A candid conversation with CSE 2017 topper SHREYASH PRATAP SINGH (AIR 266) on his preparation strategy, smart hacks and tricks, how to optimize study plans according to UPSC Pre, Mains and balancing a job as well as UPSC preparation
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Mains paper 3: Internal Security| Basics of cyber security
From UPSC perspective following things are important:
Prelims level: Gravity-RAT, CERT-In
Mains level: Rising incidents of malwares causing hacking of govt websites and ways to deal with them
A Malware designed by Pakistani hackers
GravityRAT infiltrates a system in the form of an innocuous-looking email attachment, which can be in any format, including MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat or even audio and video files
The ‘RAT’ in its name stands for Remote Access Trojan, which is a program capable of being controlled remotely and thus difficult to trace
The hackers first identify the interests of their targets and then send emails with suitable attachments The RAT was first detected by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), on various computers in 2017.
Features of RAT (Remote Access Trojan)
It is designed to infiltrate computers and steal the data of users and relay the stolen data to Command and Control centers in other countries.
The latest update to the program by its developers is part of GravityRAT’s function as an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), which, once it infiltrates a system, silently evolves and does long-term damage.
It lies hidden in the system that it takes over and keeps penetrating deeper
According to latest inputs, GravityRAT has now become self-aware and is capable of evading several commonly used malware detection techniques.
Why is RAT so dangerous?
The sandboxing technique is usedto isolate malware from critical programs on infected devices and provide an extra layer of security.
The problem, however, is that malware needs to be detected before it can be sandboxed, and GravityRAT now has the ability to mask its presence
Typically, malware activity is detected by the ‘noise’ it causes inside the Central Processing Unit, but GravityRAT is able to work silently
It can also gauge the temperature of the CPU and ascertain if the device is carrying out high-intensity activity, like a malware search, and act to evade detection
Problem with the data leaked
The other concern is that the Command and Control servers are based in several countries
The data is sent in an encrypted format, making it difficult to detect exactly what is leaked
Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Particulars of the ACFTA
Mains level: Importance of the ACFTA for the African Continent.
(Also, China’s presence as a major investor in Africa’s giant energy and transport projects cannot be ignored. It is important for India to closely watch politics of the African Continent.)
Importance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA)
The ACFTA is a potential game changer for the world’s poorest region
The pact seeks to create a single market in goods and services, free movement of persons and investment, and eventually a customs union with a common external tariff
It was recently signed by 44 of the 55-member African Union (AU) in March
The ACFTA is crucial for Inter-African trade: Opportunities for the African Continent
The exports within Africa accounted for a mere 18% of the continent’s total exports in 2016, compared to 59% and 69% of intra-regional exports in Asia and Europe, respectively
With a number of African countries ranking among the world’s fastest-growing economies over the last two decades, the ACFTA could tap into the immense potential for closer trade integration
Moody’s also points out that exports in manufactured goods within the continent are more than double the exports to countries outside it
These findings increase expectations that a continent-wide single market would enable Africa’s transformation from an exporter of commodities and raw materials to a supplier of finished manufactured goods
One of the main aims of the ACFTA
The ACFTA aims to abolish import duties on 90% of goods(currently averaging at 6%) which is projected to raise internal trade by over 50%
That would double if non-tariff barriers are scrapped, says the UN Economic Commission for Africa Caution
The UN Conference on Trade and Development is cautious about the effects from initial loss of tariff revenues and uneven costs and benefits during the transition
Another important requirement
Deeper regional integration requires not only the dismantling of border tariffs, but also the elimination of non-tariff barriers such as poor infrastructure
Lack of the US engagement
There has been a corresponding lack of U.S. engagement in the continent whose threat to reduce global aid could hit the region the most
The way forward
African leaders have been highly successful in leveraging their influence in the global strategic and economic arenas
But they could strive harder to uphold democratic rights and constitutional principles at home. That is critical to promote sustainable development
African Continental Free Trade Area
The African Continental Free Trade Area is the result of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among all 55 members of the African Union
If ratified, the agreement would result in the largest free-trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization
African heads of state gathered in Kigali, Rwanda in March 2018 to sign the proposed agreement
Forty-four of the 55 members of the African Union signed it on 21 March 2018
The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is a continent-wide free-trade agreement brokered by the African Union (AU) and initially signed on by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018
The agreement initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52 percent by 2022
The proposal will come into force after ratification by 22 of the signatory states
Related Ministry/Department: Ministry of Tribal Affairs
Van Dhan Vikas Kendra was launched by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi on 14thApril, 2018 and had called for convergence of Jan Dhan, Van Dhan and Govardhan Schemes.
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), Government of India proposes to expand Van Dhan Vikas Kendras in Tribal Districts across the country.
As per the plan,TRIFED will facilitate establishment of MFP-led multi-purpose Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, a cluster of 10 SHGs comprising of 30 tribal MFP gatherers each, in the tribal areas.
This initiative is aimed at mainstreaming the tribal community by promoting primary level value addition to MFP at grassroots level.
Through this initiative, the share of tribals in the value chain of Non-Timber Forest Produce is expected to rise from the present 20% to around 60%.
To begin with, this initiative is proposed to be taken up on priority in the 39 Districts with more than 50% tribal population and to then gradually be expanded to other Tribal Districts in India.
The scheme will be implemented through Ministry of Tribal Affairs as Nodal Department at the Central Level and TRIFED as Nodal Agency at the National Level. At State level, the State Nodal Agency for MFPs and the District collectors are envisaged to play a pivot role in scheme implementation at grassroot level.
Locally the Kendras are proposed to be managed by a Managing Committee (an SHG) consisting of representatives of Van Dhan SHGs in the cluster.
