Monday, December 21, 2015

UPSC Mains Exams - Ideal Essays

UPSC Mains Essays - an Ideal format

The UPSC Mains examination concluded recently. The first paper is Essay-based. Of the two Sections carrying four options each, you have to write one in each. (1000-1200 words each)

And don't forget to check a whole suite of amazing learning resources, here!

Here I present an ideal essay, from each of the two Sections.

ESSAY - Dreams which should not let India sleep.

The Kalam spark and Brand India

India’s ex- President the late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had once said that "Dream is not that which you see while sleeping; it is something that does not let you sleep.” It aptly summed up his dream of the kind of dreams Indian youth should live.
The Indian economy is looking up and India is being given its due recognition now in international circles. We have come a long way since Independence. We are now seen as an influential world power and Brand India is well on its way to become a success. However there is much that needs to be done in many sectors. There still are many paradoxes that need to be addressed both internally and externally.

A nation of paradoxes

India has been a nation where the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, the accomplished and the wanting, have co-existed. It is no longer a matter of romantic theorizing, many critical aspects of our national life need an urgent fixing. These striking paradoxes often rattle, and make the establishment sit up and take notice, but lasting change hardly comes by.

Dream No. 1
Women’s Safety -  We can now fire an Agni V to destroy our most capable enemies, but our women cannot travel safely in public transport. We are conceptualizing and executing the cheapest journeys to Mars, but our girls fail to successfully complete the journey from mothers’ wombs to the birth table. This is an issue of concern not just in the hinterland, but in major metros as well. Women are subjected to hardships on many fronts - sexual exploitation at the workplace, domestic violence, lack of proper medical facilities, lack of education etc. The Government enacts laws to ensure that women get a proper system of redressal and their rights are not curbed. Some of these laws are:
  • The Domestic Violence Act, 2005
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013
  • Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

However, the implementation leaves much to be desired. As a society, India has to truly liberate its women so that they can contribute to nation-building that can help us leapfrog. We have a long way to go.

Dream No. 2
A harmonious society sans Terror - The dream of eliminating terrorism in all its forms should energise us always. India in the past has been the victim of both left wing and right wing extremism. In fact, former PM Shri Manmohan Singh labeled Left Wing Extremism (LWE) as the biggest threat to our internal security. According to analysts, 183 districts in India across 7 states in India are affected by LWE.  The Government of India has made efforts to curb this menace militarily as well as economically. But LWE continues to be a source of much concern. Unless we create a harmonious solution, a significant part of our population will stay insurgent, harming our national goals.
Cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of India is severely distorting our national agenda. The current Government has taken tough measures on cross-border terrorism and it may have started paying dividends, but one attack on a high-visibility target can effectively derail the bilateral Indo-Pak talks. Pakistan must realize that a mighty India cannot be subdued, and its own incremental destruction is of no use to India or its own citizens. All Indians must come together to act as good citizens, keeping our agencies informed of any nefarious designs, and ensuring our youth does not get radicalized by any daydreaming terrorist organization like the ISIS or Al-Qaeda.
A terrorism free India is indeed a dream that should not let India sleep.

Dream No. 3
A happy Indian society – As privileged Indians, each one of us should not rest until the last disadvantage Indian has not been educated, properly fed, clothed and given a shelter.  Also, we can’t stop till India is cleaned up and stays that way. While the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) intended right from 1950 to ensure this, it is only in the recent past that we have enacted laws such as the Right to Education (RTE) and the Food Security Act that put bring an air of reality to the vision of Founding Fathers. The Government of India has many employment schemes for the rural and the disadvantaged people. These schemes contribute in making this dream a reality. In June 2015, the Indian Prime Minister launched three of the most ambitious schemes of all time- smart cities, AMRUT, housing for all by 2022.
Under this scheme, also called the Pradham MantrI Awas Yojana, the Central Government has targeted building two crore homes for the urban poor by 2022. The government will provide Rs 1-2.3 lakh assistance per house under different components of the scheme, including in-situ redevelopment of slums using land as resource, credit-linked subsidy scheme, affordable housing in partnership and beneficiary-led individual construction or improvement of homes. The Government has identified 305 cities and towns for the same. The Swacch Bharat Mission aims to achieve a clean India by the year 2019.
Such initiatives, if pursued diligently and implemented honestly, have the potential to change India to a sensitive nation that cares for its citizens.

