UPSC Mains - GS Paper 2 Preparation Strategy

After having covered the GS Paper 1 and the strategy to be adopted for acing it, we now move to GS Paper 2 which comprises of three parts - Indian Constitution, Governance & Social justice issues and International Relations. It is noteworthy that it is one of the most interesting papers of General Studies-Mains. What makes it different from all other papers and interesting is its evolving and dynamic nature.

GS Paper 2 Preparation Strategy

Many aspirants spend too much time on static aspects and make a mistake. It is Indeed important to read the basics first, but after doing it, one must connect the dots i.e. leverage it with current topics of the related subjects, as this will only help in solving the answers of the questions asked by UPSC. Since the change of pattern in 2013, UPSC has nearly stopped asking direct static questions. If you go through previous year papers almost all the questions are dynamic though they require a basic understanding of the topics. But if you are well versed with contemporary developments around that issue, you can answer the questions very well.

Understanding the syllabus

The whole syllabus of Paper 2 can be broadly divided into three parts: Indian Constitution and Polity Governance & Social Justice International Relations

The most important thing to do before one starts off with preparation is to analyse the syllabus objectively and go through past years UPSC (Mains) question papers Both the things are a must as it will enable you to be well versed with all the aspects of the topics given in the syllabus. If you are able to understand them it will come handy to you while reading a newspaper or going through any material, as it will aid you in picking up relevant issues from the exam perspective. Most of the topics and sub-topics are interconnected. Now, let s go through each Topic and Sub-topics in detail.

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Indian Constitution and Polity

Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Historical Underpinnings and evolution of Constitution - This covers the pre-independence events which led to strengthening the foundation of Indian Constitution right from Regulating Act of 1773 to Government of India Act of 1935. Evolution of Modern Constitution will have topics from the first idea of constituent assembly in 1934 by M.N.Roy to the commencement of the constitution on 26th January 1950.

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution and Basic structure Doctrine The features of the Indian constitution have to be looked in detail like sources of the Constitution, forms of government, Fundamental Rights (FR), Fundamental Duties, Directive Principles of State Policies, Supremacy of the Constitution, Integrated and Independent Judiciary specifically Judicial supremacy vs Parliamentary sovereignty have to be studied in detail. It is important to have a good understanding of how basic structure doctrine of the Constitution evolved with a focus on important case laws involved particularly Keshavanda Bharati vs the State of Kerala.

Significant Provisions and Amendments of Constitution It is very important to study and analyse the significant provisions of the constitution such as citizenship, legislature, executive, emergency provisions, Panchayat and Special provisions relating to different classes. The key here would be to read the original bare text of the Constitution. It would be very helpful and then leverage it with the current topics. Important amendments to the constitution should also be studied like 42nd amendment, 44th amendment etc. The background and the causes of bringing it up must be also looked at in detail.

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Let us sample a question from 2016. Discuss each adjective attached to the word Republic in the preamble. Are they defend-able in the present circumstances? This question can be answered only if one has a basic understanding of the term Republic as put out in the preamble with an idea of the current discussions on this area too.


Introduction to The Constitution Of India D.D. Basu. NCERT (Polity- class 9th, 10th and 11th). The Constitution of India (Bare Text).

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.

For this sub-topic, it is essential to have an understanding of powers and functions of State and the Central government and issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure Distribution of Legislative, Executive and Financial powers between the Centre and the States. Administration: Co-operative Federalism, Role of Governor, Formation of New States, Misuse of Article 356 (President s Rule), River water disputes, Emergency Provisions, All-India Civil Services etc. Finance: Goods and Service Taxes (GST), The role of Finance Commission; distribution of taxes among States and between States and the Centre. etc. Legislation: Circumstances under which Parliament can legislate in the State field. Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges: Various factors affecting the effective functioning of the panchayats have to be dealt with.

Let us sample a question from 2016.

Discuss the essentials of the 69th Constitutional Amendment Act and anomalies if any that have led to recently reported conflicts between the elected representatives and the institution of the Lieutenant Governor in the administration of Delhi. Do you think that this will give rise to a new trend in the functioning of the Indian federal politics?

