30 Oct 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
HISTORY AND CULTURE
1. Bhima-Koregaon case: SC stays High Court order
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. SC sets January 2019 to fix a date for Ayodhya hearing
2. SC cancels admissions to 4 medical colleges
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Modi, Abe back ‘free Indo-Pacific’
C. GS3 Related
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. From uncertainty to crisis (Developments in Sri Lanka)
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Facebook leaks redux (Data Protection Regulation)
F. Tidbits
1. Tamil Nadu seeks morning slot for bursting of crackers
2. Children under 15 at serious risk from polluted air: WHO
3. Delhi tops national charts in bad air quality
G. Prelims Fact
1. ICF rolls out Train 18, the NextGen Shatabdi
2. Bolsonaro elected Brazil President
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Category: HISTORY AND CULTURE

1. Bhima-Koregaon case: SC stays High Court order

Context

  • The Supreme Court on Friday stayed an order passed by the Bombay High Court, which denied the Maharashtra police a 90-day extension to complete its investigation and file a chargesheet against lawyer Surendra Gadling and others accused of Maoist links in the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
  • Asked by a Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph whether the State had filed the chargesheet, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the State, said it would do so shortly.
  • The Pune police arrested the five persons on June 6 and registered a case against them under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and the Indian Penal Code.
  • “The police started the investigation but could not complete the same,” the Maharashtra government said in its petition, filed through State counsel Nishant Katneshwarkar. “On September 3, 90 days were completed since the date of arrest of the respondents,” it added.
  • The State government contended that under Section 43-D (2) of the UAPA Act, the trial court may, on the report of the public prosecutor, extend the detention of the accused for another 90 days.

Background

  • The 2018 Bhima Koregaon incident refers to violence that broke out following an annual celebratory gathering at Bhima Koregaon to mark the 200th year of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
  • The gathering consisted largely of Dalits, and interference by upper caste Maratha groups on the Dalit gathering resulted in escalation of an already tense gathering into violence.
  • The aftermath consisted of various protests resulting in one death, 30 policemen being injured as well as over 300 people being detained.
  • A Maharashtra bandh was called by Dalit groups on 3 January 2018. Protests were staged all over Maharashtra. In Mumbai, suburban trains were affected due to which Dabbawalas suspended their services.
  • Investigation by the police in the following months resulted in various arrests, such as that of Rona Wilson in June 2018 under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
  • In August 2018 five activists, including Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, were picked up in simultaneous raids across the country, the police alleged that the activists had ties to Maoists, apart from links to the Bhima Koregaon incident.
  • On the other hand, the arrests have also received widespread condemnation across India.

What is the Battle of Koregaon?

  • The Battle of Koregaon was fought on 1 January 1818 between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy, at Koregaon Bhima.
  • The 28,000-strong Marathas, led by Peshwa Baji Rao II intended to attack Pune. On their way, they were met by an 800-strong Company force that was on its way to reinforce the British troops in Pune.
  • The Peshwa dispatched around 2,000 soldiers to attack the Company force stationed in Koregaon.
  • Led by Captain Francis Staunton, the Company troops defended their position for nearly 12 hours.
  • The Marathas ultimately withdrew, fearing the arrival of a larger British force led by General Joseph Smith.
  • The Company troops of Indian origin included predominantly Mahar Dalit soldiers belonging to the Bombay Native Infantry, and therefore Dalit activists regard the battle as a heroic episode in Dalit history.

 Significance to Mahars

  • The Koregaon pillar inscription features the names of the 49 Company soldiers killed in the battle. 22 of these names end with the suffix -nac (or -nak), which was used exclusively by the people of Mahar caste.
  • The obelisk was featured on the Mahar Regiment’s crest until Indian Independence. While it was built by the British as a symbol of their own power, today it serves as a memorial of the Mahars.
  • The Mahars were considered untouchable in the contemporary caste-based society. The Peshwas, who were high-caste Brahmins, were notorious for their mistreatment and persecution of the untouchables.
  • Because of this, the Dalits (former untouchables) now see the Koregaon obelisk as a symbol of their victory over the high-caste oppression. The Dalit Buddhist leader B. R. Ambedkar visited the site on 1 January 1927. To commemorate his visit to the site, now thousands of his followers visit the site every New Year’s Day. A number of Mahar gatherings have also been held at the place.

