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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 17 July 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 17 July 2023


Contents

  1. Floods in North India
  2. Data Security and Cloud Data Breaches

Floods in North India


Context

A succession of heavy rainstorms are currently wreaking havoc in a number of areas of India, causing landslides, flash floods, and fatalities, among other severe damage.

Relevance

  • GS Paper 1 – Important Geophysical Phenomena
  • GS Paper – 3 – Disaster Management, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Mains Question

Analyze the causes of the excessive rains in North India and how they affect different industries. Discuss how climate change is causing these rainfall events to become more severe. What steps need to be taken to lessen the effects of floods in the area? (150 words)


What are the reasons for North India’s heavy rainfall?

  • A number of variables, such as the monsoon, the western disturbance, the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), and climate change, have an impact on the distribution and intensity of rainfall in India.
  • The monsoon trough, a low-pressure area along the monsoon wind belt, and the western disturbance, a low-pressure system originating from the Mediterranean region, interacted to cause the heavy rainfall in North India. As a result of this interaction, states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Haryana experience heavy rainfall.
  • Up until the end of June, North India had an initial 10% rainfall deficit. However, there has been an increase in monsoon activity, which has caused a 2% increase in rainfall across the nation. While peninsular India and east/northeast India saw rainfall deficits of 23% and 17%, respectively, the northwest of India experienced a 59% excess of rain.
  • The destructive 2013 Uttarakhand floods occurred under similar synoptic conditions to the recent heavy rainfall and flash floods in Himachal Pradesh. In addition to a robust monsoon bringing plenty of precipitation at low levels, these conditions also include upper-level divergence brought on by an eastward-moving trough. In hilly regions, the presence of hills obstructs the flow of moisture, causing it to accumulate and result in heavy downpours. This causes climate change to increase heavy rainfall in hilly areas, such as the Himalayan foothills and the Western Ghats. Extreme rainfall events and cloudbursts can generate flash floods, which are difficult to forecast.
  • Utilising radar technology and careful observation of areas vulnerable to flash floods are essential for efficient monitoring and forecasting of such incidents. Changes in land use and construction work can also make flash floods more severe.

What are the variables influencing India’s rainfall?

  • The monsoon in India is characterised by a seasonal reversal of winds that brings humid conditions and significant precipitation. Peak rainfall is often reported in July and August, with the season running from June through September. Air pressure variations between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal are what cause the Indian Monsoon. The distribution of rainfall in India is influenced by the Thar Desert and the Himalayas, as well as temperature and pressure variations across the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and the southern Pacific Ocean.
  • The western disturbance is a low-pressure system that moves eastward towards India from the Mediterranean Sea or West Asia. It has an impact on rainfall. Even though it mostly impacts northwestern India in the winter, it can interact with the monsoon trough in the summer, causing torrential rains in northern India. The western disturbance’s effect on the monsoon relies on a number of variables, including its position, strength, and timing. It strengthens the monsoon when it is located over northwest Pakistan or India because it brings moisture and atmospheric instability. In contrast, it can inhibit the monsoon when it is over central or eastern India by forming a high-pressure system that blocks the monsoon winds.
  • ENSO is a term used to describe cyclical variations in air pressure and sea surface temperature over the equatorial Pacific Ocean. By changing air circulation over the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and the southern Pacific Ocean, it can have an impact on rainfall patterns in India. El Nino conditions often result in a high-pressure system above India, which hinders the moisture-laden winds and weakens or delays the monsoon. On the other hand, La Nina events enhance or strengthen the monsoon by bringing about a low-pressure system that draws in the moisture-carrying winds.
  • Impact of IOD on Rainfall: IOD modifies moisture transport and convection over the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Bay of Bengal, which affects rainfall in India. Its intensity, duration, and timing may have differing impacts in various locales. Positive IOD can result in more rain during the summer in northwest India and more rain during the autumn in central India. Negative IOD can increase autumnal precipitation in peninsular India while decreasing summertime precipitation in northwest India.
  • Climate Change and Rainfall: By changing temperature, humidity, pressure, wind, and cloud patterns on various time and space scales, climate change has the ability to affect India’s rainfall patterns. The monsoon’s onset, course, intensity, and spatial distribution can all be altered by it. According to some research, climate change may postpone the start of the monsoon by increasing the temperature difference between the land and the sea and impeding the monsoon winds’ ability to migrate north. On the other hand, by increasing sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean, it might speed up the monsoon and increase the amount of moisture in the air. El Nino occurrences can become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change, which can reduce monsoon rainfall and intensify droughts. On the other hand, more monsoon rainfall and floods may be caused by increased frequency and intensity of La Nina occurrences. Additionally, through affecting the snow cover, glacier melt, and soil moisture in the Himalayas and Western Ghats, climate change can have an impact on orographic rainfall.

