SECURE SYNOPSIS: 14 July 2021 – PuuchoIAS


 

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 time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


General Studies – 1


 

Topic: population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

1. Explain why smart cities and towns are becoming more prone to floods in India? (250 words)

Reference:  Deccan Herald

Why the question:

The article explains to us, why and how off late smart cities and towns have become more prone to floods in the country.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain why smart cities and towns are becoming more prone to floods in India.

Directive:

Explain – Clarify the topic by giving a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms where ever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with fact such as – As much as 56 per cent of smart cities are prone to floods which are responsible for 77 per cent of all disasters in India.

Body:

The answer body must explain the why factor first; discuss why smart cities and towns have become prone to floods and other forms of Disasters in India.

Discuss in detail how the trajectory of development in urban India, especially after the smart cities projects, is for more concretization and infrastructure projects without raising adequate and proper concern for the hydrology and ecology of a region.

Such answers are best explained with examples; Dehradun flash floods, Dharamshala, Mumbai etc.

Suggest measures to address these concerns.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction

In many Indian cities, the urban floods have become a frequent phenomenon in recent years. Torrential rains that took place in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore have caused massive urban floods. Urban flooding is the inundation of land or property in a built environment, particularly in more densely populated areas, caused by rainfall overwhelming the capacity of drainage systems, such as storm sewers. Due to rapid, unscientific, unplanned urbanization across the globe, the carrying capacity of urban areas is often breached leading to impending disasters. The cases of floods in Chennai in 2016, Bangalore, Gurgaon in 2017 are instances of urban flooding. Floods and water-logging show that urban planners have paid scant respect to hydrology.

Body:

Unscientific urbanization leading to Urban floods:

Natural factors:

  • Increasing downpour:
    • Southwest monsoon rainfall across the country from June 1 to July 13, 2020 was 12 per cent more than normal for this time, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
    • The southwest monsoon distribution, however, has not been uniform across all regions.
    • Several states in the north, central and southern India have received excess rainfall. Andhra Pradesh received the highest — 61 per cent more than normal — followed by Bihar with an excess rainfall of 57 per cent.
    • Delhi received around 70 millimeters of rain July 19, 2020, the most in the past five years, according to reports.
  • Cyclonic storms and thunderstorms
  • occurrence of high tides impeding the drainage in coastal cities

Anthropogenic factors:

  • Concretization:
    • Most cities had water bodies — lakes, ponds, streams, rivulets — which served three purposes: They replenished groundwater, catered to the city’s water needs and channelized excess rainfall to larger water bodies. Most such aquifers have fallen prey to concrete.
    • In Delhi, for example, a stream used to feed the Yamuna at about the place where the busy ITO today stands. It’s not without reason that the area is one of the most water-logged when it rains heavily in Delhi.
  • Wiping out of the wetlands:
    • Natural streams and watercourses have formed over thousands of years due to the forces of flowing water in the respective watersheds.
    • The encroaching of lakes in the cities by filling with mud and construction waste to recover the land leaves no place for water to get collected.g. Bengaluru had more than 250 lakes in the 1960s. There are scarcely 10 such water-bodies in a healthy state in the city today.
    • Chennai’s flood sink on its southern outskirts — the Pallikarnai marsh — was around 5,000 hectares in the 1950s. After the horrific floods in November last year, it was found that it had shrunk to 600 hectares.
    • The rivers, Cooum and Adyar, and the Buckingham Canal in Chennai have become dumping grounds. So have Mumbai’s wetlands near Sewri and other areas in New Mumbai. In fact, the city became alive to the river it has lost to real estate — the Mithi — after the terrible floods of 2005.
  • Poor Water and Sewerage Management:
    • With most cities lacking proper sewerage facilities, people dispose sewage in stormwater drains. The problem becomes worse when industries discharge their polluted water into such drains.
    • All this compromises the capacities of stormwater drains and also results in polluted water flowing into the larger water bodies.
    • Storm water drainage systems in the past were designed for rainfall intensity of 12 – 20 mm.
    • These capacities have been getting very easily overwhelmed whenever rainfall of higher intensity has been experienced.
    • Further, the systems very often do not work to the designed capacities because of very poor maintenance.
    • Stormwater drains cannot take the burden of the water that once used to seep into the ground.
    • Moreover, cities do not make the distinction between Stormwater drains and sewage disposal outlets.
  • Encroachment and Illegal constructions:
    • Encroachments are also a major problem in many cities and towns.
    • Real estate activity blocks the path of water; the city roads get waterlogged.
    • there have been large scale encroachments on the natural drains and the river flood plains.
    • Consequently, the capacity of the natural drains has decreased, resulting in flooding.
    • Improper disposal of solid waste, including domestic, commercial and industrial waste and dumping of construction debris into the drains also contributes significantly to reducing their capacities.
  • Deforestation:
    • Large areas of forests near the rivers/catchment of cities are used to make room for settlements, roads and farm lands and is being cleared due to which soil is quickly lost to drains.
    • This raises the drain-bed causing over flow and in turn urban flooding.

