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The pattern of the Civil Services Mains examination has been designed to test the ability of the candidate to apply the acquired knowledge obtained through study of various subjects as indicated in the syllabus to solve problems and issues. This may be appreciated from the fact that it is a test for intake of future administrators and policy makers/executors for the country. It is not a test for intake of researchers and academicians who have obtained a high degree of specialization in a particular subject.
A trend analysis of the nature of questions asked in the Civil Services Main Examinations over the last decade indicates a well-thought and gradual paradigm shift from straight forward questions to such questions which require interpretation of the acquired knowledge and a reasoned, well-thought application of mind.
Thus the tilt is towards finding those who have developed ability of problem-solving rather than those who have faith in memorizing set answers and trying to push the set answer down the throat of examiner, irrespective of the demand of question being asked in the examination. So the hidden dictum written on the wall is loud and clear that the system is up with continuous evolving techniques to select independent rational minds rather than well-tutored robots.
What should be the basis for selection of optional subject?
The design of the Civil Services Mains Examination with four paper of General Studies, one paper of essay and two papers of the same optional subject is largely rooted in the subjectivity with possibility of existence of different interpretations at the same time. Thus the subjective world comprise of many different shades of grey, rather than the objective world which can exist in black and white.
The choice of the optional subject shall be a well-thought and reasoned decision, largely based on the following considerations:-
(i) Humanities subject such as Geography, Political Science & International Relations, Public Administration etc prepares the mind for a subjective interpretation of the complex real world. Thus the selection of humanities subject gives a natural edge to a prospective candidate to do well in General Studies and Essay paper as it enables the candidate to gradually evolve analytical and writing ability, an indispensable requirement for getting success in this examination.
(ii) The First Paper of each humanities subject invariably deals with the core principles and theoretical construction of that subject. This requires reading of authentic text books written by leading Indian and Western authors in that subject. Further, reading of NCERT books of Class XI and XII in that subject (if available) marks as a starting point only, not an end in itself. Generally it has been seen that those who pick up a humanity subject for the first time in their academic life only to prepare for this examination, tend to do better than those who have done graduation, post-graduation and further specialization in that subject. The reason for this dichotomous situation is quite obvious as the design of the civil services mains examination is to identify potential administrators not potential researchers and academicians.
(iii) The Second Paper of each humanities subject invariably deals with application of concepts and theoretical constructions learnt in the first paper in day to day issues which affect the life of people in Indian set-up. Thus the nature of the second paper is highly generalistic, giving an impression that it is as good as a general studies paper. This in itself is a big catch as the urging tendency to write a general answer without application of the concepts learnt in the first paper leads to an award of a poor score, which in turn diminishes the chance of getting through this examination with the flying colors.
(iv) Both papers of any humanities subject offers a huge potential for obtaining maximum score as it thrusts an open challenge before the candidate to demonstrate his/her analytical skill of problem-solving by integrating and weaving together basic concepts and theoretical constructions learnt in the first paper with the current trends evident in news at national and international level and government policies.
(v) However, most of the candidates look at this opportunity from a prism of confusion and over reliance on the stereotyped tutoring and study material and seldom make an effort to develop the right analytical skill of a problem-solver. So this is a challenge, if accepted with zeal and enthusiasm, the success will definitely embrace. Thus the aim shall be to become an analytical problem solver rather than a well-tutored mechanical robot.
Correlation between choice of optional subject and general studies
(i) The syllabus of the general studies in itself is as huge as an ocean. Thus the requirement is to swim on the surface of the ocean and to avoid deep-diving, which may take you back to the starting point.
(ii) The key approach for general studies is to identify and read authentic text books more than twenty times rather than reading hundred different materials for one time. The first approach draws an analogy with swimming on the surface and covering the whole horizontal expanse of the ocean. Hence it enhances your precision, thereby increasing number of questions which can be attempted in prelims with greater degree of accuracy and lesser degree of errors. The second approach is as good as deep diving where efforts have been made and output is in haywire with uttermost degree of confusion coupled with vicious circle of failure and deep frustration.
