Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – September 22


Q) What are the Issues and Challenges faced by higher education in India?Describe the role government can play to improve the current plight of the education institutes?

Issues and Challenges faced by higher education in India

  •         India’s higher education system primarily faces challenges on three fronts:


  •         India’s GER of16% was much below the world average of 27%, as well as that of other emerging countries such as China (26%) and Brazil (36%) in 2010.
  •         The GERs for SCs, STs and OBCs are far below the average GER and those of other social groups


  •         Faculty shortage – there is 40% and 35% shortage of faculty in state and central universities, respectively.
  •         Accredited institutions – 62% of universities and 90% of colleges were average or below average in 2010, on the basis of their NAAC accreditation.
  •         Low citation impact – India’s relative citation impact is half the world average.


  •         There is wide disparity in the GER of higher education across states and the Gross Attendance Ratio (GAR) in urban and rural areas, and gender- and community-wise
  •         Inter-state disparity – 47.9% in Delhi vs. 9% in Assam.
  •         Urban-rural divide – 30% in urban areas vs. 11.1% in rural areas.

These include

  •         Inadequate infrastructure and facilities,
  •         Large vacancies in faculty positions
  •         Poor faculty thereof,
  •         Low student enrolment rate,
  •         Outmoded teaching methods,
  •  Declining research standards and unmotivated students
  •   Overcrowded classrooms and widespread geographic, income, gender, and ethnic imbalances.

Education in Rural Areas

  •   Ensuring equitable access to quality higher education for students coming from poor families is a major challenge.
  •   Many colleges established in rural areas are non-viable, are under-enrolled and have extremely poor infrastructure and facilities with just a few teachers.

College affiliation to Universities

  •  Most of the universities have more than hundred colleges affiliated to them.
  • The present university system in India is doomed to fail as it focuses more on the administrative job than on the research and innovation.

Role government can play to improve the current plight of the education institutes

  •         Need of the hour is to make critical reforms in the country`s educational system and promote private sector to play a crucial role in it.
  •         Indian industries have failed to invest in the education sector despite major economic development in the country.
  •         Further, creation of conductive atmosphere for cross fertilization of ideas, exchange of views and inviting international students and faculty members for improvement of the education sector is crucial.

Academic freedom as social responsibility:

  •         Protecting academic freedom ought to be part of the social responsibility of both individuals and institutions.
  •         There are a variety of issues relating to educational policy and governance of educational institutions in which the state and its instrumentalities need to play a legitimate role.

The state’s role and responsibility

  •         In protecting academic freedom should not be limited to being discrete and exercising self-restraint in its possible interventions.
  •         It should also ensure that other actors, including the media, political parties and the citizenry do not by their actions undermine academic freedom.

Academic freedom as a human right:

  • The importance of protecting academic freedom inevitably makes a case for recognizing that it is indeed part of the national and international human rights framework.
  •   The time now is to modernize our education system so that our country can get much more technically graduated people which can help our country to developed state.
  •  Various reforms are proposed in the education sector in order to meet these changing circumstances.
  •   One of the priority areas of suggestion is ‘Autonomy’ to the colleges of established track record.
  •    The autonomy debate starts with what kind of autonomy is meant for these colleges..
  •   To guarantee higher quality and to attain better performance in teaching and learning processes it is necessary to encourage the involvement and commitment of all those involved with the process like teachers, students and the management.

Q2- What are Shell Companies? What are the problems associated with these companies? Suggest some solutions?(GS 3 )


What are shell companies?

  • Shell companies are companies without active business operations or significant assets.
  • Shell companies can be set up by business people for both legitimate and illegitimate purposes.
  • Illegitimate purposes include hiding particulars of ownership from the law enforcement, laundering unaccounted money and avoiding tax.
  • With the shell company as a front, all transactions are shown on paper as legitimate business transactions, thereby turning black money into white. In this process, the business person also avoids paying tax on the laundered money.
  • Indian law does not contain any specific definition of shell companies, However, US has defined the shell companies under their Securities Act.
  • All shell companies are not illegal. Some companies could have been started to promote start-ups by raising funds.