Administrative factors:

  • Lack of flood control measures:
    • The growth in concretization of land has increased surface run-off due to near lack of percolation of water into underground aquifers. This coupled with no strict laws with respect to rain water recharge facilities an ideal flooding situation.
  • Multiple authorities in a city but owning responsibility by none:
    • The real estate mafia and corruption in local revenue offices are a deadly combination for converting wetlands into concrete structures. This reduces the area of lakes and may even vanish lakes out of official records.
    • Lack of sufficient financial resources with the urban local bodies.

Measures needed:

Structural Measures:

  • Conservation of wetlands in urban areas like lakes, ponds, streams.
  • Construction of differential slope along sidewalks, roads to drain excess water into reservoirs.
  • Strengthening of Storm water drainage system.
  • Pre-monsoon desilting of all major drains to be completed by March 31 each year.
  • Every building in an urban area must have rainwater harvesting as an integral component of the building utility.
  • Concept of Rain Gardens to be incorporated in planning for public parks and on-site storm water management for larger colonies and sites those are to be developed.
  • Suitable interventions in the drainage system like traps, trash racks can be provided to reduce the amount of solid waste going into the storm sewers.

Non-structural Measures:

  • National Hydro-meteorological Network as per NDMA is needed for all urban cities in India.
  • Flood hazard assessments should be done on the basis of projected future scenarios of intensities and duration of rainfall and land use changes.
  • Better forecasting of rainfall events; timely dissemination of information to the mass- ‘Nowcasting’ alerts or real-time weather updates.
  • Restrict encroachments in natural drainage areas; clearance of river beds, proper implementation of Coastal Regulation Zone rules.
  • Provisions for flood-proofing of buildings
  • Storm water pollution control, i.e. source is controlled by imposing quality standards for wastewater and solid waste disposals in urban environments

Way forward:

  • Need for Holistic Engagement:Urban floods of this scale cannot be contained by the municipal authorities alone. Floods cannot be managed without concerted and focused investments of energy and resources.
    • The Metropolitan Development Authorities, National Disaster Management Authority, State revenue and irrigation departments along with municipal corporations should be involved in such work together.
    • Such investments can only be done in a mission mode organisation with active participation of civil society organisations at the metropolitan scale.
  • Developing Sponge Cities:The idea of a sponge city is to make cities more permeable so as to hold and use the water which falls upon it.
    • Sponge cities absorb the rain water, which is then naturally filtered by the soil and allowed to reach urban aquifers.
    • This allows for the extraction of water from the ground through urban or peri-urban wells.
    • This water can be treated easily and used for city water supply.
  • Wetland Policy:There is a need to start paying attention to the management of wetlands by involving local communities.
    • Without doubt, terrain alteration needs to be strictly regulated and a ban on any further alteration of terrain needs to be introduced.
    • To improve the city’s capacity to absorb water, new porous materials and technologies must be encouraged or mandated across scales.
    • Examples of these technologies are bioswales and retention systems, permeable material for roads and pavement, drainage systems which allow storm water to trickle into the ground, green roofs and harvesting systems in buildings.
  • Drainage Planning:Watershed management and emergency drainage plan should be clearly enunciated in policy and law.
    • Urban watersheds are micro ecological drainage systems, shaped by contours of terrain.
    • Detailed documentation of these must be held by agencies which are not bound by municipal jurisdictions; instead, there is a need to consider natural boundaries such as watersheds instead of governance boundaries like electoral wards for shaping a drainage plan.
  • Water Sensitive Urban Design:These methods take into consideration the topography, types of surfaces (permeable or impervious), natural drainage and leave very less impact on the environment.
    • Vulnerability analyses and risk assessments should form part and parcel of city master plans.
    • In a changing climate, the drainage infrastructure (especially storm water drainage) has to be built considering the new ‘normals’.
    • Tools such as predictive precipitation modelling can help do that and are also able to link it with the adaptive capacity of urban land use.

Conclusion:

Floods in India are an outcome of both natural and anthropocentric changes. However, the latter has been more responsible for floods in the current age of Anthropocene. With climate change accelerating at unmitigated pace, it becomes all the more critical for planned urbanization. The understanding of the geohydrology goes a long way in preventing the urban floods.

These can all be delivered effectively through an urban mission along the lines of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and Smart Cities Mission. Urban Flood management will not just help control recurring floods but also respond to other fault lines, provide for water security, more green spaces, and will make the city resilient and sustainable. Thus, a comprehensive urban planning which reconciles both environment and economic needs is required.

 

 


General Studies – 2


 

Topic: Regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

2. The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has steered emergence of new tests for the regional powers. Analyse. (250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express

Why the question:

The article talks about the scenarios emerging in Afghanistan and the region after withdrawal of American troops.

Key Demand of the question:

Analyse in what way withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has steered emergence of new tests for the regional powers.

Directive:

Analyze – When asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with brief background of the question.

Body:

The speedy withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has been matched by the swift advance of the Taliban across the nation. While the US has confirmed that 90% of the withdrawal is done, the Taliban has claimed that it is in control of 85% of Afghanistan territory.

These developments have moved Afghanistan into the court of regional powers that now have the burden of managing the military vacuum created by the US retreat.

Talk about US Withdrawal and regional Powers.

Highlight India’s role; India should focus on intensifying its engagement with various Afghan groups, including the Taliban and finding effective regional partners to secure its interests in a changing Afghanistan.