What effects does India’s heavy rainfall have?

  • Floods and excessive rainfall both have a negative impact on agriculture. They can injure cattle, impair soil fertility, destroy irrigation systems, and affect crops. Additionally, these occurrences have the potential to impair essential agricultural processes like crop planting, harvesting, storage, and distribution. Food insecurity, hunger, poverty, and farmer migration in misery are possible outcomes.
  • Heavy rains and floods can replenish groundwater, surface water, and soil moisture levels, positively affecting water resources. However, they can also provide problems. Potential negative effects include waterlogging, erosion, sedimentation, landslides, dam breaches, and contamination of water sources. These may cause problems over water use, waterborne disease epidemics, and the eviction of entire populations.
  • Energy: Floods and periods of heavy precipitation can both affect the energy sector in different ways. On the plus side, they can boost river flows and raise reservoir levels to promote hydropower production. On the other hand, these occurrences can interfere with thermal power generation by affecting the cooling and coal delivery systems. Additional consequences of damage to power plants, transmission lines, substations, and distribution networks include power outages, blackouts, financial losses, and safety risks.
  • Heavy rain and flooding can improve water navigation by raising the water levels in rivers and lakes, but they can also seriously impair a number of other types of transportation. Transport networks on the road, rail, air, and water can be affected by landslides, floods, traffic jams, delays, cancellations, accidents, and fatalities.
  • Health: In some beneficial ways, flooding and a lot of rain can help clean up the air by washing away dust and aerosols. By lowering temperatures and humidity, they can help lessen the effects of heat exhaustion. These occurrences may also result in a rise in vector-borne illnesses, providing health hazards to the people in question.

Indian government programmes to combat flooding include:

  1. The National Flood Risk Mitigation programme (NFRMP) is a programme that intends to mobilise resources and capacities for disaster relief, recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Additionally, it emphasises educating vulnerable groups.
  2. National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP): The NDMP offers a thorough structure and guidance for all disaster management phases, including prevention, mitigation, readiness, response, recovery, and reconstruction.
  3. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA): The NDMA develops policies, plans, and recommendations for disaster management as India’s top disaster management authority. It organises the application of these policies nationwide.
  4. India Meteorological Department (IMD): Various organisations use the IMD’s projections of rainfall and cyclone activity to help them prepare for floods. For significant precipitation, flash floods, landslides, and cloudbursts, it issues alerts and advisories.
  5. The Central Water Commission (CWC) keeps track of water levels in significant rivers and reservoirs. It publishes inflow and flood projections to help in flood preparedness. The commission also carries out flood plain zoning and assessments of flood damage. It offers state governments technical advice and help for managing floods.
  6. The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) uses satellite-based data for mapping, damage assessment, and relief planning related to floods. To assist with flood control activities, it creates flood risk maps and flood inundation models.

Way ahead

The government prioritises bolstering the administrative and legislative framework, expanding scientific and technical skills, and enhancing disaster preparedness in its fight against flooding. Here are some actions taken:

1. Stabilising the institutional and legal framework through the creation of departments or organisations specifically tasked with managing landslides and floods.

• Improving coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders.

• Enforcing laws and guidelines regarding mining, building, and land usage.

• Ensuring openness and accountability in disaster management operations.

Enhancing scientific and technical capabilities number two includes performing evaluations of risk, vulnerability, and hazard.

• Mapping and zoning regions vulnerable to flooding and landslides.

• Creating forecasting models and early warning systems.

• Putting mitigation strategies, both structural and non-structural, into action.

• Supporting innovation, capacity building, and research.

3. Increasing Preparedness for Disasters

Establishing emergency command centres and communication networks are examples of short-term actions.

• Running drills and dummy runs to represent response scenarios.

• Sending out immediate response teams and setting up supplies for assistance.

• Ensuring that rescue and evacuation efforts are timely.

Long-Term Measures:

• Creating thorough plans for catastrophe management at different levels.

• Setting aside enough money and resources for preparation and response.

• Using campaigns and education to raise awareness and encourage community involvement.

By addressing both current requirements and long-term planning, these projects seek to improve response capacities, increase resilience, and lessen the effect of flooding. A multi-sectoral strategy incorporating governmental organisations, regional communities, academic institutions, and other stakeholders is necessary.


Data Security and Cloud Data Breaches


Context:

  • According to a survey done in 2023 by Thales Cloud Security, 35% of Indian businesses had data breaches in cloud environments the previous year.
  • It is critical to manage the risks associated with cloud system misconfigurations and safeguard sensitive information efficiently because more than 40% of organisations globally, including 75% in India, store sensitive data in the cloud.