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. SC sets January 2019 to fix a date for Ayodhya hearing

Context

  • A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, on Monday ordered the volatile Ayodhya dispute appeals to be listed in January 2019 before an appropriate Bench to fix a date for hearing.
  • When parties sought an early hearing, the court said the decision when to start hearing the appeals would be in the realm of discretion of the “appropriate Bench” before which the matter would come up in January.
  • “We have our own priorities… whether hearing would take place in January, March or April would be decided by an appropriate Bench,” Chief Justice Gogoi remarked orally.

Background of Ayodhya dispute

  • The Ayodhya dispute is centred on a plot of land in the city of Ayodhya, located in Faizabad district, Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Ayodhya debate centres around the land known today as Ram Janmabhoomi, on which the Babri Mosque was built in 1528.
  • In Hindu Scriptures and authentic text, Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Rama, the son of Dasharatha, the ruler of Ayodhya.
  • In 1525, the Mughal king Babur invaded north India, and conquered a substantial part of northern India.
  • One of his generals, Mir Baqi came to Ayodhya in 1528 and after reportedly destroying a pre-existing temple of Rama at the site, built a mosque, which has come to be called masjid-i-janmasthan (mosque at the birthplace) as well as Babri Masjid (Babur’s mosque).
  • The Babri Mosque was destroyed during a political rally which turned into a riot on 6 December 1992.

2. SC cancels admissions to 4 medical colleges

Context

  • In a decision affecting scores of students, the Supreme Court on Monday cancelled the permission granted by the Kerala High Court to conduct medical admissions to about 550 seats in four private self-financing medical colleges in Kerala for the current academic year.

Background

  • Trouble started when the MCI gave extremely poor gradings to the colleges about the facilities available on their campuses.
  • The colleges appealed to the Centre, which had asked the MCI to review its decision denying them admissions for 2018-19.
  • The MCI refused to review it, saying that once they have invoked the statute, they cannot re-think.
  • The colleges approached the High Court on August 30, which observed that once the Centre has asked the MCI to review its decision on granting them admissions, the MCI is bound to comply. The high court allowed the colleges to conduct the admissions. On this, the MCI had moved the Supreme Court, which had initially stayed the high court decision last month.

Medical Council of India

  • Medical Council of India is a statutory body. Initially, it was set up in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. The Council was later reconstituted under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 that supplanted the before Act.
  • It establishes the uniform and high standards of medical education in India. It also registers doctors to practice in India, in order to protect and promote the health and safety of the public by ensuring proper standards in the practice of medicine.
  • The registration of doctors and their qualifications is usually done by state medical councils. Recently the NITI Aayog has suggested the substitution of Medical Council of India (MCI) with the National Medical Commission (NMC).

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Modi, Abe back ‘free Indo-Pacific’

 

  • India and Japan outlined a vision for strengthened bilateral relations at the 13th annual summit here on Monday.
  • Enhanced strategic and defence cooperation dominated the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe.
  • Japan’s formulation of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” received a central place in the vision statement issued at the end of the talks, with both sides stressing their “unwavering commitment to it.” The concept is usually seen as a response to China’s growing dominance in the region.
  • Speaking to the press after his talks with Mr. Abe, Mr. Modi said the India-Japan bilateral relationship was invested in upholding the rule of law and democratic values.

