9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 31, 2020

9 PM DAILY BRIEF

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GS – Paper 2 

  • Approach of India and China on Nepal’s political crisis
  • Analysis of India’s Foreign policy in 2020

GS – Paper 3 

  • Impact of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) on the rights of people
  • More genome sequencing to study the spread of the variants
  • Path to economic recovery of India

9 PM for Preliminary examination

Factly News articles for December 31, 2020


Approach of India and China on Nepal’s political crisis  

Source: Click here 

Syllabus: GS 2 

Synopsis: Beijing and New Delhi are adopting different approach towards China after Nepal’s prime minister decided to dissolve Parliament. 

Background: 

The Supreme Court has given Mr. Oli some time to explain his actions. It is yet to decide on putting a stay on the election process. 

  • Ever since Nepal adopted its new Constitution in 2015, there have been quite a few instances where politics has reached a tipping point.
      • One of the examples is, Mr. Dahal’s walk out of a coalition government with Mr. Oli in 2016.

What is China’s stance? 

  • Beijing’s sent a senior delegation of the Communist Party of China to Kathmandu shortly after Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s decision to dissolve Parliament. It indicates that China is prepared to interfere in Nepal’s politics. 
  • Chinese delegation met political leaders of Nepal with a definite task of trying to reverse the split in the party and convince Mr. Oli and his rivals to patch up.
  • This move of Chinese government flickered protests in Kathmandu. Though China is at a risk of losing popular goodwill in Nepal due to this move, it is equally surprising that both groups in Nepal were willing to meet the Chinese delegation.

What is India’s stance? 

It is evident that India is not playing its traditional leading role in Nepal but it is also not facing hatred for spoiling the situation. 

  • India has a historical understanding of the main players in Nepali politics; thus, it has chosen to be more logical and controlled.  
  • Mr. Oli and Mr. Dahal, both reached out to India and are engaging with the government about the happenings in Nepal. 
      • Mr Oli reached out to India months after the map controversy. 
      • Mr. Dahal has been a close Indian confederate during this period.

The present positive situation gives New Delhi a little more space to consider its moves, to bring instability. Stability in Nepal’s polity is crucial for their better relations with India in the long term as their prosperity is closely interlinked.


Analysis of India’s Foreign policy in 2020 

Synopsis: An analysis of India’s foreign policy for the year 2020 has been put forward. 

Source: The Hindu 

GS2: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora. 

Background 

  • The various developments that have affected Indian foreign policy decisions are, 
      • The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to severe restrictions on travel. 
      • Deadlock over the continuing occupation of Indian territory by China that witnessed violence at Galwanvalley.  
      • The unsettled situation in the U.S., with only three weeks to go for Joe Biden to be sworn in as President.
      • The game-changing developments in West Asia, the progress in Israel-Saudi bilateral relation.

How impactful were the India’s Foreign policy decision during the year 2020? 

India’s Foreign policy as a result of various global developments had its own pros and cons. Some decisions that we took raised our status in the global arena as a rising global superpower whereas some decisions have invited criticisms. 

  • First, India’s efforts towards pandemic recovery through India’s pandemic diplomacy have made a positive impact.  
    • India helped many countries with relief supplies, medicines, and equipment during the pandemic. For example, supply of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to other countries. 
    • India has also contributed immensely to international mobility and migration during the pandemic. For example, we supported the movement of more than 1,10,000 foreigners out of India to 120 countries while, more than 2.5 million citizens were facilitated to return to India. 
  • Second, India’s stress on multilateralism and international cooperation have been appreciated.  
  • Third, India has been increasingly involved in adequately securitizing foreign policy by integration of foreign and defence policies, a new dimension to policymaking for settling border disputes. For example,  
      • The visit of the Chief of the Army Staff and the Foreign Secretary to Myanmar.
      • The visits of the Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the Foreign Secretary to Nepal.
  • Third, in few examples, India was seen as distancing itself from globalisation and moving towards protectionism as against the rules of Free trade. For example, 
      • The concept of “Atmanirbharta” to reducing dependence on countries like China.
      • India’s decision to keep out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has stating that globalization and trade agreements have resulted in de-industrialization in certain sectors. 
  • Fourth, the visible intolerance towards international criticism had made other countries to express displeasure over India’s action. For example, two boycotts by Mr. Jaishankar have been seen as an increased intolerance of external criticism. 
      • The first was his decision not to meet Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal owing to her critical view on the Kashmir issue. Senator Bernie Sanders and Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris, now Vice-President-elect, criticized India for ‘silencing’ its critic.  
      • The second was his decision to boycott 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 which is significant to interference in our internal affairs. 

