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Current Affairs 18 November 2023

  1. CCPA Investigation on IAS Coaching Institutes
  2. FATF Report on Terrorism Financing through Crowdfunding
  3. Digital Advertisement Policy 2023
  4. Sickle Cell Anaemia
  5. Leonid Meteor Shower
  6. Indian Computer Emergency Response Team 


Context:

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) is probing 20 IAS coaching institutes for making misleading claims in their advertisements and for unfair trade practices. Four of the twenty institutions have already been slapped with a penalty of Rs 1 lakh.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Consumer Protection Authority Investigation on IAS Coaching Institutes
  2. Coaching Industry in India: Market Size and Growth Factors
  3. About Central Consumer Protection Authority
  4. Consumer Protection Act, 2019

Consumer Protection Authority Investigation on IAS Coaching Institutes

Investigation Details:
  • The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) in India is currently investigating 20 IAS coaching centers.
  • The investigation focuses on alleged misleading advertisements and unfair trade practices by these coaching centers.
Accusations Against Coaching Centers:
  • The coaching centers are accused of utilizing the names and pictures of toppers and successful candidates to influence prospective aspirants.
Penalties Imposed:
  • As a result of the ongoing investigation, four of the coaching centers have already been fined Rs 1 lakh each.
CCPA’s Observations:
  • Coaching institutes engage in extensive advertising campaigns each time competitive exam results, such as the UPSC Civil Services, are announced.
  • Names and pictures of top rankers are prominently featured in these ads to showcase their association with the institute.
  • However, crucial information regarding the nature of their enrollment, such as the specific course they pursued, is not disclosed.
  • According to CCPA, this lack of transparency qualifies as deliberate concealment of important information and falls under the category of ‘misleading advertisement’ as per Section 2(28) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
Penalty Structure:
  • First-time violations may result in penalties of up to Rs 10 lakh.
  • Subsequent violations could attract penalties of up to Rs 50 lakh, coupled with the possibility of additional legal action for persistent non-compliance.

Coaching Industry in India: Market Size and Growth Factors

Market Size and Growth Projection:
  • The coaching class market in India is projected to reach approximately Rs 1.79 lakh crore by 2030.
  • The expected growth is at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14.07% over the forecast period spanning from 2023 to 2030.
Market Categorization and Share:
  • Higher education dominates the coaching class market, holding the largest market share at around 32.75% in 2022.
  • This market share is anticipated to increase to 34.75% during the forecast period.

Factors Driving the Thriving Market:

  • Poor Quality of School Teaching:
    • Inadequate teaching quality in schools has driven students and parents towards coaching institutes.
  • High Competition:
    • Intense competition, particularly in academic pursuits, encourages students to seek additional support from coaching classes.

Parental Preference for High-Quality Education:

  • Parents increasingly prefer high-quality education for their children, contributing to the demand for coaching institutes.
  • Quick Achievement Orientation:
    • The new generation’s inclination towards achieving goals quickly and easily has fueled the demand for coaching services.
  • Increased Income Levels:
    • Rising income levels have enabled more families to invest in supplementary education for their children.
  • Higher Education and Professional Courses:
    • The growing number of students pursuing higher education and professional courses has significantly contributed to the coaching industry’s expansion.
  • Competitive Edge and Academic Improvement:
    • Students seek coaching institutes to gain a competitive edge and enhance their academic performance.
    • Coaching institutes offer tools like practice exams, study guides, and individual tutoring to support students in their educational journey.

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.
Composition:
  • 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.
Objective:
  • 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.

Consumer Protection Act, 2019:

Replacement of Previous Legislation:
  • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, replaced the earlier Consumer Protection Act of 1986, with the aim of expanding its scope to address a broader range of consumer concerns.
Scope of Offences Recognized:
  • The new Act identifies offenses, including providing false information regarding the quality or quantity of goods or services.
  • It also addresses the issue of misleading advertisements, acknowledging the impact on consumer rights.
Action Against Dangerous Goods and Services:
  • The Act outlines specific actions to be taken if goods and services are deemed “dangerous, hazardous, or unsafe,” prioritizing consumer safety.
Enforcement and Empowerment:
  • Enforced in July 2020, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, aims to empower consumers by providing them with a legal framework to safeguard their rights.
  • The Act’s various notified rules and provisions serve as tools for consumers to take action and seek redressal for any grievances related to goods and services.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has published a report titled “Crowdfunding for Terrorism Financing,” revealing that violent extremist organizations utilize sophisticated networks for fundraising. The report specifically references the Popular Front of India (PFI), highlighting its solicitation for funds at mosques and public places. These funds are reported to be used for the acquisition of arms, ammunition, and training of cadres.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Crowdfunding and its Potential for Exploitation
  2. Key Highlights of the Report
  3. Recommendations from the FATF Report on Crowdfunding for Terrorism Financing
  4. Popular Front of India (PFI)
  5. Approaches to Deal with Such Organizations while Preserving Civil Liberties and Ensuring National Security

Crowdfunding and its Potential for Exploitation

  • Crowdfunding is a dynamic fundraising method leveraging online platforms.
  • It involves gathering small contributions from a large pool of individuals for various purposes such as supporting causes, funding startups, or financing projects.
Legitimate Use and Recent Exploitation:
  • Predominantly used for legitimate purposes.
  • Recent events have exposed its potential exploitation, particularly by terrorists and terrorist groups.

