1. 2014 Ethics paper: Types of questions
  2. 2013 vs. 2014 trend
  3. Instructions for Mains Ethics 2014 paper
    1. SECTION—A (Bol-bachchan Questions) 130m
    2. SECTION—B (Stupid case studies) 120m
      1. Case: Environment degradation (20m)
      2. Case: Ethics not essential (20m)
      3. Case: Bogus rape complaint (20m)
      4. Case: give bribe or end career (20m)
      5. Case: disillusioned UPSC topper (20m)
      6. Case: Why villagers migrate? (20m)
  4. Question Paper: HINDI medium & linear format
  5. Bogus marketing propaganda

2014 Ethics paper: Types of questions

Analysis UPSC Mains Ethics 2014

2014’s paper was littered with Corruption themed questions

  • Many candidates couldn’t complete the paper on time, or had to compromise with content or quality in the last 3-4 questions.
  • Many found the paper to be boring and tedious because ~40-50% of the paper centered on just single theme of ‘corruption-probity’, so they had to repeat and recycle the same points throughout paper.
Type Question Marks
Personal opinion or experience
  1. What does happiness mean to you?
  2. How do you apply teachings of an eminent personality?
  3. How will you improve your ethical competence?
  4. How will you make yourself trustworthy?
  5. Patriotism in civilian life?
term elaboration
  1. Why ethics important?
  2. Why probity difficult?
Proverbs / Quotes
  1. integrity vs. knowledge
  2. means vs. ends
Economy related
  1. feasible strategies for sustainable Development
  2. why people migrate
Corruption related
  1. case1: your friend preparing UPSC
  2. case2: Rameshwar the uptight UPSC topper.
  3. case3: no bribe no contract.
  4. case4: corrupt subordinates file bogus rape complaint against you.
  5. Poverty leads to corruption?
  6. Meaning of accountability in public service?
Social problems
  1. Caste system and contrasting attitudes
  2. How to stop sexual-violence against women
total 250

UPSC Mains Ethics Paper (GS4): 2013 vs. 2014

Comparison of 2013 and 2014’s papers
2013 2014
In this Ethics paper, UPSC didn’t follow uniform word length rule (i.e. 1 mark=20 words). Instead, for some questions 10 marks=150 words, for others 200 words and so on. There is one case study even requiring 300 words for 25 marks.
  • Uniform rules followed.
  • Every descriptive question worth 10 marks and 150 words.
  • Every case study worth 250 words.
you’re asked to comment on quotes by great thinkers- Gandhi, Lincoln, Aristotle Quotes are given but no specific thinker name given.
Six Case studies worth 125 marks. Six case studies but marks reduced to 120.
“Term vs definition” type questions for five marks each. 10 marks shortnotes on importance of ethics and obstacles against probity.
25% of questions were copied from the sample paper uploaded by UPSC, before mains. from the same sample paper, UPSC asked following questions:

  1. Which great Indian personality has inspired you the most as a role model….? 10 marks.
favorite theme of “finish on Deadline” and “reporting sick” questions found in both CSAT decision making as well as Mains case studies. At least that lunacy is over. No questions or case studies on finish deadline or report sick. But then again, it’s now replaced with ‘corruption’ themed questions and case studies.
You’re CEO, your marketing guy doing sexual harassment of a colleague. Yourself facing a bogus sexual harassment complaint.

Instructions for Mains Ethics 2014 paper

  1. Time Allowed : Three Hours Maximum Marks : 250
  2. QUESTION PAPER SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS (Please read each of the following instructions carefully before attempting questions)
  3. There are FOURTEEN questions divided in two Sections and printed both in HINDI and in ENGLISH.
  4. All questions are compulsory.
  5. The number of marks carried by a question/part is indicated against it.
  6. Answers must be written in the medium authorized in the Admission Certificate which must be stated clearly on the cover of this Question-cum-Answer (QCA) Booklet in the space provided. No marks will be given for answers written in medium other than the authorized one.
  7. Word limit in questions, wherever specified, should be adhered to.
  8. Any page or portion of the page left blank in the Question-cum-Answer Booklet must be clearly struck off.
  9. Answer questions in NOT MORE than the word limit specified for each in the parenthesis. Content of the answer is more important than its length.