Recent developments Indo-Pacific region

  • Bangladesh has already chosen Japan’s Martabali port project instead of China’s Sonadia port project. If the Trincomalee port project—involving Japanese assistance—in Sri Lanka succeeds, then the importance of China’s Hambantota port will decline.
  • Similarly, the Chabahar port project in Iran can mitigate the importance of the Chinese Gwadar port in Pakistan. The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), a result of Indo-Japanese cooperation, will also counter China’s growing influence in Africa.
  • India has secured access to Duqm port in Oman for military use and develop the Agalega Island in Mauritius. The Indian Navy has secured a logistics facility in Singapore that will allow it to refuel and rearm and has similar facilities in Vietnam. India’s recent logistics agreement with France, just like the one with the US, allows it to access France’s military bases across the Indo-Pacific.
  • India and Indonesia are considering the development of a port at Sabang close to the Malacca Strait after the Indonesian minister for maritime affairs offered the port to India for military use. China was quick to warn India against militarization of the port.
  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are strategically important. These islands are near the Malacca Straits, providing an excellent location for tracking China’s submarine activities. India is modernizing infrastructure to deploy more and larger warships and planes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • In addition, Japanese investment in India’s strategic road project in the latter’s North-East region will help increase India-South-East Asia trade. There is a possibility that growing India-South-East Asia trade could reduce China’s influence in South-East Asia.
  • India has been conducting a number of bilateral and multilateral military exercises. The Malabar naval exercises with the US and Japan are the largest and the most complex series of naval exercises that India engages in, developing interoperability with two of the most powerful navies in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The Quad, while not being given a military dimension yet, will be the most important grouping in the Indo-Pacific. It will have to set an economic programme to help smaller countries of the region. India will continue to expand its military exercises and develop bilateral and multilateral groups as Modi said at Shangri La. 

C. GS3 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. From uncertainty to crisis (Developments in Sri Lanka)

Larger Background:

A Brief Note on India- Sri Lanka Bilateral Relations:

  • The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old. Both countries have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction. In recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels.
  • Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of development, education, culture and defence.
  • Both countries share a broad understanding on major issues of international interest.
  • In recent years, significant progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and disadvantaged sections of the population in Sri Lanka has helped further cement the bonds of friendship between the two countries.

Political Relations:

  • President Maithripala Sirisena was elected as the new President of Sri Lanka in the presidential election held on 8 January, 2015.
  • He succeeded former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Following parliamentary elections on 17 August 2015, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe was reappointed as the Prime Minister by President Sirisena on 21 August 2015.

Commercial Relations:

  • Sri Lanka has long been a priority destination for direct investment from India. Sri Lanka is one of India’s largest trading partner in SAARC. India, in turn, is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally.
  • India is among the top four investors in Sri Lanka with cumulative investments of over US$ 1 billion since 2003. The investments are in diverse areas including petroleum retail, IT, financial services, real estate, telecommunication, hospitality & tourism, banking and food processing (tea & fruit juices), metal industries, tires, cement, glass manufacturing, and infrastructure development (railway, power, water supply).

Developmental Cooperation:

  • The conclusion of the armed conflict saw the emergence of a major humanitarian challenge, with nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians housed in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The Government of India put in place a robust programme of assistance to help the IDPs return to normal life as quickly as possible.
  • India also continues to assist a large number of smaller development projects in areas like education, health, transport connectivity, small and medium enterprise development and training in many parts of the country through its grant funding.
  • During the devastation of floods in the end of May 2017, India has responded immediately by sending three ships with relief materials including food supplies, water, inflatable boats, diving team and medical teams for flood relief efforts.

Cultural Relations:

  • The Cultural Cooperation Agreement signed by the Government of India and the Government of Sri Lanka on 29 November, 1977 at New Delhi forms the basis for periodic Cultural Exchange Programmes between the two countries.
  • India and Sri Lanka commemorated the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (Sambuddhatva Jayanthi) through joint activities. These included the exposition of Sacred Kapilavastu Relics in Sri Lanka that took place in August – September 2012. During the exposition, approximately three million Sri Lankans (nearly 15 percent of the total population of Sri Lanka) paid homage to the Sacred Relics.
  • The India-Sri Lanka Foundation, set up in December 1998 as an intergovernmental initiative, also aims towards enhancement of scientific, technical, educational and cultural cooperation through civil society exchanges and enhancing contact between the younger generations of the two countries. Education is an important area of cooperation. India now offers about 290 scholarship slots annually to Sri Lankan students. In addition, under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Scheme and the Colombo Plan, India offers 370 slots annually to Sri Lankan nationals.

