The World must act against
the threat of Autonomous Weapons
Electric vehicle Ecosystem’s
taking Solid Shape in India
On the Front Foot
For a Data Firewall
Listening to the call of the
Reducing Custodial Deaths
Aiming a Billion Transactions
a day: Dawn of Digital Payment
THE WORLD MUST ACT AGAINST
THE THREAT OF AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS
We are fast approaching a
pivotal moment in the global arms race for Lethal Autonomous Weapons
Artificial intelligence (AI)
and machine learning will disrupt the way things are being done right now
Major countries and
technology companies all over the world are developing LAWs capable of
acquiring, identifying and engaging targets without any meaningful human
Israel Aerospace Industries’
Harpy, for instance hovers high in the sky surveying the land, and when an
enemy radar signal is detected
Demands have risen for a
comprehensive international treaty to pre-emptively ban the development of
AI and other technologies in the field of LAWs
The proliferation of such
weapons could have widespread ramifications on the way warfare is
conducted and the future of our society
Algorithms used in LAWs
internalize prejudices, but do not account for human suffering and,
therefore, could cause extensive violence
This leads to the next
visible challenge of this technology: fixing accountability. Who should be
held responsible for the unintended actions of LAWs? Should it be its
With LAWs, we jump off a
moral precipice: autonomous bodies decide who lives and dies. These
weapons make war beholden to objective standards, whereas the causes of
warfare are naturally driven by subjective issues, such as nationalist
sentiment, political strategy and human disagreements.
Also, what if this technology
falls into the wrong hands.
Incidents all over the world
have shown that even the most advanced security systems are susceptible to
Terrorists or rogue states
could use such weapons on civilians
In time, the economic
feasibility of such weapons will lower the cost barriers to war. Conflict
will be reduced to a game where civilian and personnel casualties are
reduced to mere statistics on a screen.
ELECTRIC VEHICLE ECOSYSTEM’S
TAKING SOLID SHAPE IN INDIA
The number of electric cars
grew by about 300% in the last decade
The absolute number is only
around 4,000 electric cars on Indian roads, which is just about 0.1% of
close to 3.5 million cars sold in the last year
India is a market that
provides a tremendous opportunity in the EV space
Government has a set a target
of 30% electric vehicles on Indian roads
The government is doing
laudable work in creating an enabling environment for EVs. Recently, the
GST Council reduced the taxes on EVs from 12% to 5%.
Similarly, to promote ‘Made
In India’ EVs, the finance minister increased the customs duty on
completely built units and SKD to 40% and 30%, respectively.
This will definitely boost
Indian manufacturing of EVs—as we did for the Kona EV.
Achieving the target of 30%
electric mobility by 2030 looks challenging, and investment, innovation,
research and development (R&D) across the right technologies will be
From charging infrastructure
to investment in R&D for EV products suitable for the Indian roads,
the industry is up for the task.
ON THE FRONT FOOT
Why in news?
The Monetary Policy Committee
(MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decided at a meeting to keep the interest rates unchanged in
the wake of a rise in inflation, but emphasised that there would be space
for rate reduction
The introduction of one- and
three-year term repos at policy rate of 5.15% for a total of ₹1 lakh
crore is also aimed at prodding rates downward as banks now pay
6%-6.5% on deposits.
Third, the RBI has fine-tuned
its liquidity management process in a manner designed to help banks manage
their interest costs better.
FOR A DATA FIREWALL
Why in news?
The report by a German
cybersecurity firm that medical details of millions of Indian
patients were leaked and are freely available on the Internet is
The firm listed 1.02 million
studies of Indian patients and 121 million medical images, including CT
Scans, MRIs and even photos of the patients, as being available
Such information has the
potential to be mined for deeper data analysis and for creating profiles
that could be used for social engineering, phishing and online identity
theft, among other practices that thrive on the availability of such data
on the Darknet
The reason for the
availability of this data is the absence of any security in the Picture
Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) servers used by medical
professionals and which seem to have been connected to the public Internet
Unlike the data protection
regulations in place in the European Union and in the U.S., India still
lacks a comprehensive legal framework to protect data privacy. The Draft
Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 is still to be tabled but could enable
protection of privacy.
While the 2019 version of the
Bill seeks to retain the intent and many of the recommendations of the
Justice Srikrishna committee, it has also diluted a few provisions.
