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Current Affairs 13 December 2023

  1. EU Proposes Groundbreaking AI Regulation
  2. Report Highlights: Addressing Untraceable Monuments and Protecting Monuments in India
  3. India Nears Visceral Leishmaniasis Elimination
  4. RBI Report: Warning on Fiscal Burden from Return to Old Pension Scheme (OPS)
  5. How do web browsers work?


Context:

The European Union (EU) is poised to enact the world’s inaugural comprehensive legislation for the regulation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The proposed framework is anticipated to face a parliamentary vote in early 2024, with potential enforcement as early as 2025.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Components of the EU Framework for AI Regulation
  2. Global Approaches to AI Regulation

Components of the EU Framework for AI Regulation:

Legislative Safeguards:
  • Consumer Empowerment: Individuals enabled to file complaints for perceived AI violations.
  • Limits on Law Enforcement Adoption: Clearly defined boundaries on AI usage by law enforcement.
  • Stringent AI Restrictions: Strong limitations on facial recognition and AI behavior manipulation.
  • Penalties for Violations: Provision for severe penalties for companies breaching AI rules.
  • Restricted Biometric Surveillance: Government-permitted real-time biometric surveillance in public areas only for serious threats like terrorism.
AI Application Categorization:
  • Four Risk Classes: AI applications categorized into four risk levels based on risk and invasiveness.
  • Prohibited Applications: Mass-scale facial recognition and behavioral control AI mostly banned, with law enforcement exemptions.
  • High-Risk Applications: Allowed with certification and transparency, e.g., AI tools for self-driving cars.
  • Medium-Risk Applications: Deployable without restrictions, like generative AI chatbots, with user disclosure, transparency obligations, and detailed documentation.
Other EU Regulatory Milestones:
  • GDPR Implementation: Enforced since May 2018, focusing on privacy and explicit consent for data processing.
  • Sub-Legislations: DSA and DMA:
    • Digital Services Act (DSA): Regulates hate speech, counterfeit goods, etc.
    • Digital Markets Act (DMA): Identifies “dominant gatekeeper” platforms, addressing non-competitive practices and dominance abuse.

Global Approaches to AI Regulation:

European Union (EU):
  • Stringent Categorization: Classifies AI based on invasiveness and risk levels.
United Kingdom (UK):
  • ‘Light-Touch’ Approach: Fosters innovation in AI with a less restrictive regulatory stance.
United States:
  • Balanced Position: Positioned between supporting innovation and implementing some regulatory measures.
China:
  • Sovereign Measures: Introduces its own AI regulations aligning with national policies and priorities.

India’s Strategy on AI Regulation:

Stance Evolution:
  • From Non-Consideration to Formulation: India shifts from not considering AI regulation to actively formulating regulations based on risk and user-harm approach.
Advocacy for Responsible AI:
  • Inclusive National AI Strategy: #AIFORALL (2018) focused on inclusivity in AI adoption.
  • Principles of Responsible AI (2021): NITI Aayog introduces principles emphasizing equality, safety, inclusivity, transparency, accountability, privacy, and positive human value.
  • Comprehensive National Initiative: IndiaAI (March 2023) introduced as a comprehensive program covering all AI-related research and innovations.
  • Statutory Authority Recommendation: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (July 2023) proposes a domestic statutory authority for AI regulation with a risk-based framework and an advisory body with diverse expertise.
Sector-Specific AI Frameworks in India:
Healthcare Sector:
  • Ethical Guidelines: Indian Council of Medical Research issues guidelines for AI in biomedical research and healthcare (June 2023).
 Capital Market:
  • SEBI Circular (January 2019): Guides policies and establishes an inventory for AI systems in the capital market.
Education Sector:
  • NEP 2020 Recommendation: National Education Policy recommends integrating AI awareness into school courses.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

A parliamentary committee’s recent report suggests substantial revisions to the Archaeological Survey of India’s strategy, focusing on issues related to untraceable monuments and advocating changes in the handling of religious activities at protected sites.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Current ASI Policy on Worship at Monuments
  2. Committee’s Recommendations on Worship at ASI Monuments
  3. Concerns Against the Committee’s Recommendations
  4. About Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

Current ASI Policy on Worship at Monuments

Selective Worship Allowance:

  • ASI permits worship and rituals only at monuments where these traditions were active when the ASI assumed custody.

Living ASI Monuments:

  • Notable examples include the Taj Mahal, where namaz is conducted every Friday.
  • Other living monuments include three mosques in Kannauj, the Roman Catholic Church in Meerut, the Nila Mosque in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village, and several Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh.

Preservation Objective:

  • The restriction aims to preserve the historical and cultural integrity of monuments.
  • No religious rituals are allowed at non-living monuments without a history of continuous worship.

Policy Limitations:

  • Revival of worship is prohibited in cases where it was not in practice at the time of protection or has been abandoned for an extended period.

Monument Distribution:

  • Out of 3,693 centrally protected monuments, around a fourth (820) include places of worship.
  • The remaining are considered non-living monuments where new religious rituals are not allowed.

Religious Diversity:

  • Sites include various religious structures such as temples, mosques, dargahs, and churches.