Now this question can be answered very well if one follows the newspapers religiously as the topic is very frequent nowadays. But in order to write a good answer, one must also have good command over the special provisions relating to Delhi (Article 239AA) inserted by the 69th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992.


Introduction to The Constitution of India D.D. Basu Administrative Reforms Committee s (ARC II) 13th report on Organizational Structure of Government of India Administrative Reforms Committee s (ARC II) 6th report on Local Governance . The Constitution of India (Bare Text)

Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.

For this sub-topic, it is mandatory to have an understanding of the salient features of Constitutions across the World US, UK, Russia, France, Canada, Australia etc. Borrowed features of Indian Constitution like Written Constitution, Rigidity or flexibility of the Constitution, a Parliamentary form of Government, Federal Features, Fundamental Rights, Directive principles of state policies, Emergency provisions, etc. Not many questions have been asked about this subtopic in the past few years, so a basic understanding would suffice.


The Hindu newspaper. Laxmikanth (Indian Polity). The Constitution of India (Bare Text)

Separation of powers between various organs, Dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

For this sub-topic it is must to have a basic understanding of various organs of the state Legislative, Executive and the Judiciary and focus on issues like overlapping functions of the three organs of the State; Concept of Checks and balance; Judicial Activism, Judicial Overreach., UPSC, NITI Ayog, Finance Commission etc. Dispute Redressal mechanisms and Institutions Judiciary, Tribunals, Lok Adalat, Lokayukta, Inter-State Council, Zonal Councils also form an important part of the syllabus.


Introduction To The Constitution Of India D.D. Basu. Administrative Reforms Committee s (ARC II) 7th report on Capacity Building for Conflict Resolution The Constitution of India (Bare Text)

The Supreme Court of India keeps a check on the arbitrary power of the parliament in amending the Constitution. Discuss critically. This question from 2013 can be very well answered if you have a good understanding of the provisions of the Constitution dealing with Supreme Court and the Parliament s power to amend the constitution.

Parliament and State Legislatures structure, functioning, the conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Dwell into detail of structure and functioning of the legislatures (State and Central) focusing on 1) The composition of the Parliament specifically on marginalised groups representation. 2) The procedure of passage of the bills like Money Bill, Financial bills and Ordinary Bills and the similarities and distinctions between these bills. 3) The role of Opposition, anti-defection, criminalization of members of legislatures, accountability measures in parliament through various committees and procedures, misuse of the powers, immunities and privileges of the parliament, etc.

The Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and its Members as envisaged in Article 105 of the Constitution leaves room for a large number of un-codified and un-enumerated privileges to continue. Assess the reasons for the absence of legal codification of the parliamentary privileges . How can this problem be addressed? This question from 2014 can be answered if you have a basic understanding of Article 105 and the current issue of Parliamentary privileges.


Introduction to the Constitution of India D.D. Basu The Hindu The Constitution of India (Bare Text)

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Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

This part has topics from the bodies mentioned in the constitution such as Election Commission, UPSC, SPSC, Finance Commission, National Commission for SCs and ST s, a Special officer for Linguistic Minorities, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), Attorney General and Advocate General of the State.

For this part, reading the Constitution bare act and supplementing it with current affairs is necessary.


Indian Polity Lakshmikanth The Hindu/Indian Express. The Constitution of India (Bare Text)

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.

The Executive will comprise of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Governor, Chief Minister, Attorney General, Advocate General of the State, Cabinet Ministers, Council of Ministers both at the Centre and the State. Judiciary will include Supreme Court, High Courts and Lower Judiciary of the states. It is important to read about the powers of these courts very exhaustively. Pressure groups can range from Business Groups (FICCI, ASSOCHAM), Trade Unions, Agrarian Groups (All India Kisan Sabha), Linguistic Groups, Tribal Organisations, etc.

Looking at a question asked in 2014, we notice that the questions are very dynamic in nature, I.e. focussing on the current aspects and the provisions as well. Instances of Presidents delay in commuting death sentences has come under public debate as denial of justice. Should there be time limit specified for the President to accept/reject such petitions?


