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22 March 2019

UPSC Prelims 2020

Paper 2 and 4:

Topics Covered:

  1. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

 

Social Media Platforms Present Voluntary Code of Ethics

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Highlights of Voluntary Code of Ethics.
  • For Mains: Why is the spread of fake news on rise these days, how to contain it, legislative measures necessary, challenges and need for multi- stakeholder approach, how it affects voting behaviour?

 

Context: Social media platforms and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) have presented a ‘Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019 to the Election Commission of India.

Participants including BIGO, ByteDance, Facebook, Google, Sharechat and Twitter have agreed to take action on the content reported by the nodal officer, expeditiously, in accordance with the law.

 

Key highlights:

  • The code aims to identify measures that the platforms can take to increase confidence in the electoral process to safeguard against misuse that vitiates the free and fair character.
  • The Social media platforms will deploy appropriate policies and processes to facilitate access to information on electoral matters where appropriate and keeping in mind the principle of freedom of expression.
  • The platforms have voluntarily undertaken to establish a high-priority communication channel with the nodal officers designated by the ECI.
  • The Election commission together with platforms has developed a notification mechanism by which the electoral body can notify them of potential violations under Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act and on other matters.
  • As per the code, the platforms will acknowledge these notifications within three hours of receipt and will act upon expeditiously based on the nature of the reported violation.
  • Platforms will ensure that political advertisements by parties or their candidates are pre-certified.

 

Need of the hour:

Fake news affects voting behaviour in a big way and right now, the only mechanism is Section 126 and EC instructions on paid news. We have to bring in a robust mechanism for conduct on social media platforms.

 

What is fake news?

Fake news is a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via the traditional print, broadcasting news media, or via Internet-based social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.

 

The main driving force behind fake news remains:

  • Getting easy viewership through sensational news-e.g. dubbing foreign prisoners as spies or terrorists without any proof
  • Directed towards a particular organization or person with an intention to either glorify it or to bring malice.eg. a news channel was established to defend the accused in Jessica Lal murder case.

 

Nature of fake news:

Social media in campaign- used to promote electoral programme and encourage anti-liberal sentiments as seen in Trump campaign. They offer a quick way to convey one-sided information or opinion, without the option or capability to verify the authenticity of this information or to present the opposite opinion for the sake of balance.

Fake news creating Bubble phenomenon- users with matching political views exchange one-sided information and opinions that suit their own convictions, reinforcing them even further, even if those were based on false information.

Social media distancing people– It deprives people of human contact and the accompanying intimacy and exchange of opinions, which could lead to changing a wrong impression or correcting an inaccurate belief.

Evergreening of fake news websites – tens of thousands of “fake news” websites have emerged, offering false information to an audience that is used to traditional media doing the fact-checking for it and that believes anything that appears on a presentable webpage.

Igniting extremist sentiments – ‘fake news’ perputuates, previously locally found, extremist ideas and groups together dangerously minded people eg- Neo-nazis in Germany, Separatists in Kashmir.

 

Dangers of fake news:

Political: Swaying or polarising public opinion. Example Recent American election,UP elections where certain facts are quoted out of context/partially. Significant impact on the nature of polity.

Religious: Promoting religious ideologies. Glorifying one religion while despising others Ex. Right wing violence meted out by Gau rakshaks leads to religious polarisation and communal unrests.

Criminal: Sensationalising crimes by blowing them out of proportion. Misleads people rather than making them aware. Instils irrational fears.

Fake news has also been used to dupe gullible people financially. The reach of news has given chit fund schemes an altogether new arena as well as has introduced the concept of online fraud through spam mails.

It hampers spirit of common brotherhood and raises intolerance. Eg. 2012 mass exodus of North-Eastern people from Bangalore on false online threats.

Over the time it shapes the thinking of society at large. Portrayal of India as an unsafe destination for women by international media has created a false image of a nation.

 

What is needed?

  • Independent, trusted and effective press regulation.
  • Mainstream media must use social media tools intensively in order to defend the truth, present the correct information and balance opinions.
  • Curb media ownership. We need an open debate on the impact of media concentration on our democracy and wider culture. There should be clear limits on media ownership so that powerful proprietors with vested interests are not allowed to dominate the news agenda.
  • Define fake news legally. Heavy punitive measures for whosoever violates the said definition.
  • There should be grievance redressal mechanisms and arbitration spaces to resolve issues.
  • Digital media literacy among people to increase scrutiny and feedbacks of the content.

