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.
Answer the following questions in 150 words:
General Studies – 1
1. Examine the various debates between the Northern states and the Southern states, which in due course instigated the American Civil War.
Reference: Insights on India
The American Civil War remains the deadliest conflict in American history with a death toll that surpasses the combined total of American deaths in the first and second World Wars. In some ways, it was the first modern conflict, with the use of armored warships, railways, and telegraphs.
The causes of the Civil War were complex and numerous but ultimately stemmed from the question of slavery. Slavery had always been a point of contention in the United States, but the rapid expansion of the US in the first half of the 19th century served to heighten this issue. New territories raised the question of how they would function, whether as free or slave states.
- The secession of the Southern states (in chronological order, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) in 1860–61 and the ensuing outbreak of armed hostilities were the culmination of decades of growing sectional friction over slavery.
- A common explanation is that the Civil War was fought over the moral issue of slavery.
- In fact, it was the economics of slavery and political control of that system that was central to the conflict.
North vs South: American civil war
- The South was a primarily agricultural economy centred around the production of raw materials, particularly cotton. With the use of slaves, the labor burden largely fell on black shoulders while the rewards fell into a small number of white hands.
- Rather than invest profits in industry and infrastructure, wealthy Southerners instead bought more slaves and more land.
- States’ rights: The Southern states wanted to assert their authority over the federal government so they could abolish federal laws they didn’t support, especially laws interfering with the South’s right to keep slaves and take them wherever they wished.
- Territorial expansion: The South wished to take slavery into the western territories, while the North was committed to keeping them open to white labour alone.
- Meanwhile, the newly formed Republican party, whose members were strongly opposed to the westward expansion of slavery into new states, was gaining prominence.
- The election of a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, as President in 1860 sealed the deal. His victory, without a single Southern electoral vote, was a clear signal to the Southern states that they had lost all influence.
- Feeling excluded from the political system, they turned to the only alternative they believed was left to them: secession, a political decision that led directly to war.
While slavery and its various and multifaceted discontents were the primary cause of disunion, it was disunion itself that sparked the war. The problem for Americans who, in the age of Lincoln, wanted slaves to be free was not simply that southerners wanted the opposite, but that they themselves cherished a conflicting value: they wanted the Constitution, which protected slavery, to be honoured, and the Union, which had fellowship with slaveholders, to be preserved. Thus, they were committed to values that could not logically be reconciled.
General Studies – 2
2. In the context of The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021, critically examine various issues in India’s law on abortion.
Reference: Indian Express
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 is an important Bill that seeks to enhance the reproductive rights of women in India. The Bill amended the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971. This Act covers abortions in India. It had been amended in 1975 and 2002. Before the enactment of this legislation, abortion was prohibited under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code.
A 25-year-old pregnant woman moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday (July 19) seeking an abortion after the Delhi High Court declined her plea last week. The woman has also challenged Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003, which allows only some categories of women to seek termination of pregnancy between 20 and 24 weeks.
- The move to amend the MTP Act, 1971 is a progressive step towards empowerment of women.
- It will provide greater reproductive rights to women as abortion is considered an important aspect of the reproductive health of women.
- Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions are largely preventable provided services are performed legally by trained practitioners.
- Raising the upper limit of legal abortions from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for “special categories of women”, including rape and incest survivors, other vulnerable women, and children.
- It will completely be removing the upper gestation limit for abortion in the cases of substantial foetal abnormalities will help many more seek safe and legal abortion services.
- Allowing all women, and not just married ones, to legally seek abortions, and striking out the need for the opinion of a second registered practitioner for aborting pregnancies up to 20 weeks
Shortcomings of the act:
- Son meta-preference:
- The preference for a male child keeps sex determination centres in business in spite of their illegal status. There are concerns that a more liberal abortion law can aggravate this state-of-affairs.
- Foetal Viability:
- A key aspect of the legality governing abortions has always been the ‘viability’ of the foetus. Viability implies the period from which a foetus is capable of living outside the womb.
- Currently, viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks. Thus, late termination of pregnancy may get in conflict with the viability of the foetus.
- Non-institutional deliveries:
- Only 22% of 15.6 million abortions happen in healthcare facilities, there is no record of the others. We need far more providers at the lower levels of healthcare delivery to ensure safe abortion services reach more women.