Relevance: 

GS Paper 3: Internal Security- Cyber Security

Mains Question

It has been claimed that overly stringent data protection regulations burden organisations with compliance requirements and stifle innovation. How can nations like India strike a balance between promoting innovation in the digital economy and maintaining data security? Discuss the negative effects of overly severe data protection laws and offer solutions to attain a balanced approach. (250 Words)


Protecting Information in the Digital Age with Data Protection

Data protection is the process of defending sensitive information against loss, tampering, or corruption. Making sure data is protected has grown more and more important due to the exponential expansion of data creation and storage.

The Need for Data Protection:

With almost 40 crore internet users and 25 crore social media users in India, who are active online frequently, there is a clear need for data protection. The average cost of data breaches in the nation has increased from Rs. 11.9 crore in 2017 to Rs. 11.9 crore in 2018. Given these elements, it is crucial to provide data protection in India. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the KS Puttaswamy case recognised data privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21.

Its importance is highlighted by the following factors:

  • Data Export: Many organisations that store data are situated overseas, including e-commerce firms that have exabytes of information on Indian users. It is difficult to successfully use Indian legislation to secure user data while exporting data to foreign countries.
  • Data Localization: Private companies and their home governments have resisted mandatory data localization.Since there are so many private parties participating in data dynamics, it is challenging to create a unified framework for data protection.
  • User Consent: When asking users to accept terms and conditions, applications frequently employ pre-ticked consent boxes. It’s possible that this procedure doesn’t fully guarantee informed consent and data control.
  • Privacy Breach: It might be difficult to track down those responsible for violating data privacy, making it harder to hold them accountable.
  • Privacy Laws: Under the IT Act of 2000, the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2011, now govern the use and transfer of personal data. There are gaps in data protection because these regulations only apply to private organisations and not to government organisations.
  • Data Ownership: According to TRAI principles, individuals are the true owners of their data, while data processors and collectors serve as custodians subject to rules.
  • Growing Online Presence: India is now the second-largest online market behind China, with around 504 million active users, according to the IAMAI’s 2019 Digital in India study. This substantial online presence creates a lot of personal data that needs to be protected to prevent privacy violations.
  • Profit and Privacy Concerns: Businesses, governments, and political organisations see value in gathering and analysing personal information in order to make money and advertise more effectively. However, this gathering raises issues around privacy invasion and possible misuse of personal data.

Fear of Data Protection

  • Innovation Impediment: Excessive data security procedures may erect obstacles that prevent innovation and restrict business growth. Companies may be discouraged from experimenting with new technology or data-driven solutions by stringent restrictions due to worries about compliance and potential penalties.
  • Impediment to Public Services: Tight data privacy regulations can make it difficult to supply public services, as seen by the difficulties encountered in India during the implementation of the Aadhaar Act. Careful thought must be put into balancing data privacy with the effective provision of important services.
  • Increased Compliance Costs: As evidenced by the compliance costs related to GDPR in the European Union, placing an undue emphasis on data security can result in increased compliance costs for enterprises. Particularly small organisations may find it difficult to shoulder the cost of strict data protection standards.
  • Reduced Competitiveness: Overly stringent data protection policies could make Indian businesses less competitive, especially small ones that do not have the capacity to comply with complicated rules.
  • Obstacle to Data Use for Social Good: Strict data privacy laws may restrict the use of data, such as Aadhaar data, for social good efforts.
  • Impaired Data Sharing and Cooperation: Excessive data protection regulations may limit chances for cooperative research and development by impeding data sharing and cooperation between businesses and governments.
  • While maintaining data security is important, it is equally important to promote innovation and economic progress. Excessive data protection regulations can limit analytics, restrict innovation, delay public services, increase compliance costs, decrease competitiveness, obstruct data use for societal purposes, and create bureaucracy. Comprehensive and adaptable data protection regimes that take into account the requirements of different stakeholders, ensure individual privacy, and encourage responsible data use are necessary to strike the correct balance.

International Data Protection Laws:

  • the European Union
    • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): The GDPR establishes rules for data protection, including consent, notice of data breaches, and restrictions on data transfer. It also provides individuals control over their personal data.
  • States of America (US):
    • Sectoral Laws: The US has a number of laws addressing digital privacy that are industry-specific, such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the US Privacy Act of 1974.

