Mains Question for UPSC Aspirants

Mains Question for UPSC Aspirants

05 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY      
Question : Q. What is the rationale behind recent wheat and food products export bans? How does it affect inflation globally and within the domestic economy?

Decode the Question:
  • Start with the recent developments world wide that have an impact on food supply. 
  • Discuss the rationale behind recent export bans by taking the case of India’s wheat ban.
  • Discuss the relationship of these export bans with inflation.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion by citing negative impacts of such bans.

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The double whammy of the Russian war on Ukraine and changing climate poses a serious threat of food insecurity to several countries in Asia and Africa. The UN’s World Food Programme estimates that about 44 million people in 38 countries are already at ‘emergency levels of hunger’. Amidst rising global food prices, a number of countries have banned export of agricultural commodities.
As of May 29, 2022, 18 countries (excluding Russia and Ukraine) have imposed bans on exports of various commodities like wheat, pasta, corn, chicken and vegetable oils.
India has banned the export of wheat to check the potential rise in prices in the face of low procurement and there are reports suggesting that the government is mulling a ban on rice exports to tame inflation.

Rationale behind recent export bans:
  • Food security: soaring global wheat prices have put pressure on food security, not only in India, but also in neighbouring and vulnerable nations.
  • Buffer stock: Because of the sharp rise in global prices, some farmers were selling to traders and not to the government. This got the government worried about its buffer stock of almost 20 million tonnes -- depleted by the pandemic -- needed for handouts to millions of poor families and to avert any possible famine.
  • Taming Inflation: The rising inflation also prompted this step. The WholeSale Price Index (WPI) in India has moved up from 2.26 per cent at the start of 2022 to 14.55 now. Retail inflation, too, hit an eight-year high of 7.79 per cent in April, driven by rising food and fuel prices.
  • Decrease in Production: India put this ban in the wake of an extraordinary heat wave that had severely damaged the domestic wheat harvest.
Export ban and Inflation:
By doing so, the government's idea is to tame inflation in India. This export ban is a pre-emptive step and may prevent local wheat prices from rising substantially. However, in May, the consumer price index (CPI) inflation was 7.04 per cent (YoY).
The cereals group as a whole contributed only 6.6 per cent to this inflation. Within that, wheat, other than through PDS, contributed just 3.11 per cent and non-PDS rice contributed 1.59 per cent. So, by imposing a ban on wheat and rice exports, India can’t tame its inflation as more than 95 percent of CPI inflation is due to other items.
The Ukraine-Russia war has led to a slump in wheat production from a region known as the world’s bread basket. Russia and Ukraine together account for 25% of the world’s wheat exports.
It has led to a hike in prices of wheat and supply side glitches.
India is the world’s second largest wheat producer and one of its biggest consumers.
When the government decided to ban wheat exports in the face of climbing prices, there were many protests from the international community. In Asia, except for Australia and India, most other economies depend on imported wheat for domestic consumption and are at risk from higher wheat prices globally, even if they do not directly import from India.
Same is the case of Sugar. Similarly, Indonesia’s palm oil export ban has a significant impact on India’s economy.  Prices of edible oil hiked in India. It poses challenges to curtail inflation.
The recently concluded WTO ministerial meeting as well as the G-7 meet expressed concerns about food security in vulnerable nations. Abrupt export bans inflict high costs on poorer nations, and many millions fall below the poverty line as a result of such actions by a few.
If India wants to be a globally responsible player, it should avoid sudden and abrupt bans and, if need be, filter them through transparent export taxes to recover its large subsidies on power and fertilisers.

04 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-2 GOVERNANCE      
Question :
Q. Discuss the reasons for the National Investigation Agency establishment. How is it convinced in the federal structure of India?

Decode the Question:
  • Start with the background of NIA and its functions. 
  • Discuss the reasons for establishment of the National Investigation Agency.
  • Discuss the role/function in the federal structure of India.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion by citing recent cases of NIA.