However, India’s policy is to be supportive of our diaspora abroad and we need to showcase tolerance towards such criticism from abroad. 


Impact of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) on the rights of people 

Source- The Hindu 

Syllabus- GS 3 – Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life. 

Synopsis– The rapid use of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) by law enforcement without proper guidelines and regulation, will have many negative impacts on people. 

Introduction- 

  • In recent times the facial recognition tracking (FRT) systems has seen rapid development. Central and State governments across India are using 16 different facial recognition tracking (FRT) systems for surveillance, security or authentication of identity. 
  • FRT uses algorithms to extract data points from a face to create its digital signature. This signature is compared with an existing database to find possible matches. 
  • Still, there are no specific laws or guidelines to regulate the use of this potentially invasive technology.
  • As facial recognition technology use grows, so do privacy fears. 

As a result, the FRT system poses a huge threat to the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech and expression. 

How FRT invades the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech and expression? 

The rapid growth of this technology has triggered a much-needed debate. These systems need a huge amount of sensitive personal data and biometric information, and their existence is at odds with the user’s privacy. Here are some concerning points about why people should worry about the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces. 

  1. The FRT system violates right to privacy-As per the Puttaswamy judgment, Privacy is a fundamental right, even on public spaces.  
    • Large-scale recordings, storing and analyzing of images undermines this right because it means it won’t be possible to anything in public without the state knowing about it.
  1. It operates without a clear legal or regulatory framework-There is a lack of detailed and specific information as to how facial recognition is actually used.
    • The system has no legal backing, claims Internet Freedom Foundation [IFF], which has recently issued notices to the Union home ministry and NCRB over the legality of the system.
    • If the police has detained or arrested any person with the use of the FRT system, then there is not proper guidelines/set of SOP of what to do. 
  1. Function creep surveillance– Function creeps” occurs when information is used for a purpose that is not the original intended. 
    • Use of facial recognition software in India began benevolently for identify missing children. Now it is being used for all kinds of surveillance. This shift from locating missing children to identifying rioters happened without any legal sanction or due planning and procedure which it a function creep.
  1. It has a chilling effect on our democratic rights
    • Blanket surveillance can deter individuals from attending public protests. It can stifle participation in political protests and campaigns for change. And it can discourage nonconformist behavior. 
    • This chilling effect is a serious infringement on the right to freedom of assembly, association, and expression.
  1. It is often inaccurate– t is not 100% accurate and there can be “misidentification (false positive) and failure to identify (false negative).
    • In case of a false positive- the algorithm said photos of two different people showed the same person
    • In case of a false negative- the algorithm failed to correctly detect that two photos showed the same person.

What is the International experience on FRTs? 

US has taken steps to prevent The Facial Recognition Technology’s weaponization by law enforcement against a section of people.  

    1. Many US cities and states have banned public agencies from using facial recognition and passed legislation to demand more transparency on how police use surveillance tools. 
    2. Microsoft followed Amazon and IBM, have decided to limit the use of its facial-recognition systems and not to sell it to police departments until there is a federal law regulating it.

What is the way forward? 

With so many concerns about facial recognition technology and desperately need a more prominent conversation on its impact on people’s rights and civil liberties. Without proper regulation, such systems of mass surveillance will erode democratic liberties and threaten the rights of lakhs of Indians 


More genome sequencing to study the spread of the variants 

Source- The Hindu 

Syllabus- GS 3 -  Science and Technology – developments and their applications and effects in everyday life. 

Synopsis- There is need for more genome sequencing from samples from all over the world in order to come up with effective approaches to control and prevent COVID-19 infections.  

Background- 

  • A new variant of the pandemic SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Britain and prompting high levels of concern. 
  • Six samples of the recent U.K. returnees have been found to be positive with a variant of SARS- CoV-2 virus.
  • From 25 Nov-23 Dec, about 33,000 passengers landed at various Indian airports from the U.K. So far, only 114 have been found positive and samples have been sent to 10 INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium) labs for genome sequencing.

Thus, only through detailed epidemiological studies combined with genome sequencing data can we confirm the presence and spread of the variant in India.  

What are the findings related to new stain of coronavirus and will it cause concern in India? 

