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Explained

How criminals based in southeast Asia are trapping Indians online

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Polity and Governance, Rights Issues.

Mains Examination: GS-III: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.

What’s the ongoing story- A large number of Indians are falling prey to financial fraud carried out over the Internet, allegedly by criminals based in three contiguous southeast Asian countries: Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia.

Prerequisites: 


short article insert
— What is cybercrime?

— What is NCRP?

Festive offer

— What is the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C)?

Map work: Location of Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos PDR. 

Key takeaways: 

In its analysis of trends seen from January to April, the I4C found that 46% of such frauds reported in this period in which the victims cumulatively lost an estimated Rs 1,776 crore — originated in these three countries.

— “The I4C works under the Union Home Ministry “to create an effective framework and ecosystem for the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of cybercrime in the country”.

— The I4C has identified four broad categories of fraud originating from these three countries, following certain modus operandi. It includes trading scams, digital arrests, investment scam, and romance/ dating scams.

— I4C zeroed in on Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia after analysing data on its National Cybercrime Reporting Portal (NCRP), inputs received from states and Union Territories, and some open-source information.

Points to Ponder: 

— What are the challenges related to cyber security in India?

— What measures can be taken to combat cyber crimes in India?

— What are the initiatives taken by the government to tackle the cyber crimes in India?

(Thought Process: Know Cyber Security initiatives in India- Computer Emergency Response Team – India (CERT-IN), Cyber Surakshit Bharat Initiative, National Cyber Security Coordination Centre (NCCC), Cyber Swachhta Kendra, I4C)

— What is the Budapest Convention? Is India a party to it?

Post Read Question:

Prelims

In India, it is legally mandatory for which of the following to report on cyber security incidents? (UPSC CSE 2017)

1. Service providers

2. Data centres

3. Body corporate

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Mains

What are the different elements of cyber security? Keeping in view the challenges in cyber security, examine the extent to which India has successfully developed a comprehensive National Cyber Security Strategy. (UPSC CSE 2022)

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

Southeast Asia origin of at least 45% cyber frauds targeting Indians: Official

Danger from landslides

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: World Geography, Current events of national importance.

Mains Examination: GS-I, GS-III: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location; Disaster and disaster management.

What’s the ongoing story- Amitabh Sinha writes- “Six people were killed in West Bengal in incidents triggered by cyclone Remal that struck the coastline on Sunday night…Though effective early warning systems and timely evacuations have greatly reduced human casualties from cyclones over the years, a few deaths of accidental nature, and destruction of thatched or weak structures in coastal areas are possible.”

Prerequisites: 

— What is cyclone Remal?

— What is a cyclone and what are its types?

— What is a landslide and what are the types of landslides?

Organisations to look for: India Meteorological Department (IMD), World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). 

Key takeaways: 

— “Remal has led to largescale damage in the relatively faraway Northeast as well. Heavy rain caused by the cyclone triggered landslides in several places in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam, and Nagaland, which have resulted in the deaths of at least 30 people so far.”

— “The heavy downpour in the Northeast was not unexpected. The IMD had warned of this in all its cyclone bulletins….Cyclone-triggered landslides have hit Northeastern states on earlier occasions as well.”

— “The latest episode spotlights the need for building resilience to multi-hazard disasters. One event can trigger another, and can lead to multiple disasters simultaneously. 

— “Although India has done well to prepare and safeguard itself against certain natural events such as cyclones, landslides remain a weak point. An early warning system is still being tried out, and pressures from population, development, and infrastructure projects have increased vulnerability.”

— “About 0.42 million square km of India’s landmass, or about 13% of its area, spread over 15 states and four Union Territories, is prone to landslides, according to the Geological Survey of India (GSI). This covers almost all the hilly regions in the country…This area is also prone to earthquakes, which too, are a major trigger for landslides”

— “The NDMA has been working with GSI and other agencies to mitigate and manage the risks from landslides. A National Landslide Risk Management Strategy was finalised in 2019, which talked about vulnerability mapping, identifying the most vulnerable locations, development of an early warning system, and preparation of mountain zone regulations. But most of the work still remains to be done.”

— “Some early warning systems have been developed and deployed on a trial basis at a few locations. These warning systems are linked to rainfall forecasts from IMD.”

