iClub Synopsis : 25 April 2019

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Q.1 Explain the reasons for the break-up of Soviet Union?(250 words)

Relevance : General studies Paper – I World History

Structure of the Answer

• Brief introduction

• Mention Gorbachev’s policies and their impact

• Other reasons that led to disintegration of USSR

Reference- NCERT


The collapse of Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991 generally refers to the disintegration of communist bloc of nations which were held together voluntarily/forcefully and the associated independent satellite states in Eastern Europe.

While it is, for all practical purposes, impossible to pinpoint a single cause for an event as complex and far-reaching as the dissolution of a global superpower, a number of internal and external factors were certainly at play in the collapse of the U.S.S.R.


• Mikhail Gorbachev was named general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in1985. Gorbachev adopted the liberalization policy, in the form of Perestroika (Socio-economic reforms) and Glasnost (Openness). It prompted the movements towards liberalization and democratization in the socialist bloc. Political changes such as introduction of democracy within the soviets were also made.

• Gorbachev policies could not satisfy both the liberals (led by Yelstin) and the conservatives within the communist party. Economic reforms also did not yield results and public opinion turned against communism.

• Soviet central power also got weakened as a result and its ability to use power and authority got limited.

• Ethnic conflicts started developing in several republics, and they started demanding independence from the Union. For example, the Baltic States were the first to secure their independences from the USSR.


• By some measures, the Soviet economy was the world’s second largest in 1990, but shortages of consumer goods were routine and hoarding was commonplace. It was estimated that the Soviet black market economy was the equivalent of more than 10 percent of the country’s official GDP.

• Wage hikes were supported by printing money, fueling an inflationary spiral. Mismanagement of fiscal policy made the country vulnerable to external factors, and a sharp drop in the price of oil sent the Soviet economy into a tailspin.

• Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the Soviet Union ranked as one of the world’s top producers of energy resources such as oil and natural gas, and exports of those commodities played a vital role in shoring up the world’s largest command economy. When oil plunged from $120 a barrel in 1980 to $24 a barrel in March 1986, this vital lifeline to external capital dried up. The price of oil temporarily spiked in the wake of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, but by that point the collapse of the Soviet Union was well under way.


• It is a widely held belief that Soviet defense spending accelerated dramatically in response to the presidency of Ronald Reagan and proposals such as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

• In fact, the Soviet military budget had been trending upward since at least the early 1970s ranged between 10 and 20 percent of GDP.

• In addition, the military took priority when it came to research and development talent. Technological innovators and would-be entrepreneurs who could have helped support Gorbachev’s partial transition to a market economy were instead funneled into defense industries.


• In addition to budgetary matters, the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan (1979–89) was a key military factor in the breakup of the U.S.S.R. The Soviet army, lionized for its role in World War II and a vital tool in the repression of the Hungarian Revolution and Prague Spring, had waded into a quagmire in a region known as the Graveyard of Empires.

• As many as a million Soviet troops participated in the 10-year occupation, and approximately 15,000 were killed and thousands more were wounded. More than a million Afghans—mostly civilians—were killed, and at least 4 million were externally displaced by the fighting.

• Many soldiers from the Central Asian republics felt closer ethnic and religious ties to Afghans than they did to Russians, and protests were widespread. In the European republics, the cleavage with Moscow was even more dramatic. Anti-war demonstrations broke out in Ukraine, while opposition forces in the Baltic republics viewed the war in Afghanistan through the lens of the Russian occupation of their own countries. This fueled the secessionist movements that proceeded, largely unchecked, to declarations of independence by all three Baltic States in 1990.


• The Soviet public was disgusted with the widespread corruption endemic to the Soviet state. Gorbachev’s goal with glasnost and perestroika was nothing less than a transformation of the Soviet spirit, a new compact between the Soviet regime and its people.

• In the end, the tension between the newly empowered citizenry and a Soviet state with ruined credibility proved too much to overcome, and a last gasp coup attempt by Communist hardliners shattered the Soviet Union.


• Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States teetered on the edge of mutual nuclear destruction. On April 26, 1986, the Unit 4 reactor at the Chernobyl power station in in Ukraine exploded. The explosion and subsequent fires released more than 400 times the amount of radioactive fallout as the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

• Communist Party officials acted quickly to suppress information about the severity of the disaster, going as far as to order that May Day parades and celebrations in the affected area should proceed as planned despite the known risk of radiation exposure.

• Over time, Communist Party propaganda was increasingly at odds with the daily experiences of those in the contamination zone who were dealing with the physical effects of radiation poisoning. Whatever trust remained in the Soviet system had been shattered.

Q.2 What is First past the post voting system (FPTP)? What are the differences in FPTP and Proportional Representation System? (150 words)

Relevance : General studies Paper – II Polity

Structure of the Answer

• Explain FPTP system.

• Discuss differences in FPTP and Proportional Representation system.

Reference- -Laxmikanth


FPTP is a simplest form of voting system, under which, voting takes place in constituencies to elect a single MP each. Voters cast their vote to one of the candidates in the list and the candidate with the maximum votes in the constituency wins. All other votes count for nothing. First Past the Post is also known as Simple Majority Voting or Plurality Voting system. First Past the Post electoral system is used in India and in UK.