Case Example – Martand Sun Temple:

  • Once a thriving place of worship commissioned by King Lalitaditya Muktapida, it was destroyed in the 14th century.
  • ASI took control in the 20th century for conservation, and no Hindu rituals were practiced. Recent pujas in 2022 were considered a violation of ASI norms for non-living monuments.

Committee’s Recommendations on Worship at ASI Monuments

Exploring Worship Possibilities:

  • Suggests examining the feasibility of allowing prayers and worship at ASI-protected monuments with religious significance.

Policy Shift Implications:

  • Raises questions about the potential impact of this policy shift on various religious sites.

Transparency and Accountability:

  • Recommends that the Ministry of Culture and ASI conduct surveys to promptly identify monuments.
  • Emphasizes the importance of transparency and accountability in addressing critical issues related to monument protection.

Concerns Against the Committee’s Recommendations

Threats to Monument Integrity:

  • Allowing religious activities may jeopardize the integrity, authenticity, and historical value of monuments.
  • Concerns include possible alterations, additions, modifications, or damage by devotees or authorities.

Potential Conflicts and Disputes:

  • The possibility of conflicts and disputes among different religious groups.
  • Potential claims of ownership or rights over the monuments or objections to the activities of other groups.

About Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

  • The Archaeological Survey of India is an Indian government agency attached to the Ministry of Culture.
  • ASI is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country.
  • Maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance is the prime concern of the ASI.
  • Besides it regulate all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • It also regulates Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.
  • For the maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance the entire country is divided into 24 Circles.
    • The organization has a large work force of trained archaeologists, conservators, epigraphist, architects and scientists for conducting archaeological research projects through its Circles, Museums, Excavation Branches, Prehistory Branch, Epigraphy Branches, Science Branch, Horticulture Branch, Building Survey Project, Temple Survey Projects and Underwater Archaeology Wing.
  • The most important of the society’s achievements was the decipherment of the Brahmi script by James Prinsep in 1837. This successful decipherment inaugurated the study of Indian palaeography.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

India is on the verge of eliminating visceral leishmaniasis, or kala azar, with a significant reduction in reported cases and deaths, nearing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) elimination target. Bangladesh, India’s neighbor, has already been validated by the WHO for successfully eliminating kala azar as a public health problem.

Relevance:

GS III- Health, Prelims

About Kala Azar

  • Kala-azar is a slow progressing indigenous disease caused by a protozoan parasite of genus Leishmania.
  • In India Leishmania donovani is the only parasite causing this disease.
  • The Kala-azar is endemic to the Indian subcontinent in 119 districts in four countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal).
  • This disease is the second-largest parasitic killer in the world. Elimination is defined as reducing the annual incidence of Kala Azar (KA) to less than 1 case per 10,000 people at the sub-district level.
  • It is a neglected tropical disease affecting almost 100 countries.
  • Neglected tropical diseases are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.
There are three types of leishmaniasis
  • Visceral leishmaniasis, which affects multiple organs and is the most serious form of the disease.
  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin sores and is the most common form.
  • Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin and mucosal lesions.

The Visceral leishmaniasis, which is commonly known as Kala-azar in India, is fatal in over 95% of the cases, if left untreated.

Symptoms of Kala azar
  • It is associated with fever, loss of appetite (anorexia), fatigue, enlargement of the liver, spleen and nodes and suppression of the bone marrow.
  • It also increases the risk of other secondary infections.
Diagnosing Kala azar
  • The first oral drug found to be effective for treating kala-azar is miltefosine.
  • The most common method of diagnosing kala azar is by dipstick testing. However, this method is highly problematic.

Where has kala-azar been detected in India?

  • In West Bengal, the districts where the maximum number of cases were registered include Darjeeling, Malda, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Kalimpong.
  • The districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, and Murshidabad have also reported a few cases, while none have been detected in Kolkata yet.
  • The disease is endemic in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • An estimated 165.4 million people are at risk, according to data from the National Centre for Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NCVBDC).
  • In the country as a whole, there has been a significant decline in cases over the years.
  • In 2014, around 9,200 cases were reported while in 2021 the number fell to 1,276 cases.

What does the treatment include?

  • Anti-leishmanial medicines are available for treatment.
  • Vector control is also recommended by the WHO, which means reducing or interrupting the transmission of disease by decreasing the number of sandflies in surroundings through insecticide spray, use of insecticide-treated nets, etc.
  • The government aimed to eliminate the disease in India by 2015, but that deadline was missed.
  • However, the number of cases has been brought down significantly through the National Kala-Azar Elimination Programme.
  • Medicines, insecticides and technical support were given by the central government, while state governments provided for costs involved in implementation.
  • The program was implemented through State/District Malaria Control Offices and the primary health care system.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued a report titled “State Finances: A Study of Budgets of 2023-24,” expressing concern over the financial strain imposed by a return to the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) by some states. The report highlights that such a move would significantly burden state finances, limiting their capacity for capital expenditure and hindering efforts to drive economic growth.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Old Pension Scheme
  2. Concerns with the OPS
  3. Old Pension Scheme vs National Pension Scheme

