15 December, 2020 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Anti-competitive Practices of 4 Big Tech Companies - Lead - Polity & Governance
  • India needs to re-think its nutrition agenda - Article - Social Justice
  • Gujarat to get 30,000 MW renewable energy park Environment
  • Mucormycosis - Black fungus Science & Technology
  • US agencies hit by massive cyber attack + Stealth frigate Himgiri is ready + CII urges centre to disinvest aggressively - (Science & Technology, Security & Economy)
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    UPSC Current Affairs: Firing a warning shot across big tech’s bows | Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Economy

    Sub Theme: Breaking up the Big Tech Companies| UPSC

    Context: Various anti-trust lawsuits have been filed by United States and European Union against Big Tech Companies (Facebook, Google, Amazon etc.) on their anti-competitive practices.

    • Instagram founder Kevin Systrom is cited as having asked an investor when considering Facebook’s offer. “Bottom line I don’t think we’ll ever escape the wrath of Mark ... it just depends how long we avoid it.”
    • This statement sums up today’s discussion on predatory practices pursued by giant big techs which drives away competition, ensures their own monopoly, enter into anti-competitive practices with rival or competing businesses allowing themselves to become the only player in their segment.

    India’s Anti-trust Law – Competition Law

    • Central Government in 1999 constituted a High Level Committee on Competition Policy and Law in 1999 chaired by Mr S. V. S. Raghavan.
    • The SVS Raghavan Committee enquired into the matter of competition law and policy and suggested the formation of Competition Law in India in 2001.
    • Based on the Report, the government enacted The Competition Act, 2002 to regulate anti-competitive practices.
    • The Act constitutes Competition Commission and a Competition Appellate Tribunal for hearing grievances.

    The mandate of Competition Law in India is threefold namely:

    To check Anti-Competitive agreements

    Prohibit Abuse of dominance by strong companies over weak organisations, and

    To regulate Mergers and Acquisitions or Takeovers taking place in the market.

    Competition Act provides for the establishment of a Competition Commission for the following

    To prevent practices having adverse effect on competition,

    To promote and sustain competition in markets,

    To protect the interests of consumers and

    To ensure freedom of trade carried on by other participants in Indian market.

    In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice brought a lawsuit against Google for pursuing the following anti-competitive practices:

    • misusing its dominant position as search engine by undermining competitors
    • favouring its own content in search results
    • doing deals with other companies to become the default search engine in many browsers and devices; and
    • using data on its users and competitors to reinforce its dominance and get even more revenue from advertising

    Various anti-competitive practices highlighted by Department of Justice of United States against Google include:

    • Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid pre-installation of any competing search service.
    • Entering into tying and other arrangements that force pre-installation of its search applications in prime locations on mobile devices and make them undeletable, regardless of consumer preference.
    • Entering into long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default – and de facto exclusive – general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools.
    • Generally using monopoly profits to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on devices, web browsers, and other search access points, creating a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization.

    In 2020 December, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) along with 48 states sued Facebook. The complaint alleges that

    • Facebook has engaged in a systematic strategy - including its 2012 acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram.
    • Its 2014 acquisition of the mobile messaging app WhatsApp, and the imposition of anticompetitive conditions on software developers—to eliminate threats to its monopoly.
    • This course of conduct harms competition, leaves consumers with few choices for personal social networking, and deprives advertisers of the benefits of competition.
    • Similar charges are framed against Amazon and Apple of putting rivals at disadvantage from fair competition in the market.

    Anti-Trust Laws of United States

     

    Congress passed the first antitrust law, The Sherman Act, in 1890 as a "comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade." In 1914, Congress passed two additional antitrust laws: 1. The Federal Trade Commission Act, which created the FTC, and 2. The Clayton Act. With some revisions, these are the three core federal antitrust laws still in effect today.

    The basic objective of these laws is to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down, and keep quality up. 

    · The Sherman Act outlaws "every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade," and any "monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize."

