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30 January 2017 Question Bank


30th JANUARY 2017 


(4 Questions)



Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.

Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.




1.      What is the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, which was recently in news? What impact would it have on India?



What is Global Gag Rule?

·        On his first day in office, U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated what is known as the Global Gag Rule, or the Mexico City Policy.

·        This rule, which was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 at the time of the International Population Conference in Mexico City, has been revoked by successive Democratic Presidents and reinstated by successive Republican Presidents, so Mr. Tump’s action was not unexpected.

·        Very briefly, the Global Gag Rule states that U.S. government funding cannot be given to international NGOs, either directly or through U.S. non-governmental partners of these NGOs, unless these foreign NGOs sign an undertaking to not provide abortion services or even information or advocacy on abortion to their clients even in countries in which abortion is legal and even with money that does not come from the United States Agency for International Development’s budget.

·        Whenever this ruling has been in place, it has severely handicapped a host of non-governmental agencies in poor countries that provide family planning information and services to women because these agencies also often help women to deal with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies in countries where it is legal to do.


Its implications:

·        The U.S. government has every right to decide how to allocate its foreign aid and if the present one is against the use of tax dollars to promote abortion, however tangentially, that is its prerogative.

·        But the international reproductive health community is naturally upset at an action that may be technically legal but is morally and ethically questionable in that is penalises women and organisations in ways that go well beyond abortion access — in principle, the ruling can cut off funds for crucial activities like HIV/AIDS prevention, contraceptive access, sexuality information, maternal and child health, and so on, simply because the agencies that work in these areas might give up working in them because of restrictions from their funding sources.


·        Such impacts will be particularly strongly felt in countries in Africa, where the unmet demand for health, reproductive and contraceptive information and services is high because governments do not have the resources to meet these demands.


Its impact on India:

·        According to the most recent survey data available (National Family Health Survey, 2005-2006), close to three fourths of Indian women get their contraceptive services from the government sector.

·        But this is because some 67% of contraceptive use in India is accounted for by female sterilisation, which is promoted primarily by the government’s family planning programme.

·        For other temporary methods of birth control, the non-governmental sector (by which we actually mean a mix of private and non-profit agencies) accounts for more than half the contraceptive use.

·        Much of the assistance that the U.S. government provides to India is through what are called public-private/NGO partnerships. It is not clear how these partnerships will play out under the new ruling.

·        Given that the Indian government is clearly not opposed to abortion and that the Gag Rule does not restrict aid to governments whatever their stance on abortion, the net impact might be in fact to strengthen the hand of a government that is already clamping down on NGOs in the country for its own reasons.

·        India could also experience other kinds of impacts of this rule because there are several aspects of sex and reproduction that the government refuses to touch for politically reactionary reasons and the NGO sector is all we have to address these. Sex education for adolescents falls in this category. An important part of such sexuality education includes explaining all the available options for birth control and if abortion is deliberately left out of this list, a disservice will have been done.

·        The fear unfortunately is that many NGOs will either bow to the rule by leaving abortion completely out of their ambit or will retreat from family planning related work altogether.


Positive aspects of the Gag Rule for India:

·        There are few positive features of the Gag Rule that might be good for India and its people if they are imposed on governments, NGOs and, through them, on communities and families.

·        The Executive Order forbids aid to any entities that support coercive abortions or involuntary sterilisations — both actions that pop their heads repeatedly in India.

·        Maybe USAID pressure will give a fresh lease of life and publicity to efforts to combat shameful practices ranging from tribal women being forced by government hospitals to undergo post-partum sterilisation (and sometimes dying from the hurriedly and unhygienically performed procedure) to pregnant women being forced by their families to abort female fetuses.

·        If that happens, the Global Gag Rule might have a small bright side to it.

·        Also worth keeping in mind is that the Gag Rule only applies to the promotion of abortion as a means of family planning, not abortion after a sexual attack or abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman.

·        Moreover the ruling does not apply to post-abortion care for women who have post-abortion complications, legal or not.



2. Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Movement, a hundred years ago, not only brought lasting reform but also managed to do so without alienating the opposition. Taking a cue from this, how can constructive politics be adopted in India today?

(Repeat Question from 12 Jan 2017 Question Bank)



·         Constructive politics — one that doesn’t treat the opposition as the enemy, and one that tries to bring about change without damaging social harmony is the need of the hour in India.

·         To seek an example, it may be instructive to revisit Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran movement of a hundred years ago. It was a political campaign operating in an environment much more hostile than today’s, yet it not only brought lasting reform but also managed to do so without alienating the opposition.

Champaran issue:

·         In Champaran, relations between the government, British planters and the peasants had been problematic for many decades, primarily due to the oppressive system of forced indigo production and unfair rents.

·         In the decade before Gandhi’s arrival, the peasants had tried everything from violent uprisings to government petitions, but had failed to change the fundamental situation.

Constructive Politics of the Champaran Movement:

·         During Champaran Movement, Gandhi did not organise protest marches, no-rent campaigns, strikes, satyagraha or civil disobedience.

