18th November, 2019
TOPIC- Conservation, Environment Pollution and Degradation
- Write in detail about how improving the working of (Sewage Treatment Plants) STPs and (Sanitary Landfills) SLs will improve public health as well as help us in mitigating climate change.
With the rapid increasing rate of Urbanization, the problem of Municipal Solid Waste and landfills is also increasing parallely. These waste sites create public nuisance and releases carbon dioxide and methane in the environment. Both the gases are GHGs, where Global Warming Potential (GWP) of methane is 34 of CO2. Methane is a Short Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) and played a precursor role in formation of tropospheric ozone. Environmental concerns from cities arise from the fact that landfills and sewers in cities contribute approximately 15% of global methane emissions.
Benefits of capturing methane in STP and UL
- Mitigate Climate change: captured methane can be used as natural gas (CNG) in transportation, generating electricity and cooking
- Health Impact: Integrated sewerage systems will put an end to breeding grounds of vectors like mosquitoes, flies etc. Thus lessening health costs of billions of dollars on vector borne diseases.
- Sustainable farming: By products of STPs and ULs methane capturing plants can be used for organic fertilizers thus adding another economic value to it.
Challenges and Improvements
- Inadequate Sewerage: Lack of integrated pipelines which can transport sewage to central STP. Example- JICA sponsored Sewerage project in Bhubaneswar plans to construct 700 km underground pipelines linked to STP.
- Segregation of wastes: Most important factor in capturing methane is proper segregated municipal wastes.
- Large landfills: It would be against economies of scale to construct methane capturing plants in smaller landfills. In case of multiple Municipal corporations as in case of Delhi and Mumbai, there need to be collaboration among each other.
Methane already recognized as harmful gas by United Nation so need of hour is to check its emissions and use it to sustain environment by converting it into energy.
TOPIC- Issues Related to Development
- Current shortcoming in the multifarious skill development programmes being run by various agencies. The issue is plaguing skill development mission of the government. Examine how blockchain can be utilized for addressing the issue.
The Skill India Mission is a major initiative of the Government of India to utilise the demographic dividend. To further this goal, the government has created a dedicated Ministry, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to coordinate all the skill development schemes across various agencies.
However, the Mission suffers from certain shortcomings which have held back placement numbers:
- A lack of standardisation in the process of certification. In this regard the Sharda Prasad Committee had recommended the formation of a National Board for Assessment and Certification to standardise the process.
- Duplicate and fraud certificates of candidates
Benefits of Using Blockchain Technology:
- It would curb the existing Frauds in System of Certificate Generation and only deserving Candidates would get Certified by Government.
- The Presence of Centralized data in Blockchain Database would enable Employer to Crosscheck the Details and Qualification of Candidates before Employing Him. This would ensure curbing for Fraud Candidates.
- It would enhance Genuine and Knowledgeable Candidates and contribute to Foreign Companies to setup Offices in India.
- Once the Data is saved on Database servers, the Government can initiate to curb issuing Paper Certificates and can focus on Online Medium only.
This would curb Deforestation and Contribute in Positive way to counter Climate change.
However, to get these benefits it is essential for blockchain databases to be mandated across all agencies conducting these programmes. This may be a challenge in a country like India with low levels of digital literacy. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct proper training for all officials involved.
It is also important to have an appropriate system to ensure the security of the database from cyber threats and hacking.
Sharda Prasad Committee observed the duplicacy present in Certification and Suggested Standardisation of Certificates. The need of Hour is Government to apply the Suggestion and find a way to curb Duplication and Frauds in the Process. Such Frauds are not only Un-Ethical in Nature but also in-justice to hard working and Deserving Candidates.
19th November, 2019
TOPIC- India and its neighbourhood relations
- What are the irritants in the Indo-Sri Lanka relations? With a new government in Sri Lanka, what role should New Delhi play to encourage reconciliation with Sri Lanka?
Recently, new government has been formed in Sri Lanka. In the wake of the new government formation, it is important to look at its implications for Indo-Sri Lanka relations.
Sri Lanka is India’s closest maritime neighbour and is just 30 nautical miles away from the territorial boundary. India has deep historical and cultural ties with this island nation. However, with the change of government in Sri Lanka some experts have raised apprehensions about the relations of India with the new government.
Irritants in the Indo-Sri Lanka relations
- In the period of low profile relationship between the two nations, SL apparently started favoring China over India.
- Over the years Chinese funds started flowing, it has started big buck infrastructure projects in the island nation. The presence of China in Sri Lanka increased significantly in the recent years.
