrastructure:
    • Develop and upgrade port facilities, terminals, and inland transportation networks.
    • Enhance connectivity to improve cargo handling efficiency.
  • Operational Efficiency:
    • Mechanize port operations, deepen drafts, and ensure timely evacuations.
    • Implement the Major Port Authorities Bill for decentralized decision-making.
  • Private Participation and FDI:
    • Encourage private investment in shipping and port infrastructure.
    • Attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost capacity and competitiveness.
  • Technology Adoption:
    • Leverage digital solutions for tracking, tracing, and efficient logistics management.
    • Enhance communication and coordination across the supply chain.

Way Forward:

  • Capacity Building:
    • Invest in expanding port capacities.
    • Develop new mega ports to accommodate growing trade volumes.
  • Sustainable Practices:
    • Promote eco-friendly shipping practices.
    • Focus on ship recycling and green initiatives.
  • Collaboration and Innovation:
    • Foster partnerships with global players.
    • Encourage research and innovation in maritime technology.
  • Government Support:
    • Continue policy reforms and ease regulatory processes.
    • Ensure a conducive environment for growth.

Conclusion

India’s shipping industry has immense potential. By addressing challenges, embracing technology, and fostering collaboration, we can propel the sector toward sustained growth and global prominence.

 

2. The increased dumping of waste in landfills poses several issues that need to be addressed promptly. Examine.

Reference: Hindustan TimesInsights on India

Introduction

A landfill site is a site for the disposal of waste materials and is the oldest and most common form of waste disposal. The landfill sites in India are not scientifically planned. The efficiency of waste processing is only 30-40%, while India’s municipalities are collecting over 95% of the waste generated in cities.

A thick cloud of smoke continued to billow out of the Ghazipur landfill site, enveloping the surrounding areas in east Delhi, after a portion of the country’s largest garbage dumpsite — which holds at least 8.4 million tonnes of waste — caught fire on Sunday evening.

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Challenges posed by landfills in India

  • The wastes are not segregated due to which the landfill sites receive mixed wastes which include organic waste/ignitable material/plastics. (Higher temperature + flammable material = a chance for the landfill to catch fire.)
  • In India, more than 90% of the MSW generated finds its way to landfill sites, often in the most unhygienic manner possible. The landfilling process of the municipalities is the most unorganized one.
  • The landfills are meant for reducing the exposure between humans and the environment from toxic waste but it takes a toll on humans as we are exposed to the problems associated with the waste directly i.e from the soil and groundwater pollution. There are concerns regarding the flow of toxins in the food chain of birds and animals, fires and explosions, vegetation damage, unpleasant odor, landfill settlement, groundwater pollution, air pollution and global warming.
  • The disposal of these toxic chemicals leads to the exposure of rag pickers to these chemicals. The rag picker’s only means of income is by collecting waste but they are not aware of the fact that this waste will be toxic for them, their health as well as their surrounding.
  • The anaerobic decomposition (breakdown of organic waste in the absence of oxygen) generates methane gas and heat. As soon as the methane gas comes in contact with oxygen, the combustible materials at the dumping site catch fire easily.
  • The health problems related to various emissions from landfills include high PM10 exposure, breathing problems, bacterial infections, asthma, elevated cardiovascular risk, and other infections.
  • In India scenario, open dumps are highly prevailing which causes the breeding of mosquitoes, flies, rats, cockroaches, and other pests. Some diseases are very common in the population living near the landfill site such as plague, histoplasmosis, murine typhus, malaria, dengue, West Nile fever, etc. as they are caused by the pests breeding in the landfills.

Way forward

  • proper disciplinary action should be taken against officials who are responsible for management of municipal waste in the area. This will set a good precedent for future.
  • State governments should provide adequate funds to local bodies so that they can take requisite measures to tackle the creation of giant landfills.
  • States must also learn from good practices of each other to tackle the menace of landfills. For instance, the Delhi Government has agreed to study a system installed in Mumbai to capture methane from the rotting waste and replicate it in the national capital to prevent fires at the landfill site.
  • India also has to develop skilled and trained professionals to operate and maintain the entire waste management chain. Right from the collection, operation and maintenance of waste-handling plants.
  • There should be proper implementation of Solid Waste Management and Plastic Waste Management Rules so that less waste flows into landfills.
  • The idea of a circular economy should be promoted in masses. Further, the government should do greater procurement of recycled goods for itself in order to incentivise the private sector.