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The NIA was constituted in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in November 2008. The agency came into existence on December 31, 2008 and started its functioning in 2009.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was constituted in 2009 under the provisions of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (NIA Act).
It is the central counter-terrorism law enforcement agency in the country. The NIA is a central agency which investigates all offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, and the offences under the statutory laws enacted to implement international treaties.
The law under which the agency operates extends to the whole of India and also applies to Indian citizens outside the country. These include terror acts and their possible links with crimes like smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders. The agency has the power to search, seize, arrest and prosecute those involved in such offences.
Reasons for establishment of National Investigation Agency:
  • Large-scale terrorism sponsored from across the borders: Over the past several years, India has been the victim of large-scale terrorism sponsored from across the borders. terrorist attacks and bomb blasts, etc., in various parts of the hinterland and major cities, etc. prepare a ground for a specialised agency.
  • Chain of crimes: A large number of such incidents are found to have complex inter-state and international linkages, and possible connection with other activities like the smuggling of arms and drugs, pushing in and circulation of fake Indian currency, infiltration from across the borders, etc. Keeping all these in view, it was felt that there was a need for setting up of an agency at the central level for the investigation of offences related to terrorism and certain other Acts, which have national ramifications.
  • Recommendations: Several expert committees and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have also made recommendations for establishing such an agency.
  • Specific cases under specific Acts for investigation: The Government after due consideration and examination of the issues involved, proposed to enact a legislation to make provisions for establishment of a National Investigation Agency in a concurrent jurisdiction framework, with provisions for taking up specific cases under specific Acts for investigation.
Federal structure of India and NIA:
Initially, it was envisioned that the NIA would deal with only eight laws mentioned in the schedule and that a balance had been struck between the right of the State and duties of the Central government to investigate the more important cases.
The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
The list includes:
  • the Explosive Substances Act,
  • Atomic Energy Act,
  • Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,
  • Anti-Hijacking Act,
  • Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act,
  • SAARC Convention (Suppression of Terrorism) Act,
  • Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act,
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act and relevant offences under the Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and the Information Technology Act.
In September 2020, the Centre empowered the NIA to also probe offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act that are connected to terror cases.
As provided under Section 6 of the Act, State governments can refer the cases pertaining to the scheduled offences registered at any police station to the Central government (Union Home Ministry) for NIA investigation.
After assessing the details made available, the Centre can then direct the agency to take over the case. State governments are required to extend all assistance to the NIA.
Even when the Central government is of the opinion that a scheduled offence has been committed which is required to be investigated under the Act, it may, suo motu, direct the agency to take up/over the probe.
Where the Central government finds that a scheduled offence has been committed at any place outside India to which this Act extends, it can also direct the NIA to register the case and take up investigation. While investigating any scheduled offence, the agency can also investigate any other offence which the accused is alleged to have committed if the offence is connected to the scheduled offence.
To deal with cases like executed murder of Kanhaiyya Lal in Rajasthan's Udaipur and Umesh Kolhe at Amravati in Maharashtra, where mass public sentiments are attached, the role of agencies like NIA became significant.
In the growing hate and terrorism environment across the globe, NIA can be a vital tool for India. Power to probe offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act that are connected to terror cases, further strengthen the NIA.
Source: The Hindu

04 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY      
Question : Q. In the context of decarbonizing the economy, discuss the importance of the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage.

Decode the Question:
  • In Introduction,  recent developments regarding decarbonizing the economy should be discussed. 
  • Discuss the importance of the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion. 

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During the Global Mobility Summit held in September 2018, Prime Minister had outlined a vision for the future of mobility in India based on the 7 C’s: Common, Connected, Convenient, Congestion-free, Charged, Clean and Cutting-edge mobility.
Mobility has the potential to drive our economy forward and positively impact the lives of citizens, both in urban and rural areas. With recent climate change, India has made various efforts to decarbonize its the economy. The country is strengthening its policies for climate action and emerging as a global leader, whether by keeping energy transition as one of the four high priority agendas in the Union Budget 2022 or setting ambitious targets at the 26th Conference of Parties to decarbonise the economy.
National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage is the framework for a Phased Manufacturing Program (PMP), aimed at localising the production of electric vehicles (EV) and its components within the country is an important mission.
Importance of the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage:
  • Promotion to Electric vehicles in India: The Mission will provide mobility solutions that will bring in significant benefits to the Electric vehicle industry, economy and country. The Mission will recommend and drive the strategies for transformative mobility and Phased Manufacturing Programmes for Electric Vehicles, EV Components and Batteries.
  • Solution to Air Pollution in Cities: This mission will help in improving air quality in cities.
  • Reducing oil import dependence: It will help in reducing India’s oil import dependence and enhance the uptake of renewable energy and storage solutions.
  • Development of domestic manufacturing ecosystem: The Mission will lay down the strategy and roadmap which will enable India to leverage upon its size and scale to develop a competitive domestic manufacturing ecosystem for electric mobility.
  • Improve quality of life: It will deliver societal and environmental benefits that will improve quality of life for citizens.
  • Employment generation: It will also provide employment opportunities through ‘Make-in-India’ across a range of skills.
The Indian off-grid energy storage market is expected to expand exponentially as the country aims to fulfil 50 per cent of its energy demands from renewable sources by 2030, resulting in high demand for storage batteries.
India wants to further increase the demand for storage batteries. Hence, it plans to have electric vehicle (EV) sales penetration of 30 per cent for private vehicles, 70 per cent for commercial vehicles, 40 per cent for buses and 80 per cent for two and three-wheelers by 2030.
In achieving such ambitious targets, the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage can play a vital role.