Technical solutions that assess the credibility of information circulating online are also needed.

 

Mains Questions: Legal tools are ill-suited to tackle the problem of fake news. Critically analyse.


Relevant articles from various News Papers:

Paper 3:

Topic covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

World Water Day- 22 March

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: WWD- significance, themes, features and organizers.
  • For Mains: Water- concerns, need for conservation and measures needed.

 

Context: World Water Day is celebrated every year on March 22nd.

The theme for World Water Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind,’ which is the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. By definition, this means leaving no one behind.

World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water – the UN’s inter-agency collaboration mechanism for all freshwater related issues – in collaboration with governments and partners.

 

About World Water Day:

In the year 1992, March 22 was first officially added in the schedule 21 of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development as World Water Day in the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

  • The celebrations to mark world water day started from the year 1993. The aim of the day is to increase awareness among people about the importance, need and conservation of water.
  • The World Water Development Report is also released by the UN every year around World Water Day.

 

Water, a human right:

In 2010, the UN recognized “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

The human right to water entitles everyone, without discrimination, to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use; which includes water for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene.

People are left behind without safe water for many different reasons. The following are some of the ‘grounds for discrimination’ that cause certain people to be particularly disadvantaged when it comes to accessing water:

  1. Sex and gender.
  2. Race, ethnicity, religion, birth, caste, language, and nationality.
  3. Disability, age and health status.
  4. Property, tenure, residence, economic and social status.
  5. Other factors, such as environmental degradation, climate change, population growth, conflict, forced displacement and migration flows can also disproportionately affect marginalized groups through impacts on water.

 

Way ahead:

To ‘leave no one behind’, we must focus our efforts towards including people who have been marginalized or ignored. Water services must meet the needs of marginalized groups and their voices must be heard in decision-making processes. Regulatory and legal frameworks must recognise the right to water for all people, and sufficient funding must be fairly and effectively targeted at those who need it most.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3:

Topic covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

International Day of Forests- 21 March

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: IDF- theme, significance and challenges to sustainable management.

 

Context: The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012. The Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests.

On each International Day of Forests, countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns.

The theme for 2019: ‘Forests and Education: Learn to Love Forests’.

 

Significance of forests:

  • Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter.
  • Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80 per cent of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.
  • Despite all these ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate with 13 million hectares of forest destroyed annually.
  • Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

 

Need for sustainable management of forests:

  • Forests, their sustainable management and use of resources, including in fragile ecosystems, are key to combating climate change and to contributing to the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations.
  • Forests also play a crucial role in poverty alleviation and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Hence, sustainable management of all types of forests are at the heart of unlocking challenges of conflict-affected, developing and developed countries, for the benefit of current and future generations.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Integrate TB services with primary health system: Lancet

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: TB related facts, concerns for India and what needs to be done to achieve the proposed target?

 

Context: Lancet study on TB.

 

Key findings:

  1. Compared with 2015 data, 57% reduction in incidence and 72% reduction in mortality will been seen only by 2035 in three countries including India.
  2. Strengthening the care cascade could reduce cumulative TB incidence by 38% in the case of India.
  3. India has to adopt measures to prevent TB on a population level to eliminate the disease in the coming decades.
  4. Diagnosis and treatment for drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB need improvement.
  5. Modelling suggests that lives of eight million (28%) people with TB can be saved over the next 30 years if tests are subsidised and patients are supported to complete the treatment.
  6. India should scale up access to TB services for all those seeking them, optimise engagement of private sector providers and guarantee universal access to drug susceptibility testing and second line TB drugs.

 

Background:

Of the 10 million new tuberculosis (TB) cases reported globally in 2017 by the World Health Organisation, 74 million were from India, showing a marginal reduction from 2.79 million in 2016.

Despite TB incidence in the country being 204 cases per 1,00,000 in 2017, the government has set a highly ambitious target of “eliminating TB by 2025”, five years ahead of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target.