Conclusion

The menace of landfills is a result of decades of poor solid waste management practices adopted by the Governments and the masses. The rising number of landfill fires is a testimony to the huge magnitude of damage that a big landfill site can cause to the citizens. It is therefore imperative to take proactive measures towards their reduction and help in achievement of SDG 15 (Life on Land).

 


General Studies – 2


 

3. The Sovereign Gold Scheme (SGS) aims to provide an alternate avenue for individuals to invest in gold while also mobilizing idle gold held by households and institutions. Critically analyse.

Reference: Live MintInsights on India

Introduction

The Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) scheme, launched by the Government of India in 2015, offers a unique way to invest in gold.  The sovereign gold bond was introduced by the Government in 2015. Government introduced these bonds to help reduce India’s over dependence on gold imports. The move was also aimed at changing the habits of Indians from saving in physical form of gold to a paper form with Sovereign backing.

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Salient Features

  • Interest Payment:
    • Investors receive a fixed annual interest rate (currently 2.50%) on their SGB investment.
    • Interest is credited semi-annually, ensuring regular returns.
  • Paper and Demat Format:
    • SGBs are available in paper and demat formats.
    • No worries about physical storage or locker fees.
  • Tax Benefits:
    • No TDS on interest received.
    • Indexation benefit on transfer before maturity.
    • Capital gains tax exemption on redemption after maturity.
  • Sovereign Guarantee:
    • Backed by the government, ensuring safety.
    • Guaranteed redemption amount and interest.
  • Minimum Investment:
    • Individual can start with just 1 gram of gold.

Successes of the scheme

  • Reduced import bills & CAD
    • The net result is that India’s economy has benefitted, as has the individual investor.
    • The country’s import bill for gold today is lower to the extent that people are willing to hold SGBs instead of the actual metal, thereby reducing both our external sector vulnerability and our current account deficit.
  • Financial Inclusion:
    • Encourages small investors to participate in gold markets.
    • Widens the investor base beyond traditional buyers.
  • Interest Earnings:
    • Regular interest payments enhance returns.
    • Provides an alternative to idle gold holdings.
  • Safety and Convenience:
    • Retail investors can count on another asset class to diversify their holdings.
    • Eliminates storage risks and costs.
    • Holding certificate in your name.
  • Tax Efficiency:
    • No TDS on interest.
    • Exemption from capital gains tax on redemption.

Limitations:

  • Maturity Period:
    • 8-year tenure may discourage some investors.
    • However, it prevents short-term volatility.
  • Market Price Dependency:
    • Bond value linked to international gold prices.
    • Possibility of capital loss if gold prices decline.
  • Liquidity Constraints:
    • Not as liquid as physical gold or ETFs.
    • Cannot be easily traded in the secondary market.

Way Forward

  • Awareness Campaigns:
    • Educate investors about SGB benefits.
    • Promote its role in diversifying portfolios.
  • Flexible Maturity Options:
    • Introduce shorter tenures for risk-averse investors.
    • Allow partial redemptions.
  • Secondary Market Development:
    • Enhance liquidity by encouraging trading.
    • Create a vibrant SGB market.

Conclusion

The Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme bridges the gap between gold and financial markets. With continued awareness and refinements, it can play a pivotal role in India’s investment landscape.

 


General Studies – 3


 

4. Implementing policies and measures to expand the direct tax base should be a priority for India’s fiscal and economic policymakers. Discuss.

Reference: Live MintInsights on India

Introduction

Direct taxes are levied on a person’s or a firm’s income or wealth. Social objective of direct tax is the distribution of income. Direct tax includes corporate tax and personal income tax. Data released on Sunday showed that its net direct tax collections in 2023-24 hit ₹19.58 trillion, up 17.7% from 2022-23. The figure exceeded what was initially budgeted on this account by ₹1.35 trillion and the revised figure mentioned in the interim budget by ₹13,000 crore.

Despite the government’s several attempts at simplifying direct taxes, much more needs to be achieved in this direction in comparison to developed countries.