04 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT     
Question :
Q. How does the renewable revolution help in mitigating the climate crisis and strengthening energy security?

Decode the Question:
  • Start the Introduction with the current situation of climate leading to the need for a renewable revolution . 
  • Discuss the role of renewable revolution in helping to mitigate the climate crisis and strengthening energy security.
  • Conclude with providing a way forward. 

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As the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripples across the globe, the response of some nations to the growing energy crisis has been to double down on fossil fuels, pouring billions more dollars into the coal, oil and gas that are deepening the climate emergency.
Meanwhile, all climate indicators continue to break records, forecasting a future of ferocious storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and unliveable temperatures in vast swathes of the planet.
Fossil fuels are not the answer, nor will they ever be. In such a scenario, renewable revolution can help in mitigating the climate crisis and strengthening energy security.

In mitigation of Climate crisis: 
Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis. Renewable energy can limit climate disruption and boost energy security. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century. The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a liveable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.
Renewables could supply four-fifths of the world’s electricity by 2050, massively cutting carbon emissions and helping to mitigate climate change.
Mitigating the effects of climate change will require us not only to reduce our future emissions of greenhouse gases but also capture some of the carbon already in the atmosphere.
Renewable energy development helps us achieve the first objective – reducing future emissions.  For example, hydropower instead of traditional fossil fuels has contributed to the avoidance of more than 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the past 50 years alone. That’s roughly equivalent to the total annual carbon footprint of the United States for 20 years.
With increasing amounts of renewable energy penetrating energy markets, the number of avoided emissions will only continue to grow.

Strengthening Energy Security: 
Global geopolitics may threaten energy security. In this vein, renewable energy is considered a potential game changer in energy security. Key geopolitical actors (the United States, Russia, China, Germany, and Denmark) have increased electricity production from renewable energy by a combination of different renewable sources.
Despite any social acceptability issues and negative environmental impacts, renewable energy will help countries become more energy secure. At the same time, they will make themselves more resistant to geopolitical strife and more independent of the vagaries of fossil fuel markets.
While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.
As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate.
Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

Way Forward:
Making renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer, improving global access to supply chains for renewable energy technologies, components and raw materials, cutting the red tape that holds up solar and wind projects by making fast-track approvals and more effort to modernise electricity grids are necessary steps.
The world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.
Triple investments in renewables which includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks is a prerequisite for renewable revolution. For climate action, energy security, and providing clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it, renewable revolution is a hope.

Source: Indian Express

02 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY     
Question : Q. What is mRNA vaccine? How far can it help in strengthening the fight against COVID 19?

Decode the Question:
  • Start with defining mRNA vaccine. 
  • Discuss the working mechanism of mRNA vaccine with a diagram.
  • Discuss the role played by mRNA vaccine in fight against COVID 19 by citing the development of the first mRNA vaccine in India.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion with future prospects of mRNA vaccine.

