Answered: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – July 10

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1. What is atmospheric pollution? Discuss the harmful effects of air pollution in India.(GS 3) Link-1 | Link-2 | Link-3 Atmospheric pollution:-

  • It is the introduction of harmful particulates, biological molecules or chemical molecules into the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Air pollution in India is quite a serious issue with the major sources being fuelwood and biomass burning, fuel adulteration, vehicle emission and traffic congestion.
  • A 2013 study on non-smokers has found that Indians have 30% lower lung function compared to Europeans.

Effects of air pollution:-

  • Health:
    • Exposure to particulate matter for a long time can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and heart attacks.
    • Outdoor air pollution was the fifth-largest killer in India and around 620,000 early deaths occurred from air pollution-related diseases in 2010.
    • Thinning of the protective ozone layer can cause increased amounts of UV radiation to reach the Earth, which can lead to more cases of skin cancer, cataracts, and impaired immune systems.
  • Environmental effects:
    • Acid rain:
      • Inthe environment, acid rain damages trees and causes soils and water bodies to acidify, making the water unsuitable for some fish and other wildlife. It also speeds the decay of buildings, statues, and sculptures that are part of our national heritage.
    • Eutrophication:
      • Air emissions of Nitrogen oxides from power plants, cars, trucks, and other sources contribute to the amount of nitrogen entering aquatic ecosystems.
    • Effects on wildlife:
      • Toxic pollutants in the air, or deposited on soils or surface waters, can impact wildlife in a number of ways. Like humans, animals can experience health problems if they are exposed to sufficient concentrations of air toxics over time.
      • Studies show that air toxics are contributing to birth defects, reproductive failure, and disease in animals.
    • UV can also damage sensitive crops, such as soybeans, and reduce Crop yields:-
    • Air pollution can damage crops and trees in a variety of ways.Ground-level ozone can lead to reductions in agricultural crop and commercial forest yields, reduced growth and survivability of tree seedlings, and increased plant susceptibility to disease, pests and other environmental stresses.
    • Global warming :-
      • With the rise of the concentration of carbon dioxide in air,a general rise of temperature is witnessed.
    • Economy :-
    • A World Bank study shows that welfare costs and lost labour income due to air pollution amounted to 8.5% of India’s GDP in 2013.
    • Loss of productivity due to deterioration of the man power.

However these air polluting gases have some benefits as well :-

  • Has made the people aware of the importance of trees in mitigating climate change .
  • Although, some air pollutants like Particulate matter act as substrate for condensation, increasing rainfall ;
  • some sector of economy see more work like air filtering, air mask.
  • Some of these gases are necessary for life as well.

How can India tackle air pollution:

  • All stakeholders(individual, community, NGOs corporate, states, global institutions) should take their own responsibility for sustainable livelihoods for future generations.
  • Reduction in vehicular emission:
  • Use of alternate source of fuel like CNG and LPG.
    • More use of public transport.
    • Improvements in vehicular technology.
  • Increase in the research to bring down the cost of solar cell panels.
  • Government should support the financially venerable one’s to ensure up gradation to Bharat stage 6 norms
  • Techniques like climate smart agriculture should be used to ensure agriculture suffers least due to weather vagaries due to pollution.

Therefore with government taking a proactive role with schemes like odd even ,focussing more on renewable energy India can surely take on the menace of air pollution.

2. Does the Western Model of Secularism differ from the Indian Model of secularism? Examine.(GS 1) Link-1 | Link-2 | Indian Express Features of Western concept of secularism:-

  • State and religion has a separate sphere of its own, with independent jurisdiction i.e.
  • Mutual exclusion of state and religion, principled distance of state from religion and no illegitimate intrusion of religion in the state.