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Importance of widening and simplifying direct tax net in India

  • India is trapped between the very poor countries that get a lot of foreign aid and the wealthy ones with very strong tax collections;
  • the tax collected for every unit of economic output in India was minuscule compared to other countries;
  • The overall boost to tax collections helps in decreasing income inequalities and the Indian state will be in a better position to perform its key duties without running into repeated fiscal crises.
  • A further increase in the share of direct taxes will help the government to lower regressive indirect taxes that impose a significant burden on the poor.
  • This means a shift from a regressive to a progressive tax system.
  • As of 2021, Gross tax to GDP in India is around 10.2% in 2021. A greater tax to GDP ratio indicates that the government can cast a wider fiscal net.
  • A widening tax pool means the current system in which efficient firms are taxed at a high rate because inefficient firms manage to slip outside the tax system will end.
  • Higher direct taxes could provide space for significant cuts in indirect taxes such as the goods and services tax, which in effect means a shift from a regressive to a progressive tax system.
  • Direct taxes constitute an important source of government revenue. Their collection charges are also low.
  • A direct tax increases the civic sense of the people. When the people are fully aware of the payment of taxes, they are also conscious of the way the government spends the money.
  • Better socio-economic fabric leads to decrease in crime rates and productive communities leading to overall prosperity and economic growth.

Way forward

  • The share of direct taxes in total tax collections must go up as indirect taxes are relatively regressive.
  • Making compliance easy and taking tough action against evaders.
  • The government must raise the income threshold for the maximum marginal income tax rate of 30%, rather than lower the tax rate.
  • India’s corporate tax rate must come down to below 20%, to ASEAN levels if it wants to maintain its stature as an attractive investment destination.
  • It will create an incentive for individuals to incorporate their businesses and become more transparent.
  • Reforms must aim at doubling the tax collections by the Centre and the states combined.
  • The government must address the delay in drafting direct tax code.

 

5. Solar and wind energy have immense potential in India, but they also come with limitations. Critically examine.

Reference: Live Mint

Introduction

India is blessed with abundant solar energy potential, receiving nearly 3000 hours of sunshine annually. Most parts of the country receive 4-7 kWh per sq. m per day. India’s wind energy potential is substantial, especially in states like Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The government set an ambitious target of 175 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2022, with 100 GW from solar energy. India also aims to achieve 500 GW of non-fossil electricity capacity by 2030, with around 300 GW contributed by solar energy.

As of now, the installed solar energy capacity is approximately 60% of the target. Whereas, Wind and solar together constituted 92% of India’s capacity additions to power generation in 2022.

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Challenges in Scaling Up Solar Energy:

  • Intermittency: Solar energy production depends on sunlight availability, making it intermittent.
  • Land Requirement: Large-scale solar installations need significant land, which can be a challenge in densely populated areas.
  • Grid Integration: Integrating solar power into the existing grid requires robust infrastructure.
  • Initial Investment Costs: Setting up solar plants involves substantial upfront costs.
  • Resource Variability: Solar energy generation varies based on weather conditions and time of day.

Overcoming Challenges:

  • Energy Storage: Develop efficient energy storage solutions (such as batteries) to mitigate intermittency.
  • Hybrid Systems: Combine solar with other renewable sources (like wind) to ensure continuous power supply.
  • Innovative Financing Models: Encourage private investment through innovative financing mechanisms.
  • Smart Grids: Implement smart grids for efficient integration and distribution of solar power.
  • Research and Development: Invest in R&D to improve solar cell efficiency and reduce costs.

Challenges in Scaling Up Wind Energy:

  • Land Availability: Wind farms require significant land, which can be scarce.
  • Grid Integration: Ensuring seamless integration into the grid is essential.
  • Initial Investment: High upfront costs deter investors.
  • Resource Variability: Wind energy generation depends on wind speed variations.

Solutions:

  • Repowering: Upgrade outdated wind farms with modern technology.
  • Generation-Based Incentives: Encourage wind power generation through incentives.
  • Assess Wind Potential: Reevaluate India’s wind potential for better planning.
  • Renewable Energy Zones: Develop competitive zones for wind energy projects.

Way Forward:

  • Policy Support: Strengthen policies to attract investment and promote renewable energy.
  • Research and Innovation: Invest in R&D for advanced solar and wind technologies.
  • Public Awareness: Educate citizens about the benefits of renewable energy.
  • Collaboration: Foster international partnerships for knowledge sharing.

Conclusion

India’s transition to clean energy is both a challenge and an opportunity. By leveraging technology, investing in research, and addressing limitations, we can achieve a sustainable future powered by solar and wind energy.

 

Answer the following questions in 250 words(15 marks each):


General Studies – 1


 

6. How do the interconnected elements of land, food, and water shape economic activity in the context of climate change? Discuss strategies can be implemented to address these intersections and promote sustainable economic development.

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

The intricate web of land, food, and water is fundamental to human survival and well-being. Climate change disrupts this delicate balance, affecting availability, access, and utilization of these vital resources.

As the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts a hotter summer and longer heat waves from April to June, India must also prepare for water stress.

