current-affairs-based-mains-drill-22-february-2021

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Q.1) India lives in the States. If the Centre takes them along, it might help attain the balance envisaged by the Finance Commission needed to drive the country onto a double­ engine growth trajectory from the current situation. Discuss.

Why this Question:

Recently, the Finance Commission has presented its report for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26.

Key Demand of the Question:

Current situation of the Indian economy that needs cumulative efforts from the Centre and the states.

Directive:

Discuss- back up the answer by carefully selected evidence to make a case for and against an argument, or point out the advantages and disadvantages of the given context and finally arrive at a conclusion.

Introduction:

Write about India being a Union of states whose real existence is in the states.

Body:

In the first part, highlight the challenges the Indian economy is facing especially in the post Covid world.

In the next part, highlight the issues between the Centre and the states that have been a hindrance in the full-fledged development of India.

Conclusion:

Conclude with the importance of cooperative federalism in India. 

Model Answer

Article 1 of the Indian Constitution establishes India as a Union of states. The Indian Constitution also establishes a quasi- federal system. It means the outward structure of the government is federal but the spirit is unitary. The Union is not a league of states, united in a loose relationship; nor are the state agencies of the Union that derive their powers from it. Both are independent as well as complementary to each other. This specifically means that India can progress only when both the Centre and the states make equal efforts towards this.

Current Challenges of the Indian Economy

  1. Weak Demand- it seems to be the biggest problem of the Indian economy in current times. Demand for key goods and commodities like fuel, food, consumer goods and electricity has fallen over the last few months.
  2. Unemployment- The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data show that nearly 5 mn jobs were lost in July 2020, taking the total number of layoffs in the formal sector to over 1.8 crore. This is in addition to the jobs lost in the unorganized sector.
  3. Lack of Fiscal Stimulus- Economists have made it clear that India needs another round of fiscal stimulus to support growth.
  4. Poverty- A study of the World Economic Forum (WEF) reveals that India’s social inequality keeps a significant section of the population poor forever despite the country’s impressive economic growth.

Issues between the Centre and States

  1. Over Centralization- the Union list has more items than the state list. This enables more taxation power to the Centre which becomes a major roadblock to cooperative federalism in India. Excessive central character reduces the active participation of states.
  2. GST compensation- it has been reported that the Centre has failed to make payments to the states on time in anticipation of the shortfall in collections and the resultant impact on the government’s fiscal deficit.
  3. Cesses and Surcharges- there are several cesses and surcharges that are levied by the Centre in which the states have no share.
  4. Under representation at FC- Recommendations of the Finance Commission are placed before Parliament and States have no say in it. There is no provision for an aggrieved State to challenge the FC report or seek its enforcement.

Way forward

  1. Empowering the states with more sharing of powers.
  2. A grievance redressal mechanism for states.
  3. Check on the Centre's actions that result in centralization of powers.

The challenges of the contemporary world require a comprehensive and wholesome approach. Terrorism, militancy, organised crimes, problem of internally displaced persons, refugees issue, climate change, etc. require that the country as a whole to come together. Cooperative federalism alone can strengthen the nation from within by enabling it to withstand such adversities.

 

Q.2) The COVID 19 pandemic has once again highlighted the importance of uninterrupted energy supply that is critical for managing any crisis. In this context, critically analyze the importance of developing the renewable energy sector.

Why this Question:

Important part of GS Paper III.

Key Demand of the Question:

Importance of development of renewable energy sector to achieve sustainable growth.

Directive:

Critically analyse - The key to tackling this question is providing ample evidence to support the claims. Ensure that the analysis is balanced by shedding light on, and presenting a critique of, and alternative perspectives. Present extensive evidence taken from a varying range of sources.

Introduction:

Give an introduction about renewable energy and its usefulness.

Body:

In the first part, explain about the demands of the modern world that largely depend on the constant supply of energy resources.

In the next part, highlight the impact that non-renewable sources like fossil fuels have and the need to develop renewable sources to achieve sustainable as well as inclusive growth.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward. 

Model Answer

Renewable energy refers to the energy derived from the sources that can be replenished. Eg- solar energy, tidal energy, wind energy, etc. India is blessed with the resources for generating renewable energy like sunlight, wind and tides (India being a peninsula). India is anticipated to be the biggest contributor to the renewables boom in 2021, with the country’s annual growth in renewables doubling from 2020.

Relevance of energy for an economy

  1. The covid19 pandemic has made us realize the significance of constant supply of energy that is vital for managing any kind of crisis like the recent one.
  2. It ensures continuous and uninterrupted functioning of basic services like healthcare, food, banking, etc.
  3. Energy supports the systems and coping mechanisms we rely on to work remotely, undertake distance learning and communicate essential information.
  4. It will also support cold chain systems and logistics to ensure that billions of essential items like food packets, vaccine doses make their way to the people who need them the most.