- Lack of Awareness of rights:
- A study of 1,007 women of ages 15-24 years in Assam and Madhya Pradesh in November 2018 found only 20% young women know about modern contraceptive methods, and 22% are aware that abortion is legal in India. None of the women surveyed were aware of the correct legal gestation of 20 weeks
- Change of Choice:
- The current Billdoes not consider factors such as personal choice, a sudden change in circumstances (due to separation from or death of a partner), and domestic violence.
- Medical Boards:
- The present healthcare budgetary allocation makes setting up a board across the country, both financially and practically impossible.
- Accessto the board by pregnant women in remote areas of the state is a matter of concern.
- No time limit setto respond to the requests.
- The board will subject women to multiple examinations before allowing her to terminate her pregnancy. This is a violation of right to privacy and right to live with dignity.
- The government needs to ensure that all norms and standardised protocols in clinical practice to facilitate abortions are followed in health care institutions across the country.
- Since everything rests on the delivery, stopping short would undoubtedly make this progressive order a mere half measure.
- With an estimated 90% of women seeking before 12 weeks’ gestation, training village-level health workers (auxiliary nurse midwives) and nurses to prescribe simple abortion pills will help take safe services to the doorsteps of vulnerable women and, in case of complications, lead to timely referrals.
- This gap in services can be addressed in the new rules that will be framed when the amended act is passed.
- Instead of denying services to women because of the apprehension of untrained practitioners profiteering, the government should focus on regulating the healthcare sector to ensure basic quality services, such as contraception, safe delivery and abortion, are available for the asking.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 is for expanding access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds. It is a step towards the safety and well-being of the women and many women will be benefitted from this. Recently several petitions were received by the Courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women. The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate the pregnancy.
3. With India set to become the most populous nation, improvement of the country’s human development index hinges on providing quality education to the girl child. Analyse.
Reference: Indian Express
The United Nations latest report, “Population Prospects” forecasts that India will surpass China’s population by 2023, reaching 1.5 billion by 2030 and 1.66 billion by 2050. It was only three years ago that the UN Population Prospects (2019) projected that India will surpass China’s population by 2027. But it seems that the rate of growth of India’s population is faster than that of China, and the global agencies had to change their forecast significantly in three years.
Role of women education in improving country’s human development index
- Women play an imperative role in making a nation progressive and guide it towards development. It will significantly decrease child labour and increase productive capacity of all people collectively.
- An educated woman also contributes to improving child nutrition thus helping India become malnutrition free.
- They are essential possessions of a lively humanity required for national improvement, so if we have to see a bright future of women in our country, giving education to them must be a pre-occupation.
- Empowerment means moving from a weak position to execute a power.
- The education of women is the most powerful tool to change the position of society.
- Education also brings a reduction in inequalities and functions as a means of improving their status within the family.
- To encourage the education of women at all levels and for dilution of gender bias in providing knowledge and education, established schools, colleges and universities even exclusively for women in the state.
- The education develops the idea of participation in government, panchayats, public matters etc for elimination of gender discrimination.
Other factors needed to improve human development
- Fair Income Distribution: While the size of economic resources is a key factor affecting human development, the distribution and allocation of these resources also play a major role in determining the level of human development.
- Many global case studies show that high growth accompanied by more effective income distribution can help enhance human development, even with moderate social expenditures.
- For Example, South Korea and Taiwan improved income distribution through early land reforms.
- Investing in Social Infrastructure: Universalisation of education and health care could have pulled deprived sections out of the poverty trap.
- Sustaining and improving the quality of life will also depend on policies crafted to handle major emerging challenges such as urbanisation, the housing deficit, access to power, water, education and health care.
- Streamlining of the Finances: Streamlining the traditional approach of generating new sources of revenue generation, steps like rationalised targeting of subsidies, judicious use of revenues meant for social sector development etc will probably meet the financial requirements needed for improving HDI.
- Good Governance Reforms: Effective performance evaluation of the projects and activities engaged in the social sector development through innovative methods like outcome budgeting, social auditing and participatory democracy has been known to yield positive results.
- Gender Empowerment: Government should invest in Gender equality and women’s empowerment, as they are integral to human development.
India’s HDI scores can be substantially enhanced if a politically committed government rolls out inclusive policies that strengthen public health, education and nutrition, and end gender discrimination to usher in a more egalitarian order.
