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Career volume-35

Civil Services (Mains) Examination-2016
Focus on  GS Paper II and III

S. B. Singh

The diverse nature of General Studies (GS) syllabus is best reflected in GS II and III papers.  Both these papers subsume a larger number of disciplines as compared to GS I and GS IV papers.  The areas covered   in GS II paper are: polity,   governance, institutions,  policies, programmes, schemes of government, social welfare schemes, , civil society and NGOs, and finally, international relations.  Similarly, in GS III, the thrust areas are: economic development,   science and technology,  disaster management, ecology and environment and, finally, internal security. Needless to say,   these two GS papers  pose real challenges of preparation. One is always   at a loss to understand as to what kind of questions will be asked and  from which available sources  to cover them. The questions asked by UPSC on these two papers are very current and contemporary and without a close and careful  perusal of daily events reported in newspapers, it would be impossible to fathom the syllabus. But it is not as simple as that. In order to understand the contemporary issues,   knowledge of  core concepts  related to these issues is a must. For this,   textual  as well as contextual  knowledge of the constitution, economics, etc  is  also called for. In other words, both GS II and III papers have backward as well as forward linkages.  Although  there exists a vast potential to score decent marks in these papers, candidates complain of getting low marks in both  papers. One major reason for low  marks in these papers  is lack of appreciation of the true demands of the syllabus. Since most of the  text books and reading materials, mostly coaching materials,  are still structured around the old pattern of examination, which was based on information  and direct questions  from the syllabus,  the reliability  of existing source materials has come down. To illustrate this point, let us take the example of polity which is part of GS II syllabus. Most of the popular books on polity contain  the descriptive aspects of our constitution whereas the questions on polity go far beyond the constitutional provisions and include themes which are most current and contemporary. Suppose a question is asked on the role of governor in recent constitutional crisis in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh, or for that matter, a question is asked on the role of the speaker in exercising his powers under anti- defection law as witnessed in these two states recently, the available polity books become irrelevant  in  rendering  meaningful insights. Therefore,   dependence on  limited polity text books for covering such themes results in poor knowledge of exam relevant issues and low marks. The solution, therefore, lies in broader readings beyond limited text books and coaching materials. For this, newspapers, standard journals and magazines will foot the bill.


A. Decoding the syllabus:  Polity forms the bulk of GS paper II syllabus. In polity ,  the main provisions relating to  the executive, legislative and judicial branches are covered.  It must be noted that the significant issues that have cropped up   about  these  branches  are bound to  come in the exam. The most systematic preparation of polity involves understanding the basic spirit of the constitution, its colonial background, its  evolution since independence through various amendments and judicial interpretations,  its values, ethics, goals and ideals. Then, one should understand the structural part of the constitution and the federal scheme. Priority should be given to the controversial areas like  Article 356, role of governor,   conflict  between executive and judiciary on judicial overreach, judicial appointments etc.

Expected  topics  for IAS-2016

1. Functioning of parliament:  Role of Rajya Sabha,  disruption of parliament,  misuse of money bill provisions in aadhar bill case

2. Governor: Controversies around the post, remedial steps with particular reference to  Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, misuse of art. 356

3. Role of speaker in anti- defection law: issues and remedies

4. Judicial reforms:  delay in judicial appointments, executive vs. judiciary on MOP,   pending cases,   National Courts of Appeal, Cassation benches of supreme court, All India Judicial Services,

5. Federalism: cooperative and competitive federalism

6.  Elections: Simultaneous elections,   strengthening of election commission, electoral reforms

7. Budget: advancing of budget session, merger of railway budget with general budget

8.Citizenship: Citizenship amendment bill 2016  relating to minorities  from  Pakistan , Bangladesh and Afghanistan

9. Office of profit issue

10. Constitutional status of Delhi

11. Civil Services: Lateral entry and its viability

12. Uniform Civil Code

13. NHRC: strengthening the human rights watchdog

14. Dynastic politics in India

15. Sedition, defamation laws

16. Role of NGT, its recent activism

17. Inter –State River Water Disputes  and role of Supreme Court

18. RTI and political  parties , RTI and judiciary

19. Educational qualifications for PRI elections

20. Working of schedules V and VI of the constitution

21. Gender equality and Uniform Civil Code,  Womens’ rights and religious freedoms

Governance and institution related issues

1. CBFC film certification

2.Lodha Committee Report

3. Mental Health Bill and the issue of suicide

4. National Medical Commission Bill 2016

5. Juvenile Justice Amendment Act 2016

6. 10 years of MNREGA

7. Role of NGOs, self help groups in development process

Suggested Readings:

1.P.M.Bakshi: Constitution of India

2. B.K. Sharma: The Constitution of India

3. Granville Austin: The Constitution of India

4. M.P. Singh: Indian Federalism

5. M. P. Singh    and Saxena: Indian Politics

6. Devesh Kapur and Pratap Bhanu Mehta: Public Institutions in India

7. Subhash Kashyap: Our Political System. Our Parliament. Our Constitution

International Relations

 In one word, the syllabus of international relations can be described as ’ India related developments’  in the context of our neighbourhood, extended neighbourhood,  big powers like USA, Russia, China , and India’s economic and security engagements with the outside world.  One must know the broad contours of our foreign policy which facilitates understanding of the contemporary developments on India’s foreign policy front. Most of this part can be easily covered by day to day perusal of  India specific developments in terms of treaties, economic agreements, multilateral forums. However, dependence on a single  newspaper  is not advisable. At least 2- 3 national newspapers must be carefully read on daily basis for this part of the syllabus.