    · The Federal Trade Commission Act bans "unfair methods of competition" and "unfair or deceptive acts or practices."

    · The Clayton Act addresses specific practices that the Sherman Act does not clearly prohibit, such as mergers and interlocking directorates i.e. the same person making business decisions for competing companies.

     


    Disadvantage for Consumers

    • Fewer options in the market
    • Monopolistic pattern can drive up prices of product offered
    • Weaker privacy controls by changing terms of service using complex language and ambiguous terms
    • Data of consumers hoarded without their consent – resulting in collecting data on all aspects of user’s lives for objectionable uses
    • Objectionable uses include - marketing and targeted advertising, influencing and manipulating political outcomes, targeting individuals based on particular criteria, enabling surveillance by governments and private agencies, data can be used by government for racial profiling, instigating riots, genocide etc.
    • Unprecedented market power enjoyed by such companies. Support of government further institutionalizes their monopoly.
    • Use of such power by Big Tech to mould data security laws according to their requirement and needs – which also means putting away privacy concerns for citizens.

    Why Better Regulation is Important for Indian Consumers

    • Users of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Apple, Amazon and Apple in India runs into billions. So, we can imagine the kind of data these companies have access to.
    • Google completely dominates the search engine space in India, and most smartphones in India are Android-based. And now Facebook and Google are collaborating with India’s largest telecom company Reliance Jio to create a single gateway for Indians.
    • This is further aided by the fact that so far we have not framed our own Data Privacy Law and the latest Data Protection Bill has run into various controversies.
    • Close relationship of these companies with the ruling party and their willingness to adopt different standards of fact-checking and privacy to serve ruling party’s vested interest goes against the very principles of equality, liberty and right to life and personal liberty of which right to privacy is an integral part.

    Conclusion

    Strong anti-competitive laws in India (Competition Act, 2002) must be backed by stronger privacy and data protection laws over digital companies. Else, consumer choices and consumer rights will reduce substantially to serve unprecedented corporate greed.     

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:India needs to rethink its nutrition agenda | Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Social Issues

    Sub Theme: Nutrition Status in India| UPSC

    The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released data fact sheets for 22 States and Union Territories (UTs) based on the findings of Phase I of the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5). 22 States/ UTs don’t include some major States such as Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.  

    About National Family Health Survey

    v  All NFHSs have been conducted under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) Mumbai, serving as the Nodal Agency.

    v  It provides an indicator for tracking 30 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the country aims to achieve by 2030.

    v  NFHS-5 includes some new topics, such as preschool education, disability, access to a toilet facility, death registration, bathing practices during menstruation, and methods and reasons for abortion.

    v  For the first time, the NFHS-5 sought details on percentage of women and men who have ever used the Internet. 

    While the national picture will only be clear when the survey is completed and data are released for all the States and UTs, what we have so far paints a troubling picture in relation to nutrition outcomes.

    NFHS-5 & NFHS-4 – A comparative study

     

    Health indicators

     

     

    Comparison with NFHS-4 (2015-16)

     

     

    Comment

    Severe acute malnutrition

    Increase

    Of the 22 States and UTs, there is an increase in the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition in 16 States/UTs

     

    Kerala and Karnataka are the only two big States among the six States and UTs where there is some decline.

     

    Underweight

    Increase

    The percentage of children under five who are underweight has also increased in 16 out of the 22 States/UTs.

     

    Anaemia

    Increase

    Anaemia levels among children as well as adult women have increased in most of the States with a decline in anaemia among children being seen only in four States/UTs (all of them smaller ones — Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, and Meghalaya). 

    Adult malnutrition

    Increase

    There is also an increase in the prevalence of other indicators such as adult malnutrition measured by those having a Body Mass Index of less than 18.5 kg/m2 in many States/ UTs.

     

    Overweight/obesity

    Increase

    Most States/UTs also see an increase in overweight/obesity prevalence among children and adults

    Childhood stunting

    (low height for age)

    an indicator of chronic undernutrition and considered a sensitive indicator of overall well-being.

    o    WHO calls stunting “a marker of inequalities in human development”.

