23 Mar 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis


A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
1. Assam to kick off NRC verification
2. Data leak fears are unfounded: Nilekani
1. India hails Maldives decision
C. GS3 Related
1. Indigenous technology tested on BrahMos
1. Tax-free gratuity doubled
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
1. Meeting India’s electricity needs
1. Curbing misuse
1. Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Data Mining
F. Prelims Fact
G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related


1. Assam to kick off NRC verification

  • The verification of citizenship documents of 29 lakh married women, mostly migrant Muslims, in connection with the Supreme Court-monitored exercise to update the 1951 National Register of Citizens, will begin in Assam on April 2.
  • These women, who had submitted contentious panchayat certificates as proof of citizenship, are among 1.39 crore people left out of the first draft of the updated NRC that was published at the stroke of midnight on December 31. The Gauhati High Court had ruled that the panchayat certificate had no statutory sanctity. But the Supreme Court set aside the verdict in December last year and said they could be used to claim inclusion in the NRC.
  • A link document is a piece of documentary evidence that the NRC authorities sought to prove an applicant’s residency in Assam through the lineage of his or her parents or grandparents before March 24, 1971 — the cut-off date for deportation of foreigners set by the Assam Accord of 1985.
  • The accord, signed by the Central and State governments with the All-Assam Students’ Union and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad, ended six years of agitation against ‘illegal immigrants,’ mostly from adjoining Bangladesh.
  • The accord, however, did not kill the fear that ‘Bangladeshis’ would outnumber the indigenous communities and rob them of their homeland.
  • The next step, initiated by current Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, was to get the controversial Illegal Migrants (Detection by Tribunal) Act of 1983 binned. The Act, believed to have been loaded heavily in favour of the migrants, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005.

Tripartite meeting

  • The decision to update the 1951 NRC was taken that year after a tripartite meeting among the Central and State governments and the AASU for detecting undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh.
  • The NRC updating exercise began in 2013. , three years after a pilot project in minority-dominated Barpeta district turned violent and claimed four lives in police firing. The application process started in May 2015 and a total 6.5 crore documents were received from 68.27 lakh families across Assam.

2. Data leak fears are unfounded: Nilekani

  • Infosys chairman and Aadhaar architect Nandan Nilekani has said that fears about leak of data from Aadhaar base are misplaced.
  • Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the global digital summit, #FUTURE, organised by the Kerala government here, he said that the upcoming data protection law would address such fears.
  • The Union government has constituted an expert committee headed by B.N. Srikrishna, former judge of the Supreme Court, to go into issues related to data protection and the growth of digital economy.
  • The pace of digital transactions in the country is great, and the number of transactions through Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is expected to touch one billion by the end of the year, he said.
  • The digital empowerment architecture will help the process of the growth of digital economy, helping the country in a big way, Mr. Nilekani observed, adding that the growing digital payment business offered big opportunities to Indian entrepreneurs.
  • He claimed that India was creating digital data infrastructure in a way that would empower entrepreneurs. Around 1.2 billion people use Aadhaar, and the Aadhaar-linking of bank accounts had helped in the direct transfer of benefits to beneficiaries and saved substantial amount of money for the government.
  • The new digital technology thus has great implications for the nation’s economy as it helps prevent spillage.


1. India hails Maldives decision

  • India welcomed the Maldives’ decision to lift the state of emergency.
  • A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs urged Male to bring about a genuine political process that would meet the aspirations of the people.
  • The statement came hours after Male lifted the state of emergency, which was declared on February 5 after the supreme court ordered the government of President Abdullah Yameen to free political prisoners and rivals.
  • India urged all institutions of Maldives to work smoothly within the constitutional parameters, saying: “It is important to ensure credible restoration of the political process, as well as the rule of law, before the elections.”

