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Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indian IT industry must seize the opportunity of Chinese tech exit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Opportunity of Indian IT industry

The article analyses the significance of the Indian ban on Chinese apps. The ban also presents Indian IT companies with unique opportunity.

Context

  • The current India-China border standoff has entered into cyberspace.

How China took lead in IT

  • The Chinese government censored and banned several popular Western websites and applications years ago.
  • In the intervening years the Chinese Internet market exploded and has grown to over 900 million users.
  • The Chinese government insulated Chinese entrepreneurs from Big Tech in Silicon Valley.
  • Home-grown apps at first were faithful reproductions of Silicon Valley, but soon morphed into distinctly Chinese applications tailored solely to the home market.
  • According to the 2016 White House report, the Chinese have leapfrogged even the U.S. in AI research.
  • In this case, the intellectual property being produced actually belongs to China and is not a faithful duplicate of someone else’s product or technology.
  • This has far-reaching implications.

Significance of India’s ban

  • India now has the lowest Internet data costs in the world.
  • In its attempt to dominate the rest of the world, the Chinese Internet industry desperately needs India’s 500-plus million netizens to continue to train AI algorithms they put together.
  • The ban on apps in India is not only a geopolitical move but also a strategic trade manoeuvre that can have a significant economic impact.
  • Ban on Chinese apps allows our home-grown IT talent to focus on the newly arrived Internet user.
  • However, India’s focus remains on exporting IT services while paying little attention to servicing our own nation’s tech market.
  • India spent the last two decades exporting technology services to developed countries in the West, the vacuum created as the Indian Internet grew has been filled by American Big Tech and by the Chinese.
  • After the removal of more than 118 Chinese apps, Indian techies have started trying to fill the holes.

Way forward

  • The primary Indian IT objective must shift from servicing others to providing for ourselves.
  • Focus should not be simply to replace what the exiting firms have so far been providing.
  • Focus should be on providing services and products of high quality that will be used by everyday Indians across the country.
  • The aim of providing netizens with the same services across diverse markets is overarching — regional barriers created by language exist within our own nation.
  • The fundamental focus of the new digital products should be to provide for hyper-regional necessities and preferences.
  • Hyper-local and hyper-regional services with great accessibility that are also portable across our linguistic diversity, are likely to succeed in creating one of the strongest Internet markets in the world.

Consider the question “What are factors responsible for the lack of innovation in the Indian IT industry? How the ban on Chinese apps provide the IT industry with the opportunity to fill the vacuum?”

Conclusion

Indian IT companies must seize the opportunity provided by the exit of Chinese IT companies and come up with products transcending regional barriers and allowing accessibility.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Singapore Convention on Mediation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Singapore Convention

Mains level : Not Much

The Singapore Convention on Mediation has finally come into force.

Try this MCQ:

Q. The Singapore Convention recently seen in news is related to:

Climate change/ Arbitration and conciliation/ Foreign trade/ Marine Regulation

Singapore Convention

  • It is aimed to provide a more effective way of enforcing mediated settlements of corporate disputes involving businesses in India and other countries that are signatories to the Convention.
  • Also known as the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, this is also the first UN treaty to be named after Singapore.
  • With the Convention in force, businesses seeking enforcement of a mediated settlement agreement across borders can do so by applying directly to the courts of countries that have signed and ratified the treaty.
  • The harmonized and simplified enforcement framework under the Convention translates to savings in time and legal costs.

Its signatories

  • The Convention has 53 signatories, including India, China and the U.S.
  • Singapore had worked with the UN Commission on International Trade Law, other UN member states and non-governmental organisations for the Convention.

Significance of the convention

  • The Convention would boost India’s ‘ease of doing business’ credentials by enabling swift mediated settlements of corporate disputes.
  • Businesses in India and around the world will now have greater certainty in resolving cross-border disputes through mediation.

NGOs vs. GoI: The Conflicts and Scrutinies

What is Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, and how does it control donations?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FCRA

Mains level : FCRA

The licences of 13 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been suspended under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010, this year.

What is the FCRA?

  • The FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security.
  • First enacted in 1976, it was amended in 2010 when a slew of new measures was adopted to regulate foreign donations.
  • The FCRA is applicable to all associations, groups and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations. It is mandatory for all such NGOs to register themselves under the FCRA.
  • The registration is initially valid for five years and it can be renewed subsequently if they comply with all norms.

What happens once registered?

  • Registered associations can receive a foreign contribution for social, educational, religious, economic and cultural purposes.
  • Filing of annual returns, on the lines of Income Tax, is compulsory.
  • In 2015, the MHA notified new rules, which required NGOs to give an undertaking that the acceptance of foreign funds.
  • It ruled that it is not likely to prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India or impact friendly relations with any foreign state and does not disrupt communal harmony.
  • It also said all such NGOs would have to operate accounts in either nationalized or private banks which have core banking facilities to allow security agencies access on a real-time basis.

Who cannot receive foreign donations?

  • Members of the legislature and political parties, government officials, judges and media persons are prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution.
  • However, in 2017 the MHA amended the 1976-repealed FCRA law paving the way for political parties to receive funds from the Indian subsidiary of a foreign company or a foreign company in which an Indian holds 50% or more shares.

