Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – January 23, 2019


Q.1) Do you think power subsidy in agriculture has created more challenges to the economy than the solutions it offers. If yes, suggest some reforms needed in this sector.


Problems due to power subsidies:

  1. The widespread use of electricity is either provided free of cost (Tamil Nadu) or highly subsidized, which causes huge financial loss to states.
  2. Nearly 80% of groundwater reservoirs in Punjab and 60% in Haryana are over-exploited, a direct result of the irrigation and power subsidy.
  3. Free availability of electricity to farmers promotes growth of crops not suitable to agro-climatic zones like rice in Maharashtra etc.
  4. Due to unrestrained power extraction power outages become a common phenomenon due to overload on power transmission infrastructure.
  5. Removing meters on tube wells undermines energy accounting in power utilities and impairs their internal accountability systems.


  1. The use of smart meters that can be read online in real time, through mobile-based technology for meter reading and demand management, is a well-established cost-effective technology.
  2. DBT would bring efficiency in subsidy transfers as seen in LPG subsidy case.
  3. Separate feeders should be set up to cater to small clusters of villages in order to reduce the load on main line, increase load diversity and longer supply hours. This system has worked well in some States but feeders must be accompanied by metering and energy accounting.
  4. Measures like installation of solar plants of 1-2 MW capacity at the feeder level, community driven regulation of groundwater extraction and a procurement and price regime to encourage a shift towards an appropriate cropping pattern should be explored.


Q.2) Efficient dispute settlement mechanism is inevitable for improving ease of doing business. Do you think judiciary as an institution needs to reform itself in contributing to EoDB.


Problems to the economy:

  1. Three things are crucial for the market economy to function efficiently: transparency in information, efficient dispute settlements, and contract enforcement in a time-bound manner powered by an effective judiciary
  2. Govt has little role in transactions but it should setup efficient dispute settlement mechanisms, so that the costs of transactions are minimal
  3. role of institutions in facilitating market exchange by reducing transaction costs, providing a predictable framework for exchange, and overcoming imperfect information
  4. Economic Survey of 2017-18 notes that the current working capacity of the High Courts and the Supreme Court is only 63.6%.
  5. There are huge numbers of pending cases: 1.8 lakh in six of the major tribunals, and close to 3.5 million in the High Courts
  6. For economic cases, the average duration of pendency is about 4.3 years for the five major High Courts. The Centre and the States approximately spend 0.08-0.09% of the GDP on administration of justice, which is very low. In 2017, India spent about ₹0.24 per person on the judiciary; the U.S. spent ₹12

Need for judicial reforms:

  1. Setting up commercial courts
  2. Filling up vacancies in judiciary
  3. Modernising judiciary through use of technologies
  4. Procedures for alternative dispute redressal should be mainstreamed


Q.3) “EVMs fail on three tests of a free and fair election-  transparency, verifiability, and secrecy”- Critically analyze


Problems with EVMs:

  1. EVMs are neither transparent nor verifiable – Neither can the voter see her vote being recorded, nor can it be verified later whether the vote was recorded correctly; What is verifiable is the total number of votes cast, not the choice expressed in each vote
  2. VVPATs solve only one-half of the EVMs’ transparency problem: the voting part
  3. counting part remains an opaque operation – If anyone suspects a counting error, there is no recourse; VVPATs can solve this problem too, through statistics; At present, the EC’s VVPAT auditing is restricted to one randomly chosen polling booth per constituency; K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty, a former IAS officer, demonstrates that this sample size will fail to detect faulty EVMs 98-99% of the time; He also shows that VVPATs can be an effective deterrent to fraud only on the condition that the detection of even one faulty EVM in a constituency must entail the VVPAT hand-counting of all the EVMs in that constituency
  4. Secrecy – With the paper ballot, the EC could mix ballot papers from different booths before counting, so that voting preferences could not be connected to a given locality; booth-wise counting allows one to discern voting patterns and renders marginalised communities vulnerable to pressure; need Totaliser machines
  5. neither the EC nor the voter knows for sure what software is running in a particular EVM


Q.4) PM Jan Aarogya Yojana outcome depends on States effort. In this context discuss the concerns raised by some states and possible way forwards for such concern?


Several states like Telangana, Delhi, Odisha have conveyed unwillingness to join PMJAY. Their reasons are as below:

  1. Apprehensions of insufficient coverage under the scheme
  2. States like Telangana already have their existing schemes
  3. Some other states like Odisha provide a better coverage than that is provided by the centre’s scheme
  4. The funding ratio of 60:40 is a constraint quoted by some states.
  5. An IndiaSpend analysis, citing a study published in Social Science Medicine, had pointed out that the existing insurance programme, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), has not led to any reduction in out-of-pocket expenditure by its 150 million beneficiaries. It also left 40% beneficiaries uncovered.
  6. NHPS provides cover for services that southern states are already providing within an average per capita outgo of less than Rs 50,000 despite the ceiling of an assured sum of Rs 2 lakh. Offering a higher ceiling for the same set of services will only help the hospitals game the system.

Way ahead:

  1. Partnerships and coalitions with private sector providers.
  2. Bringing together all relevant inter-sectoral action linking health and development to universalise the availability of clean drinking water, sanitation, garbage disposal, waste management, food security, nutrition and vector control. The Swachh Bharat programme must be incorporated in the PMJAY.
  3. Technology and innovation are further reducing costs
  4. Government will have to think of many non-budgetary means of financing for the schemes related to healthcare.
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