Saturday, 30 June 2018

Preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Examination - Mains - G.S. Paper 2 by Satyakam Dutta - Part 3


As we have discussed earlier, General Studies (GS) papers (I to IV) constitute 1000 Marks in the UPSC Civil Service Mains Examination, each paper carrying 250 marks. The GS Paper 2 also carries 250 marks. The Syllabus of the General Studies II Paper of the Civil Services Mains Examination is given below for reference.
Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations:
·         Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
·         Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
·         Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.
·         Parliament and State Legislatures - structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
·         Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
·         Salient features of the Representation of People's Act.
·         Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
·         Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
·         Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
·         Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
·         Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
·         Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
·         Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
·         Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
·         Role of civil services in a democracy.
·         India and its neighborhood- relations.
·         Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests.
·         Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.
·         Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
Similarly like the Paper I, if we take a look at the syllabus above closely, we can see that the Paper II primarily consists of Polity, Representation of People's Act & Elections, Government Policies and Schemes, Current Affairs, Indian and the World and International Affairs. There are some other topics also above, which also needs to be studied. Let us now try to analyse each section and suggest specific reading material for each sub-section.
Polity:  For Polity there are two text books which aspirants generally follow – One by Laxmikanth and the other by D. D. Basu. Almost all aspirants refer to these two books only. However, they study only one among them as a text book. I used to read the book by Laxmikanth as my text book. Many of my colleagues studied the book by D. D. Basu. I also purchased both the books, read a few chapters and found that the one by Laxmikanth suited by level of understanding. I would also suggest the aspirants that they also should go through both the books and decide which one best suits him or her. One should not try too hard to read a book which others are reading. One should read a book which one can understand and comprehend better. Apart from one among these two books, aspirant should also read various articles and reference material from the www.prsindia.org website.
Representation of People's Act & Elections: There is no specific reading material for this topic. One can however download the Representation of People’s Act and take a print out and study the same. The election process in India is also important from the exam point of view. One can study about election reforms too from here: http://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/electoral-reforms-in-india
Government Policies and Schemes: This is a very important topic for the examination, not only from the Mains Exam point of view, but also is important for the Prelims. The best way to study this portion is directly from the Ministry websites. Various ministries have information and statistics about various schemes under them in their websites, which are generally kept up to date. So studying them from the Ministry websites is the best way to go ahead. Another important source is the All India Radio, with its news and News Analysis program. One can download them from the AIR website and put them in an mp3 player and listen during free time. I used to do the same. I had bought an mp3 player and used it for listening news and other programs from AIR. Also searching Google for schemes of government of India is a good strategy to know about the schemes of the Government.
Current Affairs – This is THE MOST important section for the entire Civil Services Mains Examination. For this, a coordinated and well strategized study of the newspapers and magazines is a must. The Hindu serves are the main newspaper one can rely on, complemented by The Assam Tribune, and one can choose between many magazines available for the UPSC examination like the Competition Wizard, Civil Services Chronicle etc. By coordinated and well strategized study I meant that one should know what to study in a newspaper and what not to. As I have said earlier, only after internalizing the syllabus and analyzing old question papers, one will know what to study and what to leave out while reading a newspaper. The basics are that the Editorial, Economy, International and Opinion pages are a must and for the Current Affairs portion in Paper 2 like the Issues relating to poverty and hunger, Important aspects of governance etc, the Opinion and Editorial pages are the best study material available, because they carry views and opinions about the current problems and issues in the country and abroad.
India and the World: The concept of India and the World can be divided into the five issues:
·         India and her neighbours (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka, Nepal and China)
·         India and the regions (South America, Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and so on.)
·         India and the big 5 UNSC members (USA, China, France, Russia and UK )
·         India and Economically powerful nations (Australia, Japan, S.Africa, Brazil, UAE etc)
·         India and Organizations (UN, ASEAN, G20, GCC, EU, IMF, World Bank etc.)
Based on these divisions, aspirants have to read the study materials available. Surendra Kumar’s India and the World: Through the Eyes of Indian Diplomats, is a good book in this regard. Shashi Tharoor’s Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century, is also used as a reference book by many aspirants.
International Affairs: If one reads the International page in The Hindu or The Assam Tribune regularly and has formed an idea about the world affairs at large, this section would be a cake walk. Reading newspapers is the only way to handle this section.
For Other topics – I used to read a lot of government documents like reports on the said topics and also googled all the topics mentioned and read some of the articles that came up. I would suggest that the current aspirants also should do the same. Google opens up to us a wide array of knowledge on various topics and we should selectively study them.

