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

  • PTS Announcement
  • Facial Recognition Technology Polity & Governance
  • Himalayan Maneuvers Editorial International Relations
  • Give adequate time for probe Article Polity & Governance
  • CCEA nod for 3 infra projects Economy
  • Straws in the wind in south block - Article International Relations
  • Govt. nod for missions in Estonia, Paraguay & Dominican Republic - International Relations
  • Separating the wheat from the Agri-policy chaff (Reference - DNS: 16-12-20) Economy
  • Question for the Day

Prelims Quiz


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    UPSC Current Affairs: Facial recognition technology: law yet to catch up | Page - 02
    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science and Technology | Mains – GS Paper II – S&T, Internal Security
    Sub Theme: Deployment of facial recognition technology | AFRS | Interpol | UPSC
    Context: Rapid deployment of facial recognition system by the government without any law in place poses a huge threat to privacy rights and freedom of speech and expression.
    Approval for AFRS
    ⦁ Approval has been accorded for implementation of Automatic Facial Recognition System (AFRS) by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
    ⦁ AFRS will use police records and will be accessible only to Law Enforcement Agencies. This will facilitate better identification of criminals, unidentified dead bodies and missing/found children and persons.
    What is the purpose of AFRS Software?
    ⦁ AFRS is a software that recognizes, records and matches faces against various government databases from photos and videos taken from public and private sources. Its purpose is to find missing children, who may be recorded on CCTV; track criminals across a country.
    ⦁ It was used recently at the rally of Prime Minister of India to recognise such people who could have raised protest against the government based on footage recorded from earlier protests.
    ⦁ According to reports, people at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan had to pass through a metal detector, during which a camera captured a photo of their faces and scanned it against a database in a matter of seconds.
    How does the software work?
    ⦁ The police’s AFRS is different from the facial recognition systems used on smartphones which are based on the ISO 19794-5 standard meant for consumer biometrics.
    ⦁ Whereas, the police’s software is more “restrictive", as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) document seeking proposals for the system. It measures facial features and uses the measurements to create a “template" to be matched against other.
    ⦁ Law enforcement’s software is meant to work in various light conditions, detect make-up, plastic surgery or ageing and work against sketches of subjects.
    What are the different databases which AFRS will have access to?
    ⦁ As per NCRB, AFRS will have access to various government databases such as Passports, Aadhaar, Immigration, Visa and Foreigners’ Registration Tracking database, Ministry of women and child development’s Khoya-Paya and the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
    ⦁ It can match a photo against many and compare one photo with another. The more the data, the better is the output.
    ⦁ A centralized web application will be hosted in the crime record bureau’s data centre in Delhi which will be made available to all police stations in India.
    Facial Recognition used at INTERPOL
    ⦁ The INTERPOL Face Recognition System (IFRS) contains facial images received from more than 160 countries which makes it a unique global criminal database.
    ⦁ IFRS is coupled with an automated biometric software application. This system is capable of identifying or verifying a person by comparing and analysing patterns, shapes and proportions of their facial features and contours.
    Factors important in Facial Recognition
    ⦁ Unlike fingerprints and DNA, which do not change during a person’s life, facial recognition has to take into account different factors, such as:
    ⦁ Ageing
    ⦁ Plastic surgery
    ⦁ Cosmetics
    ⦁ Effects of drug abuse or smoking
    ⦁ Pose of the subject
    Working with good quality images is also crucial. Low or medium quality images may be not searchable in the IFRS system. Even if they are searched, the accuracy of the search and the results themselves can be significantly affected.No Active Guidelines for Facial Recognition Tracking (AFRT) System
    ⦁ There are currently 16 different Facial Recognition Tracking (FRT) systems in active utilisation by various Central and State governments across India for surveillance, security or authentication of identity.
    ⦁ Another 17 are in the process of being installed by different government departments. While the FRT system has seen rapid deployment by multiple government departments in recent times, there are no specific laws or guidelines to regulate the use of this potentially invasive technology.
    ⦁ FRT system without appropriate guidelines poses threat to fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech and expression because it does not satisfy the threshold the Supreme Court had set in its landmark privacy judgment in the ‘Justice K.S. Puttaswamy Vs Union of India’ case.
    ⦁ Thus, there seems to be no guidelines, policies, rules or standard operating procedure governing the use of facial recognition technology in India.
