July 19, 2024

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General Studies Paper- 3

Context: With the recent announcement of India’s goal to become a developed country by 2047, the debate turns to what is a developed country, and what are the key parameters needed to focus on.

About the Developed Country

  • The term ‘Developed Country’ (aka Advanced Country) doesn’t have a single accepted definition. It stands out for its high quality of life, robust economy, and advanced technological infrastructure. These nations have typically surpassed the initial stages of industrialization and agrarian economies.
  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has a threshold of the 75th percentile in Human Development Index (HDI) distribution to be classified as a developed country, whereas the World Bank classifies countries whose Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is above $13,845 as ‘high-income countries’.

Key Features

  • Economic Prosperity: Developed countries boast impressive economic metrics. These often include a high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Product (GNP) per capita. Essentially, their citizens enjoy a relatively comfortable standard of living.
  • Industrialization and Infrastructure: Developed nations have well-established infrastructure—think efficient transportation networks, modern airports, and reliable electricity grids. Their cities showcase towering skyscrapers, bustling commercial centres, and well-maintained roads.
  • Quality of Life: Access to quality education, healthcare, and public services is widespread. Citizens benefit from robust social safety nets, ensuring a decent quality of life for all.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Developed countries prioritise environmental protection. You’ll find recycling programs, clean energy initiatives, and strict adherence to civic norms.
  • Technological Advancements: Cutting-edge technology permeates daily life. From seamless digital services to advanced research institutions, these nations lead the way.

How Can India Bridge the Gap?

  • India, with its rich history and diverse culture, has set ambitious goals, and declared that India should achieve developed country status by 2047—marking the 100th year of our independence.
  • Economic Growth: India’s GDP growth is crucial. According to projections, India could become the world’s third-largest economy by 2030 and even surpass the US in GDP by 2060.
    • However, sustaining an annual growth rate of at least 8% is essential.
  • Investment in Infrastructure: India must continue investing in infrastructure—modernising roads, railways, and digital networks. Connectivity is key to progress.
  • Education and Healthcare: Ensuring quality education and accessible healthcare for all citizens is non-negotiable. A well-educated workforce drives innovation and productivity.
  • Environmental Responsibility: Balancing growth with environmental conservation is critical. India can lead by adopting sustainable practices and clean energy solutions.
  • Inclusive Development: Addressing income inequality and poverty eradication is paramount. No one should be left behind on the path to development.

Opportunities For India

  • Demographic Dividend: India’s young population can be an asset. Properly harnessing their potential through education, skill development, and employment can drive growth.
  • Robust Information Technology Sector: India’s IT industry has been a global success story. Continued investment in technology and innovation can propel the nation forward.
  • Entrepreneurship Ecosystem: India has seen a surge in startups and entrepreneurial ventures. Nurturing this ecosystem can create jobs and foster innovation.
  • Strategic Investments: Focused investments in human capital (education, healthcare) and infrastructure (roads, ports, digital connectivity) are crucial.
  • Global Partnerships: Collaborating with other nations, sharing knowledge, and participating in global value chains can accelerate development.

Challenges India Faces in Achieving Developed Status and Related Solutions

  • Population Management: Our sheer population can strain resources. Sustainable population management strategies are essential to ensure equitable growth.
  • Inequality and Social Justice: Income disparities persist. Addressing this gap requires targeted policies that uplift marginalised communities, promote social justice, and provide equal opportunities.
    • Gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and inclusivity in all spheres of life contribute to a more developed and harmonious society.
    • Bridging the gap between urban and rural areas is crucial.
  • Socioeconomic Inclusion of Rural India: By 2030, an estimated 40% of Indians will be urban residents. However, rural areas still grapple with inadequate infrastructure, limited access to quality education, and healthcare disparities. Achieving balanced development across urban and rural regions is vital.
    • Empowering rural communities through education, skill-building, and better livelihood opportunities is a pressing challenge.
  • Bureaucracy and Corruption: Streamlining administrative processes, reducing red tape, and promoting transparency are perennial challenges. Efficient governance is crucial for sustained progress.
  • Education Reform: Quality education is the cornerstone of development. India needs reforms that enhance both access and quality. Vocational training and digital literacy are equally important.
  • Health and Sustainability: A healthy population is the bedrock of any developed nation. India faces health challenges ranging from malnutrition to non-communicable diseases. Improving healthcare infrastructure, preventive measures, and access to quality medical services is imperative.
    • Moreover, sustainability—both environmental and economic—is critical. Balancing growth with ecological responsibility is a tightrope walk. India must lead in adopting clean energy solutions, efficient waste management, and climate-conscious policies.
  • Skill Development and Employment: As the world evolves, so do the skills required for success. According to the World Economic Forum, more than half of Indian workers will need reskilling to meet the demands of the future job market. Bridging this skills gap is crucial for sustained economic growth.
    • Additionally, ensuring meaningful employment opportunities for our burgeoning workforce—especially in the context of automation and digital transformation—is essential.
  • Infrastructure and Connectivity: While India has made significant strides in infrastructure development, there’s still work to be done. Modernising transportation networks, ensuring reliable electricity supply, and bridging the digital divide are ongoing tasks.
    • Connectivity—both physical and digital—fuels economic progress. Investments in roads, railways, and high-speed internet are essential.