C. GS3 Related

Category: DEFENCE

1. Indigenous technology tested on BrahMos

  • The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was on Thursday successfully test-fired with an indigenous seeker for the first time. So far the seeker, a critical technology in missiles, came from Russia.
  • “BrahMos, the formidable supersonic cruise missile with indigenous seeker was successfully flight tested at 08:42 hrs on Thursday at the Pokhran test range in Rajasthan. The precision strike weapon with indigenous seeker flew in its designated trajectory and hit the pre-set target,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Expert tie-up

  • The seeker was jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, and BrahMos Aerospace.
  • Seeker technology, which determines the accuracy of a missile, is a closely guarded secret. Mastering it is a significant milestone in missile technology and would reduce import dependence.
  • BrahMos is joint collaboration between India and Russia and is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against surface and sea-based targets.
  • The range of the supersonic missile was initially capped at 290 km as per the obligations of the Missile Technology Control Regime. Since India’s entry into the club, the range has been extended to 450 km and the plan is to hit 600km.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Tax-free gratuity doubled

  • Parliament on Thursday passed the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill 2017, paving the way for doubling the limit of tax-free gratuity to Rs. 20 lakh and empowering the government to fix the ceiling of the retirement benefit through an executive order.
  • The Rajya Sabha passed the Bill, which was approved by the Lok Sabha on March 15.
  • Besides enabling the Central government to fix the ceiling of tax-free gratuity, the Bill will empower it to fix the period of maternity leave through executive order.
  • Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu said in the Upper House that he had met leaders of various parties in the morning and it was decided that the House would take up the crucial Bill as it was of importance to the employees.
  • Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar then moved the Bill for consideration and passage. It was passed by a voice vote without a debate.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials


1. Meeting India’s electricity needs


  • One often comes across news about variable renewable energy sources like solar photovoltaic and wind having reached ‘grid parity’

So what is the concept of grid parity?

  • Electricity grid is a very complex system that involves long-distance transmission of electricity at high voltage, step-up and step-down transformers, and a distribution network at load centres. Infact this complex system connects various electricity generators and consumers to it.

Solar and wind energy sources

  • Appropriate ways to deploy solar and wind can be decided by recognising their three characteristics
  1. Zero fuelling cost,
  2. Low capacity factors and
  3. Intermittency
  • Solar and wind are eminently suitable for isolated deployment such as for powering irrigation pumps
  • An irrigation pump directly connected to a solar panel can be useful for a farmer as he doesn’t have to depend on the grid. In this application, intermittency of solar is of no consequence

Scope for Micro-grid and the present scenario in India

  • In India, there are still communities that have no access to the central electricity grid, or the supply from the central grid is unreliable
  • A microgrid getting electricity supply from solar and wind, and connected to consumers in an isolated remote community, is helpful in providing electricity for lighting, in charging mobile phones, and small livelihood applications
  • A storage battery is an integral part of such an isolated microgrid and this increases the cost of electricity
  • Experience from such installations indicates that consumers are willing to pay for it in return for reliable electric supply
  • Consumers connected to a community managed microgrid can meet their minimum needs
  • Until the reliability of the central grid can be assured, solar- and wind-powered microgrid is the way forward for rural and remote communities
  • Hopefully, ongoing research in battery technologies will bring down the cost of electricity storage and improve safety of storage, thereby paving the way for a large deployment of solar and wind
  • One can expect the International Solar Alliance to direct technology development towards the needs of all developing countries
  • But solar and wind cannot meet even a quarter of India’s projected electricity requirements
  • A major share has to come from large hydro, nuclear and coal. Out of these three technologies, one has to prefer low-carbon technologies that is hydro and nuclear
  • Along with investment in solar and wind, the government must plan for increased investment in both hydro and nuclear


