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Current Affairs 22 August 2022

CONTENTS:

  1.  The number of Women scientists goes up in CSIR 
  2. India’s coal-based power plants
  3. Facial recognition technology

The number of Women scientists in CSIR goes up


Context:

The appointment earlier this month of Dr N Kalaiselvi as the first woman director general of India’s largest research and development organisation, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the participation of women in science research has been generally increasing over the past two decades in the country.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Points
  2. About CSIR
  3. Structure of the Organisation
  4. Objectives

Key Points:

  • AS per the data compiled by the Department of Science and Technology, More than a quarter — 28% — of participants in extramural R&D projects in 2018-19 were women, up from 13% in 2000-01 due to various initiatives taken by successive governments
  • The number of women principal investigators in R&D had risen more than four times from 232 in 2000-01 to 941 in 2016-17.
  • The percentage of women among researchers went from 13.9% in 2015 to 18.7% in 2018, the data show.
  • There were fewer women researchers in engineering and technology (14.5%) compared with the natural sciences and agriculture (22.5% each), and health sciences (24.5%).
  • The percentage of women researchers in the social sciences and humanities is, however, much higher at 36.4%.

About CSIR:

  • The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), known for its cutting edge R&D knowledge base in diverse S&T areas, is a contemporary R&D organization.
  • CSIR has a dynamic network of 37 national laboratories, 39 outreach centres, 3 Innovation Complexes, and five units with a pan-India presence. 
  • CSIR is funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology and it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • CSIR covers a wide spectrum of science and technology – from oceanography, geophysics, chemicals, drugs, genomics, biotechnology and nanotechnology to mining, aeronautics, instrumentation, environmental engineering and information technology. It provides significant technological intervention in many areas concerning societal efforts, which include environment, health, drinking water, food, housing, energy, farm and non-farm sectors. Further, CSIR’s role in S&T human resource development is noteworthy.
  • It provides significant technological intervention in many areas with regard to societal efforts which include the environment, health, drinking water, food, housing, energy, farm and non-farm sectors.
  • Established: September 1942
  • Headquarters: New Delhi

Structure of the Organisatio:

  • President: Prime Minister of India (Ex-officio)
  • Vice President: Union Minister of Science and Technology (Ex-officio)
  • Governing Body: The Director-General is the head of the governing body.
  • The other ex-officio member is the finance secretary (expenditures).
  • Other members’ terms are of three years.

Objective:

  • Promotion, guidance and coordination of scientific and industrial research in India including the institution and the financing of specific researchers.
  • Establishment and assistance to special institutions or departments of existing institutions for the scientific study of problems affecting particular industries and trade.
  • Establishment and award of research studentships and fellowships.
  • Utilization of the results of the research conducted under the auspices of the Council towards the development of industries in the country.
  • Payment of a share of royalties arising out of the development of the results of research to those who are considered as having contributed towards the pursuit of such research.
  • Establishment, maintenance and management of laboratories, workshops, institutes and organisations to further scientific and industrial research.
  • Collection and dissemination of information in regard not only to research but to industrial matters generally.
  • Publication of scientific papers and a journal of industrial research and development.

-Source: The Indian Express


India’s coal-based power plants


Context:

Almost seven years since the notification, not even 7 per cent of India’s coal-based power plants are on track to meet the standards issued by the MoEF&CC

Relevance:

Prelims bits

Key Points:

  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), in its 2015 notification, introduced emission norms for coal-based thermal power plants (TPP).
  • The TPPs were given a fixed deadline of December 2017 to mandatorily comply with the norms.
  • Almost seven years since the notification, not even 7 per cent of India’s coal-based power plants are on track to meet the standards issued by the MoEF&CC.
  • Central Electricity Authority (CEA) is the nodal agency under the Ministry of Power (MoP) for implementing the 2015 emission norms.
  • CEA only reports on the installation of flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) though the norms were formulated for SO2, oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, mercury and water.
  • The lack of information on other parameters has led to the ‘installation of FGD’ becoming the yardstick for compliance with emission norms.
  • The cost implications and the unavailability of equipment in the case of FGD have often been used as a ‘reasonable ground’ to dissuade compliance with emission norms in the past.
  • These strategies have completely disregarded the possibility of compliance with the other parameters within the pre-fixed deadlines.
  • MoEF&CC, vide another notification in March 2021, revised the deadline for meeting the norms to December 2022.
  • The revised notification advocated for differentiated deadlines for power plants disaggregated into three categories — Category A, Category B and Category C — based on their locations.
  • Almost four months before the deadline for meeting the target of 20,637 megawatt (MW) of coal power capacity under Category A, a whopping 47 per cent is not in a position to commission FGD even in another two years.

