Civil Services (Mains) Exam-2016
Understanding GS Paper-1
S. B. Singh
Of the four papers in mains General Studies (GS), GS Paper I is the lengthiest one , accounting for almost one-third of the entire GS syllabus taken together. This is due to the fact that the vast history and geography syllabus has been clubbed together in this paper .Besides, a whole range of social issues is also a part of this syllabus. Thus, GS Paper I presents a combined syllabus of three very lengthy areas posing a real challenge to an aspiring candidate, especially as the exam draws to a close. However, the real challenge in this paper is not its huge syllabus, but a poor understanding of the syllabus. Once the syllabus of each part , viz; history, geography and social issues is decoded correctly, preparation gets smooth and easy. In this article, the true nature of GS Paper I shall be explained along with reference to books and other sources. A list of important topics for IAS-2016 examination is also given against each topic.
The history syllabus comprises Modern India, Post Independent India ( i.e. developments between 1947-2016) and World History. Bulk of questions are framed on modern Indian history and a couple of questions are asked each from post independent India and world history.
Modern India: As per the UPSC syllabus, modern Indian history covers the period from 18th century upto 1947. This indeed is a huge time period and it means practically everything to be covered after the decline of the Mughal Empire and beginning of European commercial activities. But in terms of questions, the 18th century history is not that important. Most of the questions are framed from the period starting the Revolt of 1857. Hence, the focus of study should be the period between 1857-1947. However, one must have a preliminary knowledge about pre-1857 period also especially about the rise of British power, its conflicts with Marathas, Sikhs etc and its policies towards frontiers, especially annexation of Sind. For this, NCERT book on modern India will suffice. For the period 1857-1947, the following areas constitute the syllabus.
1. Revolt of 1857, tribal and peasant revolts
2. Socio-Religious movements, lower caste movements, trade union movements
3. Formation of the Congress and the Moderate Era
4. Rise of militant nationalism
5. Era of revolutionary terrorism
6. Home Rule League movement
7.Gandhian Era: His techniques of struggle, his early agitations, his views on swaraj as expounded in his book ‘HIND SWARAJ’, Non Cooperation Movement, Congress Swaraj Party, Nehru Report and Jinnah’s 14 points, Civil Disobedience movement, formation of Congress ministries in provinces, movements in princely states, Quit India Movement, INA, main events between 1940-1947 leading to partition and independence
8. Rise of Muslim League, its confrontation with Congress, rise of communalism, the road to Pakistan
9. British economic policies: agriculture, industry, trade, drain of wealth phenomenon
10. British administrative structure: civil service, judiciary, decentralization, provincial autonomy
11. British educational and Press policies
12. Famous conspiracy cases: Kakori, Kanpur, Alipur, Lahore conspiracy cases
13. Rise of left wing within and outside Congress: ideology and contribution
14. Role of capitalists, foreigners, and women in national movement
15. Constitutional developments during British Rule: All acts from Regulating Act 1773 upto Indian Independence Act, 1947. More emphasis on Acts of 1909, 1919, 1935. Also, the recommendations of Simon Commission, Cripps Mission, Cabinet Delegation
Sources of study:
Text books: 1. Bipan Chandra’s NCERT as well as India’s struggle for independence. 2. R.C. Pradhan: Raj to Swaraj ( very important book which is not in knowledge of many candidates), 3.A. R. Desai: Social background of Indian nationalism, 4. B. L Grover: Modern India
Reference books: 1. Nehru: Discovery of India.2. Durga Dutt: India from Curzon to Nehru and after .3. Gazetteer of India Vol.II ( Publications Division , Govt of India)
Post Independent India
This part of the syllabus deals with the major developments relating to nation building, economic development, political issues, foreign policy issues, environmental issues and the problem of insurgency in independent India. I have developed a succinct, compact syllabus for this part under the following broad topics.
1. Approaches to nation and state building in modern India.
2. Socialism as an economic and foreign policy doctrine, its characteristics and limitations
3.Strategies for development in agriculture and industry: Green revolution, industrial policies etc.
