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Current Affairs 03 December 2021 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Decarbonisation scheme not effective enough: CSE report
  2. Stop NATO expansion, Russia tells U.S.
  3. Facial recognition at airports from 2022
  4. Four-pronged plan on Sri Lanka crisis
  5. Paika rebellion to be included in history textbook

Decarbonisation scheme not effective enough: CSE report

Context:

A key scheme introduced in 2008 by the Indian government to improve energy efficiency in Indian industries and consequently reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not effective, according to a recent report by New Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What Does Decarbonisation Mean?
  2. Issues in the process of decarbonization
  3. How incidents of grid failure in Texas and flash floods in Uttarakhand highlight the issues in the decarbonization process?
  4. About the CSE report on Centre’s decarbonisation scheme

What Does Decarbonisation Mean?

  • ‘Decarbonisation’ tends to refer to the process of reducing ‘carbon intensity’, lowering the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Generally, this involves decreasing CO2 output per unit of electricity generated.
  • Decarbonisation involves increasing the prominence of low-carbon power generation, and a corresponding reduction in the use of fossil fuels. This involves in particular a use of renewable energy sources like wind power, solar power, and biomass.
  • The use of carbon power can also be reduced through large-scale use of electric vehicles alongside ‘cleaner’ technologies.
  • Decreasing carbon intensity in the power and transport sectors will allow for net zero emission targets to be met sooner and in line with government standards.
  • The Following are some steps required for decarbonization;
    • Reduce– Reduce greenhouse gases and use renewable energy sources like solar power and wind power.
    • Use of Electric vehicles instead of combustion engines.
    • Energy conservation- Energy demand should be conserved by reducing wastage and losses and using it more efficiently.

Issues in the process of decarbonization

Almost every major country has agreed to a time-bound, “net-zero” carbon emissions target. They are also in agreement over the steps required for decarbonization. However, it is not sufficient to just set the targets.

  • There are certain legacy hurdles in the way of decarbonisation, such as:
    • Poorly designed planning systems.
    • Poor regulatory mechanism for the energy ecosystem and lack of decision-making.
    • Lack of investment in energy infrastructure.

The recent incidents, i.e. The Nanda Devi flash flood and electricity grid system failure in Texas highlights these issues.

How incidents of grid failure in Texas and flash floods in Uttarakhand highlight the issues in the decarbonization process?

  1. First, lack of preparedness- The planners had incorporated emergency response procedures for cold waves and floods. However, they didn’t prepare for such extremes of weather conditions.
    • For example– In Texas- The authorities planned a worst-case scenario based on a 15GW drop in generating power. However, they lost 30GW, which resulted in a total blackout.
    • One reason for this is experts presume every scenario based on historical data. Thus
  2. Second, poor regulatory and institutional mechanism. It is evident in both Grid Failure in Texas and Uttarakhand flash flood.
    • No umbrella authority was present to manage the disaster with responsibility for the entire system.
    • The recommendations made after the Kedarnath floods about land use and watershed management were not implemented.
  3. Third, lack of investment in energy infrastructure-
    • In Texas, the grid was not resilient enough to absorb the surge in the flow of intermittent renewable electrons.
    • India’s transmission system is also not capable of managing the energy transition. The Transmission issue slows down the adoption rate of solar power by failing to introduce green energy to the grid.

All of these factors have negative effects on the decarbonization process. They must be resolved in order to reach the Paris Agreement’s global temperature goals.

About the CSE report on Centre’s decarbonisation scheme

  • The CSE analysis found thermal power plants under this scheme in the last decade had reduced just 1-2 per cent of overall carbon dioxide emissions emitted by them.
  • The report attributed the inefficiency of the scheme to non-transparency, loose targets and overlooked deadlines.
  • The industrial sector consumes the most energy in India — accounting for 43 per cent of overall consumption — making it the major contributor to the country’s energy and environmental footprint.
  • The Government of India released the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008 to check the increasing energy consumption of industries and related carbon emissions.
  • There were eight national missions under the NAPCC. One of them was the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE).
  • The Union Ministry of Power and Bureau of Energy Efficiency were entrusted with the task of preparing the implementation plan for the NMEEE.
  • ‘Perform, Achieve and Trade’ (PAT) is a competitive mechanism under NMEEE for reducing energy use in large industries.
  • The government shortlists industries and restricts the amount of energy they can consume and defines a time limit of three years by when this restriction should be met as part of PAT scheme.
  • These three years of time are called one PAT cycle. The industries are chosen after in-depth, sector-wise analysis by the government.
  • Industries that participate in this scheme are called designated consumers (DC). Those that overachieve their targets are issued energy savings certificates (ESCerts) that can be traded with industries that have not achieved their targets.
  • Non-achievers have to buy the ESCerts after the three years for compliance. Announcements for six cycles since 2012 have been made so far.
  • PAT scheme covered about 13 energy-intensive sectors. Sectors included are thermal power plants (TPP), cement, aluminium, iron and steel, pulp and paper, fertiliser, chlor-alkali, petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, distribution companies, railways, textile and commercial buildings (hotels and airports).