General Studies – 3
4. What is a ‘Vishing’ attack? How do they compromise and complicate cybersecurity in the country? How can they be tackled?
Reference: The Hindu
Vishing attacks are slightly more sophisticated than the well-known phishing attack. In phishing attacks, perpetrators fraudulently send emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information. The additional layer in vishing is the voice component.
Vishing is short for “voice phishing,” which involves defrauding people over the phone, enticing them to divulge sensitive information. In this definition of vishing, the attacker attempts to grab the victim’s data and use it for their own benefit—typically, to gain a financial advantage.
About vishing attack compromising security
- Vishing has the same end goal as many kinds of cyberattacks. In a digitized business and financial environment, all that stands between a criminal and the money of victims is access credentials, credit card numbers, or personal data that can be later used to execute identity theft.
- Vishing is performed over the phone using a voice call. This can occur over a landline, cellular network, or a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system.
- The main reason why vishing attacks are performed is to obtain sensitive financial information or the personal data of the person who answers the phone.
- In a face-to-face interaction, physical, visible credentials can be presented, such as identity badges, driver’s licenses, or access cards. Over the phone, the methods of verifying the caller’s identity are limited to what they say.
- Compromised Bank or Credit Card Account: If a visher can get the bank account or credit card information of a victim, they can gain access to their funds.
- The routing numbers for bank accounts can be easily found online.
- With the combination of a bank’s routing info and the victim’s personal account number, the attacker can potentially withdraw or transfer funds from their account into their own.
- Similarly, with a credit card number, expiration date, and security code, an attacker can make purchases over the phone or online. Even if the purchase is revealed as fraudulent, the attacker, in many cases, can return the item or sell it for a profit.
- Unsolicited Loan or Investment Offers
- Vishers can catch victims off guard by offering them the opportunity to invest in a project or obtain a loan. Because these kinds of financial transactions often involve divulging personal financial information, if the attacker can convince the victim that their offer is legitimate, the target may have no problem giving up sensitive information.
- Medicare or Social Security Scam: Sadly, many attackers focus on people who are sick or elderly. Part of their attack may involve using the victim’s condition as leverage to convince the target they should give up their personal data. This could involve a promise to sign them up for a free offer, get a refund, or receive a check—only after they provide private information.
Measures to tackle Vishing attack
- Verify identity: To ensure that you do not become a victim of a vishing attack, check sender’s address, look for typos and grammatical errors, and consider the type of information requested.
- Do not disturb registry: The National Do Not Call Registry can reduce the number of telemarketing—and vishing—calls you get. If companies call numbers on the list, they can face penalties.
- Not responding to prompts: Automated vishing calls depend on feedback from the victim. If you refuse to press buttons or answer questions, the attack can be stopped.
- Block cards and suspend account if one has divulged information. The nature of the attack: If you provided financial information, you should alert the institutions involved.
- Never reveal personal data: Vishing attacks are designed to trick the target into revealing personal information, which attackers can use for other attacks or fraud. Never give a multi-factor authentication (MFA) number, password, financial data, or similar details over the phone.
- Never give remote computer access: Vishers could request remote access to your computer under the guise of removing malware or fixing some issue. You should never grant anyone access to your computer, unless they are a verified member of an IT department.
- Report suspicious incidents: Vishers typically repeat the same scam on several targets. Report suspected vishing attacks to authorities or security staff at your organization, ensuring they can protect other targets.
Unlike phishing, vishing is hard to stop using technology. Because vishing takes place over the phone, an organization would need to eavesdrop on all phone calls and find warning signs to detect an attack.
Due to this, organizations should build a threat model and focus on the attacker’s objectives when preventing vishing attacks
5. The extent and severity of the coastal erosion problem is worsening with global sea level rise. It has both ecological and economic costs and needs to be addressed urgently. Analyse.
Coastal erosion (or shoreline retreat) is the loss of coastal lands due to the net removal of sediments or bedrock from the shoreline.
Coastal erosion can be either a: rapid-onset hazard (occurs very quickly, a period of days to weeks) or a slow-onset hazard (occurring over many years, or decades to centuries).
Coastal erosion: background
- Coastal erosion is typically driven by the action of waves and currents, but also by mass wasting processes on slopes, and subsidence (particularly on muddy coasts).