- As part of Maritime Silk Route (MSR) policy, China built two ports, one in Colombo and another in Hambantota.
- Fishing disputes have been a constant area of concern between the two South Asian neighbors for a long time. Sri Lanka has long expressed concerns about illegal fishing by Indian fishermen within its territorial waters across the Palk Strait. The country regularly arrests Indian fishermen for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) that demarcates Indian and Sri Lankan waters.
- The second structural factor shaping India’s relations with Sri Lanka is the Tamil question.
Role India can play
- Delhi can’t expect its neighbours to shut down economic and commercial engagement with Beijing, notwithstanding the many questions about the terms of China’s assistance on projects, including those under the Belt and Road Initiative. But Delhi will be right to ask Colombo not to take steps with Beijing that threaten India’s security. Delhi and Colombo need a clear understanding of mutual red lines relating to national security and a political comfort level to discuss cases that fall within the orange zone.
- Delhi needs to invest some political capital in resolving problems such as the long-standing disputes.
- Delhi needs to look beyond old formulae to try and encourage reconciliation within Lanka and across the Palk Strait with Tamil Nadu. With a strong government in Sri Lanka, it is time for Delhi to think boldly about its relationship with Colombo.
Reference: Indian Express
TOPIC- Role of women
- Whether it is offering permanent commission to women or putting them in combat roles, the glass ceilings in the armed forces must go. Discuss.
There’s no denying that a glass ceiling exists for women in the military. Patriarchal attitudes see women recruits as only worthy of short service commission and non-combat branches. In this context, some experts have opined that the glass ceilings in the armed forces with respect to women being offered combat roles must go.
Arguments against women being given combat rules
Various male chauvinistic arguments are bandied about, for instance, having more women in the military will lower the discipline of the force or women in combat roles could be captured by the enemy and raped.
Why glass ceilings against women joining army must go?
- Firstly, no one is asking the military to lower its standards, especially for combat roles. Only those women recruits who meet the same exacting standards as men should be allowed to take up these positions.
- Second, the argument about women getting raped if captured in war doesn’t make sense because atrocities can also be suffered by male soldiers. These are war crimes which ought not to happen as per the Geneva Conventions. So on that score, one really can’t discriminate between men and women soldiers.
- And finally, the nature of the military is undergoing rapid change with greater diffusion of technology. This creates more scope for women in the armed forces as technology tends to be gender neutral.
Taken together, with changing times our military too needs to change. The armed forces can no longer remain an exclusive male bastion. Whether it is offering permanent commission to women or putting them in combat roles, the glass ceilings in the armed forces must go. The focus ought to be on the quality of recruits. Not gender.
Reference: Times of India
20th November, 2019
TOPIC- Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times
- Write a short note on the political, social and economic structure of the Aryan civilisation.
People speaking Indo Aryan language came through North-western Mountains and got settled in the North West in Punjab and later in Gangatic plains. These were called as Aryans or Indo Aryans. They spoke Indo Iranian, Indo European or Sanskrit. Origin of Aryans is not clearly known, different scholars have different views on this point. It is said that Aryans lived in East of Alps (Eurasia), Central Asia, Arctic region, Germany, and Southern Russia.
- Monarchical form of government with a king known as Rajan.
- Patriarchal families. Jana was the largest social unit in Rig Vedic times.
- Social grouping: kula (family) – grama – visu – jana.
- Tribal assemblies were called Sabhas and Samitis. Examples of tribal kingdoms: Bharatas, Matsyas, Yadus and Purus.
- Women enjoyed respectable position. They were allowed to take part in Sabhas and Samitis. There were women poets too (Apala, Lopamudra, Viswavara and Ghosa).
- Cattle especially cows became very important.
- Monogamy was practiced but polygamy was observed among royalty and noble families.
- There was no child marriage.
- Social distinctions existed but were not rigid and hereditary.
- They were a pastoral and cattle-rearing people.
- They indulged in agriculture.
- Products made out of copper, iron and bronze were in use.
- They had horse chariots.
- Rivers were used for transport.
- Cotton and woollen fabrics were spun and used.
- Initially trade was conducted through the barter system but later on coins called ‘nishka’ were in use.
Reference: Times of India
TOPIC- Ancient India History
- Write a short note on Harappan Civilisation.
