20 Solved Questions with Answers
1. Explain the difference between computing methodology of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) before the year 2015 and after the year 2015.
GDP is a measure primarily used as a yardstick to gauge the growth of an economy. In 2015, a new series was announced to calculate India’s GDP by upgrading the methodology with new data sources to meet UN standards.
Difference between old and new methodology:
- Change in Base Year
- Pre-2015: 2004-05
- Post 2015: 2011-12
- Change of base year to calculate GDP is done in line with the global exercise to capture economic information accurately.
- Change in data used to measure manufacturing sector growth
- Pre-2015: The performance of the manufacturing sector was previously evaluated using data from the IIP and the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), which comprises over two lakh factories.
- Post-2015: Now, firms’ annual accounts filed with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA 21) are used, which includes around five lakh companies.
- GDP at factor cost replaced by GDP at market price
- Pre-2015: GDP at factor cost was calculated.
- Post-2015: Adopted the international practice of GDP at market price and for sector-wise estimate, Gross Value added (GVA) at basic price.
- The new measures include not only the cost of production but also product subsidies and taxes.
- Calculation of labour income
- Pre-2015: All labour used to be equal.
- Post-2015: The new series has used a concept called “effective labor input”. Different weights are assigned on whether one was an owner, a hired professional or a helper.
- Change in the way value addition in agriculture was captured
- Pre-2015: It was confined to value addition in farm produce.
- Post-2015: Value addition in agriculture is now taken beyond farm produce.
- Livestock data is now critical to the new method.
- Capturing income generated by Financial Sector
- Pre-2015: Financial corporations in the private sector, other than banking and insurance, was limited to a few mutual funds (primarily UTI) and estimates for the Non-Government Non-Banking Finance Companies as compiled by RBI.
- Post-2015: The coverage of financial sector has been expanded by including stock brokers, stock exchanges, asset management companies, mutual funds and pension funds, as well as the regulatory bodies, SEBI, PFRDA and IRDA.
The new method is statistically more robust since it estimates more indicators such as consumption, employment, and the performance of enterprises, and incorporates factors that are more responsive to current changes.
- Change in Base Year
2. Distinguish between Capital Budget and Revenue Budget. Explain the components of both these Budgets.
According to Article 112 of the Indian Constitution, the Union Budget of a year is referred to as the Annual Financial Statement (AFS). It is a statement of the estimated receipts and expenditure of the Government in a financial year (which begins on 01 April of the current year and ends on 31 March of the following year).
Objectives of Budget:
- Reallocation of resources
- Reducing inequalities in income and wealth
- Contributing to economic growth
- Bringing economic stability
- Managing public enterprises
Components of government budgets:
- It includes the Capital Receipts and Capital Expenditure.
- It consists of the Revenue Expenditure and Revenue Receipts.
- Capital Receipts indicate the receipts which lead to a decrease in assets or an increase in liabilities of the government.
- It consists of:
- the money earned by selling assets (or disinvestment) such as shares of public enterprises, and
- the money received in the form of borrowings or repayment of loans by states.
- Revenue Receipts are receipts which do not have a direct impact on the assets and liabilities of the government.
- It consists of the money earned by the government through tax (such as excise duty, income tax) and non-tax sources (such as dividend income, profits, interest receipts).
- Capital Expenditure is used to create assets or to reduce liabilities.
- It consists of:
- the long-term investments by the government on creating assets such as roads and hospitals, and
- the money given by the government in the form of loans to states or repayment of its borrowings.
- Revenue Expenditure is the expenditure by the government which does not impact its assets or liabilities.
- For example, this includes salaries, interest payments, pension, and administrative expenses.
- It is non-recurring in nature. It is usually a one-time expenditure for a long period of time.
- It is recurring in nature (on a yearly basis).
3. How did land reforms in some parts of the country help to improve the socio-economic conditions of marginal and small farmers?
Land reform is a form of agrarian reform involving the changing of laws, regulations, or customs regarding land ownership. Under the British Raj, the farmers did not have the ownership of the lands they cultivated. In post-independent India, many initiatives were taken for bringing land reforms and improving the deplorable conditions of farmers.
Land reforms helped to improve the socio-economic conditions of marginal and small farmers in the following ways:
- Abolition of the zamindari system: This removed the layer of intermediaries who stood between the cultivators and the state. It kept in check the debt trap and increased the share of marginal and small farmers in the production cost.
- Tenancy reforms: The rent paid by the tenants during the pre-independence period was exorbitant. Tenancy reforms introduced to regulate rent, provide security of tenure and confer ownership to tenants.
