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Q.1) Women empowerment is not possible without involving them in decision making at all levels. Examine. Answer: Empowerment of women involves strengthening their social, political and economic status.
  1. SHGs have demonstrated that successful economic empowerment of women and their families must be through a women led process.
  2. 73rd and 74th amendments gave power to women to participate in local political processes. The success of women led panchayats in achieving rapid development across indicators points to this.
Way ahead:
  1. Addressing violence against women in both private and public spaces.
  2. Empowering women farmers through rights over land ownership and access to credit.
  3. Strengthening women led SHGs and MSMEs.
  4. Skilling and literacy development of women.
  5. The law mandating reservation of seats in legislature for women should be brought.
  Q.2) What is Hybrid Annuity model? How it is different and improvement over other investment models? Answer: HAM’s a hybrid — a mix of the EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) and BOT (build, operate, transfer) models. HAM vs other models:
  1. Under the EPC model, NHAI pays private players to lay roads. The private player has no role in the road’s ownership, toll collection or maintenance.
  2. Under the BOT model, private players build, operate and maintain the road for a specified number of years before transferring the asset back to the government. Private player arranged all the finances for the project, while collecting toll revenue or annuity fee from the Government.
  3. HAM combines EPC(40%) and BOT-Annuity(60%). On behalf of the government, NHAI releases 40% of the total project cost. It is given in five tranches linked to milestones. The balance 60% is arranged by the developer.
Benefits:
  1. The BOT model ran into roadblocks with private players not quite forthcoming to invest. First of all, the private player had to fully arrange for its finances — be it through equity contribution or debt. NPA-riddled banks were becoming wary of lending to these projects.
  2. HAM spreads the risk between developers and the Government.
  3. This could attract international investors by reducing risks of lending.
  4. As the operation and maintenance are by private player, it brings better quality of services.
  Q.3) Despite having a robust Road Safety Policy, India shares the burden of around 1.5 lakh road fatalities annually. Analyse the issue and suggest measures to reduce road mishaps in the country. Answer: Nearly three persons died every ten minutes in road accidents across India last year(2017). Reasons for deaths on roads:
  1. Responsibility of drivers is the top contributor to road crash deaths, accounting for 80.3% deaths out of the total road crash fatalities in 2016.
  2. More accidents on highways may be attributed to higher vehicle speeds and higher volume of traffic on these roads.
  3. Road standards, construction, and maintenance is determined by the authority under whose jurisdiction the road falls.
  4. Various expert committees have noted that the responsibility for road safety is diffused across various bodies, and there is no effective  coordination mechanism between these bodies.
  5. Speeding led to 66.5% of all road accidents.
Way ahead:
  1. One of the ways for accident victims to be compensated for road accidents is through motor vehicle insurance.
  2. Implementing road engineering measures to enhance safety.
  3. Improved vehicle safety standards. Ensure minimum international vehicle standards for manufacturers, besides limiting the sale of substandard vehicles.
  4. Education and awareness for drivers and general public.
  5. Enforcement of road safety laws and post-crash response and trauma care facilities.
  6. MoRTH has identified and rectified many accident black spots. Total 789 black spots were identified of which 140 spots have already been rectified.
  Q.4) A critical problem facing the election process in India is anonymous and illicit funding of elections which can be turned around through state funding. Do you think state funding of elections can be made viable? Answer: State or public funding of polls imply the government providing funds to parties and candidates to fight elections, replacing the existing system of ploughing in private or party funds for the job. Problems with state funding:
  1. Already, some form of state funding exists in India, which includes free air time on public broadcasters, the provision of security, office space, utility subsidies and, the biggest advantage, the exemption of registered parties in India from paying income tax, as laid down under section 13A of the Income Tax Act.
  2. It may be difficult to prohibit or check candidates’ own expenditures or expenditures of others over and above that which is provided by the state.
  3. There is lack of change in the provisions regarding receipt of funds by political parties and the manner in which such funds are spent by them.
  4. In view of the high cost of election campaigning in terms of media advertisements and public rallies, use of “big money” in politics is a major concern.
Unless “radical reforms” like de-criminalisation of politics in a democracy in parties, holistic electoral finance reforms, robust transparency and audit and strict legal regime for enforcement of anti-corruption laws are taken, state funding remains incomplete in addressing the problem of anonymous donations.