    ⦁ In the context of Article 21, an invasion of privacy must be justified on the basis of a law which stipulates a procedure which is fair, just and reasonable.
    ⦁ An invasion of life or personal liberty must meet the three-fold requirement of
    ⦁ Legality, which postulates the existence of law;
    ⦁ Need, defined in terms of a legitimate state aim; and
    ⦁ Proportionality which ensures a rational nexus between the objects and the means adopted to achieve them
    ⦁ Positive Aspects of Privacy - imposes an obligation on the state to take all necessary measures to protect the privacy of the individual.
    ⦁ Negative Aspects of Privacy - restrains the state from committing an intrusion upon the life and personal liberty of a citizen.
    Uses of AFRS or FRT
    ⦁ According to some experts, police in Delhi are using the technology for wider security and surveillance and investigation purpose, which is a function creep.
    ⦁ A function creep happens when someone uses information for a purpose that is not the original specified purpose.
    ⦁ As per report the Hindu Newspaper, Delhi police, with the help of automated facial recognition system (AFRS), was comparing the details of people involved in violence during the anti-Citizenship Act protests in Jamia Millia Islamia with a data bank of more than two lakh ‘anti-social elements’.
    ⦁ This raises the doubt about the usage of AFRS and its regulation including violation of rights of individuals.
    Challenges of unregulated use of AFRS
    ⦁ Violation of fundamental right to privacy
    ⦁ Increases illegal mass surveillance without proper regulations or need
    ⦁ Leads to profiling of citizens based on religion
    ⦁ Automates discriminatory policing
    ⦁ Targeting protestors against any government through identification
    ⦁ Impacts fundamental right to liberty – freedom of speech & expression
    ⦁ Problem of FALSE POSITIVE - Inaccurate result can lead to falsely implicating someone else
    ⦁ Problem of FALSE NEGATIVE – system does not recognise the person
    ⦁ False Negative can lead to exclusion of people from government schemes or policies
    Even Companies have put a Moratorium on sale of such technologies
    ⦁ Many cities and states in the U.S. have either completely banned the usage or impose moratorium on the usage of facial recognition tech.
    ⦁ Companies like IBM, Microsoft have decided not to sell these technologies to law enforcement at all. Even Amazon has imposed a moratorium. Facial recognition technology has not only been invasive, inaccurate and unregulated but has also been unapologetically weaponised by law enforcement against people from different race or religion.
    Conclusion & Way Forward
    ⦁ India is facing a facial recognition pandemic, one without any safeguards or remedies for the harms of exclusion, profiling and surveillance.
    ⦁ Without urgent action, such systems of mass surveillance will erode democratic liberties and threaten the rights of lakhs of Indians.
    ⦁ Thus, government must provide specific guidelines on the use and against misuse of AFRS. Government must lay down specific guidelines in the upcoming Data Protection Law against misuse of AFRS.
    UPSC Current Affairs: Himalayan manoeuvres | Page - 06
    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International Relations | Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations
    Sub Theme: Political Turmoil in Nepal | China-India-Pakistan | UPSC
    Context: Amidst ongoing constitutional crisis in Nepal politics, China has extended its olive branch to solve the crisis in Nepal.
    The Problem & China’s outreach
    ⦁ Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s controversial decision to dissolve Parliament and call for elections, China has sent a senior delegation to Nepal signaling that it is prepared to intervene in Nepal’s politics. China’s intermeddling in Nepal’s internal politics may result in loss of face for China and popular goodwill it holds in Kathmandu.
    ⦁ In contrast, India has chosen to be more pragmatic and restrained, possibly due to a historical understanding of the main players in Nepali politics, and their penchant for political brinkmanship.
    ⦁ So far, it is clear that India is not playing its traditional leading role in Nepal, neither is it facing the odium for playing spoiler.
    ⦁ Brinkmanship is the practice of trying to achieve an advantageous outcome by pushing dangerous events to the brink of active conflict. Cambridge Dictionary defines brinkmanship as an activity, especially in politics, of trying to get what you want by saying that if you do not get it, you will do something dangerous.
    Political Backdrop in Nepal
    ⦁ PM Oli’s move is a serious blow to Nepal’s newfound political stability which was achieved after the national election in 2017 as per the new constitution adopted in 2015. The move is likely to trigger another round of political instability.