Conclusion

  • India’s journey toward becoming a developed country is multifaceted. It lags behind in HDI rank mainly because of its low life expectancy and per capita income, which can be improved with government spending in the education and health sectors.

It requires a delicate balance of economic growth, social inclusion, environmental stewardship, and visionary leadership. With determination, strategic planning, and collective effort, we can transform our nation into a beacon of progress.

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General Studies Paper- 2

Context: Around the world, the representation of women in political spheres has seen significant progress over the years. However, this progress has been uneven, and there’s still much work to be done.

Women and Political Representation

  • Women’s equal participation and leadership in political and public life are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
  • However, data show that women are underrepresented at all levels of decision-making worldwide and that achieving gender parity in political life is far off.

Women in National Parliaments

  • Only 26.9% of Parliamentarians in single or lower houses are women, up from 11% in 1995.
  • Only six countries have 50% or more women in Parliament in single or lower houses: Rwanda (61%), Cuba (56%), Nicaragua (54%), Andorra (50%), Mexico (50%), New Zealand (50%), and the United Arab Emirates (50%).
  • A further 22 countries have reached or surpassed 40%, including 13 countries in Europe, five in Africa, four in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one in Asia-Pacific.
  • Globally, there are 21 States in which women account for less than 10% of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, including two lower chambers with no women at all.
  • At the current rate of progress, gender parity in national legislative bodies will not be achieved before 2063 (another 40 years).

How do women MPs fare worldwide?

  • Voluntary or legislated compulsory quotas within political parties.
  • Quotas in parliament through the reservation of seats.
  • Quotas within political parties allow more democratic choice for voters and flexibility for parties in selecting women candidates.

Women in Local Government

  • Data from 141 countries show that women constitute more than 3 million (35.5%) of elected members in local deliberative bodies.
  • Only three countries have reached 50%, and an additional 22 countries have more than 40% women in local government.

Women in Indian Politics

  • The percentage of women Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s Parliament) remained very low—between 5% and 10%—until 2004.
    • It marginally increased to 12% in 2014 and currently stands at 14% in the 18th Lok Sabha.
  • State Legislative Assemblies fare even worse, with a national average of around 9% women representatives.
  • The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments of the 1992-93, provided for one-third reservation for women in Panchayats and Municipalities.
    • However, attempts between 1996 and 2008 to provide similar reservation in the Lok Sabha and assemblies were unsuccessful.

Expanding Participation in India

  • 106th Constitutional Amendment: It reserves one-third of all seats for women in Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, and the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, including those reserved for SCs and STs.
  • It shall come into effect based on the Delimitation Exercise after the relevant figures of the first Census conducted after the commencement of this act is published.
    • Census is overdue since 2021 and should be conducted without any further delay to ensure that this reservation is implemented starting with the general elections in 2029.
  • India ranks 143 in the list of countries in the ‘Monthly ranking of women in national parliaments’ recently published by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organisation for national parliaments.
    • Naam Tamilar Katchi, a State party in Tamil Nadu, has been following a voluntary quota of 50% for women candidates in the last three general elections.
  • Intersectionality Matters: It’s essential to recognize that women are not a homogenous group. Their identities intersect with other factors (such as caste, class, religion, and ethnicity), influencing their political representation.
    • Ensuring that women from diverse backgrounds have a voice in politics is crucial for genuine representation.
  • Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: Balanced political participation and power-sharing between women and men in decision-making is the internationally agreed target set in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Conclusion and Way Forward

  • Women demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through parliamentary women’s caucuses — even in the most politically combative environments — and by championing issues of gender equality, such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws, and electoral reform.
  • While progress has been made, the road to equitable political representation for women remains challenging.
  • Advocacy, policy changes, and societal shifts are necessary to create a more inclusive and representative political landscape.
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General Studies Paper-2

Context: The Union government has stopped funds of Punjab, West Bengal, and Delhi under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), as the three states have refused participation in the PM-SHRI scheme.

