Tuesday, December 30, 2014

UPSC Civil Services Mains GS Paper-2 2014

GS PAPER – 2

  1. Starting from inventing the ‘basic structure’ doctrine, the judiciary has played a highly proactive role in ensuring that India develops into a thriving democracy. In light of the statement, evaluate the role played by judicial activism in achieving the ideals of democracy.
Judiciary gave concept of basic structure in Keshavananda Bharti Case in 1973 to safeguard the interests of citizens against legislative whims. In the same decade it also pioneered the way for Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which strengthened the collective good by overcoming the limitations imposed by principles of locus standi.
It further strengthened the rights of individual in a liberal democracy in Maneka Gandhi Case where it came up with ‘due process of law’ and hence limiting the arbitrary discretion of legislature.
Over the years it has also interpreted Article 19 and 21 in a very liberal manner and has expanded the meaning of fundamental rights by including various other rights like – right to pollution free environment, right against handcuffing, right to information and so on.
More recently, in 2014, it also gave a landmark judgment in Rajiv Gandhi killer’s case by commuting their death sentence in wake of inordinate delay on their mercy petition. This has again made death penalty de facto abolished and strengthened the right to life of individual.
Thus, over the years judiciary has acted in the ‘spirit’ of our constitution and liberal democracy, rather than ‘letter’ of it and hence strengthened democracy.
(Missed the most recent judgment on transgenders rights, though it was the first thing which came to my mind, but was lost by the time I reached at the end of answer)

  1. Though the federal principle is dominant in our Constitution and that principle is one of its basic features, but it is equally true that federalism under the Indian Constitution leans in favour of a strong Centre, a feature that militates against the concept of strong federalism. Discuss.
The fact that the very word ‘federal’ is mentioned nowhere in our constitution shows its unitary nature which is variously described as quasi-federalism, cooperative federalism and so on. It is also exemplified by following constitutional provisions as well –
a.       Center government has more financial powers
b.      Unified judiciary
c.       Single CAG, Election Commission
d.      Emergency Provision ad president rule provision
e.      Strong role of planning commission
Finally, the very existence of states under Article 3 is contingent upon the will of the union and it may create or destroy the states despite their approval and opposition.

  1. The ‘Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and its Members’ as envisaged in Article 105 of the Constitution leave room for a large number of un-codified and un-enumerated privileges to continue. Assess the reasons for the absence of legal codification of the ‘parliamentary privileges’. How can this problem be addressed?
The nature of language and lack of proper codification of power and privileges under article 105 leaves for a lot of scope in favor of parliamentarians. It has following reasons for their continuance –
a.       First of all, while there are liberal provisions for the independence of judiciary, like contempt of court etc, there are no such strict provisions for parliament. To ensure the independence of parliament and provide for unforeseen events which cannot be covered by even a total codification, some flexibility is needed.
b.      Secondly, the power hungry nature and semi-feudal nature of our social institutions has also hindered any constructive reforms.
c.       Finally, there is also lack of political will due to which parliamentarians have not favored the change in existing mechanisms which curb their privileges.
However, a liberal democracy demands a transparent working of parliament as well and put the legislators on equal footing as that of rest of citizens, following steps can be taken for it –
a.       Parliamentary proceedings need to be more transparent and make parliamentarians more accountable for their conduct.
b.      The privileges should be codified in a clear manner to mention dos and donts like civil services conduct rules.
c.       A consensus needs to be built across the party lines

  1. What do you understand by the concept “freedom of speech and expression”? Does it cover hate speech also? Why do the films in India stand on a slightly different plane from other forms of expression? Discuss.
Freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right that is guaranteed by our constitution and it allows an individual to express his ideas, views, opinion etc publicly.
It doesn’t cover hate speeches as ‘freedom of speech and expression’ is not an absolute right and there are limits on freedom of speech and expression in constitution itself and in various legislations like CrPC, like – threat to national integration, public order, rights of others, potential of communal conflicts and so on. Since hate speeches violate these provisions, it doesn’t fall under freedom of speech and expression.
However, films in India stand on a slightly different plane due to following reasons –
a.       First of all, films are screened by a body called Censor Board which screens out any such content which is against public order.
b.      Secondly, films also come up with suitable caveats in form of certifications like U, A , U/A etc and are primarily for private watching and an individual can always decide to avoid them.
c.       Finally, while hate speeches and other forms of expressions are in the realm of ‘reality’, films are often on the plane of ‘fiction’.
Hence, films are rather forms of expression of creativity which differentiate them from other forms of expression.