(iii) In this backdrop, the question arises that the selection of optional subject shall subtract from the syllabus of general studies or it should stand as an addition to the syllabus of general studies. In the case of latter, degree of effort is likely to increase without the optional subject giving any gainful contribution to the general studies. So in this context humanities subject emerges as a good choice for the optional subject which minimizes the burden of general studies and assist in developing writing-skill, a quintessential requirement for getting success in this examination.
How a Beginner should zero-in for an optional subject?
(i) It is advisable for any beginner to take a glance of the last five year question paper of the second paper of the optional subject, being generalistic in nature, it gives a broad sense of the subject.
(ii) Thereafter, the candidate shall make an assessment for the choice of the optional subjects based on his/her level of comfort and interest vis-à-vis the nature of questions asked in the second paper. In case, a beginner is yet indecisive to assess his/her own level of comfort and interest, then he/she shall continue to study different subjects for general studies for some more time, the assessment potential will gradually develop and will show the way. Thus till that time a candidate shall learn to have patience and perseverance.
Myth of Optional Subject Trending High
(i) The nature of this examination is to identify and select potential administrators, who have learnt, developed and inculcated ability to lead.Thus the choice of an optional subject shall be purely and solely on the basis of one’s own interest, not on the trends.
(ii) For a sake of argument, if an optional subject is trending then almost more than fifty percent of the candidates appearing in that subject shall score sufficiently high, say 55% to 60%.
(iii) However there are only few who manage to score in the bracket of 55% to 60% and more in every optional subject and thereby guaranteeing their success in this examination. It means that these few must have made some extra effort to develop the required analytical problem-solving approach. However, the majority of the rest continued to be tutored robots, reading stereotype material and writing answers with flying language but low in content and analysis.
Do we have a safe optional paper?
The answer to this question lies in the concept of relativity, which indicates that the concept of safe optional paper will vary as per the interest and level of comfort of a candidate with that particular optional subject.
In simple words, the level of interest and comfort, a candidate have with an optional subject makes it a safe option. A choice solely based on trends and herd mentality, may have the highest possibility to ruin the whole preparation.
Last Piece of Advice
In this examination with cut-throat competition, every marks count, so a candidate shall not put himself/herself in a disadvantageous position by making wrong selection of the optional subject.
There may be a possibility that a particular paper may be trending high in terms of result and thus it may create an indispensable pull of attraction, which may be difficult or near impossible to resist.
This is the moment where the skill of analytical mind has to be used, wherein the decision shall be based on the candidate’s level of comfort with that optional subject. To end this discussion, the decision shall be based on one’s sheer interest and liking, not on impulse and trends as one who loves his/her game will have the ability to innovate and create and that is what is required in this examination.
It has been widely experienced that governance structures which do not provide for adequate participation of women, often suffer from State interventions which are neither inclusive nor democratic. Women’s participation across political system including local governments is the most essential prerequisite of creating a just, equitable and gender-sensitive society. Women’s involvement is necessary in policy-making, because women have different needs and perspectives on social and political issues.
This all necessitates that women participation is important for the following reasons:
Sustainable Overall Development: Women are actively involved in household and community work and hence are well aware of real issues faced by common people. This gives them insight and perspective which can be instrumental in sustainable overall development.
Breaking Stereotypes: The presence of women in local governments serves as an encouragement for other women to enter diverse professions and leads to breaking stereotypes of women’s roles in society and public space. People had gained confidence in women as good public administrators and local government representatives after seeing women making a positive difference in another people’s life.
Resistance to Criminalization of Politics: The society acknowledges the sincerity and commitment of women to their duties and their resistance to criminalization of politics.
Taking a wide outlook, lets us look how women empowerment have fared in India from past to present.
Indian Freedom Movement
Women participated in the freedom movement with true spirit and undaunted courage and faced various tortures, exploitations and hardships to earn us freedom. Many great Indian women like Rani Lakshmi Bai, Sarojini Naidu, Kasturba Gandhi, Vijayalakmi Pundit, Annie Besant need no introduction for their dedication and undying devotion to the service of India.Indian women who joined the national movement were initially from educated and liberal families. All changed with the advent of Gandhi who converted the freedom struggle into a mass movement involving all sections of society.