For example, while the Bill
tasks the fiduciary to seek the consent in a free, informed, specific,
clear form (and which is capable of being withdrawn later) from the
principal, it has removed the proviso from the 2018 version of the Bill
that said selling or transferring sensitive personal data by the fiduciary
to a third party is an offence.
LISTENING TO THE CALL OF THE
Context and Details:
The key question here is: Who
benefits from formalisation of informal firms? Formalisation does reduce
the last-mile costs for banks.
The state finds it easier to
monitor and to tax the firms that adopt its version of formality.
However, the process can also
produce adverse outcomes for the informal sector firms themselves
There is a desire to connect
small firms in India more firmly with global supply chains.
Mr. Mehrotra points out that
the primary motivation of multinational companies for expanding their
global supply chains is to tap into lower cost sources of supply.
Government policies and informal
The thrust of the Indian
government’s policies should not be to reduce the size of the informal
Rather, it must be to improve
working conditions for the citizens who earn incomes in the sector.
Their safety at work, their
dignity, and their fair treatment by employers must be the thrust of any
Ease of doing business in informal
Making it easy for MNCs
and large companies to invest will not increase growth of the economy if
enterprises and incomes at the bottom of the pyramid do not grow.
The voices of tiny
entrepreneurs in the rural heartlands and on the fringes of Indian cities
must be listened to while developing policies for ‘ease of doing business’
REDUCING CUSTODIAL DEATHS
Context and Details:
The police play a major role
in the administration of criminal justice.
One of the reasons for
custodial death is that the police feel that they have a power to
manipulate evidence as the investigation is their prerogative and with
such manipulated evidence, they can bury the truth
Custodial deaths have been on
the increase in recent years.
They increased by 9% from 92
in 2016 to 100 in 2017, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Since policemen responsible
for custodial deaths rarely get punished, they feel emboldened to continue
using torture as the tool to get to the truth
The Supreme Court delivered a
historic order in 2006 on police reforms.
It stated, among other
things, that every State should have a Police Complaints Authority where
any citizen can lodge a complaint against policemen for any act of
However, only a few States
such as Kerala, Jharkhand, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra have
implemented the order.
AIMING A BILLION
TRANSACTIONS A DAY: DAWN OF DIGITAL PAYMENT
Digital payment transactions
on the Universal Payment Interface (UPI) platform rising from 0.1 million
in October 2016 to 1.3 billion in January 2020 represents the magic of
entrepreneurs, nonprofits and policymakers working together
India was long a financially
excluded nation — only 17 per cent of Indians had a bank account in 2011
The World Bank suggests it
would have taken 50 more years for 80 per cent of Indians to get a bank
account at the pre-2011 speed. Yet, we reached that milestone in 2018
A magical combination of
political will (Jan Dhana Yojana and Aadhaar embedding), a proactive
central bank (creating a non-profit market participant entity and leveling
the playing field between non-banks and banks), and a technology stack
with three layers (identity, payments, and data)
UPI offers five policy lessons:
First, how the India stack —
interconnected yet independent platforms or open APIs — are a public good
that lowers costs, spurs innovation, and blunts the natural digital
winner-takes-all. Replicating this in education, healthcare, and
government services are likely to be a harbinger of large scale
multi-domain collaborative innovation.
Second, collaboration can
create ecosystems that overcome the birth defects of its constituents —
the execution deficit of government, the trust deficit of private
companies, and the scale deficit of nonprofits.
Third, complementary policy
interventions are important. Demonetisation and GST are changing the
stories that firms and individuals tell themselves around cash and
Fourth, human capital and
diversity matter. This revolution needed career bureaucrats to partner
with academics, tech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, global giants and
The final lesson is that India doesn’t
need to be Western or Chinese to be modern. If our policymakers had copied
Alipay or US banks, we wouldn’t have leapfrogged their birth defects.
However, there is more work to be
The central government must
deadline digitizing all its payments.
The RBI must implement the
100-plus action items arising from its own Vision 2021 document and the
Nandan Nilekani Committee for Deepening Digital Payments.
It must also make UPI and
RuPay fit for use in our $70 billion inward remittances that currently
come through exploitative financial institutions which don’t have clients
RBI must replicate the core
design of UPI — fierce but sustainable private and public competition — in
bank credit because our 50 per cent credit-to -GDP ratio is one of the
reasons India is poor
Converting the collective
independence our citizens got in 1947 to individual freedom surely
involved universal financial inclusion
Change has begun – the RBI,
the finance ministry, and many individuals deserve our gratitude and
wishes for a billion digital payments a month.