Methods of Misuse for Terror Financing:

  • Abuse of Humanitarian Causes:
    • Use of humanitarian, charitable, and non-profit causes as fronts to raise funds for terrorism.
  • Dedicated Crowdfunding Platforms:
    • Utilization of specific platforms or websites, making illicit activity detection challenging.
  • Social Media Amplification:
    • Exploitation of social media platforms and messaging apps to amplify extremist messages and lead users to fundraising causes.
  • Interaction with Virtual Assets:
    • Involvement with virtual assets, including privacy coins and anonymity-enhancing services like tumblers and mixers.

Key Highlights of the Report:

  • PFI’s Fund Collection Methods:
    • The Popular Front of India (PFI) collected funds through solicitation at religious places and public spaces.
    • Utilized modern digital methods, including QR codes and bank account details, to encourage donations.
  • Domestic and Foreign Transactions:
    • Funds involved both domestic and foreign transactions.
    • Investigation complexity arises due to the multi-dimensional nature of financial flows.
  • Diversification of Fund Usage:
    • Funds raised were not limited to a single purpose.
    • A portion invested in businesses and real estate projects, aiming for regular income to support terrorist activities.
  • Global Context of Crowdfunding Abuse:
    • Places crowdfunding for terrorism financing in a global context.
    • Notes that while most crowdfunding is legitimate, terrorist organizations exploit platforms like ISIL and Al-Qaeda for fundraising.

Recommendations from the FATF Report on Crowdfunding for Terrorism Financing

  • Global AML/CFT Regulations:
    • Emphasizes the necessity for consistent Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT) regulations globally.
  • Systematic Risk Assessment:
    • Urges countries to systematically assess the risks linked to crowdfunding activities.
    • Highlights the current lack of comprehensive data regarding the potential misuse of crowdfunding platforms.
  • Cross-Border Nature Awareness:
    • Points out the cross-border nature of crowdfunding campaigns and the associated financial transfers.
    • Stresses the importance of recognizing the global implications of crowdfunding activities.
  • Pass-Through Jurisdictions Acknowledgment:
    • Encourages countries to acknowledge that even if their jurisdiction does not witness significant domestic terrorism activity, it can still be exploited as a pass-through for financial flows.
    • Calls for heightened vigilance and regulatory measures regardless of the apparent absence of direct terrorism involvement.

Popular Front of India (PFI):

  • Formed in 2007 through the merger of three Muslim organizations in Tamil Nadu, southern India.
  • Emerged after the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
  • Engaged in various social and Islamic religious activities, presenting itself as an advocate for minority, Dalit, and marginalized community rights.
  • Faced allegations of involvement in extremist activities.
  • In 2022, the Ministry of Home Affairs declared PFI and its associates as an “unlawful association.”

Approaches to Deal with Such Organizations while Preserving Civil Liberties and Ensuring National Security:

  • Clear Legal Framework:
    • Establish a comprehensive legal framework outlining conditions for designating organizations as threats to national security.
    • Base the framework on constitutional principles, international Human Rights standards, and due process.
  • Judicial Oversight:
    • Ensure judicial oversight to assess the government’s actions in accordance with the law and protection of individual rights.
  • Transparency and Accountability:
    • Maintain transparency in the process of designating organizations as unlawful, disclosing reasons for such actions.
    • Establish mechanisms for accountability and oversight to prevent misuse of the legal framework.
  • Targeted Actions:
    • Focus on targeting individuals or entities directly involved in criminal or terrorist activities rather than broadly targeting entire organizations.
    • Minimize the impact on innocent members and supporters.
  • Enhanced Intelligence Gathering:
    • Strengthen intelligence gathering and surveillance capabilities to monitor potential threats.
    • Ensure these actions align with the law and are subject to oversight.
  • Public Awareness:
    • Promote public awareness about the dangers of extremist ideologies.
    • Encourage reporting of suspicious activities and active participation in safeguarding national security.