- Ceilings on landholdings: It was to deter the concentration of land in the hands of a few. It ensured redistribution of land from big landlords to landless labourers ensuring land ownership, access to credit, and food security.
- Consolidation of landholdings: It prevented the subdivision and fragmentation of land holdings. It brought down the cost of cultivation and reduced litigation among farmers and generated higher incomes.
- Cooperative farming: Under the mechanism, each member farmer remains the owner of his land but farming is done jointly. Profit is distributed among the member farmers in the ratio of land owned.
Challenges with the land reforms:
- Land reforms were lengthy and cumbersome process.
- Benami transactions became a point of concern under land ceiling act.
- Digitisation of land records with efficiency and correct information will take time.
The pace of implementation of land reform measures has been slow but the objective of social justice has been achieved to a considerable degree. New and innovative land reform measures should be adopted with new vigour to eradicate rural poverty and improve the socio-economic conditions of marginal and small farmers.
4. How and to what extent would micro-irrigation help in solving India’s water crisis?
Water is a scarce natural resource but the major requirement in the agricultural sector. The efficient use of available water for irrigation is a major challenge. A nation with annual water availability of below 1,700 kilolitres per head is considered water deficient. India’s per capita water availability is estimated at 1,428 kilolitres per year.
Micro-irrigation is a modern method of irrigation by which water is irrigated through drippers, sprinklers, foggers and by other emitters on the surface or subsurface of the land. Sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation are the commonly used micro-irrigation methods.
Significance of micro-irrigation:
- Micro-irrigation ensures water use efficiency. It applies water directly to the root zone, the practice reduces loss of water through conveyance, run-off, deep percolation and evaporation.
- Water savings in comparison with flood irrigation are to the tune of 30-50%.
- Electricity consumption falls significantly, as being water efficient it requires less water to be pumped.
- The localised water application in micro-irrigation prevents fertilizers from washing away, and so reduces nutrient loss or leaching. The micro-irrigation system can also be effectively used to apply fertilizers (fertigation) in a targeted way so as to prevent weed growth.
- Micro-irrigation, by virtue of localised water application, avoids soil erosion. It does not require land leveling and can irrigate fields that are irregularly shaped, making it much less labor-intensive and less costly.
Nevertheless, micro-irrigation also has certain limitations:
- Expense especially initial cost is high mainly for marginal and small farmers.
- Maintenance cost for the tubes, sprinklers may go out of pocket for small farmers.
- The lifetime of the tubes used in drip irrigation can be shortened by the sun causing wastage.
- It needs more awareness and higher rate of adoption in water stressed areas.
The future revolution in agriculture will come from precision farming. Micro-irrigation can, indeed, be the stepping stone for achieving the goal of making farming sustainable, profitable and productive.
Science & Technology
5. How is S-400 air defence system technically superior to any other system presently available in the world?
The S-400 Triumf is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM) designed by Russia. It is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world, considered much ahead of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD). India is engaged with Russia for the purchase of five S-400 Missile Systems.
Why S 400 is different from others:
- S-400 Triumf is considered one of the world’s most advanced air defence systems that can simultaneously track and neutralize a range of incoming objects spanning aircraft, missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
- Each system has four different types of missiles for up to 40 km, 120 km, 250 km and maximum range of 400 km and up to 30 km altitude. The different ranges and varying altitudes create a layered air defence net.
- Unlike S-400, the American THAAD is a one-dimensional missile system as it can fire only one type of missile upto a range of 150-200 km and Patriot has a range of 180 km.
- THAAD cannot intercept a fighter jet while S-400 can.
- The deployment time for S-400 and Patriot is 5 minutes and 25 minutes respectively.
- The maximum target speed of S-400 is 4.8km/sec as compared to 1.38km/sec of Patriot.
Even though buying S-400 from Russia attracted criticism from the US under the CAATSA agreement, the purchase of the much-awaited S-400 for India was inevitable keeping its volatile neighbors in mind.
Environment and Ecology
6. Explain the purpose of the Green Grid Initiative launched at World Leaders Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, 2021. When was this idea first floated in the International Solar Alliance (ISA)?
The Green Grid or the One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) initiative was announced at COP-26, Glasgow by India and the UK. The initiative is aimed at accelerating the development and deployment of interconnected electricity grids across continents, countries, and communities, and improving energy access of the poorest through mini-grids and off-grid solutions. The idea for the single global solar grid was first outlined at the International Solar Alliance in 2018, by the Prime Minister of India.
The Green Grid Initiative aims:
- To speed up the process of decarbonising energy production.
- To create an international network of global interconnected solar power grid to ensure 24×7 supply of green power.
