DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (UPSC) |10 Feb 2021| RaghukulCS

10th February News Analysis for Mains


Fine-tuning the State-of-the-app technology (Source:TH)

Why in News: –WhatsApp had announced an upcoming change to its privacy policy, which led to growing concerns around privacy among many users.

Context: – GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 GS-3: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security


  • On January 13 this year, subscribers of English newspapers in India woke up to full-page advertisements from WhatsApp on the front pages.
  • The unprecedented move by the Facebook-owned company to Change the privacy policy indicates that Indian consumers are becoming more aware and concerned about data protection and privacy.
Platforms and COVID-19

· The issue of privacy is crucial for government technology platforms.
· The “porting out” or “digital migration”, as seen in the case of WhatsApp, is not an efficient option.
· Digital platforms have come to rescue as seen in case of Aadhaar (the Government of India’s biometric digital identity platform) and Aarogya Setu (the Government of India’s contact tracing application during the novel coronavirus pandemic).

The issue of digital exclusion
  • As of October, 2020, more than 40% of mobile phone subscribers in India lack access to Internet services.
  • This includes those with feature phones that have no Internet and when added to those with no mobile phone at all, India’s digitally excluded could be more than 50%.
  • Hence, while the creation of mobile applications makes information readily available to those with the technology to access it, it does not solve the problem for individuals and communities that remain excluded digitally.


Right to privacy in India:

  1. In Puttaswamy v India (2017) case, Right to privacy was established as a fundamental right under article 21.
  2. Under Section 72-A of the IT Act, Penalises the offender for three year imprisonment or a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh. on Breach of data privacy.
  3. The Information TechnologyAct (2000) (“IT Act”) to include Section 43A and Section 72Agive a right to compensation for improper disclosure of personal information.
  4. The Aadharact Section 13 makes the processing of personal data without a person’s consent possible for any function of the Parliament or State Legislature.


Possible Solutions

  • The adoption of an API-based microservices architecture and federated database structure
  • State-specific customised services or sub-applications such as information on hospital beds and grocery shops, among others.
  • Centralised to a decentralised information flow for contact-tracing applications.
  • need for a centralised approach and ascertain whether the same goals can be achieved through a decentralised information flow.
  • Given the presence of structured audits that continuously put the spotlight on Government of India-backed technologies
  • improved public services overall, and the public confidence needed to encourage wider adoption.


Way Forward

  • The enactment of the Personal Data Protection Billand the successful implementation of the Act.
  • More amendment in IT ACT (2000), and strengthen data protection.
  • Implementation of “Srikrishna Committee Report” on data localization.
  • The might be privacy guidelines by the private companies operating in India.
  • Draft new “National E-Commerce Policy Framework”data privacy and grant infrastructure status to data centers.
  • Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs)are agreements between governments that facilitate the exchange of information and privacy.


India must return to traditional diplomacy(Source:TH)

Why in News: –The Ministry of External Affairs has raised concerns over the tweets by Rihanna, Greta Thunberg on India’s Farmer protests.

Context: – GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

GS-3: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security;

  • The Indian diplomacy’s external publicity is changing with the transformations in domestic developments.
  • It now influences the most famous international “celebrities such as Rihanna, Greta Thunberg.
  • The latest Indian sentiments seen in terms of farmers protests has a serious ramification on international communities.
  • Though it does not clarify India’s diplomatic positions or refute allegations and misperceptions but these issues are important to the Indian government.
  • The India’s diplomatic policy aims to forcefully convey to foreign audiences, India’s unwillingness to accept perceived or real interference in the country’s domestic affairs.