Dream No. 4
Economic empowerment and high per capita income – We have had nearly 7 decades of political freedom, but remain a poor nation with barely USD 5000 of per person income. The real advantages of economic growth post liberalization have not yet reached all sections of the Indian society. In fact this is a dream which should not let the entire world sleep, for poverty and destitution are breeding grounds for terrorism. India needs very strong inclusive growth that advances equitable opportunities for all economic participants – urban and rural, men and women, educated and less-educated. The definition of inclusive growth implies direct links between the macroeconomic and microeconomic determinants of the economy and economic growth. The failure of the Government to implement land reforms after Independence is a major impediment to inclusive growth in India. This is also connected to the rise of LWE in India. Schemes of financial inclusion such as the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and the Mudra Bank initiative are important steps towards achieving financial inclusion for the masses. Direct Benifit Transfer(DBT) is one more initiative in this regard.
The major challenges that India faces in achieving this dream are widespread illiteracy, lack of proper agricultural facilities like irrigation and a rigid pyramidal societal structure. Though the government initiatives are steps in the right direction, they alone will not achieve this dream. Every citizen of India should believe in this dream and make his own contribution. We need to understand that a growth which is not inclusive can never be sustainable.

Finally …
Apart from these dreams, there are some nightmares that should not let India sleep. One of the most important and strategic nightmare is the power struggle going on in the world. Be it Afghanistan, the Central Asian Republics, the Middle East, the African Continent  or the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), it appears as if there are four to five major players in the world and the rest of the nations have been turned into mere pawns in the Great Game.  Insecurity seems to have become the fulcrum of the foreign policy of most of the countries in the world. We need to understand that we as citizens of the world need to live the dream of a united and peaceful world.  Let us give our dreams a chance to live and let’s try to keep the nightmares at bay. India has the potential to show the world the power of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, and for the great legacy of the world’s first urban civilization (the Indus Valley), it is time to reassert itself positively.


Now let's see another essay, from first Section.

ESSAY - Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.

First thoughts
This quote by C.S. Lewis perfectly captures the most ironic aspects of modern day education. Education, as per definitions, is a systematic process through which a child acquires knowledge about the world around him. It refines an individual and makes him fit to be a member of a society.

Many great thinkers have treated education as the premise on which a human develops. According to Aristotle, education is the creation of a sound mind in a sound body. According to Mahatma Gandhi, education is that which draws out the best in man- mind, spirit and body. Swami Vivekananda defined it as a manifestation of the divine perfection already existing in man. Throughout ancient India, education was always considered the route to salvation, as the right Guru only could give the right Gyan, which alone could break the eternal bonds of Sansar.

A value is an abstract concept that a person is willing to embrace at the expense of personal comfort.

Why have knowledge
Knowledge is when raw data and structured information are digested properly to create meaningful patterns. Every system of knowledge that has ever been made, every bit of knowledge that exists has a purpose. Every subject has a purpose.  ‘Accounts’ has a purpose: To ensure that all business transactions are recorded & summarised properly. ‘Economics’ has a purpose: To maximise human development given multiplicity of wants and scarcity of resources. The subject of ‘Audit’ has a purpose: To ensure that business transactions are recorded properly. The knowledge of ‘Medicine’ has an obvious purpose: to help keep mankind healthy. The subject of ‘Law’ has a purpose: to ensure that justice is done. That should be the best part of being a lawyer.

Morality and the problem of modern education
Family, society and education are the most predominant influence on the moral structure of a person. Education is not about merely passing on knowledge but also about making the individual ready to face all the challenges life is going to throw at him. The universal values of honesty, justice and compassion will help one do good to others in his/her life, and perhaps even be an agent of change. However, today, we find that families are failing, society is disinterested and a good education from the best schools and colleges may not guarantee of a better moral character. Few today attend university for the purpose of gaining wisdom or nurturing their souls. Instead, the primary emphasis is to obtain a formal degree and ensure material success. In fact, the whole emphasis of higher education today seems to be of an instrumental nature: a means to an end and not an end in itself.

Education shapes nascent minds. It gives us a vehicle through which the journey to obtaining great power and influence can be enjoyed. It is very rarely the most brilliant minds in this world that assume positions of great power, but instead those of a good aptitude and an ability to apply the skills which they have honed during their education. Through education people should ideally learn of the wants and needs of others and in doing so, gain a level of empathy and understanding that actually leads to objectivity. However this also gives them the ability to manipulate other’s emotions and use to them to their own benefit.  Concepts like emotional intelligence were designed to help a human overcome his emotions but in the hands of the wrongly educated it can become a weapon which is used to manipulate the emotions of other people and use it for their own benefits.

