Mains Marathon

Answered: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – December 29

1.What is an Open Sky offer? Why do you think Nepal rejected India’s ‘open sky’ offer to allow unlimited flights between the two countries? (GS 2)

‘ओपन स्काइ’ प्रस्ताव क्या है? आपको क्यूँ लगता है की नेपाल ने भारत की ‘ओपन स्काइ’ प्रस्ताव को अस्वीकार दिया? 

Suggested Answer:

Open skies is an international policy concept that calls for the liberalization of the rules and regulations of the international aviation industry. Countries sign air services agreements (ASAs) through bilateral negotiations to decide the number of flights airlines can fly. When two countries sign an Open Sky agreement, it basically means that there would be no cap on the number of seats or the number of flights operating between them. Open Sky agreements between two countries are sign of great trust and understanding between two countries and this status is usually reserved for close allies. India has such agreements with countries like Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Guyana, Czech Republic, Finland and Spain etc. Under the National Civil Aviation Policy, India intends to enter into ‘open-sky’ agreements with SAARC countries and with those beyond the 5,000-km radius from Delhi.

India recently offered it to Nepal but, Nepal rejected the offer citing ill-preparedness and asked for two years time to put the requisite logistics in place. While, this definitely may be one of the reasons, but diplomacy pundits are reading more into this rejection.

  • The timing
    The rejection comes at a time when the relations between India and Nepal have hit troubled waters. The public perception about India post the Madhesi unrest in Nepal is highly unfavorable. India is being seen as being patronizing towards Nepalese interests. This might be an attempt on part of Nepalese establishment to send a message to the masses that Nepal will stand its ground.
  • Increasing proximity to China
    China and Nepal came real close during the recent blockade near Indian borders. Not only China supplied essentials, it also offered to invest in construction of alternative transport routes. The growing closeness of Nepal to China has raised certain eye-brows in India and the latest development only confirms the suspicion.
  • Wait and watch
    As Nepal and India are already having an open border, there is a limited demand for air travel. Add to that the Nepalese air industry is in nascent stages and opening it to fierce competition from Indian airlines may not be very wise decision.

India-Nepalese relationship has seen its fair share of ups and downs but it has stood the test of times only because of pragmatic decision making from both sides. India and Nepal are old friends and distance should never be allowed to come between friends. Any step to bring people closer will go a long way in improving this special relationship. India on its part, should take steps to dispel any concern that Nepal has and should also help the development of its aviation industry.

2.“There is an urgent need to set up a strong cyber-security and data protection framework in India.” Comment. (GS 3)

“भारत में एक मजबूत साइबर सुरक्षा और डेटा संरक्षण ढांचा स्थापित करने की तत्काल आवश्यकता है।” टिप्पणी करें।

Suggested Answer:

India of 21st Century is a country which is changing very rapidly. New technologies are disrupting the market at a never before seen pace and government is struggling to keep up. Cyber space serves as a very good example of such a field. As the penetration of internet and smartphone is increasing, there is a very vocal demand that government uses internet as a medium of service delivery. This bodes well for accountability and transparency of government. Taking a cue from the public sentiment, lately Government of India has been very active in this space. From “smart city mission” to transition to a cash-less economy, from transferring of subsidies directly to bank accounts to creating an online repository of all the patient records, we live in an era of ever increasing cyber-governance. And this migration to the cyber world is only going to increase.

The issue at hand is that government in its zeal to sell the idea of “Digital” governance has not paid due consideration to cyber security. And the repercussions of this gross negligence can be massive. Some of the causes of concern are:-

  • National Security and Cyber Espionage
    It is said that the time of conventional warfare is over and the cyber space will be the theatre of next generation wars. Countries are now hacking the systems of critical installations related to military and defence of other countries to gain critical insights. Not even space agencies have been able to protect their data.
  • Critical Infrastructure
    Teams of professional hackers have been increasingly hacking into the banking systems to steal data and billions of dollars. The recent examples of malware in debit cards in India and the Bangladesh’s case of unauthorized transfer of 8 million dollars from government’s account are case in point. As more and more systems go online, from railways to nuclear installations and oil and gas pipelines, the threat of misuse is only going to increase. The cases where the entire cities are brought to standstill by disrupting the power supply are not unheard of. For Example, a few years ago Estonia was brought to a complete standstill by the attack of Russian hackers on its critical infrastructure.
  • Individual Privacy
    In the digital space, data is everything. Data helps in identifying the user, it helps in detecting patterns and it also helps in future protection. The most intimate details of a person, from his bank accounts to his medical history, can all be expressed in terms of a string of ‘0’s and ‘1’s. And hence, it is of utmost importance that these details are secured and their misuse is made next to impossible, otherwise crimes like identity thefts will become common place.