  1. Instances of President’s delay in commuting death sentences has come under public debate as denial of justice. Should there be a time limit specified for the President to accept/reject such petitions? Analyse.
Recent decision of SC of commutation of death sentence in case of inordinate delay (in Rajiv Gandhi Killer’s case and other cases) has highlighted that there is a need of limiting the timeframe for presidential decisions for following reasons –
a.       First of all, inordinate delay leads to a person dying many deaths every single day and it also violates many fundamental human rights of the individual which are also mentioned in the UN’s Universal Human Rights Declaration.
b.      Secondly, such inordinate delay also weaken the trust of people at large in the justice delivery system of India
c.       Thirdly, such inordinate delays are more often than not due to political reasons and not due to jurisprudential reasons
d.      Finally, while inordinate delays lead to the suffering and disappointment to those who have faith in justice delivery mechanism of the country, it also encourages unscrupulous elements as it removes the fear of punishment and they even enjoy stay in prison at the expense of public money.
However, there is another dimension to this inordinate delay as well. Human rights activist view this inordinate delay as a defacto negation of the cruel and inhuman practice of death sentence. India is one of the few countries across the globe where death sentence is still awarded and its defacto negation by inordinate delay is welcome indeed.
(I should have also mentioned that since death is an irrevocable and irreversible thing, inordinate delay can be justified if a due investigation and consideration of all factors is required by president)

  1. The size of the cabinet should be as big as governmental work justifies and as big as the Prime Minister can manage as a team. How far the efficacy of a government then is inversely related to the size of the cabinet? Discuss.
The debate between small or big size of cabinet was partly addressed by the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act which limited the size of Council of Minister to 15% of size of Lok Sabha. Big size is desirable for rational division of labor and equitable distribution of workload, but has following limitations –
a.       First off, big size pose a problem of coordination and it often leads to inordinate delays in decision making.
b.      Secondly, consensus building is also very difficult in the large size.
c.       Thirdly, in our parliamentary from, coalition are inevitable and often size of cabinet is expanded due to pulls and pressure of coalition politics and for short term gains.
d.      Finally, large cabinet size also means that there have to be additional expansion of resources and staff at huge public expense which cannot be justified in a developing country like India.
Limitations of small size can instead be overcome by appointing capable persons in the position of ministership, use of technology and ample use of cabinet committees and staff agencies. This is an era of lean governance and large size of cabinet reflects poorly on the leadership capabilities of the PM and his ministers.

  1. Though 100 percent FDI is already allowed in non-news media like a trade publication and general entertainment channel, the Government is mulling over the proposal for increased FDI in news media for quite some time. What difference would an increase in FDI make? Critically evaluate the pros and cons.
An increase in FDI will have many benefit for the news media segment, like –
a.       It will bring much needed cash for the cash starved media houses
b.      Secondly, it will also bring technological knowhow as well.
c.       It will also lead to increased competition. This will lead to improved service and more choices for the consumers. As a result, quality of news coverage and delivery is also likely to improve as they will now be judged with international benchmarks.
d.      Finally, it is also likely to see overseas expansion of news media from India and emergence of global India-based news channels which currently have no global presence.
However, foreign FDI in news media also suffers from some shortcomings like –
a.       It is likely to suffocate the fledgling news media industry as foreign MNCs are likely to use their money-muscle power to crush the domestic small players.
b.      It also has security dimensions. News and media networks are potential medium which can be used by external state and non-state actors to compromise the internal security. Further, they can also be used to spread falsehoods and rumours as well, as we have learnt from recent incidents of communal clashes in which media played a big role in spreading rumours.
Hence, FDI in news media should be allowed only after a suitable regulatory framework is in place and bodies like Press Council of India and Broadcasting Standards Authority of India are given more teeth.

