1.What are Rare Earth Elements? What are their uses? How is India positioned in the global distribution
of these resources? (GS Paper-1, Geography) (250 words)
Structure of the Answer
· Define rare earth elements with examples and discuss their various uses.
· Mention their availability in various part of the world.
· Finally discuss availability of these elements in India.
- Rare earth metals are a group of 17 elements that appear in low concentrations in the ground. Although they are more abundant than their name implies, they are difficult and costly to mine and process cleanly.
- China hosts most of the world’s processing capacity and supplied 80% of the rare earths imported by the United States from 2014 to 2017.
- In 2017, China accounted for 81% of the world’s rare earth production, data from the US Geological Survey showed.
- Rare earths are also mined in India, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Estonia, Malaysia and Brazil.
- Because of their unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, these elements are used for many commercial applications including new energy technologies, electronic devices, automobiles and national security application. These elements provide reduced weight, reduced emissions, and energy consumption, greater efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal stability to devices.
- Their unique ability to readily accept and discharge the electrons enables them to be used in electronic, optical and magnetic applications.They are used in illuminated screens of devices, in glass polishing, petroleum refining, pollution control, as catalysts, and in defence equipments such as precision weapons and night vision goggles.
- Unlike what their name suggests, they are not rare but occur together in small quantities, not in concentrated form, dispersed throughout the world which makes their extraction difficult and economically not viable. Many of the REEs are hazardous to extract due to their radioactive nature.
Globally China is the leader in extraction of Rare Earth Elements. It has 37% of the proven resource of the world.Other areas where they are found are Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Tanzania, Greenland, and the United States.
- India has 3% of world reserves. The primate mineral from which they are extracted is Monazite which is found in the form of sand on beaches of Kerala.
- India Rare Earths Limited is a public sector enterprise for commercial scale processing of monazite sand. India is commissioning a plant located in Odisha to produce up to 2,500 tonnes of rare earths a year.
- India’s emergence as a supplier, though a small one, has been a good news for countries like Japan, which up to nowhave had to rely mostly on China for rare earths production.
2.“ The Judiciary, Legislature and Executive are the three pillars on which the effective functioning of the Government rests. A balance as opposed to conflicts is very necessary to achieve the ultimate public welfare and smooth functioning of the constitutional machinery.” Critically analyze. (GS Paper-2, Constitution) (250 words)
Structure of the Answer
· Signify the conflict between Parliamentary Supremacy and Judicial Supremacy.
· Elaborate how Parliament still remains the dominant partner.
· Highlight the supremacy of the constitution through peoples will and respective roles of executive, legislature and judiciary in ensuring a healthy constitutional democracy in India.
- The issue of parliamentary versus judicial supremacy has been a subject of heated scholarly debate over the last few years. It has exercised the minds of legislators, jurists, politicians and non-professionals as well through-out the world.
- The supporters of absolute independence of judiciary argue that in the absence of an impartial, independent and sovereign judiciary, democracy cannot succeed.
- In contrast to this view, supporters of parliamentary supremacy pursue the concept that judicial supremacy which is expressed in the form of judicial review, is incompatible with a democratic government because the importance of majority rule lags behind by the few unelected judges who are not directly accountable to people.
However, it can be argued that even in this sui-generis model certain provisions make parliament the dominant partner.
- Parliament’s power of Legislation, including amendment of the constitution is beyond doubt.
- Parliament represents the will of the people and thus is considered supreme institution.
- The constitution vests the parliament with the power to determine the structure of Judiciary, appointment, tenure and remuneration of judicial functionaries as well as their removal in case of the judges of Supreme court and High Courts.
- Nevertheless, the evolution of constitutional polity in India has witnessed a considerable expansion in the ambit and scope of judiciary, mainly through being the chief arbiter of the constitution.
Provisions such as articles 13, 32 and 136, 226 and 227 provide a constitutional basis to judiciaries’ power to review parliamentary legislations.