 

Challenges:

  • India has set an ambitious goal of eliminating TB by 2025, but integration of TB services with the primary health system to reduce diagnostic delays is not happening.
  • Patients are not diagnosed and treated at the primary level, which is the first point of contact. Only this will lead to early diagnosis and help cut the transmission cycle.

 

Why is Tuberculosis a major cause of concern?

  • TB is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and the leading cause from a single infectious agent, ranking above HIV/AIDS.
  • TB is an infectious disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  • It typically affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) but can also affect other sites.
  • The disease is spread when people who are sick with pulmonary TB expel bacteria into the air, for example by coughing.
  • Broader influences on the TB epidemic include levels of poverty, HIV infection, under nutrition and smoking.
  • Diagnostic tests for TB disease include – Rapid molecular test, Sputum smear microscopy, Culture-based methods
  • Without treatment, the mortality rate from TB is high.

 

SDG:

The consolidated goal on health is SDG 3. One of these targets, (Target 3.3), explicitly mentions TB.

SDG 3 also includes a target (Target 3.8) related to universal health coverage (UHC) in which TB is explicitly mentioned. This includes an indicator on the coverage of essential prevention, treatment and care interventions.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Issues related to stubble burning

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: What is stubble burning, concerns associated, why is it practised and what needs to be done to contain its practice?

 

Context: Only educating farmers about the monetary costs of burning stubble can address the environmental crisis triggered every year in Punjab, says a team of Swiss and Indian researchers who interviewed 600 farmers over two years.

 

Key observations:

  • According to the team, the government’s efforts — earmarking funds for specialised farming equipment (for straw management) or enforcing the state-led ban on the practice — are unlikely to solve the problem.
  • Farmer cooperative groups — a key link between government and farmers — ought to be playing a more active role in educating farmers.

 

What is stubble burning?

Stubble burning is a common practice followed by farmers in the neighboring states Haryana and Punjab to prepare fields for sowing of wheat in November as there is little time left between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat.

Stubble burning results in emission of harmful gases such carbon diaoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide along with particulate matter.

 

Advantages of stubble burning:

  • It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.
  • Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
  • Kills slugs and other pests.
  • Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.

 

What’s the issue?

Stubble burning is adversely affecting environment and public health. The problem has not been fully tackled and the adverse impacts on the air quality and consequent impacts on the citizens’ health and lives are undisputed.

 

What needs to be done- Supreme Court’s observations?

  1. The problem is required to be resolved by taking all such measures as are possible in the interest of public health and environment protection.
  2. Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.
  3. The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.
  4. Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has also been directed to be present to “find a lasting solution.”
  5. The Central government should convene a meeting with the States.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: Bans and fines can’t stop stubble burning. Do you agree. Also discuss how the issue should be handled.


Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

 

Voluntary retention route for foreign portfolio investors

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: VRR- meaning, features and significance.

 

What is VRR?

It is a new channel of investment available to FPIs to encourage them to invest in debt markets in India over and above their investments through the regular route. The objective is to attract long-term and stable FPI investments into debt markets while providing FPIs with operational flexibility to manage their investments.

 

When was this route proposed?

This new investment route was proposed by the central bank in October 2018 at a time the rupee was weakening against the dollar very sharply. There were also talks of a special NRI bond scheme to attract more dollar funds into the economy and stabilise the rupee.

 

How are they different from the regular FPI investments?

Guidelines say that investments through VRR will be free of the macro-prudential and other regulatory prescriptions applicable to FPI investments in debt markets, provided FPIs voluntarily commit to retain a required minimum percentage of their investments in India for a period of their choice. But the minimum retention period shall be three years, or as decided by RBI.

 

How much money can an FPI invest through this route?

Investments under this route as of now shall be capped at Rs 40,000 crore for VRR-GOVT and 35,000 crore per annum for VRR-COPR. But the limit could be changed from time to time based on macro-prudential considerations and assessment of investment demand. There will be separate limits for investment in government securities and investment in corporate debt.

 

Are there any other facilities for investors through VRR?