Fishermen issue:

  • Given the proximity of the territorial waters of both countries, especially in the Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar, incidents of straying of fishermen are common.
  • Both countries have agreed on certain practical arrangements to deal with the issue of bona fide fishermen of either side crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line.
  • Through these arrangements, it has been possible to deal with the issue of detention of fishermen in a humane manner. India and Sri Lanka have agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India and Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka as the mechanism to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen issue and first meeting took place in December 2016 in New Delhi and second meeting in Colombo on April 07, 2017.
  • Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Shri Radha Mohan Singh visited Colombo on 2 January 2017 to participate in the Ministerial Meeting on Fishermen issue. The second meeting of the JWG was held during April 2017 in Colombo. The next round of Ministerial-level talks and JWG meetings were held during October 2017 at New Delhi.

Indian Community:

  • The People of Indian Origin (PIOs) comprise Sindhis, Borahs, Gujaratis, Memons, Parsis, Malayalis and Telugu speaking persons who have settled down in Sri Lanka (most of them after partition) and are engaged in various business ventures.
  • Though their numbers (10,000 approximately) are much lesser as compared to Indian Origin Tamils (IOTs), they are economically prosperous and are well placed.
  • Each of these communities has their organization which organizes festivals and cultural events.
  • According to unofficial statistics, it is estimated that around 14,000 Indian expatriates are living in Sri Lanka.
  • The IOTs are mostly employed in either tea or rubber plantations in Central, Uva and Sabragamuwa Provinces though during the last decade, the younger generation has been migrating to Colombo in search of employment.
  • A fair number of IOTs living in Colombo are engaged in business. According to Government census figures (2011), the population of IOTs is about 1.6 million.

The News:

  • Recently, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa, his political rival until the day before, as the new Prime Minister.
  • Experts believe that this is a surprising move which Mr. Sirisena made in order to resolve a deepening political dispute between himself and Mr. Wickremesinghe.
  • However, this act has only pushed Sri Lanka into an unprecedented constitutional crisis, beginning a potentially dangerous phase of an on-going three-cornered power struggle among three leaders.
  • At the centre of the crisis is the lack of clarity as the new Prime Minister seems to have been appointed without a constitutionally valid vacancy for the position.

Editorial Analysis:

The crux of the constitutional dispute:

    • It is important to note that the constitutional provision that Mr. Sirisena has cited in the official letter to Mr. Wickremesinghe does not grant the President authority to remove a Prime Minister from office.
  • Section 42(4) of the Constitution merely enables the President to appoint a PM.
    • The President has taken the position that since he is the appointing authority, he also has the implicit power to sack the PM.
  • It is important to note that the PM is not a public servant who can be sacked by the appointing authority at his will. It is a constitutional office with protection from the executive. This is the crux of the constitutional dispute.
  • Experts point out that the entire operation of altering the composition of the government seems to have been executed in a great hurry and in secrecy.
  • Further, there is also a lack of clarity as to whether Mr. Sirisena’s letter (removing Mr. Wickremesinghe) had actually reached him by the time Mr. Rajapaksa was sworn in. This has led some commentators to call it a ‘constitutional coup’.

Position Adopted by Mr. Wickremesinghe:

    • The position by Mr. Wickremesinghe aggravates the seriousness of this constitutional dispute. Dismissing the constitutional validity of the presidential action, Mr. Wickremesinghe has argued that he still commands a majority in Parliament.
    • His line of argument is that only Parliament has the constitutionally sanctioned authority to decide whether he could continue in office as PM or not.
  • It also suggests that as long as there is no no-confidence motion passed in Parliament against him and the cabinet, his position as PM cannot be invalidated by the President at his will.
  • Mr. Wickremesinghe has also cited the fact of having defeated a no-trust motion brought against him a few months ago, and that situation, of Parliament’s majority expressing faith in him, remaining unaltered.

