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Current Affairs 04 July 2024

  1. NITI Aayog Advocates for Facial Recognition Technology Regulation
  2. Rahul Gandhi Highlights Abhaya Mudra in First Speech as Opposition Leader
  3. FATF Evaluates India’s Efforts Against Financial Crimes
  4. IEEE Approves IIT Bombay’s Rural Broadband Network Architecture
  5. Central Consumer Protection Authority
  6. Xenophrys Apatani
  7. Saryu River


Recently, NITI Aayog, India’s premier public policy think-tank, has urged for comprehensive policy and legal reforms to regulate the use of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) in the country. This initiative is seen as a significant development in response to escalating concerns about privacy, transparency, and accountability.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Proposals to Regulate Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) in India
  2. Overview of Facial Recognition Technology
  3. Concerns Regarding the Use of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT)
  4. Way Forward

Proposals to Regulate Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) in India

Current Regulatory Gap

  • There is currently no comprehensive legal framework regulating the use of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) in India.

Importance of Regulation

  • FRT poses unique challenges due to its capability to capture and process sensitive biometric data remotely.
  • Existing regulations do not sufficiently address these specific concerns.

Objectives of Regulation

  • Establish a governance framework to ensure responsible development and deployment of FRT in India.
  • Mitigate risks such as privacy violations, algorithmic bias, and misuse of surveillance powers.
  • Position India as a leader in global FRT governance, influencing international policies.
  • Build public trust and promote widespread adoption of FRT across various sectors.
  • Balance innovation in FRT with safeguards to protect individual rights and societal interests.

Key Proposals

  • Legal Framework Establishment
    • Introduce laws that impose liability and define damages for FRT malfunctions or misuse.
  • Creation of Ethical Oversight
    • Form an independent committee with diverse expertise to oversee FRT implementation.
    • Address issues of transparency, accountability, and algorithmic bias.
  • Guidelines for Deployment
    • Mandate clear and transparent guidelines on where and how FRT systems can be deployed.
    • Inform the public about FRT usage in specific areas and ensure consent where necessary.
  • Adherence to Legal Principles
    • Ensure FRT systems comply with legal principles outlined by the Supreme Court in the Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union of India case.
    • Uphold principles of legality, reasonability, and proportionality in security measures versus individual rights.

Overview of Facial Recognition Technology

Definition and Functionality

  • FRT uses algorithms to create a digital map of facial features for identification against a database.

Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS)

  • Utilizes databases of photos and videos to match and identify individuals.


  • Captures facial features via cameras and reconstructs them using software for various applications, including security and banking.
Uses of Facial Recognition Technology
  • Identity Authentication
    • Matches facial maps against databases to authenticate individuals, e.g., for unlocking phones.
  • Law Enforcement
    • Identifies individuals from CCTV footage by comparing facial features against existing databases.

Concerns Regarding the Use of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT)

Misidentification Risks

  • FRT can misidentify individuals, particularly across racial and gender demographics, leading to wrongful disqualification of legitimate candidates.

Privacy and Surveillance Issues

  • Widespread FRT deployment for surveillance and data collection can conflict with data privacy objectives, even with existing legal frameworks.

Accuracy Disparities

  • Studies indicate disparities in FRT accuracy based on race and gender, potentially excluding deserving candidates and perpetuating societal biases.

Exclusion from Services

  • Failures in biometric authentication systems like Aadhaar have resulted in individuals being excluded from essential government services.

Lack of Data Protection

  • Absence of comprehensive data protection laws leaves FRT systems vulnerable to misuse, lacking adequate safeguards for biometric data collection, storage, and use.

Ethical Concerns

  • Raises ethical questions about the balance between public safety and individual rights, potential misuse, erosion of anonymity, and risks of social control.

Way Forward

Establishing Legal Framework

  • Introduce dedicated laws or regulations governing FRT use by public and private entities. Define lawful purposes, emphasize proportionality, and establish accountability.

Independent Ethical Oversight

  • Create independent committees to assess ethical implications, prescribe codes of practice, and ensure compliance with ethical standards in FRT deployments.

Transparency and Disclosure

  • Mandate public disclosure of FRT deployments by both government and private sectors. Align FRT governance with upcoming data protection laws for robust safeguards.

Guidelines for Fair Use

  • Develop clear guidelines promoting fair and non-discriminatory FRT applications, especially in critical contexts.

International Engagement

  • Actively engage in global discussions to shape international standards for FRT governance. Use India’s technological leadership to advocate responsible AI development worldwide.

