DAILY MAINS CURRENT AFFAIRS (UPSC) |09 Dec 2020| RaghukulCS

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  • DAILY MAINS CURRENT AFFAIRS (UPSC) |09 Dec 2020| RaghukulCS
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UPSC Online Editorial Analysis


1) Editorial (The Hindu)

Title: The rise of the AI economy

Written by: KeshavMurugesh (Group CEO, WNS Global Services,and former chairman of Nasscom)

Topic in the syllabus: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life. (GS-3)

Analysis about: This article talks about how India can become the Artificial Intelligence powerhouse of the world.

Introduction:

  • The pandemic has taught us many lessons and opened our minds to new ways of doing things, including understanding the potential of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
  • According to the Department of Telecommunications, Internet consumption in India rose by 13% after the lockdown was announced. Higher consumption has generated goldmines of user data that online businesses can harness. COVID­19 has created an AI moment that India can ill afford to miss.

How India’s eminence in AI is rising?

  • NITI Aayog’s national strategy for AI envisages ‘AI for all’ for inclusive growth, and identifies healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and infrastructure, and smart mobility and transportation as focus areas for AI­-led solutions for social impact.
  • The Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governments, among others, have announced policies and strategies for AI adoption.
  • Technology companies have established AI centres of excellence to create solutions for global clients.
  • India has a thriving AI start­up ecosystem with cutting ­edge solutions being developed in areas such as cancer screening, smart farming and conversational AI for the use of enterprises.
  • Our talent pool in AI/ML is fast growing, with over 5,00,000 people working on these technologies at present.

How it is beneficial for our economy?

  • Nasscom believes that data and AI will contribute $450 billion­$500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, which is around 10% of the government’s aspiration of a $5 trillion economy.
  • As more opportunities are created, we can expect a net positive effect on employment generation.
  • The growing AI economy is estimated to create over 20 million technical roles alone.

From where the stimulus for AI will come?

  • The thrust will come from three key segments:
    • consumer goods and retail, agriculture, and banking and insurance.

How AI is beneficial in everyday life?

  • AI is speeding up loan application processing and improving customer service in banking sector.
  • It can also provide solutions for better governance in banking sector and can have a social impact.
  • For example, during the lockdown, the Telangana police used AI­-enabled automated number plate recognition software to catch violations.

What is necessary?

  • Talent development –  No meaningful conversation on AI preparedness can take place unless we are able to meet the rising demand with the right talent.
  • Policies around data usage, governance and security –  Without data, there cannot be AI. However, we need a balanced approach in the way we harness and utilise data. We need a robust legal framework that governs data and serves as the base for the ethical use of AI.
  • There is the problem of availability of clean datasets. Organisations need to invest in data management frameworks that will clean their data before they are analysed, thus vastly improving the outcomes of AI models.

Conclusion:

  • We are now better prepared for an AI­led future in which we not just solve business problems but also find answers to complex social issues but India will need better strategies around talent development, stronger policies for data usage andgovernance, and more investments in creating a technology infrastructure that can trulyleverage AI.

2) Editorial (The Indian Express)

Title: Land, but not for the tiller

Written by: VasundharaJairath (assistant professor, department of humanities and social sciences, IIT Guwahati)

Topic in the syllabus: Agriculture related issues (GS-3)

Analysis about: This article talks about how newfarm laws worsen a development model that covets land, ignores cultivator.

Introduction:

  • The farm laws seek to introduce the neoliberal notion of “choice” into the production and sale of agricultural produce through deregulation, and give a push to private traders and agricultural corporations.
  • Small and marginal farmers — a section that constitutes 85 per cent of agrarian landholdings — are likely to be worst hit, with the lowest bargaining power and highest level of precarity.

How policies are creating problems instead of helping the people?

  • State policies on land, intertwined in important ways with the current development model, are a significant force shaping agrarian conditions in India.
  • The scale of land acquisition has increased exponentially since the Nineties, with the estimate for all displaced people up from approximately 25-30 million by 1990 to 60 million by 2004.
  • The current development model is hungry for land but has little use for the people that live on it, with little progress being made on employment generation in comparison to the numbers of livelihoods destroyed by displacement.

Why land acquisition has to stop?

  • A policy framework shaped by the needs of capital — which needs land but not the people — creates a system that renders subsistence cultivators unnecessary or superfluous to development initiatives of the state.
  • A halt to large-scale land acquisition is, therefore, fundamental to the survival of the large majority of cultivators in India.

Plight of subsistence agriculture in India?

  • Many small and marginal farmers engage in subsistence cultivation; sale of agricultural produce is limited to the need for cash or an assured surplus.
  • It relies heavily on non-market inputs, whether it is seeds, manure, or other forms of nourishing the land.
  • Protecting themselves to a limited extent from market volatility and being dependent on cash, they remain relatively protected from the vicious cycles of debt that are the norm for commercial farmers.

What is the status of indebtedness?

  • The state-wise scale of indebtedness of agricultural households as recorded in the All-India Report on Agriculture Census 2010-11 shows Maharashtra at 57.3 per cent, UP at 43.8 per cent, Assam at 17.5 per cent and Jharkhand at 28.9 per cent.
  • These figures are representative of the increased cash dependence of agriculture in commercially significant states as Maharashtra and UP, and a significantly lower level of debt in states like Jharkhand and Assam.