  1. The setting up of a Rail Tariff Authority to regulate fares will subject the cash strapped Indian Railways to demand subsidy for obligation to operate non-profitable routes and services. Taking into account the experience in the power sector, discuss if the proposed reform is expected to benefit the consumers, the Indian Railways or the private container operators.
Railways currently operate on the ‘cross-subsidization’ model, in which the passenger business is loss making, but subsidized through the earnings of freight business. In power sector also, similar condition existed before Electricity Act of 2003 was enacted and in some states like Delhi, tariffs are now more realistic. Due to popular policies, free and subsidized electricity was given and other consumers were made to pay more and PSEBs were making huge losses.
The proposed reform is likely to benefit the most private container operators, as currently, they have to pay more and freight traffic is also given low priority over passenger traffic. It will lower freight container transportation costs and will also improve service level as cross-subsidisation will be done away with it.
Secondly, Indian Railways is also likely to benefit as the cash strapped body will be able to charge more realistically fares. According to high level committee on Railway Saftey headed by Kakodkar, railways need 1 lakh crore rupees and railway is likely to gain a portion of this amount from such a move.
Finally, passengers are likely to lose in the short term as they will be made to pay more. However, in the long run as railway will improve safety and services due to additional cash, they will also benefit.        
(I failed to recall the tariff regulatory role in power sector and could have mentioned the impact of Accelerated Power Sector Development Reforms)                   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  1. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in India can be most effective when its tasks are adequately supported by other mechanisms that ensure the accountability of a government. In light of the above observation assess the role of NHRC as an effective complement to the judiciary and other institutions in promoting and protecting human rights standards.
NHRC was formed in early 1990s after India signed a UN convention, but despite the great value that we attach to human rights, the Commission has a weak role for the following reasons –
a.       It is only a recommendationary body and has no penal powers. Its recommendations can be ignored by the respective states.
b.      It also doesn’t have a full fledged investigating agency.
c.       It can also not take the cases which are older than a fixed time frame
d.      It can also not investigate the case of armed forces etc.
However, if its role is strengthened, it can play a powerful role in complementing the judiciary and other institutions as –
a.       It can help judiciary in those cases where expertise in human rights is required. Hence, it can act a specialized agency dealing with human rights violation and all such cases can be transferred to it.
b.      Secondly, judiciary has very high backlog and many cases are regarding human rights violation. It can help in reducing that backlog.
(I wrote 1-2 more points which I cannot recall now, but I clearly missed the ‘promotion part’, and have no idea about which ‘other institutions’ the question refers. Further, I feel, the first part of my answer is also not required as question demands us to explore only its complementary role)

  1. The penetration of Self Help Groups (SHGs) in rural areas in promoting participation in development programmes is facing socio-cultural hurdles. Examine.
SHGs in rural areas have elicited more participation of women, but their success have been limited by following factors –
a.       First of all, patriarchy is a big hurdle in states like Haryana where social norms prohibit active participation of women.
b.      Secondly, due to social restrictions on the movement and mobility of women, they are not allowed to go outside the village for necessary training and skill development activities.
c.       Caste is also an important factors, due to which participation of lower caste women is discouraged.
d.      Even institutions like Panchayats have also failed to play an enabling role
e.      Financial institutions have also not been forthcoming in promoting these SHGs
(wrote 1-2 more points)
As a result, participation in SHG activities is more of perfunctory in nature and except in a few states like Karnataka, this movement has not been very successful due to socio-cultural barriers.

  1. Do government’s schemes for up-lifting vulnerable and backward communities by protecting required social resources for them, lead to their exclusion in establishing businesses in urban economics?
Many government schemes like MNREGS, NRLM etc restrict the choices and undermine the potential of vulnerable and backward communities.
Due to a narrow focus, the vulnerable sections get discouraged to reap the benefits of free-market economy as their entrepreneurial abilities are not encouraged by states. Rural areas often offer limited opportunities as compared to urban areas which are the centers of economic activities in a liberalized economy. Limiting such sections to rural areas alone limits their avenues.
(Plus some more gyaan)

  1. An athlete participates in Olympics for personal triumph and nation’s glory; victors are showered with cash incentives by various agencies, on their return. Discuss the merit of state sponsored talent hunt and its cultivation as against the rationale of a reward mechanism as encouragement.
Reward mechanism as an encouragement only recognizes an existing fact and does little in promoting the talent. It is also limited by the small number of players it addresses and is post-facto in nature.
Talent cultivation schemes provide opportunities to even those who don’t have otherwise financial resources to pursue sports as a career. Further, such schemes provide opportunities to larger number of people, while reward mechanisms encourage just a few. Talent cultivation mechanisms also make long term investment as talent is nurtured right from childhood and hence has better chances of success, unlike narrow focus of reward mechanisms.
Since talent cultivation schemes have a long term objective, they also promote spirit of gamesmanship and sportsmanship rather than focusing on just winning. Thus, the moral foundation of talent promotion schemes is sounder than reward mechanisms.