·         Rather than inciting an open rebellion against the government, he used the subtle art of political persuasion to bring about lasting change that was acceptable to all sides.

1.      Studying the problem:

·         In April 1917, Gandhi arrived at the scene not to lead an agitation but with the stated purpose of merely studying the problem.

·         Ostensibly, he and his team were only studying the problems — documenting hundreds of testimonies from peasants about their condition. Gandhi kept compiling these and submitting them to the government as reports.

·         He even insisted that the peasants continue with their obligations as before.

·         However, his activities ensured that the anger in the community begin to stir up. Parallel to his activities, many of the local leaders began to agitate the public in his name.

2.      Staying on the right side of the law:

·         Suspicious local officials were eager to get rid of him, but had little legal basis to arrest him.

·         Apart from a brief initial incident, the government pretty much let Gandhi operate with impunity. The strategy was to give him enough rope to hang himself.

·         However, Gandhi refused to fall for the trap. Not only did he remain on right side of the law throughout his stay, he also took pains to maintain respectful relations with the local officials and the planters.

3.      Channeling public discontent rightly:

·         Gandhi shaped the latent public frustration into a viable political tool.

·         Essentially, Gandhi managed to bring the public mood to a simmer and then put his hand firmly on the lid.

·         An outright rebellion would have only brought on government repression and, at any rate, damaged planter-peasant relationship in the long run.

·         The threat of a movement was more potent than an actual movement.

4.      Reaching out to the other side:

·         He kept the government informed of his movements and remained mindful of its advice.

·         His first visit to the plantations was often to the planters, who were invited to accompany him during his interaction with the peasants.

·         At one point he even wrote to the District Magistrate suggesting that the policemen who had been following him might as well come forward and assist him in his tasks. His reasonableness was earnest enough to earn him the grudging respect of local officials, some of whom ended up convinced of his “good intentions”.

5.      Sustaining the pressure:

·         It was the planters, irritated by the one-sided publicity that Gandhi’s investigation was generating, who started calling for a governmental inquiry into the peasant condition.

·         The provincial government, reluctant at first, had to eventually give in. A commission was announced which included Gandhi as the representative of the peasants.

6.      Winning over the other side:

·         The appointment of the commission was only a half-victory. Gandhi knew that without the acquiescence of the planters, its recommendations would have little weight.

·         He emphasised that the commission should limit its scope lest it end up being too anti-planter.

·         He also used the commission deliberations as a platform for negotiations, at times inviting planters to the table to make specific deals on thornier issues.

·         Crucially, some aspects of the commission recommendations were already agreed upon by the planters even before the commission had finished its report.

7.      Victory without vindictiveness

·         The commission recommended abolishment of the forced indigo cultivation, a major victory for the peasants.

·         It was a momentous achievement, one that rightly catapulted Gandhi to the helm of national politics.

·         However, it is crucial to remember that Gandhi realised it without a single protest march, a single anti-planter speech or even a newspaper editorial criticising the government.

·         In fact, Gandhi saw his work as his contribution to the imperial cause: “by resisting the age-long tyranny, I have shown the ultimate sovereignty of British justice”.



4.      How can railway security be enhanced in India? Discuss in light of the recommendations of the Anil Kakodkar Committee on railway safety.

(Repeat Question from 23 Nov 2016 Question Bank)


·         The derailment of the Patna-bound Indore-Rajendra Nagar Express leading to the death of over 146 passengers and injuries to more than 200 people - is surely one of the worst railway accidents in recent times.

·         Every accident need not necessarily become a disaster. In this case, while the proximate cause is the derailment (due to cause yet to be finally established), the crushing/telescoping of the derailed coaches, leading to the large number of casualties, is a peculiar feature of this accident despite the fact that the derailment occurred on a flat section with no curve, bridge or embankment.

What not who:

·         An interesting reaction from someone high up in the railway hierarchy immediately after the accident was that "those responsible will not be spared" - or something to that effect. It seemed it had already been concluded that it was a "who" and not a "what" that was responsible for the accident, apparently to soothe public sentiments. This is the natural outcome of a tradition where the majority of accidents (about 70 per cent) are attributed to staff failures. The motto seems to be punish or perish. Going by the number of staff who have been pulled up for accidents, by now Indian Railways should be one of the safest in the world. Since that is not so, the reasons lie elsewhere.

Free flow of information:

·         There is a need to enable free flow of, information from the lowest to the highest levels about any deviations from the accepted norms or practices so that corrective action can be initiated promptly.

·         In fact, some years ago, British Rail had put in a system of online reporting of deviations from norms having a bearing directly or indirectly on safety. The objective was to get feedback from individuals regarding "near misses" or error-promoting conditions which would normally not be reported through usual channels, and to use this information to enhance safety. The confidentiality of the person making the report was maintained. It is time for Indian Railways to consider adopting similar measures to get honest real-time feedback to take immediate corrective action. With the vast improvements in communications and information technology, this should not be difficult. It needs emphasising that the aim should be to correct, not punish.

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