SECTION—A (Bol-bachchan Questions) 130m

Each of the following question is worth 10 marks and 150 words.

  1. All human beings aspire for happiness. Do you agree? What does happiness mean to you? Explain with examples.
  2. What does ethics seek to promote in human life? Why is it all the more important in public administration?
  3. In the context of defence services, ‘patriotism’ demands readiness to even lay down one’s life in protecting the nation. According to you, what does patriotism imply in everyday civil life? Explain with illustrations and justify your answer.
  4. What do you understand by ‘probity’ in public life? What are the difficulties in practicing it in the present times? How can these difficulties be overcome?
  5. “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, but knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” What do you understand by this statement? Explain your stand with illustrations from the modern context.
  6. “Human beings should always be treated as ‘ends’ in themselves and never as merely `means’.” Explain the meaning and significance of this statement, giving its implications in the modern techno-economic society.
  7. Which eminent personality has inspired you the most in the context of ethical conduct in life? Give the gist of his/her teachings giving specific examples, describe how you have been able to apply these teachings for your own ethical development.
  8. There is a heavy ethical responsibility on the public servants because they occupy positions of power, handle huge amounts of public funds, and their decisions have wide-ranging impact on society and environment. What steps have you taken to improve your ethical competence to handle such responsibility?
  9. The current society is plagued with widespread trust-deficit. What are the consequences of this situation for personal well-being and for societal well-being? What can you do at the personal level to make yourself trustworthy?
  10. It is often said that poverty leads to corruption. However, there is no dearth of instances where affluent and powerful people indulge in corruption in a big way. What are the basic causes of corruption among people? Support your answer with examples.
  11. What factors affect the formation of a person’s attitude towards social problems? In our society, contrasting attitudes are prevalent about many social problems. What contrasting attitudes do you notice about the caste system in our society? How do you explain the existence of these contrasting attitudes?
  12. What does ‘accountability’ mean in the context of public service? What measures can be adopted to ensure individual and collective accountability of public servants?
  13. We are witnessing increasing instances of sexual violence against women in the country. Despite existing legal provisions against it, the number of such incidences is on the rise. Suggest some innovative measures to tackle this menace.

SECTION—B (Stupid case studies) 120m

Case: Environment degradation (20m)

Now-a-days, there is an increasing thrust on economic development all around the globe. At the same time, there is also an increasing concern about environmental degradation caused by development. Many a time, we face a direct conflict between developmental activity and environmental quality. It is neither feasible to stop or curtail the development process, nor it is advisable to keep degrading the environment, as it threatens our very survival.

Discuss some feasible strategies which could be adopted to eliminate this conflict and which could lead to sustainable development. 250 words

Case: Ethics not essential (20m)

Suppose one of your close friends, who is also aspiring for civil services, comes to you for discussing some of the issues related to ethical conduct in public service. He raises the following points :

  1. In the present times, when unethical environment is quite prevalent, individual attempts to stick to ethical principles may cause a lot of problems in one’s career. It may also cause hardship to the family members as well as risk to one’s life. Why should we not be pragmatic and follow the path of least resistance, and be happy with doing whatever good we can?
  2. When so many people are adopting wrong means and are grossly harming the system, what difference would it make if only a small minority tries to be ethical? They are going to be rather ineffective and are bound to get frustrated.
  3. If we become fussy about ethical considerations, will it not hamper the economic progress of our country? After all, in the present age of high competition, we cannot afford to be left behind in the race of development.
  4. It is understandable that we should not get involved in grossly unethical practices, but giving and accepting small gratifications and doing small favours increases everybody’s motivation. It also makes the system more efficient. What is wrong in adopting such practices?

