Mains Question for UPSC Aspirants

Mains Question for UPSC Aspirants

06 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-2 SOCIAL ISSUES AND SOCIAL JUSTICE      
Question : Q. Examine the challenges in higher education in India even after adoption of New Education Policy.

Decode the Question:
  • Start with presenting some data ranking of Indian Universities in the world . 
  • Discuss some challenges in higher education in India.
  • By highlighting the vision of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, discuss the associated challenges in higher education in India.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion.

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Since independence, India as a developing nation is contentiously progressing in the education field. Although there have been a lot of challenges to the higher education system of India, but equally have a lot of opportunities to overcome these challenges and to make the higher education system much better.
It has now become an annual ritual in India to discuss the international rankings of higher education institutions (HEI) only when global ranking systems such as the coveted QS World University Rankings are announced.
While it is heartening to see that the number of Indian institutes among the top 1,000 globally has risen to 27 from 22 last year, and that the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has moved up 31 places to emerge as the highest ranked Indian institute in the 2023 edition, there is no serious debate on the abysmal performance of Indian universities barring the Institutes of Eminence (IOE).

Challenges in Higher Education in India:
  • Inadequate financial support provided by State governments to State HEIs: the financial support provided by State governments to State HEIs is far from adequate even though the number of under-graduate students is largest in State public universities (13,97,527) followed by State open universities (9,22,944) of the total students’ enrollment. State-sponsored HEIs barely manage to pay salaries and pensions.
  • Enrolment: The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of India in higher education is only 15% which is quite low as compared to the developed as well as, other developing countries.
  • Faculty: Faculty shortages and the inability of the state educational system to attract and retain well qualified teachers have been posing challenges to quality education for many years. The lackadaisical attitude we see in filling up faculty positions has further worsened the quality of teaching and research in HEIs.
  • Step-motherly treatment to State-sponsored HEIs: the State-funded HEIs would not perform well in these rankings was a forgone conclusion. It is a consequence of the unequal and unfair system in the Indian higher education system, where State-sponsored HEIs are provided step-motherly treatment and positioned poorly vis-à-vis centrally funded institutions.
  • Equity: There is no equity in GER among different sects of the society.
  • Quality:  Ensuring quality in higher education is amongst the foremost challenges being faced in India today. However, the Government is continuously focusing on quality education. A large number of colleges and universities in India are unable to meet the minimum requirements laid down by the UGC and our universities are not in a position to mark their place among the top universities of the world.
  • Infrastructure: Poor infrastructure is another challenge to the higher education system of India.  While the number of universities increased by almost 30.5% in 2019-20 compared to 2015-16, academic and administrative infrastructure has not been strengthened commensurate with this growth.
  • Research and Innovation: there are very nominal scholars in our country whose writing is cited by famous western authors. There is inadequate focus on research in higher education institutes.  Indian Higher education institutions are poorly connected to research centers.
  • Structure of higher education: Management of Indian education faces challenges of overcentralisation, bureaucratic structures and lack of accountability, transparency, and professionalism. As a result of the increase in the number of affiliated colleges and students, the burden of administrative functions of universities has significantly increased and the core focus on academics and research is diluted.
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and challenges in higher education in India:
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has envisaged all HEIs to become multidisciplinary institutions by 2040. The aim is to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education, including vocational education, from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035.
The NEP also aims to ensure that by 2030, there is at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district. This means that single-stream specialised institutions will eventually be phased out.