    Increase

     

    There was a 10 pp decline in stunting among children under five between 2005-06 (NFHS-3) and 2015-16 (NFHS-4), from 48% to 38%, averaging 1 pp a year.

     

    ·         Increase in childhood stunting in 13 of the 22 States/UTs compared to the data of NFHS-4.

     

    ·         Five see an improvement of less than 1 percentage point (pp) in this five-year period.

     

    ·         Sikkim (7.3 pp), Manipur (5.5 pp), Bihar (5.4 pp) and Assam (1.1 pp) are the four States which see some improvement although even these are below the goals set by the government.

     

    ·         Poshan Abhiyaan aimed at achieving a 2 pp reduction in childhood stunting per year.

     

     

     

     

    Infant Mortality Rate(the number of deaths per 1000 live births for children under the age of 1) and Under 5 Mortality Rate

    Stagnant

     

    Access to sanitation

     

    Increase

    In these too, gaps remain and some States perform better than others.

    Clean cooking fuels

    Increase

    Women’s status – a reduction in spousal violence and greater access of women to bank accounts

    Increase

    Internet Use
    There is an urban-rural gap as well as gender divide with respect to the use of the Internet in several states and union territories.

    • On average, less than 3 out of 10 women in rural India and 4 out of 10 women in urban India everused the Internet.
    • An average 42.6% of women ever used the Internet as against an average of 62.16% among the men.
    • An average of 56.81% of women ever used the Internet compared to an average of 73.76% among the men.
    • A dismal 33.94% woman in rural India ever used the Internet as against 55.6% among men.
    • Thepercentage of women, who ever used the Internet, significantly dropped in rural India.

    The Paradox

    • Over the last three decades, despite high rates of economic growth there has been increased inequality, greater informalisation of the labour force, and reducing employment elasticities of growth.
    • There has been expansion in social protection schemes.
    • Public programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Public Distribution System, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), and school meals leading to reduction in absolute poverty.
    • However there is rising number of reported starvation deaths from different parts of the country. Volunteers of the Right to Food campaign have listed over 100 starvation deaths based on media and/or verified fact-finding reports since 2015.
      • Field surveys such as the recent ‘Hunger Watch’ are already showing massive levels of food insecurity and decline in food consumption, especially among the poor and vulnerable households.
    • There are continuous attempts to weaken these mechanisms through underfunding and general neglect.
    • In a response to a parliamentary question in December 2019, the Minister for Women and Child Development presented data which showed that only about 32.5% of the funds released for Poshan Abhiyaan from 2017-18 onwards had been utilised.

    Way Forward

    • A piecemeal approach addressing some aspects (that too inadequately) will not work.
    • Direct interventions such as supplementary nutrition (of good quality including eggs, fruits, etc.), growth monitoring, and behaviour change communication through the ICDS and school meals must be strengthened and given more resources.
    • Universal maternity entitlements and child care services to enable exclusive breastfeeding, appropriate infant and young child feeding as well as recognising women’s unpaid work burdens.
    • The linkages between agriculture and nutrition both through what foods are produced and available as well as what kinds of livelihoods are generated in farming are also important.
    • An employment-centred growth strategy which includes universal provision of basic services for education, health, food and social security is imperative.

     

    UPSC Current: Gujarat to get 30,000 MW renewable energy park| Page 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: Hybrid Renewable Energy Park | UPSC

    PM Modi is set to lay down the foundation stone for the Hybrid Renewable Energy Park near Vighakot village in the Kutch district of Gujarat. It will be the India's largest renewable energy generation park. It will lead to the generation of renewable energy to the tune of 30 GW. Spread over 72,600 hectares of land, the park will have a dedicated hybrid park zone for wind and solar energy storage & exclusive zone for wind park activities.

    National Wind-solar Hybrid Policy

    Background: India has set an ambitious target of reaching 175 GW of installed capacity from renewable energy sources by the year 2022, which includes 100 GW of solar and 60 GW of wind power capacity.