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Impact of Climate Change on Land, Food, and Water:

  • Food Availability and Productivity:
    • Rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns directly impact crop yields.
    • Extreme events like droughts, floods, and storms disrupt agricultural production.
    • Statistics: Agricultural productivity has slowed due to climate change, affecting food availability.
  • Water Scarcity and Quality:
    • Changing climate affects water availability and distribution.
    • Water scarcity reduces crop irrigation and livestock needs.
    • Statistics: Nearly 2.4 billion people live in water-stressed countries.
  • Food Security and Nutrition:
    • Climate-induced crop failures lead to food shortages.
    • Nutrient content in crops may decline due to elevated CO2 levels.
    • Statistics: In 2020, 770 million people faced hunger, predominantly in Africa and Asia.

Strategies to Overcome Climate Change Impact:

  • Climate-Resilient Agricultural Practices:
    • Adopt drought-tolerant crop varieties and sustainable farming techniques.
    • Promote agroforestry and soil conservation practices.
    • Statistics: Indigenous communities’ traditional knowledge-based practices show resilience against climate change.
  • Transition to Renewable Energy Sources:
    • Reduce emissions from agriculture and food supply chains.
    • Promote solar-powered irrigation and energy-efficient processing.
    • Statistics: Agriculture accounts for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Integrated Water Resource Management:
    • Optimize water use through efficient irrigation systems.
    • Protect watersheds and enhance water quality.
    • Statistics: Agriculture consumes 70% of global freshwater withdrawals.
  • Promote Food Security and Nutrition:
    • Reduce food waste and improve distribution systems.
    • Enhance access to diverse and nutritious diets.
    • Statistics: Cutting food waste by 25% could feed 900 million people.

Way Forward

  • Holistic Policies and Partnerships:
    • Integrate land, water, and food policies.
    • Collaborate across sectors and engage local communities.
  • Invest in Research and Innovation:
    • Develop climate-resilient crop varieties.
    • Explore climate-smart technologies.
  • Empower Smallholders and Indigenous Communities:
    • Support capacity-building and knowledge exchange.
    • Strengthen community-based adaptation strategies.

Conclusion

A coordinated effort involving science, policy, and community engagement is essential to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for land, food, and water.

 


General Studies – 2


 


7. The Swachh Bharat Mission has made significant strides in improving sanitation facilities and reducing open defecation rates in India. However, there is still work to be done to ensure universal access to safe sanitation, and address remaining challenges effectively. Critically examine.

Reference: The HinduInsights on India

Introduction

Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was launched on October 2, 2014, to fulfil the vision of a cleaner India by October 2, 2019.  The objective of the Mission was to eliminate open defecation, eradicate manual scavenging, and promote scientific solid waste management.

In the past decade, rural India has witnessed remarkable progress in sanitation coverage, aligned with Goal 6 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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Achievements of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in promoting cleanliness and sanitation:

  • Sanitation coverage in India: It surged from 39% in 2014 to 100% in 2019under the Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen (SBM-G).
    • SBM aimed to achieve Open Defecation Free(ODF) status by October 2019, with a subsequent goal to transition to ODF Plus by 2024-25.
  • ODF Status:Currently, about 85% of villages have attained ODF Plus status.
  • Toilet Access:According to the National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) Round 3, 95% of India’s rural population had toilet access, with 79% owning their facilities
    • This has helped reduce open defecation which leads to diseases.
  • Public toilets: The mission has helped construct over 6 lakh community and publictoilets across India.
  • Waste collection:Several cities and towns have seen improvements in door-to-door waste collection, waste segregation, and scientific waste processing through biomethanation plants, material recovery facilities etc.
    • This is helping tackle India’s immense waste management challenge.
  • Behavioural Change and Awareness: The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan emphasized behavioural change through mass awareness campaigns, encouraging citizens to adopt cleaner practices.
    • Swachh Bharat Mission has helped bring sanitation and cleanliness into public discourselike never before.
  • Competition for cleanliness: Activities like Swachhta leagues and rankings of clean citieshave created a positive competition between towns and cities to improve cleanliness systems and practices.
    • Surveys show rising public satisfaction with sanitation and cleanliness.
  • Waste management: The mission has mobilized over Rs 20,000 croresfor investment in solid and liquid waste management systems. This is strengthening urban infrastructure across India.

