Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- IT (Intermediary guidelines and digital media ethic) Rules
- Semiconductor industry
- Facts for Prelims – National Awards for scientific research
1 . NAVIC
Context: The Union government is pushing tech giants to make smartphones compatible with its home-grown navigation system Navic within months, worrying the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi and Apple who fear elevated costs and disruptions as the move requires hardware changes.
- In line with the present government’s drive for self-reliance, India has over the years expanded the use of its regional navigation satellite system called NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation).
- The Union government wants to reduce dependence on foreign systems, including the widely used U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), and says NavIC provides more accurate domestic navigation and that its use would benefit the economy.
- China, the European Union, Japan and Russia have their own global or regional navigation systems to rival GPS.
- Operational since 2018, NavIC’s uptake is minimal; it is mandated in public vehicle location trackers, for example.
- This year they have pushed smartphone giants to make hardware changes to support NavIC, in addition to GPS, in new phones they will sell from January 2023.
- Representatives of Apple Inc, Xiaomi Corp, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and others pushed back, citing worries that making phones NavIC-compliant would mean higher research and production costs.
- The changes would also require more testing clearances, which with a January 1 deadline would disrupt businesses and planned launches.
About NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation)
- NavIC, or Navigation with Indian Constellation, is an independent stand-alone navigation satellite system developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- NavIC was originally approved in 2006 at a cost of $174 million. It was expected to be completed by late 2011, but only became operational in 2018.
- NavIC consists of eight satellites and covers the whole of India’s landmass and up to 1,500 km (930 miles) from its boundaries. Currently, 7 satellites are active.
- It will provide two types of services, namely:
- Standard Positioning Service (SPS) which is provided to all the users and
- Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to the authorised users.
- The System is expected to provide a position accuracy of better than 20 m in the primary service area
- Currently, NavIC’s use is limited. It is being used in public vehicle tracking in India, for providing emergency warning alerts to fishermen venturing into the deep sea where there is no terrestrial network connectivity, and for tracking and providing information related to natural disasters.
- Enabling it in smartphones is the next step India is pushing for.
How does NavIC compare?
- The main difference is the serviceable area covered by these systems. GPS caters to users across the globe and its satellites circle the earth twice a day, while NavIC is currently for use in India and adjacent areas.
- Like GPS, there are three more navigation systems that have global coverage – Galileo from the European Union, Russia-owned GLONASS and China’s Beidou. QZSS, operated by Japan, is another regional navigation system covering Asia-Oceania region, with a focus on Japan.
- India’s 2021 satellite navigation draft policy stated the government will work towards “expanding the coverage from regional to global” to ensure availability of NavIC signal in any part of the world.
Why is India promoting NavIC?
- India says NavIC is conceived with the aim of removing dependence on foreign satellite systems for navigation service requirements, particularly for “strategic sectors.”
- Relying on systems like GPS and GLONASS may not always be reliable as those are operated by the defence agencies of respective nations and it is possible that civilian services can be degraded or denied.
- NavIC is an indigenous positioning system that is under Indian control. There is no risk of the service being withdrawn or denied in a given situation.
2 . Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021
Context: The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry has blocked 45 videos from 10 YouTube channels for allegedly containing hateful speech against religious communities with the potential to cause communal disharmony.
- Based on inputs from intelligence agencies, the Ministry issued directions for blocking the videos under the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
- The content included fake news and morphed videos with the intent to spread hatred among religious communities. Such videos were found to have the potential to cause communal disharmony and disrupt public order in the country.
- Some of the videos in question were being used to allegedly spread disinformation on issues related to the Agnipath scheme, the armed forces, India’s national security apparatus, Kashmir, among other matters.
- The content was observed to be false and sensitive from the perspective of national security and India’s friendly relations with foreign states.
- Videos came under the ambit of Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act.
Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021
- The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 were released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in February 2021.
- Social Media intermediaries were given a three-month period to comply with the new rules.
- Grievance Redressal Officer (GRO): The IT Rules 2021 aim to empower ordinary users of social media platforms and OTT platforms with a mechanism for redressal and timely resolution of their grievance with the help of a Grievance Redressal Officer (GRO) who should be a resident in India. Special emphasis has been given on the protection of women and children from sexual offences, fake news and other misuse of the social media.
- First originator: Identification of the “first originator of the information” would be required in case of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India.
- Chief Compliance Officer: A Chief Compliance Officer, a resident of India, also needs to be appointed and that person shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules. A monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints would be necessary.
- Code of Ethics: The OTT platforms, online news and digital media entities, on the other hand, would need to follow a Code of Ethics. OTT platforms would be called ‘publishers of online curated content’ under the new rules. They would have to self-classify the content into five categories based on age and use parental locks for age above 13 or higher. They also need to include age verification mechanisms for content classified as ‘Adult’.
- Grievance redressal mechanism: A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been mandated. This includes the appointment of a GRO, self-regulatory bodies registered with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) to look after the Code of Ethics and a Charter for the self-regulating bodies formulated by MIB.
- While the new rules were challenged by many on grounds of violation of free speech, the government has clarified that these rules permit social media platforms to operate in India freely but with due accordance to the law.
- Every entity has to abide by the Constitution of the country and the Rule of Law. Also, as per Article 19 of the Constitution, freedom of speech and expression is not absolute and is subject to reasonable restrictions, especially in case of a threat to national sovereignty and security.
Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act
- Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, was introduced by an amendment to the Act in 2008. It gives the Central government the power to block public access to any information online — whether on websites or mobile apps.
- Under Section 69A, if a website threatens India’s defence, its sovereignty and integrity, friendly relations with foreign countries and public order, the government can ban it, after following due procedure.