    Rationale behind Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy: Superimposition of wind and solar resource maps shows that there are large areas where both wind and solar have high to moderate potential. The existing wind farms have scope of adding solar Photovoltaics capacity and similarly there may be wind potential in the vicinity of existing solar PV plant.

    Photovoltaics, PV gets its name from the process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage), which is called the photovoltaic effect. 

    Strategy: Hybrid System-->Wind Turbine Generators (WTGs) and Solar PV systems can operate on same land.  However, for being considered as Hybrid system, the Installed capacity of at least one of them should be minimum 25%.  

    Incentives: The Government will encourage development wind-solar hybrid systems through different schemes and programmes. All fiscal and financial incentives available to wind and solar power projects will also be made available to hybrid projects.  

         

    UPSC Current: Cases of COVID-triggered fungal infection surface| Page 03

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & Technology

    Sub Theme:  Mucormycosis | UPSC

    Mucormycosis is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes. These molds live throughout the environment. Mucormycosis mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. It most commonly affects the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air, or the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, burn, or other type of skin injury. However, it can occur in nearly any part of the body.

    People get mucormycosis by coming in contact with the fungal spores in the environment. For example, the lung or sinus forms of the infection can occur after someone breathes in spores. These forms of mucormycosis usually occur in people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. Mucormycosis can also develop on the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, scrape, burn, or other type of skin trauma.

    Types of fungi that most commonly cause mucormycosis

    Examplesare: Rhizopus species, Mucor species, Rhizomucor species, Syncephalastrum species, Cunninghamella bertholletiae, Apophysomyces species, and Lichtheimia (formerly Absidia) species. 

    Types of mucormycosis

    • Rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) mucormycosis is an infection in the sinuses that can spread to the brain. This form of mucormycosis is most common in people with uncontrolled diabetes and in people who have had a kidney transplant.
    • Pulmonary (lung) mucormycosis is the most common type of mucormycosis in people with cancer and in people who have had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant.
    • Gastrointestinal mucormycosis is more common among young children than adults, especially premature and low birth weight infants less than 1 month of age, who have had antibiotics, surgery, or medications that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. 
    • Cutaneous (skin) mucormycosis: occurs after the fungi enter the body through a break in the skin (for example, after surgery, a burn, or other type of skin trauma). This is the most common form of mucormycosis among people who do not have weakened immune systems.
    • Disseminated mucormycosis occurs when the infection spreads through the bloodstream to affect another part of the body. The infection most commonly affects the brain, but also can affect other organs such as the spleen, heart, and skin.

    Symptoms of Mucormycosis

    The symptoms of mucormycosis depend on where in the body the fungus is growing. 1,4 Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms that you think are related to mucormycosis.

    Symptoms of rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) mucormycosis include:

    • One-sided facial swelling
    • Headache
    • Nasal or sinus congestion
    • Black lesions on nasal bridge or upper inside of mouth that quickly become more severe
    • Fever

    Symptoms of pulmonary (lung) mucormycosis include:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Chest pain
    • Shortness of breath

    Cutaneous (skin) mucormycosis can look like blisters or ulcers, and the infected area may turn black. Other symptoms include pain, warmth, excessive redness, or swelling around a wound.

    Symptoms of gastrointestinal mucormycosis include:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Gastrointestinal bleeding

    Disseminated mucormycosis typically occurs in people who are already sick from other medical conditions, so it can be difficult to know which symptoms are related to mucormycosis. Patients with disseminated infection in the brain can develop mental status changes or coma.

     

    UPSC Current: U.S. agencies hit by massive cyberattack | Page 13

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III- Internal Security

    Sub Theme: Cyber Security| UPSC

    Context:

    • A devastating cybersecurity attack targeting major branches of the U.S. government has put an untold number of Americans, agencies and government secrets at risk of compromise.
    • The attackers, which may have been tied to the Russian government, penetrated federal computer systems through a popular piece of server software offered through a company called SolarWinds.