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Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response inside our bodies. mRNA vaccines contain messenger RNA (mRNA), a single-stranded RNA molecule that complements DNA.
It is created in the nucleus, when DNA is transcribed by RNA polymerase to create pre-mRNA. Pre-mRNA is then spliced into mRNA, which is exported from the nucleus to the cytoplasm and “read” by ribosomes (the translation machinery of cells). Ribosomes then make proteins.  mRNA vaccines use lab-created mRNA encapsulated within nanoparticles.
Translation of the mRNA results in the development of a protein antigen that triggers an immune response. mRNA vaccines are required to be kept at sub-zero temperatures. mRNA vaccines combine desirable immunological properties with an outstanding safety profile and the unmet flexibility of genetic vaccines.
Based on in situ protein expression, mRNA vaccines are capable of inducing a balanced immune response comprising both cellular and humoral immunity while not subject to MHC haplotype restriction. In addition, mRNA is an intrinsically safe vector as it is a minimal and only transient carrier of information that does not interact with the genome.
Because any protein can be expressed from mRNA without the need to adjust the production process, mRNA vaccines also offer maximum flexibility with respect to development.
 mRNA vaccines and Covid 19:
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread, an mRNA vaccine candidate was the first to enter human trials globally.
The first two vaccines that were made available for use in the US were based on mRNA technology. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna used messenger RNA or mRNA to deliver a message to your immune system. Basically, the technology uses genetically engineered mRNA to instruct cells to make the S-protein found on the surface of the Covid-19 virus.
According to reports from US-based Mayo Clinic, after vaccination, the muscle cells begin making S-protein pieces and displaying them on cell surfaces. This causes the body to create antibodies. mRNA vaccines cannot cause infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 or other viruses.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against both symptomatic and severe COVID-19 across age groups and in diverse populations. India’s first home-grown mRNA Covid-19 vaccine — GEMCOVAC-19 — developed at Pune’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals has got a ‘restricted emergency use’ nod for the 18-and-above age group.
The new vaccine can now be stored at the temperature of a standard medical refrigerator. The approval of the nation’s first mRNA vaccine will pave the way for the development of new-variant specific mRNA vaccines that can be used as future booster doses. 
Until the COVID-19 crisis, oncology had been the major area where nanotechnology based drug carriers had been widely explored. These two mRNA-based vaccine formulations will serve as a stepping stone for future applications of nanomedicine.
These nanocarrier based vaccines highlight the importance of the nanoscale and the ability of nanoscale delivery systems to protect payloads from degradation, provide tailored biodistribution and cellular delivery.

Source: Indian Express

02 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-2 INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS       
Question : Q. What is Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII)? How does it impact assertive China?

Decode the Question:
  • Start with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and connect it with the PGII .
  • Discuss the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) and highlight the Four priority pillars for All PGII projects .
  • Draw a comparison between BRI and PGII by establishing that PGII is a counter move to BRI
  • Provide a suitable conclusion.

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The West has been skeptical of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), since it was launched in 2013 by China, as it was considered to be part of China’s larger strategy to increase geopolitical influence in Asia and other developing countries.
The U.S., along with G7 partners the U.K., Japan, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, and the European Union (EU), had in 2021 announced the launch of the Build Back Better World (B3W) with the aim of narrowing the $40 trillion infrastructure gap in the developing world. Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) is therefore, a relaunch of USA’s B3W plan.
USA along with his G7 allies unveiled the ambitious PGII, announcing the collective mobilisation of $600 billion by 2027 to deliver game-changing and transparent infrastructure projects to developing and middle-income countries.
The PGII is being seen as the G7’s counter to China’s multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build connectivity, infrastructure, and trade projects in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America.
PGII is a values-driven, high-impact, and transparent infrastructure partnership to meet the enormous infrastructure needs of low and middle-income countries and support the United States’ and its allies’ economic and national security interests.