Concerns with India’s ForeignDiplomacy: –

  • This new Indian diplomacy’s development is based on norms of old-fashioned diplomacy.
  • Its emphasis on gaining a personalrapport with global leaders.
  • The India diplomacy should be focused to take risks to advance Indian positions and interests.
  • It is on this basis that the MEA statement and the widespread social media activity that followed need to be judged.While the statement’s origin will not be authoritatively known,
  • It can be legitimately surmised that it was/could not have been through the normal processes of the MEA. The decision on the basis of a political
  • India has displayed the self-assurance not to take things lying down; only the methods may have been different.
  • There can be no quarrel with the External Affairs Minister’s warning that India will “push back”. The issue is not about should India “push back” but how and against what and whom.
  • India then refused to purposefully engage its international liberal critics though it publicly asserted security concerns for the administrative steps and laid stress on the point that the CAA did not impinge on the rights of the Indian minorities.
  • The government treated its global media critics with disdain; with MEA emphasizing that India’s reputation was not decided by a ‘newspaper in New York’.

Social media and public diplomacy:

  • India is investing in technology to keep pace with the “arms race” for soft power.
  • Some policy makers genuinely believe that social media, in particular, are transforming the practice of politics.
  • India has established a long-term strategy to brand itself as a creative economic and cultural centre
  • Itutilizes interactive websites as well as social networking Sites like Facebook, twitter.
  • The power of new technologies tensions has arisen between the traditional and new approaches to Indian public diplomacy.
  • The Khalistani groups in western countries would have sensed an opportunity to fish in troubled waters of the farmers’ agitation in the Punjab.
  • The Pakistani generals, have sought to keep the embers of the Khalistan movement warm are looking for opportunities to create trouble.
  • This is notwithstanding that the patriotism of Indian Sikhs and their contributions to the nation are beyond question.


Key transformations in Indian diplomacy:

  • India’s foreign policy-making process rendering more open and democratic as it engages in dialogue with communities outside Indian political and diplomatic elite.
  • India’s new public diplomacy has an active new audience within India in the West (Indian Diaspora communities abroad), and in the developing world.
  • The effort seeks to utilize new media rather than traditional methods to reach its various target audiences.

New initiatives in India’s Public Diplomacy:

  1. India’s effort to reach out to overseas Indians;
  2. Its attempts to build connections with foreign business interests;
  3. Its nascent foreign aid and development program;
  4. Its use of major events to showcase and “nation-brand” India;
  5. Its use of new social media to reach out to younger, tech-savvy audiences.

Way Forward

  • New and assertive norms are being adopted now, have demonstrated a disdain for international liberal opinion.
  • It is beyond dispute that new directions for Indian diplomacy, in form as well as in substance, should be constantly sought. But the test of innovation can only be one: is it more effective in advancing Indian objectives

Dams and damages(Source:TH)

Why in News: –Around 178 people are reportedly missing at state-run NTPC Ltd’s 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project site, after a glacier near Raini village above Rishiganga river in Uttarakhand burst.

Context: – GS-1 :  Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc. geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features.

  • An avalanche near Tapovan in Uttarakhand has damaged a part of our under-construction hydropower project in the region. While rescue operation is on, situation is being monitored continuously with the help of district administration and police
  • While the flood hit the Rishiganga small hydropower project, with around 40 people reportedly missing there, the flow and debris from the river merged with that from the Dhauliganga river and damaged the under-construction Vishnugad hydropower project of India’s largest power generation utility in the Tapovan area.
  • Teams from Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed at the disaster site.
  • Of India’s installed power-generation capacity of 373.43 GW, hydropower projects account for around 12.23% or 45.69 GW capacity.

Dam situation in India:

  1. According to a United Nations (UN) report Ageing water infrastructure “Anemerging global risk”, over 1,000 large dams in India will be roughly 50 years old in 2025 and such ageing embankments across the world pose a growing threat.
  2. The report notice by 2050, most peopleon Earth would live downstream of tens of thousands of large dams built in the 20th century, many of them including India’s already operating at or beyond their design life, putting lives and property at risk.
  3. India ranks third globally with 5264 large dams in operation and about 437 are under construction. But, India too has had its shareof dam failures. There are more than 36 reported failures cases so far.
  4. In India over the 5,208 dams builtso far, about 1,102 large dams have already reached 50 years of age and some are older than 120 years.