- The detailed procedures to do so are listed under the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009. Apart from this, a court may also issue directions for blocking information online. The Department of Telecommunications, too, can issue blocking orders to internet service providers, to enforce licensing conditions.
- In terms of process, there are two options available to the government under Section 69A of the IT Act to issue ban orders — normal and emergency.
- Section 69A mandates that every ministry in central, state and Union Territory governments must have a nodal officer, to receive complaints about websites that host ‘offensive’ content. Once the nodal officer sees merit in the complaint, he/she then forwards it to a designated officer, who chairs a committee to examine the grievance.
- This committee includes representatives from the Ministries of Law and Justice, Home Affairs, Information and Broadcasting and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), and give the intermediary a hearing.
- In the normal course, an order to block content requires: (a) a decision to be made by a government committee (b) relevant intermediaries to be given an opportunity to be heard by this committee. These processes are not required when emergency provisions are used.
- The emergency route allows content to be blocked on the directions of the Secretary, Department of IT, who must consider the impugned content and record his reasons for doing so.
- However, in the case of emergencies, the order of the Secretary, Department of IT, must be placed before the government committee within 48 hours. Based on the recommendations of this committee, the order can then be finalised or vacated.
3 . Semiconductor Industry
Context: In a bid to make India’s $10 billion chip-making initiative more attractive to investors, the Centre approved changes to the scheme for the development of a semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem.
How big is the industry?
- Semiconductors are the thumbnail-sized building blocks of almost every modern electronic device from smartphones to connected devices on the Internet of Things (IoT).
- They help give computational power to devices. The global semiconductor industry is currently valued at $500-$600 billion.
- The basic component of a semiconductor chip is a sliver of silicon, which is etched with billions of microscopic transistors, forming patterns to control the flow of current while following different computational instructions.
- The chip-making process is complex and highly exact, having multiple other steps in the supply chain such as designing software for chips and patenting them through core Intellectual Property (IP) rights.
- It also involves making chip-fabrication machines; setting up fabs or factories; and ATMP (assembly, testing, marking and packaging).
- The chip-making industry is a highly concentrated one, with the big players being Taiwan, South Korea and the U.S. among others.
- Therefore, the global chip shortage, U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, and the supply chain blockages owing to the Russia-Ukraine conflict have led major economies to enter the chip-making sector with a renewed push.
What are the changes to India’s chip-making scheme?
- In December 2021, India announced its roughly $10 billion dollar production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to encourage semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country.
- It also announced fiscal support for a design-linked initiative (DLI) scheme to drive global and domestic investment related to design software, IP rights etc.
- According to the Electronics and IT Ministry, semiconductor demand in India would increase to $70-$80 billion by 2026 with the growing demand for digital devices and electronic products.
- The new changes announced recently seek to harmonize government incentives for all technology nodes of semiconductors.
- In the previous version of the scheme, the Centre was offering to fund 30% of the project cost for 45nm to 65nm chip production, 40% for 28nm to 45nm, and 50% or half of the funding for chips 28nm or below.
- The modified scheme provides uniform 50% fiscal support for all nodes.
- Besides, it will provide 50% of capital expenditure for other steps of the process as well (chip design and ATMP).
What are the challenges?
- While the scheme is an encouraging move, chip production is a resource-intensive and expensive process.
- While the new scheme provides equal funding for all steps of the process, the outlay of the scheme remains $10 billion. Notably, just the setting up of one semiconductor fab requires an investment of anywhere between $3 and $7 billion.
- Analysts, while positive, are concerned that not much of the current scheme outlay would be left to support other elements including display fabs, packaging and testing facilities, and chip design centers.
- They also argue that the initial funding should focus on areas like design and R&D, for which India already has an established talent pool.
- Chip-making also requires gallons of ultrapure water in a single day, which experts say could be a task for the government to provide to factories, compounded also by the drought conditions which often prevail in large parts of the country.
- Another task for the government is to drive up consumer demand in the semiconductor and linked electronics industry to not end up in a situation where these ventures remain successful only till taxpayers are forced to fund required subsidies.
4 . Facts for Prelims
National Awards for scientific research
- The Department of Science & Technology gives 207 awards, of which four are National Awards, 97 are private endowment awards, 54 are lecture, scholarship or fellowship-based awards and 56 are ‘internal awards.
- The participants then agreed to retain only the national awards and do away with the rest.
- The department could start a new scheme for scholarship/fellowship with “suitable honorarium and full justification and detailed guidelines”.
- The Atomic Energy Department currently gives 25 “performance-based awards” given by public sector units affiliated to the department and 13 non-core domain awards.
- The quorum decided to do away with all awards and instead institute a new one “of very high stature”.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation did not confer awards, save three internal ones.
- These too ought to be done away with and replaced with a national level award of “very high stature”.
- The CSIR gave seven awards, including the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards, that is given annually to accomplished scientists under 45 departments and announced every year on September 26.
Surajpuri and Bajjika
- Surjapuri is spoken mainly in Kishanganj and other parts of Seemanchal in northeastern Bihar, including the districts of Katihar, Purnia and Araria. The dialect, a mix of Bangla, Urdu, and Hindi, is also spoken in contiguous parts of West Bengal.
- The name Surjapuri comes from Surjapur pargana, which no longer exists. But there is a toll plaza called Surjapur between Purnia and Kishanganj.
- Bajjika, one of five dialects spoken in Bihar, is a mix of Hindi and Maithili, and is spoken mainly in Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, and parts of Sitamarhi, Sheohar and Samastipur. Bajjika is not as well known as other dialects such as Bhojpuri and Maithili. Although the Bihar education department had considered teaching in local dialects up to Class 5 during the second Nitish Kumar government (2010-15), it did not come to fruition.