-Source: Indian Express


In his inaugural speech as the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi referenced the abhaya mudra, a gesture with a raised open palm symbolizing reassurance and freedom from fear. He highlighted that the abhaya mudra is a common motif in the depictions of Lord Shiva, Guru Nanak, and Jesus Christ, and is also significant in Islam, Buddhism, and Jainism.


GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Mudras in Buddhism
  2. Gesture of Fearlessness (Abhaya Mudra)
  3. Other Important Mudras in Buddhism
  4. Abhaya Mudra in Hindu Religion

Mudras in Buddhism

Definition and Origins

  • Definition: In Buddhism, mudras refer to hand and arm gestures used during ritual practices or depicted in images of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and tantric deities.
  • Origins: Initially, for about 500 years after the Buddha, his presence was symbolized by a vacant throne or a footprint rather than physical depictions.

Evolution and Early Depictions

  • Early Depictions: The first physical depictions of Buddharupa emerged around the turn of the first millennium, notably in Gandhara art influenced by Hellenistic styles and later in Gupta period art in the Gangetic plains.
  • Early Mudras: Early buddha images featured key mudras such as the abhaya mudra, bhumisparsha mudra, dharmachakra mudra, and dhyana mudra.

Expansion in Buddhist Iconography

  • Mahayana and Vajrayana Influence: With the rise of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, hundreds of new mudras entered Buddhist iconography.
  • Tantric Use: In tantric traditions, mudras evolved into dynamic ritual hand movements symbolizing offerings, worship forms, or relationships with deities.

Gesture of Fearlessness (Abhaya Mudra)

Description and Symbolism

  • Description: Formed with the right palm outward at shoulder height, fingers pointing up; sometimes index finger touches thumb, other fingers extended upward. Double abhayamudra involves both hands.
  • Symbolism: Associated with the Buddha post-Enlightenment, conveying security, serenity, and compassion.
  • Mythological Significance: Represents the Buddha taming a mad elephant, demonstrating his ability to grant fearlessness to his followers.

Narrative from Buddhist Legend

  • Legend: Devadatta plotted harm against the Buddha using a wild elephant; Buddha calmed the elephant with the abhaya mudra, illustrating protection and refuge.
  • Meaning: Also known as the “gesture of protection” or “gesture of granting refuge” in Buddhist tradition.

Other Important Mudras in Buddhism

Dharmachakra Mudra
  • Association: Linked with Vairochana, the first Dhyani-Buddha in Tibetan tradition.
  • Symbolism: Represents the Buddha’s first sermon at Sarnath, known as the turning of the Wheel of Dharma.
  • Gesture: Thumb and index fingers of both hands touch to form a circle, symbolizing the union of method (index finger) and wisdom (thumb).
  • Metaphysical Meaning: Represents the eternal cycle of teachings and the essence of Buddhist philosophy.
Bhumisparsha Mudra
  • Significance: Commemorates the Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.
  • Literal Meaning: “Earth-touching mudra.”
  • Association: Often linked with Akshobhya, a Dhyani-Buddha.
  • Gesture: Depicted seated, right hand extended over the knee, touching the earth with all five fingers.
  • Symbolism: Invokes the earth goddess as witness to the Buddha’s enlightenment and signifies the triumph over temptation and evil.
Varada Mudra
  • Association: Associated with Ratnasambhava, the third Dhyani-Buddha.
  • Gesture: Known as the “boon-granting” mudra or dana mudra.
  • Depiction: Shown in seated and standing postures, left hand extended downward with palm facing outward.
  • Meaning: Symbolizes generosity, compassion, and the granting of wishes.
Dhyana Mudra
  • Meaning: “Meditation mudra” associated with Amitabha, the fourth Dhyani-Buddha.
  • Gesture: Hands placed in the lap, right hand on top of the left, both palms facing upward.
  • Position: Typically used in the seated padmasana (lotus) position.
  • Symbolism: Represents concentration, balance, and the meditative state essential to achieving enlightenment.

Abhaya Mudra in Hindu Religion

Assimilation into Hindu Iconography

  • Absorption of Buddha: Over time, Hindu depictions incorporated the abhaya mudra into images of deities.
  • Buddha as Vishnu Avatar: In Hinduism, the Buddha was assimilated as the ninth avatar of Vishnu between AD 450 and the 6th century CE, as mentioned in the Vishnu Purana.

Cultural Integration

  • Historical Context: Reflects cultural exchanges between Buddhist and Hindu traditions in India, influencing religious and artistic practices.

