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[Mission 2022] Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 16 October 2021

 

 

NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


General Studies – 1


 

1. While the earth’s crust is undergoing constructive changes to create new relief, external forces of nature are working vigorously to level this down. Explain. (10 marks, 150 words)

Reference: Certificate Physical & Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong.

Introduction

The earth’s crust is constantly undergoing geological changes caused by Endogenic (internal) forces which create new relief features. Meanwhile Exogenic (external) forces are working vigorously to wear away the surface.

Body

The various internal forces that help in formation of various landforms are Orogenesis, Folding and Faulting, volcanic disturbances.

Orogenesis  is the process of building new mountain ranges by the convergence of tectonic plates. This takes place by ocean-continent collision (e.g., the Andes), continent-continent collision (the Alps and the Himalayas), or island arc-continent collision (e.g., New Guinea). All these tectonic processes create sedimentary basins of various types.

 

Folding: A fold can be defined as a bend in rock that is the response to compressional forces. Folds are most visible in rocks that contain layering. It causes uplift of particular area. The simplest type of fold is called a monocline. This fold involves a slight bend in otherwise parallel layers of rock. An anticline is a convex up fold in rock that resembles an arch like structure with the rock beds (or limbs) dipping way from the center of the structure.

Faulting causes depression of particular areas. These faults are named according to the type of stress that acts on the rock and by the nature of the movement of the rock blocks either side of the fault plane. Normal faults occur when tensional forces act in opposite directions and cause one slab of the rock to be displaced up and the other slab down. Reverse faults develop when compressional forces exist. Compression causes one block to be pushed up and over the other block. A graben fault is produced when tensional stresses result in the subsidence of a block of rock. On a large scale these features are known as Rift Valleys. A horst fault is the development of two reverse faults causing a block of rock to be pushed up.

Volcanic disturbances also modify the landscape. It is release of hot magma from earth’s surface due to convectional cells operating underneath giving rise to features such as batholiths, phacoliths etc. underneath and volcanic mountains above earth’s surface.

The various external forces that working against constructive forces are weathering, erosion, transportation and depositing.

  • Weathering: The gradual disintegration of rocks by atmospheric or weathering forces. They are of two kinds
    • Chemical Weathering: basic process by which denudation occurs. Extremely slow and gradual decomposition of rocks due to exposure to air and water. Solution, Oxidation and Decomposition by Organic Acids are few processes.
    • Physical or Mechanical weathering: physical disintegration of a rock by the actual prising apart of separate particles. Repeated temperature changes, Repeated wetting and drying, Frost action and Biotic factors are processes.
  • Erosion: The active wearing away of the earth’s surface by moving agents like running water, wind, ice and waves. Example: formation of waterfalls, rapids, sea caves, sprayholes.
  • Transportation: the removal of the eroded debris to new positions. Various types include mass movements like Soil Creep, Landslides. Example: Formation of Sand dunes in deserts, Barchans etc.
  • Deposition: the dumping of the debris in certain parts of the earth, where it may accumulate to form new rocks. Example: Beaches

Anthropogenic activities, Climate change, global warming are further increase the pace of the external forces. Example: The deforestation helps in quickening the Erosion process leading to quicker denudation.

Conclusion

The interaction of these constructive and destructive forces gives rise to great diversity of present day landforms.


General Studies – 2


 

2. e-voting in India faces the political, technological and security concerns but it is nevertheless the future of voting in elections. Critically Analyse. (10 marks, 150 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

The Chief Election Commissioner has proposed to include the ‘remote voting facility’ in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections. This will enable voters to cast votes from remote locations and improve voter turnout.

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Features of the Online Voting system

  • The online voting system will manage the voter’s details and Candidate details.
  • Voters can login and use his/her voting rights.
  • The system can manage the information data very efficiently.
  • The proposed system is more reliable, faster, accurate and easy to handle compared to existing manual systems.
  • It helps to computerize everything and reduces the errors as compared to manual voting systems.

Significance of Remote Voting Facility (RVF)

  • Higher Voter Turnout: The voter turn in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was 67.11% across 542 constituencies. The RVF can increase the voter turnout in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
  • Promote Inclusivity:Individuals who are ‘on the move’ like students, patients, migrant labourers, essential service providers, etc. will become part of the electoral process.
  • Flexibility:RVF gives more flexibility to voters. An individual can cast his/her vote from multiple locations and not solely from one registered polling station.
  • Greater Political Accountability:RVF will give a voice to unheard groups like migrant workers. The contesting candidates generally did not concern with them, as they will not vote in elections.
  • Strengthens Representative Democracy: RVF will ensure more eligible voters cast their vote. Thus, it will help in fulfilling the ambition of the representative democracy.
  • Fulfils Constitutional MandateArticle 326of the Indian Constitution has given voting rights to every individual above 18 years i.e. universal adult suffrage. The spirit of this article calls for ensuring universal voter turnout in elections and RVF can help us move closer towards this.