Government has taken a cognizance of these challenges and has taken the following steps to strengthen the security of India’s cyber space-

  • Establishment of Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert-In)
  • Establishing agencies like NATGRID, National Technical Research Organisation and National Information Board.
  • Establishing National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC)
  • National Cyber security policy 2013 and IT Act 2000 (and its amendments)-
    The purpose of such policy/legislation is to ensure a secure and resilient cyberspace for citizens, businesses and the government.
  • Setting up infrastructure at local level and capacity building-
    Establishment of cyber cells and cyber forensic investigation labs across states and union territories for reporting and investigation of cyber crimes as well as training of personnel.

Way forward-

  • Formulation of a consolidated law/policy for dealing with cyber security is very necessary. There should be a widespread discussion involving the various stakeholders for formulating such a policy.
  • Establishment of a permanent central agency responsible for cyber security. All the other agencies should either be abolished or brought under the control of a central agency. The asymmetric character of digital warfare requires a multi-agency organisation that is not just technically equipped, but also bases its decision on sound strategy and regular policy inputs.
  • Training the government staff to deal with cyber threats and hiring permanent/contractual staff for the agency responsible for securing cyber space. It is also important to educate the citizens about the threats of the cyber world.
  • The government doesn’t have the wherewithal or the scope to protect all the critical sectors. It needs to work closely with the private sector manning these sectors to establish a foolproof defence system.
  • Efforts should also be made at the international level to form a global organization (with the cyber security agencies of various governments as its members) to make cyber space more secure.

A strong cyber security network has long been ignored, and recent attacks are an alarming bell for the govt. India must take cues from various international practices to safeguard digital information along with developing state-of-the art facilities to always be cyber combat ready.

3.Enumerate the challenges and prospects of Sagarmala Project in India. (GS 1)

भारत में सागरमाला प्रॉजेक्ट की समस्याओं और चुनौतियों की गणना करें।

Suggested Answer:

90% of country’s trade by volume and 77% of total trade by value is handled by ports in India. Hence it is imperative that our ports are well equipped to handle ever increasing trade volumes. A report by Ministry of Shipping sets the estimated requirement of cargo-handling at 313 billion tonnes by 2020, thrice of 2015 levels.

Sagarmala project aims at turning around this dismal state of Indian ports and ushering in the “blue revolution” by realizing the full potential of 7500 km long coastline of the country. The following are the main objectives of this path-breaking initiative-

  • Port Modernisation and New Port Development
  • Enhancing port connectivity to the hinterland
  • Port led industrialisation
  • Coastal Community Development

The Sagarmala Project intends to achieve the broad objectives of enhancing the capacity of major and non-major ports and modernizing them to make them efficient, thereby enabling them to become drivers of port-led economic development. The objectives are ambitious but achievable, provided the following challenges are dealt with effectively:-