How indirect acquisition of land is going on?

  • Of the total estimated land acquired between 1947 and 2004, more than half is constituted by forest land and common property holdings.
  • Land marked off as village common land or grazing land is often declared as government land and appropriated without the consent of local residents.
  • The constant expansion of forest lands is itself the latest strategy to bypass mandated procedures for land acquisition under the new Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.
  • These policy changes aid the process of land acquisition and further intensify land dispossession.

How these policies affecting peasants (landless & subsistence)?

  • Several informal land arrangements are being stripped away constantly, leaving subsistence peasants more dependent on cash for meeting everyday requirements of life and propelling them deeper into an unequal market that constantly reproduces their position at the margins.
  • In the context of jobless growth and capital’s growing need for land but not people, such a paradigm continuously throws the people who occupy land needed for “development” out of the system, with no employment opportunities to offer them, no requirement of their labour, and no place to settle them on.

Conclusion:

  • For a healthy agrarian sector, the state must strengthen and protect the position of the cultivator. As long as land acquisition continues at its current pace, there is little chance of that happening.

3) Explained (The Indian Express)

Title: Emergency approval in India

Topic in the syllabus: Science & technology (GS-3) | Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health (GS-2)

Introduction:

  • Three vaccine developers have now made applications to the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), India’s drug regulator, seeking emergency use approval for their candidate Covid-19 vaccines which are still under trials.

What are these vaccine candidates?

  • COVISHIELD: Pune-based Serum Institute of India has sought approval for its version of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which it has been testing in India for the last few months. The candidate is currently in phase-III trials in India.
  • COVAXIN: Bharat Biotech, a Hyderabad-based company which is developing a vaccine, Covaxin, in collaboration with National Institute of Virology, an ICMR institute in Pune, has started phase-III trials only recently, and is yet to enrol all the participants as per its design.
  • BNT162b2: US pharmaceutical major Pfizer hasn’t carried out clinical trials in India of its vaccine, developed in collaboration with BioNTech, but has still sought an approval to use it here based on the results of the trials conducted in the US.

What are the regulatory provisions for approval of vaccines in India?

  • Clinical trials of new drugs and vaccines, and their approvals, are governed by the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019.
  • These Rules do not use the term “emergency use authorisation”. that does not mean that the Indian regulatory system does not have provisions for “special situations” like the current one.
  • The 2019 rules provide for “accelerated approval process” in several situations that would include the one like the current pandemic.
  • In such situations, there is a provision for granting approval to a drug that is still in clinical trials, “provided there is a prima facie case of the product being of meaningful therapeutic benefit”.
  • Further, it makes it clear that a new drug, or a vaccine, can be considered for approval if “remarkable” effectiveness is reported even from phase-II trials.
  • Accordingly, the approval granted to drugs or vaccines that are still in clinical trials is temporary, and valid only for one year. Such a provision, therefore, makes even Bharat Biotech eligible to apply for approval, although it is still in early stages of phase-III clinical trials.

How different are Indian regulations from those elsewhere?

  • Some provisions in the 2019 Rules, like those mentioned above, are different compared to what has been prescribed by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), which had issued very specific guidelines for approval of vaccines for Covid-19.
  • The FDA has made it clear that an emergency use authorisation can be considered only after sufficient data from phase-3 trials are generated, and an application cannot be made on the basis of data only from phase-1 or phase-2 trials

What about vaccines that have done well in trials outside the country?

  • The 2019 Rules do not say anything specific about whether data from a trial conducted in another country can be considered while assessing an application for accelerated approval to a drug or vaccine to be used in India.
  • But the Indian health authorities have said they were keeping an open mind, and it would all depend on what scientists and experts make of the data that are presented to them.

4) Explained (The Indian Express)

Title: How Mount Everest got 3 feet higher, endorsed by both Nepal and China

Topic in the syllabus: Geography (GS-1) | IR (GS-2)

Introduction:

  • On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministers of Nepal and China jointly certified the elevation of Mount Everest at 8,848.86 metres above sea level — 86 cm higher than what was recognised since 1954.
  • The common declaration meant that the two countries have shed their long-standing difference in opinion about the mountain’s height in feet, the new elevation is about 29,031 ft, or about 3 ft higher than Nepal’s previous claim.

How and when was the earlier measurement of 8,848 m done?

  • This was determined by the Survey of India in 1954, using instruments like theodolites and chains, with GPS still decades away.
  • The elevation of 8,848 m came to be accepted in all references worldwide — except by China.
  • Mount Everest rises from the border between Nepal and China. In 1999, a US team put the elevation at 29,035 feet (nearly 8,850 m).

What was the methodology used?

  • DamodarDhakal, Joint Secretary and spokesperson for Nepal’s Department of Survey, said: “We have used the previous methods applied in ascertaining the height as well as the latest data as well Global Navigational Satellite System (GNSS). The fact that both Chinese and Nepali data tallied shows the accuracy.”

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