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


Stop NATO expansion, Russia tells U.S.

Context:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State that Moscow needed “long-term security guarantees” that would halt NATO’s eastward expansion, Moscow said.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Groupings)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About NATO
  2. Major pointers regarding NATO
  3. India and NATO – Non-NATO Ally Status
  4. About the recent tussle over Ukraine joining NATO

About NATO

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is an international organisation for collective security by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union in 1949, in support of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington.
  • NATO’s Headquarters are located in Evere, Brussels, Belgium.
  • Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 30 member states with North Macedonia being the most recent member state to be added to NATO in March 2020.
  • An additional 20 countries participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programs.

Major pointers regarding NATO

  • A key provision of the treaty, the so-called Article 5, states that if one member of the alliance is attacked in Europe or North America, it is to be considered an attack on all members. That effectively put Western Europe under the “nuclear umbrella” of the US.
  • From a political perspective: NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defence and security-related issues to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.
  • The North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the body which has effective governance authority and powers of decision in NATO, consisting of member states’ permanent representatives or representatives at higher level (ministers of foreign affairs or defence, or heads of state or government).
  • All 30 allies have an equal say, the Alliance’s decisions must be unanimous and consensual, and its members must respect the basic values that underpin the Alliance, namely democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
  • NATO has an integrated military command structure but very few forces or assets are exclusively its own. Most forces remain under full national command and control until member countries agree to undertake NATO-related tasks.

India and NATO – Non-NATO Ally Status

  • Non-NATO Ally Status is a designation given by the United States government to close allies that have strategic working relationships with the US Armed Forces but are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • While the status does not automatically include a mutual defense pact with the United States, it still confers a variety of military and financial advantages that otherwise are not obtainable by non-NATO countries.
  • The move brings India on par with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and countries such as Israel and South Korea for increasing defence cooperation.
  • Increased cooperation between the United States and India in the areas of humanitarian assistance, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and maritime security in the Indian Ocean.

Tensions over Russian border build-up

  • Russia is believed to have amassed a large number of troops along the Russian border with the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The Donbas region is a conflict zone where Ukraine has been battling Russia-backed separatists.
  • Russia has claimed that this action is in response to the steady eastward expansion of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Organisation (NATO), gradual expansion of military aid pouring into Ukraine from NATO member countries and Ukraine’s recent statement over the Crimea issue.
  • Russia along its western borders is in close proximity with NATO states like Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania. Even former constituents of the erstwhile Soviet Union such as Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have become NATO members. Georgia and Ukraine are also aspiring to become members of NATO. Ever since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and war broke out in eastern Ukraine a month after, bilateral relations between the two countries have been fraught.
  • Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of preparing for an invasion. The U.S. has warned that any such move from Russia would invite some counteraction from it. Russia has, in turn, accused the West of ‘anti-Russia’ hysteria.
  • Tensions have been escalating along the volatile Russia-Ukraine border.

About the recent tussle over Ukraine joining NATO

  • The Russian Foreign Minister told the U.S. diplomatic chief that Moscow wanted a legally binding promise that Ukraine would not be allowed to join NATO and that the bloc would stop its eastward expansion, Moscow said.
  • Russia said that such a move to expand the NATO would force them to take retaliatory measures to straighten out the military-strategic balance.
  • The remarks by Mr. Lavrov came on a day the Kremlin said that Ukraine’s stated goal of retaking Crimea — which Moscow seized in 2014 — amounted to a “direct threat” to Russia.
  • Ukrainian President had said that Crimea was Ukrainian territory and Kiev’s goal was to “liberate” it.
  • Kiev and its Western allies have been sounding the alarm since last month over a fresh Russian troop build-up around Ukraine’s borders and a possible winter invasion. Moscow, which is accused of backing the separatists fighting Kiev, has denied preparing an attack and accuses NATO of raising the temperature.

-Source: The Hindu


Facial recognition at airports from 2022

Context:

After a delay of three years, come March 2022, passengers will be able to use a face scan as their boarding pass at four airports in the country.