Indus Valley Civilization was the first major civilization in South Asia, which spread across a vast area of land in present-day India and Pakistan (around 12 lakh sq.km). The time period of mature Indus Valley Civilization is estimated between BC. 2700- BC.1900 i.e., for 800 years. But early Indus Valley Civilization had existed even before BC.2700.
Features of Harappan Civilisation
- The most remarkable feature of the Harappan civilization was its urbanisation. Each city was divided into a citadel area where the essential institutions of Civil and religious life were located and the lower residential area where the urban population lived.
- The use of baked and unbaked bricks of standard size shows that the brick making was a large scale industry for the Harappans.
- In the citadel area, the Great Bath at Mohenjodaro is the most striking structure.
- At Harappa remarkable number of granaries has also been found ranged in two rows of six, with a central passage.
- The houses were equipped with private wells and toilets.
- The bathrooms were connected by drains with sewers under the main street.
- The drainage system is one of the most impressive achievements of the Harappans and presupposes existence of some kind of municipal organisation.
- The houses were constructed with the kiln-made or Kuccha bricks, not stones.
- The Harappans cultivated wheat and barley, peas and dates and also sesame and mustard which were used for oil. However, the people cultivated rice as early as 1,800 B.C. in Lothal.
- The Harappans were the earliest people to grow cotton. Irrigation depended on the irregular flooding of the rivers of Punjab and Sind.
- Besides sheet and goats humped cattle, buffalos and elephants were domesticated. The camal was rare and the horse was probably not known to the Harappans.
- There was extensive inland and foreign trade. It has also been reasonably established that this trade might have been overland as well as maritime. It is proved by the occurrence of small terracotta boats, and above all, by the vast brick built dock at Lothal.
- As there is a no evidence of coins, barter must have been the normal method of exchange of goods. But the system of weights and measures was excellent. For weighing goods – small as well as large – perfectly made cubes of agate were employed.
- The Harappan script has not been deciphered so far, but overlaps of letters on some of the potsherds from Kalibangan show that the writing was boustrophedon or from right to left and from left to right in alternate lines.
- Clay figures of the mother Goddess, worshipped by the people as the symbol of fertility, have been found. A seated figure of a male god, carved on a small stone seal, has also been found. The seal immediately brings to mind the traditional image of Pasupati mahadeva. Certain trees seem to have been treated as sacred, such as the pipal. They also held the bull scared.
Reason for decline of Harappan civilisation
It has been suggested that reduction in water availability, perhaps as a result of climatic change or because tectonic activity caused rivers to change course, could have played a significant part in the decline of this ancient civilisation.
Reference: Times of India
21st November, 2019
TOPIC- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment
- Rural demand stimulus could be the key driver to overcome economic slowdown. Discuss.
Indian economy is currently going through an economic slowdown. Real estate, construction, steel, cement and other allied industries found production activities coming to a significant halt—this resulted in lay-offs. This structural fall in demand in metropolis and semi-urban areas created a ripple effect on workers’ incomes. The fall in incomes led to a fall in demand across India. In this context, some experts have argued that rural demand stimulus could be key driver to overcome economic slowdown.
How rural demand stimulus could be the key driver to overcome economic slowdown?
- Agricultural activity needs a priority. A substantial amount of agricultural investment needs to be done to help farmers produce more and better.
- Rural connectivity in terms of physical infrastructure needs to be developed to allow rural agricultural production to be sold relatively at a higher price in semi-urban and urban areas to fetch more incomes for farmers.
- Micro-credit without collateral for these farmers may be ensured. Agricultural land reforms should be initiated in many states.
- It is also important to revive real estate, especially construction. Most construction activities are in residential or commercial complexes, not so much in physical infrastructure.
- This is where rural workforce can find reasonable employment. Employment in cities will generate income for them, which will finally be sent to villages, and that is how the rural economy can be revived.
The negative sentiment towards real estate is damaging—many real estate developers are not enthusiastically looking at this market in spite of the reduction in corporate tax. The revival of NBFCs may boost the sector and revive the economy. The Indian economy can perhaps overcome the slowdown through a huge rural demand stimulus.
Reference: Financial Express
TOPIC- Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate
- Who are the Special Protection Group (SPG)? Whom do they protect? What are the various levels of protection?
Recently, the Centre withdrew the Special Protection Group (SPG) security cover given to the Gandhi family. They will now be provided with CRPF Z-plus cover instead.
Who are the SPG? Whom do they protect?
- The SPG is an elite force, specifically raised for the protection of the country’s Prime Minister, former PMs and their immediate family. The force is currently 3,000 strong.