About Old Pension Scheme

  • Pension to government employees at the Centre as well as states was fixed at 50 per cent of the last drawn basic pay.
  • The attraction of the Old Pension Scheme or ‘OPS’ — called so since it existed before a new pension system came into effect for those joining government service from January 1, 2004 — lay in its promise of an assured or ‘defined’ benefit to the retiree.
  • It was hence described as a ‘Defined Benefit Scheme’.
    • To illustrate, if a government employee’s basic monthly salary at the time of retirement was Rs 10,000, she would be assured of a pension of Rs 5,000.
  • Also, like the salaries of government employees, the monthly payouts of pensioners also increased with hikes in dearness allowance or DA announced by the government for serving employees.
Dearness allowance
  • DA — calculated as a percentage of the basic salary — is a kind of adjustment the government offers its employees and pensioners to make up for the steady increase in the cost of living.
  • DA hikes are announced twice a year, generally in January and July.
  • A 4 per cent DA hike would mean that a retiree with a pension of Rs 5,000 a month would see her monthly income rise to Rs 5,200 a month.
  • As on date, the minimum pension paid by the government is Rs 9,000 a month, and the maximum is Rs 62,500 (50 per cent of the highest pay in the Central government, which is Rs 1,25,000 a month).

Concerns with the OPS

The pension liability remained unfunded:

  • There was no corpus specifically for pension, which would grow continuously and could be dipped into for payments.
  • The Government of India budget provided for pensions every year; there was no clear plan on how to pay year after year in the future.
  • The government estimated payments to retirees ahead of the Budget every year, and the present generation of taxpayers paid for all pensioners as on date.
  • The ‘pay-as-you-go’ scheme created inter-generational equity issues — meaning the present generation had to bear the continuously rising burden of pensioners.
The OPS was also unsustainable:
  • For one, pension liabilities would keep climbing since pensioners’ benefits increased every year; like salaries of existing employees, pensioners gained from indexation, or what is called ‘dearness relief’ (the same as dearness allowance for existing employees).
  • And two, better health facilities would increase life expectancy, and increased longevity would mean extended payouts.
  • Over the last three decades, pension liabilities for the Centre and states have jumped manifold.
    • In 1990-91, the Centre’s pension bill was Rs 3,272 crore, and the outgo for all states put together was Rs 3,131 crore.
    • By 2020-21, the Centre’s bill had jumped 58 times to Rs 1,90,886 crore; for states, it had shot up 125 times to Rs 3,86,001 crore.

Old Pension Scheme vs National Pension Scheme

Old Pension Scheme (OPS)
  • An old pension scheme (OPS), commonly known as the PAYG scheme, is defined as an unfunded pension scheme where current revenues fund pension benefits.
  • Under this scheme, the contribution of the current generation of workers was explicitly used to pay the pensions of existing pensioners.
  • The scheme has been discontinued in most countries before the 1990s as it creates problem of pension debt sustainability, an ageing population, an explicit burden on future generations and the incentive for early retirement as the pension is fixed at the last drawn salary.
National Pension Scheme (NPS)
  • NPS is a defined contribution pension scheme. It enables an individual to undertake retirement planning while in employment.
  • With systematic savings and investments, NPS facilitates the accumulation of a pension corpus during their working life. It is designed to deliver a sustainable solution of having adequate retirement income in old age or upon superannuation.
  • NPS is mandatory for central government employees joining services on or after January 1, 2004, and almost all state governments have adopted it for their employees. NPS is regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).
  • Under NPS, employees contribute 10% of their salary (Basic + Dearness Allowance) and the government contributes 14% towards the employees’ NPS accounts.
  • As of December 2022, 59.78 lakh state government employees are part of NPS, with total assets under management of Rs 4.27 lakh crore.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Web browsers translate code into the dynamic web pages that form the backbone of our online experiences.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Understanding Web Browsers: A Comprehensive Overview

Definition and Purpose:
  • A browser is an internet application facilitating the exchange of messages.
  • It operates on devices, fetching and displaying information from the internet while translating user inputs into code for transmission.
Origins and Evolution:
  • In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee introduced the concept of the World Wide Web, later named ‘WorldWideWeb.’
Core Components of Modern Web Browsers:
  • Request and Response:
    • When entering a URL, the browser sends a request to a server for specific web page contents.
    • The server processes the request and formulates a response containing the required information.
  • Deconstructing the Response:
    • The server’s response consists of files encoded in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • HTML (Hypertext Markup Language):
    • Provides the structural blueprint of a webpage.
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets):
    • Controls aesthetics, including color schemes, fonts, spacing, and positioning.
  • JavaScript:
    • Adds dynamism, enabling interactivity such as pop-ups, forms, animations, and real-time updates.
  • Rendering:
    • Involves interpreting HTML structure, applying CSS for style, and executing JavaScript for interactivity.
  • Managing Data:
    • Browsers act as custodians of digital footprints, using tools like cookies and cache to enhance the online experience.
  • Cookies:
    • Small data snippets stored by websites on user computers.
Significance of Cookies and Cache:
  • Cookies enhance online experiences by storing data, while cache improves browsing speed by storing frequently accessed information.

-Source: The Hindu


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