Mains Marathon

Answered: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – December 27

1.What do you understand by absentee voting? Do you think there is an emergent need to link Aadhaar with the electoral details of voters? (GS 2)

आप अनुपस्थित मतदान से क्या समझते हैं? क्या आपको लगता है की मतदाताओं के मतदान को आधार कार्ड से जोड़ने की जरूरत है?

Suggested Answer:

An absentee ballot is a vote cast by someone who is unable or unwilling to attend the official polling station to which the voter is normally allocated. In India, every voter is registered in a particular constituency and is assigned a particular voting booth in that constituency by the Election Commission, the information of which is provided to the voter prior to the elections. Absentee voting has its advantages, like-

  • In this day and age when a lot of people migrate from rural areas to urban areas and even across states in search of better avenues, it becomes very difficult to return back home and cast ones’ vote.
  • In addition to this, in remote locations sometimes the voting booths are not easily accessible to the old and disabled. Such a situation leads to deprivation of the most basic right in a democracy – the right to vote.

Presently, India does not have a system of absentee voting. Law Ministry received a lot of suggestions related to “absentee voting” when it sought response from civil society on “electoral reforms”. While absentee voting might seem like a good idea, it comes with a whole lot of logistical difficulties, like-

  • With Migrant population in India continuously rising and holding of legislative assembly elections of various states at different time, it poses a serious challenge to Election Commission.
  • In countries like USA where the provision of absentee voting is present, there is extensive use of postal and email services. The conditions are not ripe for such an intervention in India currently.

But the picture is not very gloomy and certain measures are available. Presently, the option of voting by “postal ballot” and “voting by proxy” is allowed to a restricted set of government employees that includes govt. employees on election duty and defence personnel. Also the option of “e-ballot” is now available to Indian expatriates, specifically NRIs living abroad.

Need to link Aadhaar with the electoral details of voters-
Election Commission regularly conducts drives to ensure that the polling lists are updates and multiple entries are weeded out. But, it is difficult process because of reasons like-

  • Voters keep changing their addresses.
  • Also multiple vernacular data and varying pattern of spellings make it easier for people to hold more than one voter-id card.

In order to curb this menace, it is proposed that Electoral Photo ID Card (EPIC) be linked with Adhaar. As one person can only have one adhaar number, such a move will truly realise the democratic principle of “One Person One Vote”. This drive has already started and voters can seed their Aadhar Number via National Voter Service Portal (NVSP).

While this is a very noble idea, it is not bereft of its challenges. The biggest roadblock remains that Aadhar is not mandatory as per SC guidelines. Also the security of the Biometric details is not foolproof. Once these issues are effectively dealt with, along with universal coverage of Aadhar scheme, the process of linking EPIC and Aadhar will go a long way in ensuring a fairer election.

2.What is Big Data? Discuss some Big Data Privacy risks. (GS 3)

बिग डाटा क्या है? बिग डेटा के गोपनीयता के जोखिम पर चर्चा करें। 

Suggested Answer:

Big data is defined as extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions. Big data is generated by everything around us at all times. Every digital process and social media exchange produces it. Systems, sensors and mobile devices transmit it.
Big data is characterized by- Volume, Velocity, Variety, Variability and Complexity. Big data affects organizations across every industry. Big data can be combined with high-powered analytics to accomplish business-related tasks such as: determining root causes of failures, issues and defects in near-real time, recalculating entire risk portfolios, detecting fraudulent behavior etc.
However, along with the many positives of big data, there are certain concerns associated too. One of them is that big data poses a threat to privacy of consumers. Some privacy risks associated with big data are-

  • The volume and velocity of data assets are at risk of both breaches and unauthorized exposure. Eg.- Yahoo data breach 2014.
  • The “terms and conditions” agreed to by the consumers are lengthy and complex and so users tend to skip reading it completely. This leads to loss of privacy. Further, the users agree to the “different uses” but have no control on what kind of uses. For example, a user might want to share his/her location for finding restaurants nearby and not for urban planning but once he/she shares it, he/she has no control on its usage.
  • Many of these organisation share personal data among themselves without consent of the person involved.
  • As Internet-of-Things proliferates and more devices join the network, data insecurity magnifies. The principle of access, which calls for people to be able to review their personal data, will become unworkable as data is continuously collected.
  • Many big data like Aadhar contains biometric & iris scan provide very sensitive information & breach in the details of such data can harm national security too.
  • Loss of privacy could result in loss on anonymity

In a Cap Gemini survey, about 60 percent of companies surveyed indicated that the data they hold is a core component of their market value. It is a very powerful tool for predicting a lot of things including consumer behaviour, frauds etc. But with great power comes great responsibility and one of these responsibilities is the protection of consumer privacy and safety.