Current Affairs – This is THE MOST important section for the entire Civil Services Mains Examination. For this, a coordinated and well strategized study of the newspapers and magazines is a must. The Hindu serves are the main newspaper one can rely on, complemented by The Assam Tribune, and one can choose between many magazines available for the UPSC examination like the Competition Wizard, Civil Services Chronicle etc. By coordinated and well strategized study I meant that one should know what to study in a newspaper and what not to. As I have said earlier, only after internalizing the syllabus and analyzing old question papers, one will know what to study and what to leave out while reading a newspaper. The basics are that the Editorial, Economy, International and Opinion pages are a must and for the Current Affairs portion in Paper 2 like the Issues relating to poverty and hunger, Important aspects of governance etc, the Opinion and Editorial pages are the best study material available, because they carry views and opinions about the current problems and issues in the country and abroad.
India and the World: The concept of India and the World can be divided into the five issues:
·         India and her neighbours (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka, Nepal and China)
·         India and the regions (South America, Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and so on.)
·         India and the big 5 UNSC members (USA, China, France, Russia and UK )
·         India and Economically powerful nations (Australia, Japan, S.Africa, Brazil, UAE etc)
·         India and Organizations (UN, ASEAN, G20, GCC, EU, IMF, World Bank etc.)
Based on these divisions, aspirants have to read the study materials available. Surendra Kumar’s India and the World: Through the Eyes of Indian Diplomats, is a good book in this regard. Shashi Tharoor’s Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century, is also used as a reference book by many aspirants.
International Affairs: If one reads the International page in The Hindu or The Assam Tribune regularly and has formed an idea about the world affairs at large, this section would be a cake walk. Reading newspapers is the only way to handle this section. International relations is a very fluid and dynamic topic. Therefore if you are preparing it from GS perspective then you need not refer too many books as questions asked are always from events from last 1-2 years only. Hence newspaper reading is a BIG must. Writers like C. Rajamohan and Suhasini Haider write excellent articles. The official Ministry of External Affairs website also has a lot to offer. And then there is this great website which can be a one-stop solution for all your International Affairs needs: www.idsa.in. These days questions are also asked on economic and trade issues such as foreign trade, foreign investment; economic and diplomacy issues relating to oil, gas and energy flows; the role and functions of I.M.F., World Bank, W.T.O., WIPO etc. which influence India’s economic interaction with other countries and international institutions. These can be studied from regular readings of the newspapers and magazines. Frontline also lists many important articles on international affairs every week.
For Other topics – As a lot of information required to clear UPSC exams comes from reports and data from various government ministries, all candidates are strongly advised to be active users of the internet. Books might not be updated as often as websites, and hence they may not be a reliable source always. Also, books may not contain authentic information as in government websites about economic data, government schemes, international relations etc. I used to read a lot of government documents like reports on the said topics and also googled all the topics mentioned and read some of the articles that came up. I would suggest that the current aspirants also should do the same. Google opens up to us a wide array of knowledge on various topics and we should selectively study them.

Other articles in the series :

Preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Examination - Mains by Satyakam Dutta - Part 1



Preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Examination - Mains -  G.S. Paper 4 by Satyakam Dutta - Part 5


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