As per the Ministry of Finance definition shell companies are characterized by the following features:

  • Nominal paid-up capital;
  • High reserves and surplus on account of receipt of high share premium;
  • Investment in unlisted companies;
  • No dividend income;
  • High cash in hand;
  • Private companies as majority shareholders;
  • Low turnover and operating income;
  • Nominal expenses;
  • Nominal statutory payments and stock in trade;
  • Minimum fixed asset.

What are the problems associated with shell companies?

  • Shell companies were used to deposit large amount of cash during the period of demonetization
  • Kolkata is a hub of such companies and about 145 entities under the securities market scanner are registered there.
  • Shell companies were being used to hid assets and money.
  • The shell companies support much of the fraud and embezzlement in India.
  • The owners of shell companies create elaborate smokescreens, including naming personal servants, and chauffeurs as board directors, route money to evade tax, commit fraud or manipulated tenders.

What can be possible solutions?

The crackdown on shell companies is necessary process to contain the menace of black money. The following steps need to be taken in order to tackle problems arising from shell companies:

  • The government should be careful in taking action against listed companies as it can affect investor confidence
  • The government needs to use information technology more effectively to track such transactions
  • The government need to target individuals who are suspected to be avoiding taxes instead of taking action against companies in the listed space as it could affect other stakeholders also. Last month, the authorities ordered nearly 200,000shell companies to be shut down
  • The systematic crackdown on shell companies, which have no active business operations, is one of the outcomes of demonetization.
  • The crackdown of shell companies will hit tax evasion and move India towards cashless, digital transactions that leave a paper trail.
  • Need of Investigation and enforcement mechanism to check misuse of stock market platform for generating “bogus” long-term capital gains to curb black money.
  • The Serious Fraud Investigation Office is creating a database of shell companies, and has so far identified 114,269 as front firms.
  • The database contains details of those involved in the shell company ‘eco-system’

A paradigm shift in the way these embankments are managed is need of the hour. With reference to the statement, discuss the need of embankment in current hazardous flood conditions.


  •       Life had come to a standstill in the Ganga-Brahmaputra floodplains where large tracts of land were reeling under floods.
  •       Everywhere there were submerged houses, broken bridges, and wasted railway tracks.
  •       The fury of the waters in the Kishanganj and Katihar districts of Bihar had cut off the road and rail services in north Bengal.
  •       Consequently, Northeast India’s connectivity by rail with the rest of India got disconnected.
  •       Access to water and sanitation is difficult. Open defecation is common, and the use of contaminated water leads to a peak in water-borne diseases.
  •       Agricultural land is either covered with sand or remains waterlogged.

The misery is the failure of embankments

  •       An embankment is an uplifted earthen structure constructed along the river channel to artificially reduce the size of the floodplains by constricting floodwaters to a narrow stretch.
  •       The land outside the embankment is supposed to be safe from floods.
  •       However, embankment breach resulting in flooding the “safe” areas is routine.

attention required

  •       A paradigm shifts in the way these embankments are managed is need of the hour.
  •       It is vital to involve the community that is close to the embankment in its management.
  •       Done so, it can help break the build-and-forget mentality that currently rules the bureaucracy.

Result of the study

  •       The study of over 100 villages in the Ganga-Brahmaputra floodplains found that villages in these areas are exposed to diverse water-related hazards depending on their location vis-a-vis an embankment.
  •       Those located inside the embankment are vulnerable to floods and riverbank erosion, and those outside, in the “safe” areas, are prone to extended periods of inundation.
  •       This results when the construction of an embankment causes the drainage lines to be blocked, the regulators in the embankments become dysfunctional, or when there is a backflow of the larger river in spate.
  •       The people in these “safe” areas suffer from a constant fear of embankment breach, which is not entirely unfounded.
  •       In Bihar in 2008, there was a colossal embankment breach in the Kosi river basin.
  •       This year too, in parts of Assam, Bihar and West Bengal breaches have caused flooding.
  •       Only in a few cases have newly constructed embankments been able to protect villages located outside them from floods.
  •       Despite this, in flood-prone areas with no embankments, people still articulate the need for embankments.


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