PM SHRI scheme

  • Aim: The scheme aims to turn existing government schools into model schools.
  • The scheme is for existing elementary, secondary, and senior secondary schools run by the central government and state and local governments around the country.
  • Funding: It is a Centrally sponsored scheme with a total project cost of 27,360 crore for the period of five years from 2022-23 to 2026-27 for transforming nearly 14,500 schools across the country.
  • It will showcase all components of the National Education Policy 2020, act as exemplary schools and also offer mentorship to other schools in their vicinity.
  • A ‘School Quality Assessment Framework’ is being developed to measure the progress and performance of these schools.

Key features of PM SHRI Scheme

  • Development of ‘Green schools’: These will be equipped with solar panels, LED lights, nutrition gardens, and waste management, water conservation and harvesting systems.
  • Modern facilities: Schools will include ICT (information and communication technologies) facilities, smart classrooms, library, digital library, science labs and vocational labs etc. Schools will also get science and math kits and annual school grants for libraries or sports.
  • Mother tongue and local languages to be encouraged.

Samagra Siksha Abhiyan (SSA)

  • It is an overarching scheme for the school education sector extending from pre-school to class XII and aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels of school education.
  • The Scheme subsumes the three erstwhile Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education (TE).
  • The scheme treats school education as a continuum and is in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG-4).
  • The major objectives of the Scheme are:
    • Support States and UTs in implementing the recommendations of the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020);
    • Support States in implementation of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009;
    • Emphasis on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy;
    • Strengthening and up-gradation of State Councils for Educational Research and Training (SCERTs)/State Institutes of Education and District Institutes for Education and Training (DIET) as nodal agency for teacher training;
    • Promoting vocational
  • Under the Scheme, financial assistance is provided to all the States and UTs for undertaking above activities including training for universalization and delivery of quality school education.
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General Studies Paper-2

Context: Recently, the Karnataka Cabinet cleared a Bill mandating 50% reservation for locals in management jobs and 75% in non-management positions.

About

  • The Karnataka State Employment of Local Candidates in the Industries, Factories, and Other Establishments Bill, 2024, has taken centre stage in the state’s legislative landscape, aiming to address the employment concerns of local candidates within the private sector.
  • The bill emphasises job opportunities for Kannadigas by mandating specific reservation percentages for management and non-management positions.
  • The bill comes after long-standing demands for job reservation for Kannadigas. Earlier this year, Kannada organisations organised rallies across the state, urging the immediate implementation of the Sarojini Mahishi Report, submitted in 1984, recommended quotas for locals in both government and private sector jobs.

Reservation Quotas

  • Management Positions: Industries, factories, and other private sector establishments are now required to appoint local candidates for at least 50% of management positions. These roles include executive, administrative, and leadership positions within organisations.
  • Non-Management Positions: For non-management positions—such as technical, operational, and support roles — 75% of the workforce must consist of local candidates.

Eligibility Criteria for Local Candidates

  • According to the Bill, a local candidate is someone who:
  • is born in the State of Karnataka;
  • has been domiciled in the state for at least 15 years;
  • can speak, read, and write Kannada proficiently (there’s even a required test for this).
  • holds a secondary school certificate with Kannada as a language. If not, they must pass a Kannada proficiency test.

Minimum Thresholds

  • Even if industries face challenges in finding local talent, the percentage of local candidates should not fall below 25% for management positions and 50% for non-management positions.
  • Failure to comply with these thresholds may result in penalties ranging from ₹10,000 to ₹25,000.
  • Fallback Measures (Training and Relaxation)
  • If qualified or suitable local candidates are not available, industries and establishments must collaborate with the government to train local candidates within three years.
  • In exceptional cases where sufficient local candidates are unavailable, establishments can apply for relaxation from the provisions of the Act. The government will review such requests and make final decisions.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

  • Industries failing to comply with the reservation norms may face penalties ranging from ₹10,000 to ₹25,000.
  • The government aims to enforce these provisions rigorously to ensure effective implementation.

Conclusion

  • The Karnataka Cabinet’s move to reserve management and non-management positions for local candidates is a significant step toward ensuring equitable employment opportunities.
  • While some industry leaders have criticised the move as discriminatory, proponents argue that it will empower local talent, boost regional employment, and strengthen the state’s economy.
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General Studies Paper -3

Context: The new government’s top priority is to increase the rate of creating productive and quality jobs within the economy, and aiming to reduce the reliance on populist schemes that are resulting in severe fiscal stress.