Conclusion:

The US’s exit from Afghanistan has triggered Taliban emergence, geopolitical flux and thus, instability in the region. Explain that as these factors will increasingly push India into a geopolitical tough spot in the region, smart statecraft, therefore, is required to deal with changing dynamics in Afghanistan.

Introduction

American troops are set to withdraw from the country by September 11 this year, but the shadow of re-engagement looms, raising security concerns beyond South Asia. The resurgence of Taliban is a huge concern not only for Kabul but for regions in South Asia and beyond.

The Taliban militants have seized dozens of districts in recent weeks and are now thought to control about a third of the country, ahead of the withdrawal of US and Western troops from Afghanistan by September 11.

Body

Background

  • The US signed the Doha agreement in February 2020, dangling a “carrot” of full withdrawal, hoping the Taliban would agree to be part of an interim government.
  • The flawed peace process, which offered a clear, early edge to the Taliban, caused a deadlock in the Doha process.
  • Unlike Iraq, there was clear political support for the US forces to remain in Afghanistan.
  • But the US chose to shed the “occupier” tag and distance itself from grievances against governance and harm to civilians over the past 20 years.

 Security concerns post troop withdrawal

  • The US has announced that the Afghan War will end by September 11, having seized the Doha agreement as an opportunity.
  • While its withdrawal will exacerbate chaos and violence in Afghanistan and impact the wider region.
  • Due to the easing of UN restrictions for a few leaders and the freedom to operate from its Doha office, the Taliban continues to attend high-profile meetings in swanky hotels in Doha, while deadly attacks ravage Afghanistan.
  • Vicious attacks on civilians, such as the killing of schoolgirls in Kabul on May 8, are conveniently blamed on Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) by the Taliban.
  • It is widely believed that the Pakistan army has infiltrated and is running the ISKP to “market” the Taliban as a “nationalist insurgent” group willing to fight “extremist” ISKP.
  • Groups like ISKP and al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and their variants will be used for high-profile attacks in Afghanistan and in the region, including against Western targets, to deter deeper re-engagement in Afghanistan.
  • The chaos would create more ungoverned spaces strengthening the terror infrastructure. Hence, the developments in Afghanistan will continue to raise security concerns, far beyond South Asia.

Role regional countries can play in maintaining peace and security:

Possible future course for India:

  • New Delhi must move swiftly to regain the upper hand in the narrative in Afghanistan.
  • The following should assure India a leading position in Afghanistan’s regional formulation:
    • India’s assistance of more than $3 billion in projects
    • trade of about $1 billion
    • a $20 billion projected development expenditure of an alternate route through Chahbahar
  • India’s support to the Afghan National Army, bureaucrats, doctors and other professionals for training
  • The Indian government must strive to endure that its aid and assistance is broad-based, to centres outside the capital (Kabul) as well.
  • This should be the case even if some lie in areas held by the Taliban.
  • India must also pursue opportunities to fulfil its role in the peace efforts in Afghanistan.
  • An understanding between Iran and the U.S. on Afghanistan is necessary for lasting peace as well, and India could play a mediatory part.
  • India should also use the UN’s call for a pause in conflicts during the novel coronavirus pandemic, to ensure a hold on hostilities with Pakistan.
  • Above all, New Delhi must consider the appointment of a special envoy, as it has been done in the past, to deal with its efforts in Afghanistan.
  • India’s engagement should be conditional on Taliban joining the mainstream politics.
  • India should not give legitimacy to a government in exile (Taliban’s political office is based in Doha) in its own neighbourhood.
  • New Delhi should, using its regional clout as well as its deep ties with both the U.S. and Russia, strive for what Mr. Jaishankar called “double peace”, both inside Afghanistan and in the region.

China’s role:

  • China should expand its role in the region to actively use its unique influence over Pakistan and advance its investment interests in Afghanistan
  • China can be encouraged to spur economic development in Afghanistan, which would be simultaneously beneficial for China.
  • Most importantly, it is in China’s best interest to stabilize Pakistan.
  • While China may be unwilling to deal with Pakistan in a multilateral forum, it could certainly be encouraged to work with Pakistan bilaterally to achieve stability where their economic interests lie.

Iran’s role:

  • Iran has vital interests in being a dominant player in Afghanistan, and has become significantly more involved in the region.
  • Iran’s potentially beneficial role in the region must be weighed against the destabilizing role it could play if its tensions with the U.S. and NATO countries were to escalate.
  • Iran should be looking to be fully integrated into the wider regional strategy for stabilization, without which it is unlikely to cooperate.

Russia’s role:

  • Working with Russia to alleviate fears of U.S. domination in Central Asia is key to ensuring greater cooperation on Afghanistan.
  • Dialogue with the Central Asian states to make them understand the benefits of cooperation is similarly vital.
  • Russia and the Central Asian states must be brought to dialogue with one another to alleviate national security fears and move forward with developing the Northern Distribution Network and other trade routes.

Saudi Arabia’s Role:

  • Saudi Arabia can lead negotiations with the Taliban, and exercise influence over Pakistan
  • Saudi Arabia has also played a role in brokering talks with the Taliban and claims that it has almost been able to fully cut-off funding for al-Qaeda and its affiliates flowing from private Saudi sources.
  • Saudi Arabia is also a major investor in and ally of Pakistan, and can leverage this role to convince Pakistan to do more to resolve regional issues, while also getting the “softer” and less ideologically-committed elements within the Taliban to agree to negotiate

Conclusion

Despite the withdrawal, the looming shadow of US-NATO will remain with a focus on preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven. US-NATO have chosen Afghan forces, under a democratic government, as their local allies and have assured funding up to 2024. While US-NATO may focus on their specific objectives in Afghanistan 2.0, it is certain that the Taliban-ISKP-Pakistan combine will unleash much more violence.