Challenges with e-Voting

  • Cyber Threats: As RVF is based on block-chain, therefore it might be attacked by hackers which would distort the final result.
  • Privacy Concern:The process involves saving a user’s biometrics and facial data. Any misuse of such by concerned authorities or hackers would undermine the right to privacy.
  • Stakeholder’s Confidence:Nowadays, political parties and candidates are questioning the credibility of EVMs. Instilling trust over RVF will be a challenging task.
  • Confidentiality of Voting: As the RVF facility will be availed in front of an authorized officer, the secrecy of the voting process might get jeopardized.
  • Former CEC concerns
    • Former CEC S.Y. Quraishi stated that developing an app is child’s play. He commented that the ECI had ruled out the option.
    • Even the simplest technology, the Electronic Voting Machine [EVM] that is based on the 17th Century calculator, is a matter of legal disputes.
    • The technology is simple, credibility and trust in the technology is the issue.
    • Former CEC asked if EVMs were still being challenged, how an Internet-based system of voting could be acceptable.
    • It is a dicey proposition because elections are conducted with the total trust of voters, political parties, candidates and the public at large.
    • One has to see to it that during voting, the voter ID, the environment (that is if there is any coercion), and the security of ballots cast till the time of counting are maintained.
    • So far, it was not clear how verification of voter identification, maintaining a free voting environment and secrecy of ballots would be maintained.

Way forward

  • The government has to do a wider consultationwith all the concerned stakeholders before the rollout of RVF. This includes political parties and civil society groups (like the Association for Democratic reforms).
  • In the pilot phase, the Parties and candidates should get timely notifications of RVF.By providing real-time information can strengthen trust in the electoral process.
  • Also, The Election Commission should organisethe RVF hackathons in order to build greater public confidence. So that the ‘didn’t want to vote’ category people also cast their vote with confidence.
  • For ensuring a universal voter turnout, awareness generationshould be done.
  • Further, till the RVF develops, easing and enhancing the process of postal ballotis desired.
  • India used the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. The ETPBS helped the armed forces, central paramilitary forces and central government officers working in Indian missions abroad to cast their vote.

Conclusion

Technology has played a pivotal role in strengthening the electoral process of the world’s largest democracy. For example, the introduction of EVMs, VVPAT machines, C- Vigil App, etc. The launch of RVF will be a significant step. But the apparent challenges have to be resolved first. This will make Remote Voting a safe, secure, trustworthy, and transparent process.

 

3. Amidst all the turmoil, the primary principle in any action towards Afghanistan should be guided by humanitarian concerns. Examine. (10 marks, 150 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

India has always been a strong proponent of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, broad-based and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. However, a collapse of the Afghan government and return of the Taliban marks the beginning of a new phase in the India-Afghanistan relationship. Indian Prime Minister in G20 meeting has called for the international community to provide Afghanistan with immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance.

Body

 

 

Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

  • UNHCR has published a report that states that half the population in Afghanistan (more than 20 million people) are in need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance.
  • An estimated 270,000 Afghans have been newly displaced inside the country since January 2021.
  • The number of civilian casualties has risen 29 per cent during the first quarter of this year compared to 2020.
  • The UN has received only 35% of the funds needed for its relief operations.
  • The banks are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have soared, leaving millions at risk of severe hunger.
  • The country is struggling with drought and severe poverty following the decades of war.
  • The U.S. has frozen the reserves of Afghanistan making the situation vulnerable.
  • The Taliban government’s refusal to allow women to work and stopping girls from schooling have complicated the issue.

Global response so far

  • The EU committed $1.15 billion for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries where refugees have fled.
  • Other countries including the U.S. and China pledged $1.1 billion at a donor conference in Geneva last month.
  • India has not announced any monetary or food assistance.

Possible Way forward for India

  • India could contribute to international agencies that are working with displaced Afghans, particularly for about one million children at the risk of starvation.
  • It could also help Iran and the Central Asian states that are housing refugees with monetary assistance.
  • The Government could also consider liberalising its visa regime for Afghans, which at the moment has cancelled all prior visas to Afghan nationals.
  • India, presently, is releasing very few e-visas for Afghans desperate to travel here.
  • As a goodwill gesture, India could once again send food aid, including wheat, grain, fortified biscuits and other packaged food, directly to Kabul.
  • India could implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 to protect the minorities in Afghanistan.
  • As and when the situation stabilizes medical visas, visas for students who have already secured admission can be considered.