In the past, the Government of India has brought in certain reforms in the sector through Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 which conferred ownership rights on tribal Gram Sabhas in respect of MFP found in their area.
In 2014, the Scheme of MSP for MFP was introduced which provides minimum support price to MFP gatherers for selected MFPs.
While the steps are in right direction, however, most of the trade related to the MFPs is unorganized in nature, which has led to low returns to the gatherers and high wastages due to limited value addition.
Thus, a more holistic approach with robust institutional mechanisms is required for strengthening the backward and forward linkages of MFP supply chain and particularly for mainstreaming the tribal community.
Aiming to foster growth for India’s nascent artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) ecosystem, NITI Aayog and Google have come together to work on a range of initiatives to help build the AI ecosystem across the country.
A Statement of Intent (SoI) was signed to this effect between NITI Aayog and Google.
The NITI Aayog has been entrusted to setup a national programme to conduct research and development in frontier technologies such as AI.
In furtherance of this mandate, NITI Aayog has been developing India’s national strategy on AI along with the National Data and Analytics Portal to enable the wide deployment and use of AI.
Under the aegis of this program, Google will train and incubate Indian AI startups in an accelerator program. These startups will be mentored and coached by Google and its affiliates to enable them to better leverage AI in their respective business models.
NITI Aayog and Google will organize a AI/ML hackathon that will be focused on solving key challenges within agriculture, education, healthcare, financial inclusion, transportation/mobility and more.
This hackathon may use Kaggle, a global platform, to help facilitate international participation into these planned hackathon challenges.
Google and NITI Aayog will work on the following initiatives:
Organise trainings for relevant government functionaries to introduce them to open source AI tools with the goal of enabling more effective governance.
Awarding grants and scholarships to researchers, scholars and university faculty conducting cutting edge research in the field of AI/ML in India.
Organising AI/ML study jams for students and developers based on Google’s Machine Learning Crash Course (MLCC) on the fundamentals of machine learning
Incubating Indian AI/ML startups in a program where they will be mentored by Google to better leverage AI in their respective business models.
Organise a Hackathon focused on using AI/ML and open data sets to solve key challenges within agriculture, education, healthcare, etc. in India
Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Justice Rajesh Bindal Committee
Mains level: Legislations and safeguards in India for child safety and their impact
Questioning basic principles of the Hague Convention
A committee set up by the Centre to prepare a report on the issue of inter-country parental child abduction has questioned one of the basic principles of the Hague Convention
The committee has argued that the return of the child to his or her habitual residence may not necessarily be in the best interest of the child
There is immense pressure on India from the U.S. to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
Justice Rajesh Bindal Committee recommendations
The Justice Rajesh Bindal Committee was set up last year to suggest a model legislation to safeguard the interest of the child as well those of the parents when an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) marriage goes sour and one of the parents flees from one country to another with the child
It recommended that returning a child to the place of habitual residence may result in sending the child to an inharmonious set-up as well as overlook the fact that a mother is the primary caregiver of the child
The panel has also prepared a draft law to safeguard the interest of the children, as well as those of the parents, particularly mothers
The proposed legislation lays various exceptions under which a child will not be returned to the country of habitual residence which are:
the best interest of the child
domestic violence or mental or physical cruelty
harassment against the parent who fled with the child
the parent claiming the return of the child was not exercising the custody rights at the time of removal
if there is a grave risk that the child would be exposed to physical or psychological harm
The report also requires the setting up of an Inter-Country Parental Child Removal Disputes Resolution Authority
It will be the nodal body to:
decide on the custody of the child
mediate between the warring parties
order the return of the child to the country of habitual residence
Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
Hague Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) that provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another
The Convention was drafted to ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence or wrongfully retained in a contracting state not their country of habitual residence
The Convention applies only to children under the age of 16
The Convention requires that a court in which a Hague Convention action is filed should not consider the merits of any underlying child custody dispute, but should determine only that country in which those issues should be heard
The Convention mandates return of any child who was “habitually resident” in a contracting nation immediately before an action that constitutes a breach of custody or access rights
The Convention provides special rules for admission and consideration of evidence independent of the evidentiary standards set by any member nation
The Convention was concluded 25 October 1980 and entered into force between the signatories on 1 December 1983
Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Read the attached story
Mains level: The new decisions taken by the GST Council and their possible effects on industry.
New compliance system
The GST Council has recently decided to introduce a new compliance system under which a single monthly GST return will have to be submitted by firms, barring a few exceptions
The new compliance system will be implemented in phased manner
with the first of three transition stages to begin six months from now
There are some gaps in the new compliance system
For instance, in the second stage of the transition to simpler returns, buyers will get provisional input credit even if the seller doesn’t upload the invoices
While this could lead to disputes, in the third stage input credits will only be granted after sellers upload invoices
But if a seller defaults on depositing GST dues collected from a buyer and remains evasive, the authorities can reverse the credit availed by the buyer for such outstanding taxes
Fresh uncertainty for businesses: Issue with the timeline
In any case, the timelines for the transition are long and bring fresh uncertainty for businesses still recovering from the initial jitters and confusion around the tax regime
Firms will again have to cope with significant changes in accounting software in the middle of the financial year
Imposition of new cess
The most troubling is the Centre’s push for the imposition of a cess on sugar over and above the 5% GST levied on it
A cess at the rate of Rs. 3 a kg is proposed to alleviate ‘deep distress’ among sugarcane farmers. Not surprisingly, this faces opposition from several States
It has been rightly argued that this will burden consumers while favouring larger sugarcane-growing States like U.P. and Maharashtra
The decision to make the GSTN a 100% government-owned firm
The decision explains neither how this will address data security concerns nor the impact on the Network’s functional efficiency, which was the original stated intent for giving private players an upper hand in operations