Multidisciplinary institutions vs single-stream specialised institutions
Prominent multidisciplinary universities such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, the University of Hyderabad, and Jamia Millia Islamia have slipped in the QS World University Rankings should compel national think tanks to revisit the NEP’s proposal in this regard.
A close study of the QS World University Rankings reveals that single-stream specialised HEIs such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and IISc have performed better than their multidisciplinary counterparts.
  • A plan in the NEP for multidisciplinary education and research universities is also being contemplated in order to achieve the highest global standards in quality education. The idea of converting a specialised institution into a multi-faculty university does not seem to augur well for an economy driven by specialist professionals.
  • Converting all HEIs into multidisciplinary institutions is not an idea that holds water given the unique conditions and demands in India. No study or data support the idea of transforming specialised institutions into multidisciplinary/multi-faculty universities either. A ‘one size fits all’ approach may not be of help to India.
The need of the hour is to build and develop our higher education system while taking into account Indian conditions and market demands. No ranking system seems to rationally rank institutions after examining their administrative challenges, infrastructural constraints and financial predicaments; they only pay attention to performance metrics based on academic strengths and other achievements.
For India to perform better on these rankings, we need to pay more attention to the State HEIs.
No doubt India is facing various challenges in higher education, but to tackle these challenges and to boost higher education is utmost important. India is a country of huge human resource potential, to utilise this potential properly is the issue which needs to be discussed.

Source: The Hindu

05 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY     
Question : Q. How nutritional deficiency needs to be tackled? Discuss with ongoing initiatives and suggested improvements.

Decode the Question:
  • Start with presenting some data about the malnutrition status of India. 
  • Discuss some ongoing initiatives associated with Nutritional deficiency such as POSHAN Abhiyaan,  Mid-Day Meal Scheme etc.
  • Suggest some measures to improve Nutritional deficiency.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion.

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It is disconcerting that even after seven decades of Independence, India is afflicted by public health issues such as child malnutrition (35.5% stunted, 67.1% anaemic) attributing to 68.2% of under-five child mortality.
Poor nutrition not only adversely impacts health and survival but also leads to diminished learning capacity, and poor school performance. And in adulthood, it means reduced earnings and increased risks of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Ongoing initiatives and Nutritional deficiency:
POSHAN Abhiyaan and Nutritional deficiencies:
  • The Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition or POSHAN Abhiyaan or National Nutrition Mission (NNM) has the objective of reducing malnutrition in women, children and adolescent girls.
  • The Ministry of Women and Child (MWCD) is the nodal Ministry implementing the NNM. The programme through the targets will strive to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth weight babies.
  • It will create synergy, ensure better monitoring, issue alerts for timely action, and encourage States/UTs to perform, guide and supervise the line Ministries and States/UTs to achieve the targeted goals. POSHAN Abhiyaan (now referred as POSHAN 2.0) rightly places a special emphasis on selected high impact essential nutrition interventions, combined with nutrition-sensitive interventions, which indirectly impact mother, infant and young child nutrition, such as improving coverage of maternal-child health services, enhancing women empowerment, availability, and access to improved water, sanitation, and hygiene and enhancing homestead food production for a diversified diet.
Child undernutrition and practice of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF):
  • Data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 2019-21, as compared to NFHS-4 2015-16, reveals that the country has not progressed well in terms of direct nutrition interventions.
  • India has 20% to 30% undernutrition even in the first six months of life when exclusive breastfeeding is the only nourishment required. Despite a policy on infant and young child feeding, and a ban on sale of commercial milk for infant feeding, there has only been a marginal improvement in the practice of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF). Child undernutrition in the first three months remains high.
  • Creating awareness on EBF, promoting the technique of appropriate holding, latching and manually emptying the breast are crucial for the optimal transfer of breast milk to a baby.
  • Recent evidence from the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA), IIT Mumbai team indicates that well-planned breastfeeding counselling given to pregnant women during antenatal checkup prior to delivery and in follow up frequent home visits makes a significant difference. The daily weight gain of a baby was noted to average 30 to 35 grams per day and underweight prevalence rate reduced by almost two thirds.
Protein Deficiency and Mid-Day Meal Scheme:
  • Pulses are a major contributor to address protein hunger. The Mid-Day Meal Scheme aims to enhance the nutrition of school children by providing a balanced diet in schools.
Micronutrient Deficiency and Sub-Mission on Nutri-Cereals (Millets):
  • The Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (DA&FW) is implementing a Sub-Mission on Nutri-Cereals (Millets) under National Food Security Mission (NFSM). The Millets are a rich source of Protein, Fibre, Minerals, Iron, Calcium and have a low glycemic index.
Suggested improvements:
Awareness at the right time with the right tools and techniques: Need to create an awareness at the right time with the right tools and techniques regarding special care in the first 1,000 days deserves very high priority. We must act now and invest finances and energy in a mission mode.
  • Overhauling POSHAN 2.0 flows: There is a pressing need to revisit the system spearheading POSHAN 2.0 and overhaul it to remove any flaws in its implementation.
  • Revisiting Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS): There is a need to revisit the nodal system for nutrition programme existing since 1975, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) under the Ministry of Women and Child and examine whether it is the right system for reaching mother-child in the first 1000 days of life.
  • Nutrition orientation of Public Distribution (PDS): There is also a need to explore whether there is an alternative way to distribute the ICDS supplied supplementary nutrition as Take- Home Ration packets through the Public Distribution (PDS).
  • Empowering the anganwadi workers: free the anganwadi workers of the ICDS to undertake timely counselling on appropriate maternal and child feeding practices.
  • Develop integrated system: There is a need to systematically review the status and develop and test a new system that would combine the human resource of ICDS and health from village to the district and State levels. This would address the mismatch that exists on focussing on delivery of services in the first 1000 days of life for preventing child undernutrition by having an effective accountable system.
It is time to think out of the box and overcome systemic flaws and our dependence on the antiquated system of the 1970s that is slowing down the processes. Moreover, mass media or TV shows could organise discourses on care in the first 1,000 days to reach mothers outside the public health system.
Governance can be termed ‘good’ only when it banishes hunger and starvation.
The poor must also be valued like the rest of the population since attaching less value to their lives is one unstated reason why their nutritional needs are not taken care of as they should be.
The dream of a New India cannot be built on a large population of children and mothers deprived of nutritional sufficiency.