 

Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

3. Examine the significance of North-East Council in the development of North-East India. (250 words)

Reference:  Economic Times

Why the question:

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister has expressed that North-East Council (NEC) can be to north-eastern states what the NITI Aayog is for the country – a one-point solution centre.

Key Demand of the question:

One is expected to examine the significance of North-East Council in the development of North-East India.

Directive:

Examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we must look into the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with what North East council is.

Body:

It is the nodal agency for the economic and social development of the North-Eastern Region consisting of the eight States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura.

The Shillong-based advisory body was constituted in 1971 by an Act of Parliament, with a twin mandate of planning and facilitating development and to serve as a forum to address common security challenges of the region.

Discuss the factors affecting performance of the NEC.

Explain how the NEC can develop to become a one-point solution centre for north-east India.

Conclusion:

The northeast lies at the crossroads of ambitious international corridors — the Asian highway, the east-west corridor and the BCIM highway. NEC is expected to play a much greater role in view of the opening up of South-east Asian countries. Delhi is far too remote to plan for a region with such complexity and diversity.

Introduction

The North Eastern Council (NEC) is the nodal agency for the economic and social development of the North Eastern Region which consists of the eight States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. The North Eastern Council was constituted in 1971 by an Act of Parliament. The constitution of the Council has marked the beginning of a new chapter of concerted and planned endeavour for the rapid development of the Region. Over the last thirty-five years, NEC has been instrumental in setting in motion a new economic endeavour aimed at removing the basic handicaps that stood in the way of normal development of the region and has ushered in an era of new hope in this backward area full of great potentialities.

Body

Functions of North-East Council:

  • To discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in the Council have a common interest and advise the Central Government and the Governments of the States concerned as to the action to be taken on any such matter, particularly with regard to –
    • any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning;
    • any matter concerning inter-State Transport and Communications;
    • any matter relating to Power or Flood-control projects of common interest.
  • To formulate and forward proposals for securing the balanced development of the North-Eastern Areas particularly with regard to –
    • a unified and coordinated Regional Plan, which will be in addition to the State Plan, in regard to matters of common importance to that area;
    • prioritizing the projects and schemes included in the Regional Plan and recommend stages in which the Regional Plan may be implemented; and
    • regarding the location of the projects and schemes included in the Regional Plan to the Central.

Significance of North-East Council:

  • India’s North East Region (NER) has a geo-strategic location—sharing borders with countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Nepal—that makes it conducive to international trade. The region is also rich in natural resources and biodiversity.
  • The Shillong-based advisory body has a different standing vis-à-vis the five zonal councils, constituted under the States Reorganization Act,1956.
  • It was handed the remit of regional planning and ideation upon specific matters of shared interest — interstate transport, flood control and planning. However, for most part of its existence, NEC has fallen short of political expectations.
  • The NEC can play the role of an institutional anchor for constituent states, and help draw a blueprint of comprehensive development.
  • Given the region’s strategic significance, ministers of external affairs and commerce can also be included as members of the NEC.
  • This would demystify the Act East Policy and bring trade at the forefront of policy agenda of northeastern states.
  • The NER shares 90 percent of its boundary with our neighbours — Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Nepal — and hence is strategically important as it serves as the only land link to East Asia, a  priority region for India’s foreign policy. Considering the region’s location, it has been termed as India’s gateway to East Asia. Therefore, developing the region is a necessity for the success of India’s East Asia policy.
  • Many of its connectivity projects in South East Asia will be passing through the North-Eastern Region.
  • Also, the development of the region has become important to maintain its position as a regional power, which is now being contested by China.
  • With China launching the Belt & Road Initiative, India is under pressure to make sub-regional initiatives like the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal) successful, as many of the members of the BBIN and the BIMSTEC are also members of the BRI.
  • For the success of these initiatives, development of the region is crucial.

Way forward:

  • NEC needs to sharpen its attention on four verticals, where the northeast offers a comparative advantage — hydropower, horticulture, ecotourism and trade.
  • With an estimated hydropower potential of nearly 60,000 MW, the region could become the powerhouse of India.
  • The fertile land of northeast is producing exotic high value crops — tea, medicinal and aromatic plants, quinoa, kale, kiwi, orchids, dragon fruit, passion fruit, palm oil and large cardamom.
  • The region accounts for nearly three-fifth of India’s bamboo production, yet there is no comprehensive plan for its industrial application.
  • A holistic approach for horticulture and agriculture development embracing aggregation, processing and marketing in a hub and spoke model, is need of the hour.
  • An empowered NEC, must provide mentorship for planning and oversight in these priority sectors.
  • A professionally managed venture capital fund, which provides seed capital and hand holding support for startups would help nurture a new generation of young entrepreneurs.
  • A partnership with a leading academic institution, such as IIM-Shillong, will create an ecosystem for undertaking evidence based policy research.
  • Delhi is far too remote to plan for a region with such complexity and diversity. The NEC is ideally suited to take up this mantle, and serve as a bridge with the central government.
  • Leading up to the NEC turning 50 in 2022, this is an opportune occasion to take a fresh look at its mandate and dwell upon a course of reform.