How else can receive foreign funding?

  • The other way to receive foreign contributions is by applying for prior permission.
  • It is granted for receipt of a specific amount from a specific donor for carrying out specific activities or projects.
  • But the association should be registered under statutes such as the Societies Registration Act, 1860, the Indian Trusts Act, 1882, or Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956.
  • A letter of commitment from the foreign donor specifying the amount and purpose is also required.

When is a registration suspended or cancelled?

  • The MHA on inspection of accounts and on receiving any adverse input against the functioning of an association can suspend the FCRA registration initially for 180 days.
  • Until a decision is taken, the association cannot receive any fresh donation and cannot utilise more than 25% of the amount available in the designated bank account without the permission of the MHA.
  • The MHA can cancel the registration of an organisation which will not be eligible for registration or grant of ‘prior permission’ for three years from the date of cancellation.

Also read:

Registration under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Why the Question Hour matters?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Question hour, Zero Hour

Mains level : Not Much

The decision to go without “Question Hour” during the Monsoon Session of Parliament has evoked serious concerns about the democratic functioning of the institution.

This newscard is very narrative in its form and scope. Try this question as well-

Q.Discuss the various instruments of Parliamentary Control in India.

What is Question Hour?

  • Question Hour is the liveliest hour in Parliament. It is during this one hour that MPs ask questions of ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
  • Prior to Independence, the first question asked of government was in 1893. It was on the burden cast on village shopkeepers who had to provide supplies to touring government officers.
  • The questions that MPs ask are designed to elicit information and trigger suitable action by ministries.
  • Over the last 70 years, MPs have successfully used this parliamentary device to shine a light on government functioning.
  • Their questions have exposed financial irregularities and brought data and information regarding government functioning to the public domain.
  • With the broadcasting since 1991, Question Hour has become one of the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning.

Its evolution

  • The right to question the executive has been exercised by members of the House from the colonial period.
  • The first Legislative Council in British India under the Charter Act, 1853, showed some degree of independence by giving members the power to ask questions to the executive.
  • Later, the Indian Council Act of 1861 allowed members to elicit information by means of questions.
  • However, it was the Indian Council Act, 1892, which formulated the rules for asking questions including short notice questions.
  • The next stage of the development of procedures related to questions came up with the framing of rules under the Indian Council Act, 1909, which incorporated provisions for asking supplementary questions by members.
  • The Montague-Chelmsford reforms brought forth a significant change in 1919 by incorporating a rule that the first hour of every meeting was earmarked for questions. Parliament has continued this tradition.
  • In 1921, there was another change. The question, on which a member desired to have an oral answer, was distinguished by him with an asterisk, a star. This marked the beginning of starred questions.

Its significance

  • Question Hour is not only an opportunity for the members to raise questions, but it is a parliamentary device primarily meant for exercising legislative control over executive actions.
  • The government’s actions erode the constitutional mandate of parliamentary oversight over executive actions as envisaged under Article 75 (3) of the Indian Constitution.

Turkish Coffee

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNESCO heritages (tangible and intangible)

Mains level : Not Much

Turkish Coffee made it to the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013. It is celebrated in literature and songs and is an important part of ceremonies and festivals.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following pairs:

Traditions Communities

  1. Chaliha Sahib Festival — Sindhis
  2. Nanda Raj Jaat Yatra — Gonds
  3. Wari-Warkari — Santhals

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 1 and 3

(d) None of the above

Turkish Coffee

  • To make Turkish Coffee, Arabica beans are ground manually and boiled with water and sugar in a special pot called cezve in Turkey and ibrik elsewhere.
  • It is taken off the heat as soon as it begins to froth and before it boils over.
  • It is traditionally served in individual porcelain cups called kahvefinjan.
  • Sometimes the coffee may be flavoured with cardamom or other spices and served with a small piece of Turkish delight.

Back2Basics: Intangible Heritages from India

  • Tradition of Vedic chanting
  • Ramlila, the traditional performance of the Ramayana
  • Kutiyattam, Sanskrit theatre
  • Ramman, religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas.
  • Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala
  • Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan
  • Chhau dance
  • Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur
  • Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab
  • Yoga
  • Nawrouz
  • Kumbh Mela

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Parliamentary oversight and cancellation of question hour

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Question hour and zero hour comparison

Mains level : Paper 2- Question hour and its significance

The article highlights the significance of question hour in democracy.

Context

  • The decision to go without “Question Hour” during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, beginning September 14, has evoked serious concerns about the democratic functioning of the institution.

Significance of question hour

  • Question Hour is an opportunity for the members to raise questions,
  • It is also a parliamentary device primarily meant for exercising legislative control over executive actions.
  • It is also a device to criticise government policies and programmes, ventilate public grievances, expose the government’s lapses, extract promises from ministers.
  • In short, question hour helps to ensure accountability and transparency in governance.