4.Developments in science and technology
5.Education in Modern India
6. Foregn policy and external engagements with the outside world: Tibet policy, Panchsheel agreement, Asian Relations Conference, Bandung Conference, Indo- Nepal Treaty, 1950, Indo- Pak War,1965, Operation Gibraltor, Operation Grand Slam, Tashkent Agreement, Sir Creek and Siachen issues, Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace and Cooperation, 1971, Shimla Agreement 1972, Indus Water Treaty, 1960, Role of IPKF In Sri Lanka, India’s stand on Suez Crisis, Nehru’s Forward policy, NAM, India’s stand on Korean war
7. Major movements in post-independent India: Women’s movements, environmental movements, peasant movements, tribal movements
8. Insurgency in independent India: Naga, Bodo, Gurkha, Naxalite movements, Khalistan issue
9.Politics in independent India: Political parties, elections, voting behavior, regionalism, coalition politics
10. Emergency and its impact on constitution and democracy, Jaya Prakash Narayan’s Total Revolution
1. NCERT: Politics since independence
2. NCERT: Social change and development in India
3. Bipan Chandra: India since Independence
4. Paul R Brass: Politics in India since independence
The syllabus of world history is defined only in its broad contours. Fortunately, neither it covers a very wide period, nor there are more than 2-3 questions asked from this section. The topics falling under this section are:
1. Industrial Revolution and its ramifications
2. World Wars: I and II
3. Colonisation and the process of decolonization
4. Ideologies : Capitalism, Socialism, Communism
5. Revolutions : American, Russian, French revolutions
How to pursue world history syllabus: The vital point regarding preparation of world history syllabus is that it should be pursued in the spirit of developing general knowledge of important world events. In other words, one should just read its broad themes through couple of good books and develop a general understanding of world events from 18th century to 20th century. No specialized knowledge is required for this part of the syllabus. However, a few books may help.
For IAS-2016 exam, the following questions may be asked.
1. Account for the rise and fall of communism.
2. Why capitalism has triumphed in the post- cold war world
3. French revolution and its significance for the world. Napoleon’s contribution to a modern Europe.
4. Treaty of Versailles and Congress of Vienna
4. Redrawal of boundaries in the post-cold war period
5. Cuban missile crisis
Recommended books on world history:
1. Arjun Dev and Indira Arjun Dev : A History of the World
2. L. Mukherji: A History of Europe
3. L. Mukherji: A History of the world
Art and Culture
Art and culture is an integral part of history because it evolves in historical and cultural contexts of different times, different political ideologies and religious beliefs. In other words, all art and every culture must necessarily be understood in its specific context. In fact, art is a part of culture only. In anthropological sense, culture implies a way of life, whereas, in aesthetics, it implies art. India’s cultural context has always been its pluralism which is manifested in its religion, philosophy, language etc. Thus, our rich heritage in art and culture needs to be connected to its context in order to be fully appreciated.
As far as the scope of this section is concerned, both conventional and non conventional aspects should be given attention.. Under conventional topics , one should cover the following: architecture, sculpture, painting, pottery, literature, dance, music, theatre. It is the non conventional areas of art and culture which require a deeper understanding. Of late, UPSC has been asking questions of non conventional nature. Conventional topics of art and culture can always be covered through text books, but the non conventional part requires a deep analysis of certain subtle aspects. For example, questions such as why three major battles were fought at Panipat, how Sangam literature helps understand the Tamil culture or why ancient Indian culture has continued till today while other major cultures got vanished (asked by UPSC in previous years) call for original ideas and not mere facts and figures.
Therefore, I strongly suggest the aspirants to develop a wide perspective on art and culture. One needs to carefully read the comments on the nature and spirit of art and culture in standard history books e.g. A . L Basham, Romila Thapar,Gazetteer of India
Expected topics on Art and Culture for IAS 2016 exam:
1.Religious and secular spirit of Indian art as reflected in architecture, sculpture, painting etc
2. The achievements of Indus people in art and culture
3. Essence of Gandhara and Mathura schools, Ajanta paintings
4. Features of rock cut architecture with reference to Pallava architecture
5. Buddhist art and architecture
6. Comparison between Nagara and Dravida temple architecture
7. Ashoka’s policy of Dhamma; its comparison with Akbar’s Din-i-Ilahi
8. Sufism and Bhakti movements as cultural expressions
9. Role of mythology in Indian art and culture
10. Himalayan passes like Hindukush and Khyber not only as gateways of invasions and conquest, but also highways of diffusion of Indian culture in greater parts of Asia.