Women Reservation Bill
Post-independence, India has seen women participating in politics as the longest serving Prime Minister, as Chief Ministers of various States, members in national Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies in large numbers.Yet, that has not been enough to enable better women participation in active politics.One of the prominent member of freedom struggle, Sarojini Naidu rejected reservation for women, citing that women are not week, timid, meek.
The issue of women’s reservation again came to limelight in 1973 with voices recommending reservation for women in at least one third of the seats and eventually statutory women’s panchayats at the village level were recommended to take care of the neglect of women in rural development programs through 73rd & 74th constitutional amendments in 1993. Women’s Reservation Bill or the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, is pending b in India which proposes to reserve 33% of all seats in the Lower house of Parliament of India.
Panchayati Raj Reforms
Indian Constitution made provisions relating to the establishment, powers, and responsibilities of the panchayats through the 73rd Amendment in 1993 with three tier systems, viz, panchayats (village governance bodies) at the village, intermediate and district levels in every State, except provision of skipping intermediate level in States with less than twenty lakh population.
The States have been empowered through law for the composition of panchayats. The reform provided for reservation of both seats and leadership positions for the Scheduled Castes, tribes, and women. As the legislation provides for reservation for women, the number of women elected representative at local level has sharply increased. India has been maintaining the record of number of women representatives at the panchayat level and statistics indicate that 30-50% of local level elected representatives are women.
Almost all the provisions contained in the UN Convention on the ‘Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’ are there in the Indian Constitution.Not only does the Constitution guarantee equal political status to women, there is even a scope for ‘positive discrimination’ in their favour as is evident in Article 15(3) of the Constitution.
There are many other provisions in the Constitution which lay stress on equality between men and women:
- Article 14 provides for equality before law
- Article 39(a), states that the State shall direct its policy towards securing equally to men and women the right to an adequate means of livelihood
- Article 39(d) enjoins the State to direct its policy towards securing equal pay for equal work for both men and women
- Article 42 provides for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief
- Article 51(A) (e) refers to the fundamental duty of citizens to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women
In spite of Constitutional Provisions women’s participation and access to formal political power structures vary across countries. There is a steady upward trend in women’s political participation and representation in developed countries particularly. However, the improvements in medium and low human development countries are not significant.
The structural and functional constraints faced by women are shaped by social and political relations in a society. The common pattern of women’s political exclusion stem from
(a) social and political discourses
(b) political structures and institutions
(c) the socio-cultural and functional constraints that put limits on women’s individual and collective agency.
- Patriarchy as a system of male domination shapes women’s relationship in politics. It transforms male and females into men and women and construct the hierarchy of gender relations where men are privileged.
- This is one of the vital factors that shape the level of women’s political participation globally. However, this ideological divide is not reflective of the reality.
- Women have to negotiate their entry into and claim on public space according to the discursive and material opportunities available in a given culture and society.
- The nature of politics is an important factor for the inclusion or exclusion of women in politics.
- The public-private dichotomy in traditional definition of politics is used to exclude women from public political sphere and even when women are brought into politics they are entered as mothers and wives.
- Male domination of politics, political parties and culture of formal political structures is another factor that hinders women’s political participation.
- Often male dominated political parties have a male perspective on issues of national importance that disillusions women as their perspective is often ignored and not reflected in the politics of their parties.
- Also, women are usually not elected at the position of power within party-structures because of gender biases of male leadership.
- Meetings of councils or parliamentary sessions are held in odd timings conflicting with women’s domestic responsibilities.
- The larger democratic framework and level of democratization also impact women’s political participation.
- Secular democracies in Europe and also in some of the developing countries have created relatively more space for women’s participation in politics as compared to countries where religious orthodoxy has been shaping politics and democracy.
These factors come with the challenges of measuring political participation.
Participation as a Proxy Candidate: There have been evidences that due to reservation policy, certain women got elected into the setup, but they acted merely as the mouth-piece of their male family members. This indicates that there is a possibility of on-roll women participation to be higher than what it actually exists on ground.
Awareness programs and increase in female education is now taking care of such happenings and women active participation is on the rise. Still there is a need to record data at a more micro level so that women who only act as a proxy can be identified.
Measurement of Decision-making Initiatives: The quantitative data of political participation of women at local level is available but the qualitative data on the aspects of their active participation including the utilization of the decision-making functionality provided to them is not being quantified properly.