  1. Should the premier institutes like IITs/IIMs be allowed to retain premier status, allowed more academic independence in designing courses and also decide mode/criteria of selection of students. Discuss in light of the growing challenges.
In the recent Times Higher Education Survey, none of the Indian institutions figured in top rungs as they are limited by the following factors –
a.       First of all they don’t have independence to design their courses. This is an era of inter-disciplinary study and a lack of which lead to poor focus and output.
b.      Secondly, faculty eligibility criteria are very strict. This discourages the participation of industrial experts in faculty position in even IITs and IIMs. Remunerations of faculty are also low which fail to attract talent in academics.
c.       In institutions themselves, there is an atmosphere of studying for ‘placement’, rather than learning and students feel less encouraged to take teaching jobs.
d.      There is also low industry interaction. Unlike some Western universities where entrepreneurial cells are established sponsored by Industry, research is not promoted in Indian universities by private companies. Steps should also be taken to amend Apprenticeship Act to promote students and industry interaction.
e.      Even full day to day operational autonomy of these institutes is meddled by the governments and ministries.
Hence, without independence, the institutes like IITs, IIMs have failed to truly earn the ‘premier’ tag.
(I could have highlighted the recent FYP controversy of DU, entrance test controversy related to IITs etc. I also didn’t touch upon required independence for admissions)

  1. Has the Cadre based Civil Services organisation been the cause of slow change in India? Critically examine.
Cadre based civil services organization has hindered the change in India due to following factors –
    1. First of all, they limit the expertise of the civil servants. When they are limited to a particular state, they become parochial in their outlook. Their learning opportunities are inhibited and their performance takes a hit.
    2. Secondly, as per ARC-2 recommendations, cadre-based generalists should be required to choose specialization after a period of say 9 years. Cadre based civil servants are jack-of all trades and master of none as they fail to develop any expertise throughout their careers.
    3. Thirdly, due to cadre based services, civil servants often develop close linkages with the political class and a bureaucracy-politics nexus emerges which militates against the developmental agenda as their focus gets shifted.
(I wrote 1-2 more points, but didn’t explore the other positive dimensions like – cadre based services have also helped civil servants in understanding the culture of a particular state in deeper way and they are a great integrating force as well. Further, I feel that I could have added one more point regarding working of AIS vs Central Services as Central Services are more all India in character)

  1. Two parallel run schemes of the Government viz. the Adhaar Card and NPR, one as voluntary and the other as compulsory, have led to debates at national levels and also litigations. On merits, discuss whether or not both schemes need run concurrently. Analyse the potential of the schemes to achieve developmental benefits and equitable growth.
NPR is a statutory body, while the Aadhar is voluntary. Both the schemes collect similar biometric details and hence, they overlap to a great degree. Due to duplication of the work done by the two, these need not be run concurrently.
The schemes have the potential of development and equitable growth in following manner –
a.       They can be linked to various developmental schemes and help in improved targeting.
b.      They can also be used to help eliminating ghost beneficiaries
c.       They can be used as a tool for Direct Benefit Transfer and hence can cut down logistical costs drastically and remove the inefficiencies
d.      It can ensure that the benefits reach only the intended beneficiaries and hence there is more equitable distribution of resources

  1. With respect to the South China Sea, maritime territorial disputes and rising tension affirm the need for safeguarding maritime security to ensure freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region. In this context, discuss the bilateral issues between India and China.
China has claimed a large area along Nine Dotted Line and has asserted its right over this area. Restrictions in this area has resulted in friction between India and China as China makes unilateral claims, while India wants freedom of navigation in this area and a more realistic settlement of boundary disputes through mechanisms like UNCLOS. Some of the bilateral issues are –
a.       About 50% of Indian trade passed through South China Sea and such restrictions hinder trade prospects of India
b.      Secondly, India is also involved in oil exploration activities in this region – for example near Vietnam seas – such restrictions impact the energy security issues of India as well.
c.       Thirdly, such restrictions also impact the Look East Policy of India and provide a roadblock in deepening strategic relations with East Asian countries.
d.      It also has a security dimension for India as, due to an extended nine dotted line, China has almost come to next door to India.