- Significant episodes of coastal erosion are often associated with extreme weather events (coastal storms, surge and flooding) but also from tsunami, both because the waves and currents tend to have greater intensity and because the associated storm surge or tsunami inundation can allow waves and currents to attack landforms which are normally out of their reach.
- On coastal headlands, such processes can lead to undercutting of cliffs and steep slopes and contribute to mass wasting.
- In addition, heavy rainfall can enhance the saturation of soils, with high saturation leading to a reduction in the soil’s shear strength, and a corresponding increase in the chance of slope failure (landslides).
Acceleration of coastal erosion due to sea level rise
- Global warming causes sea-level rise as oceans expand, and makes storm patterns more energetic. Consequently, it will affect most of the world’s coastlines through inundation and increased erosion.
- Sound predictions of the development of these hazards over the next century are needed in order to manage the resulting risks. Coastal flooding is somewhat easier to predict than erosion since inundation can be estimated using coastal contours.
- However, its prediction is not trivial since inundation may be followed by rapid reshaping of the shoreline by, amongst other things, waves, tidal currents and human interventions.
- Human activities can also strongly influence the propensity of landforms to erode. For example, the construction of coastal structures (such as breakwaters, groynes and seawalls) can lead to changes in coastal sediment transport pathways, resulting in erosion in some areas and accretion in others.
- The removal of sediments from the coastal system (e.g., by dredging or sand mining), or a reduction in the supply of sediments (e.g., by the regulation of rivers) can also be associated with unintended erosion.
- At larger scales, natural and human-induced climate change can modulate the likelihood and rate of coastal erosion. Coastal erosion becomes a hazard when society does not adapt to its effects on people, the built environment and infrastructure.
Conclusion and way forward
- Strategic planting of vegetation can be used to help control erosion. the roots of coastal plants help to anchor the sand and ensure that it is not carried off in erosion. This is why many areas plant seagrass and build marshes along coasts to prevent erosion.
- Seawalls are one particularly effective way to prevent erosion. These are structures that are built along the coastline to stop waves from ever coming into contact with the sand/shore on the opposite side. While seawalls tend to be quite effective at preventing erosion, they are only able to protect the coast that they are installed along.
Answer the following questions in 250 words(15 marks each):
General Studies – 1
6. States should work with the Centre to reduce uncertainties for migrant workers. While bare necessities could be a starting point, but their contours should be widened to create a safety net of social security. Examine.
Reference: Live Mint
The migrants’ crisis left India shocked by their plight of walking hundreds of kilometres, facing hunger, exhaustion and violence, to get to the safety of their home villages. After the two covid waves, the crisis compelled policy-makers to make certain provisions for them in the schemes announced for the assistance of the poor.
The recently released Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2020-21 shows that 20.8% of total male migration in the country was from urban to rural areas in 2020-21. The 2011 census had found that proportion to be merely 8% back then.
The Government ramped up the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) project, announced the Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) scheme, set up the e-Shram portal and began to draft a migration policy.
Challenges despite Govt efforts
- Repeated surveys have found that the incomes of migrant households continue to be lower than pre-pandemic levels, even after returning to cities.
- Migrants are finding less work and their children eating less.
- The post-1991 poverty alleviation of almost 300 million Indians, driven by migration out of farm work, is being undone.
- Despite this, a cohesive migration policy guidance remains elusive.
Advantages of providing social protection
- Investment in social protection is not charity, it is an investment in workers’ productivityand in equitable growth.
- Providing social protection is, as the UN mooted in 2009 when it spelt out the social protection floor (SPF)initiative after the global financial crisis, the surest way out of a crisis by boosting demand at the bottom of the pyramid.
- The report of the Advisory Committee of the ILO, in which India was represented by its labour secretary, provides a strong rationale for institutinga universal SPF during economic crises.
- As a result, all constituents of the ILO adoptedRecommendation 202 on social protection floors at the International Labour Conference in 2012.
Inadequate provisions by government
- The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act,was approved by Parliament in December 2008.
- But it lacks the mandatory elements of the NCEUS’s proposals and included neither a National Minimum Social Security Package, nor the provision for mandatory registration.
- Estimates show that the central government’s expenditure on all major social protection programmes declined from 1.96 per cent of GDP in 2008-09 to 1.6 per cent in 2013-14and to only 1.28 per cent in 2019-20.