    ⦁ In the 2017 national elections, Oli’s party CPN-UML and Pushpa ‘Prachanda’ Kamal Dahal’s party CPN (Maoist Centre) forged an electoral alliance. Combing direct and proportional seats, Oli’s party emerged as the largest party with 121 in the 275-member parliament but did not have an absolute majority to form the government. Prachanda’s party was at the third-largest in the newly-elected parliament.
    ⦁ Both the leaders decided to merge their parties to form the Nepal Communist Party. Along with the unification, Oli and Prachanda reached an agreement on power-sharing.
    ⦁ The four-point agreement stated that Oli and Prachanda will lead the government for an equal period of time.
    ⦁ The unification of the party was largely driven by the ambitions of the two leaders, despite their differences, ideological and otherwise.
    ⦁ According to the agreement between the two leaders, Oli had to hand over leadership of the government to Prachanda after two-and-a-half years. But Oli refused to do so; instead he agreed to grant the party’s executive powers to Prachanda.
    ⦁ As per the new agreement, Prachanda was made Executive Chairman of the party. But this arrangement did not last for long because Oli continued to hold his grip on the party as well. Since then, there have been several agreements between two leaders on how to share power, but none of them succeed.
    Oli’s Reach out to India
    ⦁ Oli was previously been seen as being friendly to Beijing and had a testy relationship with New Delhi over the past year. However, in recent months, the Nepali government had reached out to New Delhi.
    ⦁ There was a significant melting in relations, with the Indian foreign secretary visiting Kathmandu in November. Plans were also being drawn up for the Nepali foreign minister to visit New Delhi for a Joint Commission meeting.
    ⦁ The positive situation gives New Delhi a little more space in which to consider its moves, and how to avoid instability in its Himalayan neighbour’s polity, something that is crucial to their relations and in the long term, to their closely inter-linked prosperity.
    UPSC Current Affairs: Give adequate time for a probe | Page - 07
    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity and Governance
    Sub Theme: Disha Bill, 2019 | Shakti Act, 2020 | UPSC
    What does the news highlight/
    ⦁ Taking a cue from the Andhra Pradesh’s Disha Bill of 2019, the Maharashtra government recently announced that it would enact a law to deal sternly with the cases of sexual assault on women.
    ⦁ The proposed Maharashtra Shakti Act of 2020 will have stern punishment for offences of sexual assault and a provision to complete investigation within 15 days.
    ⦁ The author argues that period of 15 days though reasonable, but may not be sufficient in extreme cases. Further, filing investigation report is also dependent on different factors some of which may not be foreseen as every crime is different and facts vary.
    Cr.PC on filing Chargesheet
    ⦁ The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) provides that investigation relating to offences punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years must be completed within 60 days and for offences with higher punishment (including rape), within 90 days of detaining the accused, else he or she shall be released on bail.
    ⦁ To speed up the process, the CrPC was amended in 2018 and the period of investigation was reduced from 90 to 60 days for all cases of rape.
    ⦁ Though every investigation has to be completed without unnecessary delay, there is no upper limit to complete investigation when the offenders are at large. Each investigation is guided by its own set of facts and circumstances.
    What aspects must be considered in providing time to police to file their Report?
    ⦁ The time of investigation depends on the severity of the crime, the number of accused persons and agencies involved.
    ⦁ Investigation in a crime includes
    ⦁ examination of the scene of crime by the investigating officer (IO) and forensic expert;
    ⦁ recording the statement of the victim (by the IO and the judicial magistrate) and witnesses;
    ⦁ medical examination of the victim (at a place where a female doctor is available) and accused persons;
    ⦁ collecting documents relating to age from parents, local bodies and school (in case of child victim and delinquents);
    ⦁ DNA findings of the forensic science lab (FSL);
    ⦁ test identification parade of accused persons (if initially not named);
    ⦁ seizing weapons of offence; the arrest of accused persons; etc.
    ⦁ In many cases of rape, the victim remains under trauma for some time and is not able to narrate the incident in detail.
    ⦁ The speed and quality of investigation also depends on whether a police station has separate units of investigation and law and order, remoteness of location of crime scene from Forensic Labs or police stations etc.