Opportunity and benefits of Development of Renewable Energy

  1. A new report, titled “Shaping a Sustainable Energy Future in Asia and the Pacific: A greener, more resilient and inclusive energy system”, by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) shows that energy demand reductions have mainly impacted fossil fuels and depressed oil and gas prices. Renewable energy development in countries across the region, such as China and India, continued at a healthy pace throughout 2020.
  2. If countries focus their stimulus efforts on industries of the past, such as fossil fuels, we risk not creating the jobs we need, or deflecting from the right direction for achieving the global goals that are critical for future generations.
  3. Evidence shows that renewable energy and energy efficiency projects create more jobs for the same investment in fossil fuel projects.
  4. By increasing expenditure on clean cooking and electricity access, we can enhance economic activity in rural areas and support modern infrastructure,
  5. Investing in low carbon infrastructure and technologies can create a basis for the ambitious climate pledges we need to fulfill to reach the Paris Agreement target

Way forward

  1. Phasing out the use of coal for power generation portfolios.
  2. Substituting these industries with renewable energy.
  3. Eliminating subsidies on fossil fuels.
  4. Implementing carbon pricing in the country.
  5. Increasing investments in the renewable energy sector.

The COVID­19 crisis has forced us to change many aspects of our lives. It has shown that we are more adaptive and resilient than we may have believed. But we should not waste the opportunities this crisis presents.  Instead, it should provide us with a renewed sense of urgency towards the use of sustainable energy in order to meet the SDGs as well as the commitments by the Paris Agreement.

 

Q.3) In accordance with the “Neighbourhood First” policy of the government, India remains a committed development partner for a stable, prosperous and peaceful Maldives. Discuss.

Why this question:

India and Maldives have recently signed a defence pact.

Key demand of the question:

Importance of bilateral relations with Maldives, challenges ahead and measures to boost it.

Directive:

Discuss- back up the answer by carefully selected evidence to make a case for and against an argument, or point out the advantages and disadvantages of the given context and finally arrive at a conclusion.

Introduction:

Briefly give an overview of the evolution of India- Maldives relations.

Body:

In the first part, categorically explain the importance of Maldives for India- Strategic, Diaspora, economic and security.

In the next part, highlight the challenges in the relations between the two countries. Suggest measures to further improve the relations.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a fair and balanced approach on the topic.

Model Answer

Maldives holds immense strategic importance for India under its Neighbourhood First Policy owing to its location in the Indian Ocean. Both the countries share ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious and commercial ties and the relations between them have been evolving with a few ups and downs.

Importance of Maldives for India 

  1. Strategic – Maldives is located in proximity to the West coast of the Indian peninsula. Hence, any disturbance in the nation can have an effect on India. Recently, the influence of China has grown in the region that can be detrimental to India’s interests. 
  2. Economic- it is situated at the hub of important sea lanes in the Indian Ocean through which a major chunk of India’s trade occurs. India is also Maldives’s 5th largest trading partner. 
  3. Diaspora- a significant number of Indian communities are present in Maldives that is involved in sectors like hospitality, education, health, etc.
  4. Increase in Maritime activity- in recent times, the maritime activity in the Indian Ocean has increased enormously. This requires India to maintain cordial relations with Maldives to hold its position across the region. 

Challenges in the Bilateral relations 

  1. Political instability- it has been a major concern for India due to the proximity of the island nation. Continuous protests as well as the occasional rumblings within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), apparently between President Solih and Speaker and former President Nasheed may pose serious challenges for India.
  2. China- The country has maintained a close relationship with China, especially in financial terms, under its previous government. It has also emerged as an important part of China’s String of Pearls policy.
  3. Radicalisation- in the past few years, a number of Maldivians have been drawn towards the Islamic State (IS), Pakistan based madrassas and other radical organisations. 

Way forward 

  1. The current government in Maldives shares cordial relations with India. The government should use this opportunity to further boost the relations. 
  2. Using the Indian diaspora in Maldives as a tool to influence the people and strengthen bilateral relations. 
  3. Use of soft power like films, festivals, music, people to people contacts to boost the relations. 
  4. Delivering the promised support and projects on time.

Given this background and India’s increasing geostrategic concerns in the shared seas, taking forward the multifaceted cooperation with Maldives to the next stage should be at the focus of the bilateral relations between the two countries.

 

Q.4) “The Fifteenth Finance Commission has managed to maintain the stability and predictability of resources to states with its scheme of devolution”. Critically examine.

Why this question:

Recently, the Finance Commission has presented its report for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26.

Key demand of the question:

Give a detailed analysis of the recommendations of the Finance Commission XV, the positive and the negative side of it.

Directive:

Critically examine- Look in close detail and establish the key facts and important issues surrounding the topic. Try and offer reasons as to why the facts and issues identified are most important, as well as explain the different ways they could be construed.

Introduction:

Give a brief introduction about the Finance Commission XV.

Body:

In the first part, highlight the recommendations made by the FC that helps in addressing various concerns currently in the Indian economy.

In the next part, highlight the areas that the Commission has failed to address.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward.

Model Answer

The Fifteenth Finance Commission (FC) was constituted by the President of India in 2017 in accordance with the provisions of Art 280 of the Indian Constitution that requires an FC to be constituted by the President every five years. It was chaired by Mr. N. K. Singh. Recently, the Commission submitted its recommendations for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26.

