Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – October 17, 2018

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Q.1) Recently cyclone Titli struck in same month as Phailin and Hudhud, but still the forecasting department failed to notice its arrival. In light of this, discuss the reasons for poor forecasting of cyclones. Also mention how cyclone  Titli, Hudhud or Phailin,was different from the 1999 Super Cyclone, in terms of casualties.

Answer: Most severe and devastating tropical cyclones originate in the Indian seas especially in the Bay of Bengal. In October, the Cyclones of the Bay of Bengal originate between 8°N and 14°N. The area’s most vulnerable to these storms include the coastal belts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal.

Reasons for poor forecasting cyclones:

  1. Poor data gathering that fails to feed into new algorithms, techniques and observing systems.
  2. Poor technology
  3. Need to upgrade the scientific understanding of weather phenomena.
  4. Lack of more in-situ observations from the cyclone core and environment.
  5. Lack of collaborative research between various weather related departments.

Difference from 1999 super cyclone

  1. The intensity of cyclone Phailin and Titli, measured by wind speed, storm surge and rainfall, was different—the super cyclone being far more intense on all counts.
  2. Improvements in weather forecasting and disaster preparedness, after lessons learnt from 1999, proved crucial in reducing the extent of the disaster.
  3. The landfall of the storm in 1999 was delayed by 30 hours. It hung near the coastline for almost 11 hours, causing maximum damage. Phailin’s made the landfall three hours after the predicted time.
  4. The communication means and protocols have improved. NDMA managed the channel of communication from the Central government level to the district level.
  5. Odisha and Andhra have their own personnel to deal with disaster—Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and Andhra Pradesh State Disaster Response Force.

 

Q.2) According to the latest Agriculture Census (2015-16), the percentage share of female operational holders is just 13.87% . In light of this, discuss the challenges that women labourers face in farming. Also mention the steps that can be taken to strengthen and sustain women’s interest in farming.

Answer: With growing rural to urban migration by men, there is ‘feminisation’ of agriculture sector, with increasing number of women in multiple roles as cultivators, entrepreneurs, and labourers. Women play a significant and crucial role in agricultural development and allied fields.

As per Census 2011, out of total female main workers, 55% were agricultural labourers and 24% were cultivators. However, only 12.8% of the operational holdings were owned by women, which reflect the gender disparity in ownership of landholdings in agriculture. Also,  there is concentration of operational holdings (25.7%) by women in the marginal and small holdings categories.

Challenges faced  by women labourers:

  1. They participate in agricultural work as unpaid subsistence labour and are not recognised as farmers. Hence, they are unable to access credits and government benefits.
  2. Unequal wages paid. They are paid 22% less than their male counterparts.
  3. Work of a woman agricultural labourer or cultivator is limited to less-skilled jobs like sowing, transplanting, weeding and harvesting. Many women also participate in agricultural work as unpaid subsistence labour.

Strengthen women’s position in agriculture:

  1. Earmarking at least 30% of the budget allocation for women beneficiaries in all ongoing schemes/ programmes and development activities.
  2. Initiating women centric activities to ensure benefits of various beneficiary-oriented programs/schemes reach them.
  3. Focusing on women self-help group (SHG) to connect them to micro-credit through capacity building activities and to provide information and ensuring their representation in different decision-making bodies.
  4. Ensuring land ownership to women farmers. This entitles them to credit and economic empowerment.
  5. Government-appointed Dalwai Committee  called for enlisting women as “cultivator” in revenue records, making them eligible for all privileges received by farmers.

 

Q.3) What do you mean by Commercial paper (CP)? Examine the reason behind the IL&FS default?

Answer: Commercial paper is an unsecured, short-term debt instrument issued by a corporation, typically for the financing of accounts receivable and inventories, and meeting short-term liabilities.

Why CPs:

  1. Commercial paper is considered a very safe investment. Typically, only companies with high credit ratings and credit-worthiness issue commercial paper.
  2. As it is issued in smaller denominations, smaller investors can only invest in commercial paper indirectly through money market funds.
  3. Maturities and the amount of commercial paper can be adjusted to fit the needs of the borrower.