About

  • Unemployment is a critical issue that continues to challenge the economic landscape of India. As one of the world’s most populous nations with a diverse workforce, fluctuations in the unemployment rate have far-reaching implications for the country’s growth and development.

Unemployment Rate in India

  • Current Unemployment Rate: According to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), India’s unemployment rate stood at 9.2% in June 2024, representing a sharp increase from the 7% recorded in May 2024.
    • Notably, female unemployment reached 18.5%, surpassing the national average, while male unemployment was slightly higher at 7.8%.
  • Labour Participation Rate (LPR): The LPR, which includes individuals actively seeking employment among the working-age population (15 years and above), rose to 41.4% in June 2024. This is up from 40.8% in May and 39.9% in June 2023.
    • These changing trends in labour demand underscore the need for thoughtful policy measures to address economic challenges and ensure sustainable growth in both rural and urban areas.
  • Rural-Urban disparities narrow: Unemployment rates in rural areas decreased from 5.3% in 2017-18 to 2.4% in 2022-23, while urban centres witnessed a decline from 7.7% to 5.4% during the same period, demonstrating a narrowing gap over the same period.
  • Gender and Youth Employment Improvements: Encouragingly, there’s a substantial reduction in female unemployment, dropping from 5.6% in 2017-18 to 2.9% in 2022-23. Moreover, youth unemployment rates declined significantly from 17.8% to 10% during the analysed timeframe.
  • Education and Employment: PLFS findings highlight a surge in employment opportunities for educated individuals, with the employment rate for graduates rising from 49.7 per cent in 2017-18 to 55.8% in 2022-23, and for postgraduates and above, from 67.8% to 70.6%.

Historical Trends (2008–2024)

  • 2008–2011: During this period, India experienced relatively stable unemployment rates, hovering around around 9%.
  • 2011–2016: The unemployment rate gradually declined, reaching its lowest point of 4.82% in 2016.
  • 2016–2020: However, from 2016 onwards, the rate started climbing again. By 2020, it had risen to 6.38%.
  • 2020–2024: The pandemic-induced economic disruptions significantly impacted employment. In June 2024, as mentioned earlier, the rate spiked to 9.2%.

What Reforms Needed?

  • Volatility-Reducing Policy Continuity (Steady Supply-Side Improvements, and Flexible Inflation Targeting); Caution with Drastic Reforms like Political Costs of Reforms, Leveraging India’s Strengths, Technology and Youth Advantage, Federal Structure and State-Level Reforms, and Multi-Level Government Participation, Industry’s Role like Skill Development and Corporate Social Responsibility etc are crucial for the reforms.

Preconditions for Job Growth

  • Sustained High Growth: The foundation lies in sustained high growth, especially in labour-intensive sectors. Manufacturing, services, and agriculture—all must grow and export.
    • Think of China’s success: it first boosted agricultural productivity, keeping food prices in check.
  • Agricultural Productivity: India, too, must focus on improving agricultural productivity. Better infrastructure, agritech adoption, and crop diversification are steps in the right direction.
    • Climate-proofing agriculture becomes essential, given erratic weather patterns.
  • Flexible Markets: Integrated and flexible markets can respond swiftly to food price shocks. Procurement from diverse regions ensures stability.
  • Avoiding Past Traps: Government and Policy makers need to look where quality jobs abound, and economic distortions fade away.
    • Black Economy: High marginal tax rates once fueled a black economy.
    • Talent Retention: Talent flight is costly. Our 1.4-billion-strong population, brimming with youth, deserves opportunities at home.

Balancing Priorities

  • Stimulating Private Activity vs. Expanding Capacity: The challenge lies in using rising revenues effectively. On one hand, we want to encourage private sector growth, but on the other hand, we need to invest in expanding infrastructure and capacity.
  • Fiscal Consolidation: Managing government finances is crucial. By reducing deficits and ensuring responsible spending, we can improve India’s credit ratings and reduce borrowing costs.
  • Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT): As the economy grows and poverty decreases, targeted cash transfers become more feasible. However, policies should also address supply-side constraints to meet increased demand for goods.
  • Updating Targeting: Regularly assessing and updating the targeting of welfare schemes ensures that benefits reach those who need them most.
  • Social Welfare Schemes: Programs that create assets (such as infrastructure, education, or healthcare) for the poor will eventually reach saturation. When this happens, funds can be redirected to other essential public services.
  • Urbanization and Municipal Reform: As cities grow, empowering local governments through better fund allocation and efficient administration becomes essential. This benefits the urban poor who rely heavily on public services.