Conclusion

In the unfolding situation, New Delhi will have to quickly reorient its Afghan strategy. At the same time, Delhi must be prepared to discuss what are real and serious differences with key regional and international partners on the Taliban and the future of Afghanistan. Despite India’s foreign policy orientation moving more towards the US and the West, the new Afghan strategy will have to be synchronized with an entirely different set of players.


General Studies – 3


 

4. The banking sector is overburdened with compliance burden. In this context, discuss the role and the areas of focus, of the second Regulatory Review Authority (RRA 2.0). (10 marks, 150 words)

Reference: Live Mint

Introduction

The Reserve Bank of India has set up a Regulations Review Authority (RRA 2.0), initially for a period of one year from May 01, 2021. The RRA will review the regulatory prescriptions internally as well as by seeking suggestions from the RBI regulated entities and other stakeholders on their simplification and ease of implementation.

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Role and Area of focus of RRA 2.0

  • The RRA 2.0 will focus on streamlining regulatory instructions and reducing the compliance burden of regulated entities by simplifying procedures and reducing reporting requirements, wherever possible.
  • It shall intend to make regulatory and supervisory instructions more effective by removing redundancies and duplication, if any.
  • It will look to reduce the compliance burden on regulated entities by streamlining the reporting mechanism, revoking obsolete instructions if necessary and obviating paper-based submission of returns wherever possible.
  • It will also be tasked with obtaining feedback from regulated entities on simplification of procedures and enhancement of ease of compliance.
  • It will examine and suggest the changes required in the dissemination process of RBI circulars and instructions.

Challenges faced due to compliance burden of banking sector

  • Mandatory fund raising via bonds:Recent data from the central bank and Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) corroborates the fact that the country’s overall bank lending pie has reduced for creamy well-rated companies.
  • Corporate current account closures: This decision adversely affected customers who lost out on the superior services of smaller but more efficient private and foreign banks, while lenders lost good business. Even public sector banks (PSBs) were affected, as they would be required to surrender accounts of government entities if no RBI relaxation is forthcoming.
  • Priority Sector Lending: Being obliged to lend ₹40 of every ₹100 to lower yielding and ever riskier priority-sector assets, commercial banks have lost market share to nimbler fintech and non-bank financial firms.

Way forward

  • The RRA and regulators need to extend the bond market fund-sourcing benefit to all investment-grade companies and also consider progressive relaxation of the stipulated 25% reservation mandate to ensure a level playing field for all participants.
  • The RRA could suggest better digital information sharing and monitoring mechanisms among banks to enforce credit discipline, even if businesses are allowed to operate multiple current accounts.
  • The RRA could revisit the priority-sector lending norms to reduce directed sub-targets and overall targets for banks and/or lower the credit-risk weightages on specific short tenor, self-liquidating bank facilities.
  • For instance, reduced risk weights on MSME bill-financing through TReDS exchanges can lower capital consumption for banks and also enhance credit flows across the priority manufacturing ecosystem.
  • The RRA should tackle evolving technology and market challenges by drawing up regulatory templates that encompass:
    • a digital banking framework for universal and wholesale bank licences;
    • a blueprint for a central bank digital currency as fiat money;
    • a special dispensation, put in place jointly with the Centre after a feasibility study, that would allow profit-oriented crude-oil-price hedging by oil companies, which along with tax cuts could help cool fuel prices in India;
    • a policy of light regulation for the launch of prescribed banking services by neo-banks, fintech firms and other technology companies.

 

5. Social media may have become a social imperative but left unregulated can become a social evil. Comment. (10 marks, 150 words)

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

Social Media in recent times has become synonymous with Social Networking sites such as Facebook or Microblogging sites such as Twitter. However, very broadly social media can be defined as any web or mobile based platform that enables an individual or agency to communicate interactively and enables exchange of user generated content.

The advent of social media is transforming the way in which people connect with each other and the manner in which information is shared and distributed. It is different from traditional media such as print, radio and television

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Characteristics of Social Media platforms

  • Participation: Social media encourages contributions and feedback from everyone who is interested. It blurs the line between media and audience.
  • Openness: Most social media services are open to feedback and participation. They encourage voting, comments and the sharing of information. There are rarely any barriers to accessing and making use of content, password-protected content is frowned on.
  • Conversation: Whereas traditional media is about “broadcast” (content transmitted or distributed to an audience) social media is better seen as a two-way conversation.
  • Community: Social media allows communities to form quickly and communicate effectively, sharing common interests.
  • Connectedness: Most kinds of social media thrive on their connectedness, making use of links to other sites, resources and people.

