DAILY MAINS NEWSLETTER FOR UPSC | 20 APR 2021 | RaghukulCS

Daily Mains Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

20 APRIL 2021

Index

Mains Value Addition

Mains Analysis

Topic No

Topic Name

Source

1

Protecting children in the age of AI

The Hindu

2

The ordinance route is bad, re-promulgation worse

The Hindu

3

Biotech boost for farming

Indian Express

Mains Value Addition

Over 50% of adults don’t know how to protect themselves from cybercrime: survey

Syllabus– GS 3: Cyber-security

Analysis: –

  • About 52% of adults admitted that they do not know how to protect themselves from cybercrime, according to a survey conducted by online security solutions provider Norton LifeLock
  • The findings come in the backdrop of 59% of adults in India becoming victims of cybercrime in the past 12 months.
  • The ‘2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report,’ based on the research conducted online by The Harris Poll among 10,030 adults in 10 countries, including 1,000 adults in India, also found that cybercrime victims collectively spent 1.3 billion hours trying to resolve these issues.

“In a year of lockdowns and restrictions, cybercriminals have not been deterred,” said Ritesh Chopra, director sales and field marketing, India & SAARC Countries

Indo-Pacific vision premised on Asean centrality: EAM S Jaishankar

Syllabus– GS 2: International Relations

Analysis: –

  • India told the UN Security Council on Monday that its vision of the Indo-Pacific as a free, open and inclusive region is premised upon ASEAN centrality and the common pursuit of prosperity, as it called for coordinated and concerted action across borders to combat contemporary security challenges of terrorism, radicalisation and organised crime.
  • Addressing the UN Security Council open debate on ‘Enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organisations in enhancing confidence-building and dialogue in conflict prevention and resolution’, he said a rational evaluation of cooperation between the UN and the regional and sub-organisations during the last 75 years will “provide a good basis for our future engagements.”
  • Highlighting that India has traditionally maintained close and friendly cooperation with regional organisations, Jaishankar said India’s relationship with the ASEAN is a key pillar of its foreign policy and the foundation of its Act East Policy.
  • “India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific as a free, open and inclusive region, underpinned by international law and a rules based order, is premised upon ASEAN centrality and the common pursuit of progress and prosperity.”
  • The leaders of the Quad last month held a virtual summit vowing to expand cooperation in a range of areas and resolving to work towards a free and open Indo-Pacific, amid China’s growing efforts to expand influence in the region.
  • The Quad comprises India, the US, Australia and Japan.

European Council approves conclusions on EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy

Syllabus– GS 2: IR

Analysis: –

  • Current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific have given rise to intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains as well as in technological, political and security areas. Human rights are also being challenged.
  • These developments increasingly threaten the stability and security of the region and beyond, directly impacting on the EU’s interests,” a statement from the Council said.
  • The Council tasked the High Representative and the Commission with putting forward a Joint Communication on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific by September 2021.
  • The Council of the European Union approved conclusions on a European Union strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to “reinforce its strategic focus, presence, and actions” in this region with the aim to contribute to “regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development,” at a time of “rising challenges and tensions in the region.”
  • The aim is to contribute to regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development.

Mains Analysis

Protecting children in the age of AI

Why in News?

We are now living among history’s very first “AI” generation. From the Alexas they converse with, to their robot playmates, to the YouTube wormholes they disappear into, the children and adolescents of today are born into a world increasingly powered by virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI).

Syllabus– GS 3: Artificial Intelligence

 

  • Recent progress in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, unprecedented amounts of data to train algorithms, and increased computing power are expected to profoundly impact life and work in the 21st century, raising both hopes and concerns for human development.
  • However, despite the growing interest in AI, little attention is paid to how it will affect children and their rights.
  • Most national AI strategies and major ethical guidelines make only cursory mention of children and their specific needs.
  • For country policies, references to children are usually about preparing them as a future AI workforce.
  • But as children increasingly use or are affected by AI systems in everyday situations — from playing with robotic toys that listen, observe and talk, to interacting with voice assistants — the lack of attention on the opportunities and risks that AI systems hold for children is growing.