Indian Polity Lakshmikanth The Constitution of India (Bare Text) The Hindu/Indian Express.

Salient features of the Representation of People s Act.

Important areas to focus on this part are

RPA Act, 1950 Allocation of seats in Central as well as states legislatures, Qualification of voters, Delimitation of Constituencies. RPA Act, 1951- Conduct of elections to Parliament and State Legislature, Qualification and Disqualification of the MP s and MLA s etc. Issues such as Electoral reforms, Qualification and Disqualification of the MP s and MLA s, Office of profit, Anti-defection, etc.


The Representation of People Act, 1950. (Bare Act) The Representation of People Act, 1951. (Bare Act)

Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

For this part read in detail about the various 1) Non- Constitutional Bodies like NITI Aayog, National Human Rights Commission, and Central Vigilance Commission etc. 2) Statutory Bodies NHRC, CVC, CIC, Lokpal, Lokayukta, 3) Regulatory SEBI, RBI, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, TRAI, CCI, etc. 4) Quasi-judicial bodies NHRC, CIC, National Green Tribunal, etc.

When studying about different bodies and organisation, it is prudent to compare and read, pointing out the similarities and differences between different bodies, it will immensely help in remembering effectively about such bodies/organisations.


Laxmikant, Indian Polity The Hindu.

Sample this question from 2016- What is a quasi-judicial body? Explain with the help of concrete examples. So, for this part, just a basic and plain understanding will do to effectively answer the questions.

Important Points to Focus and Trend analysis

To start with, it is very important to first decipher the important points and areas that need to be focussed while preparing for this topic. Analysing the trend from 2013 to 2016 we notice that each subtopic has been given almost equal importance.

Topics in GS PAPER 2 2013 2014 2015 2016
Historical underpinnings and Basic structure 10 12.5 37.5 12.5
Executive, Legislature and Judiciary 20 37.5 0 12.5
Separation of Powers 10 12.5 12.5 12.5
Federalism and Local Bodies 30 12.5 25 37.5
Constitutional and other bodies 20 25 25 25

Though the above topics may seem factual and static, the questions asked by UPSC can only be answered if one has a track of recent issues. If one is done with basics, a relative study and understanding of the issue become much easier.

Governance and Social Justice

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

For this part, firstly one needs to be very well acquainted with various governmental development interventions and programmes concerning rural development, urban development, social development, infrastructural development and other various other interventions for inclusive development of the nation.

Now, when talking about inter emotions and programme, sector specifications approach will be very useful such as allowing FDI in a various sector or bringing out reforms in Education, Health Sector, Irrigation sector, Agriculture sector etc. with the launch of schemes like Ayushman Bharat, Make in India, MNREGA etc

Next part is focussed on getting acquainted with issues such as its efficacy, pros and cons, study of its implementation lastly any suggestions for the betterment of these programmes.

Sample this question from 2016, now this can be very well answered if you have a good grasp over the topic already discussed in almost all the books, reference or NCERT and if you add-on with the current developments, it shall be more perfect. Has the Indian governmental system responded adequately to the demands of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization started in 1991? What can the government do to be responsive to this important change?


Press Information Bureau The Hindu India Year Book.

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.

For this sub-topic, it is very essential to know about various welfare schemes and mechanisms that have been initiated by Government for the empowerment of vulnerable population such as women, minorities, children, disabled, poor, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes etc.

Also, there must be a comprehensive study of Pros and cons related to implementation and functioning of these initiatives like Janani Shishu Suraksha karyakram, Nai Manzil scheme, Sugam Bharat Abhiyan etc.

Then the focus must shift towards the various institutions that have been set up for promoting interests of these sections like National Commission for women, National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for protection of child rights etc. and the concerned statutes.


India Year Book.

Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

This sub-topic of the Governance & Social Justice part requires an in-depth study of development and management of initiatives by the government on the promotion of health, education and skill development as to utilise the human capabilities.

Schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid Day Meals programme, National Health Mission, National Skill Development Programme and various other initiatives need to be studied very objectively with focus on its efficacy, implementation and the change that they have brought.