- Judiciary is the chief custodian of the constitutionally mandated fundamental rights.
- Through verdicts such as Kesavananda (1976) and Minerva Mills (1981), the Judiciary has brought in the tool of ‘basic structure’, curtailing the Parliaments overarching powers in terms of the amendment of the constitution.
- Similarly, in the matter of appointments, through its verdict in Three Judges cases, the judiciary virtually set the rules for itself, thus, establishing de-facto supremacy in this arena.
- Britain and the USA are often cited as the prime examples of Parliamentary supremacy and Judicial Supremacy respectively.
- India, in contrast, is projected as a compromise between these two models. This is so because while, on the one hand Parliament in India was created by the constitution, unlike the British Parliament, of which the judiciary is the final arbiter. On the other hand, judiciary in India, unlike the USA, does not have unfettered power of judicial review.
- The verdict of the Supreme Court on the 99th Constitution Amendment Act and the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), declaring them to be ultra vires the Constitution is another glaring example when any parliamentary act is overturned as unconstitutional on the principle of judicial review.
- In India, Parliamentary Powers derive their mandate from the Constitution and parliament has no unfettered or arbitrary jurisdiction to override the constitution The question is not of Parliamentary Supremacy or Judicial Supremacy, rather the question is of striking the balance between the two so as to have a democratic set up where the public interests are not violated.
3.“Wetlands provide ecosystem services essential to people and the environment, valued at billions of dollars”. Elucidate. Enumerate the causes for wetland losses across India. What measures have been taken to protect them? (GS Paper-3, Environment) (250 words)
Structure of the Answer
· Give example of Wetland’s role in ecosystem services
· Enlist the causes for loss of wetland in India.
· Explain initiatives at international level and national legislations along with conservation initiatives.
India has a wealth of wetland ecosystems that support diverse and unique habitats. These wetlands provide numerous ecological goods and services but are under tremendous stress due to rapid urbanization, industrialization and agricultural intensification, manifested by the shrinkage in their areal extent, and decline in the hydrological, economic and ecological functions they perform.
Functions to Environment and Man –
- Disaster mitigation-The most significant social and economic benefit that wetlands provide is flood control.
- Peatlands and wet grasslands alongside river basins can act like sponges, absorbing rainfall and controlling its flow into streams and rivers.
- Coastal wetlands – such as reefs, mangroves and saltmarshes – act as frontline defences against potential devastation during disasters.
- Wetlands act as the Earth’s filters, cleaning up water in a number of ways. For example Wetlands remove pollutants such as phosphorous, heavy metals and toxins which are trapped in the sediments of the wetlands.
- Cultural value – Throughout history humans have gathered around wetlands and these areas have played an important part in human development and are of significant religious, historical or archaeological value to many cultures around the world.
- Vital habitat- It has been estimated that freshwater wetlands hold more than 40% of all the world’s species and 12% of all animal species. Individual wetlands can be extremely important in supporting high numbers of endemic species.
Causes for loss of Wetlands in India-
- Natural Causes- Sedimentation, floods, storms, sea level rise and biotic effects e.g. excessive sediment inflow into Chilka has become greatest concern for the lake. It has potential to destroy the peculiar ecosystem
- Human causes- Agricultural Activities and related discharge. Hydrological alteration by construction of dams, channelization for navigation and ground water abstraction. Pollution -waste disposal, mining for minerals, dumping and pesticides. Settlement and infrastructure development e.g. Pulicat Lake, India’s second largest lagoon bordering Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, is threatened by the Dugarajapatnam port project. Kolleru Lake, the largest freshwater lake in India is under serious anthropogenic pressure. Drains from surrounding area are threatening its existence.
Measures for protection-
- The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty. Wetlands international global non-profit organization for sustaining and restoring wetlands. World wetlands Day, Montreux Record etc.