Conclusion

Supply-chain constraints at the regional level hamper the trade-growth linkages, as do trade barriers, social unrest, and inadequate infrastructure. The unique character of the northeast, poses distinct cultural, economic and strategic challenges. There is an obvious need for a forum to address the big picture, harmonising competing policy goals, in a spirit of cooperative federalism. The transition of NITI Aayog could serve as a template for a suitable reincarnation of the North Eastern Council.

 

Topic: Representation of the People Act (1950)

4. How far do you think linking Aadhaar with electoral voter information is a fitting electoral reform? Critically analyse.  (250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express

Why the question:

The article presents to us a detailed critical analysis of linking Aadhaar with electoral voter information.

Key Demand of the question:

Present your opinion with respect to linking Aadhaar with electoral voter information.

Directive:

Critically analyze – When asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, one needs to look at the good and bad of the topic and give a fair judgment.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with brief on the electoral reforms involving Aadhaar identity.

Body:

First discuss the context – recently, the Election Commission of India (ECI), reminded the Law Ministry to approve a slew of pending electoral reforms. Among these was hastening the linking of voter ID cards (EPIC database) with Aadhaar.

Then weigh the advantages and disadvantages of such a move.

Concerns can range from – The absence of a law to protect personal data, lack of clarity on the mechanism of integration, danger of leaks and possibility of disenfranchisement of voters. Also, explain the constitutional difficulties and hurdles it may generate.

Discuss the positives: improved accessibility to voting, reducing voter fraud etc.

Conclusion:

Based on the above discussion conclude with a fair and balanced opinion.

Introduction

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has proposed to link the electoral roll with the Aadhaar ecosystem with a view to curbing the menace of multiple enrolment of the same person at different places. This would require amendments in the elections laws.

Body

The ECI has justified this integration for a range of reasons,

  • Improved accessibility to voting and reducing voter fraud.
  • There have been calls to allow migrant workers to be given the right to vote regardless of their location, in order to let them participate in elections in their home states.
  • Analysis by Sabrang India indicates that India lags in voter participation compared to other large democracies, a major reason being the staggering numbers of migrant workers — an estimated population of 300 million.
  • Linking the two databases will allow the ECI to track migrant workers and improve election participation.
  • This move is also expected to prevent voter fraud since Aadhar information is authenticated using biometrics, which cannot be replicated, and in turn, the duplication of voter ID cards is prevented.
  • The duplication of voter ID cards could be problematic since it allows people to vote in multiple areas given that they show different areas of residence.

In its current form, the proposed amendment to the Representation of the People Act (1950), will make this integration voluntary, not mandatory.

This amendment does not remove other forms of identification to verify EPIC — such as driving license, passport, utility bills, etc. However, precedent warns us against the mandatory vs. voluntary stance, which kept changing throughout Aadhar implementation.

Concerns over the linking

  • Absence of a Personal Data Protection Law, can result in abuse and undermine the integrity of the voter roll.
  • The use of demographic information, such as a caste certificate or driving license, when used to obtain an Aadhar card could be harnessed by the EPIC database.
  • This information could be used for targeted political advertising and, possibly, disenfranchisement.
  • The institutional and technological mechanisms to prevent this need to be made clearer before this move is implemented.
  • There have been examples of targeted surveillance using Aadhar information and demographic data.
    • In Andhra Pradesh, 5.167 million families’ locations could be tracked on a website run by the state government, using religion and caste as search criteria.
    • Similarly, in an attempt to “purify” electoral rolls and remove duplicates, names of 2.2 million voters were deleted from the Telangana voter rolls. Many voters — including badminton player and 14-time national champion Jwala Gutta — were surprised to see their names deleted. The Telangana Election Commission used Aadhar-based software for this purpose, according to an RTI query, which led to such disenfranchisement and violation of universal suffrage.
  • The scope for fraud increases when these databases are interlinked. In 2020, UIDAI reported that it had cancelled 40,000 fake Aadhar cards, the first time it admitted to fraud in its systems.
  • Authenticity of Aadhar will determine the authenticity of the voter rolls and this could lead to fraudulent identities being legitimised.
    • We saw this in the case of PAN-Aadhar linkage where concerns of legitimising benamifinancial transactions were raised after UIDAI had accepted the scope of fraud in Aadhar.
  • UIDAI, in multiple court cases, has admitted that it has no information about the enrolment operator, agency, or even their location while enrolling someone in Aadhar.

Conclusion

In the case of EPIC integration, oversight mechanisms and other checks and balances to ensure the integrity of individual data is unclear. Given the reported scope for fraud with Aadhar, this process could undermine the sanctity of the voter roll.

 

 


General Studies – 3


 

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

5. What are flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs)? Discuss the challenges that need to be addressed before the adoption of flexible fuel vehicles policy. (250 words)

Reference:  Business Standard 

Why the question:

New guidelines for use of flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) using flex engines is expected to be issued by the third quarter of current year (FY22) that would specify engine configuration and other changes required in vehicles to conform to stipulated changes in fuel mix. Thus the question.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the concept of Flexible fuel vehicles and associated challenges.

