WHAT ARE THE BEST GD TOPICS FOR ENGINEERING PLACEMENTS?

As your final BE semester rolls around, Indian and multinational corporations start visiting your campus for recruitments. Or you may be in the middle of admissions to a business school. In either case, you are likely to face a group discussion or a GD round as part of the selection process.

So, what exactly happens in GD rounds and why are they so important?

In a typical GD round, candidates are divided into groups of 8 to 10 members. Each group of candidates is assigned a topic or a situation, allotted time to brainstorm, and then asked to discuss the topic among themselves for 15-45 minutes. A panel of judges tests each group. Every individual’s ability is evaluated by how they articulate their point of view and communicate it effectively with group members. So, what can your performance in a GD tell an evaluator about you? Quite a bit actually. Organizations rely on GDs as a screening tool because working and communicating seamlessly in a team is one of the biggest markers of your success as a manager. Not only that, but GD rounds also evaluate candidates for awareness, the ability to lead and listen, and the ability to conceptualize. While all this may seem a bit daunting, remember there is no reason to get intimidated by a GD. Preparing yourself in advance for a GD round is half the battle won.

How do I prepare myself for a GD?

Working on your communication skills goes a long way, not just in helping you prepare for a GD, but for your overall career as well. Stay abreast of current affairs and culture, form a definite point of view on the world around you, and articulate these with your peers. Learn to listen to the viewpoints of others patiently. Holding mock GDs with classmates is a great way of prepping yourself for the real thing. Research print and web sources for currently trending GD topics and ready points and notes on them, so you are not caught unawares. Here are ten hot GD topics for 2019, with detailed notes for three.

Ten Hot GD Topics for 2019

1. Was the abrogation of Article 370, right?

Background

In a bold move, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was abrogated on August 7, 2019. Moreover, the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) where the Article was in application, was bifurcated into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir; and Ladakh.

What is article 370?

Article 370 is a provision of the Indian constitution which grants special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir, under part XXI of the Constitution of India which deals with ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’.

Key provisions of Article 370

To apply laws passed in areas except for foreign affairs, defence, finance, and communication, the Indian Parliament needs the approval of the state assembly.

Residents of J&K follow their own constitution and Indians of other states cannot buy property in the state.

Excepting cases of war and external attack, the central government cannot declare an emergency in J&K. In the case of local civil disturbance or perceived threats, an emergency can be applied only by the request of state government or by its approval.

In most Indian states, the residuary powers are vested with the Union Government, but in the case of J&K, the residuary powers are vested with the state government.

Pros of removing Article 370

As per Article 370, people of other regions could not buy land or settle in Jammu & Kashmir, which deterred development in the region. By abolishing article 370, teachers, doctors, and other professionals from various parts of India can settle in Jammu and Kashmir, bringing better facilities. The abrogation also paves the way for more industries too can be set up, generating economic opportunities for the people of the Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh regions.

By abolishing this article, the government can clamp down more effectively against the terrorism present in the region.

Progressive laws such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and women’s reservation in panchayats were not applicable to J&K, because of the provisions of Article 370. Now, all laws of India will be applicable to the region, ensuring greater gender and social parity.

Cons of removing Article 370

Many of the original clauses of the Article had already been diluted since its introduction in 1954, making its abrogation unnecessary.

The abrogation was carried out without the participation of the people of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, fomenting resentment amongst them. Since the people of the region already face many stresses, such as Pakistan-backed terrorism, the constant presence of troops, and an unemployment crisis, the removal of the special status may make them feel further victimized.

The people of the region also fear that the increased concentration of settlers from other regions will alter the demography of the region.

Conclusion

Though repealing Article 370 was perhaps a necessary step to fight terrorism in the region, the manner in which the abrogation was carried out could have been more participatory. Since the region’s residents or state representatives were not consulted before passing the bill, some quarters view the abrogation to be against democratic principles. To return the region to normalcy, the government must prioritize development in the region, improving employment and tourism. There is also a need for peacekeeping and trust-building methods to reassure and integrate the population of the Jammu and Kashmir regions.

2. Is AI taking away jobs?

Background

Throughout history, technological advancement has eliminated some jobs. For example, buttons on a lift now mostly perform the job of lift-operators. Though the growth of technology at the cost of human labour is by no means a new phenomenon, the new wave of technologies like automation and artificial intelligence pose an unprecedented threat to jobs. Technology can potentially impact employment opportunities in almost every sector.

Tech is, in fact, creating jobs

Some experts believe AI and other technologies can actually create more jobs. How does that work? Well, companies that adopt technologies cut costs by replacing human labour with technological innovations. They can, therefore, afford to expand services, creating more jobs in turn. As more employees are added to the economy, the government gains more revenue by taxes, which triggers  economic growth. This economic growth can be utilised by the government to create more employment opportunities with better pay. For example, the popularisation of email was supposed to have made postal departments obsolete. However, postal departments in most countries continue to thrive, with the bulk of their revenue coming from business packages and volume mails. As companies build business, these numbers will only go up.