The well-educated and the misapplication of education
Well-educated individuals can elevate themselves above the common masses, the hoi-polloi. When we talk of the masses, we mean the general public with an average level of education and learning for that nation. These are the people who, rightly or wrongly, just simply get on with their lives in the best manner possible, occasionally complaining, but never really having the vision or, more importantly, the power to change things. The well-educated mind, therefore, sees their niche as being in a high position of leadership. Here we come on to the subject of values. The biggest irony of education is that if you master a subject and use it for the purpose for which it exists, you will earn money; but if you use it to undermine the purpose or achieve a contrarian purpose, you earn lots of money. Only a person with an inside-out knowledge of accounting could have caused the Enron scandal. It was a brilliant accounting fraud. Only a person with inside-out knowledge of stock markets and the Banking system could have caused the Indian securities scam of 1992, which in turn forced those in power (the regulators) to bring major structural changes.
We are also reminded of screaming media headlines – “IIT Boy bags Rs 1.5 crore package from US internet giant”. Without taking anything from the talent of that boy, if this is the universal touchstone for judging education’s success, we’ve truly had it!

The arrogance in educated minds
Education instead of instilling a sense of humility can make a person haughty and arrogant. In India this seems truer because access to good education and bright teachers is pretty hard to come by. Due to structural inadequacies, government schools keep limping and the fee structure in private schools is prohibitive. Getting educated in such an environment leads to a natural feeling of arrogance : having overcome the obstacle of getting educated rather than getting educated! Some of these arrogant educated then tend to look down upon others as inferiors. It can further degenerate into plain corruption – rent-seeking due to privileged positions of power. For example : civil servants without any moral compass, who consider being the chosen ones as a stamp of unbridled freedom for debauchery. Educated immoral people are much more likely to intentionally abuse any power which they may have, rather than those with little or no education. Such people may deliberately use this to manipulate others in their personal relationships.
Given the size of the human society, individuals without any values to cherish will always exist. These people armed with education and knowledge can inflict terror and pain on millions. We only need to see the high general IQ levels of the captured Nazi top brass to realize this fiendish reality. Other striking examples include those world leaders who interfered in other nations’ internal politics bringing strife and uncertainty for decades. The brightest of Japanese minds in the Meiji Restoration ultimately created a military state, and precipitated wars and conflict.

The bright side
However, education imparted with compassion and involvement can also impart lasting values and morals to the students. It can be a powerful tool to earn the power to rationalise and allow you to form your own evolving values, and not necessarily follow ossified societal norms that’re not relevant anymore. The bright minds like Nandan Nilekani who conceptualized the UIDAI can transform delivery of government services in a transparent manner, cutting out red tape and systemic corruption significantly.
Albert Einstein famously said that the intellect should always be a slave to the human personality. If we start treating intellect as the master and reduce the human persona to the status of a slave, the repercussions would be very chaotic. The nightmarish scenario of the machines taking over a scared humanity, as depicted in countless movies, seems not far from possible reality. Nothing is to be gained by locking the stables after the horses have bolted.

To sum up, the Road Ahead
The problem is not that people without values get educated, but that a morality-enhancing education is not universally accessible. We just don’t have the scale of goodness needed in such a large country, or the world. Consequently, in a knowledge-dominated society of today, not many people without the best of degrees can effectively challenge the educated devils! Evil wrapped in the fluorescent packaging of cold logic can prevail for a long time, till the time-tested power of Satyamev Jayate begins asserting.
Therefore it can be said that education without values would make man a more clever devil.

. . .

I hope you understood the manner in which thoughts have to be structured. Keep practising! All the best.

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kothari said...

Thank you very much for this helpful content

Sunil said...

I wish I had such writing skills

Unknown said...

Dear Sandeep sir, I have been a regular follower of your content. It is extremely lucid, helpful and power-packed! Keep posting … thanks again

Unknown said...

Thx a lot!

Elmer said...

Such a good essay. I'm a writer and in my first time writing an argumentative essay was really hard. Good thing there is an Essay Guard that help me obtain good terms of words to use. In your writing, there are great things to consider because it was an ideal thing in an essay that needs to be considered.

Unknown said...

Immortality has been just dream for all of us. But the content shared here proved that elixir of immortality does exist. Great work. Thanks for sharing.