-Source: Indian Express


Recently, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released a Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) on India, approved during their plenary session in Singapore. The report specifically assessed India’s efforts in combating money laundering (ML), terrorist financing (TF), and proliferation financing.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the MER Report on India
  2. Significance of the MER Report on the Indian Economy
  3. Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

Highlights of the MER Report on India

  • Classification by FATF
    • India classified into the ‘regular follow-up’ category along with Russia, France, Italy, and the UK.
    • Required to submit progress report on recommended actions by October 2027.
  • FATF Group Categories
    • FATF categorizes member countries into regular follow-up, enhanced follow-up, grey list, and black list.
    • Regular follow-up is the top category; only 5 G20 countries, including India, are in this category post-Mutual Evaluation Report.
  • Compliance and Challenges
    • India achieves strong results and high technical compliance.
    • Must address delays in prosecutions related to money laundering and terrorist financing.

Significance of the MER Report on the Indian Economy

  • Boost to Financial System
    • Positive FATF evaluation boosts confidence in India’s robust financial system.
    • Strengthens initiatives like Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in attracting international financial institutions.
  • Credit Ratings and Borrowing Costs
    • Improved reputation could lead to better credit ratings, potentially lowering borrowing costs for Indian entities in global markets.
  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
    • A trustworthy financial system attracts more FDI, especially in sectors like fintech and e-commerce where financial integrity is crucial.
    • Companies like Amazon and Walmart have made significant investments in India.
  • Global Expansion of UPI
    • Endorsement supports global expansion of India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
    • UPI operational in countries like Singapore and UAE, with plans for further international expansion.
  • Boost to Fintech Sector
    • Positive evaluation accelerates growth of India’s fintech sector.
    • Companies like Paytm and PhonePe may find it easier to expand internationally, attracting more venture capital and fostering innovation in blockchain and digital currencies.
  • Efficient Remittances
    • Improved financial systems make remittances from NRIs more efficient and cost-effective.
    • Increases volume of remittances, significant for India’s foreign exchange reserves.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

  • The Financial Action Task Force (on Money Laundering) (FATF) is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering.
  • In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include terrorism financing.
  • FATF is a “policy-making body” that works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.
  • FATF monitors progress in implementing its Recommendations through “peer reviews” (“mutual evaluations”) of member countries.
  • Since 2000, FATF has maintained the FATF blacklist (formally called the “Call for action”) and the FATF greylist (formally called the “Other monitored jurisdictions”).
  • The objectives of FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

FATF Greylists

  • FATF greylist is officially referred to as Jurisdictions Under Increased Monitoring.
  • FATF grey list represent a much higher risk of money laundering and terrorism financing but have formally committed to working with the FATF to develop action plans that will address their AML/CFT deficiencies.
  • The countries on the grey list are subject to increased monitoring by the FATF, which either assesses them directly or uses FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs) to report on the progress they are making towards their AML/CFT goals.
  • While grey-list classification is not as negative as the blacklist, countries on the list may still face economic sanctions from institutions like the IMF and the World Bank and experience adverse effects on trade.
  • Unlike the next level “blacklist”, greylisting carries no legal sanctions, but it attracts economic strictures and restricts a country’s access to international loans

FATF Blacklists

  • FATF Blacklists is Officially known as High-Risk Jurisdictions subject to a Call for Action.
  • FATF blacklist sets out the countries that are considered deficient in their anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism regulatory regimes.
  • The list is intended to serve not only as a way of negatively highlighting these countries on the world stage, but as a warning of the high money laundering and terror financing risk that they present.
  • It is extremely likely that blacklisted countries will be subject to economic sanctions and other prohibitive measures by FATF member states and other international organizations.

-Source: The Hindu


On June 6, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) approved a wireless network architecture developed at IIT Bombay, designed to provide affordable broadband access in rural areas.


GS III: Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Fundamentals of Cellular Networks
  2. IEEE 2061-2024 Standard: Wireless Network Architecture for Rural Broadband Access
  3. Challenges of Mobile Connectivity in Rural India
  4. BharatNet Project: Transforming Rural Broadband Connectivity in India
  5. Phases of Implementation
  6. Budget Allocation
  7. Progress, Challenges, and Future Plans of the BharatNet Project

Fundamentals of Cellular Networks

Cellular Network Basics

  • Components:
    • Access Network (AN): Base stations providing wireless coverage within defined areas.
    • Core Network (CN): Central network interconnecting AN with external networks like the Internet.
  • AN Description:
    • Role: Provides wireless connectivity via base stations deployed throughout regions.
    • Deployment: Towers with antennae, established by network operators across coverage areas.
  • CN Description:
    • Function: Connects AN to external networks.
    • Infrastructure: Centrally located, connected to AN via optical fiber backhaul.
  • Mobility Support: Essential feature ensuring seamless user mobility across cellular networks.