  1. The aim of Information Technology Agreements (ITAs) is to lower all taxes and tariffs on information technology products by signatories to zero. What impact should such agreements have on India’s interests?
IT agreements are likely to have both positive and negative impacts on India. Some of the positive impacts are –
a.       India has built expertise in IT services over the years and is one of the leading exporters. Lowering of tariffs will open up more markets for it and will also make Indian IT services more competitive.
b.      Secondly, IT services and projects implementation also requires significant deployment of skilled manpower. So, it will also boost employment in India.
c.       Rise in IT export will also help in lowering down the trade deficit
However, there are some apprehensions as well –
a.       First of all, India has poor capabilities in IT hardware and free trade may impact the fledgling IT hardware industries
b.      There is also a risk of countries like China flooding Indian markets by their cheap hardware
c.       This free flow of IT infrastructure also has security concerns as well. US government recently banned Chinese telecom equipment manufacturing firm Huawei after its suspected espionage related activities

  1. Some of the International funding agencies have special terms for economic participation stipulating a substantial component of the aid to be used for sourcing equipment from the leading countries. Discuss on merits of such terms and if, there exists a strong case not to accept such conditions in the Indian context.
(I haven’t heard of any such restrictions or such fields)
Restriction like sourcing of the equipments from particular countries has following adverse impacts on India –
    1. First of all, we live in a free market economy. Putting such restrictions not only pose a threat to India’s sovereign choice, but also undermine freedom of choice of India.
    2. Secondly, often such restrictions mean that India has to import more expensive equipments – as in case of import of equipments from developed countries like USA
    3. It prohibits India from exploring cheaper options due to the dubious restrictions like – safety, health standards, ISO standards and so on.
(wrote 1-2 more points I guess, but I didn’t favor and didn’t highlight merits of such restrictions)

  1. India has recently signed to become founding members of New Development Bank (NDB) and also the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). How will the role of the two Banks be different? Discuss the significance of these two banks for India.
The structure and role of the two banks is different in following manner –
NDB
AIIB
It is primarily a bank for BRICS members
It has China + 21 members.
All members have equal stake
Stake of members proportionate to their economy sizes
Apart from development, it also has role in case of balance of payment crisis. It has a separate contingency reserve of $100 billion for that
Its primary role is that of infrastructure development
These two banks are significant for India from various perspectives –
    1. First of all, according to 12th plan, India needs $ 1 trillion investment in infrastructure in next 5 years, these banks will help in funding that
    2. Secondly, these institutions will help India in countering the IMF and World Bank which are primarily dominated by Western Countries and will also provide India with more bargaining power to demand for more stake in IMF and World Bank
    3. Thirdly, these banks also provide India to play a leadership role among the developing countries and will provide a platform for strengthening its economic ties with them

  1. WTO is an important international institution where decisions taken affect countries in profound manner. What is the mandate of WTO and how binding are their decisions? Critically analyse India’s stand on the latest round of talks on Food security.
Mandate of WTO is to lower the trade barriers among the countries and facilitate free flow of goods and services across the national boundaries. It aims at eliminating trade and non-trade barriers to facilitate this.
It makes its decisions binding by various methods like – there are various sector specific arbitration mechanisms whose decisions are binding on its members. It also allow member countries to take steps like – anti-dumping duties etc to counter trade distorting practices by the other members.
India’s stand on the latest round of WTO talks – Doha Round, which started in 2001 – and the Trade Facilitation talks is that subsidy provided by the developing countries for food securities should not be limited under the De-Minimus clause of 10%. Before Trade Facilitation agreement is finalized, a permanent solution like – indefinite extension of ‘peace clause’ should be found out. India believes that free trade should not hurt the interest of small farmers and the food security of the poor.
(First of all, I didn’t have great idea about the mechanisms which make WTO decisions binding – except that WTO Agreements themselves are legally binding, secondly, I didn’t ‘critically analyzed’ India’s stand. I could have highlighted some more dimensions like – Why India’s stand may not be correct or why subsidies should be limited actually. Since, an agreement was reached just a few days before the exam paving way for TFA, I avoided mentioning that)

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According to me, this paper was a bit tricky and required on the spot and perhaps original thinking as well. According to me, this was the paper which required you to think like an administrator or policy maker. As it required some thinking and questions were long, I missed quite a few things which could have been part of my answers.

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