Four priority pillars for All PGII projects:
  • Tackling the climate crisis and ensuring global energy security: G7 grouping aims to tackle the climate crisis and ensure global energy security through clean energy supply chains.
  • Bolstering digital information and ICT networks: the projects will focus on bolstering digital information and communications technology (ICT) networks facilitating technologies such as 5G and 6G internet connectivity and cybersecurity.
  • Promoting gender equality and equity: the projects aim to advance gender equality and equity
  • To build and upgrade the global health infrastructure: The U.S International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), along with the G7 nations and the EU are disbursing a $3.3 million technical assistance grant to build a vaccine facility in Senegal, having a potential yearly capacity of manufacturing millions of doses of COVID-19 and other vaccines. The European Commission’s Global Gateway initiative is also undertaking projects supporting the PGII such as mRNA vaccine plants in Latin America and a fibre-optic cable linking Europe to Latin America among others.
PGII’s counter plan for BRI:
Parameters BRI PGII
Objective It was started to revive connectivity, trade, and infrastructure along what was China’s ancient Silk Road. China had announced a two-pronged approach of building a Silk Road Economic Belt on Land and a maritime 21st century Silk Road. The project initially aimed to strengthen connectivity with Southeast Asia but later expanded to South and Central Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, to break the bottleneck in Asian connectivity. It has specifically touted the PGII as a values-based plan to help underfunded low and middle-income countries meet their infrastructure needs.
Projects China has built large coal-fired plants under BRI along with solar, hydro, and wind energy projects. PGII has laid focus on climate action and clean energy.
Funding China’s BRI is majorly state-funded. Under the PGII, large private capital will be mobilised.
Transparency The BRI has faced criticism for making countries sign confidential tenders for extending massive loans, leaving countries indebted to China. For instance, after the BRI’s flagship $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan owes Beijing a large proportion of its foreign debt. G7 leaders emphasised ‘transparency’ as the cornerstone of PGII projects.
Loan vs Grants China builds BRI’s projects by extending large, low-interest loans to countries that have to usually be paid over 10 years. There have been cases of debt-saddled countries failing to repay on time. Sri Lanka, for instance, had to cede its key Hambantota Port on a 99-year lease to China. PGII aims to build projects through grants and investments.
Role of India India had opted out of China’s BRI, being wary of Beijing’s aim to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean Region by roping in Pakistan as a major BRI recipient. In India, the U.S. DFC will invest up to $30 million in Omnivore Agritech and Climate Sustainability Fund 3, an impact venture capital fund that invests in entrepreneurs building the future of agriculture, food systems, climate, and rural economy in India.
By these critical parameters, PGII is seen as the G7’s counter to China’s multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build connectivity, infrastructure, and trade projects in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America.
Infrastructure is critical to driving a society’s productivity and prosperity. When done well, infrastructure connects workers to good jobs; allows businesses to grow and thrive; facilitates the delivery of vital services; creates opportunities for all segments of society, including underserved communities; moves goods to markets; enables rapid information-sharing and communication; protects societies from the effects of climate change and public health crises or other emergencies; and supports global connection among nations. 
Initiatives like PGII provide a choice to developing countries to meet infrastructural gaps and can help the Nation to recover from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Source: The Hindu

01 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY      
Question : Q. Digitisation and outsourcing in higher education have its own set of challenges. Examine if the pre-pandemic approach needs full replacement in higher education.

Decode the Question:
  • Start with explaining ‘hire education’ trends in higher education.
  • Discuss the challenges associated with digitisation and outsourcing in higher education.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion.

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Higher education policy planners and regulators are busy giving shape to the digital university, which was announced in the 2022-23 Union Budget.
Though still on the drawing board, the digital university is expected to offer any number, kind, and type of course without limits on intake, in a hybrid or ‘physical plus digital’ mode. It proclaims to provide equitable access to quality higher education and employability-enhancing skill development programmes to all. Technology-enabled and mediated digital learning is projected as the future of higher education. Such learning is supposed to end face-to-face formal education.
Two years of COVID-19-compelled online education seems to have convinced them that in future, education, particularly higher education, will transform into a virtual space. Higher education in India is getting metamorphosed into ‘hire education’. In the process, higher education is now getting delivered by for-profit entities, in contravention of the long-held belief that education at all levels must be provided on a not-for-profit basis.
  • Employment challenges: Going by the evidence, employers across the world are generally negatively disposed towards online education. Most recruiters prefer to hire those who have graduated in face-to-face mode.
  • Quality Education:  The quality of higher education is inversely proportional to the intensity of regulation, designing and developing an efficient and effective regulatory mechanism often proves more challenging than imagined.
  • Economical and cost-effective paradox: The open and distance mode of learning is often considered as economical and cost-effective, but it is not completely true. To be effective, they not only require massive capital investment in infrastructure, but also demand significantly higher recurring expenses on content development and their continuous updating and upgradation.
  • No substitute for teachers: It would be a blunder to regard technology-mediated teaching-learning as an alternative to face-to-face education. Technology can supplement and not substitute teachers. No world-class universities, including those with a high degree of technology integration in their teaching and learning processes, are planning to cut down their faculty cost or their number any time soon. On the contrary, they envision hiring more of them to attain greater excellence.
  • Complacent Nature: This can also allow for all parties involved to become complacent if the online course is not fully structured or interactive.
  • No way of gauging body language with students: When teaching in an online environment another potential weakness is there is no way of gauging body language with students.
  • Lack of Practical exposure: Teaching of subjects like chemistry where practical knowledge is important and laboratory work is essential can not be taught effectively on digital devices.
Digital delivery and technology integration in education may undoubtedly serve a useful purpose. Higher education must indeed embrace and keep pace with the advancements in technology. Technology can be effectively leveraged as a quality-enhancement tool.
Higher education is a lot more than borrowing content and delivering them online or outsourcing content. This would render India a consumer of knowledge. India must be focussed on exploiting our full potential to emerge as a producer of knowledge and providers of the global workforce.
Source: The Hindu