Comparison of the percentage of GDP spent on various sectors vis a vis other nations and the rationale in spending such huge sums on social services, their effectiveness must be looked at. Other areas concerning Health and Education such as the Right to Education Act, Aayushman Bharat scheme, NIIF rankings, National Health Mission and bodies and institutions such as MCI, UGC must also be studied in detail.


Press Information Bureau Business Standard and The Hindu India Year Book.

Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

For this sub-topic focus must be on two aspects of destitution - Poverty and Malnutrition. Firstly, a plain and basic reading of NCERT (Economics- XIth) is required with a keen focus on various definitions of poverty, official measurement of poverty, recommendations of committees like Suresh Tendulkar and C. Rangarajan on deciding the poverty line and reasons for poverty. Malnutrition is one of the problems affecting India in a big way and various committees and bodies have made recommendations for the eradication of Poverty and Malnutrition. Solutions like Public Distribution System, National Food Security Act etc. and their broad principles, objectives, effectiveness, deficiencies and weaknesses must be incorporated while studying these topics.

This question from 2015 does require you to have a very deep understanding of the topic, it can be solved easily if you have a good basic understanding of the Poverty issue. Though there have been several different estimates of poverty in India, all indicate a reduction in poverty levels over time. Do you agree? Critically examine with reference to urban and rural poverty indicators.


Press Information Bureau The Hindu, Yojana and Kurukshetra magazines. India Economy and Development, NCERT, Class 11th.

Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

The sub-topic focusses on the role played by Civil society organisations like NGOs, SHGs various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders in alleviating poverty and unemployment, aiding in-development initiatives concerning health, education and social sectors, organising various awareness generation programs on ongoing schemes of government. There have been many success stories of SHG and NGOs in various sectors etc. and they must be incorporated while studying about the role of NGOs and SHGs in the development role. There are also issues such as poor resources, promoting interests of a section of people, slowing down the initiatives of government through environmental blockages, lack of transparency in foreign funding which plague these organisations and bodies but measures have been taken by the government in strengthening these institutions must also be incorporated in the study.

In the Indian Governance system, the role of non-state actors has been only marginal. Critically examine this statement. This question from 2016 is very relevant in today s political scene and if you have a good grasp of things happening around you, you would be able to answer it with no difficulty. An analytical approach is also required.


Press Information Bureau The Hindu, Yojana and Kurukshetra magazines India Year Book.

Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

This sub-topic deals with studying the important aspects of governance like transparency, accountability, effectiveness in decision-making process. It is one of the most important topics which is much closer to the real duties of a civil servant. The topic also includes measures taken by Government in enhancing transparency, accountability, participation and effectiveness of governance with the help of tools like RTI, Citizens charter and grievance redressal mechanisms. Their effectiveness and weaknesses like delay in disposing of RTI related queries, delay in appointment of heads of Lokpal and Lokayukta, poor enforcement of decisions by information commissions and lack of enforcement mechanisms. There have been a lot of cases which were helpful in enhancing transparency in government departments lately, such case studies must be studied as it will help one in answering the question effectively with suitable examples.

This question from 2016 very well demonstrates that how reading ARC reports and newspaper is a prerequisite for answering questions on the issue of Governance. Effectiveness of the government system at various levels and peoples participation in the governance system are inter-dependent. Discuss their relationship with each other in the context of India.


Governance in India Laxmikanth ARC 12th Report- Citizen Centric Administration ARC 11th Report- Promoting e-Governance. The Hindu, Yojana and Kurukshetra magazines.

Role of civil services in a democracy.

Now, this sub-topic requires you to have an in-depth knowledge of the Civil services system in India whereby knowing the role played by civil services in policy making & it s implementation and the role of civil servants in development and upholding the law and order & constitutional obligations of the country. The challenges that civil servants face like extreme political interference, external and internal pressures in performing the functions and the constitutional provisions relating to recruitment/suspension/dismissal/reduction in rank (Article 311) must also be dealt with.

Sample this question from 2016 on Role of Civil services Traditional bureaucratic structure and culture have hampered the process of socio-economic development in India. Comment. Answering this question requires a fine understanding of the topic as well as examples to support the notion or refute it and for it, reading a newspaper and being updated with the current development is very necessary.