-Source: Down To Earth



Context:

Recently, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has approved the Digital Advertisement Policy, 2023 to enable and empower the Central Bureau of Communication (CBC) to undertake campaigns in the Digital Media space.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Policies under the Digital Advertisement Policy, 2023
  2. Significance of Digital Advertisement Policy, 2023

Key Policies under the Digital Advertisement Policy, 2023:

Advertisement Platforms:

  • CBC (Cabinet Secretariat Coordination) can advertise on various digital platforms, including social media, Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms, digital audio platforms, mobile applications, and websites.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Websites, mobile apps, OTT platforms, and digital audio platforms must be at least one year old to qualify for the advertising scheme.

Advertising Rates:

  • Rates will be determined based on the subscriber base and viewership numbers.
  • Competitive bidding will be employed to ensure transparency and efficiency in rate determination.
  • The rates discovered through this process will remain valid for a period of three years.

Empanelment of OTT Platforms:

  • OTT platforms can be empanelled not only for placing advertisements during regular content but also for the production of embedded/in-film advertisements, promotions, or branding activities as per CBC’s Letter of Intent.

Fund Allocation:

  • CBC typically allocates 2% of the total outlay of government schemes for publicity and outreach activities.
  • This fund is utilized for advertisements and campaigns, ensuring a strategic and well-defined approach to public communication.

Significance of Digital Advertisement Policy, 2023:

  • Adaptation to Evolving Media Landscape:
    • The policy reflects CBC’s responsiveness to the changing media landscape, embracing digitalization trends in media consumption.
  • Efficient Information Dissemination:
    • Enables the effective delivery of citizen-centric messages through a vast digital subscriber base, leveraging technology-enabled messaging options.
    • Facilitates targeted communication for increased cost efficiencies in public-oriented campaigns.
  • Digital Media Dominance:
    • Acknowledges the significant shift in audience media consumption patterns towards the digital space.
    • Aligns with the Digital India program, contributing to the government’s efforts to engage with the population through digital and social media platforms.
  • Expanding Internet Connectivity:
    • Capitalizes on the substantial growth in internet connectivity in India, driven by initiatives like Digital India.
    • As of March 2023, internet penetration stands at over 880 million, reflecting a substantial digital audience.
  • Ubiquitous Telecom Services:
    • Recognizes the widespread adoption of telecom services, with over 1172 million subscribers as of March 2023, indicating extensive reach and potential impact.
  • Enhanced Targeting and Outreach:
    • Leverages the digital universe’s diverse subscriber base for more targeted and impactful communication, aligning with the government’s communication goals.
  • Cost-Effective Public Campaigns:
    • Aims to optimize costs associated with public-oriented campaigns by harnessing the efficiency and reach offered by digital advertising platforms.
  • Strategic Communication Approach:
    • Demonstrates a strategic approach to public communication, utilizing digital channels to ensure timely and relevant messaging to a tech-savvy population.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The United Kingdom’s drug regulator recently approved the world’s first gene therapy treatment for sickle cell disease and thalassemia.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Sickle Cell Anaemia
  2. Symptoms
  3. Treatment
  4. Indian Government Initiatives to reduce Sickle Cell Anaemia
  5. About the National Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission

Sickle Cell Anaemia

  • Haemoglobin which is tasked with carrying oxygen to all parts of the body, has four protein subunits — two alpha and two beta.
  • In some people, mutations in the gene that creates the beta subunits impact the shape of the blood cell and distorts it to look like a sickle.
  • A round red blood cell can move easily through blood vessels because of its shape but sickle red blood cells end up slowing, and even blocking, the blood flow.
  • Moreover, sickle cells die early, resulting in a shortage of red blood cells that deprive the body of oxygen.
  • These obstructions and shortages may cause chronic anaemia, pain, fatigue, acute chest syndrome, stroke, and a host of other serious health complications.
  • Without treatment, quality of life is compromised and severe cases can become fatal in the initial years of life.
Symptoms

The symptoms of sickle cell anaemia can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:

  • Painful episodes (sickle cell crisis)
  • Anaemia
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Delays in growth and development
  • Joint pain
  • frequent infections
Treatment

Currently, there is no cure for sickle cell anaemia, but treatments are available to manage the symptoms and prevent complications.

  • Pain management
  • Blood transfusions
  • Antibiotics to prevent infections
  • Hydoxyurea, a medication to reduce the frequency of sickle cell crises
  • Stem cell transplantation in some cases
Indian Government Initiatives to reduce Sickle Cell Anaemia
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Rural Health Mission in different States are undertaking outreach programmes for better management and control of the disease.
  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs launched a portal wherein people can register themselves if they have the disease or the trait, in order to collate all information related to SCA among tribal groups.
  • In the Budget, the Union Health Minister said the government plans to distribute “special cards” across tribal areas to people below the age of 40.
    • The cards will be divided into different categories based on the screening results.
    • The mission will receive funding under the National Health Mission.

National Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission:

  • The mission aims to tackle the significant health challenges associated with sickle cell disease (SCD), with a particular focus on the tribal population.
  • It represents a crucial milestone in the Government’s ongoing efforts to eliminate SCD as a public health issue by 2047.

Objectives of the Mission:

Provision of Affordable and Accessible Care:

  • Ensure that all SCD patients have access to affordable and easily accessible healthcare services.
  • Improve the availability and affordability of SCD treatments and medications.

Quality of Care:

  • Enhance the quality of care provided to SCD patients.
  • Implement measures to ensure that healthcare facilities meet the required standards for SCD management.

Prevalence Reduction:

  • Implement strategies to reduce the prevalence of SCD in the population.
  • Focus on early detection and prevention methods to minimize the number of new SCD cases.

Health Promotion:

  • Raise awareness about SCD through health promotion campaigns.
  • Provide pre-marital genetic counseling to educate individuals about the risks associated with SCD.

Prevention:

  • Conduct universal screening programs to identify SCD cases at an early stage.
  • Emphasize the importance of early detection and prompt intervention to prevent complications.

Holistic Management & Continuum of Care:

  • Develop a comprehensive management approach for individuals with SCD.
  • Establish coordinated care across primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare levels.
  • Ensure adequate treatment facilities at tertiary healthcare institutions.

Patient Support System:

  • Establish a robust support system for SCD patients.
  • Provide guidance, counseling, and emotional support to patients and their families.

Community Adoption:

  • Encourage community involvement in SCD prevention and care.
  • Promote the adoption of preventive measures and support systems within local communities.
Coverage Targets:
  • The mission aims to reach a total of 7 crore people.
  • Provide screening, counseling, and care services for individuals with SCD within a three-and-a-half-year timeframe.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Many skywatchers in India and around the globe are poised for a cosmic treat—the Leonid Meteor Shower, which has already been underway since November 6, is set to reach its peak in the pre-dawn hours of November 17–18, 2023.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Leonid Meteor Shower

Leonid Meteor Shower:

  • Origin: The Leonid meteor shower is caused by the dust and debris left behind by the comet Tempel-Tuttle.
  • Peak Period: It typically peaks in mid-November each year.
  • Name Origin: The shower is named after the Leo constellation, as the meteors appear to radiate from this celestial region.
  • Comet Tempel-Tuttle: The Tempel-Tuttle comet completes its orbit around the sun every 33 years.
Formation of Dust Cloud:
  • When the comet approaches the sun, it warms up, releasing a significant amount of material that forms a dense cloud of dust and gas around it.
  • This cloud follows the comet’s orbit and gradually disperses over time.

Annual Earth Crossing:

  • Every year in mid-November, Earth crosses the orbit of Tempel-Tuttle and may encounter the comet’s dust cloud.
Meteor Formation:
  • Dust particles from the comet’s debris enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds (around 70 km/s).
  • The friction with the atmosphere causes the particles to catch fire, creating bright streaks of light in the sky—observed as meteors during the Leonid meteor shower.
Meteor Storms:
  • The Leonids are known for occasionally causing meteor storms, characterized by a higher influx of meteors during specific years.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

India’s cyber security watchdog CERT-In recently found “multiple vulnerabilities” in the popular Google Chrome operating system (OS), which can even bypass security on the targeted system.

Relevance:

GS III: Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About CERT-In
  2. Key Objectives

About CERT-In:

  • National Nodal Agency: CERT-In serves as the national nodal agency for responding to computer security incidents in India.
  • Affiliation: It operates as a functional organization under the Ministry of Information & Electronics Technology.
  • Objective: The primary objective of CERT-In is to secure Indian cyberspace.
  • Operational Since: CERT-In has been operational since January 2004.
  • Designation by IT Act (2000): The Information Technology Act of 2000 designates CERT-In as the national agency with specific functions in the field of cybersecurity.
  • Mandated Functions: Includes the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information on cyber incidents, issuing alerts, emergency measures, coordination of incident response, and providing guidelines and advisories.
  • Constituency: CERT-In’s constituency is the Indian cyber community and Indian cyberspace.
  • Service Recipients: CERT-In provides services to organizations in the Government, Public, and Private sectors, as well as to individuals and home users.
  • Information Disclosure: Disclosure of information follows Indian Constitutional laws.
  • Collaborations: CERT-In collaborates with organizations within and outside the country, law enforcement, academia, industry, service providers, research institutions, and individuals involved in cybersecurity.
Key Objectives:
  • Prevention: Preventing cyber attacks against the country’s cyberspace.
  • Response: Responding to cyber attacks and minimizing damage and recovery time.
  • Vulnerability Reduction: Reducing national vulnerability to cyber attacks.
  • Awareness Enhancement: Enhancing security awareness among common citizens.

-Source: Times of India


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