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24th July – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Deepening India-South Korea ties
  2. Who Controls Citizens’ Data?
  3. How ‘corona’ of the virus changes shape?


Focus: GS-II International Relations


  • India and South Korea have signed numerous bilateral agreements with the aim of taking their ties to the next level.
  • However, the economic partnership is struck and their defence partnership appears to have receded from great all-round promise to the mere sale and purchase of weapon systems.

Indians in South Korea

  • Within South Korea, the integration of Indians in the local population is far from complete, as there have been some instances of what appears to be racial prejudice or discrimination, including toward Indians in work settings in South Korea.
  • As in any relationship, mutual respect regarding cultural values is the key to building a robust partnership between two countries which means to achieving that respect is often filling the information gap that creates a rift between two strong cultures.

Indian Culture Centre in Seoul

  • The establishment of the Indian Culture Centre (ICC) in Seoul in the 2010s was a step in the right direction with its mission being to promote people-to-people contacts.
  • The ICC’s attempts to broad-base an appreciation of Indian culture by, for example, teaching south Indian dances to elementary school students in South Korea, or organising experiential sessions centred on Indian cuisine, are commendable.
  • It may reach an exponentially wider audience if the focus of such efforts was the common man of South Korea, beyond the urban, English-speaking elite of Seoul and the same may be applicable to South Korean culture centres in India.


  • As the balance of power in the region continues to shift fast, India and South Korea may need each like never before, to protect their ways of life.
  • However, both countries will be able to help each other only if they can fill the cultural gaps.
  • A regional hegemon is already pushing hard into the ambit of the Indian Ocean, and the sooner these bonds are renewed the better it would be for all Asian democracies.

India–South Korea relations

  • Formal establishment of diplomatic ties between India and South Korea occurred in 1970s, and since then several trade agreements have been reached.
  • Trade between the two nations has increased exponentially from $ 530 Million in 1990s to $ 17.6 Billion in 2010s.
  • The Indian Community in Korea is estimated to number 8,000, including businesspeople, IT professionals, scientists, research fellows, students etc.
  • South Korea is currently the fifth largest source of investment in India.
  • Korean companies such as LG and Samsung have established manufacturing and service facilities in India.
  • Several Korean construction companies won grants for a portion of the many infrastructural building plans in India, such as the National Highways Development Project.

Click Here to read more about India-North Korea Relations (3rd Article) (to answer questions that might require a comparison)

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Governance, GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

Ministry of electronics and IT decided to block access to 59 Chinese mobile apps – by invoking the exception clause relating to sovereignty under IT Act.

The MeitY order specifically refers to the mining, profiling and unauthorised use of personal data, amongst other concerns.

The instant ban is yet another call for having a functionally robust Data Protection Authority (DPA).

The Personal Data Protection Bill and the DPA

  • The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 entrusts the DPA with the mammoth task of protecting the right to privacy of 1.3 billion Indians by regulating approximately 600 million entities, including the proliferating digital ecosystem of both the government of India and the states.
  • As opposed to a sectoral regulator like SEBI, IRDA, TRAI etc, it is a sector agnostic body and has wide powers cutting across different sectors and economic spheres with powers to penalise not only both central and state governments but also other fourth branch watchdogs such as Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Election Commission and even more significantly, the legislature and judiciary itself.
  • For impartial and effective discharge of its crucial role, there is a need for the DPA to have sufficient capability to discharge its functions.
  • The independence of the DPA is the foremost criterion for meeting such a requirement and a necessary prerequisite for a free and fair cross border transfer of data.

Some Concerns and Pointers

  1. Under the bill, the Centre has the power to notify categories of ‘sensitive personal data’ in consultation with the DPA and sectoral regulators concerned. Such powers should vest solely with DPA as it is the primary rule making body under the bill and must remain at more than an arm’s length from the government.
  2. The Centre is empowered under the bill to issue binding directions to the DPA without any prior consultation with it. This may adversely affect the functional autonomy of the body.
  3. While the power to notify certain large data fiduciaries as ‘significant data fiduciaries’ rests solely with the DPA, the Centre has been given the power (in consultation with the authority) to notify social media intermediaries as significant data fiduciaries, thereby diluting DPA’s power.
  4. A single centralised body as conceptualised now may not even be able to functionally discharge its responsibilities of safeguarding every citizen’s right to privacy and preventing any harm to him, but a decentralised body will pave the way for an efficient, agile and flexible DPA.
  5. The DPA may need to be constituted as a collegial body with a combination of full-time, part-time and independent members from judiciary, civil society and persons of ability, integrity and standing in the field of data protection, technology and regulation.
  6. Considering the brisk pace of change in the field of technology and data sciences, increasing DPA’s capacity, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in this area is a crucial imperative.
  7. To gain much needed public trust and make enforcement effective – the DPA has to subject itself to the requirements under the RTI Act.
  8. The bill confers absolute discretion to the Centre for deciding the number of adjudicating officers, the manner and term of their appointment and jurisdiction – thus there are concerns regarding issues of independence, conflict of interest and bias.

Click Here to read more about the Personal Data Protection Bill and DPA

-Source: Times of India


Focus: GS-III Science and Technology


  • Researchers have found that the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 — the ‘corona’ in the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 disease — changes its form after it attaches itself to a human cell, folding in on itself and assuming a rigid hairpin shape.
  • The researchers have published their findings in the journal Science, and believe the knowledge can help in vaccine development.

What is the spike protein?

  • It is a protein that protrudes from the surface of a coronavirus, like the spikes of a crown or corona — hence the name ‘coronavirus’.
  • In the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, it is the spike protein that initiates the process of infection in a human cell.
  • It attaches itself to a human enzyme, called the ACE2 receptor, before going on to enter the cell and make multiple copies of itself.

What has the new research found?

  • Using the technique of Cryogenic Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM), researchers have freeze-framed the spike protein in both its shapes — before and after fusion with the cell.
  • The images show a dramatic change to the hairpin shape after the spike protein binds with the ACE2 receptor.

In what way can it protect the virus from the immune system?

  • The postfusion shape could induce antibodies that do not neutralise the virus.
  • In effect, the spikes in this form may act as decoys that distract the immune system.
  • Both the “before” and “after” forms have sugar molecules, called glycans, at evenly spaced locations on their surface, and Glycans are another feature that helps the virus avoid immune detection.

How is the knowledge about the alternative shape useful?

  • The researchers believe the findings have implications for vaccine development.
  • Many vaccines that are currently in development use the spike protein to stimulate the immune system.
  • But these may have varying mixes of the prefusion and post-fusion forms and that may limit their protective efficacy.
  • If the protein is not stable, antibodies may be induced but they will be less effective in terms of blocking the virus.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024