1. Curbing misuse

  • Protecting innocent persons is fine, as long as the SC/ST Act is not de-fanged
  • Supreme Court decision has observed that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, is as a rule wildly abused to settle individual scores and annoy enemies.
  • On its substance, it is hard to blame the court’s approach.
  • Constitution courts try to save the soul of such enactment from one perspective and to advance rules to keep its abuse on the other. This is accurately what the two-judge seat has intended to do.
  • It has decided that Section 18, which bars give of expectant safeguard to anybody blamed for abusing its arrangements, isn’t a flat out bar on giving development safeguard to those against whom, at first sight, there is no case.
  • What’s more, the Bench has precluded the capture of anybody only due to a grievance that they had conferred a atrocity against a Dalit or an inborn individual.
  • In respect of public servants, no arrest should be made without the written permission of the official’s appointing authority; and for private citizens, the Senior Superintendent of Police in the district should approve the arrest.
  • Presently the Supreme Court has tried to strike a harmony between securing singular freedom and safeguarding the soul of a law for abused segments. With no uncertainty, abominations against Dalits are a troubling social reality, requiring a stringent law to battle it.
  • The Act was revised in 2015 to cover more up to date types of segregation and wrongdoings against Dalits and tribals to add teeth to it.
  • Expressions of alert and principles against abuse might be expected to concede help to the guiltless. However, nothing ought to be done to de-tooth the law itself.

Category: SECURITY

1. Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Data Mining

What is Cambridge Analytica?

  • Cambridge Analytica is a UK-based data analytics firm, whose parent company is Strategic Communication Laboratories. It describes itself as specializing in data, analytics and strategy.
  • This data firm is partly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, a billionaire American hedge fund manager and Republican donor
  • Cambridge Analytica helps political campaigns reach potential voters online. The firm combines data from multiple sources, including online information and polling, to build “profiles” of voters. The company then uses computer programs to predict voter behavior, which then could be influenced through specialized advertisements aimed at the voters.

What did Cambridge Analytica do?

  • In 2014, Dr Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at Cambridge University, was allegedly paid $800,000 by CA to develop an application, thisisyourdigitallife, to harvest data of Facebook users.
  • Although the app was downloaded by 270,000 people (these people granted permission for data collection), it extracted personal information of each of the users’ friends without consent.
  • This app offered personality predictions to users while calling itself a research tool for psychologists.
  • The app asked users to log in using their Facebook account. As part of the login process, it asked for access to users’ Facebook profiles, locations, what they liked on the service, and importantly, their friends’ data as well.
  • The problem, Facebook says, is that Kogan then sent this user data to Cambridge Analytica without user permission, something that’s against the social network’s rules.

Where does Trump’s campaign fit in?

  • The Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica to run data operations during the 2016 election.
  • CA performed a variety of services including designing target audiences for digital advertisements and fund-raising appeals, modelling voter turnout, buying $5 million in television ads and determining where Trump should travel to best drum up support. It also helped with strategic communication, like what to say in speeches.
  • It helped the ‘Leave’ side in the Brexit referendum.

Was Facebook aware of the data breach?

  • Facebook said it removed the app in 2015, when the violations came to light for the first time.


  • Facebook’s shares tumbled about 5 per cent in the first few hours of trading as US stock markets reacted to media reports
  • Lawmakers from the US and the UK have called for action following the reports of the data leak of the Facebook users.
  • Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp asked users to “delete” the social media platform, Facebook.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) tools will be deployed by Facebook to detect fake accounts trying to manipulate news and influence the elections.
  • Such a tool was deployed for the first time in the French elections in 2017.
  • Zuckerberg said Facebook would restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse.
  • Facebook would show a tool at the top of their News Feed with the apps they have used and an easy way to revoke those apps’ permissions to their data.

Issue Area

  • The first issue at stake is what consent means in the new information order.
  • The conceit, and attraction of the modern information order is that it does things with our consent, in our name, ostensibly to satisfy our desires.
  • But given the complexities of data-sharing, possible third-party uses, or use by friends, through whom your data can be accessed, it is not very clear what we are consenting to, and whether the terms of that consent can be enforced.
  • In the present Information architecture a handful of large private players can exercise near monopoly power, with very little accountability on how this power is used.
  • Companies have been collecting data and tailoring marketing campaigns accordingly. The issue here is particularly prickly because politics and elections are involved.
  • Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, raising the question whether laws need to be reframed mandating an opt-out approach universally rather than an opt-in approach. Individuals often share their data without being aware of it or understanding the implications of privacy terms and conditions.