- To help in increasing investment in R&D centers by pooling skill, technology and financial resources.
As good as it sounds, the implementation of the Green Grid has to counter the following challenges:
- The creation of global transmission infrastructure involves huge financing.
- For connecting with the Green Grid, a global cooperation between the countries is needed.
- As the grid will pass through several geographical locations, it will be sensitive to the security risks emanating from terror organisations.
The Green Grid initiative is a transformational new programme, with the goal of making universal access to renewable energy a reality. It will ensure that clean power is the most affordable and reliable option for all countries to meet their energy needs efficiently by 2030.
Environment and Ecology
7. Describe the key points of the revised Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) recently released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). How are these different from its last update in 2005? What changes in India’s National Clean Air Programme are required to achieve revised standards?
The World Health Organisation released an updated version of the Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). The guidelines recommend new air quality levels to protect the health of populations, by reducing levels of key air pollutants. This is the first-ever update of WHO since 2005.
The key updates of the new Global Air Quality Guidelines are:
- WHO’s new guidelines recommend air quality levels for six pollutants – particulate matter (PM 2.5 & PM10), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO).
- The annual average for PM2.5 and PM 10 should not exceed 5 micrograms and 15 micrograms per cubic metre of air respectively, while the 24-hour average should not exceed 15 micrograms and 45 micrograms per cubic metre.
- The average levels of ozone, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide should not exceed 100 micrograms, 25 micrograms, 40 micrograms, 4 micrograms per cubic metre respectively over a 24-hour period.
The new air quality guidelines mean that entire India would be considered a polluted zone for most of the year. The new WHO norms should push India to work harder to make its air cleaner and safer. The region has challenging meteorological and climatic conditions, with the added challenge of haze columns, heat island effects and exceedingly high base pollution.
India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) aims for a 20% to 30% reduction in particulate matter concentrations by 2024 in 122 cities, keeping 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration. India’s air pollution standards are more relaxed in comparison to WHO’s prescribed guidelines. Thus, efforts are needed to make the guidelines more stringent with revised targets. Under the proposed Clean Air for All, the government tends to make targets of PM2.5 & PM10 more stringent. There is a need to adopt an airshed approach to take measures to deal with air pollution.
8. Discuss about the vulnerability of India to earthquake related hazards. Give examples including the salient features of major disasters caused by earthquakes in different parts of India during the last three decades.
An earthquake is the shaking of the earth caused due to the release of energy which generates waves that travel in all directions. Earthquake hazards can range across ground shaking, surface rupture, landslide, liquefaction, tectonic deformation, tsunami etc.
India is prone to earthquakes because:
- The landmass is penetrating into the Eurasian plate, which makes the country prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity.
- Densely populated areas, extensive unscientific constructions and unplanned urbanisation have increased risks.
- Regions in Himalayan foothills are vulnerable to liquefaction and landslides due to earthquakes.
Major disasters caused by earthquakes over last three decades:
- 1993, Latur: Relatively shallow depth caused large surface damage; causes remain debatable due to lack of plate boundaries in the region.
- 1999, Chamoli: Caused by the thrust fault; resulted in landslides, changes in surface water flow, surface rupture and disconnected valleys.
- 2001, Bhuj: Associated with a reactivated fault, which was previously unknown; impeccable loss of life and property.
- 2004, Indian Ocean Tsunami: Created by under-water seismic activity, created massive waves which flooded coastal areas and islands, causing long-term changes.
- 2005, Kashmir: Caused by severe upthrust of Indian plate against Eurasian plate, it created multiple after-shocks. Infrastructure and communication were disrupted.
India has come a long way on the road to earthquake safety. And yet, much remains to be done before this journey is completed. Creating a system and culture for building safe houses in 21st century India is something not only possible but an absolute necessity.
9. Discuss how emerging technologies and globalisation contribute to money laundering. Elaborate measures to tackle the problem of money laundering both at national and international levels.
Money laundering is defined as the process that disguises illegal profits without compromising the criminals who wish to benefit from the proceeds.
Emerging technologies contribute to money laundering in following ways:
- Structuring deposits, involvement of a lot of channels popularly called as smurfs, to hide from the anti-money laundering reporting.
- Use of cryptocurrencies and alternate finance that are unregulated by governments.
- Large volume of digital transactions at online market places is used to disguise the structured chunks of layered money.
Globalisation contributes to money laundering in following ways:
- Placement of money in global financial system creates problems of coordination between multiple jurisdictions.
- Shell companies lie within the sovereign border without active business operations in the guise of legitimate transactions through fake invoices and balance sheets wherein they channel the laundered money into illegitimate businesses.