- Efforts to conserve wetlands in India began in 1987 and the main focus of governmental efforts was on biological methods of conservation rather than adopting engineering options. A national wetland-mapping project has also been initiated for an integrated approach on conservation. In certain wetland sites it is heartening to see the Government, NGOs and local community coming together to save our wetlands and thus realize the objectives of Ramsar Convention.
- National Wetlands Conservation Program (NWCP). Government of India in closed collaboration with concerned State Government. Under the programme 115 wetlands have been identified till now by the Ministry, which requires urgent conservation and management initiatives.
- National lake conservation plan was carved out to focus on lakes particularly in urban areas
- Formulation of Management Action Plan by states to define objectives taking into consideration factors responsible for degradation of the wetland
- National Environment Policy (2006), which identifies 6 fold action to conserve wetlands.
- The role of the wetlands is critical in socio-economic and aesthetic well being of man. They are critical factor in environment resilience to sudden distress. We must preserve these ecosystems to secure future of the biosphere.
4.‘Objectivity’ and ‘neutrality’ are among the core civil service values. Discuss with examples. (GS Paper-4, Ethics) (150 words)
Structure of the Answer
· Explain the meaning of objectivity and neutrality.
· Bring out their importance in a democratic setup and how they help in building trust in government and improving its efficiency.
· Give instances where these values should be followed.
Reference: Lexicon’s Ethics
- Civil Service values are accepted principles and standards that are expected to be followed by the civil servants. They act as internal moral compass and guide the civil servants in making decisions in the public interest, especially in situations, where they face dilemma or conflict between public duty and personal interest.
- Two such core values of civil service, among several others, are ‘Objectivity’ and ‘Neutrality’.
- The Civil Service Code of UK defines Objectivity as ‘basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence.’ Lord Nolan Committee of Britain in 1995 placed objectivity among the seven core values of Civil Service.
- If the civil servant is objective, he will provide information and advice, including advice to Ministers, on the basis of evidence, and accurately present the options and facts; take decisions on the merits of the case; and take due account of expert and professional advice. He will not ignore inconvenient facts or relevant considerations when providing advice or making decisions; or frustrate the implementation of policies once decisions are taken, by declining to take, or abstaining from, action which flows from those decisions.
- An objective decision always has a greater probability of success and meeting public interest than a decision taken on subjective considerations like emotions, biases, personal interest etc. In a parliamentary democracy, like India where a layman politician is guided by an expert civil servant, this value becomes very important.
- It assures the minister that the civil servant is giving advice in public interest and has no hidden agenda.
- Public will be assured about the merit of government’s decision and even if a decision does not give the desired results, it will not cause disillusion among the people regarding the honesty and intention of government decisions.
- Neutrality is referred to the absence of any political affiliations and biases on the part of civil servants while discharging their duty. A civil servant has to uphold impartiality and is professionally concerned with the rational application of policies determined by the political executive.
- The principle of neutrality ensures that a civil servant can follow ethical conduct without fear or favor. In a democracy, government acts as a trustee of public money, is not autocratic, and ensures that citizens enjoy their rights. This can be ensured by an impartial civil administration. Like objectivity, it assures the political executive that civil servant is giving free, frank and fair advice based on merit and the advice is apolitical in nature.
- A neutral administrator will be in a better position to give advice in the greaterinterest of the society rather than to further the ideology of the party in power.
- Citizens are ensured that whatever political party is in power the governance will be as per the constitution and rule of law. It also ensures continuity with change i.e. governments may change but there is a great degree of continuity in administration and policies.
- Neutrality also becomes important because it is often confused with policy and value neutrality i.e. civil servants do not apply their own value judgments and policy evaluation, but blindly follow the order of political executive. Hence, the need is to follow positive neutrality. Such a value in the civil service will make it independent and impartial, but at the same time it will seek values that will benefit the society and it would not be passive to the unethical and immoral decisions of political executive.
- These core values support good governance and ensure the achievement of the highest possible standards in all that the Civil Service does. This in turn helps the Civil Service to gain and retain the respect of Ministers, Parliament, the public and its customers.
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