Preparing for General Studies Paper 2 (Mains Examination)

This post is written by Avi Prasad (CSE 2013, Rank 13) and Riju Bafna (CSE 2013, Rank 77). Your queries can be submitted in the comment column below.

Preparing for General Studies Paper 2 (Mains Examination)

Governance, Constitution and Polity

Topic Source
Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure. Basic book may be Laxmikant and the bare Act. Read newspaper articles on constitutional issues is a must. For instance, Keshvananda Bharti case (which recently completed 40 years) makes probable a question on evolution of basic structure doctrine over the years.
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. Laxmikant, along with relevant newspaper articles. Also useful to go through latest Finance Commission reports (summary should be sufficient)
Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions. Read about Lok Adalats, Alternate Dispute Redressal mechanism, Executive-Judiciary relationship, judicial activism. These can be done through articles in The Hindu and Indian Express.
Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries. Civil Services Times published a summary of constitutions of major countries in 2013. It may be available in the market as photocopy.
Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these. In addition to Laxmikant, one can follow the website of parliament of India which has an FAQ section on parliamentary procedure and associated terminology. If possible, one can go through Constitution of India by MP Jain which has a chapter on Parliamentary privileges.
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. We relied on the online coaching material provided by GK today for the pressure group, NGO part. For structure of GOI, Polity portion of India Year Book is best source.
Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act. Election commission website and notes by GK today. Sriram Coaching also has decent notes on this.
Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies. Just read all the relevant articles of the bare ACT of the Constitution.
Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies. Sriram and GKtoday
Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures Relevant 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission report and Shankar IAS academy book on subject
Role of civil services in a democracy. Any coaching material notes/ articles from newspapers

Additional Sources and General Tips for Governance, Constitution and Polity related questions

One may follow websites of organisations working in this sector such as Association for Democratic Reforms and PRS Legislative Research. They have useful blogs and write-ups on various aspects of governance. While Laxmikant can cover the static understanding of this section, the dynamic part needs to be studied through newspapers. UPSC focuses more on latter in the Mains exam. For example, while the basics of anti-defection law is covered at the prelims stage, its application part in the form of how it is affecting the role of individual MPs and healthy constructive debates needs to be understood at the Mains stage. Similarly, Supreme Court and its basic architecture (its powers, functions, how judges are appointed/ removed, etc.) is covered in the prelims stage and how historically Supreme Court has kept check on arbitrary powers of Parliament in amending the Constitution is a subject matter for mains.

Similar topics covered in 2013 mains include: need for small states, inter-state water disputes, recommendations of 13th Finance Commission, Section 66A of IT Act, citizen charter and national lokpal. All these topics were amply covered by newspapers during 2013 and hence were picked up by UPSC in the mains exam.

Section on Governance can be covered through Administrative Reforms Commission report on similar topic. An additional benefit of reading ARC is its succinct language, which can help in improving one’s writing skills. Words like participatory, transparent, accountable are oft used to define ideal form of governance and these need to be understood to be able to write apt answers. Where time constraint don’t allow for reading the whole report, one may read the summary and recommendations part.

Social Justice

Topic Source
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. Gktoday had a good listing of government policies. India Year Book is also a good exhaustive source. Supplement this with listing of schemes on PIB, including the objective of every programme and the implementation mechanism.
Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders. Sriram notes were exhaustive for this section.
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. Shankar IAS academy material along with Sriram notes. Supplement this with listing of schemes on PIB, including the objective of every programme and the implementation mechanism.
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. Gktoday, along with PIB features
Issues relating to poverty and hunger. Self prepared notes through PIB plus Gktoday

Additional Sources and General Tips for Social Justice related questions

Focus should be on understanding nuances of government schemes, their intended benefit, targeting group and why are they structured the way they are. For eg., understanding the difference between conditional cash transfer and unconditional cash transfer – benefits of the two and which schemes fall under which category.

Questions asked in this section in UPSC 2013 were largely based on current events and hence newspapers need to be regularly followed. While schemes and issues can be identified through newspapers, it is helpful to periodically go through PIB release on such topics, particularly when the parliament is in session. This helps in identifying government’s intention behind a particular programme/ scheme/ law and it can be followed up with analysis in the newspapers. As in the previous section, questions are analytical in this section and thus editorials and op-ed articles need to be closely read.

International Relations

Topic Source
India and its neighborhood- relations. Sriram notes are exhaustive and rightly place emphasis on current events. It is good to know the historical background to gain context of the current events but it is the latter in which UPSC is interested. MEA website has compilation of articles published in Indian and Foreign press which are very useful read. See :
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. Shankar IAS Academy has a good book for this section. This can be updated along with current events.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora. Sriram notes.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate. Shankar IAS Academy has a good book for this section. This can be updated along with current events.

Following the website of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) will help in understanding the context of India’s relations as it write articles on most of the foreign and strategic affairs which are of interest to India. The Economist is a brilliant magazine and articles on India and its foreign relations should definitely not be missed.

Topics in this section should be looked at from the angle of economics, regional and religious politics, legal context and historical evolution. Note that international affairs are no longer part of the syllabus and now the focus is primarily on India’s foreign affairs. Historical perspective of India’s relations with South Asia should also be helpful to understand the context of the current events.

Only one question was asked under international institutions (difference between World Bank and IMF) but it will be useful if all the ones in news are understood well, along with India’s role in it.

11 thoughts on “Preparing for General Studies Paper 2 (Mains Examination)”

  1. Thanx for the above article. You have mentioned ‘The Economist’ 1 or 2 times above. It’s a really helpful magazine. But the problem is, you can just read 3 articles for free on their website. If you want to read more, then you have to subscribe which is a costly affair. How did you tackle this issue? Indian Express publishes Economist Articles but they may nt be of relevance all the time. So, can you please give some advice?

    One more request, can u publish similar articles for the remaining GS papers also?

  2. Hello Ma’am / Sir,
    I would like to know the source list for paper 1 and paper 4.
    The subject matter is static and thus newspapers cannot come to rescue.
    I would be more than glad to have it covered just the way paper 2 and 3 are covered.
    Thank you.

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