The genomic analysis undertaken by the COVID-19 Genomics U.K. Consortium found that- 

  • First. The new variant of coronavirus is named “VUI 202012/01” and is defined by a set of 23 changes or mutations. Among the 23 mutations, the two of which are particularly worrisome and specifically N501Y makes is more transmissible. 
      • It includes a genetic mutation in the “spike” protein that can lead to an easy and immediate spread of the virus, making it deadlier. This new variant has 17 mutations that affect the shape of the virus.
  • Second, It is about 70% more transmissible- The variant has the potential to increase the number of people a person can infect by over 0.4 

However,it might not be able to spread wildly in India as a sizeable percentage of people are already infected.  

Read more – Mutation in Coronavirus 

Why it is important to undertake more genome sequencing of the virus? 

The genome sequencing study would determine if the COVID patients are carrying the existing strain of SARS-CoV-2 or the mutant strain.  

  • First, to understand the evolving nature of the virusSo far, we are doing very less frequent genomic sequencing compared to western nations. For instance, in England, around 10 percent of the infected virus samples are sequenced to study the nature of the virus. 
  • Second, to find an immune escape variant of the SARS-CoV-2, [which means a mutation in the virus that allows it to evade the immune system]  
      • One of the immune escape variants found in genomes from India, known as N440K variant — was found to be in 2.1 percent of the gene sequences in India.
  • Third, The N501Y mutation can arise independently here in India. Hence more genome sequencing and genomic epidemiology is needed. 

Steps were taken by the Indian Government regarding this-  

  • The genomic surveillance consortium (INSACOG) has been recommended for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance of circulating strains of the SARS-CoV-2 in India. 
  • Under this initiative, 5 percent of the positive cases will be tested for Whole Genome Sequencing, from all the States and UT. 

What is the way forward? 

Genome sequencing is very much important of the higher percentage of the samples to understand the evolving nature of the virus. 


Path to economic recovery of India  

Source: Indian Express 

Gs3: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment. 

Synopsis: Government should adopt a fiscal stimulus Path for the economic recovery of India, to make our economy grow at 9% GDP in the coming years. 

Background 

  • The impact of the pandemic has pushed India to impose stringent lockdown measures to save millions of lives of Indian citizens but it’s after effect has caused massive economic disruption. 
  • This has resulted in fall of GDP by around 7.5 percent for this full year which has dented our aspiration to become a$5 trillion economy by 2024. 
  • Though nothing much can be done for what has happened, in the coming years India needs to get back to the trend line of growth (pre-COVID years) to sustain the aspiration of our young population.

How different sectors are performing currently? 

  • The sectors which have shown a positive sign of recovery are
      • Pharmaceuticals and chemicals, the FMCG sector, the two-wheeler sector, Construction equipment’s driven by rural demand from sales to individuals, Capital goods.
  • In contrast, Sectors that are still struggling for a full recovery are
      • Mainly, the travel and tourism sector, real estate and construction sector, and retail which are significantly high employment sectors.

So, what steps must the government take?  

Though the recovery underway is solid, but we need measures to sustain and deepen it. The government can do three things. 

  • First, the government should resort to fiscal stimulus by paying long-overdue government bills. Few examples are, 
      • Distribute the pending tax refunds, pay the bills of all companies (large and small), pay off the many arbitration award spending where the government has lost cases, and pay state governments their pending GST dues. 
  • Second, invest in public health infrastructure and centre should finance state government efforts to build an extensive public health network. 
      • While this will equip as to handle a possible second wave of the virus, on the other, it will spread confidence.  
      • Also, it is essential for the government to work in partnership with private sector hospitals.
  • Third, invest massively in infrastructures such as roads, ports, logistics. Areas, where investment can be channelised, are,
      • By Providing decent, accessible housing to improve the living conditions in slums across our cities by providing right public-private program.
      • By providing cheap connectivity into our cities.
      • Even, the 20 trillion infrastructure pipeline project that requires massive funding can be considered.

How the funds for the above will be sourced?  

  • To mobilize its resources that are needed to finance the above measures, the government can opt for a huge privatization programme (Disinvestment) 
      • Under this program, the government should intend to reduce its share-holding to 26 percent across public-sector banks, steel companies, oil companies, and every manufacturing company and hotel it currently owns. 
      • This announcement might trigger a big rally in the stock prices of PSUs, increasing return. 
  • To stem the protests due to big reforms,we are witnessing currently, the government should choose democratic methods for implementing them such as use of discussion papers for public comment, the debate in Parliament.   

We need to act swiftly to regain from stunted recovery. We must use our economic crisis as an opportunity to set some bigger things right that we have ignored for too long. 


Factly News articles for December 31, 2020

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