01 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY      
Question : Q. Low female labour force participation is the result of structural factors. Discuss. How can this be tackled with careful drafting policies for the gig economy and start-up ecosystem in India?

Decode the Question:
  • Start with explaining India’s demographic dividend position.
  • Discuss the structural issues responsible for low female labour force participation.
  • Discuss the ingredients required for better policy development for the gig economy and start-up ecosystem in India to deal with low female labour force participation .
  • Conclude it by the recent NITI Aayog report on the gig economy.

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By 2025, it is estimated that 70 per cent of Indians will be of working age. This ‘demographic dividend’ could give India an edge over the developed countries where a larger segment of the population would by then be past retirement.
However, this demographic dividend can easily turn into a demographic disaster if a majority of the working age population remains unemployable due to a lack of skills. India has one of the youngest populations globally, and women comprise a significant number of them.
Youth participation in the workforce is vital for economic growth and development as they are equipped with new-age skills, adapt to new changes and present a new perspective. However, if nearly half the youth population is excluded from the workforce, then economic growth is compromised, trapping women at the bottom of the economy.
Female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) in India has been one of the lowest among the emerging economies and has been falling over time. This has resulted in a decrease in the ratio of working females to the population of females in the working age group.
NITI Aayog said in a report titled ‘India’s Booming Gig and Platform Economy’ female labour force participation in India has remained low, oscillating between 16 per cent to 23 per cent in the last few years. Structural barriers like access to education and lack of skilling have hindered participation of the female workforce in the country’s labour force.
Low participation of women in the labour force in India is attributed to the lack of employment opportunities, rising education levels and household incomes, and problems in measurement, such as under-reporting of women’s work.
Religion and social perceptions of women and the presence of young children in the household all influence the likelihood of India’s women to participate in the labour market. Structural characteristics in the labour market have played a more important role than changes in the underlying characteristics of the female working-age population in influencing participation rates.
These structural barriers, such as norms that inhibit women’s labour market options, in conjunction with a consistent decline in agricultural employment, are likely to be key factors in explaining the long-term stagnation in female participation rates.  Therefore, it is right to say that low female labour force participation is the result of structural factors.

‘India’s Booming Gig and Platform Economy’ report of NITI Aayog
According to the report, the expected expansion of India’s gig workforce by 2029-30 from 77 lakh in 2020–21 is to 2.35 crore. India requires a framework that balances the flexibility offered by platforms while also ensuring social security of workers.
The consequent platformisation of work has given rise to a new classification of labour — platform labour — falling outside of the purview of the traditional dichotomy of formal and informal labour. In an attempt to increase participation of women in the gig economy, the NITI Aayog has proposed fiscal incentives like tax breaks or startup grants for companies with about one-third of their workforce as women.