Shortcomings of Swachh Bharat Mission:

  • Sanitation and waste managementin India are associated with the wide prevalence of caste.
    • Historically, the subjugated castes have been forced to carry out sanitation work.
    • The SBM tried to create a narrative that sanitation is everyone’s job.
    • It has ended up continuingthe same old caste practices.
  • The SBM is a politically successful project:
    • The entire project is governed and monitoredby state agencies.
    • Large capital-intensive technologiesare promoted.
  • The Union government claims India is open defecation-free:
    • A Comptroller and Auditor General report in 2020: It indicated the poor quality of construction of toilets under this scheme.
  • Few urbanization studies: pointed out that in some metros, communities in slums still do not have access to public toilets.
    • Even in rural India,toilet construction has not been linked to waste treatment.
  • In peri-urban areas, the fecal sludge generated is tossed into the environment.
  • Septic tanks are cleaned by manual scavengersand the sludge is thrown into various water systems.
  • Via SBM was to reduce the involvement of people inwaste management by replacing them with large, capital-intensive technologies.
    • These installations have refused to live up to their promoters’ promises.
    • Health crises emerging from badly managed waste.
  • The governments outsourced most of the work to private players, who employed the same subjugated communities to handle waste.
  • Solid and liquid waste management in cities: In most towns, the Union government is employing technological solutions in handling solid waste.
    • Some of these solutions are in the form of waste-to-energy plants and biological methanation.
    • But there are barely any success stories in either case.
  • City governments are being asked to buy more machines including road sweeping machines that cost no less than ₹1 crore
    • More vehicles to transport the waste from one corner to another with geo-tagging, and soon.
    • Funds are made availableto the city governments for such plans.
    • However, all this work is being handed over to large contractors entering the city domains for making sanitation a profit entity.
    • Most of the workers employed by these contractors are Dalits.
    • Scheme fully owned by the state has become a toolkit for the privatization of public health services and continues caste discrimination.

Case study(Shimla):

  • The Himachal Pradesh High Court, the Urban Development Department said that there are just five sanitation inspectors in the Shimla Municipal Corporation, which comprises 34 wards.
    • Instead of recruiting more such inspectors, this cadre is being declared dead after they retire.
  • There are more than 50 municipal bodies, there are only 20 sanitation inspectors
    • There are some municipalities that have no sanitation inspectors.

Way forward

  • Greater focus on behaviour changecommunication and public awareness campaigns, especially for hygienic toilet use, waste segregation and not littering. Engaging school children and youth groups can be highly impactful.
    1. The “Darwaza Band” campaignand community-level awareness programs have promoted positive sanitation norms.
  • Innovations in Technology:Decentralized sewage treatment plants, as seen in Devanahalli, highlight technological advancements in sanitation.
  • Strengthening capacities of urban local bodiesfor scientifically collecting, segregating, transporting and processing different types of waste. Mechanized sweeping, underground waste binscan be expanded.
  • Linking with other programmes:Align sanitation initiatives with other related programs like the Jal Jeevan Mission for better outcomes.
  • Developing localized waste management modelsthrough community participation, and public-private partnerships, so that solutions are tailored to local needs.
    1. Programs like the “Nirmal Gram Puraskar”foster community involvement and awareness in achieving open-defecation-free villages.
  • Expanding solid waste processing infrastructurethrough biomethanation plants, material recovery facilities, composting units etc. across towns and cities.
  • Improved monitoring for functionality and maintenanceof public/community toilets through citizen oversight and social audits.
  • Expanding coverage of toiletsto include slums and public spaces like bus stops, and parks, through customizable, prefabricated toilet models.
  • Incentivizing waste segregation, recycling and reuse through both regulatory policies as well as awareness programs on circular economy principles.

Conclusion

Behavioral change in sanitation cannot happen independently. It is contingent upon social networks and an overall improvement of living standards, including better housing and access to basic services. SDGs are a matter of urgency, and actions by all countries, both developed and developing, to end poverty and other socio-economic and environmental problems. Countries should align with strategies that improve the standard of life and education, reduce inequality, and harness economic growth.

 

8. The Iran-Israel turmoil has raised concerns about the security of the large Indian diaspora residing in the Gulf region as well as India interests. Indian authorities must take proactive measures, including enhanced security protocols and diplomatic efforts, to ensure the safety of Indian nationals. Discuss.

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

The situation in the Middle East remained tense. The ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict has raged for over six months in Gaza and the West Bank. This is for the first time Iran has openly and directly attacked Israel. Before this, Israel had always alleged that Iran attacked through its proxy terrorist organizations Hamas, Hezbollah and Houthi rebels. The Iranian government also declared a prohibition on all vessels associated with the Zionist regime from navigating in the Oman Sea and the Persian Gulf. There is fresh concern about a potential Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites or high-value targets.