- Role of Centre: migrants would be well served if the Centre played a proactive role by offering strategic policy guidance and a platform for inter-State coordination. State-level political economy constraints make the Centre’s role particularly crucial in addressing issues of inter-State migrant workers at ‘destination States’.
- The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector had pointed out that the circular migrant workers were a disadvantaged segment among informal workers.
- Comprehensive law:The NCEUS had advocated a comprehensive law for the protection of the rights of all informal workers, including migrants, home workers, and domestic workers.
- Universal registration:NCEUS had also recommended a universal registration mechanism based on self-declaration, with the issuance of a smart social security card, and a National Minimum Social Security Package.
- Guaranteed social security/social protection:We need the provision of a minimum level of guaranteed social security/social protection for all informal workers and their households within a definite time frame.
- More public spending:Guaranteed social protection would involve a clear framework and a commitment to greater public resources being spent on social protection as a large class of workers in India do not have an identifiable employer and a contributory social insurance framework will not work for them.
- Recommendation 202:Government should embrace ILO’s Recommendation 202 and work towards these in a time-bound manner.
- The NITI Aayog’s Draft Policy on Migrant Workers is a positive step forward in articulating policy priorities and indicating suitable institutional frameworks, and deserves a speedy release.
To end the silent, painful, and enduring crisis for the workers, as well as the crisis for the economy, the government must urgently recognise the right to social security, embedded both in the Indian Constitution and international covenants. Strategic initiatives to provide migrants safety nets regardless of location as well as bolster their ability to migrate safely and affordably must keep up the momentum towards migrant-supportive policy.
General Studies – 2
7. The values that steer India’s development cooperation — demand driven, conditionality free and based on the principle of partnership among equals — are appreciated in Africa. In this regard, critically analyse the opportunities that African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can offer in longstanding India-Africa economic partnership.
Reference: Live Mint
Africa is considered a foreign policy priority by India. The Indian government has designed a forward-looking strategy to deepen India-Africa relations further. Even during the COVID-19 times, India took new initiatives to assist Africa through prompt dispatch of medicines and later vaccines.
India Africa relations
- Economic: Trade between India and Africa has increased more than eight-fold from US$7.2 billion in 2001 to US$63 billion in 2017-18. It further has the potential to grow threefold to $150 billion in next five years.
- India is the fifth largest country investing in the continent, with investments over the past 26 years amounting to $54 billion.
- People to people contact: There has been a welcome surge in people-to-people contacts as large numbers of African entrepreneurs, medical tourists, trainees and students have started coming to India and Indian experts and entrepreneurs have headed there.
- Business-to-business: Indian businesses are active across geographic spaces and sectors in Africa like agri-business, engineering, construction, film distribution, cement, plastics, and ceramics manufacturing, etc.
India’s developmental cooperation with Africa
- Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) that aims at capacity building, skill development, transfer of technology and sharing of experiences with the partner countries. Around 5000 scholarships have been offered to officials from African countries under this.
- Pan-African e-network: Launched in 2006, this is a joint effort of India and African Union with an aim to provide satellite connectivity, tele-education and tele-medicine services to the African countries.
- Cooperation with African Development Bank (AfDB): India joined AfDB in 1983 and has contributed to its General Capital increased and has also pledged capital for grants and loans.
- Development Assistance: In India Africa Forum Summit (2015), India announced a US$ 10 billion line of credit to help financing the projects in African countries, capacity building, IT education, and higher education.
AfCFTA: Opportunity for India
AfCFTA seeks to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.
- The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) launched an office in New Delhi at the Ghanaian Embassy, where numerous Indian companies pledged to join Africa and take advantage of the free commerce agreement, which intends to increase intra-African trade by 52.3 percent when fully implemented.
- Increased Indo-African trade will accelerate the structural transformation of economies from low-productivity, labour-intensive activities to higher-productivity, skills-intensive industrial and service activities, where India’s vast human potential can make a significant contribution.
- African countries want India to assist them in mechanizing agriculture, building social and physical infrastructure, and providing more vaccines.
- With total yearly commercial trade estimated at $70 billion, or about a tenth of our world trade, Africa is already an important economic partner for India.
- Africa’s need for Indian commodities, particularly foodstuffs, finished products (automobiles, medicines, consumer goods), and services such as IT/IT-enabled service, health care, and education, skilling, management, and banking skills, financial services, and insurance, remains unmet.