Directive:

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with what flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) are.

Body:

A FFV is a modified version of vehicles that could run both on gasoline and doped petrol with different levels of ethanol blends.

These are currently being used successfully in Brazil, giving people the option to switch fuel (gasoline and ethanol) depending on price and convenience.

Discuss the challenges that need to be addressed before the adoption of flexible fuel vehicles policy such as – will require adoption of vehicle standards, technologies and retrofitting configurations, would require additional investment in production lines and technology transfers to change the character of the vehicles etc.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction

Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) have an internal combustion engine and are capable of operating on gasoline and any blend of gasoline and ethanol up to 85%. It is a modified version of vehicles that could run both on gasoline and blended petrol with different levels of Ethanol blends. They provide opportunity for increased use of biofuels for running vehicles.

The Ministry of road transport and Highways had issued a Draft notification for mass emission standards for E 12 (Blend of 12% ethanol in gasoline) and E 15 fuels, thereby facilitating their use as Automotive fuels. Auto companies may soon be asked to manufacture vehicles that run on multiple fuel configuration aimed at reducing the use of polluting fossil fuels and cutting down harmful emissions.

Body

Benefits of FFV:

  • Cleaner for the Environment
    • Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline, which means flex-fuel cars pump fewer toxic fumes into the environment.
    • Flex fuel also contributes fewer greenhouse gases, making it a more environmentally friendly option than traditional gasoline.
  • Burning Facility
    • One of the greatest advantages of a flex-fuel vehicle is that is can burn whatever proportion of fuel mixture is in the combustion chamber.
    • The car is equipped with electronic sensors that gauge the blend, and its microprocessors adjust the fuel injection and timing.
  • Advanced Technology
    • Modern flex-fuel vehicles are built using advanced technology such as electronic sensors.
    • These technological advances allow your car to adjust the way it’s operating, including detecting the fuel blend and making any necessary adjustments.
    • Modern flex-fuel cars can contain 10 to 85 percent ethanol. Thanks to the technology it’s equipped with, your vehicle will determine the most efficient proportions.
  • Sustainably Produced
    • Many flex-fuel vehicles run on ethanol, which is sustainably produced from ingredients such as cane sugar and corn. This makes ethanol a good alternative to purchasing foreign oil.
  • Tax Benefits
    • Consumers who drive flex-fuel cars receive tax credits that can significantly reduce or even eliminate their tax obligation.
  • Improved Performance
    • While some might argue that using an alternative fuel source can negatively impact a vehicle’s performance, in reality it can have the opposite effect.
    • Flex-fuel vehicles don’t experience a loss in performance when using E85 fuel. In fact, some even generate increased torque and horsepower.
  • Cheaper Alternative
    • Alternative fuel ethanol is Rs 60-62 per litre while petrol costs more than Rs 100 per litre in many parts of the country, so by using ethanol, Indians will save Rs 30-35 per litre.
    • For India, FFVs will present a different advantage as they will allow vehicles to use different blends of ethanol mixed petrol available in different parts of the country.
    • Also, these vehicles are a logical extension of the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programmelaunched by the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in January 2003.
  • Alternative source of income for farmers
    • Since India has surplus produce of corn, sugar and wheat, the mandatory blending of ethanol programme will help farmers in realising higher incomes.
    • For the overall Indian economy, higher usage of ethanol as an automobile fuel will help save import costs as the country meets more than 80 per cent of its crude oil requirements through imports.

Challenges posed by FFV:

  • Sole Crop Use
    • While it’s great that flex fuel can be sustainably produced using corn and sugar, its production comes with a downside.
    • Crops designed to be used for flex-fuel production can’t be allocated to other sources.
    • This could potentially drive up the price of animal feed.
    • Corn is also susceptible to disease and weather conditions such as flooding and drought.
    • This can be problematic for corn prices during poor harvests.
    • Diversion of food crops (like sugarcane) to ethanol production.
  • Possible Engine Damage
    • Ethanol also acts as a solvent and could wipe out the protective oil film inside the engine thereby could cause wear and tear.
    • Unfortunately, ethanol absorbs dirt easily, which can potentially corrode and damage your engine.
  • Gas Mileage
    • One of the main concerns about driving a flex-fuel car is its gas mileage.
    • While some experts assert that flex-fuel vehicles have similar mileage as regular fuel-powered vehicles, others claim they have lower gas mileage.
  • Customer acceptance
    • It will be a major challenge since the cost of ownership and running cost are going to be very high compared with 100 per cent petrol vehicles.
  • Higher cost of operation
    • Running cost (due to lower fuel efficiency) will be higher by more than 30 per cent when run with 100 per cent ethanol (E100).
    • Flex Fuel Engines cost more as ethanol has very different chemical properties than petrol. Ethanol has very low (40 per cent) Calorific value as compared to Gasoline, very High Latent heat of vaporization causing cooling of charge/combustion etc.
    • Ethanol is also not as economical as gasoline as it does not provide the same level of fuel efficiency.
  • Scarcity of Fuel Stations
    • Because flex fuel isn’t as economical as gasoline, gas stations are less likely to carry it.
    • In fact, only a small percentage of gas stations nationwide supply ethanol, although that is likely to change as more consumers purchase flex-fuel vehicles.