- Tax haven countries like Cayman Island, Panama etc. have structured their economies around assistance in tax evasion.
Measures at national level:
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 criminalises money laundering as a cognisable, non-bailable offence.
- Financial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU-IND) coordinates efforts of national and international intelligence, investigation and enforcement agencies against money laundering.
- The Black money (undisclosed foreign income and assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 deals with the menace of the black money existing in the form of undisclosed foreign income and assets.
Measures at international level:
- The Vienna Convention makes it obligatory for signatory states to criminalise the laundering of money from drug trafficking.
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) sets standards and promotes effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures against money laundering and terror financing.
- The OECD forum has adopted convention against money laundering. It supports appropriate safeguards, access to tax administration in suspicious transaction based on information received from FIUs.
- The International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) takes necessary steps to combat money laundering in securities and futures markets.
Money Laundering is a global menace which require global effort to curb it. Both international and national stakeholders need to come together by strengthening data sharing mechanisms and adopting a multilateral approach to effectively eliminate the problem of money laundering.
10. Keeping in view of India’s internal security, analyse the impact of cross-border cyber-attacks. Also, discuss defensive measures against these sophisticated attacks.
A cyber-attack is a type of attack that targets computer systems, infrastructures, networks, or personal computer devices using various methods at hands. Depending on the context, cyberattacks can be part of cyberwarfare or cyberterrorism. A cyber-attack can be employed by sovereign states, individuals, groups, society, or organisations, and it may originate from an anonymous source.
The term ‘cross-border’ implies a movement or an activity across a border between the two countries. Impact of cross-border cyber-attacks include:
- Debilitating impact on Critical Information Infrastructure (power plants, nuclear plants, telecommunications etc.).
- It can be used as spyware to get sensitive information.
- Terrorists may use social media to plan and execute terror attacks and for virulent propaganda to incite hatred and violence.
The defensive measures undertaken to counter cross-border cyber-attacks are:
- Coordination with different agencies at the national level.
- The government needs to issue alerts and advisories regarding the latest cyber threats and countermeasures on a regular basis.
- The Information Technology Act, 2000 has deterrent provisions to deal with cyber-attacks.
- National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) has been established to deal with cyber security issues.
- The National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) has been set up for timely sharing of information with individual entities.
- Cyber Swachhta Kendra (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) has been launched for detection of malicious programs and provide free tools to remove the same.
- The Technology Development Board and Data Security Council of India (DSCI) have jointly decided to promote cyber security start-ups in India.
The need of the hour is to produce a futuristic National Cyber-Security Policy which allocates adequate resources and addresses the concerns of the stakeholders.
11. Do you agree that the Indian economy has recently experienced V-shaped recovery? Give reasons in support of your answer.
V-shaped recovery is characterised by a quick and sustained recovery in measures of economic performance after a sharp economic decline. It is very apt to state that the Indian economy has recently experienced V-shaped recovery.
- Quarterly GDP Growth: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a human and economic catastrophe for India. Almost one-fourth of the country’s economic activity was wiped out due to fall in domestic demand in wake of the strict nationwide lockdowns. India’s GDP dipped a historic 23.9% in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020. The contraction narrowed down to 7.5% in the second quarter (Q2).
- Rise in Government Expenditure: Total expenditure of the government rose 48.3% on year-on-year basis in the month of November. On the other hand, capital expenditure shrugged off a three-month contraction and expanded 248.5%. This was mainly due to the introduction of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package.
- Revival of Imports/Exports: After dipping for 9 consecutive months, merchandise imports finally experienced a growth of 7.6% (y-o-y) in December 2020. The revival was led by gold, electronic goods and vegetable oils. India’s merchandise exports have reached pre-COVID-19 levels and exhibited a growth of 0.1% in December 2020.
- Financial Markets Surge: The COVID-19 pandemic kept the Sensex to a record low in late March 2020. However, it staged a strong recovery from the lows. Both the BSE and NSE indices finally wrapped up 2020 on a bullish note.
- IPO Market: During December 2020, the listings of two Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), aggregating Rs. 1,351 crore, took the total resource mobilisation through main board IPOs to Rs. 15,971 crore during 2020-21 (up to December 2020), marking a sharp rebound from Rs. 10,487 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year.
- Industrial Activity: Although industrial output remains volatile, contracting by 1.9% in November 2020 after a record expansion in October by 4.2%, industrial activity is finally turning around. The headline Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) manufacturing expanded in December 2020 to 56.4, a tick higher than November’s reading of 56.3.