  • The state cannot aid any religious institutions.
  • State cannot hinder the activities of religious communities as long as they are within the broad limits setup by the law of the land.
    • For example – if religious women forbids a woman from becoming a priest, then the states cannot do anything.
    • Like this, if a particular religion forbids the entry of some of its members in the sanctum of its temple, then the states has no option but to let the matter rest exactly where it is.
  • So here the religion is private matter, not a matter of state policy or law. This model interprets freedom and equality in an individualist manner.
  • Liberty is the liberty of individual. Equality is the equality between individuals. There is little scope for community based rights or minority rights.
  • On the other hand drawbacks of this model can be seen as, such states focus on intra-religious domination by strict separation of state from church to realise among other things individual freedoms, issues of inter-religious (and therefore minority rights) equality are often neglected. This model leaves no scope for the idea of the state supported religious reforms.
  • A secular state to be one that “protects all religions but does not favour one at the expense of others and does not itself adopt any religion as the state religion.”


  • Indian secularism is fundamentally different from western secularism. It does not focus only on Church- State separation and the idea of inter-religious equality is crucial to the Indian conception.
  • Indian secularism took on a distinct from as a result of an interaction between what already existed in a society that had religious diversity and the ideas that came from the west. It resulted in equal focus on intra-religious and inter-religious domination.
  • Indian Secularism equally opposed oppression of dalits and women within Hinduism.
  • It also opposes the discrimination against women within Indian Islam or Christianity and the possible threats that a majority community might pose to the rights of the minority religious communities.
  • Indian Secularism deals not only with religious freedom of individuals but also with religious freedom of minority communities i.e. individual has the right to profess religion of his /her choice. Likewise, religious minority also have a right to exist and to maintain their own culture and educational institutions.
  • Indian Secularism has made room for and is compatible with the idea of state- supported religious reform. For example- Indian constitution bans untouchability under Article 17.
  • In contrast, in India, the word secular does not imply separation of religion and state. It means equal treatment of all religions.Religion in India continues to assert its political authority in matters of personal law.
  • Indian government financially supports, regulates and administers the Wakf council (Islam), historic Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries, and certain Christian religious institutions; this direct Indian government involvement in various religions is markedly different from Western secularism.
  • In western society, laws are made in isolation from religious principles. However, in India, the law seeks to accommodate the multiple religious principles that followers of different religions adhere to.

3. “There is a crisis in higher education in India which runs deep. The quality of most higher education institutions in India is abysmal.” Critically examine.(GS 2) Link-1 | Link-2 Introduction :-

  • Government data suggests that only one out of every seven children born in India goes to college.
  • For instance, the QS world university rankings, an annual listing of the world’s top universities, had no Indian institutes in the top 200 of its recently released global list for 2013.
  • Also, India has one of the poorest Gross Enrolment Ratios (GER) for higher education in the world.