Right to question the executive: Historical background

  • The right to question the executive has been exercised by members of the House from the colonial period.
  • The first Legislative Council in British India under the Charter Act, 1853, allowed members the power to ask questions to the executive.
  • The Indian Council Act of 1861 allowed members to elicit information by means of questions.
  • However, it was the Indian Council Act, 1892, which formulated the rules for asking questions including short notice questions.
  • The Indian Council Act, 1909, which incorporated provisions for asking supplementary questions by members.
  • The Montague-Chelmsford reforms brought forth a significant change in 1919 by incorporating a rule that the first hour of every meeting was earmarked for questions.
  • Parliament has continued this tradition.
  • Since 1921, the question on which a member desired to have an oral answer, was distinguished by him with an asterisk, a star.

Recent instances in which right to ask questions was curtailed

  • The government passed important bills in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha before the formation of department-related standing committees.
  • The Constitution Amendment Bill on J&K was introduced without circulating copies to the members.
  • Several important bills were passed as Finance Bills to avoid scrutiny of the Rajya Sabha.
  • Standing committees are an extension of Parliament.
  • Any person has the right to present his/her opinion to a Bill during the process of consideration.

Consider the question “What is the significance of question hour in the context of democracy in India? What is the implication of its suspension due to pandemic?”

Conclusion

The government’s actions erode the constitutional mandate of parliamentary oversight over executive actions as envisaged under Article 75 (3) of the Indian Constitution.

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Making malnutrition free India by 2030

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Malnutrition and health of the child

The article analyses the problem of malnutrition in India and suggests the pathways to achieve the malnutrition free India by 2030.

Severity of the nourishment problem in India

  • There were  189.2 million undernourished people (28 per cent of the world) in India in 2017-19, as per the combined report of FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO (FAO, et.al. 2020) on “The state of Food Security and Nutrition in the World”.
  •  India accounts for 28 per cent (40.3 million) of the world’s stunted children (low height-for-age) under five years of age, and 43 per cent (20.1 million) of the world’s wasted children (low weight-for-height) in 2019.
  • In India, the problem has been more severe amongst children below the age of five years.
  • As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS, 2015-16), the proportion of underweight and stunted children was as high as 35.8 per cent and 38.4 per cent respectively.
  • In several districts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Gujarat, the proportion of underweight children was more than 40 per cent.

Aims of the National Nutrition Mission (NNM)

  • Ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030 is also the target of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG-2) of Zero Hunger.
  • Towards this end, NNM aims to reduce stunting, underweight and low birth weight each by 2 per cent per annum.
  • It aims to reduce anaemia among children, adolescent girls and women, each by 3 per cent per annum by 2022.
  • However, the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2017 has estimated that if the current trend continues, India cannot achieve these targets under NNM by 2022.

Understanding the key determinants and deciding policy response

1) Mothers’ education

  • Mothers’ education, particularly higher education, has the strongest inverse association with under-nutrition.
  • Women’s education has a multiplier effect not only on household food security but also on the child’s feeding practice and the sanitation facility.
  • Despite India’s considerable improvement in female literacy, only 13.7 per cent of women have received higher education (NFHS, 2015-16).
  • Therefore, programmes that promote women’s higher education such as liberal scholarships for women need to be accorded a much higher priority.

2) Sanitation and access to safe drinking water

  • The second key determinant of child under-nutrition is the wealth index, which subsumes access to sanitation facilities and safe drinking water.
  • WASH initiatives, that is, safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, are critical for improving child nutritional outcomes.
  • In this context, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims to eliminate open defecation and bring about behavioural changes in hygiene and sanitation practices.
  • In five years of the Abhiyan, as per government records, rural sanitation coverage has gone from 38.7 per cent in 2014 to 100 per cent in 2019, while the sanitation coverage in urban cites has gone up to 99 per cent by September 2020.
  • This remarkable achievement of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, subject to third-party evaluations, is expected to have a multiplier effect on nutritional outcomes.

3) Leveraging agricultural policies

  • We should leverage agricultural policies and programmes to be more “nutrition-sensitive” and reinforcing diet diversification towards a nutrient-rich diet.
  • Food-based safety nets in India are biased in favour of staples: rice and wheat.
  • They need to provide a more diversified food basket, including coarse grains, millets, pulses and bio-fortified staples.
  • Bio-fortification is very cost-effective in improving the diet of households and the nutritional status of children.
  • The Harvest-Plus programme of CGIAR can work with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to grow new varieties of nutrient-rich staple food crops.

4) Promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, complementary foods, diversified diet

  • The promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and the introduction of complementary foods and a diversified diet after the first six months is essential to meet the nutritional needs of infants and ensure appropriate growth and cognitive development of children.

5) Access to prenatal and postnatal care

  • Access and utilisation of prenatal and postnatal health care services also play a significant role in curbing undernutrition among children.
  • Aanganwadi workers and community participation can bring significant improvements in child-caring practices.

Consider the question “Assess the severity the problem of malnutrition in India and suggest the measure to achieve the goal of malnutrition free India by 2030”

Conclusion

To contribute towards the holistic nourishment of children and a malnutrition free India by 2030, the government needs to address the multi-dimensional determinants of malnutrition on an urgent basis.