11. Indian cinema’s contribution in capturing essence of Indian art and culture
12. Indo- Islamic architecture
13. Indology and its contribution to discovery of India’s great artistic tradition
14. Role of Sanskrit in art and culture
15. India’s cultural conquest of Central and S. E. Asia
16. India’s major cultural institutions and their role in preserving, conserving and promoting art and culture
Recommended readings on Art and Culture
1. A. L . Basham: The wonder that was India.
2.Gazetteer of India, Vol.II
3. S. A. A. Rizvi: The Wonder that was India, Vol.II
4. NCERT: The Indian Art
5. Basil Gray : The Arts of India
Next to history, geography comes second in terms of vastness of syllabus in GS Paper I. Its syllabus combines both static and dynamic aspects. For mains, however, it is the dynamic /current aspects of geography that counts most. In fact, geography has been made to appear so general in the last few years’ examinations that one can heavily rely upon current affairs based topics to get questions in the exam.
Expected geography topics for IAS-2016
1. Earthquakes 2. Drought 3. Pollution: its types, causes , effects ,and steps. 4. Forest fires . 5. Water issues: groundwater management, aquifer mapping, river water disputes.6.Agriculture: Irrigation, national agriculture market, agriculture stress, GM crops. 7. National inland waterways development 8. Port led growth and creation of coastal economic zones. 9.Pulse production. 10. River interlinking and its implications.11. Solar energy and ISA. 12. Organic farming 13. Features of Paris climate deal and Kigali conference on HFC gases.13. El nino and La nina and their linkage with monsoons. 14. Blue economy: meaning and scope.
1. NCERT Geography books of 11th and 12th standard
In this section, a diverse range of questions can be framed given the fact that our diverse , unequal society has to contend with multiple issues arising from social, gender, economic discrimination, an apathetic and indifferent attitude towards weaker sections, consequences of religious and cultural nationalism on minority groups and many such issues. Besides, impact of globalization on our society and its constituents like the family, elderly people, women are specific issues outlined in the UPSC syllabus. Every year, there are questions on either women issues, child issues, or, senior citizen related issues.
The good news about social issues is that it is the contemporary issues on which the questions are framed. Therefore, there is absolutely no need to read up exclusive books on social issues. Just the NCERT books on Indian social issues are sufficient for background studies. Most of the topics can be covered through newspaper articles as well as write ups in magazines like EPW, Frontline, Mainstream etc.
In understanding social issues, one must note that these issues emerge from institutionalized practices like patriarchy, gender discrimination, feudalism, caste hierarchies etc. Further, inequalities of various kinds in society account for a number of social problems in India. All social issues need to be viewed from two perspectives. One, from the perspective of its root causes and two, the steps being taken to address the issue. To cite an example, the issue of prohibition or drugs needs to be seen in terms of the reasons for its existence and then in terms of remedial steps being taken by the government. Finally, you should be able to spell out your own remedies to the given social problem. Day to day observance of such issues based on newspapers/ TV news is a very convenient way of following this section. There is no single book which can meet the needs of this section. In view of this limitation, the best option is to rely on NCERT books only.
NCERT Books on social issue
1. Social Change and Development in India
2. Globalisation and social Change
List of relevant social issues for
1. Racism and Indian society ( the recent attacks on Africans, treatment of N.E. students in northern India, etc)
2. Child Labour
3. Reservation: pro- reservation mobilization of middle castes like Marathas, Patidars, Kappoos, Jats: their causes and consequences
4. Trends in women participation in labour force
5. Drug abuse: its social and economic consequences apart from health hazards, remedial measures
6. Prohibition: necessity vs. feasibility
7. Problems of single women in India
8. Nuclear families and increasing social safety vacuum
9. Rising suicide rates, especially among teenagers, causes and remedies
11. Rising levels of divorce in India
12. Gender inequality in personal laws
13. Globalisation and its impact on youth
(S. B. Singh is an academician and IAS mentor. He can be reached on his email: firstname.lastname@example.org Views expressed are personal)