- Record GST Collections: The gross Goods and Services Tax collections touched a record high of over Rs. 1.15 lakh crore in December - the highest since the implementation of the regime. The collection indicates that the economy continues to show signs of recovery after a stringent lockdown.
12. “Investment in infrastructure is essential for more rapid and inclusive economic growth.” Discuss in the light of India’s experience.
Infrastructure investments are a form of “real assets” which contain physical assets one sees in everyday life like bridges, roads, highways, sewage systems or energy. Such a type of asset is quite vital in a country’s development. Often, investors invest in infrastructure as it is non-cyclical and it offers stable and predictable free cash flows.
Benefits of investment in infrastructure:
- Stable and Steady Cash Flows: The potential for steady cash flows is one of the main attractive features of investment in infrastructure. It creates steady and predictable cash flows, given that the asset often comes with a regulated and contracted revenue model.
- Non-Cyclical: While the small Italian restaurant at the corner of the street may go bankrupt during a long economic recession, that same risk does not apply to infrastructure assets. Infrastructure assets are crucial to a country’s development which also means that they will still be used regardless of what stage the economy is in.
- Low Variable Costs: Infrastructure comes with extremely small marginal costs per use which are completely negligible.
- High Leverage: Leverage is the amount that is taken on. Given that infrastructure provides stable and predictable cash flows, it can take on high levels of leverage which leads to high-interest costs.
Role of infrastructure in rapid and inclusive economic growth:
- Creation of Jobs: Infrastructure development such as road construction, real estate, railway construction, etc. is labour-intensive resulting in increase in employment opportunities in formal and informal sectors and, thus, propelling domestic demand.
- Farmer Income: Investment in infrastructure would play a crucial role in ensuring doubling of farmers’ income through emphasis on increased irrigation infrastructure and storage, processing and marketing infrastructure.
- Health and Well-Being: Infrastructure enhancement of superior healthcare facilities, electronic health records and better equipped health infrastructure at primary levels (Telemedicine).
- Logistic Cost: Establishing world class roads, railways, ports and inland waterways will cut down logistic costs and improve competitiveness and promote exports. This would bring more revenues to the government and may promote socio-economic development.
India has been quite attentive with respect to infrastructure programmes. Setting up of a Development Finance Institution (DFI) with an initial capital of Rs. 20,000 crores, is expected to serve as a catalyst for facilitating infrastructure investment. Likewise, the National Infrastructure Pipeline seeks to boost the country’s spending on infrastructure.
However, the success of the infrastructure expansion plan would depend on other stakeholders of the pipeline playing their due role. These include State governments and their public sector enterprises and the private sector. Besides, there shall be proper implementation of holistic reforms in the banking sector.
13. What are the salient features of the National Food Security Act, 2013? How has the Food Security Bill helped in eliminating hunger and malnutrition in India?
Regarded as a landmark legislation to ameliorate the conditions of the poor and the food insecure population, the National Food Security Act, 2013 aims to ensure people’s food and nutritional security by assuring access to a sufficient quantity of high-quality food at reasonable prices. It provides subsidised food grains to 75% of India’s rural population and 50% of its urban population.
- Eligibility, Coverage and Identification of Households: The Act defines ‘eligible households’ under two categories: (i) households covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and (ii) households covered as the priority households under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). The State Government is to identify the eligible households.
- Food Entitlements: Each priority household shall be entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month from the State Government under the TPDS. The households covered under the AAY shall be entitled to 35 kg of foodgrains per household per month at the subsidised price not exceeding Rs. 3, Rs. 2 and Rs. 1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains respectively for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act.
- Nutritional Support: Every pregnant and lactating woman shall be entitled to a meal, free of charge, during pregnancy and six months after the child birth through the local anganwadi and maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6000.
- Food Security Allowance: The Act stipulates that in case of non-supply of the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meals to the entitled persons, such persons shall be entitled to receive such food security allowance from the concerned State Government.
- Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Every State Government shall put in place an internal grievance redressal mechanism which may include call centres, designation of nodal officers etc.
Role of food security bill in eliminating hunger and malnutrition in India:
- As per a UN report, from 2006 to 2019, the number of undernourished people in India has dropped by 60 million.
- The hunger outcomes amongst the poor and underprivileged have improved through better access to foodgrains.
- Resilience in the poor against income shocks has increased by broad coverage of the 2/3rd population.
- According to the UN report, stunting in children under 5 years of age has reduced from 47.8% in 2012 to 34.7% in 2019.
- Wage loss during pregnancy has been compensated by monetary compensation.
- The awareness created by the ASHA workers has increased the number of infants who were exclusively breastfed from 11.2 million in 2012 to 13.9 million in 2019.