Ingredients of Better Policy:
  • Fiscal incentives:  such as tax-breaks or startup grants may be provided for businesses that provide livelihood opportunities where women constitute a substantial portion (say, 30%) of their workers. 
  • Platformisation of work and incentivising platforms: platform companies offer flexibility and choice of labour to all workers in general, and women in particular, empowering them to monetise their idle assets when and where they want — a benefit missing in traditional employment sectors — making them an attractive opportunity for women.
  • Higher share of women managers and supervisors: businesses have a higher share of women managers and supervisors in the organisation to ensure that communication to workers does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.
  • Better infrastructure and work design: To encourage more women, platforms may develop better infrastructure and work design.
  • Enhance skill development: Empowerment of women, which can to an extent be addressed by integrating life skills coaching into skilling programs, and interfacing with their families and communities to change backward mindsets - are critical aspects of helping women reach their potential.
  • Asset ownership: Ownership of assets have huge implications on the lives of women.
  • Access to digital skills and technology: The gender skill gap is vast, especially for digital skills as women continue to work in more stereotypically ‘feminised’ sectors such as beauty, retail etc. and men continue to work in mechanised, technologically advanced sectors. The lack of digital skills prevents women from entering the rapidly advancing workforce.
  • Gender sensitisation and accessibility awareness programmes: undertaking gender sensitisation and accessibility awareness programmes for workers and their families can improve female labour participation.
  • Formal credit for women: Niti Aayog added that access to institutional credit could be enhanced through financial products specifically designed for platform workers and those interested to set-up their own platforms. Special emphasis may be placed on access to formal credit for women.
The participation of women in the country’s workforce has been woefully inadequate, and this needs to change for India to reap its demographic dividend. Capacitating our women is also the key to generational social transformation.
Empowerment of women is a critical part of a nation’s development and it is a balanced equation of her education, health, employability and decision-making power. Availability of agency and removal of constraints faced by women is imperative for sustainable and equitable development of both the community as well as the nation.
India needs to adopt a gendered lens in education and skilling programs to overcome the challenges of an underrepresented section of youth in the workforce, as well as support women in securing and retaining jobs. Introducing a ‘Platform India initiative’ on the lines of the ‘Startup India initiative’ can help in improving the female workforce.

30 Jun 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY      
Question : Q. What are VPN and Virtual Server? How are they useful and what are major issues regarding virtual server in the Indian scenario?

Decode the Question:
  • Start with explaining VPN and Virtual Server.
  • Discuss the VPN and Virtual Server.
  • Highlight the issues associated with VPN and Virtual Server in India.
  • Conclude by citing new VPN rules.

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VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a private network that is virtually created when you surf the Web. It is an encrypted connection over the Internet from a device to a network.
The encrypted connection helps ensure that sensitive data is safely transmitted. It prevents unauthorized people from eavesdropping on the traffic and allows the user to conduct work remotely. 
VPN technology is widely used in corporate environments. This private network promotes online safety and enhances your overall privacy on the Web.
A virtual server is a simulated server environment built on an actual physical server. It recreates the functionality of a dedicated physical server. The virtual twin functions like a physical server that runs software and uses resources of the physical server. Multiple virtual servers can run on a single physical server.

Usefulness  of Virtual Server:
  • Reallocating resources: They help in reallocating resources for changing workloads.
  • Efficient use of resources: Converting one physical server into multiple virtual servers allows organisations to use processing power and resources more efficiently by running multiple operating systems and applications on one partitioned server. Running multiple operating systems and applications on a single physical machine reduces cost as it consumes less space and hardware.
  • Cost efficiency: Virtualisation also reduces cost as maintaining a virtual server infrastructure is low compared to physical server infrastructure.
  • High Security: Virtual servers are also said to offer higher security than a physical server infrastructure as the operating system and applications are enclosed in a virtual machine. This helps contain security attacks and malicious behaviour inside the virtual machine.
  • Testing and debugging applications: Virtual servers are also useful in testing and debugging applications in different operating systems and versions without having to manually install and run them in several physical machines. Software developers can create, run, and test new software applications on a virtual server without taking processing power away from other users.
Uses of VPN:
  • Privacy: Without a VPN connection, websites can see your IP address, and use it to accurately identify your identity and location. VPN promotes online safety and enhances your overall privacy on the Web.
  • Safety: A VPN would prevent everyone from the government to cyber criminals to track you easily. Using a VPN can delink your online activity from your IP address. A VPN will also protect your Internet traffic, keeping it encrypted the whole time.
  • Location spoofing: VPNs are used to get around geo-restrictions. 
  • Getting around online censorship: Many countries block access to various websites, which you cannot visit if you’re from those countries. A VPN allows you to bypass such restrictions. Free access to the Web is an important element of the freedom of speech and expression. Journalists and activists often use VPNs to access platforms that would otherwise be inaccessible, and communicate without government restrictions.
Major issues regarding virtual server in Indian scenario:
  • Bypassing cybersecurity walls:  Dark Web and VPNs can bypass cybersecurity walls. 
  • Anonymity : It allows criminals to remain anonymous online. 
  • Fake and wrong Advertising:  VPNs can be easily downloaded and many websites providing such facilities are advertising them.
  • Online Crimes issues: It allows criminals to remain anonymous online. Therefore, Identity theft, internet fraud, cyberbullying, stalking, and other crimes can be easily done by using VPNs.
  • Data Protection and Privacy Issue: For better data management and privacy, VPNs must be regulated.
Recent VPN rules framed by CERT-In mandating Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers to record and keep their customers’ logs for 180 days can be a step in the right direction to regulate and manage virtual servers and VPN .
It also asked these firms to collect and store customer data for up to five years. It further mandated that any cybercrime recorded must be reported to the CERT-In within six hours of the crime. But,  banning technology is not the solution.
VPN suppliers leaving India is not good for its burgeoning IT sector. Taking such radical action that highly impacts the privacy of millions of people in India will most likely be counterproductive and strongly damage the IT sector’s growth in the country.
It estimated that 254.9 million Indians have had their accounts breached since 2004 and raised its concern that collecting excessive amounts of data within Indian jurisdiction without robust protection mechanisms could lead to even more breaches.
References: The Hindu     Indian Express