Challenges

  • Double imperatives — this would mean getting all children online and creating child-safe digital spaces
  • According to UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as many as two-thirds of the world’s children do not have access to the Internet at home.
  • In the old-fashioned physical world, we evolved norms and standards to protect children.
  • For instance, there are policies and protocols for a child travelling alone as an unaccompanied minor.
  • Parents are understandably reluctant to let their children be photographed by the media, and in many countries, news outlets blur children’s faces to protect them.
  • The virtual world is full of unsupervised “vacations” and “playgrounds” — with other children and, potentially, less-than-scrupulous adults, sometimes posing anonymously as children.
  • Short of banning screen time entirely, parents are hard-pressed to keep tabs on just what their children are doing online, and with whom.
  • With online homework, this has become even more difficult.

Right to freedom of attention

  • Children, from a tender age through adolescence, are becoming digitally addicted.
  • Right when children and youth are forming their initial views of the world, they are being sucked into virtual deep space, including the universe of fake news, conspiracy theories, hype, hubris, online bullying, hate speech and the likes.
  • With every click and scroll, AI is sorting them into tribes, and feeding them a steady diet of specially customized tribal cuisine.
  • Other insidious pitfalls also lie in the path of the Generation AI child.

 

AI Toys: –

  • Today, many AI toys come pre-programmed with their own personality and voice.
  • They can offer playful and creative opportunities for children, with some even promoting enhanced literacy, social skills, and language development.
  • However, they also listen to and observe our children, soaking up their data, and with no framework to govern its use.
  • Some of these AI toys even perform facial recognition of children and toddlers.
  • Germany banned Cayla, an Internet-connected doll, because of concerns it could be hacked and used to spy on children.
  • Yet, most countries do not yet have the legal framework in place to ban such toys.

AI and Education: –

  • Finally, in the field of education, AI can and is being used in fabulous ways to tailor learning materials and pedagogical approaches to the child’s needs — such as intelligent tutoring systems, tailored curriculum plans, and imaginative virtual reality instruction, offering rich and engaging interactive learning experiences that can improve educational outcomes.
  • And unless the educational and performance data on children is kept confidential and anonymous, it can inadvertently typecast or brand children, harming their future opportunities.

Rights and Protections

  • The next phase of the fourth Industrial Revolution must include an overwhelming push to extend Internet access to all children.
  • Governments, the private sector, civil society, parents and children must push hard for this now, before AI further deepens the pre-existing inequalities and creates its own disparities.
  • And on mitigating on-line harms, we need a multi-pronged action plan:
  • We need legal and technological safeguards;
  • We need greater awareness among parents, guardians, and children on how AI works behind the scenes;
  • We need tools, like trustworthy certification and rating systems, to enable sound choices on safe AI apps;
  • We need to ban anonymous accounts;
  • We need enforceable ethical principles of non-discrimination and fairness embedded in the policy and design of AI systems —
  • We need “do no harm” risk assessments for all algorithms that interact with children or their data.
  • In short, we need safe online spaces for children, without algorithmic manipulation and with restricted profiling and data collection.
  • And we need online tools (and an online culture) that helps Prevent addiction,
  • That promotes attention-building skills, that expands children’s horizons, understanding, and appreciation for diverse perspectives, and
  • That builds their social-emotional learning capabilities.

Measures taken: –

  • In February, in a landmark decision, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment 25, on implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and fulfilling all children’s rights in the digital environment. This is an important first step on the long road ahead.
  • The Government of India has put in place strong policies to protect the rights and well-being of children, including a legislative framework that includes the Right to Education.
  • Laws and policies to prevent a range of abuses and violence, such as the National Policy for Children (2013), can be extended for children in a digital space.
  • But much more needs to be done, here in India and around the world.
  • And in this interconnected world, the more we can agree upon multilaterally and by multi-stakeholder groups, the easier it may be to implement nationally and locally.

Way Forward: –

  • Children are the hope for the development of humanity.
  • At the same time, children are also disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and require special attention from the whole society, especially in the context that the current development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is bringing profound and extensive impact to society in an unprecedented way.
  • All sectors of society should attach great importance to the impact of AI on children and develop responsible AI for the next generations.
  • The development of AI should protect and promote the benefits of children, avoid depriving and harming children’s rights, and help realize the healthy growth of children.
  • The issue is, when AI for children causes harm, that harm can last well into their future, following them into adulthood.
  • But AI for children also has a huge potential to do good — improving learning, development, safety and opportunities.
  • It’s important that the discussions are held now, and that AI is designed without forgetting its impact on the youngest amongst us.