14. What are the present challenges before crop diversification? How do emerging technologies provide an opportunity for crop diversification?
Crop diversification refers to the addition of new crops or cropping systems to agricultural production on a particular farm taking into account the different returns from value-added crops with complementary marketing opportunities. The aim of crop diversification is to increase crop portfolio so that farmers are not dependent on a single crop to generate their income.
- At present, 70-80% farmers have land below 2 hectares. To overcome this, existing cropping patterns must be diversified with high value crops such as maize, pulses, etc.
- Crop diversification can better tolerate the ups and downs in price of various farm products and it may ensure economic stability of farming products.
- It refers to sudden adverse weather conditions like erratic rainfall, drought, hail, incidence of insect and pest disease. Under this situation, crop diversification through mixed cropping may be useful.
- Most of the Indian population suffers from malnutrition. Crops like pulses, oilseed, horticulture and vegetables can improve socio-economic status by adding quality to the food basket and also improve soil health with the aim of food safety and nutritional security.
- Adoption of crop diversification helps in conservation of natural resources like introduction of legume in rice-wheat cropping system which has the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen to help sustain soil fertility.
- Majority of cropped area in the country is completely dependent on rainfall.
- Sub-optimal and over-use of resources like land and water cause a negative impact on the environment and sustainability of agriculture.
- Inadequate supply of seeds and plants of improved cultivars.
- Fragmentation of land holding less favouring modernisation and mechanisation of agriculture.
- Poor basic infrastructure like rural roads, power, transport, communications, etc.
- Inadequate post-harvest technologies and inadequate infrastructure for post-harvest handling of perishable horticultural produce.
- Very weak agro-based industry.
- Weak research – extension – farmer linkages.
- Inadequately trained human resources together with persistent and large-scale illiteracy among farmers.
- Host of diseases and pests affecting most crop plants.
- Poor database for horticultural crops.
- Decreased investments in the agricultural sector over the years.
Role of emerging technologies in crop diversification:
- With the help of IT revolution, farmers are directly connected with grocery-customers (farm to fork model) leading to cultivation of high value perishable products (e.g., Big Basket, BlinkIt startup platforms).
- Aquaponics and urban farming are a technique of controlled environment cultivation which help in crop diversification in order to meet the heavy urban demand for perishable items.
- Through financial inclusion and digitisation, small farmers and women self-help groups have been able to ensure crop diversification by credit supply.
- In arid areas, technologies like Urea Deep Placement (UDP), Poly-bag Nursery farming, etc. have been introduced by Indo-Israel Agriculture Project.
- Soil health management assisted in facilitating right fertiliser usage, developing organic farming and providing GIS based thematic mapping for soil.
Science & Technology
15. What are the research and developmental achievements in applied biotechnology? How will these achievements help to uplift the poorer sections of the society?
Biotechnology is technology based on biology. Biotechnology generates cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our planet. Biotechnology is helping to heal the world by harnessing nature’s own toolbox and using our own genetic makeup.
Research and developmental achievements:
- Stem Cell Research: Stem cells have the ability to keep on dividing infinitely and have the capacity to distinguish into different types of body cells during the early development of an organism. Researchers can program these stem cells to differentiate into specific types of cells.
- Human Genome Project: It was an international scientific research project coordinated by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy. Officially launched in 1990, it had the goal of determining the sequence of nucleotide base pairs that make up human DNA. It has supported researchers in identifying genes that cause diseases.
- Targeted Cancer Therapies: The established standard chemotherapies are toxic for healthy cells at present. Targeted cancer therapies are drugs that operate either by interfering with the function of specific molecules or by only targeting known cancerous cells in order to reduce damage to healthy cells.
- CRISPR: Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is a relatively new gene-editing system that has been hailed as a groundbreaking tool in medical research. HIV research is one of its many uses.
Role in uplifting poorer sections of society:
- Biotechnology is assisting to expand the income of marginal farmers by increasing crop yield and making it climate and pest resilient.
- It has revolutionised the medical science leading to controlled death rate and world class treatment possible in India itself.
- By genome sequencing, biotechnology helps in accessing health of the people from the corners of India which ultimately proves conducive for the government in framing targeted policy initiatives.
- It also proves beneficial in expanding the shelf life of food products, which in turn, keeps their price in check for the poor.
- Pollution attacks poor the most. Biotechnology helps in reducing pollution and, thus, alleviates their suffering. For example, landfills are cleaned through bioremediation techniques.
Science & Technology
16. The Nobel Prize in Physics of 2014 was jointly awarded to Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura for the invention of Blue LEDs in 1990s. How has this invention impacted the everyday life of human beings?