Recommendations of the FC XV

  1. Devolution of taxes from Centre  to states- it decreased from 42% to 41%. The 1% decrease is to provide for the newly formed Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh from the resources of the Central government. 
  2. Horizontal Devolution (devolution among states)- the Commission suggests 12.5% weightage to demographic performance, 45% to income, 15% each to population and area, 10% to forest and ecology and 2.5% to tax and fiscal efforts. This accommodates the concerns of several states whose population is less but have performed good on demographic performance. 
  3. Performance based incentives and grants to states- it is based on four core areas:
  1. Social sector- health and education. 
  2. Rural economy- agriculture and maintenance of roads. 
  3. Governance and administrative reforms- judiciary, statistics and aspirational districts and blocks.
  4. Power sector- this is not linked to grants but provides an additional window for states to borrow.
  1. Revenue Deficit grants to states- It has recommended post-devolution revenue deficit grants amounting to about Rs. 3 trillion over the five-year period ending FY26.
  2. Fiscal Space for Centre- the total transfers (devolution + grants) recommended by the Commission constitute about 34 % of estimated gross revenue receipts to the Union, giving adequate fiscal space to the Centre to meet its resource requirements and spending obligations. 
  3. Grants to local governments - it includes performance-based grants for incubation of new cities and health grants to local governments, along with grants for municipal services and local government bodies. Basic grants are proposed only for cities/towns with populations of less than a million. For Million-Plus cities, 100% of the grants are performance-linked through the Million-Plus Cities Challenge Fund (MCF) based on improvements in air quality and meeting of benchmarks in services- drinking water, sanitation and solid waste management. 

Criticisms of the FC XV

  1. Performance based incentives disincentivizes independent decision making. This undermines the principle of cooperative federalism. 
  2. It does not hold the Central government accountable for its own fiscal prudence and dilutes the joint responsibility of the Centre and the states. 
  3. No mention about the disproportionate cesses and surcharges imposed by the Centre on which state governments have no share.

The Commission’s tenure was extended by a year, requiring it to give an interim report first, with its work culminating in a virtual zero­ visibility zone as the COVID­19 pandemic broke out months before its deadline. Given these pressures and the difficulties in projecting the economy’s path, the Commission has done quite well.

 

Q.5) “Though the pandemic has forced India to move to digital education, it is not just about videos of lectures on blackboards by teachers on the internet, but it involves a lot more”. Discuss.

Why this Question:

Important part of GS paper III.

Key Demand of the Question:

True meaning of digital education, its importance and measures for India to develop it.

Directive:

Discuss- back up the answer by carefully selected evidence to make a case for and against an argument, or point out the advantages and disadvantages of the given context and finally arrive at a conclusion.

Introduction:

Give an overview of digital education and the situation pandemic has created in its favour.

Body:

In the first part, highlight the importance of digital education and the role it can play in inclusive growth.

In the next part, highlight the challenges faced by India while moving towards digital education. 

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward.

Model Answer

Owing to the situation created by the Covid 19 pandemic that led to immediate closure of schools and colleges across the country, the education sector seems to be in crisis. In such a situation, online education has come to the rescue of the cause of education in India. 

However, there are numerous gaps and challenges that hinder the development of digital education in India. 

  1. Lack of proper study rooms- most of the families in India belong to the middle class and the lower classes who live in small houses. As per Census 2011, 71% of households with three or more members have dwellings with two rooms or less. This means students don’t have a proper space to continue with online learning. 
  2. Inadequate internet connection- As per the National Sample Survey data for 2017-18, only 42 percent of urban and 15 percent of rural households had internet access. This implies that a significant population of children can be easily left out of the link of online learning. 
  3. No standard Policy- digital education is not just about video lectures from the teachers teaching on blackboard through the internet. It is about appropriate platforms, technology, tools, interactivity, curation, content and a lot more and India does not have an adequate policy addressing these needs. 
  4. Teachers- most of the schools and even colleges have teachers who are not equipped to use the internet and are comfortable with the traditional methods of teaching. 
  5. Gender inequality – studies conducted on government run schools in various States indicate poor performance — a majority of children, especially girl students, have missed out much on the various e-mail platforms offered. Apart from poor access to digital data, the children were burdened with household/farm work, girl students in particular.

Way forward 

  1. A comprehensive policy envisaging digital education has to be formulated at all India levels. 
  2. Enabling measures should include access to online education, removal of barriers in pre matric scholarships and ensuring the provision of midday meals, iron and folic acid tablets and provision of personal hygiene products to girl students, even when schools are closed.
  3. Education planning has to be context specific, gender responsive and inclusive.
  4. Collaboration with the civil society to ensure reach of digital education in every corner of the country.

Education is not just about going to school but about empowering and redefining. For hundreds of millions of the young in India, education is also about discipline, development, curiosity, creativity and a path to breaking the cycle of ignorance and poverty leading to employment and prosperity. Hence, any decision regarding it has to be holistic and inclusive.