- Africa receives roughly 20% of all medications produced in the United States. Many of our pharmaceutical businesses have operations in Africa, including Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Ghana.
- Our medications and medical equipment, such as Bhabhatrons and phototherapy machines, are helping people in Africa live longer and healthier lives. Several of our institutions have formed cooperative ventures to build healthcare facilities.
- India is also assisting African nations in closing the digital divide.
Africa had a booming overland trade before the West “discovered” it. Following colonialism and mercantilism, internal trade lines were disrupted, replaced by an ecosystem in which Africans had stronger ties with their foreign “mentors” than with one another. The Africans are just attempting to remedy this historical misrepresentation with the AfCFTA. However, with free trade under threat in parts of the industrialized world, Africa is carving a new route to ensure the continent’s long-term prosperity and progress. Against this backdrop, India must anticipate and act on the positive effects of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
8. Social media can connect large populations and remote groups and is an effective tool for enhancing communication, collaboration and transparency across government departments. Evaluate.
Reference: Indian Express
The use of social media such as twitter by external affairs minister currently and in the past is excellent example of its use in governance. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how social media can help average citizens and complement the efforts of the modern governments in dealing with the crisis.
Around the world, social media is making it easier for people to have a voice in government — to discuss issues, organize around causes, and hold leaders accountable.
However, due to its unregulated nature and its role in the spread of fake news, social media leads to spread of propaganda, targets minorities, destabilizes the elected governments, which all in turn compromises the spirit of democracy.
Benefits of social media
- Digital Democracy: Democratic values can evolve when people have freedom of expression. In this way, social media enables the concept of digital democracy through these platforms of freedom.
- Setting Accountability: Social media acts as an instrument that can question the seemingly invincible governments, make them accountable and bring sustained change driven by people beyond one vote in years.
- Giving Voice: Social media has enormous power to keep people informed. This can be seen, when social media played a critical role in the Arab Spring in places like Tunisia, it was heralded as a technology for liberation.
- Civic Engagement: Social media’s implications for civic engagement are profound, as many people tend to discuss & debate news over these platforms.
- It has long been observed that when people discuss the news, they’re more likely to be involved in their community, whether by volunteering or reaching out to elected officials.
Limitations of using social media for governance
- Political Polarization: One of the most common criticisms of social media is that it creates echo chambers where people only see viewpoints they agree with — further driving us apart.
- As unprecedented numbers of people channel their political energy through this medium, it’s being used in unforeseen ways with societal repercussions that were never anticipated.
- Propaganda Setting: According to Google Transparency Report, political parties mostly in the last two years have spent around $800 million (Rs 5,900 crore) on election ads.
- Micro-targeting can enable dishonest campaigns to spread toxic discourse without much consequence.
- Foreign Interference: Around the US 2016 election, Russian entities set up and promoted fake Pages on Facebook to influence public sentiment — essentially using social media as an information weapon.
- In this way, social media enables nation-states to use these platforms to wage a cyberwar intended to divide society.
- Fake News: Social media gives people more voice and can sometimes be used, by anyone, to spread hoaxes and misinformation.
- Unequal Participation: Social media also distorts policymakers’ perception of public opinion. This is because it is believed that social media platforms tend to represent every walk of life, but not everyone is using their voice equally.
If there’s one fundamental truth about social media’s impact on democracy it’s that it amplifies human intent — both good and bad. At its best, it allows us to express ourselves and take action. At its worst, it allows people to spread misinformation and corrode democracy
General Studies – 3
9. Inclusive growth, or rather the lack of it, has become a recurring theme in political discourses. Political economy forces on the demand and supply side have weakened redistribution over time and contributed to a new wave of populism. Analyse.
Reference: The Hindu
If we look at our own growth dividend from 1980 to 2016, a 66% share is estimated to have gone to the top 10%, 23% to the middle 40%, and the bottom 50%’s gain has been a measly 10%. This is a worrying statistic, showcasing gross inequality in India. Inclusive growth remains elusive as ever because of populist measures and lack of long term focus on growth.
Impediments to inclusive growth in the country
- Historical reasons: Discrimination against certain sections of the society since historic times. This has affected their choice, opportunity, and accessibility to education, employment and health. Though policies like Reservation have been implemented since Independence, they were successful only in the economic and political sphere that too to a limited section of people but failed largely in social upliftment.
