PAPER -1 INDIAN GEOGRAPHY
Why You Should Know?
• Cyclone Asani over the southeast Bay of Bengal moved nearly north west wards with a speed of 14 km in six hours and lay centred over the same region, about 470 km west of Port Blair (Andaman Islands), 850 km southeast of Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and 930 km south-southeast of Puri (Odisha) on Sunday afternoon.
• It is very likely to move north west wards and intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm over south east Bay of Bengal in another six hours.
• It is very likely to continue to move north west wards till the evening of May 10 and reach west central and adjoining northwest Bay of Bengal off north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coasts.
• Thereafter, it is very likely to re-curve north-north east wards and move towards northwest Bay of Bengal off Odisha coast.
• Light to moderate rain or thunder showers with lightning are likely to occur at one or two places over coastal Andhra Pradesh and Yanam.
• Heavy rain is likely to occur at one or two places in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts on May 10 and 11.
• Squally wind with speed reaching 40-50 km, gusting to 60 km is likely along and off North coastal Andhra Pradesh and Yanam on May 10 and 11.
• The Cyclone Warning Centre, Visakhapatnam, has advised fishermen against venturing into the sea on the two days.
• IMD Director-General Mrutunjay Mohaptra on Saturday made it clear the cyclone was unlikely to make landfall either in the coast of Odisha or Andhra Pradesh, but will move parallel to the coast in the sea.
• The wind speed will be 105 to 115 gusting 125 kmph and then the storm is expected to lose steam in the sea on May 10 with wind speed coming down to 96105 gusting 115 in the early hours reducing progressively as the day wears off.
What is a cyclone?
• In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure.
• Cyclones are characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure.
• The largest low-pressure systems are polar vortices and extratropical cyclones of the largest scale (the synoptic scale ).
• Cyclones rotate clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.
• Cyclone is the general term for a variety of low pressure system types, such as tropical cyclones, extra tropical cyclones and tornadoes.
What is a polar cyclone?
• A polar cyclone is a low-pressure weather system, usually spanning 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) to 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi), in which the air circulates in a counterclockwise direction in the northern hemisphere, and a clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere.
Future Looms Dark For 48% of Bird Species
PAPER -3 ENVIRONMENT & ECOLOGY
Why You Should Know?
• Humans eat 14% of the world’s surviving species of birds. However, this is not the only reason why 48% of the extant bird species are undergoing population decline, a study by nine renowned avian experts and conservationists has revealed.
• The State of the World’s Birds, an annual review of environmental resources published on May 5, has attributed the threat to almost half of the 10,994 recognised extant species of birds to the expanding human footprint on the natural world and climate change.
• The degradation and loss of natural habitats as well as direct overexploitation of many species are the key threats to avian biodiversity, the study led by the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).
The State of the World’s Birds, Annual
• The use of 37% of the surviving bird species as common or exotic pets and 14% as food are examples of direct overexploitation, the report indicates.
• The review found that 5,245 or about 48% of the existing bird species worldwide were known or suspected to be undergoing population decline.
• While 4,295 or 39% of the species had stable trends, about 7% or 778 species had increasing population trends. The trend of 37 species was unknown.
• The study underlines birdwatching as a form of avian conservation but warns of “local negative impacts” of bird feeding valued at $5 billion $6 billion a year.
• It reviewed changes in avian biodiversity using data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List to reveal the changes in fortunes of all the global bird species.
• The caution is for some non-provisioned species via trophic cascades, an “ecological phenomenon triggered by the addition or removal of top predators and involving reciprocal changes in the relative populations of predator and prey through a food chain, which often results in dramatic changes in ecosystem structure and nutrient cycling”.
• The study that involved scientists from MMU, Cornell University, Birdlife International, the University of Johannesburg, Pontifical Xavierian University and the India-based Nature Conservation Foundation reviewed changes in avian biodiversity using data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
• IUCN is a membership Union composed of both government and civil society organisations.
• It harnesses the experience, resources and reach of its more than 1,400 Member organisations and the input of more than 18,000 experts.
• This diversity and vast expertise makes IUCN the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
• IUCN Member organisations set the direction of the Union’s work, and global conservation efforts more broadly, every four years at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.
• Six IUCN Commissions made up of over ten thousand experts inform IUCN’s knowledge and help produce its work.
• The IUCN Secretariat focusses its work on key themes and is organised into 11 operational regions in order to anchor its knowledge locally and better serve Members’ needs.
The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation
PAPER -3 ECONOMY
Why You Should Know?