LEDs are basically semiconductors that have been built so they emit light when they are activated. White light, which we generally use, is made by a combination of red, green and blue light. Scientists say that while it was easier to make red and green LEDs, making Blue LED was the ultimate challenge. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 was awarded jointly to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.
Impact of this invention on our everyday life:
- Electricity Conservation: A modern white LED light bulb converts more than 50% of the electricity it uses into light. This is opposed to the 4% conversion rate for incandescent bulbs.
- Increasing Access to Electricity: White LEDs’ efficiency makes them appealing for getting lighting to folks living in regions without electricity supply. A solar installation can charge an LED lamp to last a long time.
- Smart Energy Efficient Homes: In addition to generating light, LEDs can incorporate sensors that detect when people are in a room, and switch off the lights when no one is there – a requirement for any smart home.
- Enables other Technological Advancements: In the electronics industry, LEDs provide backlighting for the liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in many smartphones, laptops and televisions. The LEDs are more energy-efficient than the fluorescent lights that are sometimes used for backlighting, and allow for very thin displays.
- Increased Ability to Store Data: Blu-ray players, the successor to DVD players, use blue LED lasers to read data off a digital optical disc. When these systems switched from using an infrared laser (like that used in DVD players) to a blue LED laser, it became possible to store five to 10 times as much data.
Researchers are exploring other applications of LEDs as well like in transmitting data from the Internet and water purification. These advancements show that LEDs will continue to impact everyday life of humans for years to come.
Environment and Ecology
17. Describe the major outcomes of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What are the commitments made by India in this conference?
The COP26 summit held at Glasgow brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC.
Major outcomes of the 26th CoP are as follows:
- Methane Pledge: The European Union and the US have launched a landmark pledge to slash emissions of greenhouse gas methane, a commitment that could prevent 0.2 degrees Celsius of global warming. The alliance’s members will seek to lower global emissions of methane (the second-largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide) by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. India did not sign it.
- Deforestation Pledge: More than 100 national leaders pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of 2030. The agreement vastly expands a commitment made by 40 countries as part of the 2014 New York Declaration of Forests and promises more resources.
- Call for Climate Finance: India noted that climate finance cannot continue at the levels decided in 2009 (100 billion USD) and emphasized that it should be at least USD 1 trillion to meet the goals of addressing climate change. India underlined the unity and strength of Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) as fundamental in the UNFCCC negotiations.
- Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS): India launched it for developing the infrastructure of small island developing nations (SIDN). SIDN faces the biggest threat from climate change, India’s space agency ISRO will build a special data window to provide them timely information about cyclones, coral-reef monitoring, coastline monitoring etc.
- One Sun One World One Grid Group (OSOWOG): It is an initiative by India and the United Kingdom to tap solar energy and have it travel seamlessly across borders. It includes a group of governments called the Green Grids Initiative (GGI) - One Sun One World One Grid group.
India made the ‘Panchamrit’ commitments (five promises) at the CoP 26:
- India will achieve net-zero emissions by 2070.
- India will bring its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030.
- India will bring its economy’s carbon intensity down to 45% by 2030.
- India will fulfil 50% of its energy requirement through renewable energy by 2030.
- India will reduce 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions from the total projected emissions by 2030.
COP26 of Glasgow is a promising start on emissions reduction, however, on the part of global largest emitters, much more is expected to be done. In India’s context, it needs to work out a detailed plan of action with reference to phasing-down coal-based power generation and encouraging electric vehicles.
18. Describe the various causes and the effects of landslides. Mention the important components of the National Landslide Risk Management Strategy.
A landslide is defined as the movement of a mass of rock, debris, or earth down a slope. They are a type of mass wasting, which denotes any downward movement of soil and rock under the direct influence of gravity.
Slope movement occurs when forces acting downward (mainly due to gravity) exceed the strength of the earth materials that compose the slope. Landslides are caused due to three major factors: geology, morphology, and human activity.
- Geology refers to characteristics of the material. The earth or rock might be weak or fractured, or different layers may have different strengths and stiffness.
- Morphology refers to the structure of the land. For example, slopes that lose their vegetation to fire or drought are more vulnerable to landslides.
- Human activity refers to agriculture and construction which increases the risk of a landslide.
- Landslides can be initiated in slopes already on the verge of movement by rainfall, snowmelt, changes in water level, stream erosion, changes in groundwater, earthquakes, volcanic activity, disturbance by human activities, or any combination of these factors. Earthquake shaking and other factors can also induce landslides underwater.