Government Initiatives and Policy Impacts

  • Government schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) and Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY) have disbursed substantial funds, fostering job creation and economic empowerment.
  • Flagship programs like Make in India, Start-up India, and Digital India have also played pivotal roles in generating employment opportunities.

Challenges and Policy Implications

  • Gender Disparities: The widening gap between male and female unemployment rates demands targeted interventions to empower women in the workforce.
  • Rural-Urban Divide: Addressing disparities between rural and urban unemployment rates is crucial. Diversifying economic activities can create more opportunities and enhance financial resilience.
  • Skill Development: Investing in skill development programs can bridge the gap between available jobs and the skills possessed by job seekers.

Policy Suggestions For The Government

  • ‘Raise the Rate’, Not ‘Create’: The new government, like a director with a fresh script, must prioritise the creation of productive and skillful jobs, and must focus on ‘raising the rate’ of job creation.
  • Priority of Employment: Employment is the first priority because it is necessary to prevent the economy from degenerating into the competitive sops of the seventies and all the economic distortions and stagnation they produced.
    • Employment prevents the economy from slipping into the quicksand of seventies-style populism. Back then, as multi-party competition intensified, populist schemes multiplied.
    • Public services suffered, investment lagged, and talent sought greener pastures elsewhere.
  • Fast-forward to Today: Elections still feature populist promises, but voters are increasingly discerning. If people can actively participate in and benefit from development, they’re less likely to fall for short-term gimmicks.
  • Government Services and Outsourcing: While different levels of government need to expand their services, productivity tends to be higher in contract and outsourced government jobs.
  • It suggests that involving various sectors of the economy is essential for employment growth.

Conclusion

  • India’s unemployment rate is not just a statistic; it represents the aspirations, struggles, and potential of millions. For a 1.4-billion population, with the largest share of youth, creating more high-productivity jobs requires working on multiple fronts.
  • India needs to prioritise policies that foster sustainable employment and uplift our workforce, with harmonising the growth, productivity, and inclusivity and prosperous future.
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General Studies Paper -2

Context: The Supreme Court of India agreed to list petitions challenging the Money Bill route taken by the Centre to pass contentious amendments in the Parliament.

Background

  • The Money Bill case was referred to the supreme court in 2019 in the case of Rojer Mathew vs. South Indian Bank Ltd.
  • The issue is whether such amendments could be passed as a Money Bill, circumventing the Rajya Sabha, in violation of Article 110 of the Constitution.

What are the concerns?

  • The case includes legal questions concerning amendments made from 2015 onwards in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) through Money Bills, giving the Enforcement Directorate blanket powers of arrest, raids, etc.
  • The present case raises questions about the passage of the Finance Act, 2017, as a money bill. The act had altered the appointments to 19 key judicial tribunals, including the National Green Tribunal and Central Administrative Tribunal.
  • In the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the petitioners have argued that parts of the Act, passed through the two houses as a money bill, contained provisions unrelated to the subjects listed under Article 110.

Money Bill

  • Article 110 of the Constitution deals with the definition of money bills.
  • It states that a bill is deemed to be a money bill if it contains ‘only’ provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters:
  • The imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax;
  • the regulation of the borrowing of money or the giving of any guarantee by the Government of India, or the amendment of the law with respect to any financial obligations undertaken or to be undertaken by the Government of India;
  • The custody of the Consolidated Fund or the Contingency Fund of India, the payment of moneys into or the withdrawal of moneys from any such Fund;
  • the appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
  • The declaring of any expenditure to be expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India or the increasing of the amount of any such expenditure;
  • The receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund of India or the public account of India or the custody or issue of such money or the audit of the accounts of the Union or of a State; or
  • Any matter incidental to any of the matters specified above.

Passing of Money Bills

  • A Money Bill can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha, only by a minister, and only on the recommendation of the President.
  • If any question arises whether a bill is a Money bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of Lok Sabha is final.
  • After a Money bill is passed by the Lok Sabha, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Rajya Sabha has very restricted powers w.r.t. Money Bills:
    • Rajya Sabha cannot reject or amend a Money bill.
    • Rajya Sabha can only make recommendations.
    • Rajya Sabha must return the bill within 14 days, with or without recommendations.
  • The Lok Sabha can either accept or reject all or any of the recommendations of Rajya Sabha.
  • If the Rajya Sabha does not return the bill within 14 days, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses in the form originally passed by Lok Sabha.
  • Once a Money Bill is passed by both the Houses, it is presented to the President.
    • He/she may either give the assent or withhold assent, but cannot return the bill for reconsideration by the Houses of Parliament.
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General Studies Paper -1

Context: The Supreme Court making it mandatory for employers to grant menstrual leave could be counter-productive on women’s participation in the workforce, but asked Centre to consider framing a model policy on the issue after consulting states and stakeholders.