Critically analyze the above viewpoints. On the basis of this analysis, what will be your advice to your friend? 250 words.

Case: Bogus rape complaint (20m)

You are a no-nonsense, honest officer. You have been transferred to a remote district to head a department that is notorious for its inefficiency and callousness. You find that the main cause of the poor state of affairs is the indiscipline of a section of employees. They do not work themselves and also disrupt the working of others. You first warned the troublemakers to mend their ways or else face disciplinary action. When the warning had little effect, you issued a show cause notice to the ringleaders. As a retaliatory measure, these troublemakers instigated a woman employee amongst them to file a complaint of sexual harassment against you with the Women’s Commission. The Commission promptly seeks your explanation. The matter is also publicized in the media to embarrass you further. Some of the options to handle this situation could be as follows :

  1. Give your explanation to the Commission and go soft on the disciplinary action.
  2. Ignore the Commission and proceed firmly with the disciplinary action.
  3. Brief your higher-ups, seek directions from them and act accordingly.

Suggest any other possible option(s). Evaluate all of them and suggest the best course of action, giving your reasons for it.

Case: give bribe or end career (20m)

Suppose you are the CEO of a company that manufactures specialized electronic equipment used by a government department. You have submitted your bid for the supply of this equipment to the department. Both the quality and cost of your offer are better than those of the competitors. Yet the concerned officer is demanding a hefty bribe for approving the tender. Getting the order is important both for you and for your company. Not getting the order would mean closing a production line. It may also affect your own career. However, as a value-conscious person, you do not want to give bribe.

Valid arguments can be advanced both for giving the bribe and getting the order, and for refusing to pay the bribe and risking the loss of the order. What those arguments could be? Could there be any better way to get out of this dilemma? If so outline the main elements of this third way, pointing out its merits. 250 words.

Case: disillusioned UPSC topper (20m)

Rameshwar successfully cleared the prestigious civil services examination and was excited about the opportunity that he would get through the civil services to serve the country. However, soon after joining the services, he realized that things are not as rosy as he had imagined.

He found a number of malpractices prevailing in the department assigned to him. For example, funds under various schemes and grants were being misappropriated. The official facilities were frequently being used for personal needs by the officers and staff. After some time, he noticed that the process of recruiting the staff was also not up to the mark. Prospective candidates were required to write an examination in which a lot of cheating was going on. Some candidates were provided external help in the examination. Rameshwar brought these incidents to the notice of his seniors. However, he was advised to keep his eyes, ears and mouth shut and ignore all these things which were taking place with the connivance of the higher-ups. Rameshwar felt highly disillusioned and uncomfortable. He comes to you seeking your advice.

Indicate various options that you think are available in this situation. How would you help him to evaluate these options and choose the most appropriate path to be adopted? 250 words.

Case: Why villagers migrate? (20m)

In our country, the migration of rural people to towns and cities is increasing drastically. This is causing serious problems both in the rural as well as in the urban areas. In fact, things are becoming really unmanageable. Can you analyze this problem in detail and indicate not only the socio-economic but also the emotional and attitudinal factors responsible for this problem? Also, distinctly bring out why—

  1. Educated rural youth are trying to shift to urban areas;
  2. Landless poor people are migrating to urban slums;
  3. Even some farmers are selling off their land and trying to settle in urban areas taking up petty jobs.
  4. What feasible steps can you suggest which will be effective in controlling this serious problem of our country?

Question Paper: HINDI medium & linear format

Click me to download the PDF file. 2MB only.

Bogus marketing propaganda

None. I discontinued [Ethics] series a long time ago (Mrunal.org/ethics) and have don’t see anything asked from there. There are enough [Wikipedia-cut-paste] books in the market to get you the basic coverage for thinkers and fodder for descriptive questions + blogs like Gaurav Agrawal, to get the idea of how to write answers for case studies.
visit Mrunal.org/download for more papers.