• The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) invests internationally in equities. It owned shares worth about 1.09 lakh crore at the end of March 2022 in India alone.
• Around the world, GIC investments amount to about 55 lakh crore. GIC is the eight largest wealth management fund in the world.
• The money doubled in real terms in the last 20 years. This money is also used by the government for public welfare.
• Another arm of the Singapore government, Temasek Holdings, has investments worth 22 lakh crore.
• Their investments dwarf some aspects of the Indian economy itself: the Indian government’s budget expenditure for 2022-23 is 39.45 lakh crore. The Singapore government’s investments are many times that.
China is doing the same
• The Municipal Government of Hefei invested $787 million to acquire a 17% stake in Nio’s core business and shortly after that exited making a profit of 5.5 times its investment.
• By 2017, Chinese government-owned companies had invested 267.5 lakh crore in overseas companies. This is about 27% of India’s GDP.
• Meanwhile, in India, we are disinvesting. The total market value of Indian government holdings is only 13 lakh crore, far less than China or even Singapore.
• Overseas holdings through these companies is negligible. The Navratna PSUs are performing well, but are being sold.
• In China, one company, the China National Petroleum Corporation, has assets of over $600 billion. There is no move there to disinvest.
• Perhaps the Chinese government wants to use the economic clout of its PSUs for its global ambitions.
• As China increases its global influence, India is bartering away one source of such influence – its ability to invest overseas and create greater economic clout.
• The prevailing ideology that the government has no business to be in business is used to justify disinvestment.
• The real reason is the growing government deficit. Some key corporate investors are waiting in the wings to gain full control of India’s natural resources through these disinvestments.
• It is like killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. For instance, the total dividend earned by the Indian government through PSUs is 250,000 crore.
• If India learns from the Chinese and Singapore governments, it can earn much more from government investments as well.
• India uses a western ideology about government-owned companies, but forgets that what the West preaches is for others and what it practices is in national self-interest.
• The world’s list of top asset-holding PSUs includes the U.S., Israel and the European Union counties. But there are none from India.
• India has allowed the baggage of inefficient PSUs to cloud its thinking. While the smaller and loss-making ones need to be disinvested, the profitable ones can be reformed.
• The only problem in India is archaic rules governing PSUs and political interfe. rence. There is excellent talent in the PSUs.
• Other talent from the private sector can also be brought in. Salaries for key top personnel should be in line with worldwide best practices, along with real accountability.
• The success of enterprises and startups shows that there is abundant managerial talent, which needs to be harnessed in national interest.
• If we avoid the smoke screen of ideology, there are many reasons for learning from other countries, notably Singapore.
• The first is national and public interest. The source of wealth has shifted from land to natural resources, to the industrial sector and now to the knowledge economy.
• Assets are largely in the financial markets today. There is enough and more wealth to be made there as wealth funds, well-known international investors and some other governments around the world are doing.
• If the Indian government invests like Singapore, that will give it much more funds than disinvestment ever can. Meanwhile, ownership remains intact.
• A few caveats are required. Singapore invests in long-term assets, and does not take risky decisions. Another powerful reason is managing government finances. India is raising taxes by the week, especially on diesel and petrol.
• The only avenue for revenue generation seems to be taxes. However, markets, wealth management and dividends are not explored.
• India is capable of doing this if we look for talent from our financial markets rather than from the government only.
• The example from the 1980s in telecom, recent examples of Aadhaar, and the creation of a government platform called ONDC to increase marketing power of ordinary kirana stores shows how private sector talent can be harnessed for public good.
• There are well-known entrepreneurs and wealth managers in the stock markets. The government can surely use their talent for the greater public good.
India’s Judiciary and The Slackening Cog of Trust
PAPER -2 INDIAN POLITY & GOVERNANCE
Why You Should Know?
• Centrality of justice in human lives is summed up in a few words by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle: “It is in justice that the ordering of society is centred.” Yet, a vast majority of countries have highly corrupt judiciaries.
• Judicial corruption takes two forms: political interference in the judicial process by the legislative or executive branch, and bribery.
• Despite accumulation of evidence on corrupt practices, the pressure to rule in favour of political interests remains intense. And for judges who refuse to comply, political retaliation can be swift and harsh.
• Bribery can occur throughout the chain of the judicial process: judges may accept bribes to delay or accelerate verdicts, accept or deny appeals, or simply to decide a case in a certain way.
• Court officials coax bribes for free services; and lawyers charge additional “fees” to expedite or delay cases.
• Our focus here is on the functioning of and erosion of trust in the lower judiciary comprising high courts, and district and sessions courts.