    From where did the attacks come from?

    • The threat apparently came from the same cyberespionage campaign that has afflicted cybersecurity firm FireEye, foreign governments and major corporations, and the FBI was investigating.
    • The system is used by hundreds of thousands of organizations globally, including most Fortune 500 companies and multiple U.S. federal agencies, which will now be scrambling to patch up their networks.

    What was the kind of the attack?

    • The attackers planted malware in computer networks after using a novel combination of techniques not witnessed by us or our partners in the past.
    • What is a Malware?
      • Malware is the collective name for a number of malicious software variants, including viruses, ransomware and spyware.
      • Shorthand for malicious software, malware typically consists of code developed by cyberattackers, designed to cause extensive damage to data and systems or to gain unauthorized access to a network.
    • Let us understand it in simple terms?
      • Think of it like a health virus that manages to get into your body.
      • Once it’s in your body, it multiplies, using all of the organs and all of the arteries and all the liquids in your body. Everything is interconnected.

    What information was potentially taken?

    • It’s too early to say since the attack was only recently discovered but appears to have exploited what SolarWinds called a “potential vulnerability” related to updates released between March and June for Orion, which helps monitor networks for problems.

    Could your personal information be at risk?

    • The federal agencies targeted in the attack have a storehouse of personal information about Americans, of course. But comprehensive details on the motivations of the attackers remain unclear.

    “The initial sense is that the attack left the updating system for many key security systems open to exploitation, meaning it's possible they could have attained root access to many agency's systems,” Schmidt said in an email interview. “If that's true, and we don't know yet, it could mean the most important systems are compromised – personnel data, including foreign agents, planning, operations, etc. If anything near the worst is true, it will mean months of work to determine whether it's safe to use these systems.”

    What can you do to protect yourself?

    • Americans, just like the agencies targeted in the attack, should take a consistent approach to protecting themselves.
    • Use complex and different passwords for your digital accounts. Monitor your finances closely. Use two-factor authentication for critical accounts like email and social media. Don’t click on links from any source that you haven’t authenticated as legitimate.

    Was this inevitable?

    • When it comes to cybersecurity attacks, there’s a degree of inevitability in the air, despite everyone’s best attempts to protect themselves – particularly when a motivated and sophisticated nation-state poses a threat.

     

    UPSC Current: Stealth frigate Himgiri is ready | Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & Technology

    Sub Theme: Defence Technology- Himgiri| UPSC

    Context: 

    Himgiri, the first of the three stealth frigates being built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata, under Project 17A for the Navy, was launched into water on 14th December, 2020.

    • Under the Project 17A program, a total of seven ships, four at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) and three ships at GRSE are being built with enhanced stealth features, advanced indigenous weapon and sensor fit along with several other improvements.
    • Since its inception, Project 17A has upheld India’s vision for Atmanirbhar Bharat. P17A ships have been indigenously designed by Directorate of Naval Design (Surface Ship Design Group) - DND(SSG), and are being built at indigenous yards namely MDL and GRSE.
    • This project is unique in that it is being built simultaneously at two locations, at the GRSE and the Mazgaon Docks in Mumbai. Fincantieri of Italy is the know-how provider for technology upgrade and capability enhancement in this project.

     

    UPSC Current: CII urges Centre to disinvest aggressively, monetise assets| Page 14

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: Disinvestment of PSUs | UPSC

    Context:

    Presently, on account of economic slowdown, there has been a decline in tax revenue of the Government. This in turn has severely constrained the ability of the Government to undertake financial stimulus to counter slowdown. At the same time, decrease in the tax revenue may make it difficult for the Government to meet its fiscal deficit target of 3.5% in the present financial year.

    Hence, accordingly, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has urged the Central Government to aggressively go for disinvestment of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs). It is to be noted that the Government has set an ambitious disinvestment target of Rs 2.1 lakh crores for the present financial year. Hence, it remains yet to be seen as to whether the Government would be able to meet its ambitious disinvestment targets.

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