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Current situation

  • Iran’s promised retaliation to the Israeli airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus came in the early hours of Sunday morning.
  • Swarms of attack drones and cruise and ballistic missiles were deployed in an unprecedented direct attack from Iran.
  • Most of the drones and missiles were neutralised by Israel and its allies.
  • However, a few ballistic missiles penetrated Israel’s formidable Iron Dome and struck the Nevatim and Ramon airbase in the southern Negev desert and a radar station in the north.
  • Damage to infrastructure was minimal and no deaths were reported.

Challenges posed to India due to Iran – Israel Conflict

  • India has strategic ties with both Iran and Israel and for decades, it has been able to balance between the two sides. But if the conflict widens, it would be difficult for it to maintain an ambivalent position.
  • The emerging Iran Israel Conflict will test theIndian resilience in multiple domains be it political, diplomatic, economic or security. 
  • The escalation of the Iran-Israel conflict poses a grave risk to the lives and livelihoods of the large Indian diaspora in West Asia.
  • Approximately 18,000 Indians reside in Israel, while 5,000-10,000 live in Iran. Additionally, around 90 lakh Indians are spread across the Gulf and other West Asian countries.
  • Ensuring their safety becomes paramount, especially given the geopolitical tensions in the region.
  • The ongoing turmoil increases the risk of piracy and hostage situations. Indian nationals working in maritime sectors or traveling through sensitive areas face heightened danger.
  • India has significant economic interests in the Gulf region, including trade, energy, and investments. Any disruption due to conflict could adversely affect India’s economy.
  • The Gulf region is strategically vital for India’s energy security and regional stability. Ensuring the safety of Indian nationals contributes to maintaining friendly relations with these nations.

Way forward

  • Enhanced Security Protocols:
    • Strengthen security measures at Indian embassies, consulates, and missions in the Gulf.
    • Collaborate with local law enforcement agencies to enhance surveillance, intelligence sharing, and crisis response.
  • Diplomatic Efforts:
    • Engage in high-level diplomatic dialogues with Gulf nations to emphasize the safety of Indian nationals.
    • Seek assurances from host countries regarding their protection.
    • Establish crisis communication channels to swiftly address emergencies.
  • Evacuation Plans:
    • Develop robust evacuation plans for Indian nationals in case of escalating conflict.
    • Regularly update and rehearse evacuation procedures.
    • Coordinate with airlines, shipping companies, and other transport providers.
  • Awareness Campaigns:
    • Educate Indian expatriates about potential risks, safety protocols, and emergency contacts.
    • Encourage registration with Indian missions for timely communication during crises.
  • Regional Cooperation:
    • Collaborate with other countries to ensure the safety of their nationals as well.
    • Jointly address security challenges arising from the conflict.
  • Global Governance Implications:
    • The instability in the Middle East affects the Global South and global governance.
    • India, as a responsible global actor, must actively engage in conflict resolution efforts.
    • Advocate for peaceful dialogue, de-escalation, and adherence to international norms.

Conclusion

India wants there should be “immediate de-escalation” and “step back from violence” and “return to the path of diplomacy” is, therefore, crucial to its national interest. India’s authorities must adopt a proactive approach, combining security protocols, diplomatic efforts, and contingency planning to safeguard the welfare of Indian nationals in the Gulf region during these turbulent times

 


General Studies – 3


 


9. Striking a balance between granting patent rights and promoting the public interest requires careful consideration of the societal benefits and potential drawbacks of the patent system. Examine.

Reference: Down to EarthInsights on India

Introduction

A patent is a form of preservation of intellectual property. It is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.

The government has notified amendments to the rules governing India’s Patent Act.

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Significance of patents and its importance

  • Prosperity Rights: Intellectual Property Rights actually translates into India’s progress in real-time and extends Intellectual Property Right to India’s Prosperity Right.
  • Innovation Powerhouse: Like geographical boundaries guard our country’s interests, Intellectual Property is the guardian of our country’s prospects. Powered by Intellectual Property, India can be the Innovation Powerhouse of the world.
  • Create Livelihoods: Intellectual property is the cornerstone of a nation’s progress & showcases the ingenuity of our youth. The IP has the power and potential to change lives and create livelihoods for billions.
  • Help in Progress: More proficient IP regimes contribute to making India an innovation hub. It is the key for success of Start-up India, Make in India & Design in India.
    • Accordingly, section 146(2), a unique provision not found in patent laws of most other countries, requires every patentee and licensee to submit to the Patent Office an annual statement (Form 27 format) explaining the extent to which they have worked the invention in India.
    • This statement is meant to help the Patent Office, potential competitors, etc. to determine whether the patentee has worked the invention in India and made it sufficiently available to the public at reasonable prices.
    • Compulsory Licencing (CL): CL is the grant of permission by the government to entities to use, manufacture, import or sell a patented invention without the patent-owner’s consent. Patents Act in India deals with CL.
    • CL is permitted under the WTO’s TRIPS (IPR) Agreement provided conditions such as ‘national emergencies, other circumstances of extreme urgency and anti-competitive practices’ are fulfilled.
  • Compete Globally: A strong IPR regime will empower the expansion & energise the industry in challenging times. It is one of the most valuable assets in India’s ability to compete in the global economy.
  • Transparency: These initiatives are bringing transparency & ease of access for IPR seekers.