    ⦁ Number of Investigating Officers working in a given case, availability of women police officers in special and sensitive cases etc.
    ⦁ Investigation of sensitive offences should be done expeditiously. However, setting narrow timelines for investigation creates scope for procedural loopholes which may be exploited during trial.
    ⦁ Therefore, instead of fixing unrealistic timelines, the police should be given additional resources so that they can deliver efficiently.
    UPSC Current Affairs: CCEA nod for 3 infra projects | Page - 10
    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Infrastructure | Mains – GS Paper III – Infrastructure
    Sub Theme: Industrial Corridors | DPIIT | Multi Modal Logistics Hub | UPSC
    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has recently approved proposals of Department of Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT) for setting up greenfield industrial cities with connectivity to major transportation corridors such as the eastern and western dedicated freight corridors, expressways and National highways.
    New greenfield Industrial Cities
    ⦁ Krishnapatnam Industrial Area in Andhra Pradesh
    ⦁ Tumkuru Industrial Area in Karnataka
    ⦁ Multi Modal Logistics Hub (MMLH) and Multi Modal Transport Hub (MMTH) at Greater Noida.
    Details about Industrial Corridor Projects
    The Government is developing various Industrial Corridor Projects as part of National Industrial Corridor programme. This programme is aimed at development of futuristic industrial cities in India which can compete with the best manufacturing and investment destinations in the world. It will lead to creation of employment opportunities leading to overall socio-economic development.
    11 Industrial Corridors Projects are being taken up for development with 30 Projects to be developed in 04 phases up to 2024-25:
    ⦁ Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC)
    ⦁ Chennai Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC)
    ⦁ Amritsar Kolkata Industrial Corridor (AKIC)
    ⦁ East Coast Industrial Corridor (ECIC) with Vizag Chennai Industrial Corridor (VCIC)
    ⦁ Bengaluru Mumbai Industrial Corridor (BMIC)
    ⦁ Hyderabad Nagpur Industrial Corridor (HNIC)
    ⦁ Hyderabad Warangal Industrial Corridor (HWIC)
    ⦁ Hyderabad Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (HBIC)
    ⦁ Odisha Economic Corridor (OEC)
    ⦁ Delhi Nagpur Industrial Corridor (DNIC)
    While developing the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project, Western DFC has been considered as the transportation backbone while Eastern DFC has been considered as the backbone for Amritsar Kolkata Industrial Corridor (AKIC) project. For other industrial corridor projects like Chennai Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC) and Bengaluru Mumbai Industrial Corridor (BMIC), NH-4 has been considered as the backbone.
    Major Benefits of the new initiative
    ⦁ Boost Employment Creation
    ⦁ Attract Investment into Manufacturing Sector
    ⦁ Reduce logistics cost and improve operational efficiency
    ⦁ Seamless connectivity across Rail and Road
    ⦁ Boost Aatma Nirbhar Bharat and Make in India
    UPSC Current Affairs: Straws in the wind in South Block | Page - 07
    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International Relations | Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations
    Sub Theme: India’s Foreign Policy | UPSC
    Context: The author has highlighted that because of the changes that are going on across the globe, Indian foreign Policy is in a state of lull. In this he has focused on issues like China's growing assertiveness, India's Pandemic diplomacy and the intolerance to criticism that India has shown. So let us look some of the issues discussed in the article.
    Some of the events that have created this lull -
    ⦁ Impasse on the border with China - Escalation along LAC in Galwan Valley.
    ⦁ Severe restrictions on travel - COVID 19
    ⦁ The unsettled situation in the U.S. - New President elect Joe Biden
    ⦁ The game-changing developments in West Asia - Assassination of Iranian Nuclear scientist.
    ⦁ Chinese aggression has left Indian foreign policy with limited options.
    ⦁ Further the kind of comfort that India had with trump administration is yet to be explored under the Biden administration in dealing with China.
    Pandemic diplomacy
    ⦁ Initially India provided medical supplies to many countries. Further it is now engaging in different collaborations to initiatives to provide supplies of COVID vaccine.
    ⦁ India has also played a key role in bringing back its citizens and the citizens of neighbouring countries home during the COVID lockdown.
    Mixing foreign Policy with the defence policies
    ⦁ An increasingly visible integration of foreign and defence policies has added a new dimension to policymaking and execution.