Question: –

Just as India proactively helped shape the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and gave the world the principle of Ahimsa, it could also galvanise the international community around, ensuring an ethical AI for Generation AI.Discuss.

The ordinance route is bad, re-promulgation worse

Why in News: –

Recent Farm Acts 2020, brought many issues into the limelight, one among them is issue of actual farmer’s numbers in India.

GS 2: Polity & Governance

  • The central government has re-promulgated the ordinance that establishes a commission for air quality management in the National Capital Region, or the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020.

Background: –

  • In the 1950s, central ordinances were issued at an average of 7.1 per year.
  • The number peaked in the 1990s at 19.6 per year, and declined to 7.9 per year in the 2010s.
  • The last couple of years has seen a spike, 16 in 2019, 15 in 2020, and four till now this year.
  • State governments also used this provision very often. The issue was brought up in the Supreme Court through a writ petition by D.C. Wadhwa, a professor of economics, who discovered this fact when he was researching land tenures.
  • He found out that Bihar had issued 256 ordinances between 1967 and 1981, of which 69 were repromulgated several times, including 11 which were kept alive for more than 10 years.
  • A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in 1986, ruled that repromulgation of ordinances was contrary to the Constitutional scheme.
  • It would enable the Executive to transgress its constitutional limitation in the matter of law making in an emergent situation and to covertly and indirectly arrogate to itself the law-making function of the Legislature.
  • Interestingly, the Court pointed out that there was not a single instance of the President (i.e., the central government) repromulgating an ordinance.
  • The judgment did not stop the practice. Instead, the Centre also started to follow the lead of Bihar.
  • For example, in 2013 and 2014, the Securities Laws (Amendment) ordinance was promulgated three times.
  • Similarly, an ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition Act was issued in December 2014, and repromulgated twice – in April and May 2015.

Ordinance in Indian Constitution:

  • Article 123 deals with the ordinance making power of the President. President has many legislative powers and this power is one of them.
  • The Constitution permits the central and State governments to make laws when Parliament (or the State Legislature) is not in session for urgent requirements with an automatic expiry date of 6 weeks from next meet.
  • In the Constituent Assembly, while there was a discussion on how long the ordinance could remain valid (with some members asking for it to lapse within four weeks of promulgation as that would be sufficient time to call an urgent session of Parliament), no one raised the possibility of an ordinance to be re-promulgated. Perhaps such an eventuality was beyond their imagination.

An unconstitutional Issues: –

  • The matter came up again in the Supreme Court, and in January 2017, a seven-judge Constitution Bench declared this practice to be unconstitutional.
  • The judgment concluded that, “Re-promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution and a subversion of democratic legislative processes.”
  • Even this judgment has been ignored.
  • The Indian Medical Council Amendment Ordinance was issued in September 2018, and reissued in January 2019, as it was passed by only one House of Parliament in the intervening session.

 

  • The current case of the Commission for Air Quality Management is even more egregious. While the ordinance of October 2020 was laid in Parliament on the first day of the recent Budget Session, a Bill to replace it was not introduced.
  • States have also been using the ordinance route to enact laws.
  • For example, in 2020, Kerala issued 81 ordinances, while Karnataka issued 24 and Maharashtra 21.
  • Kerala has also repromulgated ordinances: one ordinance to set up a Kerala University of Digital Sciences, Innovation and Technology has been promulgated five times between January 2020 and February 2021.

Way Forward: –

  • The legal position is clear, and has been elucidated by constitution Benches of the Supreme Court.
  • Repromulgation is not permitted as that would be a usurpation of legislative power by the executive.
  • As governments, both at the Centre and States, are violating this principle, the legislatures and the courts should check the practice.
  • That is what separation of powers and the concept of checks and balances means.
  • By not checking this practice, the other two organs are also abdicating their responsibility to the Constitution.

Question: –

An ordinance was originally conceived as an emergency provision, it was used fairly regularly. Explain critically the ordinance making power of President.

