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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 12 April 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 12 April 2023


Contents

  1. Second Space Age
  2. IT Amendment Rules, 2023

Second Space Age


Context:

  • The launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 satellite in 1957, as part of its Cold War-era space program, is widely regarded as the start of the Space Age.
  • In 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to travel to space.
  • In 1969, Neil Armstrong made history when he walked on the moon.The Second Space Age’s beginnings can be traced to the Internet, despite the lack of a specific date for its start.

Relevance:

GS Paper-3: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life; Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers etc

Mains Question

Discuss the potential of the space sector and its related issues in the context of India. Also, make some recommendations for solutions to these problems. (250 Words).


Key Takeaways:

  • During the Cold War era, which lasted from the 1950s to 1991, 60 to 120 space launches took place annually, with 93% of them being conducted by the governments of the United States and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
  • Three decades later, the space scene features many more players, most of which are private companies.
  • Of the 180 rocket/space launches that took place last year, 61 were carried out by SpaceX (a private company). Since the year 2020, 90% of all space launches have been conducted by and for the private sector.

India’s Space Travel:

  • In the 1960s, India made a modest foray into the First Space Age.
  • At Thumba (Kerala), the first sounding rocket, a Nike-Apache provided by the United States, was launched in 1963.
  • In 1969, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was founded.
  • With more than 15,000 employees and a budget between $12,000 and $14 billion in recent years, it has come a long way since then. o Throughout these decades, it has sought to prioritise societal goals and benefits.
    • In 1975–1976, it undertook the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), which involved renting a U.S. satellite for educational outreach in 2,400 villages, reaching a population of five million.
    • A brand-new tool for mass communication was satellite technology.
    • This resulted in the 1980s INSAT series and GSAT, which served as the foundation for the nation’s telecommunications and broadcasting infrastructure.
  • Development of remote sensing capabilities came next.
  • The use of space-based imagery for forecasting weather, mapping forest resources, examining agricultural yields, groundwater, and watersheds, gradually expanded to cover fisheries and urban management.
    • Satellite-assisted navigation was a later development.
  • It all started with GAGAN, an ISRO and Airports Authority of India joint project to increase the Global Positioning System’s (GPS) coverage of the area and enhance air traffic control over Indian airspace.
  • This has since been expanded to include the Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) regional navigation satellite system.
  • The ability to launch satellites developed concurrently.
    • It took a decade for ISRO to develop the PSLV series, which has become its workhorse with over 50 successful launches, starting with the SLV-1 in the 1980s.
  • As cable TV, direct-to-home broadcasts, and private TV channels first appeared in India in the 1990s, the process started to speed up.
    • The demand for ground-based services and satellite transponders has skyrocketed.
    • Today, foreign satellites carry more than half of the transponders beaming into Indian homes.
  • Another transformation occurred over the past 15 years, and this time India followed the developed world’s lead.
    • The advent of mobile phones and smartphones has revealed to the world what a data-rich and data-hungry society India is.
    • Double-digit annual growth in demand for satellite-based services is predicted by broadband, OTT, and now 5G.

Future prospects of Space Sector

  • By 2025, the global space economy is expected to reach $600 billion, up from an estimated $450 billion in 2020.
  • By 2025, the Indian space economy, which was estimated to be worth $9.6 billion in 2020, should reach $13 billion.
  • However, with a supportive policy and regulatory environment, the potential is much greater.
    • The Indian space industry is expected to generate more than two lakh jobs and easily surpass $60 billion by 2030.
    • This is due to the fact that only 5% of end-user revenue is produced by the government. India’s space economy is made up of 26% of media and entertainment and 21% of consumer and retail services.
    • Upstream activities, such as satellite manufacturing and launch services, contribute a smaller portion of India’s space economy than downstream activities, which include satellite services and the related ground segment.
    • The same pattern is evident in developed nations.
  • India was an early adopter of digital app-based services, which is why.The quantity and ownership of satellites are other signs of the expanding private sector.
  • Although the regulation of this domain is a separate issue, this shows the potential for growth.

Creating a Better Environment

  • In order to meet the demands of the Second Space Age, the Indian private sector is creating an enabling environment.
    • There are now more than 100 space start-ups, compared to fewer than a dozen five years ago.
    • Investment is happening at a faster rate.
  • It increased from $3 million in 2018 to $2 million in 2019 and then reached $65 million in 2021.
    • The industry is ready to take off and act as a transformative growth multiplier, much like the information technology sector did for the US economy in the 1990s.
      • As of right now, ISRO oversees 53 operational satellites, including 21 communication satellites, 21 earth observation satellites, 8 navigation satellites, and the rest are scientific experiment satellites.
    • In addition, ISRO has manned space missions like Chandrayaan, Mangalyaan, and Gaganyaan.
      • A transparent organisation that has partnered closely with the Indian private sector, ISRO has always been.
      • However, some private sector businesses only make a small portion of their revenue from work related to space technology.
    • They were happy to serve as suppliers, producing according to predetermined specifications and designs.
      • Because space-related activities are the startups’ primary source of income, they require a different kind of relationship with ISRO and the government.
  • Today, ISRO serves as an incubator as well as an operator, user, service provider, licensee, and rulemaker.
    • Now that it has guided India through the First Space Age, it must focus on doing research, which is what it can do best given its resources and high-caliber workforce.
      • The Indian government has also been considering this in order to better capitalise on the opportunity.
    • PSLV and SSLV launch services have been discussed for commercialization, and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) was established in 2019.
    • The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) was established in 2020 to serve as the private sector’s single point of clearance.
    • An industry association called the Indian Space Association (ISpA) was established.