What is Menstrual Leave?

  • Menstrual leave or period leave refers to all policies that allow employees to take time off when they are experiencing menstrual pain or discomfort.
  • In the Lok Sabha, at least three attempts were made in recent years to bring in private member Bills to propose menstrual leave.

Menstrual Leave in the Light of Gender Gap

  • Gender Gap: The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 says that the gender global gap has widened (instead of shrinking).
  • In the current situation, it would take the world 135.6 years to achieve gender equality.
  • Labour Force Participation: Looking at it specifically at the workforce level, a woman earns 84 cents for every dollar that a man makes.
    • The participation of women in the labour force is significantly lower than that of men, and even fewer women hold leadership positions.
  • Risk of Discrimination: If one adds mandatory paid leave for periods to this, it would end up further dissuading companies from hiring women.
  • Social Stigma: If the government ratifies ‘special status’ for menstruating women, it validates the social stigma around menstruation.
  • Period Shaming: It would exacerbate period shaming in a country where large swathes of people (both men and women) consider menstruation to be ‘impure’.
  • Lack of Access to Affordable Sanitary Products: In India, accessing affordable and hygienic menstrual products poses a significant challenge. A considerable number of women, particularly those with low-income backgrounds, encounter difficulties in affording sanitary pads or tampons.
    • The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 report underscores that approximately 50% of women aged 15 to 24 in India still resort to using cloth for menstrual protection.
  • Cultural and Religious Practices: Specific cultural and religious beliefs and practices may hinder proper menstrual hygiene. For instance, in certain communities, menstruating women are viewed as impure, leading to restrictions on their involvement in religious activities or social gatherings.

Case Study of Japan

  • There are countries such as Japan that provide leave for painful menstruation- but it is mostly unpaid, and unused.
    • Data shows that a mere 0.9% of women in the workforce avail menstrual leave days in Japan.
  • Reason: Women claim that they are reluctant to avail this leave and broadcast that they are on their period, for the fear of sexual harassment.
  • This is the situation (today), even though this policy was introduced in Japan more than seven decades ago.
  • Gender Gap in Japan: As per the World Economic Forum’s ranking in 2019, Japan ranked 121 out of 153 in terms of gender equality. It has slipped to the 125th position in 2023.
    • Women in Japan are less likely to be employed (even with the same credentials) than men, and are often paid less.

Menstrual Leaves in Other Nations

  • Erstwhile Soviet Russia had taken a policy decision to pay women who absented from work due to pain during the menstrual period.
  • Few provinces in China have provisioned two-day paid leave for women. Indonesia offers women two days’ leave a month, but they rarely take it as employers perform physical examinations on them before allowing the leave.

Challenges in Implementation

  • Equality Concerns: Opponents argue that providing special leave for menstruation may perpetuate gender stereotypes and undermine efforts to achieve gender equality in the workplace.
  • Risk of Discrimination: There is a concern that providing menstrual leave could lead to discrimination against women in hiring decisions or promotions.
  • Operational Challenges: Critics suggest that introducing menstrual leave policies might create operational challenges for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Privacy Issues: Women might prefer to keep their health-related matters private, and introducing a specific leave category for menstruation could infringe on personal privacy.

Way Ahead

  • Women are fighting hard for equity in their workplaces and leadership positions and menstruation leave could be held against them and reinforce their physical challenges.
  • Recognising the diverse nature of menstrual experiences is essential.
  • Tailoring support and being accommodative on a case-by-case basis promotes inclusivity, while also addressing the individual needs of those navigating their difficult periods.
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General Studies Paper -2

Context

  • Despite the seemingly successful talks between National Security Advisers (NSAs) of India and USA, to make progress on the bilateral Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), structural challenges endure in its execution.

About the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET)

  • It is a collaborative framework between India and the United States that aims to facilitate outcome-oriented cooperation in critical and emerging technology areas.
  • It was announced by the Indian Prime Minister and US President during the Quad Summit in Tokyo in May 2022.
  • It seeks to elevate and expand the strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between India and the US.
  • It focuses on fostering collaboration across government, academia, and industry.