— “The risk from landslides has been exacerbated by the failure to remain mindful of the terrain’s ability to withstand the load. Many hilly areas do not have building regulations. Often, regulations are not implemented effectively. New constructions, infrastructure development, and even agricultural practices can increase the risk of landslides.”

— “Every mountainous area has a carrying capacity. Development is essential, and one cannot stop the creation of infrastructure or new facilities or economic activity for local populations. But these have to be regulated. Sustainability has to be factored in, so that the load does not exceed the carrying capacity. This is where zoning regulations come in. These have to be finalised and implemented strictly,” Debi Prasanna Kanungo, a scientist at Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee, said.

Points to Ponder: 

— What are the favourable conditions for the formation of tropical cyclones?

— What is the “landfall” of a cyclone?

— What causes landslides?

— What measures has the government taken to reduce the risk of landslides?

— What steps can be taken to tackle the challenge of landslides?

Post Read Question:

In the South Atlantic and South-Eastern Pacific regions in tropical latitudes, cyclone does not originate. What is the reason? (UPSC CSE 2015)

(a) Sea surface temperatures are low

(b) Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone seldom occurs

(c) Coriolis force is too weak

(d) Absence of land in those regions

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

ISRO releases the Landslide Atlas of India: Which states, regions are most vulnerable

Why an accused in jail can contest, but cannot vote in an election

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance

Mains Examination: GS-II: Constitution, Polity

What’s the ongoing story- Last week, Amritpal Singh, the jailed head of the pro-Khalistan outfit Waris Punjab de, announced his intention to contest the Lok Sabha elections… Though his ability to campaign may be limited, his right to contest polls while facing criminal charges will not be under question unless he is convicted. 

Prerequisites: 

— What is the ‘basic structure’ doctrine of the constitution?

— What is the Representation of People Act, 1951 (RP Act)?

— What are the constitutional status of the Right to vote and the right to contest elections?

Key takeaways: 

— In 1975, the Supreme Court in the case of Indira Gandhi v Raj Narain recognised that free and fair elections are a part of the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution of India.

—  The Supreme Court has held that the rights to elect and be elected do not enjoy the same status.

— A five-judge constitution Bench in 2006, in the case of Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India held that the right to vote (or the right to elect as it was called) is “pure and simple, a statutory right”. This means that voting is not a fundamental right and can be repealed.

— Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (RP Act) is titled “Disqualification on conviction for certain offences.” Suppose a person is convicted of any of the offences in the exhaustive list provided in the provision. In that case, they will be disqualified from contesting elections from the date of conviction onwards and face further a six-year disqualification from contesting in elections beginning from the date of their release.

— The Election Commission of India (ECI) is empowered under Section 11 of the RP Act to “remove” or “reduce” the period of disqualification. In 2019, the ECI used this power to reduce the period of disqualification faced by Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang.

— Another situation where a disqualified MP or MLA can still contest is when their conviction is stayed on appeal to a higher court.

— Section 62 of the RP Act provides a series of restrictions on the right to vote including sub-clause (5) – “No person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police”. With an exception provided for those in preventive detention.

For Your Information: 

‘Postal ballot’ allows voters who cannot be physically present in polling stations to vote remotely, as specified in Section 60 of the RPA.

Points to Ponder: 

— Can a person who is in prison use a ‘postal ballot’?

— Why are free and fair elections important for democracy?

— Why is an accused person allowed to contest an election? What are the concerns related to it?

— What initiatives has the Election Commission taken to increase voter turnout?

Post Read Question:

Consider the following statements:

1. Electors subjected to preventive detention can use a ‘postal ballot’ to cast their vote.

2. The Election Commission of India (ECI) is empowered to “remove” or “reduce” the period of disqualification.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

Expert Explains: Special categories of voters, their voting methods

 

The Editorial Page

The Heat Stress

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination:  General issues on Environmental Ecology, and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialisation.

Mains Examination: GS-I, GS-II, GS-III: Important Geophysical Phenomena, Climate Change Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Government Policies & Interventions.

What’s the ongoing story- “Even as large parts of the country swelter in a brutally hot summer, with prolonged heat waves, a recently published report shows that rising temperatures is not the sole contributing factor to the heat stress being experienced in urban India.

Prerequisites: 

— What do you understand by the term  “heat stress”?

— What are heatwaves and IMD criteria for declaring them?