Need for regulating digital/social media platforms

  • Ability of digital/social Media to Reach, Scale and size is huge compare to print and other media.
  • While electronic media in India is regulated by the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995, there was no law or body to oversee digital content. Some people are taking an undue advantage which leads to too much voice and noise in social media.
  • Recently, India has seen a surge in the number of fake news items in circulation, especially on WhatsApp and Face book.
  • Role of social media platforms in Instigation of riots, inciting communal violence and false opinion building.
  • To curb illegal activities- such as spread of fake news, pornographic and anti-national content, among other things.
  • Ensure violence does not take place- such as against religious and ethnic groups. E.g. Muzaffarnagar riots.
  • Absence of editorial control in digital/ social media leads to large scale user-generated content which is unregulated
  • In 2018, fake information that was circulated on WhatsApp led to the lynching of five men in Maharashtra and there are many such instances.
  • In this time, when India is in conflict with its neighbouring countries like China and Pakistan, there is a possibility of Foreign-funded digital platforms running to defame our country.
  • There is also evidence of fake information influencing the process of election in the USA which undermines the root of democracy.
  • Exponential increase- in social media profiles on the platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook etc.
  • Quick spread of information- If some event happens in one part of the world, its information or disinformation can be spread in minutes, which can create chaos or panic.
  • Disparity of information available- Owing to the limited knowledge about the source of news and fact check mechanisms.

In the backdrop of the increasing popularity of online platforms (OTT, Social Media Etc.) in India and world over in the recent times, many efforts are being made to regulate the content being posted on them.

New IT Rules related to Social Media:

  • Social media companies are prohibited from hosting or publishing any unlawful information. These information are “in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc.
  • If such information is hosted or published the government can take down such information within 24 hours. The user will be given a notice before his/her content is taken down.
  • The government can direct messaging platforms to tie the identity of the user with the message transmitted by him/her for strengthening traceability.
  • The IT rules 2021 call for social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report.
  • Social media platforms are classified into two categories
    • Social media intermediaries – Platforms that have a limited user base.
    • Significant social media intermediaries – These are the platforms with a large user base.
  • The significant social media intermediaries have to follow few additional measures like:
    • These platforms should have a physical contact address in India.
    • Appointing a Chief Compliance OfficerNodal Contact Person, and a Resident Grievance Officer in India. All of them should be Indian Residents.
    • Nodal Contact Person will do 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
    • The Resident Grievance Officer must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours, and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.

Conclusion

Regulating social/digital media cannot be done from one side. All the stakeholders should have to contribute for the betterment of the platform as a whole. The enactment of new IT rules 2021 is a watershed moment that will transform the digital information ecology in India. A fine balance between freedom of speech and the need to curb the misuse in digital platforms have to be maintained. Both the government and the digital platforms will have to work together and fulfil this responsibility.

 

Answer the following questions in 250 words:


General Studies – 1


 

6. The Ring of Fire, also referred to as the Circum-Pacific Belt, is a path along the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. Discuss the reasons for it. (15 marks, 250 words)

Reference: Insights on India

Introduction

The Ring of Fire is a Pacific region home to over 450 volcanoes, including three of the world’s four most active volcanoes – Mount St. Helens in the USA, Mount Fuji in Japan and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. It is also sometimes called the circum-Pacific belt. Around 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur in the Ring of Fire, and 80% of the world’s largest earthquakes.

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Location of Circum-Pacific Region (“Pacific Ring of fire”):

  • It stretches along the Pacific Ocean coastlines, where the Pacific Plate grinds against other, smaller tectonic plates that form the Earth’s crust – such as the Philippine Sea plate and the Cocos and Nazca Plates that line the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
  • The 40,000 kilometre horse-shoe-shaped ring loops from New Zealand to Chile, passing through the coasts of Asia and the Americas on the way.
  • The chain of volcanoes extends from Aleutian Islands into Kamchatka, Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia, southward into Pacific Islands of Solomon, Tonga and New Zealand. On the other side of the pacific, the chain continues from the Andes to Central America (Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua), Mexico and right up to Alaska.
  • Example: Mt. Fuji, Mt.Vesuvius, Stromboli, Etna etc.