Key Technology Focus Areas

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Both countries recognize the transformative potential of AI in various sectors. Collaborations in AI research, development, and applications are essential for societal well-being.
  • Quantum Computing: Quantum technologies promise breakthroughs in computing power, cryptography, and secure communication. Joint efforts aim to harness quantum capabilities for mutual benefit.
  • 5G/6G Telecommunications: The rollout of advanced wireless networks is crucial for economic growth and national security. iCET encourages cooperation in developing and deploying 5G and beyond.
  • Biotechnology: Advances in biotech can revolutionize healthcare, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. Collaborations focus on research, innovation, and technology transfer.
  • Space Technologies: Space exploration, satellite communication, and Earth observation are areas of mutual interest. iCET promotes joint projects in space technology development.
  • Semiconductors: As the backbone of modern electronics, semiconductors play a vital role. Cooperation aims to enhance semiconductor manufacturing and design capabilities.

Collaborative Projects (Specific Examples)

  • F-414INS6 Engines: The iCET’s defense component currently focuses on India locally manufacturing General Electric (GE) F-414INS6 afterburning turbofan engines for the under-development Tejas Mk-II light combat aircraft.
  • Negotiations have concluded for GE to transfer around 80% technology to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for F-414 engines. However, critical know-how related to forging metallurgy discs for power pack turbines remains undisclosed.
  • MQ-9 Armed Reaper/Predator-B UAVs: India is assembling 31 armed MQ-9 Reaper/Predator-B unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for all three services.
    • Technology transfer from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for assembling the MQ-9s stands at around 10-15%, including establishing a domestic maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facility for the UAVs.
  • Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicle: Negotiations are ongoing for India to acquire, license-build, and co-develop the General Dynamics Land Systems Stryker.

Ongoing Negotiations

  • The iCET also involves discussions about directly acquiring, license-building, and co-developing the General Dynamics Land Systems Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicle for the Indian Army.
  • However, innate limitations persist in all these ventures.

Innate Limitations in Executing iCET

  • Autonomy of U.S. Defense Companies: Local industry officials and military analysts emphasize that the primary impediments lie in the autonomy of U.S. defense companies regarding technology transfer.
    • These technologies have been developed at immense cost at Washington’s behest, and many companies zealously guard their Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) over them.
    • S. defense vendors are answerable to their shareholders, whose motivations are largely commercially driven. Consequently, the quantum of technology they are willing to transfer may be limited.
  • Strict Export Control Laws: The U.S. has stringent export control laws related to military technologies.
    • The defense industrial complex in the U.S. is cautious about sharing critical military technologies via joint ventures, even if such collaboration aligns with Washington’s strategic interests.
    • Balancing national security concerns with collaborative ventures is essential.
  • Technology Transfer: While progress has been made in technology transfer, challenges remain. U.S. defense companies guard their intellectual property rights (IPR), impacting the extent of technology transfer.
  • Industry Motivations:S. defense vendors prioritize commercial interests. Their willingness to transfer technology depends on shareholder motivations.

Conclusion and Way Forward

  • The iCET represents a significant step toward strengthening the India-U.S. partnership in critical and emerging technologies. By addressing challenges and leveraging opportunities, both nations can drive innovation, enhance security, and shape a technologically resilient future.
  • While the iCET aims to enhance India-U.S. defense collaboration through technology transfer, bureaucratic complexities and limited technology sharing pose significant challenges. Addressing these limitations will be crucial for realizing the full potential of this strategic initiative.
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General Studies Paper-3

Context: Recently, NITI Aayog released SDG India Index 2023-24.

About SDG India Index 2023-24

  • SDG India Index 2023-24, the fourth edition of the country’s principal tool for measuring national and subnational progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
  • It measures and tracks national progress of all States and UTs on 113 indicators aligned to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s (MoSPI) National Indicator Framework (NIF).
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):   They were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The 17 SDGs are integrated—they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

  • Methodology: The SDG India Index computes goal-wise scores on the 16 SDGs for each State and UT. Overall State and UT scores or Composite Scores are generated from goal-wise scores to measure the aggregate performance of the sub-national unit based on its performance across the 16 SDGs.
    • These scores range between 0–100, and if a State/UT achieves a score of 100, it signifies it has achieved the targets. The higher the score of a State/UT, the greater the distance covered to the target.