The Chopra Committee report of 2014:

  • The committee was formed in October 2013 after the Supreme Court ordered the Union Environment Ministry to constitute an expert body to assess whether dams exacerbated the 2013 floods in the State where over 4,000 people were killed, mainly in the Kedarnath
  • Its report mentions how dams exacerbated the 2013 deluge, mainly as riverbeds were already raised from the disposed muck at the dam construction sites, and could not contain the sudden increased flow from floodwaters.

Hydropower controversy in Uttarakhand

  • Hydropower has for long been a subject of controversy in Uttarakhand.
  • The state nestles in the ecologically fragile and earthquake-prone Himalayan region.
  • The unleashed rapid development of Uttarakhand is driven by hundreds of hydropower projects.
  • In Uttarakhand, as many as 70 hydro projects–existing, under-construction, and proposed dams–are located on two river basins alone – the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda.
  • Hydropower projects also come with their own set of problems.
    • Executing them is a time-consuming and tedious process
    • construction requires thorough survey and investigation,
    • detailed project reports, specialized technology and design
    • environmental clearances.


Government Initiatives

  • Dam Health and Rehabilitation Monitoring Application (DHARMA):It is software web-based package to support the effective collection and management of Dam Safety data in respect of all large dams of India.
  • Dam Safety Bill 2018:The Bill provides for the surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of specified dams across the country. And also provide the institutional mechanism to ensure the safety of such dams.
  • Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP): ministry of jal Shakti in 2012, launched the six-yearDam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) with World Bank with an objective to improve safety and operational performance of selected dams, along with institutional strengthening with system wide management approach.

Citizen vs citizen(Source:IE)

Why in News: –Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has launched a programme for recruiting cybercrime volunteer framework.

Context: – GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 GS-3: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security;

What is the scheme?

  • The Union Home Ministry has embarked on a perilous path with a new programme that invites citizen volunteers to police online content.
  • An MHA circular on the scheme, volunteers to flag and report child sexual abuse, rape, terrorism, “radicalisation” and “anti-national” activities. 
  • Under this initiative, any Indian citizen could get associated by registering in any of three categories of cyber volunteer – Cyber Volunteer Unlawful Content Flagger for identifying online illegal and unlawful content.
  • The scheme will be piloted in Jammu and Kashmir and Tripura.

Concerns Associated with the scheme: –

  • The programme is just one more example of the anxiety over social media narratives that is pushing governments to encroach steadily on free speech.
  • Licensing ordinary people, without any locus standi, to decide what qualifies for that label is an invitation, even exhortation, to misuse and harassment.
  • There is no statutory backing exists for such a volunteer force, nor is it clear what need it might serve.
  • The government cannot outsource a fundamental state responsibility to a rag-tag corps of volunteers.
  • It will make citizens vulnerable to such unofficial surveillance and scrutiny
  • It is a violation of their fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression and privacy.
  • By turning citizen against citizen, it risks deepening polarisation and mistrust in society.
  • It ignores the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, when it comes to criminalising online speech.

The issue with Legal Framework: –

  • The existing legal framework does not define what constitutes “anti-national” activity.
  • The court, while striking down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, had ruled that a distinction must be made between speech that is simply “offensive or annoying” and that which is guilty of inciting a disruption of public order, or violence.

Recent Examples

  1. Bihar’s recent blanket gag on online criticism of the state government
  2. Uttarakhand police’s decision to scan social media for “anti-national”
  3. Kerala government ordinance that would have made “defamatory” social media posts punishable by a prison term. 

Way forward

Social media is both an avenue of mobilisation as well as prone to capture by purveyors of propaganda and hate. In times when an army of vigilantes entitled to their right to be offended grows in strength and when the overzealous state slaps sedition charges against journalists and students, such a move will only go on to normalise the suspicion and persecution of citizens exercising their right to disagree, dissent or even annoy others. 

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