19th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution:

  • It is important to note that the 19th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, passed in 2015 under the joint political leadership of both Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe.
  • It curtailed powers of the President under the 1978 Constitution (the original) as well as the 18th Amendment passed in 2010. Among the presidential powers taken away by the 19th Amendment, which is valid, is the one pertaining to the President’s powers over the PM.
  • The 19th Amendment, which created a dual executive, made the PM’s position secure from the arbitrary actions of the President. Thus, the office of the PM falls vacant only under limited circumstances.

These circumstances include:

  1. Death,
  2. voluntary resignation,
  3. loss of support in Parliament,
  4. rejection by Parliament of the budget, and
  5. ceasing to be an MP are these circumstances. Sacking by the President is certainly not in this list.
  • By this change, the 19th Amendment has also restored the Westminster framework of relationship between the head of state, the PM, and Parliament.
    • All these make the constitutionality as well as democratic legitimacy of the actions of Mr. Sirisena less than clear.
    • An argument put forward on behalf of the President is that when the United People’s Freedom Alliance, which was a partner in the so-called unity government, informed the Speaker that it was leaving the ruling coalition, the cabinet automatically stood dissolved, thereby creating a vacancy for the office of the PM.
  • However, this is not an argument derived from any explicit provision of the Constitution. It is merely a political argument. What it does is no more than confirm that the composition of the coalition government was altered. It does not automatically lead to the loss of constitutional validity of the cabinet and the position of the person holding the office of the PM.

Areas which need clarity:

    • In Mr. Sirisena’s address to the nation, he did not clarify the constitutional issue at hand.
    • He cited political and personal reasons as to why he could not partner with Mr. Wickremesinghe as the PM.
    • However, his assertion that he acted fully in accordance with the Constitution is only a claim. It awaits clarification.
  • What is in dispute is not the total breakdown of relationship between the two leaders, leading to a collapse of their coalition. What is in doubt is the constitutionality of a series of actions by Mr. Sirisena.
  • Further, if the series of actions by Mr. Sirisena are valid at all, they set a bad precedence for future constitutional governance in Sri Lanka. It is believed that contrary to the letter and spirit of the 19th Amendment, no PM will be secure in his/her position against arbitrary dismissal by the President. These circumstances also warrant judicial intervention to resolve the constitutional doubt.

A Look at the Current Situation:

    • Currently, Mr. Wickremesinghe has refused the leave the office of PM as well as the official residence in Colombo.
    • Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has written to Mr. Sirisena demanding that the rights and privileges of Mr. Wickremesinghe be protected, “until any other person emerged from within Parliament as having secured the confidence of Parliament”.
  • The Speaker has implicitly acknowledged that Mr. Wickremesinghe is still the constitutionally legitimate PM.
  • Meanwhile, Parliament has been prorogued by the President till November 16.
  • As the numbers stand at present, Mr. Rajapaksa does not enjoy a majority in Parliament.
  • Experts believe that the time left ahead will give Mr. Sirisena and the new PM enough time and space for horse trading.
  • Mr. Wickremesinghe and the UNP have only limited options. They include:
  1. Testing his floor strength,
  2. bringing a motion against Mr. Rajapaksa, and
  3. political defiance.
  4. He can also go to the Supreme Court.
  • If the UNP does so, the Supreme Court, which has been on a path to regaining its institutional independence and autonomy, will be called upon to adjudicate over a very sensitive power struggle among top politicians. Thus, the days ahead could be a trying time for the judiciary as well.

Concluding Remarks

  • Mr. Wickremesinghe should also realise that he is partly to blame for the political imbroglio.
  • His inability to establish a stable working relationship with the President to run the coalition government, casual disregard for the popular mandate he and Mr. Sirisena jointly won in 2015 for corruption-free governance and politics, lackadaisical attitude to constitutional reform and reconciliation, and gross neglect of popular demands for better economic governance have severely eroded his popular standing.
  • The biggest political irony is this. The collective failure of Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe to be faithful to the 2015 mandate has now brought Mr. Rajapaksa back to power on the invitation of one party in a coalition which dislodged him from power.
  • It is believed that whatever turn the crisis may take, Sri Lanka’s fragile process of democratic recovery is in peril.