Different effects of landslides are as follows:
- Landslides have been verified to result in destruction of property. If the landslide is significant, it could drain the economy of the region or country. After a landslide, the area affected normally undergoes rehabilitation.
- Infrastructure such as roads, railways, leisure destinations, buildings and communication systems can be decimated by a single landslide.
- Communities living at the foot of hills and mountains are at a greater risk of death by landslides. A substantial landslide carries along huge rocks, heavy debris and heavy soil with it.
- The soil, debris, and rock sliding downhill can find way into rivers and block their natural flow. Many river habitats like fish can die due to interference of natural flow of water.
Important components of National Landslide Risk Management Strategy are as follows:
- Generation of User-Friendly Landslide Hazard Maps
- Development of Landslide Monitoring and Early Warning System
- Awareness Programmes
- Capacity Building and Training of Stakeholders
- Preparation of Mountain Zone Regulations & Policies
- Stabilisation and Mitigation of Landslides and Creation of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for Landslide Management.
19. Analyse the multidimensional challenges posed by external state and non-state actors, to the internal security of India. Also discuss measures required to be taken to combat these threats.
Internal security has assumed core importance for India. As India now aspires and rises to taking the high seat in the comity of nations, the security challenges become more compounded and complex. India faces multifold threats from external states and non-state actors on the internal security front. State actors include the foreign government representative and their agencies. Non-state actors may include NGOs, multinational companies, terrorist and religious groups, hackers, etc.
Challenge posed by external state actors:
- A few of India’s bordering countries support the insurgent groups through funding, training, or coordination. For example, China is alleged to support insurgents in the North-East.
- There have been instances where state actors have been responsible for carrying out cyber warfare through hacking and other espionage.
- State actors also fund their proxies in and out of India to spread instability within the country and tarnish its stature at the global platforms.
Challenges posed by non-state actors:
- Multi-national Companies (MNCs) have the potential to threaten national security, especially in the data security and cyberspace domains, and by influencing the policies of their respective governments. It is the reason several Chinese apps were blocked in India recently.
- Non-state organisations with anarchic and fundamentalist ideologies repugnant to the secularist credentials of India are potential threats to the peaceful internal security environment of the nation.
- Propagandas are run and funded by enemy countries and other non-state actors (NGOs and civil society organisations) to destabilise India by damaging the socio-religious fabric and ensure riots.
Following measures shall be undertaken to combat the internal security challenges:
- There must be effective communication and coordination between intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies.
- Sound cyber security measures must be in place to prevent any attempt of cyber attacks.
- Collaboration should be there between the government, media and the public to ensure quick and efficient sharing of information about suspicious activities to the law enforcement agencies.
We need to understand national security in a comprehensive sense and not in narrow military terms only. While it is imperative to guard our borders and strengthen our diplomacy, we also need to check the various non-state actors who come in hidden forms. There is a need for a national internal security doctrine to deal with various challenges.
20. Analyse the complexity and intensity of terrorism, its causes, linkages and obnoxious nexus. Also suggest measures required to be taken to eradicate the menace of terrorism.
Terrorism can be defined as the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.
Causes of terrorism:
- Lack of political legitimacy and continuity, as well as a lack of integration for the political fringes, encourages ideological terrorism.
- Perceptions of deprivation and inequality, especially amongst culturally defined groups. This can lead to civil violence, of which terrorism may be a part.
- Terrorist tactics are used not out of a random desire to fire rockets at civilians but to leverage violence to gain specific concessions.
- Socio-economic explanations of terrorism suggest that various forms of deprivation drive people to terrorism, or that they are more susceptible to recruitment by organisations using terrorist tactics. Poverty, lack of education or lack of political freedom are a few examples.
- Extreme ideologies may sometime result in hatred towards other sections of society and may lead to terrorism. Examples of terrorist groups motivated by ideology include the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamal Eelam (LTTE).
The linkages and obnoxious nexus of terrorism include:
- Terrorism and organised crime aid each other to thrive and survive. The financial proceeds of organised crime such as extortion/kidnapping are made legal through money laundering and then used to fund terrorist activities.
- Terrorist groups levy taxes on drug traffickers to provide security to criminals in their controlled area.
- Terrorist groups act as proxies of enemy governments which in turn provide them funding and shelter.
The measures undertaken to combat terrorism are:
- Adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
- Strengthening national coordination mechanisms to promote inter-agency participation and information exchange, facilitating joint monitoring, threat assessment.
- Updating national legislation to ensure that terrorist and organised crime offences are precisely defined.
- Awareness generation and deradicalization of the youth to wean them away from the clutches of their influencers.