IEEE 2061-2024 Standard: Wireless Network Architecture for Rural Broadband Access

Overview of IEEE 2061-2024 Standard

  • Definition: Specifies a wireless network architecture tailored for affordable broadband access in rural areas.
  • Approval: Approved by IEEE on June 6, 2024.
  • Network Components:
    • Access Network (AN): Includes heterogeneous base stations allowing for coexistence of different types.
    • Core Network (CN): Similar to cellular networks, facilitates connectivity beyond the AN.

Contrasting with Cellular Networks

  • AN Differences:
    • IEEE 2061-AN: Heterogeneous base stations with varied coverage.
    • 5G-AN: Homogeneous base stations with consistent coverage, smaller in area.
  • Middle Mile Network:
    • Function: Uses multi-hop wireless middle-mile networks to extend connectivity where optical-fiber links are impractical.
    • Advantages: Cost-effective over long distances, provides direct Internet access bypassing CN, suitable for stationary rural users.
  • Direct User Communication:
    • Capability: Facilitates direct communication between nearby users within AN, enhancing efficiency akin to direct travel between towns without central detour.

Challenges of Mobile Connectivity in Rural India

Rural Connectivity Issues

  • Disparity:
    • Tele-density: Urban areas exceed 127%, while rural areas are at 58%, highlighting digital divide challenges.
  • Factors Affecting Connectivity:
    • Economic Barriers: High costs deter rural adoption of mobile services.
    • Geographical Challenges: Low population density, remote locations complicate infrastructure deployment.
    • Infrastructure Limitations: Cost and complexity hinder fiber optic expansion to remote villages.
  • Development Focus:
    • Urban Bias: R&D emphasis on high-speed, low-latency needs of urban 5G networks neglects rural connectivity requirements.
    • Outcome: Rural areas lag significantly in mobile network coverage and service quality.

BharatNet Project: Transforming Rural Broadband Connectivity in India

  • BharatNet is the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity initiative, focusing on optical fiber-based internet access.
  • It is managed by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL), a special purpose organization under the Ministry of Communications, Department of Telecommunications.
  • Aligned with the Digital India program, it aims to bridge the digital divide and enhance rural internet access.
Features & Benefits:
  • Leveraging optical fiber technology, the project aims to connect over 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across India with broadband internet.
  • The goal is to provide a minimum of 100 Mbps bandwidth to each Gram Panchayat, facilitating access to e-services like e-governance, e-learning, e-commerce, and more.
  • Wi-Fi hotspots are being established in all gram panchayats, ensuring last-mile connectivity.
  • The project is expected to boost direct and indirect employment opportunities and increase income generation in rural areas.
  • Home broadband packages are available, starting from Rs 399 per month, offering 30 Mbps unlimited data and bundled OTT services.

Phases of Implementation:

  • The project is being implemented in three phases, as approved by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in 2016.
  • Aiming to cover 1,00,000 Gram Panchayats (GPs).
  • Execution carried out by three Central Public Sector Units (CPSUs): BSNL, RailTel, and PGCIL.
  • Targeted completion by March 2017.
  • Encompasses the remaining GPs using a mix of underground/aerial optical fiber cables (OFC), radio, and satellite technologies.
  • Involves three CPSUs and State Governments, often through their Discoms (Distribution Companies) or other agencies.
  • Targeted completion by December 2018.
  • Envisions a futuristic network with a ring topology connecting districts, blocks, and Gram Panchayats.
  • Targeted completion by 2023.
  • The BharatNet project’s multi-phased approach aims to achieve comprehensive broadband connectivity in rural areas, leveraging a combination of technologies and partnerships for nationwide impact.

Budget Allocation:

  • The BharatNet project has been allocated a total budget of Rs. 61,000 crore.
  • Funds are allocated in a consolidated manner, not specific to individual states or Union Territories.
  • The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) disburses a lump sum amount to Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) for project execution.
  • USOF collects levies from telecom companies to support communication service development in rural and underserved areas.

Progress, Challenges, and Future Plans of the BharatNet Project

Achievements So Far:
  • Initial goal: Connecting 2.5 lakh gram panchayats with optical fiber by August 2021.
  • Current status: Approximately 1.94 lakh villages connected; remaining villages expected to be connected within the next 2.5 years.
  • Delays caused by COVID-related lockdowns and movement restrictions.
  • Government extended the project deadline to 2025 in the Union Budget 2022-23.
Challenges Faced:

Slow Implementation:

  • Implementation progress has been relatively slow.
  • About 194,000 gram panchayats have been made service-ready as of March this year.
  • Around 6,000 gram panchayats were added from November 2022 to March.