Way forward:

  • New guidelines for use of flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) using flex engines is expected to be issued by the third quarter of current year (FY22) that would specify engine configuration and other changes required in vehicles to conform to stipulated changes in fuel mix.
  • The government is also working on an incentive scheme to promote manufacture and use of flex engines in vehicles.
  • A majority of vehicles sold in Brazil are FFVs, India can learn many of their best practices and adopt it.
  • The introduction of flex-fuel engines in India on a large scale would promote alternative fuel which is in alignment with the government’s ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ drive.

 

Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, biotechnology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

6. The entry of the private sector into the space race brings new dimensions to the monetization of space technology; In this context discuss the prospects of space tourism and challenges ahead. (250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express

Why the question:

Three high-profile billionaires — Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin, and Elon Musk of SpaceX — are all invested in space. Recently, the first crewed flight of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity carried Branson as a passenger.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the prospects of space tourism and challenges ahead.

Directive:

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with brief context of the question through some facts.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

Discuss how Space tourism is gaining popularity in the field of Space.

Explain in what way the entry of the private sector into the space race brings new dimensions to the monetization of space technology.

Space tourism could soon be an option for the well-heeled adventure tourist. For instance, Virgin Galactic has received over 500 advance bookings at $250,000 per seat on the VSS Unity.

Discuss the potential and prospects that Space holds as a tourist spot.

Explain the advantages and challenges in detail.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction

Space tourism is another niche segment of the aviation industry that seeks to give tourists the ability to become astronauts and experience space travel for recreational, leisure, or business purposes.

Historically, space has been a domain that solely belonged to the military or to governments and their respective space agencies, like NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos. But in recent years, there’s been a paradigm shift, with more and more private companies making a name for themselves by putting hardware in space.

Recently, 70-year-old billionaire Richard Branson rocketed towards the stars in a fully crewed Virgin Galactic spacecraft – at least nine days before rival space tycoon Jeff Bezos hopes to try and reach the edge of space in a Blue Origin ship.

Body

Benefit of space tourism

  • These are early stages for the space tourism industry offering only sub-orbital flights (flights cannot complete an orbit around earth) and will give an experience of only a few minutes in space.
  • Cost of reaching space will go down with increase in competition revenue generated from space tourism will further support space exploration and the cost will reduce in a same way the cost of air travel has reduced.
  • Due to Technical Advancement and increasing use of space by human there will be use of space technology in other fields of human life such as travelling time across the globe will be reduced drastically to an hour or two by using hypersonic travel
  • It will inspire new generation of Engineers
  • Job creation – there are many companies that are there in space tourism business these company has not existed a few decades ago growth of space tourism will also generate more of a manufacturing job engineering job service sector job life Pilots etc
  • It can give additional support to space research and development like asteroid mining
  • Which space tourism chances of space getting militarized will be avoided

Challenges of Space Tourism

  • Very steep initial cost the degree of sophistication and the technology used in space make this business very costly
  • Chances of catastrophic disaster – space is a very hostile place for human survival and it does not operate in anyway any of slightest mistake can lead to great loss of life and property
  • Sustainability of the business – the customer base being extremely low, the cost of travel tends to remain high throughout may cause sustainability issue
  • Health effect of space travel – DNA damage bone loss muscles loss blood pressure problem are the health issues associated with space radiation and microgravity present in space
  • Environmental effect- according to the study by NASA 1000 sub orbital launches releases 600 tons’ carbon black into stratosphere it has potential to create strong hemispheric climatic assembly pollution from this industry can also accelerate global warming and damage ozone layer
  • International orders – according to outer space Treaty 1967 outer space is not subjected to National appropriation by claims of sovereignty or by means of occupation.

 

Importance for India:

  • India must accelerate our progress in this field.
  • While space tourism might seem a needless indulgence, the concept may not just be recreational. It can provide a base for testing super-sonic travel between different destinations on earth, significantly compressing travel time.
  • Besides, it heralds the entry of the private sector into this arena.
  • Blue Origin was founded in 2000, SpaceX in 2002, Virgin Galactic in 2004. It’s taken these companies nearly two decades and substantial funding and effort to come this far.
  • While the Indian government last year announced a policy to open space exploration to the private sector, there has not been much follow up.
  • It is imperative, we get a strong foothold in space. ISRO alone cannot do the job.

Challenges for private space entities in India:

  • Monopoly: In India ‘Space’ means Indian Space Research Organisation. Globally the technology is highly protected because of its dual use capability. Even if it was not, it would be prohibitively expensive.
  • Funding: A major challenge in setting up a space business in India is funding. Space industry is capital intensive and upstream activities come with a long gestation period.
  • Investor’s Dilemma: The lack of clarity among the investors and lack of the ecosystem required for significant contribution is a challenge for the investors.
  • Lack of Regulation: India is a party to the Outer Space Treaty, where one of the fundamental requirements laid upon states is the supervision of space activities within its borders, the country did not have any formally legislated laws. This is a potential roadblock for commercialization.
  • Growth Challenges: Scaling up, international marketing and funding are challenges.
  • Lack of Support: The Indian ecosystem has neither incubation support nor pointers to seek support of leaders such as ISRO for space start-ups.
  • Political and bureaucratic hurdles limit private space operations in India.
  • Low in-house capacity of ISRO restricts them to very few launches in a year. Privatization can offload 30-40% of the work and help them work more efficiently.