Initiatives for data protection in India:

  • Information Technology Act, 2000: This law includes rules to prohibit unauthorised use of computers, computer systems, and stored data, as well as safeguards against breaches involving data from computer systems.
    • Union of India v. Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd) 2017: In August 2017, a nine-judge Supreme Court panel ruled unanimously in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd) v. Union of India that Indians have a basic right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution, which is guaranteed by law.
    • B.N. Srikrishna Committee 2017: In August 2017, the government created an expert committee for data protection, led by Justice B N Srikrishna. The group’s report and a draught data protection bill were submitted in July 2018. The Report makes a number of proposals to tighten India’s privacy laws, such as limiting the processing and acquisition of data, creating a Data Protection Authority, granting the right to be forgotten, localising data, etc.
    • Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021: These rules require social media companies to be more careful about the content they host.
    • The ‘Digital India Act’, 2023, is being proposed to replace the IT Act, 2000:The IT Act was initially solely intended to safeguard e-commerce transactions and outline cybercrime offences; it did not fully address data privacy rights or cope with the complexity of the contemporary cybersecurity ecosystem. The new Digital India function aims to function as a catalyst for the Indian economy by encouraging more businesses and innovation while also safeguarding Indian citizens’ safety, trust, and responsibility.
  • The 2019 Personal Data Protection Bill:
  • Background: The government created the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee to recommend data protection laws in response to the Supreme Court’s declaration that the right to privacy is a fundamental right.
    • Goals: The Personal Data Protection Bill aims to safeguard people’s privacy with relation to their personal data and create an Indian Data Protection Authority to enforce it.
    • Concerns: There are worries about the government’s exemptions, which permit the processing of sensitive personal data without the data principals’ express consent.

Way forward:

  • A robust data protection regime is essential in the digital era. India should put in place a strict data protection policy to preserve people’s rights and privacy.
  • Redrafting the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019: The legislation has to be examined and changed to put a stronger emphasis on user rights and privacy, as well as the creation of a privacy commission to oversee compliance.
  • Maintaining a balance between privacy and the right to information: The government should protect citizens’ privacy while simultaneously enhancing that right.
  • Addressing technology Advancements: In light of the quickening pace of technology development, data protection legislation should be adaptive in order to stay current.
  • Making sure that data is protected is crucial in a time when it is a valuable resource. Worldwide, data protection legislation have been adopted, including the GDPR in the EU and sectoral laws in the US. The Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019 in India strives to protect personal data, but there are issues with exclusions that need to be resolved. Striking a balance between user privacy and the right to knowledge while being current with technical changes is essential for ensuring successful data protection.

Examples of Data Breach Scenarios in Cloud Environments Recently:

  • CoWIN site Data Leak:
    • In June, it was claimed that the messaging app Telegram had been breached, exposing the private information of Indian residents who registered with the CoWIN site.
    • The Indian Health Ministry disputed the data leak but ordered CERT-In to examine the security setup of the platform.
  • myrocket.co HR Management Portal:
    • In January, it is claimed that the HR management portal myrocket.co exposed the private data of employees and job applicants.
  • ICICI Bank and Leverage EDU: In separate occurrences in April and May, it is claimed that ICICI Bank and the university admissions software Leverage EDU both had data breaches.

Potential Risks of Cloud Storage

  • Incompatible Legacy Systems:
    • Hackers may target legacy IT systems that have known security holes in order to obtain unauthorised access to cloud resources linked to these systems.
    • The risk to cloud infrastructure increases when advanced encryption methods are not adequately supported.
  • Weak Authentication Techniques: Weak authentication techniques and passwords that are simple to guess can provide unauthorised people access to critical information.
  • Insecure APIs and Insufficient Security Controls:
    • Insecure APIs and inadequate security measures might put data stored in the cloud at risk.

System errors and information security:

  • Gaining an understanding of system misconfigurations: Systems might be configured incorrectly due to software flaws, poor security settings on devices accessing servers and the cloud, or both.
    • Misconfigurations can jeopardise data security and allow for unauthorised access.
  • Protecting Data in the Cloud: Key safeguards include in-depth vendor evaluations, compliance checks, two-factor authentication, access monitoring, data encryption, and firewall policies. Companies are still in charge of protecting data even when granting access to partners and vendors.

Risks of Data Migration on the Cloud:

  1. Risks Associated with Changing Cloud Providers: • Data might be exposed to potential breaches when changing cloud providers without a thorough migration plan and assessment.
  2. Data Encryption and Backups: To improve data security during migration, data should be encrypted while in transit and appropriate backups should be kept.
  3. Protecting user data:
    1. User Reactions to Data Breach: Users should update security question answers, change passwords, enable two-factor authentication, and keep an eye on their accounts for unauthorised activity.
    1. Lifespan of revealed Data: While personally identifiable information may have a longer lifespan on the dark web for potential illegal actions, financial data revealed in breaches typically has a shorter lifespan.

Conclusion

It is critical to resolve system misconfigurations, implement robust authentication procedures, and maintain effective data encryption and security controls in order to reduce the risks of data breaches in cloud environments. When transferring data or changing cloud providers, businesses should take responsibility for data safety in the cloud and perform rigorous inspections. To protect their data, users should be watchful, adhere to security best practises, and act quickly in the event of a breach.


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