Challenges in the patenting system in India

  • Major problems: Among the issues raised are concerns about what can be patented, waiting times for obtaining patents, reporting requirements, and data safety.
  • Patent issues highlighted the threat of patent revocations, lack of presumption of patent validity and narrow patentability criteria as issues which “impact companies across different sectors.
  • One of the main points of contention between India and the U.S. has been Article 3(d) of the Indian Patent Act.
    • Section 3 deals with what does not qualify as an invention under the Act.
    • Section 3(d) in particular excludes the mere discovery of a new form of a known substance which does not result in the enhancement of the known efficacy of that substance.
    • Section 3(d) prevents what is known as “evergreening” of patents.
  • Issues relating to judicial delays: The 2015 Commercial Courts Act offered an opportunity to reduce these delays and increase expertise but only a limited number of courts have benefited under the Act.
  • Jurisdictional challenges are reducing the courts’ effectiveness and courts are also suffering due to inadequate resources and training.
  • The abolishing of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB): the overall scrapping of IPAB, which efficiently had been dealing with proceedings involving complex IPR issues, may create a void in the appellate resolution of cases leading to their shift to Commercial or High Courts thereby increasing pendency of cases.

Conclusion

As the patent system is a critical aspect of the national innovation ecosystem, investing in the patent ecosystem will help in strengthening the innovation capability of India. The right interventions should be made for the promotion of the quality of patent applications and collaboration between academia and industry.

Value addition

Patent amendment rules 2021

  • Patent Fees for Educational Institutions Reduced: Educational institutions engage in many research activities, where professors and teachers and students generate several new technologies which need to be patented for facilitating commercialization of the same.
    • At the time of applying for patents, the innovators have to apply these patents in the name of the institutions which have to pay fees for large applicants, which are very high and thus work as a disincentive.
    • In this regard and to encourage greater participation of the educational institutions, official fees payable by them in respect of various acts under the Patents Rules, 2003, have been reduced by way of the Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2021.
    • Benefits related to 80% reduced fee for patent filing & prosecution have been extended to all educational institutions.
    • This benefit was earlier available to all recognised educational institutions owned by the government.
  • Extension of Expedited Examination System: The fastest granted patent is the one which was granted in 41 days after filing of such request. This facility of Expedited Examination system was initially provided for patent applications filed by Startups.
    • It has been now extended to 8 more categories of Patent Applicants:
    • SME (Small and Medium Enterprises), Female applicants, Government Departments, Institutions established by a Central, Provincial or State Act, Government Company, an Institution wholly or substantially financed by the Government and applicants under Patents Prosecution Highway.
  • The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) is a set of initiatives for providing accelerated patent prosecution procedures by sharing information between some patent offices

 

10. India is highly vulnerable to earthquakes due to its location in a seismically active region. Suggest measures to develop earthquake resilience in India.

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

An earthquake is the shaking of the surface (occurs without warning) of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere that creates seismic waves. It is tectonic in origin and results from the release of accumulated stress of the moving lithospheric or crustal plates.

India’s high population density exacerbates the impact of earthquakes, with millions of people living in seismically active zones. Informal settlements and poorly constructed buildings are common, increasing the risk of casualties and infrastructure damage during earthquakes.

Body

The Earthquake Risk in India:

  • India has been divided into four zones– II, III, IV and V – according to the seismic zoning map of India prepared by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Zone V is seismically the most active region, while Zone II is the least.
  • Around 11% of the country falls in Zone V, 18% in Zone IV, 30% in Zone III and the remaining in Zone II.