Key takeaways: 

— According to a report by the Centre for Science and Environment, the extreme discomfort of the summer months in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad over the last two decades is caused by a combination of air temperature, land surface temperature and relative humidity, as well as a rapid increase in built-up areas and concretisation.

— Thanks to climate change, temperatures have shot up, as has humidity. But, as the CSE report points out, the effect of this — the moisture in the air keeps the sweat from evaporating fast enough, making it seem even hotter than it actually is — is compounded by other factors, including changes in land use and the growing urban sprawl. This has resulted in the “urban heat island effect”

— The trapping of heat due to a dense concentration of buildings, paved roads and other surfaces made of materials like concrete, glass and steel, results in higher temperatures in city centres than in the outlying areas…This is a serious cause for concern as the heat stress continues to build, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses and even death.

— All these factors would need to be taken into consideration for relief measures to be effective. While more than 20 states have worked with the NDMA to create heat action plans (HAP), most remain on paper. They are hampered by a lack of funding, granularity and a sustainable vision for transformation. 

— There is a growing consensus among experts that city-specific management plans, which take into account local factors, are a far more effective response to heat waves. Such plans should prioritise green spaces and water bodies and target all heat generators, including vehicles, industries and concrete surfaces. — an example is Ahmedabad’s Cool Roofs programme, which offers an affordable solution for the urban heat island effect.

Points to Ponder: 

— What are the causes of urban heat island effect?

— What are the impacts of heat stress?

— What are heat action plans (HAP)?

— What measures can be taken to reduce “urban heat island” effect?

— What are the heat-related illnesses?

—  What measures should be taken to mitigate the impacts of heatwaves? 

Post Read Question:

Bring out the causes for the formation of heat islands in the urban habitat of the world. (UPSC CSE 2013)

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

Rising ‘heat stress’ in six metros as humidity up, nights warmer: Study

UPSC Issue at a Glance | Heatwaves: 5 Key Questions You Must Know for Prelims and Mains

 

The Ideas Page

Is RBI dependent on food or Fed?

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Economic and Social Development

Mains Examination: GS-III: Economy

What’s the ongoing story-  Ishan Bakshi writes: “In May 2022, the Reserve Bank of India’s monetary policy committee had held an unscheduled meeting. In it, the committee voted unanimously to raise interest rates by 40 basis points — this marked the beginning of the rate hike cycle in India. However, the unscheduled nature of the meeting and the policy action had raised several questions.”

Prerequisites: 

— What is the role of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)?

— What is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

— What is headline inflation?

— What is core inflation?

Key takeaways: 

— “Retail inflation had touched 6.07 percent in February, with both food and core inflation inching upwards. Wholesale inflation had averaged 13.8 percent in the preceding five months, and commodity prices were rising due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.”

— “What matters for monetary policy is inflation down the line. As per RBI’s own forecast, inflation is expected to average 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2024-25.”

— “So the question is: If India experiences an above-normal, evenly distributed monsoon, and there is greater confidence that food prices, and as a consequence headline inflation, will mirror the trajectory projected by the central bank, then will the MPC cut rates over the course of its next few meetings?”

Points to Ponder: 

— How MPC controls inflation in the economy?

— What is the difference between expansionary monetary policy and contractionary monetary policy?

— Why does inflation need to be controlled?

— What are the various monetary policy tools?

(Though Process: Mention about Bank rate, Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR), Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF), Marginal Standing Facility (MSF)…)

Post Read Question:

Do you agree with the view that steady GDP growth and low inflation have left the Indian economy in good shape? Give reasons in support of your arguments. (UPSC CSE 2019)

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

Durable alignment with 4% inflation target to re-commence in second half of the year: RBI article

An outdated nuclear debate

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Economy

Mains Examination: GS-III: Nuclear energy

What’s the ongoing story- C. Raja Mohan writes: “Nuclear factors have returned to the top of the agenda in the competitive calculus among major powers as well as in key regional theatres like Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Nuclear energy is also back on the civilian radar as the challenges of managing climate change become acute each year.”

Prerequisites: 

— India’s nuclear power programme

— What is the role of NATO?

— Which countries in the world have nuclear weapons?

Key takeaways: 

— “The Ukraine war in Europe and the Russian rattling of the nuclear sabre are compelling the West to rethink the deterrence dynamic. Strengthening NATO’s nuclear and conventional forces in Europe, greater collaboration between France and Britain (the two European nuclear powers), and building an independent Eurodeterrent under French leadership are some of the ideas that are being explored.”