Source: The Hindu

02 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY     
Question :
Q. Discuss the significance of defence reforms in the context of the recently rolled out Agnipath initiative and defence modernization.

Decode the Question:
  • Start with the need for defence reforms by citing current developments and controversies.
  • Discuss the recent major defence reforms .
  • Discuss the significance of defence reforms in the context of the recently rolled out Agnipath initiative and defence modernization.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion by mentioning the recommendations/suggestions of previous defence committees/task forces.

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Given the key geostrategic challenges, emanating from the threat of two-front war (against China and Pakistan combinedly), India faces the complex threats and challenges spanning the full spectrum of conflict from nuclear to sub-conventional.
In such a scenario, India needs to carry out much-needed defence reforms. Defence reforms are tricky.
With entrenched interests and bureaucratic rivalries, most nations struggle to bring in fundamental changes to their national security apparatus. India is no exception.
The recent debate on the “Agnipath” scheme which aimed at strengthening national security and also for providing an opportunity to the youth to serve in the armed forces, underscores the challenge that India faces as it seeks to rationalise its military assets to emerge as a more efficient fighting machine.

Major Defence Reforms:
The Indian Government ushered in a range of reforms, including by appointing India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creating the department of military affairs (DMA).
It gave a major push for indigenisation with a list of 101 defence items for which there is to be an import embargo. Encouraging greater private sector participation has resulted in a visible shift in India’s profile as a defence exporter.
The government also undertook corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board. Other reforms have ranged from energising defence research and development to the speedier enhancement of border infrastructure and opening up the gates of the Indian armed forces for women more substantively. Recently, Agnipath Scheme has sought to rationalise its military assets to emerge as a more efficient fighting machine.