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Facebook leaks redux (Data Protection Regulation)

Note to the Students:

This article highlights the point that a regulatory regime such as the General Data Protection Regulation must be in force beyond the EU.

  • This particular topic as it reads falls under the domain of GS Paper III, wherein, it can be mapped to multiple subject areas- such as Science and Technology and Internal Security (threats to internal security).  
  • However, there is a dimension of this article which falls under the purview of GS Paper II (Polity and Governance), as it also deals with fundamental rights such as the Right to Privacy and the idea of a strong Data Protection Regulation.

Why in the news?

  • On September 16, 2018, Facebook noticed an unusual spike in the number of times the platform’s ‘View As’ feature was being used.
  • This ‘View As’ feature allows users to see how their Facebook page will appear to another user.
  • The ‘View As’ feature was introduced by Facebook as a privacy control feature.
  • The ‘View As’ feature allows users to check the information they were sharing with others. However, this proved to be a point of vulnerability because of some bugs that were introduced in the software in July 2017.
  • Subsequent to this development, on September 25, 2018, Facebook announced that it had identified this as a malicious activity in which the access tokens of 50 million users were appropriated by unknown hackers, and certain personal details possibly accessed.

Brief Note on Access token:

  • An ‘Access token’ is a digital key that allows users to stay logged into Facebook on a device or browser without having to sign in repeatedly using their password.
  • These Access tokens extend their reach to other apps or services that users sign into using their Facebook account.
  • If hackers have the access tokens, they do not require passwords to get into Facebook accounts or apps like Instagram that utilise the Facebook login.

How did hackers take advantage?

  • It is believed that while using the ‘View As’ feature, Facebook’s video uploader tool also appeared on the page at times.
  • This generated an access token that was not the user’s but of the person the user was looking up.
  • To illustrate this further, let’s take an example: If Hacker A selected User B for ‘View As,’ and the video uploader appeared on the page, it generated an access token for User B which was then available to Hacker A.
  • As a consequence to this, Facebook had to force the affected 50 million users, and an additional 40 million users who had used the ‘View As’ feature since last July (July 2017) to log in again so that their access tokens changed.
  • It is believed that this breach is the largest in the history of the platform.

Action taken by Facebook

    • Facebook has since said it has resolved the bugs.
    • Also, pursuant to these developments, Facebook is said to be working with the FBI on the issue.
    • Facebook has also informed the Irish Data Protection Commission, since the European Union’s strict new data protection law states that it has to be informed within 72 hours if anyone in the European Economic Area is affected.
  • The Commission has started a probe, and Facebook faces a fine that could go over a billion dollars.

The Gravity of the Threat:

  • This breach again puts the spotlight on the vulnerabilities of Facebook,
  • Facebook claims over two billion users and along with Google controls more than half of the global digital advertisement revenue.
  • Facebook was caught on the wrong foot earlier this year, 2018 when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.
  • The Cambridge Analytica episode revealed that data of up to 87 million users were harvested and used for political campaigning.
  • Aside from the direct impact of private data being accessed, it is important to note that massive data sets allow for psychological profiling.
  • This could lead to targeted political advertising and manipulation, especially at a time when crucial mid-term elections are due in the United States and in India.
  • This also undermines the faith in the ‘single sign-in.’ The Facebook sign-in has been utilised by a whole set of services, from gaming apps to news apps, as a way to log in to their sites or apps based on the idea that large digital entities like Facebook and Google provide better security. This trust now stands shaken.
  • While Facebook has reportedly refreshed the access tokens of all affected parties, the extent to which the hackers had access to connected third-party apps remains unclear.