  • Financial issues-
    A total of 12 lakh crore rupees is the estimated cost of the entire project. This is currently one of the most costly programs undertaken by the government. An effective model will have to be developed to ensure that the funds are timely available and utilized efficiently. PPP model may be used to ease the burden on the exchequer.
  • Regulatory issues-
    Ports in India are under Central as well as State government. Separate bodies take care of Tariff impositions. Further many ports work as trusts. In order to stream line the entire machinery, the Ministry of Shipping has released a draft of the Central Port Authorities Act 2016 that seeks to provide more autonomy to major ports, enabling them to function like corporate entities.
  • Massive Infrastructure deficit-
    One of the most crucial reason of sub-optimal performance of Indian ports is the fact that most of the ports are not well integrated with secondary mode of transport like Railways or Roads. Not only this, supporting infrastructure like ware houses is also inadequate. The gravity of the situation can be understood from the fact that one-third of the entire investment ie approx 4 lakh crore rupees will be spent on bridging this Infrastructural deficit.
  • Technological-
    Due care must be given to the technological challenges. One of the most crucial challenges would be the phenomena of Trans-shipping. Currently major ports in India have a draft of just 14 m, whereas a capsize vessel requires it to be above 16 m to load and unload goods, leading to substantial revenue loss to countries like Sri Lanka and Singapore. Also port mechanization and cargo handling capabilities must be developed in line with the current international standards.
  • Social and Environmental-
    Coastal communities will be facing a lot of challenges due to this project. There will be changes in the way of life of these communities. As most of these communities depend on fishing as their source of livelihood, due consideration will have to be paid to the impact on fishing resources. A sustainable growth model will have to be developed to address the concerns of all the stakeholders.

This project can unlock the potential of Indian ports and can lead to various opportunities, like :-

  • Increase in Trade
    21st Century is going to be the century of maximum trade happening in Indian Ocean. Our ports need to be upgraded to international standards if this opportunity is to be reaped. The proposed projects aim to improve the cargo handling capacity of the ports and reduce the turn over time, in order to improve the efficiency of the ports.
  • Development of Coastal Economic Zones-
    National Perspective Plan has envisaged the formation of 14 CEZs. These CEZs with the development of Industries, has the potential of changing the landscape of coastal areas by improving lives of people.
  • Improved Connectivity
    Along with development of Mega ports, government is equally focused on development small inland ports. By creating a network of small inland ports, an alternative to road and rail transport will be created, leading to their de-congestion.
  • Saving of Forex in terms of Trans-shipping costs
    A whopping 25 percent of the Indian cargo is transshipped in Colombo and Singapore. Currently, India loses a lot of foreign currency to Sri Lanka and Singapore due to lack of transshipment facilities. The new infrastructural facilities will also help enhance India’s earning from the transshipment business.
  • Cooperative Federalism
    As Sustainable Development of Coastal Communities is an important part of Sagarmala Project, all three tiers of Government, namely Center, State and local governments will have to synchronize their efforts and cooperate with each other. Such a scenario will lead to better, faster and more effective governance.

Sagarmala project is a long term project and its success will depend on the regular monitoring of its functioning. Feedback from all the stakeholders including central and state government, import and export bodies, coastal communities etc should be incorporated for further fine-tuning of the program. If implemented effectively, this project has the potential of becoming a game changer for Indian ports and can tap their unrealized potential.

4.What do you understand by the terms: ‘Perseverance’, ‘Equanimity’ and ‘Utilitarianism’? (GS 4)

आप इन शब्दों से क्या समझते हैं: ‘दृढ़ता’, ‘समभाव’ और ‘उपयोगीता'(यूटाइलिटेरियनिसम)?

Suggested Answer:

Perseverance is the continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. It means not stopping when going gets difficult but to keep going. It means not being effected by self doubt or by what others say, but to stay focused on the goal and keep trying. It means failing and trying again but failing better every time until one finally succeeds. Perseverance has been reason behind the biggest achievements of human history. From discovery of fire to invention of the first light bulb, perseverance has been the key.

Equanimity is maintaining a calm and composed evenness of mind under distressing and troubling situation.  It is considered as the hallmark of a great personality. Buddha preached equanimity. Bhagvad Gita talks about treating triumph and defeat just the same and to keep doing our Karma. One who can maintain poise and grace in face of troubles will be able to overcome them and emerge a winner. Mahatma Gandhi remains the biggest example of equanimity. In face of the British oppression he maintained a dignified response which won him admires even in the opposition ranks.

Utilitarianism is the theory which espouses “greatest happiness of greatest number of people”. This theory was proposed by Jeremy Bentham. The fundamental principle of utilitarianism is “utility”. Utility is anything that is beneficial. According to utilitarianism, while choosing a course of public action, the authority should choose option which brings benefits to the larger section of the society ie maximizes utility. The most simplest and widely witnessed example of utilitarianism is the principle of progressive taxation.

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