- The SPG is highly trained in physical efficiency, marksmanship, combat and proximate protection tactics and is assisted by all central and state agencies to ensure foolproof security.
- SPG Special Agents assigned to the PM security detail wear black, Western-style formal business suits, with sunglasses, and carry a two-way encrypted communication earpiece, and concealed handguns.
- They wear safari suits on occasions.
- The SPG also has special operations commandos who carry ultra-modern assault rifles and wear dark-visor sunglasses with inbuilt communication earpieces, bulletproof vests, gloves and elbow/knee pads.
What are the various levels of protection?
- There are largely six types of security covers: X, Y, Y plus, Z, Z plus and SPG. While SPG is meant only for the PM and his immediate family, other categories can be provided to anyone about whom the Centre or state governments have inputs about facing a threat.
- The X category on an average entails just one gunman protecting the individual; Y has one gunman for mobile security and one (plus four on rotation) for static security; Y plus has two policemen on rotation for security and one (plus four on rotation) for residence security; Z has six gunmen for mobile security and two (plus eight) for residence security; Z plus has 10 security personnel for mobile security and two (plus eight) for residence security.
- There are various kinds of covers within these levels as well.
Reference: Indian Express
22nd November, 2019
TOPIC- Issues relating to poverty and hunger
- It is often assumed that as a country’s food production goes up, its nutrition levels also go up. But India still faces relatively high levels of malnutrition. What could be the reason for such a paradox? Also suggest measures to deal with such situation.
It is often assumed that as a country’s food production goes up, its nutrition levels also go up. But in India, that hasn’t been the case. In India, over the last five decades, total production of food grains has increased fivefold, but India still faces relatively high levels of malnutrition. Today, 22.5% of adult Indians are underweight, and 38% are stunted.
Reason for such a paradox
- High-protein foods like dairy, eggs and legumes, which are nutrient-dense food, are often consumed in very low quantities.
- National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data shows that while 50 gm of lentils and 25 gm of soy foods are recommended per day, Indians consume just half the amount of lentils and almost no soy foods.
- Food systems are not just made up of what is produced but, rather, comprise all related activities — harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing and consumption patterns — and it’s time to examine what needs to be done along this entire supply chain so that more nutritious food becomes available to more people at affordable prices.
- Programmes focused on child nutrition such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme, launched in 1975, and the Mid-Day Meals Scheme, introduced in 1995, have not corrected the Public Distribution Scheme’s bias toward calories.
- Subsidies continued the reliance on rice and wheat and did not include more varied and nutritious foods.
- Another cause of persistently high child malnutrition in India has been impure drinking water and poor sanitation.
Measures to deal with such a situation
- We need to redesign the food systems to enhance the availability of nutritious food.
- Further, we also need to raise consumer awareness and nudge them towards making more nutritious food choices.
- Improving sanitary facilities, especially in the rural areas where poverty and child malnutrition are concentrated.
It is only when efforts are made to drive changes from both the supply and demand side will more nutritious foods become available, accessible and affordable. Indeed, all stakeholders — government, private sector and consumers — must come together to make this important shift in food systems and consumer choices a reality.
Reference: Economic Times
TOPIC- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education
- Schools are meant to be institutions that provide the education necessary for the academic and professional success of the students. But, under the current scenario, coaching institutes are performing this function for students beyond 10th grade. Discuss.
A large segment of students these days tend to leave schools after 10th to join cheaper private schools as “dummy students” in order to focus all their attention on their coaching institutes. While the trend is dominant in science streams, commerce and humanities students planning to pursue higher education or a profession in India also tend to prioritize their coaching institutes above their schools.
Why are coaching institutes mushrooming?
- Professional success requires success in entrance exams and unfortunately, school curriculum does not prepare students for entrance exams.
- The only essential aspect why students continue to be a part of any school is because they need to be certified as 12th pass to join any college. So, the only power schools have is in their certificate.
- NCERTs in CBSE schools continue to teach the same curriculum over and over again, subject to slow, minor and infrequent updates. This problem is not restricted to higher classes. Even for lower classes (5th-10th), the NCERTs are rarely updated. As a result, they are also rarely used.
- The school curriculum does not teach the concepts needed and to the extent needed for entrance exams.
- Books can be annually updated by a committee that includes academicians and experts from both CBSE and National Testing Agency to ensure that the content provided in books is not merely superficial but goes to sufficient depth for competitive exams.
- An alternative to regularly updating books could be that instead of publishing books, CBSE can issue detailed curriculums to schools.