Editorial Analysis:

    • Barely six months after the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook data theft scandal, the world’s largest social network, Facebook hit the headlines once again following yet another data breach that affected millions of users.
  • In late September, 2018, Facebook announced that it had discovered a security breach that had compromised nearly 50 million accounts.
    • The figure was subsequently revised to 30 million.
    • Hackers had reportedly exploited flaws in the code for the ‘View As’ feature, which lets users see what their own profile looks like to someone else, to steal “access tokens”.
    • By stealing them, the hackers were able to serially take over people’s accounts.
    • While Facebook claims to have fixed the bug and reset the logins of all those affected, the episode has done little to restore people’s confidence in Facebook’s seriousness when it comes to protecting their data.
  • Further, it is also unclear how much personal data have been stolen, and how that data may end up being used in ways that could harm Facebook users.
    • Incidentally, tech commentators have speculated that it was the European Union (EU)’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force this May, 2018, that forced Facebook to go public with the breach so promptly, even before the full extent of the damage could be assessed.
  • The GDPR’s stringent guidelines require companies to make such events known within three days of their discovery.

Concluding Remarks

  • In general, citizen-consumers have had to choose between two equally unsatisfactory options:
  1. either resign themselves to a post-privacy world or
  2. be perpetually scrambling to reskill themselves in order to be able to safely navigate the complicated and ever-evolving (mine)field of data privacy and safety.
  • Following the latest data breach, there were numerous articles educating users on how to secure their Facebook account and data from hackers.

Questions arise: Should the onus of securing data be put primarily on the users, with hardly any criminal liability for the platform?

After all, this is not a ‘parking at owner’s risk’ scenario, where, after a break-in, one still had some recourse in the form of the local police.

Finally, it is important to note that in the case of tech behemoths such as Facebook and Google, the power asymmetry vis-à-vis the ordinary user is so astronomical as to render the very notion of redress laughable.

  • However, this could soon change, thanks to the GDPR stick being wielded by the EU.
  • For example, Facebook faces a potential penalty of €20 million or 4% of its global revenue (whichever is higher) if the EU regulator investigating the data breach finds a GDPR violation in connection with the incident.
  • Finally, if data security for ordinary users is to become something more than a seminar topic, then an equitable regulatory regime such as the GDPR must become the universal norm, in force beyond the EU jurisdiction as well.

F. Tidbits

1. Tamil Nadu seeks morning slot for bursting of crackers

 

  • The Tamil Nadu government on Monday asked the Supreme Court to modify its October 23 order restricting the bursting of firecrackers to a two-hour period between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. during festivals, including Deepavali.
  • As Deepavali is celebrated in the morning in the State, the Supreme Court should allow bursting of crackers from 4.30 a.m. till 6.30 a.m. there, it said in an application filed through advocate B. Vinodh Khanna.
  • “India is a federal state with different traditions and cultures. As far as celebrations relating to Deepavali are concerned, each State or sect has a separate set of beliefs, traditions and culture,” the application argued.
  • “In northern India, Deepavali is celebrated in the night to celebrate the homecoming of Rama after slaying Ravana. Deepavali is, therefore, on the night of November 7, 2018. In the State of Tamil Nadu, Deepavali is celebrated commemorating the death of Narakasura, the Evil, slain by the Goddess in the early hours,” it said.

2. Children under 15 at serious risk from polluted air: WHO

 

  • Every day about 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 (1.8 billion children) breathe polluted air that puts their health and development at serious risk, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a new report that puts into numbers the devastating impact that air pollution is having on the global population’s health.
  • Tragically, many of these children die, with as many as six lakh estimated to have perished in 2016 alone due to complications from acute lower respiratory infections caused by dirty air, according to WHO’s report.
  • The report on air pollution and child health released on the eve of the WHO’s first ever global conference on Air Pollution and Health on Tuesday reveals that when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely, and have small, low birth-weight children.
  • Air pollution also impacts neuro-development and cognitive ability and can trigger asthma, and childhood cancer. Children exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at greater risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life, the WHO said.
  • One reason why children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution is that they breathe more rapidly than adults and so absorb more pollutants. They also live closer to the ground, where some pollutants reach peak concentrations — at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.
  • In addition, newborns and small children are often at home. If the family is burning fuels like wood and kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting, they would be exposed to higher levels of pollution.