- Gender inequality: Females were always treated to be subordinate and weaker to males. Girl education is considered to be a burden on the family and women have limited choices in employment.
- Women comprise over 42 per cent of the agricultural labour force in the country, yet they own less than 2 percent of its farm land according to the India Human Development Survey (IHDS).
- Large-scale informal employment: 80% of the Indian labour force is employed in the informal sector.
- Informal sector jobs are more insecure without regular pay and social security benefits.
- This increases the wage gap between formal and informal sectors.
- A huge proportion of the population is still dependent on agriculture but the share of agriculture to the total GDP is falling.
- Inter-state inequalities: Growth has been different across sectors and regions. For examples, Green Revolution has disproportionately benefitted Western and Southern India when compared to Eastern India.
- Globalization: Studies show that globalization and opening up the economy has benefited the rich more than the poor, thus raising the inequality.
- Global platforms like WTO have resulted in increased trade competitiveness affecting the returns of local investors and producers.
- According to the paper by famous Economist Thomas Piketty, tax progressivity which is a tool to contain the rise in inequality was progressively reduced.
- Wage inequality dispersion also increased in many sectors, as privatizations removed government-set pay scales, which were less unequal.
- Lack of skill development and jobless growth: There is also no inclusive growth and the welfare schemes have not trickled down and benefitted the most vulnerable in the nation.
Populism affecting inclusive growth
- Politicians have vested interest in keeping the inequality as status quo as their vote bank depends on the poor who keep their hopes on populist measures. The idea is to keep them poor and extract votes every five years under the garb of pro-poor agenda.
- Perhaps one reason why politicians are showering voters with doles is the disconnect between overall economic growth and job creation. The notion that growth is the panacea for all development challenges is viewed with increasing suspicion by voters, though they may not articulate it in those terms.
- While the situation requires a cool-headed and rigorous inquiry into the development model that the country pursues, many politicians cutting across party lines have resorted to wide-ranging schemes to calm or enthuse voters.
- Besides the quick political gains that they seek, this also pre-empts any discussion on the existing development paradigm.
Inequality is corrosively divisive. A high level of inequality is anti-growth because the losers are prone to lack of trust and violence. Once it is clear that the dividends of economic growth are going to a relatively small group, opposition to growth can spring up. This can add to the existing fault lines in the society. The only way ahead is inclusive growth while ensuring Sabka Saath and Sabka Vikas in letter and spirit.
10. The need to take actions to sustain soil and its immediate environment becomes pressing and challenging task in today’s environment as food crises increase across the world. Comment.
Reference: Live Mint , Insights on India
For any soil to have agricultural potential, it must have a minimum of 3-6% organic content. But in large parts of the world, it is well below 1%. In fact, records show that across the planet, not a single country has soil with a minimum of 3% organic content. In the last 25 years, an estimated 10% of the earth’s land has become desert.
Importance of soil for sustenance of biodiversity and environment
- It needs to be understood that soil is living, not dead material. Even now, many agricultural scientists, universities and agricultural departments appear to address soil as a ‘material’.
- A handful of soil has over 5 billion organisms, sometimes over 7 billion. It is from this microbial life that all other life on this planet has evolved.
Concerns associated with soil health
- Overgrazing: It reduces the usefulness, productivity, and biodiversity of the land. India lost 31% of grasslands between 2005 and 2015.
- Deforestation: A forest acts as a carbon sink. Deforestation releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere contributing to the greenhouse effect.
- Farming Practices: Slash and burn agriculture exposes the state to soil erosion hazards. Heavy tilling and overirrigation disturbs mineral composition of the soil.
- Urbanization: As urbanization increases, the demand for resources increases drawing more resources and leaving lands that easily succumb to desertification.
- Climate Change: It may exacerbate desertification through alteration of spatial and temporal patterns in temperature, rainfall, solar radiation and winds.
- Overexploitation of Resources: Increasing demand for land resources due to issues like overpopulation leaves land vulnerable to desertification.
- Natural Causes:
- Natural Disasters: Natural Disasters like Floods, Droughts, landslides results into
- Water Erosion
- Displacement of fertile soil.
- Water erosion: It results into Badland Topography which itself is an initial stage of desertification.
- Wind Erosion: Sand encroachment by wind reduces fertility of the soil making the land susceptible to desertification
- Natural Disasters: Natural Disasters like Floods, Droughts, landslides results into
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