Formation is due to the Ocean – Ocean plate collision and Ocean – Continent plate collision:

  • The Ring of Fire is a direct outcome of the tectonic activities in the Pacific Ocean. The lithosphere plates are in constant motion and collisions.
  • These plates making up the outermost layer of the earth are always moving on top of the mantle and sometimes pull apart, collide, or slide past each other resulting in divergent boundaries, convergent boundaries, and transform boundaries respectively.
  • The Ring of Fire is the result from subduction of oceanic tectonic plates beneath lighter continental plates. The area where these tectonic plates meet is called a subduction zone.
  • Subduction zones are also predominant due to the action of the tectonic movements when heavier plates slip under lighter plates, creating deep trenches.
  • The subduction alters the heavy mantle into buoyant magma which moves up the crust to the surface of the earth. When this occurs over millions of years, the rising magma brings about a series of active volcanoes referred to as volcanic arc.
  • The volcanic arcs and ocean trenches run parallel to each other thereby bringing about the ever expanding Pacific Ring of Fire.
  • For example, the Aleutian Islands in Alaska run parallel to the Aleutian Trench. What’s more, the Andes Mountains of South America runs parallel to the Peru-Chile Trench.
  • These parallel geologic features are the ones responsible for the subductions of the Plates.
  • When it comes to plate tectonic boundaries, it leads to faulting, crashing, and formation of rift valleys on the sea floor which contributes to the ejection of magma and powerful shaking of the ocean floor.
  • This leads to the formation of more cracks, vents, and fault lines which can trigger strong earthquakes and volcanic activities.
  • The ejected magma is cooled by the seawater to form new crust, creating high ridges on the ocean floor.
  • The East Pacific Rise is one of the major locations experiencing fast seafloor spreading in the ring of fire.

Ring of fire and earthquakes:

  • The world’s deepest earthquakes happen in subduction zone areas as tectonic plates scrape against each other – and the Ring of Fire has the world’s biggest concentration of subduction zones.
  • As energy is released from the earth’s molten core, it forces tectonic plates to move and they crash up against each other, causing friction. The friction causes a build-up of energy and when this energy is finally released it causes an earthquake. If this happens at sea it can cause devastating tsunamis.
  • Tectonic plates usually only move on average a few centimetres each year, but when an earthquake strikes, they speed up massively and can move at several metres per second.

Conclusion

Volcanoes have a huge impact on man and material as urbanization and globalization increases. The effects have impacts on flora, fauna and the global warming which can accelerate the climate change.

 


General Studies – 2


 

7. Tracing the development of “One-China Policy”, analyse as to how the civic nationalism of Taiwan is in conflict with the Chinese Communist Party’s nationalist legitimacy. What role did U.S play in this issue? (15 marks, 250 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

The One-China policy refers to the policy or view that there is only one state called “China”, despite the existence of two governments that claim to be “China”. As a policy, this means that countries seeking diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC, Mainland China) must break official relations with the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) and vice versa. The One China policy is different from the “One China principle”, which is the principle that insists both Taiwan and mainland China are inalienable parts of a single “China”.

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The development of “One-China Policy”

  • Taiwan is the unfinished business of China’s liberation under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949.
  • The Guomindang (KMT) forces under Chiang Kai-shek lost the 1945-49 civil war to the CCP forces under Mao Zedong.
  • Chiang retreated to the island of Taiwan and set up a regime that claimed authority over the whole of China and pledged to recover the mainland eventually.

Conflict of the civic nationalism of Taiwan with the Chinese Communist Party’s nationalist legitimacy

  • The Guomindang (KMT) forces under Chiang Kai-shek lost the 1945-49 civil war to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949. forces under Mao Zedong.
  • Chiang retreated to the island of Taiwan and set up a regime that claimed authority over the whole of China and pledged to recover the mainland eventually.
  • The CCP in turn pledged to reclaim what it regarded as a “renegade” province and achieve the final reunification of China.
  • Taiwan could not be occupied militarily by the newly established People’s Republic of China (PRC) as it became a military ally of the United States during the Korean War of 1950-53.
  • This phase came to an end with the U.S. recognising the PRC as the legitimate government of China in 1979, ending its official relationship with Taiwan and abrogating its mutual defence treaty with the island.
  • Taiwan business entities have invested heavily in mainland China and the two economies have become increasingly integrated.
  • Between 1991 and 2020, the stock of Taiwanese capital invested in China reached U.S. $188.5 billion and bilateral trade in 2019 was U.S. $150 billion, about 15% of Taiwan’s GDP.
  • By the same token, China is capable of inflicting acute economic pain on Taiwan through coercive policies if the island is seen to drift towards an independent status.

Role of USA

  • The U.S. does not support a declaration of independence by Taiwan.
  • It has gradually reversed the policy of avoiding official-level engagements with the Taiwan government.
  • Successive governments have had on and off relations with Taiwan.
  • S. defence personnel have been, unannounced, training with their Taiwanese counterparts for some time.
  • Recently, a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine reportedly ran into an “unidentified object” while in the South China Sea.