Indian higher education problems :-

  • Low rates of enrolment, unequal access, poor quality of infrastructure and lack of relevance.
  • Institutional capacity is still low:-
    • India has only 722 universities, as against the National Knowledge Commission recommendation of 1,500.
  • Disparities in access to education, especially in terms of economic class, gender, caste and ethnic and religious belonging.
  • Problems with private sector education:
    • The expansion of the private, self-financing education sector, with its aim of commercial intent, has been another reason for the propagation of disparities.
    • The high cost of private education has affected access by the poor to education.
  • The present method, of extending educational loans from banks with interest subsidy by the MHRD, does not help the poor.
  • Quality of the faculty is bad
  • Ensuring quality textbooks is another point.
  • There is the issue of ensuring the access of Indian education to global frontiers.
  • Lack of autonomy:
    • Multiple governing bodies that have conflicting mandates. Several states do not yet have a State Private University (SPU) Act.
    • Because universities and institutes are so tightly controlled, there is little autonomy in and flexibility in governance structures. Private universities, like government-owned universities, have little scope for innovation in designing their course curriculum.
  • Enabling an education that is relevant to the economy and society is another challenge.
    • The influence of academicians on policies and a flawed notion of excellence in terms of it being only about research have undermined the focus of having good teaching institutions.
  • Another issue relates to reform in the UGC.
  • No reforms:
    • There had been no review of higher education for the last 50 years, the last one having been the D.S. Kothari Commission in 1965.
    • There has virtually been no reform in the education sector. The journey of the Foreign Education Providers Bill proves that. It’s been awaiting legislation for years.
  • Financing:
    • This is a major bottleneck in the Indian higher education system. With pressures to cut fiscal deficits and tight government budgets, there is an extreme shortage of resources for expanded access.
    • To overcome this bottleneck, the government has allowed foreign universities to open campuses in India. However, regulatory constraints and a cumbersome bureaucracy remain serious impediments.
  • Teaching quality:
    • The quality of a higher education degree is only as good as its curriculum and the quality of the teachers. Universities are unable to compete with rising private sector salaries and find it difficult to recruit and retain top-quality teachers.
  • Research:
    • Good independent research, the hallmark of any global university, actively feeds into pedagogy through cutting-edge curricula, promotes business development in the corporate sector, and can be an anchor for government policymaking.
    • Except for a handful of stand-alone research institutes, India lacks the culture of independent academic research and can learn from the experience of the US higher education system.
  • Governance:
    • For higher education institutions to compete globally, India must develop a robust university governance structure. India could learn from the regulatory framework and accreditation system of the US higher education sector that make it flexible and innovative.

However some initiatives have been taken to make higher education :-

  • Institutions like IISc, IIT, ISRO, BARC, DRDO etc are making progress in their respective fields and have made technologies which are competing with western world.
  • Committees have been set up for reforming regulatory bodies and steps are being taken to remove corruption from examinations.
  • Private sector institutions like Manipal and BITS pilani are raising competition
  • New rating agency is also leading to tranparency and quality improvement
  • HEFA to tackel fund mobilization
  • Indian government has also launched SWAYAM.
  • Recently government has promoted some schemes like GIAN, HEFA and online assistance program under digital India program to strengthen the higher education.
  • To scrap the UGC and framing of a new National education Policy is also under consideration.

Suggestions :-

  • The aim should be to arrive at a proper estimate of universities and undergraduate institutions in order to plan a strategy for the next 20 years or so.
  • Given the low rate of enrolment, India needs more quality teaching institutions at the undergraduate level.
  • Public and private aided institutions must be strengthened and expanded and the expansion of self-financing private institutions restricted to a reasonable level.
  • The alternative would be to extend ‘poor-friendly’ financial assistance by setting up a government finance organisation, based on the models in Australia and Canada.
  • Infrastructure can be improved with an increase in financial allocation.
  • Academic reform which includes semester and credit systems, courses by choice, and examination reform is a process which should be advanced only after the pre-requisites are met.
  • It is necessary to enforce the University Grant Commission’s (UGC) teacher-student ratio for each State, and ensure that the financial requirement of additional faculty is shared by the Centre and States.
  • UGC should have a dual structure, a governing body and a general body. As more than 65 per cent of our universities and about 90 per cent of colleges are in the States, their involvement in policy making at the Centre is a must.
  • The three-language formula needs to be adhered to. Teaching in the regional languages would make understanding relatively easy while minimal language competence in English should facilitate student access to English books. An example that can be cited is in Japan where translations have enabled greater educational access for the student.
  • The alternative is to allow foreign educational institutions to enter into collaborations with Indian institutions on a large scale. In turn, this will help in enhancing capabilities as far as curricular and pedagogical practices, and student-faculty exchanges go
  • For quality institutions, autonomy as far as academic and administrative aspects are involved is a must. This would also involve the appointment of heads of institutional and executive bodies. It must be remembered that a UGC committee had once suggested the independence of institutions from the government as the bottom line for autonomy.
  • There is a need to emulate the model in the United Kingdom which has an institute for education statistics, as policy making with reliable data has a high propensity towards success.
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