— “In the Middle East, regional fears about Iran’s emergence as a nuclear weapon power are intensifying the Arab quest for expanded atomic capabilities of their own.”

— “The rise of AI and robotic weapons is generating questions about the dangers of automating nuclear decision-making and its consequences for strategic stability between the major powers.”

— “It has become commonplace to hear in Delhi that India is no longer bothered about Pakistan and is concentrating its energies on China. While Pakistan’s nuclear challenge continues to simmer, China’s atomic challenge continues to mount.”

— “If China remains India’s principal security challenge, building deterrent capability against Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal should be a national priority.”

For Your Information: 

— The vital second stage of India’s three-stage nuclear programme got a boost with the commencement of ‘core loading’ at the country’s first indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu.

— Core loading is the process of placing nuclear fuel assemblies inside the core of a nuclear reactor.

Points to Ponder: 

— What is the status of India’s nuclear energy?

— What is the science behind nuclear bomb?

— How can nuclear energy be used to tackle climate change?

— What are the various global initiaves for nuclear disarmament? 

— What is Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?

Post Read Question:

Consider the following countries: (UPSC CSE 2015)

1. China

2. France

3. India

4. Israel

5. Pakistan

Which among the above are Nuclear Weapons States as recognized by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 1, 3, 4 and 5 only

(c) 2, 4 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

Explained: The push for nuclear energy as climate solution

The science behind a nuclear bomb

 

Economy

FTAs: Trade Min plans steps to prevent straining of resources

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Economic and Social Development

Mains Examination: GS-III: Economy

What’s the ongoing story- At a time when the commerce ministry is involved in negotiations on multiple trade deals, a meeting to strategise approach to negotiate free trade agreements (FTA) headed by commerce secretary Sunil Barthwal discussed ways to effectively manage workload and to prevent overtraining of resources.

Prerequisites: 

— What are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)?

— Which countries are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)?

Key takeaways: 

— India is currently negotiating an FTA with the UK, European Union and a widening deal with Australia. Moreover, with an eye on narrowing the trade gap, the ministry is reviewing a trade deal with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. During the last couple of years, the ministry completed negotiations with UAE, Mauritius and a mini trade deal with Australia.

— Suggestions were made that India should use FTAs to build resilient supply chains, focus on capacity building and interdisciplinary expertise, and adapt to the current trend of partial de-globalisation and geopolitical influences.

For Your Information: 

— India is facing a systemic problem when it comes to negotiations amid fast-changing contours of trade talks that go beyond traditional areas such as tariffs concessions to labour and environment.

— Experts pointed out that the country’s negotiating strategy cannot rely on transferable generalist civil servants and could need a separate service to handle trade negotiations.

Points to Ponder: 

— What is the significance of FTAs?

— What are the concerns regarding India’s foreign policy trade?

— What are the recent FTAs signed by India?

Post Read Question:

Consider the following countries:

1. Iceland

2. Norway

3. Switzerland

4. Denmark

How many of the above mentioned countries are part of  European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which signed FTA with India?

(a) Only one

(b) Only two

(c) Only three

(d) All four  

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

Shuffling of trade negotiators: Trade ministry looks to retain institutional memory

Reliance to buy Russian oil in roubles: Report

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Economy

Mains Examination: GS-III: Energy

What’s the ongoing story- India’s Reliance Industries, operator of the world’s biggest refining complex, has signed a one-year deal with Russia’s Rosneft to buy at least 3 million barrels of oil a month in roubles, four sources aware of the matter told Reuters.

Prerequisites: 

— What is OPEC+ group?

— What is the status of India’s oil import?

— What is the official currency of Russia?

Key takeaways: 

— The shift to rouble payments follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s push for Moscow and its trading partners to find alternatives to the Western financial system to facilitate trade despite U.S. and European sanctions.

— A term deal with Rosneft also helps privately run Reliance to secure oil at discounted rates at a time when the OPEC+ group of oil producers is expected to extend voluntary supply cuts beyond June.

— India, the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer, has become the biggest buyer of seaborne Russian crude since the West halted purchases and imposed sanctions against Moscow in the aftermath of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. India has also paid for Russian crude in rupees, dirhams and Chinese yuan.