Way forward:

  • It is understandable that Taiwan is not the priority of India’s foreign policy as the present government is interested in big power diplomacy. But India should not neglect Taiwan at the cost of its national interests.
  • Even as India launches its “Act East” policy and ambitious initiatives such as “Make in India”, it is time to highlight the importance of Taiwan for an emerging India and bring the India-Taiwan relationship into focus.
  • As India becomes more and more important in Taiwan’s policy, it is time for Indian policy makers to review India’s Taiwan policy and fashion a new approach.
  • Greater cooperation between India and Taiwan could prove critical in helping New Delhi and Taipei achieve their economic goals at home and their strategic aims in the region.
  • It is time to acknowledge the importance of India-Taiwan relations. India should consider its own interests not the third party’s ones, when it thinks of developing relations with Taiwan or other countries.

 

8. The greater the reach of modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the bigger the threat to our privacy. An organic data protection law that accommodates the dynamism of technology is the pressing need of the hour. (15 marks, 250 words)

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

Data protection is the process of safeguarding important information from corruption, compromise or loss. Data is the large collection of information that is stored in a computer or on a network. The importance of data protection increases as the amount of data created and stored continues to grow at unprecedented rates.

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Initiatives in India:

  • Information Technology Act, 2000:
    • It provides forsafeguard against certain breaches in relation to data from computer systems. It contains provisions to prevent the unauthorized use of computers, computer systems and data stored therein.
  • Personal Data Protection Bill 2019:
    • The Supreme Court maintained the right to privacy as a fundamental right in the landmark decision of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India 2017after which the Union government had appointed Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee for proposing skeletal legislation in the discipline of data protection.
  • The Committee came up with its report and draft legislation in the form of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018.
  • In 2019, Parliament again revised the Bill and much deviation from the 2018 Bill was evident. The new Bill was named as Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.
  • The purpose of this Bill is to provide for protection of privacy of individuals relating to their Personal Data and to establish a Data Protection Authority of India for the said purposes and the matters concerning the personal data of an individual.

Ways Individual’s data are captured in India:

  • In the world’s largest democracy of 1.3 billion people, increasingly more and more citizens have vital information on themselves stored as part of state or private data platforms.
  • Government Data: The government collects information for Aadhaar, for vaccinations on CoWin, from our tax returns, from our driving licence and a host of other instruments.
  • Private Data: Private platforms like Facebook, Twitter and a host of others collect unique information of our opinions, our likes and dislikes, our ideologies on their platforms.

Ways in which Data is put to use and related Concerns:

  • Based on this data, algorithms drive news and information that aligns with our beliefs to our Twitter or Facebook selves. For instance, Algorithms on OTT platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix or Hotstar recommend movies or serials we like based on our prior viewing.
  • But the use of algorithms is not just restricted to movie recommendations. It is being used in many other areas. For instance,the U.S uses AI to predict recidivism likelihood amongst prisoners and, therefore, to grant sentences based on machine predictions.
  • However, there are inherent issues associated with AI.For instance, the data being fed to create the algorithms reflects the opinions of the programmers feeding the information. For instance, is the zip code of where a person lives likely to indicate chances of committing fresh crimes.

 Issues/challenges faced in India w.r.t Data collection and processing:

  • In India, citizens have no rights over their data or protection from its extraction and in general, against its misuse.
  • There is no data protection law in place, even though a Bill is being discussed by the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology.
  • Only protection at present is the Supreme Court’s Judgment in the Puttaswamy case, where it ruled that citizens have rights to informational privacy. Yet, in the absence of legislation, this proves difficult to implement.
  • Rightly, Niti Aayognotes that impediments to the greater use of AI include the lack of access to data, concerns for privacy and security.

Reasons for absence of Data protection laws in India is a concern:

  • Currently, the state has unilateral rightsto collect and use our data, it has also given itself the ability to regulate private parties. For instance, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 are used to mandate that WhatsApp, which uses end-to-end encryption, must enable the identification of the first originator of the information.
  • Our government is thinking about the potential and inevitability of the greater use of AI. The 2018 Niti Aayog National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence points to the greater need for AI in sectors like education, healthcare and agriculture.
  • The papers also make clear that the aims of state policy include creating a data marketplace a “deployable model” in which it seeks to bring “buyers and sellers of data together”.
  • Amid these plans for greater deployment of AI and harvesting of our data, the lack of any rights paradigm provided by law is deeply disturbing.
  • It violates a constitutional premise that citizens must have their speech, expression, intellectual property and liberty rights protected.