Need of the Hour:

  • A number of policy papers, including a satcom/telecom policy, an earth observation policy, and a foreign direct investment policy, have been circulated for discussion in recent years.
  • However, legislation (a space activities act) is required to give policy papers the legal foundation they lack, establish a regulatory body, and foster an environment that will allow venture capital funding to flow into the Indian space start-up industry.

Conclusion

India has a window of opportunity to enter the Second Space Age, and this opportunity must not be missed at all costs.


IT Amendment Rules, 2023


Context

  • The emergence of social media has given rise to a new misinformation issue that calls for specific measures to be taken to address it.
  • A fact-checking unit to identify fake, false, or misleading online content related to the government has been added to the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023. However, the new provisions have raised questions about the Union government’s involvement in regulating the content online.

Relevance:

GS Paper-2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

Mains Question

Examine critically how the 2023 IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules will affect press freedom, free speech, and the relationship between the government and the media.


What amendment is being debated?

  • The 2023 amendment gives MeitY the authority to alert the Central Government’s fact-checking unit, which will identify fake, false, or misleading online content pertaining to any of the Central Government’s businesses.
  • Users are cautioned not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update, or share information about any activity of the Central Government that has been flagged by the fact-checking unit as being fake, false, or misleading by social media intermediaries (such as Facebook and Twitter) and telecom service providers.The social media intermediaries may lose their “safe harbour” immunity if this rule is broken.

Issues with Fact-Checking Unit

  • The Role of the Government as a Regulating Entity: The inclusion of the fact-checking unit in the IT Amendment Rules raises questions about the government’s capacity to act as a regulating entity.
    • The government’s authority to label information as “fake” or “false” could be abused to block media organisations from investigating or scrutinising it.
  • Abuse of Power: The fact-checking unit’s authority could be abused to suppress free speech and expression.
    • Takedown orders issued by the government for critical commentary or opinion on social media platforms can be interpreted as an effort to silence dissenting viewpoints.
  • Judicial Oversight: o Without a right of appeal or judicial oversight, the government cannot sit on judgement.
    • A fair and impartial system is required to prevent abuse of the fact-checking unit’s authority.
  • Threat to Free Speech and Expression: The Union government wants to have a “chilling effect” on the freedom of speech and expression on online platforms by threatening to take away a platform’s immunity for content that has been reported by a government agency.
    • The freedom of citizens to access information and express their opinions may be significantly harmed by this.

The Impact on Press Freedom:

  • A Constitutional Guarantee: Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which also protects the right of the public to free speech, guarantees the freedom of the press.
  • This right has served as the cornerstone of a democratic society that values transparency and accountability.
  • The Need for Arm’s Length Relationship: o The media plays a crucial role in informing the public, and its freedom to report without fear of censorship or intimidation is crucial. o The relationship between the government and the media should be kept at arm’s length to ensure the media has enough freedom.
  • The Dangers of Draconian Censorship: o The government’s authority to define “false” or “fake” news and to take action against platforms that publish it can amount to draconian censorship. o In effect, the government has granted itself absolute power to determine what is fake or not in respect of its own work and order takedown. o All of this violates the principles of natural justice and is equivalent to censorship.

Contravention with Existing Guidelines:

These notified amendments could violate Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000, which outlines the process for issuing takedown orders; they also violate Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015), a ruling with specific instructions for blocking content; and any circumvention of existing guidelines could result in censorship and restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression.

The need for consultations:

  • After withdrawing the earlier draught amendments it had released in January 2023, MeitY announced the IT Amendment Rules, 2023 without conducting the meaningful consultations it had promised.
  • The lack of consultation is concerning, and the government should consult with media organisations and press bodies before making any significant changes.
  • The earlier draught amendments gave the Press Information Bureau broad authority, which was criticised by media organisations across the nation.

Conclusion

  • The Union government’s role in policing online content has been questioned in light of the IT Amendment Rules, 2023.
  • The fact-check unit’s broad authority to determine what information about central government affairs is true or false and to order takedown has been deemed unacceptable and problematic.
  • In addition, there has been concern about the fact that media organisations and press bodies have not been consulted.
  • To make sure that press freedom and free speech are not compromised, the government should review the provisions in the IT Amendment Rules, 2023, and engage in meaningful consultations with all stakeholders.

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