Reasons for the Earthquake proneness in India:

  • The Indian plate is driving into Eurasiaat a rate of approximately 47 mm/year.
  • Himalayan belt:Collision between Indo-Australian plate with Eurasian plate causes lots of strain in underlying rocks’ energy, which is released in the form of earthquakes.
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Seafloor displacement and underwater volcanoes disturb the equilibrium of earth’s surface.
  • Deccan Plateau: The emergence of a fault line and energy build-up along the fault line of the river Bhima (Krishna) near Latur and Osmanabad (Maharashtra).
  • Increasing population and unscientific land usefor construction make India a high-risk land for earthquakes.

Risks of high magnitude Earthquakes

  • Primary damage: Damage occurs to human settlement, buildings, structures and infrastructure, especially bridges, elevated roads, railways, water towers, pipelines, electrical generating facilities.
  • Aftershocks of an earthquake can cause much greater damage to already weakened structures.
  • Secondary effects include fires, dam failure and landslides which may block water ways and also cause flooding, landslides, Tsunami, chemical spills, breakdown of communication facilities, human loss.
  • There is also a huge loss to the public health system, transport and water supply in the affected areas.
  • Tertiary impactof earthquake includes Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD), long term psychological issues, loss of livelihood, disruption of social capital due to relocation related issues, etc.

India’s current policy on earthquake preparedness

  • Operates primarily at the scale of structural details
  • National Building Codes: Includes specifying dimensions of the structural members – columns, beams, etc.
  • National Retrofitting Programme 2014: Under the programme, the RBI directed banks to deny loans for buildings that do not meet the earthquake-resistant design.

Earthquake preparedness measures needed

  • Earthquake monitoring centres (seismological centres) for regular monitoring and fast dissemination of information among the people in the vulnerable areas should be established. Currently, Centre for Seismology (CS) is the nodal agency of Government of India responsible for monitoring seismic activity in and around the country.
  • A vulnerability map of the country along with dissemination of vulnerability risk information among the people can be done to minimize the adverse impacts.
  • Planning: The Bureau of Indian Standards has published building codes and guidelines for safe construction of buildings against earthquakes. Before the buildings are constructed the building plans have to be checked by the Municipality, according to the laid down by-laws.
  • Important buildingssuch as hospitals, schools and fire stations need to be upgraded by retrofitting techniques.
  • Community preparedness and public educationon causes and characteristics of an earthquake and preparedness measures is important. It can be created through sensitization and training programme for community, by preparation of disaster management plans by schools, malls, hospitals etc. and carrying out mock drills, by preparing documentation on lessons from previous earthquaes and widely disseminating it.
  • Engineered structures: The soil type should be analysed before construction. Building structures on soft soil should be avoided. Similar problem persists in the buildings constructed on the river banks which have alluvial soil.
  • Encouraging use of Indigenous methods – Indigenous earthquake-resistant houses like the bhongas in the Kutch Region of Gujarat, dhajji diwari buildings in Jammu & Kashmir, brick-nogged wood frame constructions in Himachal Pradesh and ekra constructions made of bamboo in Assam are helpful in this regard.

Way forward

  • Earthquake preparedness needs to act –
    • In the realm of policy and not just legal enforcement.
    • At the scale of building details as well as that of cities.
  • A comprehensive policyto create a system of retrofitting existing structures and enforcing seismic codes with more efficiency. Such a policy should include measures –
    • To create a system of tax-based or development rights-based incentives for retrofitting one’s building up to seismic codes.
    • To ensure better enforcement of seismic codes through a similar model.
  • Generate earthquake vulnerability mapswith the percentage of vulnerable structures in the area, the availability of evacuation routes, the location of nearest relief services, etc.

Conclusion

It is not possible to prevent the occurrence of an earthquake; hence, the next best option is to lay emphasis on disaster preparedness and mitigation rather than curative measures. A policy on earthquake preparedness will require a visionary, radical and transformative approach. It would be unwise to wait for another earthquake to learn how to be better prepared for one. Hence, a robust early warning system, decentralised response mechanism is the best way forward.

Value addition

Best practices (Japan and San Francisco):

  • Japan has invested heavily in technological measures (skyscrapers with counterweights, small houses on flexible foundations, public infrastructure with automated triggers) by cultivating an industry around earthquake mitigation and fostering expertise.
  • San Franciscois the world’s most famous earthquake-prone city which implemented policy changes similar to Japan.
  • The Gujarat government:Immediately adopted (after the 2001 Bhuj earthquake) new town planning schemes that widened roads and created routes for evacuation and relief work.
  • Programmes like the ongoing Urban 20 meetings: An excellent opportunity for international knowledge exchange on earthquake preparedness.

 

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