Way Forward

  • In this digital age, data is a valuable resource that should not be left unregulated. In this context, the time is ripe for India to have a robust data protection regime.
  • It is time that requisite changes are made in the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.It needs to be reformulated to ensure that it focuses on user rights with an emphasis on user privacy. A privacy commission would have to be established to enforce these rights.
  • The government would also have to respect the privacyof the citizens while strengthening the right to information. Additionally, the technological leaps made in the last two to three years also need to be addressed knowing that they have the capacity of turning the law redundant

 


General Studies – 3


 

9. Although the Indian pharmaceutical industry has emerged as the third global producer in the generic medicine manufacturing, many regulations are still archaic. Elaborate on the reforms needed in the pharmaceutical industry to meet the present-day needs. (15 marks, 250 words)

Reference: Live Mint

Introduction

The Indian pharmaceutical industry is one of the major contributors to the Indian economy and it is the world’s third-largest industry by volume. The Indian pharmaceutical industry’s success can be credited to its world-class capabilities in formulation development, entrepreneurial abilities of its people, and the vision of its business leaders to establish India’s footprint in the United States and other large international markets.

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According to the Economic Survey of 2020-21, the Indian pharmaceuticals sector is expected to expand multifold and become a $ 130 billion industry by 2030, while medicine spending is projected to grow rapidly too, leading India to become one of the top 10 countries in terms of such expenditure.

Regulations governing the Pharma industry:

  • The Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA) of 1940, read together with the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules of 1945, are the primary legislations governing the import, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs and cosmetics in India.
  • In addition, there are other industry-specific rules and regulations around medical devices, prices of essential notified drugs, narcotic and psychotropic drugs and substances, development of new drugs and undertaking clinical trials.
  • However, with the advancement of research and development, innovation and technology, as well as challenges such as the covid pandemic, the pre-independence era DCA and regulatory framework governing the sector in general need to keep pace, so as to provide a conducive and business-friendly environment for further growth and foreign investment in the sector.

Reforms needed:

  • The New Drugs, Cosmetics and Medical Devices Act 
    • This development is a good move forward, the task at hand is of great significance for India as well as the rest of the world, given the country’s importance in the global pharmaceutical industry, and the new committee has its work cut out in a relatively short time frame.
    • The aspects which needs to be looked into are as follows
  • Digital health:
    • New-age technologies and internet-based business models such as e-pharmacies are major drivers of growth.
    • However, specific regulations for such business models are necessary to provide a clear and predictable regulatory framework that would aid further investment in this segment.
  • Medical devices:
    • While the Medical Devices Rules of 2017 govern medical devices, there is still dependence on the DCA and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) regulates both drugs and medical devices.
    • There have been efforts in the past to enact a separate legislation governing medical devices and the newly set-up committee could consider adopting a similar approach in the proposed legislation.
  • Licensing issues:
    • One of the conditions under various licences issued under the DCA is a requirement for fresh licences if there is a change in the constitution of the firm operating under earlier issuances.
    • However, what constitutes a change in constitution is not explained, often leading to contradictory interpretations by regulators in different states.
    • Such ambiguity impacts merger and acquisition modalities and timelines in this sector, and so clarity on this aspect may be provided in the proposed bill.
  • Sandbox regime:
    • Regulators across the globe are considering novel ways in which the startup ecosystem can be encouraged, and regulators in this sector could also adopt the approach of providing a ‘sandbox’ for innovation that’s backed by a suitable regulatory regime around it.
  • Foreign direct investment:
    • FDI inflows continue to be of utmost importance for the growth of the sector and India’s economy at large.
    • Our regulatory regime for FDI in this sector limits overseas investment in brownfield pharmaceutical ventures to 74% of equity under the automatic route and also features sector-specific conditions such as no ‘non-compete’ restrictions that are likely to have a knock-on impact on FDI inflows.
    • While FDI-norm reforms may not squarely fall within the purview of the proposed bill, it is another area that the committee may consider with a view to pushing for further relaxations in this area to boost investment.

Conclusion:

The affordability of healthcare is an issue of concern even in India, and people here would welcome some clarity on the principles of fair pricing vis-à-vis medical products. It is important that the accused companies are given a good hearing. The Government of India has taken up a number of initiatives to create an ecosystem that fosters manufacturing in pharma industries.