3.“An endorsement of ‘soft borders’ by New Delhi and Islamabad would address India’s core objection to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”. Discuss. (GS 2)

“नई दिल्ली और इस्लामाबाद द्वारा ‘सॉफ्ट सीमाएँ’ चीन-पाकिस्तान आर्थिक गलियारा (CPEC), भारत के मुख्य आपत्ति को दूर करेंगे”। चर्चा करें।

Suggested Answer:

CPEC is a collection of Infrastructure projects undertaken by China in Pakistan that will eventually link Pakistani seaports in Gwadar and Karachi to China’s north-western autonomous region of Xinjiang via a vast network of highways and railways. China is investing close to 44 Billion USD in this ambitious project which is part of its larger One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. India has been suspicious of the OBOR initiative itself and its criticism is sharper in case of CPEC.

The CPEC project design includes a major expansion of the Karakoram Highway, establishing industrial parks in special economic zones, constructing hydropower projects, railway line and road building. The project also entails building hydropower projects and motorways/highways in the PoK. Indian concerns over CPEC, which have been voiced at the highest levels, mainly include:-

  • The projects are being undertaken in the disputed territory of PoK. Any such activity in disputed territory must respect Indian sensibilities and concern.
  • Increasing closeness between China and Pakistan. That China wants to use Pakistan to counter India is well evident. But, this investment is by far the biggest long term commitment undertaken by China in Pakistan. The growing closeness between these two countries is understandably the cause of concern.
  • The Gwadar port that China is building, will give China an outlet in the Indian Ocean. There are reports of it being used as a Naval Base by China. Sighting of Chinese Submarines has also been reported. This has strategic implications for India.

There are proposals from both Chinese and Pakistani side for India to join CPEC. The proposal of soft borders is the latest one in this list. Soft Borders are nothing but open and regulated frontiers that allows easier movement of people and goods across them. EU is the best example of open borders. The border that India shares with Nepal also falls in this category. The proposal of Soft Borders between India and Pakistan is not new. If diplomatic channels are to be believed, India and Pakistan were very close to an agreement during the tenure of Dr Manmohan Singh. There are some obvious benefits of Open Borders-

  • Bridging of Trust Deficit between the two countries. Open borders will lead to greater exchange of people and goods there by bringing the two countries closer.
  • Increased connectivity will automatically lead to better economic cooperation between the two countries.
  • By soft borders, India will be able to reap the benefits of CPEC and gain more access to Central Asian countries, specially to oil and gas rich nations.
  • Improve the effectiveness of SAARC. This forum has been virtually bought to a standstill due to acrimonious relationship between India and Pak. Any betterment between these two neighbours will have a direct correlation with the functioning of SAARC.

But, the picture is never as rosy as it seems. Opening up the borders will have its own risks such as increased and easier access to peace disrupting elements. Drug Trafficking is increasingly becoming a cause of concern and open borders will only make it easier. We cannot open our borders that easily in face of a rising and more expansionist China. It is a proposal that need to be carefully studied. No hasty decisions should be taken up on it because Indian sovereignty and territorial integrity is above all.

4.“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception”, Discuss Machiavelli’s views. (GS 4)

कभी बल से जीतने का प्रयास मत करो, अगर धोखे से जीता जा सकता है”। मैकियावेली के विचारों पर चर्चा करें।

Suggested Answer:

Niccolo Machiavelli, the author of 16th century treatise on statecraft – The Prince, is called the father of Modern Political Science. In his classic, he is advising “The Prince” i.e the aspirators of throne on how to capture and how to retain it.

His most often quoted lines from the book are- The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. According to him was the most desirable quality required in a Prince was the ability to understand and act in a cold and calculated manner, without taking unnecessary risks and without risking unnecessary damage.

The above quote by him is also along the same lines. According to it, if it is possible to overcome a situation by using deception, without risking lives or resources, then that is the most preferable way to go. But, above advice comes with a warning. Machiavelli always believed that the enemy should be crushed once and for all. He was the proponent of disproportionate retaliation because he believed that if not crushed completely, the enemy will come back for revenge and vengeance, according to him, was a potent driver. Hence, he suggested deception over force, but in a very calculated manner, so that the enemy is completely vanquished.

Machiavelli thoughts are mirrored in the ideas of Indian philosopher Chanakya, who espouses the theory of “Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed” to defeat the enemy. No wonder that Chanakya is called Indian Machiavelli. But on the other hand, we also have the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, the crusader of Truth, who believed in winning the enemy over by love and compassion, without any deceit. While deception might win us small victories, truth will go a long way in bringing peace.

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