Technology creates different jobs. Although some traditional jobs will be made redundant, technology will create others. For instance, take the case of journalistic writing. News outlets in the US are already using AI to generate simple sports and business reports, but will this make the need for nuanced storytelling by humans obsolete? No, is the short answer. We will probably have skilled journalists who utilize AI-generated fact sheets in their writing. Thus, in a way, AI eliminates the burden of doing repetitive tasks and frees workers for more skilled work. For this, workers need to learn some skills to stay employed. If the government takes care of the reskilling of low-skilled workers, a new pool of highly-skilled, better-paid workers can be created, improving lives.

Technologies have the potential to create large-scale jobs in rural areas to address the rural unemployment issue. Till now, jobs with better pay are concentrated in urban areas.

AI is eliminating jobs

As AI and automation replace low-skilled workers, the immediate result of new technologies will, of course, be job losses. Companies don’t have much of choice in the matter – if a business refuses to swap cost-intensive human labour with technology, it will face losses because of competition from tech-adaptive rivals. As companies catch up with technology, low-skilled workers will be the first frontier of employees to be removed from the jobs. As a consequence, income inequalities will further widen.

The most worrisome aspect of the new wave of job losses is that with AI, even high-skilled jobs are under threat. For instance, robotic surgery is already threatening some surgeons’ jobs. Thus, the new technology can reduce the employment opportunities available even for technically skilled persons.

The psychological costs of adopting AI may also be high. At present, constantly improving technologies make it difficult for returning workers to bridge the gap. This may force working parents, especially women, to stay at home after taking maternity leave. Further, technical innovation forces people to continuously upgrade their skills, adding to their workload and threatening their work-life balance.

Conclusion

More than taking away jobs, technology changes the nature of jobs. Creating different jobs, especially where the human element cannot be replaced, is the need of the hour. Continuous learning through online courses and training and updating of skills are also paramount. Employers and governments should create conducive spaces for upskilling to reduce the psychological burden on workers.

3. What has caused the current crisis in the Indian automobile industry?

Background

In 2019, automobile sales in India plummeted, with July recording the lowest ever sales in the last 19 years. This has impacted the manufacturing sector, leading to a loss of more than 2 lakh jobs, according to the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA). There are many reasons for the slowdown.

  • The market has seen a massive liquidity crunch, triggered by the collapse of some NBFCs (non-banking financial companies), which were used by many people for automobile financing, especially in rural areas. In light of the collapse, other NBFCs have adopted stricter loan policies. Banks are also implementing stringent lending forms. Since many people in India rely on loans to buy vehicles, the lack of loans and rising interest rates are discouraging consumers from buying cars.
  • Presently, the GST (Goods & Services Tax) on motor vehicles is 28%. The insurance costs of vehicles, as well as emission-related compliance costs have also risen. Globally, fuel prices are increasing, too. All these factors added together mean buying and maintaining new vehicles has turned costlier. Millennials and younger people are increasingly also buying pre-owned cars. This can be seen in the fact that despite the slowdown of the automobile sector, the pre-owned car market has witnessed significant growth.
  • The demand for automobiles has been dwindling since the last months of 2018. One reason for this is India’s worsening traffic situation, especially in cities like Bengaluru and Pune. More and more people are preferring not to drive themselves and instead use taxi and sharing ride services, such as Uber and Ola.
  • The overall economy itself has been in a slowdown since the last quarter of 2018. Apart from the automobile and manufacturing sectors, the real estate and FMCG sectors have also witnessed a decline.
  • Further, in a move towards encouraging cleaner fuel, in October 2018 the Supreme Court announced that only BS-VI vehicles should be sold after April 2020, leaving automobile companies with a backlog of unsold BS-IV vehicles before the deadline. The push for electric vehicles has also made potential buyers postpone their plans to buy their own car.

What needs to be done

Make loans cheap again. The government should look into making loans easily available and increasing buyers’ financing options.

The demands to reduce GST rates for cars should be analysed thoroughly.

Experts suggest increasing personal disposable incomes through reduced taxation may also help seize the crisis in the automobile industry. Increased sales and employment in the auto and manufacturing sectors will compensate for small tax deficits thus created.

The industry should focus more on converting fuel-based vehicles into electric cars.

Conclusion

Since the automobile sector contributes to half of the manufacturing GDP, the crisis in the automobile sector is only worsening the current economic slowdown. Therefore, policy changes are immediately needed to stem job losses.

Just like with the topics explored above in-depth, you should keep ready pointers for more possible GD subjects, like the following:

  1. Climate change
  2. Corporate executive or slave? What is the reality of the new job culture?
  3. The pros and cons of data localization
  4. Can Delhi go the Beijing way and clean up its pollution?
  5. Tech is making us less human
  6. Should reservations be based on economic status?
  7. Can IoT (Internet of Things) empower rural India?

But remember, even this selection of topics is by no means exhaustive: you should keep updating your list. For informed perspectives, reading newspapers like The Hindu, Mint, and The Economic Times, and online subscriptions of the Wall Street Journalism, helps. Watching channels like NDTV and Rajya Sabha TV is also useful! Most importantly, prior preparation will help you keep your cool during a GD and securing placement of your choice!

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