1. India- Russia Relations


3. India’s membership of SCO: Implications

4. Brics summit

5. India’s act east policy and Myanmar

6.India’s Think West Policy

7. Relevance of NAM

8. India’s membership in MTCR, NSG

9. Indus Water Treaty issue

10.India and APEC

11. India- Japan  and India- US  relations

Suggested Readings:

1. Rajiv Sikri:  Challenge and Strategy

2. Muchkund Dubey: India’s Foreign Policy

3. C. Raja Mohan’s website for daily comments on foreign policy matters

GS PAPER III: An Overview

Like GS Paper II, This paper is also current affairs oriented. Any intelligent student can have  a grasp over this paper without seeking  specialised  studies.  Most of the questions are of very general nature taken from current developments in economics, science and technology, disaster management , environment and ecology ,and internal security.  As for economics, more  attention should be paid to issues of India’s economic development, policy measures taken by govt. in different sectors of Indian economy and evaluation of these measures. For general guidance, Economic Survey should be thoroughly read apart from a good economic newspaper like Business  Standard or Economic Times.

Suggested Readings:

1. Uma Kapila: Indian Economy since Independence

2. Economic Survey: 2015-16

3. Yojana

4. Newspapers: Business Standard and Economic Times

Expected topics  in Economics  for IAS-2016

1. 25 years of liberalization: effects , deficiencies and the way forward

2.NPAs and PSBs

3. Inflation targeting: role of MPC, pros and cons of inflation measurement on CPI basis

4. Autonomy of RBI

5. Need for  an independent fiscal council

6.Monetary policy transmission issues

7. Impact of TPP/ RCEP on India, multilateralism vs. Regionalism

8. WTO:  Nairobi   outcomes and its consequences for India

9. PPP issues:  Kelkar Committee recommendations

10. JAM trinity issues

11. Ease of doing business reforms: insolvency and bankruptcy laws,  start up India, stand up India, IPR policy,  labour  reforms, mudra  yojana,  GST

12. Capital Goods Policy and its challenges

13. Plantation industry

14. GST and its challenges

15. Civil Aviation policy

16. Subsidies

17. Agriculture: backward and forward linkages,   irrigation.  E-NAM, PMFBY

18. Food processing industry, horticulture

19. Fishery development policy

20. oastal economic zones

21. Real Estate Bill

22. Black money and  money laundering

23. Financial inclusion

24. CAMPA bill

25. Cropping patterns

25. e- technology   for farmers

26. National Food Security Act and PDS

Environmental issues: Paris climate deal, Kigali outcome, forest fires.

Disaster management: urban flooding, heat waves, earthquakes.

 Internal security:

1. Border management

2. NCTC revival

3. Costal security

4. Cyber security

5. Mandate of security agencies in India

Expected topics on sc./tech

1. Artificial intelligence

2. Virtual,   augmented and mixed reality


4. UAVs  and drones

5. Super bugs

6. igo experiment

7. Cloud computing , Big Data and internet of things

8. Achievements of ISRO

9. Doping drugs

10. 3D and 4D printings

11. Internet  governance: net neutrality  (free basics and

For disaster management, ecology and environment  and internal security related topics, the best strategy would be to look up relevant websites e.g. NDMA site for disaster management, ENVIS. IN site for environmental issues, Ministry Of Home Affairs site for internal security issues etc. Of course, the newspapers will serve as important source materials for these aspects of the syllabus under GS III Paper.

Answer Writing Skills: No matter what you have read and how much you know, without honing the writing skills, your preparations are incomplete. Therefore, adequate attention   should be given to writing skills. Since all GS questions have to be answered within 150 words,  crisp writing style needs to be inculcated.   A large number of questions have to be answered within 3 hours, therefore,  writing speed is essential to finish all the answers or else, as it happens with many, you may not find time to complete all the questions.  Some  vital  clues regarding answer writing skills are given here.

1. Don’t begin with a detailed background to the issue in the question. Just  write  one or two sentences on this and then take up the issue directly.

2. Do not furnish information not sought in the question. Just provide the information which has been  asked within the scope of the question..

3. Use your own  writing style rather than  a text book type or  newspaper like language in your answer. Your own   writing style will look more natural than the borrowed text book type language.

4. Avoid presentation through diagrams, charts and graphs as much as possible. A general, essay type of writing format will be appreciated more. However, if it is  really required , do use diagrams etc.

5. Do not underline your answers. It makes your answer appear clumsy to the examiner.

6. Never answer the entire question in point wise format. It must be written in mixed style, using essay type writing as well as point wise presentation

7. Do not pack your answer with facts and figures. Just take up two or three core issues involved in the question and elaborate on those issues.

8. Make a target of writing each question in 150- 170 words.

9. Use  appropriate terms and terminologies in your answer.


( S. B. Singh is a noted academician and IAS mentor. He can be reached at his email: sb_singh2003@yahoo. com)