For Your Information: 

— Prior to the war in Ukraine, Iraq and Saudi Arabia were the top two suppliers of crude oil to India. But as the West started weaning itself off Russian energy supplies following Moscow’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russia started offering discounts on its crude and Indian refiners started snapping up the discounted barrels.

Points to Ponder: 

— What is the status of India’s oil exports?

— What are the initiatives taken by India for the gas and oil industry?

— How India is planning to tackle the increased energy demand?

Post Read Question:

The term ‘West Texas Intermediate’, sometimes found in the news, refers to a grade of (UPSC CSE 2020)

(a) Crude oil

(b) Bullion

(c) Rare earth elements

(d) Uranium

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

Sanctions notwithstanding, India’s Russian oil imports surge as Moscow pushes more oil overseas

RBI launched retail direct mobile app, fintech repository

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance

Mains Examination: GS-III: Technology, Bank

What’s the ongoing story- Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das on Tuesday launched three major initiatives – PRAVAAH portal, the retail direct mobile app and a fintech repository.

Prerequisites: 

— What are government securities (G-Secs)?

— What is the status of India’s fintech market?

Key takeaways: 

— PRAVAAH (Platform for Regulatory Application, VAlidation and AutHorisation) is a secure and centralised web-based portal for any individual or entity to seek authorisation, license or regulatory approval on any reference made by it to the RBI.

— The retail direct mobile app will provide retail investors a seamless and convenient access to the retail direct platform and provide ease of transacting in government securities (G-Secs).

— The regulator said the fintech repository will contain information on Indian fintech firms for a better understanding of the sector from a regulatory perspective and facilitate in designing appropriate policy approaches.

For Your Information: 

— The FinTech Repository aims to capture essential information about FinTech entities, their activities, technology uses, etc. FinTechs, both regulated and unregulated, are encouraged to contribute to the repository.

— Simultaneously, a related repository for only RBI regulated entities (banks and NBFCs) on their adoption of emerging technologies (like AI, ML, Cloud Computing, DLT, Quantum, etc.), called EmTech Repository, is also being launched.

— The FinTech and EmTech Repositories are secure web-based applications and are managed by the Reserve Bank Innovation Hub (RBIH), a wholly owned subsidiary of RBI.

Points to Ponder: 

— What are the functions of RBI?

— What are the initiatives taken by the RBI for financial inclusion?

Post Read Question:

PRAVAAH portal has been launched by 

(a) Ministry of civil aviation

(b) Niti Aayog

(c) RBI

(d) Ministry of Shipping

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

RBI launches mobile app for G-Sec transaction, introduces PRAVAAH portal for form submission

US lobby group opposes India’s antitrust proposal on Big Tech

UPSC Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance

Mains Examination:GS-II: Governance-Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

What’s the ongoing story- A U.S. lobby group representing tech giants Google, Amazon and Apple has asked India to rethink its proposed EU-like competition law, arguing regulations against data use and preferential treatment of partners could raise user costs, a letter shows.

Prerequisites: 

— What is the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA)?

— What are anti-competitive practices?

— What is India’s “Digital Competition Bill”?

Key takeaways: 

India’s “Digital Competition Bill” is on the lines of EU’s landmark Digital Markets Act 2022. It will apply to big firms, including those with a global turnover of over $30 billion and whose digital services have at least 10 million users locally, bringing some of the world’s biggest tech firms under its ambit.

— It proposes to prohibit companies from exploiting non-public data of its users and promoting their own services over rivals, and also abolish restrictions on downloading of third-party apps.

— With a population of 1.4 billion people and a growing affluent class, India is a lucrative market for big tech companies.

— The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has for years been investigating big tech firms.

— The CCI in 2022 fined Google $161 million, ordering it to stop restricting users from removing its pre-installed apps and allow downloads without using its app store.

— Amazon is also facing an antitrust investigation for favouring select sellers on its India website, an allegation it denies.

Points to Ponder: 

—  What are the key provisions of the Digital Competition Bill?

— What changes need to be cooperated to resolve the concerns?

— What are legislatures enacted by international entities to curb anti-competitive practices?

Post Read Question:

Discuss the reasons for introducing the Competition Bill in India and outline its main concerns. Suggest potential solutions to address these issues.

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

Google, Amazon, Apple lobby group opposes India’s EU-like antitrust proposal

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