PPP Mode Challenges:

  • Initial attempt to involve private companies through a public-private partnership (PPP) model faced challenges.
  • First request for proposal (RFP) in July 2021 received no response from private players.
  • Concerns over onerous terms and conditions and unfavorable revenue sharing model.
Future Plans:
  • Government to introduce a revised PPP model for the BharatNet project in the coming months.
  • The updated model aims to address challenges faced by private companies and attract their participation.
  • The focus remains on expanding optical fiber-based broadband connectivity to rural areas across India.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) imposed a penalty of Rs. 3 lakh on an advertisement by an Edtech platform that was found to be “false and misleading” under Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Act.


GS II: Polity and Governance

About Central Consumer Protection Authority

  • CCPA is a regulatory body established in 2020 based on the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
  • CCPA works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
  • It will have a Chief Commissioner as head, and only two other commissioners as members — one of whom will deal with matters relating to goods while the other will look into cases relating to services.
  • The CCPA will have an Investigation Wing that will be headed by a Director General.
  • District Collectors too, will have the power to investigate complaints of violations of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and false or misleading advertisements.
  • To promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.
  • To conduct investigations into violation of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution.
  • To order the recall of unsafe goods and services, discontinuation of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements.
  • To impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.
Powers and Functions:
  • Inquire or investigate into matters relating to violations of consumer rights or unfair trade practices suo moto, or on a complaint received, or on a direction from the central government.
  • Recall goods or withdrawal of services that are “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe.
  • Pass an order for refund the prices of goods or services so recalled to purchasers of such goods or services; discontinuation of practices which are unfair and prejudicial to consumer’s interest”.
  • Impose a penalty up to Rs 10 lakh, with imprisonment up to two years, on the manufacturer or endorser of false and misleading advertisements. The penalty may go up to Rs 50 lakh, with imprisonment up to five years, for every subsequent offence committed by the same manufacturer or endorser.
  • Ban the endorser of a false or misleading advertisement from making endorsement of any products or services in the future, for a period that may extend to one year. The ban may extend up to three years in every subsequent violation of the Act.
  • File complaints of violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, a team of researchers from the Zoological Survey of India recorded the forest-dwelling frog from the Talle Wildlife Sanctuary and named it as Xenophrys apatani.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Xenophrys apatani

  • Naming: Named after the Apatani community due to their effective conservation efforts.
  • Distribution: Found in the Eastern Himalayan and Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots in India.
Apatani Community
  • Location: Reside in the Ziro valley, Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Language: Speak Tani as their local language; they worship the sun and moon.
  • Festivals: Celebrate various festivals including Dree (harvest festival) and Myoko (friendship festival).
    • Dree: Celebrated for bumper harvests and prosperity.
    • Myoko: Similar to modern Friendship Day, celebrating friendship.
  • Farming: Practice integrated rice-fish farming since the 1960s in mountain terraces.
    • Rice Varieties: Cultivate Emeo, Pyape, and Mypia varieties of rice.

Tale Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Location: Situated in the Lower Subansiri District, Arunachal Pradesh, near the Apatani cultural landscape.
  • Rivers: Includes rivers such as Pange, Sipu, Karing, and Subansiri.
  • Flora: Rich variety of subtropical and alpine forests with species like silver fir trees, ferns, orchids, bamboo, and rhododendron.
  • Fauna: Home to diverse wildlife including the clouded leopard, Himalayan squirrel, and Himalayan black bear.

-Source: The Hindu


An artificial lake formed in the Saryu River remains a “significant threat” as efforts to drain it have failed for the second consecutive day.


Facts for Prelims

About Saryu River

  • Name Variations: Also known as Sarayu or Sarju River.
  • Geographical Coverage: Flows through Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh states in India.
  • Historical and Cultural Significance:
    • Mentioned in ancient texts like the Vedas and the Ramayana.
    • Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama, is situated on its banks, making it a site for religious rituals.
Course of the River
  • Origin: Begins in the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • Path:
    • Flows through towns such as Kapkot, Bageshwar, and Seraghat.
    • Joins the Sharada River at Pancheshwar on the India-Nepal border.
    • The Sharada River is also known as the Kali River and eventually merges into the Ghaghara River in Sitapur District, Uttar Pradesh.
  • Name Association: The lower Ghaghara River is commonly referred to as Sarayu in India, particularly in Ayodhya.

-Source: Times of India

July 2024