Although, the legislature has enabled their huge presence into the state of affairs, but their valuable essence into the system is yet to be established at most of the places.The data on their sensitization about their rights and its usage is still missing. Efforts can be made to capture the performance of women in debates, initiative in brining legislation and participation in other aspects of the democratic process.
It can be conclusively stated that there has been a radical change in the movement for empowerment of women. Recognition is dawning that women are indeed becoming a political force, both nationally and internationally. In this context it would be noteworthy to recall the observations of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen in his book, “India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity”, “Women’s empowerment can positively influence the lives not only of women themselves but also of men, and of course, those of children”.Former CEC M.S. Gill’s proposal to make it mandatory for all political parties to nominate at least a-third of women candidates for the seats deserves to be commended. If they are not prepared to accept the principle of representation within their own parties, what moral right do they have to advocate reserving parliamentary constituencies for women? n
Using the resources efficiently to produce more while utilizing less has been one of the tested and trusted ways for a sustainable future. It not only ensures the security of the resources but also minimizes the environment impact. In order to ensure that the two ends meet, NITI Aayog in collaboration with the European Union delegation to India and the Confederation of Indian Industries, CII released the first ever Strategy on Resource Efficiency for India which also included an action plan for promoting resource efficiency in India.
What is Resource Efficiency
Resource efficiency is a strategy to achieve the maximum possible benefit with least possible resource input. Fostering resource efficiency aims at governing and intensifying resource utilisation in a purposeful and effective way. Such judicious resource use brings about multiple benefits along the three dimensions of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental.
Objectives of Resource Efficiency
- Resource efficiency is a strategy to achieve the maximum possible benefit with least possible resource input.
- Resource efficiency aims at governing and intensifying resource utilisation in a purposeful and effective way.
- Judicious resource use brings about multiple benefits along the three dimensions of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental.
Resource efficiency encompasses various areas, such as:
- Using natural resources as efficiently and productively as possible – creating more with less
- Moving from the use of non-renewable resources to using renewable resources
- Taking environmental aspects into consideration early in the product design phase
- Reducing the environmental footprints of products
- Increasing the recyclability of products and raw materials
Key Concepts and Indicators of Resource Efficiency
- Resource efficiency at the country level is usually measured with material flow indicators.
- Material flow indicators measure total material use or relevant components of material use of a country.
- Due to the large scale of its use, water is not included.
- Gaseous substances are taken into account only by a few countries.
The following raw material groups are distinguished:
- Biotic raw materials: food and animal feed, fibres, timber, etc
- Fossil resources: oil, gas, coal
- Metallic raw materials
- Non-metallic mineral raw materials: construction minerals, industry minerals
Highlights of the RE Strategy
The Resource Efficiency Strategy includes the core-action plan for the period 2017-2018 and medium-term action plan for 2017 – 2020 with the following key elements:
- Institutional development including setting up an inter-departmental committee and Task force of experts.
- Capacity development at various levels for strengthening of capacities and sharing of best practices.
- Development of an indicator monitoring framework for baseline analysis.
- Launch of Short term course on RE under the MHRD GIAN Programme.
- Promotional and regulatory tools in selected sectors (automotive and construction) such as Ecolabeling for Secondary Raw Material (SRM) products, recycling standards, R&D and Technology Development, Sustainable Public Procurement, development of Industrial clusters and waste-exchange platform, information sharing & awareness generation along with development of sectoral action plans.
- The main raw materials that are used in the production of cement are limestone, gypsum and sand.
- Cement companies are already facing dwindling reserves for limestone and import dependencies for gypsum.
- Sand is a resource in high demand from the construction sector; an estimated 1.4 billion tonnes of sand will be required by 2020, compared to 630 million tonnes in 2010.
- Sand mining is dominated by small actors with a high incidence of illegal mining.
- Due to environmental bans and restrictions, supply and consequently prices of sand have been affected in many parts of the country.
- Manufactured sand (m-sand) has become a thriving industry in some parts of the country; however, virgin granite resources are used as feed stock in the process.