Differences with Proportional Representation System:

1. In FPTP system the winning candidate doesn’t need to get the majority of votes; whereas in the PR system, a candidate has to get a quota of votes for winning.

2. In FPTP system, there are single member constituencies but in PR system the constituencies are multi member i.e. many candidates can be elected from a single constituency.

3. In FPTP system, number of seats won by party is not related to the vote share it received. Eg. In 2014 general election BSP received more than 4% votes but no seat in Lok Sabha. But, AIADMK and TMC won less than 4% votes and won more than 30 seats each. In contrast in PR system each party gets seats in proportion to the percentage of votes they get.

4. In FPTP system, voters vote for the individual candidates; but in PR system voters vote for the party as a whole.

The two most widely used PR voting systems are List System and single transferable vote (STV) system. This system is used countries including Finland, Latvia, Sweden, Israel, Brazil, the Netherlands, Russia and South Africa.

Q.3 Enumerate the different methods of micro irrigation system and discuss the benefits of micro irrigation. (150 words)

Relevance : General studies Paper – III Economy

Structure of the Answer

• Introduction on micro irrigation.

• Types of micro irrigation system.

• Discuss benefits of micro irrigation.

Reference- Ramesh Singh


Micro-irrigation, also called localised irrigation, low volume irrigation, low-flow irrigation, or trickle irrigation is an irrigation method with lower pressure and flow than a traditional sprinkler system. These devices deliver water onto the soil surface very near the plant or below the soil surface directly into the plant root zone.

Types of micro-irrigation

• Drip irrigation: The perforated pipes are placed either above or slightly below ground and drip water on the roots and stems of plants, directing water more precisely to crops that need it.

• Sprinkler irrigation is a method of applying irrigation water which is distributed by pipes by pumping and irrigate entire soil surface through spray heads.

• Rainwater Harvesting is the accumulation and deposition of rainwater for reuse on-site, rather than allowing it to run off.

Benefits of micro-irrigation

• Water Savings: By reducing loss through evaporation, deep percolation and run off.

• Leads to energy savings as it requires a smaller power unit and consumes less energy. It needs only a small water supply source and not a continuous one like a canal or a wasteful one like pump.

• Water soluble fertilisers are supplied directly to the roots of the plant and hence there is less wastage.

• Studies have shown yields of crops also went up – up to 45 percent in wheat, 20 per cent in gram and 40 percent in soybean. The resulting improvement in net farm incomes is substantial.

• Reduced soil salinization due to less application of water.

Q.4 What is Ethical Relativism? Discuss the criticism of Ethical Relativism with examples. (250 words)

Relevance : General studies Paper – IV Ethics

Structure of the Answer

• Define Ethical Relativism.

• Discuss the criticism of Ethical Relativism.

• Give examples to explain your arguments.

Reference: Lexicon’s Ethics


Ethical Relativism is the view that moral (or normative) statements are not objectively true, but “true” relative to a particular individual or society that happens to hold the belief.

In saying that moral beliefs are relative, we mean that they are a function of, or dependent on, what those individuals or societies do, in fact, believe.

Criticisms Of Ethical Relativism

Ethical relativism should not be confused with the uncontroversial thought that what is right depends on the circumstances. It is, rather, a theory about the status of moral beliefs, according to which none of them is objectively true. A consequence of the theory is that there is no way to justify any moral principle as valid for all people and all societies.

• Critics have lodged a number of complaints against this doctrine. They point out that if ethical relativism is correct, it would mean that even the most outrageous practices, such as slavery and the physical abuse of women, are “right” if they are countenanced by the standards of the relevant society. Relativism therefore deprives us of any means of raising moral objections against horrendous social customs, provided that those customs are approved by the codes of the societies in which they exist.

• Moreover, we sometimes want to criticize our own society’s values, and ethical relativism deprives us of the means of doing that as well. If ethical relativism is correct, we could not make sense of reforming or improving our own society’s morals, for there would be no standard against which our society’s existing practices could be judged deficient. Abandoning slavery, for example, would not be moral progress; it would only be replacing one set of standards with another.

• Critics also point out that disagreement about ethics does not mean that there can be no objective truth. After all, people disagree even about scientific matters. Some people believe that disease is caused by evil spirits, while others believe it is caused by microbes, but we do not on that account conclude that disease has no “real” cause. The same might be true of ethics—disagreement might only mean that some people are more enlightened than others.

Lastly, to judge a society’s practices “from the outside,” we can always ask whether a particular cultural practice works to the advantage or disadvantage of the people within the culture. If, for example, female genital mutilation does more harm than good for the members of the societies that practice it, that fact may be an objective reason for judging the practice to be bad. Thus the appeal to what is helpful or harmful appears to be a standard that transcends local disagreements and variations.

While there is some variation from culture to culture, there are also some values that all societies have in common. Some values are, in fact, necessary for society to exist. Without rules requiring truthfulness, for example, there could be no communication, and without rules against murder and assault, people could not live together.

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