UPSC Mains Daily Answer Writing (11-11-2022)

UPSC Mains Daily Answer Writing

Questions

Case Study 1: You have recently graduated from college and are now preparing for the civil services examination. While reading the newspaper, you come across a news report of a Non- Governmental Organisation (NGO), working for child rights, challenging a provision of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, in the Supreme Court of India. The said provision provides for the option of Children in Conflict with Law (CCL) to be tried as adults under certain circumstances. The NGO's plea is that children are not able to understand the gravity of crimes. It has also contended that the criminal acts committed by children are a reflection of the failure of the society to take care of its children. In the context of this situation, as a young aspirant, answer the following questions:
(a) What are the possible factors that can drive a child towards committing heinous crimes?
(b) Is it ethical to punish children as adults rather than giving them a chance for reformation?         (20 marks)

Case Study 2: You are a CEO-founder of an edTech company. You are under tremendous pressure from the investors in your company to increase the profitability of the company and undertake downsizing. After making a few bad acquisitions, the company's finances have taken a huge hit in the last couple of years. The downsizing is suggested with the hope that the company's profitability would rise, as it often does when mass layoff or downsizing decisions are carried out. Moreover, the investors have hinted that such measures would attract further investment from them, which has come as a ray of hope considering the ongoing volatile market conditions and slowdown in big-ticket fundings. Given the situation, rumors of unscrupulous firing have started doing the rounds among employees. It has increased apprehensiveness and reduced cohesiveness among them. You have informed the investors that the cost cutting exercise can affect the output as well as reputation of the company in the long-run. However, they are adamant to pursue the same.
(a) Identify the stakeholders and ethical issues involved in the case.
(b) You and the HR team have identified some options and are deliberating to put them across to the investors for consideration. Discuss the merits and demerits of each of these:
Identifying key high performers and offering them suitable positions before implementing the layoff decision.
Putting the terminated employees on retainer to work part-time.
Executing the lay off order in the same spirit as it was asked by the investors and letting them deal with the long-term consequences.
Improving the perception of fairness among the existing and terminated employees and moving ahead with the layoffs.
Without restricting yourself to the above options, discuss the course of action you will take, and provide adequate reasons for the same.
(20 marks)


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Model Solutions

Case Study 1: You have recently graduated from college and are now preparing for the civil services examination. While reading the newspaper, you come across a news report of a Non- Governmental Organisation (NGO), working for child rights, challenging a provision of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, in the Supreme Court of India. The said provision provides for the option of Children in Conflict with Law (CCL) to be tried as adults under certain circumstances. The NGO's plea is that children are not able to understand the gravity of crimes. It has also contended that the criminal acts committed by children are a reflection of the failure of the society to take care of its children. In the context of this situation, as a young aspirant, answer the following questions:
(a) What are the possible factors that can drive a child towards committing heinous crimes?
(b) Is it ethical to punish children as adults rather than giving them a chance for reformation? (20 marks)

Model Structure
Introduction:

The case study pertains to the correctness of the provision of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 which gives the Juvenile Justice Board the power to assess whether the perpetrator of a heinous crime aged between 16 and 18, had acted as a ‘child’ or as an ‘adult.’ The board will be assisted in this process by psychologists and social experts.

Main Body:
(a) Possible factors that can drive a child towards committing heinous crimes
Social: Social factors are undergoing changes due to urbanization, globalization and cultural changes.
Family: Broken homes, father’s work habits, cohesiveness of the family, relations between parents, affection of siblings, standards of home, parent’s discipline and affection etc. play a very important role in defining the behavior of a child.
School and peer group relations: After family, the child spends most of its time in the school and with his friends. It can supplement the role of the family in enhancing values.
Economic factors: In case of India, socio-economic injustice combined with violence and abuse is the major factor in breeding juvenile delinquency.
Persistent unemployment and low incomes of families increases the likelihood of children’s involvement in any kind of criminal activities and unethical behavior.
Bad cultural influences: Cinema and Television have emerged as strong attractions for children in recent times.
Their content glorifies anti-social behavior as heroic and exposes children to all kinds of criminal acts.
Children, having an impressionable mind, are ill-equipped to differentiate what is good from bad.
Individual factors: It includes certain personality traits like feeling of insecurity, fear, lack of self-control, emotional conflict etc.