Way forward:

  • India should have national space activities legislation which takes on board all stakeholders.
  • A public-private partnership (PPP) model can be looked into to realise ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), with a joint venture between ISRO and the private sector.
  • In the UK, space ventures are treated as a complement to big organizations and not a competitor. This should be encouraged in India too.
  • A supportive international partner and likeminded local partners helps to set up a space business.
  • The idea should be to let the private industry build their own facilities after gaining enough expertise.
  • ISRO has built a space technology park spread over 25 acres in Bengaluru where the entire range of facilities have been set up for use by the industry.

Conclusion:

The private sector already supplies majority of the sub-systems in satellite manufacturing. This can be further scaled up into other activities with proper regulation and partnership of the ISRO and private sector. The country must deregulate the space sector to encourage private enterprise if we are to compete in the new space economy.

 

 


General Studies – 4


 

Topic: Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in-human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics – in private and public relationships. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of Family society and educational institutions in inculcating values.

7. “One has not only a legal but also a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Discuss what the afore mentioned quote means to you in today’s context. (250 words)

Reference: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by Lexicon Publications.  

Why the question:

The question is based on the theme of moral responsibility.

Key Demand of the question:

One must elaborate the significance of moral responsibility and in what way it is important in both obeying just laws and disobeying unjust laws.

Directive:

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly highlight your understanding of the quote.

Body:

Explain that in a democracy, a law not only has the statutory sanction but also reflects the will of the people. Obedience to the law of the land is also a moral obligation for maintaining social and political order in the interest of common good. Socrates when condemned to death, did not flee the city. According to him, it would have been violation of law amounting to mistreatment or disrespect of his fellow citizens.

Discuss its importance in the current context. Give examples such as that of Criminalizing Homosexuality, Adultery and sexual harassment etc.

Conclusion:

Conclude with significance.

Introduction

Laws are rules of conduct that government creates and requires people to obey whereas ethics refers to human conduct based on a set of established standards. Law and Ethics are considered to be the two tools for controlling human conduct so as to make it conducive for civilized social existence.

Body

Ethical conduct in human society is considered paramount as it is based on critical thinking and reason. Socrates is known as the father of ethics, who influenced generations of thinkers after him like Plato, Aristotle, etc.

Based on society’s beliefs, laws are created and enforced by governments to mediate in our relationships with each other. Laws must be followed by all, including private citizens, groups and companies as well as public figures, organizations and institutions. Laws set out standards, procedures and principles that must be followed.

  • While laws carry with them a punishment for violations, ethics does not. In ethics everything depends on the person’s conscience and self-worth. For example, driving carefully and within the speed limit because a person not wanting to hurt someone is ethical, but if one drives slowly because he/she sees a police car behind, this suggests fear of breaking the law and being punished for it.
  • Ethics comes from within a person’s moral sense and desire to preserve his self-respect. It is not as strict as laws. Laws are codifications of certain ethical values meant to help regulate society, and punishments for breaking them can be harsh and sometimes even break ethical standards.
    • For example, take the case of the death penalty. Everyone knows that killing someone is wrong, yet the law punishes people who break the law with death.
  • Furthermore, laws play role as a punitive tool towards ensuring ethical conduct in humans in a civilised society. Child labour acts in statute books around the world are a case in point where ethical behaviour of not employing child labours is ensured through legislations for the same.

At the same time, it is important to remember that following law doesn’t always ensure ethical conduct for humans.

  • An illegal act may be deemed more ethical than when following law to the book.
    • For example, the act of whistleblowing to bring out information important for the society can be seen as illegal but many consider it an ethical conduct. The case of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange clearly demonstrates this phenomenon.
  • Rigid implementation of laws also cannot serve the purpose of ethical conduct as is evident from the recent Supreme Court judgement with respect to Forest Rights Act for tribals in India. Here, many tribals have been ordered to vacate their traditional dwelling places owing to SC’s interpretation of archaic laws.
  • The words of Mahatma Gandhi were from his struggle in South Africa against the unjust racial laws. Laws protect the rights of people and regulate the civil activities. In most of the cases, laws are on the lines of ethical principles. But there are also several laws which are clearly unethical.
    • For example, laws made by Nazi state in Germany or laws sanctioning racial discrimination in USA or South Africa were legitimate and legal but unethical.
  • According to Martin Luther King one has moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. Also, Mahatma Gandhi was of the opinion that an unjust law in itself is a species of violence. In the broader scheme of ethical governance, laws may not be the solution to all problems since what is legally permissible may not be morally defendable.
    • For example, consider the case of capital punishment. While a state can enact a law to take away the basic right to life legally, it does not fall on strong moral grounds. Similarly, laws like AFSPA deprive citizens of basic civil liberties.

Other examples of surrogate advertising, paid news, etc. may be legally admissible but unethical. Also, enacting and enforcing laws requires idealism and can also be used for ethical deliberation avoidance. Especially in the scheme of administrative ethics, laws restrict civil service to quantitative dimension of procedural compliance; oblivious to the moral issues involved. So, while laws are essential in guiding mechanisms of governance, they cannot be absolute due to the scope of errors.

Conclusion

Hence, ethical sensibility is above laws in governance and elements of moral conscience are required to assess actions.


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