Significance of Defence reforms:
  • Streamlining of structures and processes: The silo-driven approach to defence planning has resulted in the lack of an integrated view. The three services, as well as the civilian and defence agencies, are often seen to be working at cross purposes. The CDS and Agnipath Schemes seems streamlining of structures and processes of defence forces.
  • Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs):  A key step that the CDS has to undertake is encouraging the establishment of Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs), which are essentially joint combatant commands. Commanders of ITCs can bring about efficiency if they have operational and some budgetary control over the forces under their command. One of the most vital changes that may come about, though, would be how the three arms of the Indian military operate with one another, not as individual services, but as the armed forces of the Union.
  • Decrease the average age profile of armed forces personnel: the “Agnipath” scheme is expected to decrease the average age profile of armed forces personnel from the current 32 years to 24-26 years over a period of time.
  • Help in modernising the mass versus machine ratios: All major world militaries — the U.S., France, China, Russia and others — have undertaken reforms to modernise the mass versus machine ratios, which is a key pillar of modern warfare. The “Agnipath” scheme will be a step in this direction.
  • “Future-ready” Force: A youthful armed forces will allow them to be easily trained for new technologies. The “Agnipath” scheme will be a step in this direction.
  • Reduce the defence budget: The armed forces’ growing pension bill has been a major concern for the Defence Ministry. Total budget allocation for defence for 2022-23 is ₹5.25 lakh crore, of which revenue allocation is ₹2.33 lakh crore, capital allocation is ₹1.52 lakh crore, and defence pensions add up to ₹1.19 lakh crore. Agnipath scheme is a way out to reduce the defence budget.
  • Higher skilled workforce: the skills and experience acquired during the four-year service,  Agniveers will get employment in various fields.
  • Employment Opportunities: opportunities for youth to serve in the armed forces will increase after the “Agnipath'' scheme. In the coming years, recruitment of Agniveers will be around triple of the current recruitment in the armed forces.
  • Excellence in Mobilisation:  The undertaking of mobilisation cannot be considered as a peaceful act. On the contrary, it represents the most decisive act of war. Recent Indo-China conflict arose the question of early mobilisation and younger armed forces can be the solution for this. Agnipath scheme seems a good step.
Coupled with the rise of transnational non-state actors, the nature of conflict and warfare was also evolving rapidly.
  • Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommended, stating, “the Army must be young and fit at all times. In 2000, a Group of Ministers (GOM) endorsed the KRC’s recommendation stating that, “in order to ensure that the armed forces are at their fighting best at all times, there is a need to ensure a younger profile of the services.”. 
  • The Naresh Chandra Task Force on National Security set up by the UPA government in 2011 also addressed this issue.  Thus, the Agniveer recruitment reform must be contextualised in the backdrop of the larger canvas of defence reforms that include the appointment of a CDS, a reorganisation of the armed forces into theatre commands to promote jointness and synergy.
  • The future of warfare entails a lighter human footprint, but soldiers equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, supported by cutting-edge technology to fight a war in a highly informationised environment.
  • This recruitment reform would help in right sizing the armed forces provided it gets dovetailed into the imperatives of fifth generation warfare. “All India, all class” recruitment to the services may lead to the erosion of the loyalty that a soldier has for his regiment. Doubts about training and permanent job status questions should be dealt with greater caution for better implementation of Agnipath scheme.
Source: Indian Express    ORF    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

17 Apr 2022 gs-mains-paper-1 SOCIAL ISSUES AND SOCIAL JUSTICE      
Question : Expansion of the medical education Infrastructure is necessary for quality healthcare as better healthcare facilities fights poverty, helps in social justice. Do you concur with the statement; if yes, relate it to the various initiatives government has taken in recent times?

(GS Mains' Paper 1)

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15 Apr 2022 gs-mains-paper-2 GOVERNANCE     
Question : What could be the possible advantages of pursuing two degrees at a time as per the latest decision of UGC? Elaborate.

(GS Mains; Paper 2)
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10 Apr 2022 gs-mains-paper-1 SOCIAL ISSUES AND SOCIAL JUSTICE      
Question : What do you mean by Urban Agglomeration. Define the criteria for a place to be designated as Urban Agglomeration as per the census-2021 of India. Has there been any change in the rules compared to census-2011? Elaborate.

(GS Mains; Paper 1)
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