-Source: Down To Earth


Facial recognition technology


Context:

Right to Information (RTI) responses received by the Internet Freedom Foundation, a NewDelhi based digital rights organisation, reveal that the Delhi Police treats matches of above 80% similarity generated by its facial recognition technology (FRT) system as positive results.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology, GS-III: Internal Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the implementation of Facial Recognition
  2. Introduction to Face Recognition
  3. How does it work?
  4. About Facial Recognition in India
  5. Concerns regarding Facial Recognition Technology
  6. Legal tangles of Implementing Facial Recognition in India 
  7. Global obsession and fears and use of Facial Recognition 

Introduction to Face Recognition

  • Humans are able to recognize faces based on a ‘facial vocabulary’ that enables humans to recognize at least 5,000 faces, their peculiarities and profiles without “thinking” about it.
  • Now, technological interventions are trying to replicate this biological process – using algorithms by which millions of faces can be compared and assessed to identify or verify who a person is.
  • Face-recognition technology is becoming commonplace, used in most smartphones for unlocking.
  • Several popular mobile applications, such as Instagram and Snapchat, use the technology to tag individuals and apply filters to photographs.
  • In recent years, three-dimensional facial recognition devices have captured a significant market as retailers deploy them to gauge customers’ facial gestures and expressions to gain insights into their shopping behaviors.

How does it work?

  • The first level of facial recognition includes the detection of a human face from an image or video.
  • The second level involves creating a facial signature of individuals by extracting and cataloguing unique features of their face (like length of the jawline, the spacing between the eyes etc.)
  • At the final level, the facial signatures are compared with a database of human images and videos.

Using Facial Recognition for good

  • The life of the facial recognition software in India began benevolently with the aim to identify missing children.
  • In those circumstances, an accuracy rate of even 1 per cent is admirable; one more child out of every 100 returned to the safety of their families.
  • But the same statistics seem totalitarian and dystopian when they are capable of implicating citizens with criminality.

About Facial Recognition in India

  • During the February 2020 Delhi riots, it was declared in the parliament Delhi Police tapped into driving licence and voter identity databases to apprehend 1,900 rioters.
  • However, an affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to the Delhi High Court claims that the technology used to recognize faces cannot even distinguish between boys and girls.
  • Earlier in 2018, even the Delhi Police admitted in the high court that the accuracy of its facial recognition system was not more than 2 per cent.

National Automated Facial Recognition System

  • In 2019 the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) invited bids to create and establish the National Automated Facial Recognition System (NAFRS) (or just AFRS) protocol stating that “this is an effort in the direction of modernizing the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification and its dissemination among various police organizations and units across the country.”
  • The National Automated Facial Recognition System will have a searchable visual database of “missing persons, unidentified found persons, arrested foreigners, unidentified dead bodies and criminals based around dynamic police databases”.
  • It will also have individual information, such as name, age, addresses and special physical characteristics.
  • The AFRS is a centralised web application, and is expected to be the foundation for “a national level searchable platform of facial images”.
  • The surveillance tool will be integrated with centrally maintained databases such as the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), the Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS), and the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS).

Concerns regarding Facial Recognition Technology

  • Policing and law and order being State subjects, some Indian States have started the use of new technologies without fully appreciating the dangers involved.
  • Facial recognition does not return a definitive result. It identifies or verifies only in probabilities (e.g., a 70% likelihood that the person shown on an image is the same person on a watch list).
  • Though the accuracy has improved over the years due to modern machine-learning algorithms, the risk of error and bias still exists. There is a possibility of producing ‘false positives’ (incorrect match) resulting in wrongful arrest.
  • Research suggests facial recognition software is based on pre-trained models. Therefore, if certain types of faces (such as female, children, ethnic minorities) are under-represented in training datasets, then this bias will negatively impact its performance.
  • With the element of error and bias, facial recognition can result in profiling of some overrepresented groups (such as Dalits and minorities) in the criminal justice system.

Legal tangles of Implementing Facial Recognition in India 

  • The proposed system has no legal backing, claims Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a non-profit in Delhi, which has recently issued notices to the Union home ministry and NCRB over the legality of the system.
  • IFF’s notice draws strength from the Supreme Court verdict in the 2017 Justice K S Puttaswamy case which said that privacy constitutes a fundamental right under the Article 21 of Indian Constitution which ensures ‘right to life and personal liberty’.
  • It added that any interference in an individual’s privacy by the state should be done only in a manner that is “fair, just and reasonable”.
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000, which classifies biometric data as a type of sensitive personal data, also has rules for the collection, disclosure and sharing of such information.
  • In the Aadhaar card case, the apex court had also noted that although the disclosure of information in the interest of national security cannot be faulted with, the power to make such decisions should preferably be vested in the hands of a judicial officer and not concentrated with the executive.

Global obsession and fears and use of Facial Recognition

  • Without legal safeguards, facial recognition technology is set to undermine democratic values.
  • Recently, in the U.S. a man was arrested wrongly after being misidentified by Facial Recognition. This is the biggest fear as most countries including India and the US lack the legal framework that can bring accountability into the system.
  • Almost 85 per cent of countries with facial recognition systems employ it for surveillance, suggests the Artificial Intelligence Global Surveillance Index 2019.
  • The index, released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, found that facial recognition systems were in place in 75 countries.
  • In 2011, the technology helped confirm the identity of Osama bin Laden when he was killed in a US raid.
  • Corporations are also expanding the scope of facial recognition to study and predict human behavior. By assessing customers’ facial expressions and even bodily responses, retailers aim to gain better insights into consumer behavior and increase their sales.

-Source: The Hindu



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