- The schools would have the freedom to choose books to be used. This would result in schools competing in offering the best preparation for the curriculum and concepts and not just for best results on NCERT-based board exams.
- Some government schools in Delhi have tried to address the problem. These schools provide students with supplementary course material in addition to CBSE prescribed textbooks to help them better prepare for competitive exams.
While some discussions are ongoing about reducing the workload or modifying the testing patterns at the primary education level, it seems like secondary education is being ignored as a secondary issue. As time is passing by, the coaching system is becoming more and more widespread and as a result, it is becoming more and more difficult to address it.
Reference: Times of India
23rd November, 2019
TOPIC- Environment & Climate change
- What do you think in your opinion could be the reason that climate protests not transforming policy in either rich or poor countries?
We face criss-crossing crises of climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans. Global warming threatens more and worse cyclones, droughts, forest fires, floods and climatic shifts, with catastrophic consequences for food, water, livelihoods, housing and health. Despite all the attention, promises and action, global carbon emissions climbed to a record high last year. The climate change protests are not transforming policy in either rich or poor countries.
Reason why climate protests are not transforming policy in either rich or poor countries?
- The need is for transformative action but governments remain trapped in incremental reforms.
- Because the sacrifices demanded are immediate, real and substantial but the gains are projected, future, generalised and diffused, the logic of individual costs and benefits clashes with the logic of collective action, for citizens and countries.
- Most people fear climate change and want something done – so long as it has no major impact on their lives.
- Only those whose present is assured will concern themselves more with the future.
- In conditions of mass Asiatic poverty, climbing out of life-killing conditions now is of higher priority than ensuring a future for succeeding generations.
- Elevating climate change to the topmost priority is a luxury that countries can afford only after they have climbed the per capita income ladder.
- In this present-vs-future tussle, no political party is going to win majority support in India by promising to end poverty alleviation in favour of slowing climate change.
- But equally, leaders in northern countries – who have far deeper carbon footprints and greater financial and technological capabilities to undertake the necessary action – will face political extinction if they commit to drastic income reductions for their citizens in order to assist poor countries cope with the transition to a decarbonised economy.
That is the real policy challenge and haranguing, disruptive protests and slogans are no substitute for policy action.
Reference: Times of India
TOPIC- Indian Economy
- Do you agree with the opinion that government progress on privatisation of PSUs and labour reform can turn the tide?
Ever since India opened up its economy to the world, the government has been distancing itself from industrial production. Years of monopoly across several industries led to Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) running inefficiently. Thus, the government began the process of disinvesting from loss-making and inefficiently-run PSUs in the 1990s. Recently, Niti Aayog has prepared a list of around 50 PSUs that should be put on the block, not only for big-ticket asset monetisation but because government has no business running businesses like hotels or making scooters and salt. The government is also taking steps to reform labour laws in the country.
Importance of privatisation and labour reforms
- Improving the structure of incentives and accountability of PSUs in India.
- Financing the increasing fiscal deficit.
- Financing large-scale infrastructure development, defense, education, healthcare etc.
- For investing in the economy to encourage spending.
- Brings about greater efficiencies for the economy and markets as a whole.
- Bring relief to consumers by way of more choices and better quality of products and services, e.g. Telecom sector.
- Strict labour laws disincentivise small enterprises from scaling up in India, while also hurting our competitiveness against countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam.
- Process of disinvestment is not favoured socially as it is against the interest of socially disadvantageous people.
- Loss making units don’t attract investment so easily.
- Over the years, the policy of divestment has increasingly become a tool to raise resources to cover the fiscal deficit with little focus on market discipline or strategic objective.
- Sometimes with the emergence of private monopolies, consumer welfare will be reduced.
- It is argued that mere change of ownership, from public to private, does not ensure higher efficiency and productivity.
- It may lead to retrenchment of workers who will be deprived of the means of their livelihood.
- Private sector, governed as they are by profit motive, has a tendency to use capital-intensive techniques which will worsen unemployment problem in India.
Can privatisation and labour reforms turn the tide?
All the factor markets are crying out for liberalisation. Every effort in this direction will be rewarded with tangible improvements in the investment climate. Completing this virtuous circle needs land, labour and capital reforms. As long as the labour unions get their way in protecting their own jobs inflexibly, new job creation will continue to suffer. Instead of creating PSUs, the government should create regulations that would ease the entry of new players. The regulations should also ensure that the basic necessities of the consumers are met.
Reference: Times of India