India’s Progress

  • India is progressing towards the Sustainable Development Goals despite global headwinds
  • The composite score for India improved from 57 in 2018 to 66 in 2020-21 to further to 71 in 2023-24
    • Noteworthy advancements have been observed in Goals 1 (No Poverty), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 13 (Climate Action). These are now in the ‘Front Runner’ category (a score between 65–99).
  • Comparison: Since 2018, India has witnessed substantial progress in several key SDGs. Significant progress has been made in Goals 1 (No Poverty), 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
  • State wise: Uttarakhand and Kerala have taken the top spot among states in NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2023-24
    • Between 2018 and 2023-24, fastest moving States are Uttar Pradesh (increase in score by 25), followed by J&K (21), Uttarakhand (19), Sikkim (18), Haryana (17), Assam, Tripura and Punjab (16 each), Madhya Pradesh and Odisha (15 each)

Interventions facilitating SDG achievements

  • Over 4 crore houses under the PM Awas Yojana (PMAY),
  • 10 crore LPG connections under PM Ujjwala Yojana,
  • Tap water connections in over 14.9 crore households under Jal Jeevan Mission
  • Over 30 crore beneficiaries under Ayushman Bharat -Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana
  • Coverage of over 80 crore people under the National Food Security Act (NFSA)
  • Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of ₹34 lakh crore made through PM-Jan Dhan accounts.
  • The Skill India Mission has led to over 1.4 crore youth being trained and upskilled and has reskilled 54 lakh youth
  • PM Mudra Yojana sanctioned 43 crore loans aggregating to ₹5 lakh crore for entrepreneurial aspirations of the youth besides Funds of Funds
  • Emphasis on renewable energy resulted in an increase in solar power capacity from 2.82 GW to 73.32 GW in the past decade.
  • Improvement in digital infrastructure with reduced internet data costs by 97% which has in turn positively affected and fostered financial inclusion

Issues

  • Income and gender inequality were the SDGs which have seen a drop in the score.
  • States not doing well have issues like sex ratio at birth.

Conclusion and Way Forward

  • India bettered its performance in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) during 2023-24 with significant progress in eliminating poverty, economic growth and climate action.
  • However, progress in addressing inequalities related with gender and income as well as access to equal opportunities needs to be addressed more effectively.
  • Ending discrimination against women and girls is a basic human right and is a prerequisite for sustainable development.
  • NITI Aayog is committed to supporting all the States and UTs in the localisation and acceleration of SDGs, an important barometer to measure progress towards Viksit Bharat @ 2047.
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General Studies Paper-2

Context: Recently, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) amended the Rules to widen the administrative role of Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Jammu and Kashmir.

Key Changes

  • Police and Public Order: The L-G now has more say in matters related to police and public order, aiming to strengthen the L-G’s role in maintaining law and order within the Union Territory.
    • Any proposal requiring prior concurrence of the Finance Department in these areas must be placed before the L-G first.
  • All India Service (AIS): Transfers and postings of AIS officers now fall under the L-G’s purview. This change grants the L-G greater authority in managing the bureaucracy.
  • Legal Appointments and Prosecution: Proposals regarding the appointment of the Advocate-General, Law Officers, and decisions on prosecution sanctions or appeals will now be submitted to the L-G for approval.
    • The Department of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs will play a crucial role in this process.
  • Prisons and Forensic Science: Matters connected with Prisons and the Directorate of Prosecution and Forensic Science Laboratory will also be submitted to the L-G.

Lieutenant Governor

  • A lieutenant governor serves as the constitutional head of five of India’s eight union territories.
  • The President of India appoints the lieutenant governor for a five-year term, and they serve at the President’s pleasure.
  • Responsibilities: The LG is the constitutional head of the UT, representing the President of India. Their role is largely ceremonial, similar to that of a Governor in a state.
    • The LG exercises executive powers on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, headed by the Chief Minister. However, they have discretionary powers in certain matters, such as law and order, land, and police, which can lead to conflicts with the elected government.
    • The LG can summon, prorogue, and dissolve the Legislative Assembly. They can also reserve certain bills for the President’s consideration.
    • The LG is responsible for the administration of the UT and can appoint administrators for various departments.

Challenges and Issues

  • Conflict with Elected Governments: In UTs with legislative assemblies, there have been frequent conflicts between the LG and the elected government over the extent of their respective powers.
  • Ambiguity in Powers: The constitutional provisions and laws defining the LG’s powers are often ambiguous, leading to different interpretations and disputes.
  • Centralization of Power: Critics argue that the LG’s discretionary powers lead to centralization of power and undermine the autonomy of elected governments in UTs.
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