3. Delhi tops national charts in bad air quality

 

  • Fourteen out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India as per figures compiled and released earlier this year by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Climate Trends, an Indian group working on environmental issues picked up the same 14 cities to analyse the CPCB data in summer and winter months for a comparative analysis — just to put it in context with the WHO children’s health report released on Monday which notes that 93% of the world’s children under 15 years breathe polluted air.
  • It says Delhi tops the charts of bad air quality nationally.
  • The report says India faces the highest air pollution-related mortality and disease burden in the world with more than 2 million deaths occurring prematurely every year, accounting for 25% of the global deaths due to poor air quality.
  • “This is as per the used data sets and it is important to note that for more than 20% of the days, the data was not available during the months of October 2017–January 2018,’’ the report states.
  • “Most cities, unlike Delhi do not have an emergency response plan to tackle air pollution. While some of the cities like Patna and Varanasi have recently formulated action plans, there are none in place to issue advisories or mitigate the pollution at the source level instantly as in the case of the Graded Response Action Plan,” states the report.

G. Prelims Fact

1. ICF rolls out Train 18, the NextGen Shatabdi

 

  • The much anticipated Indian-made trainset was unveiled to the public by Indian Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani on Monday at the ICF. Train 18 will undergo the mandatory safety checks before being inducted into the Indian Railway in the coming months.
  • The new train comes fitted with amenities on a par with the best in the world — from on-board Wi-Fi to GPS-based passenger information system, ‘touch-free’ bio-vacuum toilets, LED lighting, mobile charging points, and a climate control system that would adjust the temperature according to occupancy and the weather.
  • What ‘Train-18’ doesn’t have, however, is a locomotive to pull the coaches — it is a self-propelled, semi-high-speed trainset that will soon replace the box cars of the inter-city Shatabdis.
  • Speaking at the launch function, Mr. Lohani said Train 18 will be a game changer for the Indian Railways.
  • He said it can reach a maximum speed of 160 km per hour. The train can both accelerate and pull to a stop rapidly, thereby consuming much less energy, Mr. Lohani added.
  • Mani, General Manager of ICF, said the train was completed in a record time of 18 months after it was conceived in 2016. About 80% of the design, technology and manufacture of Train 18, a predecessor to ‘Train 20’, is Indian, the General Manager of ICF added.

2. Bolsonaro elected Brazil President

 

  • Former Army Captain Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil on Sunday, promising a fundamental change in direction for the country.
  • Despite repulsing many with his open support of the torture used by Brazil’s former military regime, as well as remarks deemed misogynist, racist and homophobic, Mr. Bolsonaro managed to tap voters’ deep anger with corruption, crime and economic malaise.
  • Official results gave him 55.13% of the votes in the run-off election, to 44.87% for leftist opponent Fernando Haddad, with 99.99% of the ballots counted.
  • Bolsonaro, 63, will take office on January 1. “We will change Brazil’s destiny together,” he said in his victory speech — broadcast live from his home on Facebook, the platform he has used to campaign since an attacker stabbed him in the stomach at a rally on September 6. He pledged to govern “following the Bible and the Constitution,” and said: “We cannot continue flirting with socialism, communism, populism and the extremism of the left.”
  • Dubbed the “Tropical Trump” by some, Mr. Bolsonaro publicly admires the American leader.

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. With reference to ‘leprosy’, which of the following statement is/are correct?
  1. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis.
  2. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds.

Which of the above statements are correct?

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

See

Answer
Question 2. Consider the following statements with respect to “ Near Earth Asteroid”:
  1. Near Earth Asteroids are also known as Potentially Hazardous asteroid.
  2. The largest known NEA is Ganymed.

Which of the above statements are correct?

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

See

Answer
Question 3. The Gadgil Committee, recently in news, is related to:
  1. Banking reforms
  2. Western Ghats
  3. Women empowerment
  4. Disabled persons

See

Answer

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. The country’s premier investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, is facing the biggest credibility crisis ever since it was formed as a special police force in 1941. Explain. (10 Marks; 150 words)
  2. Still recovering from the violence and bloodbath during its nearly three-decade-long civil war, and grappling with the economic and social challenges in its aftermath, Sri Lanka cannot afford to recede from the democratic space that opened up in 2015. Analyse this statement in the context of recent issues happening in Sri Lanka. (10 Marks; 150 words)

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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