Governance in India Laxmikanth. The Hindu.

Important Points to focus and Trend Analysis

For this topic, it is recommended to not rely on any other source for preparing other than recommended. As you can notice the evolving nature of the topic from the past UPSC questions and you must have underworld as to how newspapers and above mentioned sources would suffice. It is also very important to be able to connect the dots, that is assimilating current affairs with the static topic very effectively. Now let us look at the trend of the past 4 years for this part.

GS Paper 2 Topic 2013 2014 2015 2016
Social Justice Government schemes and interventions, Social Sector and Poverty. 50 62.5 37.5 50
Governance Accountability 20 0 25 25
Governance NGOs, Pressure Groups and Civil Services. 20 25 37.5 25

Therefore equal attention is given to both the topics of Governance and Social justice and so no topic or subtopic should be given less importance.

International Relations

The subtopic of international relations also forms a considerable part of the syllabus of GS Paper 2. It is divided as -

India and its neighbourhood- relations.

This sub-topic deals with the relation of India with its neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, etc. The focus must be on gathering facts and analysing them along with a focus on current international affairs. The most important aspect is to compare and illustrate the past relations as well as critically examine the current scenario. The issue of Pakistan or China is always in the news and therefore a lot of questions are asked from these topics and they can be easily answered if you are following the newspapers religiously. For example, this question from 2016, Increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in India and growing interference in the internal affairs of several member states by Pakistan are not conducive for the future of SAARC. Explain with suitable examples"


Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India s foreign policy Rajiv Sikri. MEA Website. The Hindu/Indian Express.

Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India s interests.

This sub-topic concerns India s bilateral, multilateral, regional and global groupings such as SAARC, BIMSTEC, ASEAN+6, Heart of Asia conference, Raisins Dialogue, MTCR, Australia Group, Wassenaar Agreement and also relating to NPT, CTBT and membership relating to NSG and other nuclear-related groups. Basically, the subtopic is very wide and thus it needs to be comprehensively read and understood. Reading newspaper will give you an extra advantage.


Ministry of external affairs website, The Hindu/Indian Express ORF website/magazine, The Diplomat website/Magazine,

Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India s interests, Indian Diaspora

This is not a static part but a dynamic sub-topic having topics ranging from effects of globalization, WTO policies, domestic policies of developed countries and their effect on other countries such as Trade wars, WTO rulings, H1b and L1 visa row to terrorism and economic policies. The sub-topic also includes issues such as Indian diaspora their contribution to India and India s contribution to them. Issues such as their problems, constitutional/statutory provisions if any under Indian law and their participation and their role in Indian economy.


ORF website/magazine, The Diplomat website/Magazine, The Hindu/Indian Express

Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate. UNO and its various bodies, agencies must be studied with respect to their structure, role, relevance and reforms.

International Organizations apart from UN such as WTO, IMF, World Bank, NDB, AIIB and International Solar Alliance must also be studied. It is very important to read random commissions and issues relating to these international bodies. If we look at the question asked in 2016, we see that UPSC is quite unpredictable when it comes to asking questions relating to international bodies/agreements. This trend is also observed in the Preliminary Exam. Sample this- What are the aims and objectives of the McBride commission of UNESCO? What is India s position on these? Therefore, the key is to read more, revise more and to write more.


The Hindu/Indian Express Internet (Official websites and Wikipedia pages of these bodies would suffice)

Important Points to focus and Trend analysis

The topics are static as well as dynamic, but most of the questions asked are current affairs related. Thus, reading newspapers and magazines is very essential. The approach must not be only in memorizing facts and events, but it should also be focussed on analysis and objective assessment. If we go by the trend from the past four years, it is noticeable that maximum questions from this subject are asked related to International bodies and agreements.

GS PAPER 2 Topic in GS Paper 2 2013 2014 2015 2016
International Relations India and Neighborhood 50 12.5 25 12.5
International Relations India and other countries 10 0 12.5 25
International Relations International bodies and agreements 10 50 12.5 25
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