(b) The debate on whether a child in conflict with law (CCL) should be treated as an adult
A CCL should be tried as an adult, because:
Even though they are treated as juveniles because of their age, they have increasingly been found to be involved in heinous crimes in recent years. For examples, Nirbhaya rape case, Lucknow PubG murder etc.
It is arbitrary that a person aged 17 years and 364 days will be tried as a juvenile while an 18 year old will be tried as an adult for the same crime.
It provides a measure of consistency for the severity of the crime and also gives due seriousness to the severity that they deserve.
It gives a sense of justice to the victims whose fundamental and legal rights have been violated.
A CCL should not be tried as an adult
No one is born a criminal. Research has proved that the conditions are provided by the environment in which children are reared that dispose them towards antisocial behavior.
It is the duty of the state and society to provide equal opportunities for development of all children during the period of their growth, which would reduce inequality and ensure social justice.
Their failure to do so leads to conditions that are associated with juvenile crimes, such as: poverty; drug abuse; anti-social peer group; easy availability of firearms; abusive parents; single-parent child; child sexual abuse; lack of education opportunities etc.
There are issues in deciding the age at which a person becomes an adult. Boundary between juvenile and adult is no longer as clear, as children appear to grow up faster, with more exposure to adult ideas.
In law, the concept of ‘guilty mind’ holds an important place where a person should be mentally capable and willing to cause the effect of an illegal act to be blamed for that criminal activity.
As children do not understand the gravity of the crime they have committed, it is not right to punish them for those crimes.

Conclusion:
Thus, it is not just a problem whose onus can be put on children but reflects the malaise and corruption in the society and systemic limitations of the state. Hence, punishing children stands on a slippery ground ethically.
It is important that the focus should be shifted from punitive justice to reformative justice. Moreover, socio-economic justice as promised by the Constitution should be pursued earnestly; else we will only address the symptoms but not the causes.


Case Study 2: You are a CEO-founder of an edTech company. You are under tremendous pressure from the investors in your company to increase the profitability of the company and undertake downsizing. After making a few bad acquisitions, the company's finances have taken a huge hit in the last couple of years. The downsizing is suggested with the hope that the company's profitability would rise, as it often does when mass layoff or downsizing decisions are carried out. Moreover, the investors have hinted that such measures would attract further investment from them, which has come as a ray of hope considering the ongoing volatile market conditions and slowdown in big-ticket fundings. Given the situation, rumors of unscrupulous firing have started doing the rounds among employees. It has increased apprehensiveness and reduced cohesiveness among them. You have informed the investors that the cost cutting exercise can affect the output as well as reputation of the company in the long-run. However, they are adamant to pursue the same.
(a) Identify the stakeholders and ethical issues involved in the case.
(b) You and the HR team have identified some options and are deliberating to put them across to the investors for consideration. Discuss the merits and demerits of each of these:
Identifying key high performers and offering them suitable positions before implementing the layoff decision.
Putting the terminated employees on retainer to work part-time.
Executing the lay off order in the same spirit as it was asked by the investors and letting them deal with the long-term consequences.
Improving the perception of fairness among the existing and terminated employees and moving ahead with the layoffs.
Without restricting yourself to the above options, discuss the course of action you will take, and provide adequate reasons for the same.
(20 marks)

Model Structure
Introduction:

The given case study represents the issue of lay off in startups, which is often done eyeing just profits and not the human factors associated with such actions. Such decisions should be taken with some underlying ethics into consideration.