- Soil is primarily used by the brick kiln industry for production of clay bricks, and also for road construction as base material. Since soil mining is dominated by the unorganised sector, unchecked mining is rampant, negatively affecting agricultural productivity in areas with significant brick production.
Adverse Impact of Resource Exploitation
Impact on Economy
- Tripling domestic resource extraction of biomass, minerals and fossil fuels will be linked to increasing pressure on natural resources such as land, forest, air and water.
- Imports of materials face severe constraints: import dependencies and costs for imports would increase.
- India’s mineral rich areas are under dense forests and inhabited by indigenous communities.
- Extraction pressures have contributed significantly to conflicts due to displacement, loss of livelihood.
- It has also led to opposition by tribals and other local communities including fishermen in Andhra Pradesh.
- Social and political conflicts pose significant threat to internal security.
Impact on Environment
- Mining of materials contributes to land degradation and loss due to open cast mining, excavation, stacking of waste dumps, discharge from workshops and construction of tailing ponds.
- Mineral rich areas overlap with heavily forested areas in the country.
- Around 60% coal resources are located in forest.
- By 2025, area under extraction for coal mining would increase from 22,000 hectares to 73,000 hectares.
- This will increase pressures on the forest, pollution of water bodies and land degradation.
- Since our energy system is dominated by fossil fuels, resource extraction contributes to significant GHG emissions.
- Minerals industry contributes to around 32% GHG emissions of India.
- In 2007, CO2 emissions were to the tune of 131 million tonnes from mineral industry, metal sector contributed about 122.7 million tonnes of C02.
- Iron & steel, cement plants, sulfuric acid manufacturers, smelters of copper, zinc, lead ore etc. are significant contributors of CO2 and SOx.
- Brick kilns are important sources of air pollution and CO2 emissions.
Benefits of Resource Efficiency
- With increasing resource efficiency, GDP per tonne of material used will be increased.
- Resource Efficiency has the potential to improve resource availability that is critical to the growth of industries.
- By using resources more efficiently, or by utilizing secondary resources, industries can improve competitiveness and profitability.
- RE-based innovations can also give industries an edge in the export market, as the experience of global leaders such as Germany and Japan has shown.
- New industries can be created including those in the recycling sector, as well as in innovative design and manufacturing.
- India can aspire to become a key innovation hub for RE
- Reduced import dependence for critical minerals helps to improve the country’s trade balance and promote economic stability.
- Adoption of Resource Efficiency (RE) strategies have the potential to reduce conflict and displacement in mining areas.
- It can also improve health and welfare of local communities.
- It can also contribute to improved affordability of and access to resources critical for poverty reduction and human development.
- It has enormous potential for job creation in the recycling sectors.
- It can create high skilled jobs in innovative design and manufacturing.
- RE strategies contribute towards preserving resources for future generations.
- Reduced extraction pressures due to adoption of RE strategies will help to reduce ecological degradation and pollution associated with mining.
- Reduced pressures from mining will provide opportunities for undertaking landscape restoration and regeneration of degraded mined areas.
- Reduced waste generation will lead to less pollution associated with disposal.
- Resource extraction and use is highly energy intensive.
Government of India’s Policy for Resource Efficiency
At the mining stage, the National Mineral Policy includes zero-waste mining as a national goal and emphasizes the need to upgrade mining technology.
At the design stage, policies like the National Housing and Habitat Policy, 2007 and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), 2015 emphasize on developing appropriate ecological design standards for building components, materials and construction methods.
At the manufacturing stage, flagship programmes like “Make in India” that provide special assistance to energy efficient, water efficient and pollution control technologies through Technology Acquisition and Development Fund (TADF) also promotes resource efficiency.
In case of end-of-life stage policies, there are policies to tackle all types of waste ranging from hazardous waste to Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste, plastic waste and e-waste. Ministry of Environment adopts eco-labelling scheme. Waste and pollution reduction through adoption of RE approach can also contribute positively to the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) and Ganga Rejuvenation missions.
On India's 68th Independence Day, PM Modi urged the industry, especially the MSMEs of India, to manufacture goods in the country with “zero defects” and to ensure that the goods have “zero effect” on the environment. If we want a future, which is beautiful and ecological sustainable, then we all must strive for resource efficiency.