What should be done?

  • Data localization conditions can ensure that user data collected within a country must be kept within it.
  • Regulations can also compel businesses to adopt privacy by design principles that foreground user choice and consent.
  • The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect from 25 May this year, has adopted this approach. Perhaps the most stringent data protection regime globally
  • There must be clear laws on the ownership of data and what data need to be protected. Personal data cannot be the new oil. Individuals must own it, have a right to know what companies and governments know about them and, in most cases, that is, when there are no legitimate security or public interest reasons, have the right to have their data destroyed.



  • Statista, an online data portal, estimates that India had 281.81 million mobile phone Internet users in 2016 and would have an estimated 492.68 million mobile phone Internet users by 2022.
  • In 2019, there would be around 258.27 million social network users in India, up from 168.1 million in 2016.
  • Facebook is projected to reach close to 319 million users in India by 2021.
  • This proliferation of digital networking has provided an incredible platform for people to communicate, but its flip side is that individual users are increasingly viewed as legitimate targets for mining personal and metadata.

How Has India reacted to FB data breach?

  • Union Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has warned Facebook of “stringent action”, including “summoning” Zuckerberg to India, if data of Indian users is stolen.
  • Any attempt “to covertly or overtly influence free and fair elections through means that are undesirable” will “neither be appreciated nor permitted”, and would attract charges under the IT Act.

Where is the issue?

  • In India, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) partners with a company called Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI).
  • OBI lists BJP, Congress and Janata Dal (United) as its political clients on its website.
  • The company is owned by Amrish Tyagi, the son of the senior JD(U) leader K C Tyagi.

Current Status

  • India does not have a separate law for data protection, though Section 43A of the Information Technology Act provides a measure of legal protection of personal information.
  • In 2012, the Justice A.P. Shah Committee recommended a set of principles for a legal framework for protecting privacy.

Data protection framework: Srikrishna Committee

  • European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, 2016
  • It is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union
  • It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU. The GDPR aims primarily to give control back to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.
  • GDPR will explicitly ban companies from soliciting personal data for one reason and then using it for another. It will slap potentially stratospheric fines on those who sell people’s information without those people’s consent, and place strict limitations on companies that want to create and use profiles of individuals.
  • GDPR hugely increases the ceiling for the fines that can be levied on transgressors. It sets a blanket limit of either €20 million ($24.5 million) or 4% of global annual revenue, whichever is higher.
  • The new regulation explicitly asserts EU jurisdiction over any company that operates on its turf by serving European users. So, even if a company has no physical presence in the region, it will have to bend to the EU’s rules if it wants to retain access to that market.

F. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements about Seeker Technology in Brahmos:
  1. Seeker determines the accuracy of a missile.
  2. Supersonic cruise missile BrahMos was successfully flight-tested for the first time with an indigenous seeker.

Which of the statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above


Question 2. Consider the following statements about Smart India Hackathon:
  1. It is the World’s largest Nation-Building Digital Initiative of the HRD ministry.
  2. It will aim to find digital solutions to problems in the areas of power, education, health, water, finance etc.

Which of the statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above


Question 3. Consider the following statements about Microplastics:
  1. These pellets are made of polyethylene and polypropylene, and a few of them were unidentified polymers.
  2. Microplastics include things like films, fibres, fragments and pellets.
  3. Due to the short residence time of microplastics in the sea and on the beaches, they tend to adsorb various pollutants.

Which of the above statements are correct?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above


Question 4. Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft is a manned spacecraft launched by which of the 
following countries?
  1. Russia
  2. China
  3. France
  4. Germany



H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

General Studies III


  1. Data is the new oil. Comment on the various issues arising as a result of data breach and discuss the various initiatives taken by Govt to address this issue.


2. Do you think the economy has recovered after measures like demonetization and GST? Critically examine.


Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

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