Main Body:
(a) Various stakeholders involved in this case are:
Investors: They want good returns for their investment.
Company management: They have to balance the interests of both - investors as well as the company and its employees.
Company employees and their family: Their well-being rests upon security of their livelihood.

Ethical issues involved are as follows:
Employees are being penalized for the management’s past decisions related to bad acquisitions.
While lower profits (maybe short-term losses) will hurt shareholders, the cost of job-loss will be suffered by employees and their families.
Current workers and laid off employees may risk suffering from occupational, psychological and other health issues.
Humans are seen as a mere means rather than an end, thus violating Deontological ethics.
The profit-oriented share holding in the present world reflects upon the increased consumerism in society.
Increased competition for survival reduces the cohesiveness among fellow beings and brings out the worst character of a person. Thus, it alienates an individual not only from his peers but also from himself, as stated by Marx.
The situation also highlights how ultimate power is being wielded by the wealthy entrepreneurs, while employees who enslave all their lives for the betterment of the company, are left at the mercy of the powerful.

(b) The evaluation of each of the available option is:
(i) Identifying key high performers and offering them other positions before implementing a blanket cut based on salaries drawn.
Merits
The talent will be retained in the company.
It will increase loyalty of high performers.
Demerits
More employees may need to be fired in order to cut the same expenditure.
Demoralizing effect on high performers on changing the role and position.
Feeling of anger, vulnerability and rejection among average performers.
(ii) Putting the terminated employees on retainer to work part-time.
Merits
Balance between organizational needs and individual needs.
Breathing space to employees while he/she searches for a new job.
Demerits
Lack of pay, health benefits, and meaningful work has negative implications for financial, physical, and even psychological aspects of employees.
Wastage of talent sitting idle for most part of the working day.
It is difficult enough to get a job even without the stigma of being laid off.
(iii) Executing the lay off order in the same spirit as it was asked by the management and letting the management deal with the long-term consequences.
Merits
Following the hierarchical order in letter and spirit, hence respecting procedural protocols.
Even if it will attract negative repercussions for the company, the management will have a learning experience for the future.
Demerits
Existing employees might be in a bind when knowledgeable and skilled workers are laid off. Consequently, customer service may suffer.
Laying off skilled workers may slow down work and damage the quality of output within the company.
Deteriorate work-culture in the company as employees perceive themselves as commodity that can be easily replaced and just being a number to the company.
iv) Increasing the perception of fairness among the existing and terminated employees and moving ahead with the layoffs.
Merits
This would ensure the reputation of the company in terms of its personnel policy.
This follows the order and at the same time makes employees understand the necessity of such a step.
Demerits
Even if perception is improved, no employee totally relaxes; they are waiting for the next round of downsizing or cost-cutting layoffs, which may include them.
It still involves high human suffering among a significant percentage of company’s employees.
The workers that are not let go may suffer from “survivor’s remorse” which can severely damage their work ethic and overall company commitment.

(c) To improve the position of company, following course of action would be taken:
Find alternatives to improve finances of the company following the steps below in the same order:
Getting rid of disengaged workers that cannot “pull their own weight” (“dead wood”) and simply increase workload for other employees.
Cutting costs by reducing employee benefits and liability for some time.
Across the board cuts of the same percentage barring people with very high salaries who can afford more cuts as well as very low salaries who should be exempted.
If these steps help improve to significant extent, then firing would not be undertaken else:
High performers will be retained in different positions before firing order is executed based on numbers.
Firing will be done at higher positions first, as this would cut more costs and a lesser number of employees.
A certain number of workers will be given an option to either opt for a part-time or leave completely.
Then terminated and existing employees will be given psychological counseling and discussion sessions to make sure the perception about such an order remains positive.
Further, supplemental unemployment benefits from the company would be provided to terminate employees for a limited period.

Conclusion:
These steps ensure that the company has taken an ethical approach to layoffs but at the same time can pursue hard decisions if needed. It would not also send a negative message to the new talent looking to enter the company in future.

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