30 Jun 2022 gs-mains-paper-4 ETHICS, INTEGRITY & APTITUDE    
Question : Q. Why abortion must be debated as an ethical issue? Discuss dilemma and ethical solution to handle such situations.

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  • Start with expressing the ethical issues involved in abortion.
  • Discuss the dilemma associated with abortion and provide suitable solutions.
  • Conclude by suggesting some Ethical approaches to abortion.

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From an ethical standpoint, the debate over pregnancy termination is between a woman’s right over her body and the foetus’s right to life.
Judith Jarvis Thomson, an American philosopher, advocated for the supremacy of a woman’s right over her body as a premise of freedom. She argued that one cannot force a woman to bear a child in her womb and give birth to a child if she does not want to do so for various reasons. Thomson said that the timing of the abortion is a key difference.
She emphasised that for those who support abortion, the foetus is not a live human being during the period of conception or in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
According to feminist and psychologist Carol Gilligan, when deciding to terminate a pregnancy voluntarily, a woman faces a true “moral dilemma” or “moral conflict,” because such a decision frequently takes into account human relationships, the possibility of not hurting others, and responsibility towards others.

Pro-life versus pro-choice dilemma
According to ‘The Ethical Dilemma of Abortion’ by Journal of Student Research at Indiana University East, the pro-life versus pro-choice dilemma is one of the longest debated issues in the United States today, causing ethical tensions. This complex quandary continues to perplex biomedical ethicists because it is intertwined with normative assessment, politics, law, medicine, religion, and ethics.
  • Pro-life Arguments: The pro-life or anti-abortion argument is based on three principles: the Human Rights Principle, the Mens Rea Principle, and the Harm Principle.
    • According to the Mens Rea Principle, “the agent’s intentions should be given weight.” Thus, abortion violates this principle because the agent intentionally kills another, and the pregnancy is terminated deliberately and knowingly.
    • Abortion violates the Harm Principle, which states that “no one should inflict serious harm on other people.”
  • Pro-choice Arguments: Abortions, according to the absolutist pro-choice position, are ethically justifiable and, as a result, should be performed as long as the procedure is safe. The pro-choice argument states that the woman should be free to make her own decisions as an individual, and these decisions are considered self-regarding because the foetus is only a potential person, not the ‘other’ as the pro-life argument holds.
  • Ethical approaches to abortion
Bioethics contends that ethical approaches to abortion frequently invoke four principles.
  • Respect for patients’ autonomy
  • Nonmaleficence (do no harm)
  • Beneficence (beneficial care) and
  • Justice
Respect for autonomy is enshrined in laws governing informed consent, which protects patients’ right to be informed about their medical options and to make an informed voluntary decision.
Respect for autonomy, according to some bioethicists, lends firm support to the right to choose abortion, arguing that if a pregnant person wishes to end their pregnancy, the state should not interfere.
One interpretation of this view holds that the principle of autonomy means that a person owns their body and should be free to decide what happens in and to it.

References: Indian Express