    ⦁ The visit of the Chief of the Army Staff and the Foreign Secretary to Myanmar.
    ⦁ Nepal saw the visits of the Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the Foreign Secretary. Thus securitising foreign policy has become absolute imperative.
    ⦁ This is because India still has unsettled borders with its neighbours.
    ⦁ And its has been at the receiving end of terrorism which is supported by Pakistan.
    Distancing from Globalisation
    ⦁ India has not joined RCEP.
    ⦁ Further India is now focussing on Atmanirbhar Bharat to reduce dependency on Chinese imports.
    ⦁ However, boycotting Chinese goods and investments is impractical at present
    Intolerance of international criticism of internal developments
    ⦁ Foreign minister Jaishankar refused to meet Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal because of her views on Jammu & Kashmir.
    ⦁ Senator Bernie Sanders and Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris, now Vice-President-elect, criticised India for ‘silencing’ its critic
    ⦁ India boycotted a Ministerial meeting on COVID-19 convened by Canada. The reason for the boycott was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement on the agitation of Indian farmers, consisting largely of Sikhs.
    ⦁ The External Affairs Ministry told that the statements made by “the Canadian Prime Minister, some Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament on issues relating to Indian farmers constitute an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs.”
    Much of the permutations and combinations being worked out in South Block will emerge as the new norm settles down.
    UPSC Current Affairs: Govt. nod for missions in Estonia, Paraguay and Dominican Republic | Page - 09
    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International Map Locations |
    Sub Theme: Missions in Estonia, Paraguay, Dominican Republic | UPSC
    The government announced that it would open three missions in Estonia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic in 2021, after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared the proposal from the Ministry of External Affairs.
    “The opening of the missions will help expand India’s diplomatic footprint, deepen political relations, enable growth of bilateral trade, investment and economic engagements, facilitate stronger people-to-people contacts, bolster political outreach in multilateral fora and help garner support for the foreign policy objectives,” said an official statement, adding that the move would also help the diaspora members residing in these countries.
    Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu welcomed the decision saying it would strengthen ties in trade and cybersecurity in particular. “We will also serve together in the Security Council next year.
    Both Paraguay and the Dominican Republic had set up missions in Delhi in 2006.
    “This will undoubtedly strengthen and deepen our bonds. Great news,” wrote Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic Roberto Alvarez, thanking Mr. Jaishankar for the news.
    UPSC Current Affairs: Farmers, Centre reach agreement on two issues| Page - 01
    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains – GS Paper III – Economy
    Sub Theme: utilisation of fly ash in cement plants | Uses of Fly Ash | UPSC
    The recent protests over the farm acts have reignited the debate about agricultural subsidies provided to farmers. This article predominantly highlights that the structural problems faced by Indian agriculture can be solved by enhancing Public Investment. However, the Public Investment has remained stagnant. Rather than enhancing Public Investment, the Government has focussed more on providing agricultural subsidies. This has adversely affected the Indian agriculture leading to lower price realisation for the farmers.
    Public Investment in agriculture refers to long term investment in agriculture that benefits all farmers (inclusive), environmentally sustainable, address the structural problems of agriculture and enhances income of farmers. Examples include expansion of irrigation, investment in marketing infrastructure, Cold chain infrastructure, R&D for improved Seed varieties, technologies etc., Financial support to SHGs, Promotion of mechanization etc.
    Present Status: Firstly, the total Investment in Agriculture is only around 15% of agricultural GDP. This is much lower as compared to Gross Investment rate of 30% of India's GDP. Secondly, out of total investment of 15% of agricultural GDP, the share of Government Investment is only around 3%, the rest 12% investment comes from farmers and private sector. Problems: The Government expenditure on agricultural subsidies such as MSP, water, power, fertilizers, loan waivers etc. is as high as 8.2% of Agri-GDP. These Subsidies are not inclusive (Mainly benefit rich farmers), not environmentally sustainable (Excessive water consumption, imbalanced fertilizer consumption, soil degradation etc.), create distortions ( Free power- Huge loss to DISCOMs; MSP- artificial scarcity of food grains, higher focus on cultivation of water-intensive crops, lack of diversification etc.) and do not address the structural problems of Indian agriculture.
    What should be done?
    Rationalize the Agricultural subsidies; Targeting of subsidies through DBT;