Biotech Boost For Farming

Why in News: –

The recent developments in biotechnology in COVID-19 Vaccines, showcase the immense potential of genetic engineering in curing hereditary diseases.

GS3: Issues related to Agriculture.

  • Agricultural biotechnology is a range of tools, including traditional breeding techniques, that alter living organisms, or parts of organisms, to make or modify products; improve plants or animals; or develop microorganisms for specific agricultural uses. Modern biotechnology today includes the tools of genetic engineering.

Biotechnology in Agriculture:

The area under precision agriculture of GM crops by 2019 had increased 112 times from 1996.

Several studies have indicated the socioeconomic & environmental benefits of biotech crops.

One such study estimated the global farm income increased by $ 186 billion in 20 years.

It helped in the reduction of over 16.5 million framers globally & led to a 8.2% reduction in global consumption.

India case with GM crops:

  • Bt cotton is the only GM crop introduced in India.
  • It transformed India’s cotton sector, as cotton productivity doubled in 6 years.
  • India’s share in the global production of cotton increased from 12% in 2002 to 25% in 2014.
  • India from a net importer of cotton became the second-largest exporter of cotton.
  • Following the success of Bt Cotton, several agencies invested in Bt brinjal for commercialization.
  • Though it completed regulatory evaluation in India. It is still under moratorium.
  • Whereas in meantime, Bangladesh adopted Bt brinjal & farmers increased 6-fold from it & pesticide usage on brinjal went down by 61%.
  • With regards to the GM mustard crop, irrational opposition based on ideology rather than science has stalled it.
  • India’s oilseed yields are stagnant & it imports over 65% of its edible oil requirement that costs $10 billion annually.
  • In India, a high-yielding GM mustard variety developed indigenously yet to be approved, as the regulatory system for crop biotech is inactive.
  • The logic of the ill effects of using GM crops is irrational because India’s 25% imports out of 15 million tonnes of edible oil are sourced from GM crops.
  • In India, more than 104 million tonnes of cotton oil is consumed which is sourced from the Bt cotton crop.
  • Many Nobel laureates are collectively vouching for the safety & efficacy of biotech crops.

What are the benefits of Agricultural Biotechnology?

  • The application of biotechnology in agriculture has resulted in benefits to farmers, producers, and consumers. Biotechnology has helped to make both insect pest control and weed management safer and easier while safeguarding crops against disease.
  • For example, genetically engineered insect-resistant cotton has allowed for a significant reduction in the use of persistent, synthetic pesticides that may contaminate groundwater and the environment.
  • In terms of improved weed control, herbicide-tolerant soybeans, cotton, and corn enable the use of reduced-risk herbicides that break down more quickly in soil and are non-toxic to wildlife and humans. Herbicide-tolerant crops are particularly compatible with no-till or reduced tillage agriculture systems that help preserve topsoil from erosion.
  • Agricultural biotechnology has been used to protect crops from devastating diseases. The papaya ringspot virus threatened to derail the Hawaiian papaya industry until papayas resistant to the disease were developed through genetic engineering. This saved the U.S. papaya industry. Research on potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and other crops continues in a similar manner to provide resistance to viral diseases that otherwise are very difficult to control.
  • Biotech crops can make farming more profitable by increasing crop quality and may in some cases increase yields. The use of some of these crops can simplify work and improve safety for farmers. This allows farmers to spend less of their time managing their crops and more time on other profitable activities.

Way Forward: –

  • With a billion-plus mouths to feed, and counting, crop biotechnology has to be a natural winner in priority terms for a country like India, especially in the era of climate change, degradation of farmlands, increased soil salinity, due to drop in groundwater as well as pollution of surface water sources, more frequent droughts and so on.
  • Advances in gene discovery and genomics have led to the identification of several novel genes that provide excellent opportunities for effectively tackling problems of biotic/abiotic stresses, for enhancement of crop productivity, and for improvement of their nutritional quality.
  • It is high time for India to transform its agriculture into precision agriculture based on modern biotech tools.
  • Farm income is the function of market prices & the cost of production.

Question: –

To overcome the double whammy of the high cost of production & low market prices, India apart from agriculture reforms needs to venture into encouraging farmers to use modern biotechnology tools. Critically evaluate the statement.

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