Value addition:

India’s potential to be the “pharmacy of the world”

  • Potential of Pharma sector: The Indian pharmaceutical industry, valued at $41 billion, is expected to grow to $65 billion by 2024 and $120-130 billion by 2030, noted the new Economic survey.
  • Rise in exports: During April-October 2020, India’s pharmaceutical exports of $ 11.1 billion witnessed a growth of 18 percent against $ 9.4 billion in the year-ago period.
  • Positive growth: Drug formulations, biologicals have consistently registered positive growth and the highest increase in absolute terms in recent months.
    • This led to a rise in its share to 7.1 percent in April-November 2020 from 5 percent in April-November 2019, making it the second-largest exported commodity among the top 10 export commodities.
    • This shows that India has the potential to be the ‘pharmacy of the world’”, the survey said.
  • In 1969, Indian pharmaceuticals had a 5 per cent share of the market in India, and global pharma had a 95 per cent share. By 2020, it was the reverse, with Indian pharma having an almost 85 per cent share and global, 15 per cent.
  • Significant advantage: The availability of a significant raw material base and skilled workforce have enabled India to emerge as an international manufacturing hub for generic medicines.
  • Further, India is the only country with the largest number of USFDA compliant pharma plants (more than 262 including APIs) outside of the US.
  • Capacity: The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that India can not only innovate but also rapidly distribute time-critical drugs to every part of the globe that needs it.
  • Global leader: Presently, over 80% of the antiretroviral drugs used globally to combat AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) are supplied by Indian pharmaceutical firms.

 

10. Any amendment to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, must be guided by proper and intensive consultation with stakeholders, with constitutionally and legally-bound procedures and limitations. Discuss. (15 marks, 250 words)

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued a letter documenting 14 aspects that it seeks to change in the key forest legislation, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The proposed amendments to the FCA, work to restrict the scope of applicability of the Act.

Government seeks deregulation by reducing scrutiny over certain decisions to deforest, thereby weakening safeguards.

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 Significance of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980

  • This law has been instrumental in reducing deforestation as it requires approval from the central government when forests have to be diverted for non-forestry purposes.
  • The regulatory mechanism of forest clearances allows the ministry to deliberate on whether deforestation should be permitted or not and what the conditions should be if such a permit is granted.

 

The policy stand of government w.r.t environmental safeguards:

  • The present government has been working towards amending, changing, and re-crafting environmental laws in India since 2014 to improve ease of doing business.
  • Some contentious attempts have been the draft Environment Impact Assessment notification, amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
  • Environment Impact Assessment notification: Government sought to create exemptions to the requirement of environmental clearances for a set of industries.
  • Indian Forest Act, 1927: it gave the forest department wide discretionary powers, including the power to shoot at sight.
  • However, these amendments have been revoked because of sharp criticism from environmental movements across the country.
  • The recent amendments proposed to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980cannot be seen in isolation of these other attempts to remake environmental laws in India.

 

Concerns related to the proposed changes in the Forest Conservation Act, 1980:

  • Changes proposed in the current definition of forests: It aims to implicitly define what does not constitute forests by creating a set of exceptions to the Act. These exceptions include forests in border areas where strategic projects need to be built, private land where plantations are to be established, and forest land which was acquired before 1980 for the construction of railways and highways.
  • Currently, the definition of Forest includes land recognised as forest by the government as well as that which comes under the dictionary meaning of forest land based on the Supreme Court decision in the T N Godavarman case.
  • More emphasis is on creating an enabling regulatory environment for setting up plantations. It argues that these plantations will not attract the provisions of the FCA. But, It does not define what the nature of these plantations should be and where they can take place.
  • Exceptions enable deforestation as opposed to regulating it. The amendments seek to deregulate certain decisions to deforest like the use of extended oil drilling for the extraction of oil and gas. Which the ministry says is environmental-friendly and thus qualifies for a legal exception. There have not been sufficient ecological studies to support this.
  • It limits citizen participation, prevents citizen oversight on these anti-environmental decisions. The proposed amendments are listed as a set of issues without detailing what the amendments are going to be. This makes it difficult for citizens and experts to partake in a public consultation process. The proposed amendments are not translated into other languages and provide a very short window of 15 days to providing comments.
  • An integral part of the forest clearance process is the requirement of consent of the gram sabha. The creation of exceptions to the requirement of forest clearances directly results in the cancellation of the application of this progressive legal provision.

Way Forward

  • The changes being proposed to the FCA need to be done in consultation with forest-dwelling communities whose livelihoods and rights are likely to be affected by the remaking of this law.
  • In conclusion, the deregulatory approach to changes being made to India’s environmental laws needs to be scrutinised.
  • Limiting deforestation should guide regulatory decision-making, not compensating with plantations.
  • In this digital age, data is a valuable resource that should not be left unregulated. In this context, the time is ripe for India to have a robust data protection regime.
  • It is time that requisite changes are made in the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.It needs to be reformulated to ensure that it focuses on user rights with an emphasis on user privacy. A privacy commission would have to be established to enforce these rights.
  • The government would also have to respect the privacyof the citizens while strengthening the right to information. Additionally, the technological leaps made in the last two to three years also need to be addressed knowing that they have the capacity of turning the law redundant.

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