Problems with IL&FS:

  1. IL&FS is a story of “regulatory darkness” in India: As of now, the role of regulator has to be played by either the RBI or the Finance Ministry. Both of them ignored the problem.

a) Government created new reforms through Bankruptcy Bill but FRDI Bill was put in cold storage. Thus, while the non-financial firms could be regulated under the new IBC, a regulatory authority to manage financial firms was missing.

b) RBI holds some leverage over private sector banks. They even forced them to change their CEOs but that is not the case with public sector banks. Those are controlled by the Finance Ministry.

c) Credibility of Rating Agencies in India – The rating agencies rated IL&FS as an AAA company and encouraged investors to invest their money in it. But now, they have conveniently rated it as junk.

d) The major shareholders of IL&FS: SBI, Orix and LIC failed to monitor the company that they invested in.

e) RBI could have registered early warning signals.

2. The problem has emerged because in the last few years, IL&FS has taken longer than expected to monetise some of its projects.

3. Just like other infrastructure companies, IL&FS too expanded its portfolio rapidly during the infrastructure boom years and is now facing trouble with some of its projects, particularly in the roads sector.

4. Firms have borrowed short-term when their revenue streams are long term.

 

Q.4) Question: Discuss, how far the government agencies, judiciary and the various other non-governmental institutions have been able to curb criminalization of politics.

Answer: Criminalization of Politics means that the criminals entering the politics and contesting elections and even getting elected to the Parliament and state legislature. It takes place primarily because of the nexus between the criminals and some of the politicians. In the current Lok Sabha, 30% of sitting MPs have criminal cases pending against them, of which about half have serious criminal cases pending.

Reasons for CoP

  1. Candidates with criminal background have higher winnability chances. This has resulted in such candidates being given tickets.
  2. Election Commission cannot deny a candidate to contest on the symbol of a party.
  3. Astronomical expenditure for vote buying and other illegitimate purposes during elections is compelling links with criminals to fund elections.
  4. Failure of rule of law to ensure speedy and timely justice, political – social and economic justice leads to people approaching criminal elements.
  5. Toothless laws against convicted criminals standing for elections encourages this process.

Committees

  1. Goswami Committee on electoral reforms highlighted the crippling effect of money and muscle power in elections.
  2. Vohra committee report pointed to the criminal gangs who carried out their activities under the aegis of various political parties.
  3. 244th Law Commission –  instead of politicians having suspected links to criminal networks, as was the case earlier, it was persons with extensive criminal backgrounds who began entering politics.
  4. Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections had endorsed partial state funding of recognised political parties and their candidates in elections in 1998.

Changes in electoral laws

  1. In the Lily Thomas v. Union of India case, SC ruled that any Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) or Member of a Legislative Council (MLC) who is convicted of a crime and awarded a minimum of two year imprisonment, loses membership of the House with immediate effect. This is in contrast to the earlier position, wherein convicted members held on to their seats until they exhausted all judicial remedy in lower, state and supreme court of India. In effect, Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal their conviction was declared unconstitutional.
  2. 2014 SC judgment – to cleanse politics, directed all subordinate courts to give their verdict on cases involving legislators within a year, or give reasons for not doing so to the chief justice of the high court.
  3. Supreme Court approved Centre’s scheme to set up 12 fast-track courts. These courts will exclusively prosecute and dispose of 1,581 criminal cases pending against Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies within a year.

Way ahead

  1. Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties, or political parties’ finances should be brought under the right to information (RTI) law.
  2. Broader governance will have to improve for voters to reduce the reliance on criminal politicians.
  3. Fast-track courts are necessary because politicians are able to delay the judicial process and serve for decades before prosecution.
  4. The Election Commission must take adequate measures to break the nexus between the criminals and the politicians.
  5. Fast track courts to try the charges against the candidates.
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