FPIs investing through this route will be eligible to participate in repos for their cash management, provided that the amount borrowed or lent under repo were not to exceed 10 per cent of the investment under VRR. They will also be eligible to participate in any currency or interest rate derivative instrument, OTC or exchange-traded instrument to manage their interest rate risk or currency risk.

 

Sources: et.


Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

India’s first forest-certification scheme gets global recognition

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: About SFM by NCCF.
  • For Mains: Forest certification- meaning, significance and need.

 

Context: The council of Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), a Geneva-based non-profit, has decided to endorse the Certification Standard for Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) developed by Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF), an Indian non-profit.

PEFC provides independent third-party certification for sustainable forest management.

 

Key facts:

  • The NCCF was set up in 2015 by representatives of forest-based industries, non-profits, forest auditors and government forest departments with an aim to set standards for certifying India’s forests, their products and their sustainable management.
  • The NCCF’s forest certification scheme is aimed to improve India’s forest management regime that is often criticised for various issues ailing the sector such as forest rights, forest degradation, biodiversity losses, encroachments, lack of manpower etc.

 

Significance and the need for forest certification:

Forest certification has been accepted as an efficient tool for forest management world over. Given that forests of India serve important ecological, economic and social functions that also provide livelihood to over 275 million forest dependent people of this country, there is need for certification for sustaining and enhancing these roles of forests.

 

What is forest certification?

Forest certification, a global movement initiated in 1990s after Rio Earth Summit, is a market-based non-regulatory conservation tool designed to promote sustainable management of forests and trees outside forests by an independent third party.

As several developed countries have put trade restrictions on import of non-certified timber, non-timber forest products and wood-based goods into their countries, getting sustainable forest management certificates has become mandatory for exports.

Sources: down to earth.


Summaries of important Editorials:

 

What is the significance of the Golan Heights?

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-donald-trump-golan-heights-5637558/.

 

Context: US President Donald Trump has backed Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967. The Golan announcement is likely to further complicate Trump’s long-awaited plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

Why is this area contentious?

The Golan Heights were part of Syria until 1967, when Israel captured most of the area in the Six Day War, occupying it and annexing it in 1981. That unilateral annexation was not recognised internationally, and Syria demands the return of the territory.

  • Syria tried to regain the Heights in the 1973 Middle East war, but was thwarted. Israel and Syria signed an armistice in 1974 and the Golan had been relatively quiet since.
  • In 2000, Israel and Syria held their highest-level talks over a possible return of the Golan and a peace agreement. But the negotiations collapsed and subsequent talks also failed.

 

Why does Israel want the Golan?

Security: Israel says that the civil war in Syria demonstrates the need to keep the plateau as a buffer zone between Israeli towns and the instability of its neighbour.

  • Israel’s government says it also fears that Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is seeking to establish itself permanently on the Syrian side of the border in order to launch attacks on Israel.
  • Both sides covet the Golan’s water resources and naturally fertile soil.
  • Syria insists that the part of the Golan held by Israel remains occupied territory and has demanded its return.

 

Who lives there?

  • More than 40,000 people live on the Israeli-occupied Golan, more than half of them Druze residents.
  • The Druze are an Arab minority who practice an offshoot of Islam and many of its adherents in Syria have long been loyal to the Assad regime.
  • After annexing the Golan, Israel gave the Druze the option of citizenship, but most rejected it and still identify as Syrian. About another 20,000 Israeli settlers also live there, many of them working in farming and tourism.

 

What separates the two sides on the Golan?

A United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is stationed in camps and observation posts along the Golan, supported by military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).

Between the Israeli and Syrian armies is a 400-square-km “Area of Separation” – often called a demilitarized zone – in which the two countries’ military forces are not permitted under the ceasefire arrangement.

The Separation of Forces Agreement of May 31, 1974 created an Alpha Line to the west of the area of separation, behind which Israeli military forces must remain, and a Bravo Line to the east behind which Syrian military forces must remain.

Extending 25 km beyond the “Area of Separation” on both sides is an “Area of Limitation” in which there are restrictions on the number of troops and number and kinds of weapons that both sides can have there.

There is one crossing point between the Israeli and Syrian sides, which until the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011 was used mainly by United Nations forces, a limited number of Druze civilians and for the transportation of agricultural produce.

 

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