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 

About the implementation of Facial Recognition

  • Airports at Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata and Vijaywada will be the first to roll-out the facial recognition technology-based biometric boarding system, and the service will go live from March 2022.
  • Thereafter, the technology will be scaled up in a phased manner across various airports in the country.
  • The Airports Authority of India has engaged NEC Corporation Private Limited for implementing the technology as part of the DigiYatra policy, which seeks to promote paperless air travel and a seamless journey from entering an airport till boarding a plane.
  • The policy was unveiled in October 2018, and as per the original plan, the roll-out of the facial recognition technology was scheduled for April 2019.

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


Four-pronged plan on Sri Lanka crisis

Context:

India and Sri Lanka agreed to a four-pronged approach to discuss initiatives on food and energy security to help mitigate Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, during a two-day visit by Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa to New Delhi.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India and its Neighborhood, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Economic Crisis in Sri Lanka
  2. About the Four-pillar initiative
  3. India – Sri Lanka and debt

About the Economic Crisis in Sri Lanka

  • Government of Sri Lanka declared an economic emergency in last week of August 2021 because of rising food prices, depreciating currency, and depleting forex reserves.
  • Factors that led to the current economic crisis in Sri Lanka include:
    1. Tourism industry in Sri Lanka has hit hard because of covid-19 pandemic. It represents more than 10% of the its Gross Domestic Product and brings in huge foreign exchange.
    2. Thus, forex reserves have decreased to$2.8 billion in July 2021 from over $7.5 billion in 2019.
    3. As the foreign exchange supply is decreasing, amount of money that Sri Lankans was having to shell out to purchase the foreign exchange has increased. This, value of Sri Lankan rupee has depreciated by 8%.
    4. As Sri Lanka depends on imports to meet the basic food supplies, the price of food items there has increased in line with depreciating rupee.
  • Sri Lankan government blamed speculators for resulting into rise in food prices by hoarding essential supplies. Government declared “economic emergency” under the Public Security Ordinance.
  • Under the emergency situation, army has been tasked to seize the food supplies from traders and supply them to consumers at fair prices.
  • Government has also given power to the army to ensure that forex reserves are used to purchase the essential goods only.

About the Four-pillar initiative

  1. Lines of credit for food, medicines and fuel purchases granted by India. Lines of credit is a credit facility extended by a bank or any other financial institution to a government, business or an individual customer, that enables the customer to draw the maximum loan amount.
  2. A currency swap agreement to deal with Sri Lanka’s balance of payment issues. The word swap means exchange. A currency swap between the two countries is an agreement or contract to exchange currencies with predetermined terms and conditions.
  3. An early modernization project of the Trinco oil farms that India has been pursuing for several years. The Trincomalee Harbour, one of the deepest natural harbours in the world, was developed by the British during World War II. In particular, the projects to develop oil infrastructure in Trincomalee have been hanging fire since 2017.
  4. A Sri Lankan commitment to facilitate Indian investments in various sectors.

Click Here to read more about India – Sri Lanka and debt

-Source: The Hindu


Paika rebellion to be included in history textbook

Context:

The 1817 Paika rebellion of Odisha would be included as a case study in the Class 8 National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) history textbook, considering it as a beginning of a popular uprising against the British.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Paika Rebellion
  2. Causes of the rebellion
  3. About Paikas

About Paika Rebellion

  • The Paika Rebellion, also called the Paika Bidroha was an armed rebellion against Company rule in India in 1817.
  • The Paikas rose in rebellion under their leader Bakshi Jagabandhu and, projecting Lord Jagannath as the symbol of Odia unity, the rebellion quickly spread across most of Odisha before being put down by the Company’s forces.
  • It is now declared to be the first Indian armed movement to gain independence, replacing the prevailing view of the first one being the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Causes of the rebellion

  • The origins of the Paika Rebellion lay in several social, economic and political causes.
  • Odisha had four ports for trading, with the networks in the region involving millions of traders. However, the East India Company, to protect their own monopolies, closed these ports for trade, alienating large swathes of the local population.
  • The local administrators who were educated and wealthy, the Paikas, were alienated by the East India Company administration, who took over the hereditary rent-free lands granted to them after the conquest of Khurda.
  • The Paikas were also subjected to extortion by the Company administration and its servants.
  • A source of much consternation for the common people was the rise in prices of salt due to taxes imposed on it by the Company administration.
  • The East India Company also abolished the system of cowrie currency that had existed in Odisha prior to its conquest and required that all taxes now be paid in silver.

About Paikas

  • The Paikas were the traditional militia of Odisha who served as warriors and were charged with policing functions during peacetime.
  • The Paikas were organised into three ranks distinguished by their occupation and the weapons they wielded.
  • These were the Paharis, the bearers of shields and the khanda sword, the Banuas who led distant expeditions and used matchlocks and the Dhenkiyas – archers who also performed different duties in Odisha armies.

-Source: The Hindu

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