• A distinction between substantive and procedural justice is helpful. Substantive justice is associated with whether the statutes, case law and unwritten legal principles are morally justified (e.g., freedom to pursue any religion), while procedural justice is associated with fair and impartial decision procedures.
• Many outdated/ dysfunctional laws or statutes have not been repealed because of the tardiness of legal reform both at the Union and State government levels.
• Worse, there have been blatant violations of constitutional provisions. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (December 2019) provides citizenship to – except Muslims – Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
• But this flies in the face of secularism and is thus a violation of substantive justice. A striking example of tortuous delay in the delivery of justice is the case of Lal Bihari.
• He was officially declared dead in 1975, struggled to prove that he was alive (though deceased in the records) and was finally de. clared alive in 1994 (Debroy, 2021).
• Thus, both departures from substantive and procedural justice need deep scrutiny. Alongside procedural delays, endemic corruption and mounting shares of under-trial inmates with durations of three to five years point to stark failures of procedural justice and to some extent of substantive justice.
Under the different regimes
• All was not well with the lower judiciary under the United Progressive Alliance regime. According to Transparency International (TI 2011), 45% of people who had come in contact with the judiciary between July 2009 and July 2010 had paid a bribe to the judiciary.
• The most common reason for paying the bribes was to “speed things up”. There were “fixed” rates for a quick divorce, bail, and other procedures (Banerjee, 2012).
• The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (April 2013) estimates that for every 2 in official court fees, at least 1,000 is spent in bribes in bringing a petition to the court.
• There is a scarcity of evidence on bribes and malfeasance under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
• A few broad-brush treatments are, however, worrying. Freedom House’s ‘Freedom in the World 2016 report for India’ states that the lower levels of the judiciary in particular have been rife with corruption” (Freedom House 2016).
• The GAN Business Anti-Corruption Portal reports that, “here is a high risk of corruption when dealing with India’s judiciary, especially at the lower court levels. Bribes and irregular payments are often exchanged in return for favourable court decisions” (GAN Integrity 2017).
• Allegations of corruption against High Court judges abound. For example, Tis Hazari District Court Senior Civil Judge, Rachna Tiwari Lakhanpal, was arrested in September 2016 for allegedly accepting a bribe to rule in favour of a complainant in a case. Such examples are indicative of the widespread malaise of corruption in the lower judiciary. Worse, there are glaring examples of anti Muslim bias, often followed by extra-judicial killings by the police. Anti-Muslim bias alone may not result in erosion of trust but if combined with unprovoked and brutal violence against them (e.g., lynching of innocent cattle traders) is bound to.
National Judicial Data
• According to the National Judicial Data Grid, as of April 12, 2017, there are 24,186,566 pending cases in India’s district courts, of which 2,317,448 (9.58%) have been pending for over 10 years, and 3,975,717 (16.44%) have been pending for between five and 10 years.
• As of December 31, 2015, there were 4,432 vacancies in the posts of (subordinate court) judicial of ficers, representing about 22% of the sanctioned strength.
• In the case of the High Courts, 458 of the 1,079 posts, representing 42% of the sanctioned strength, were vacant as of June 2016.
• Thus, severe backlogging and understaffing persisted, as also archaic and complex procedures of delivery of justice.
• Extreme centralisation of power in the Centre and a blatant violation of democratic values under the NDA have had disastrous consequences in terms of violent clashes, loss of lives, religious discord, assaults on academic freedom, and suppression and manipulation of mass media.
• Exercise of extra-constitutional authority by the central and State governments, weakening of accountability mechanisms, widespread corruption in the lower judiciary and the police, with likely collusion between them, the perverted beliefs of the latter towards Muslims, other minorities and lower caste Hindus, a proclivity to deliver instant justice, extra-judicial killings, filing first information reports against innocent victims of mob lynching – specifically, Muslim cattle traders while the perpetrators of violence are allowed to get away – have left deep scars on the national psyche.
• It may seem farfetched but it is not, as these are unmistakable signs of abject failure of governance.
• Our analysis reinforces this concern. While trust in the judiciary is positively and significantly related to the share of undertrials for three to five years under total prisoners, it is negatively and significantly related to the square of share of under-trials. However, the negative effect nearly offsets the positive effect.
• So, while trust in the judiciary marginally rises with the proportion of undertrials until the threshold (0.267) is reached, it decreases beyond that point as the proportion of under-trial inmates rises.
• In sum, erosion of trust in the judiciary could severely imperil governance.
The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Report
PAPER -2 INDIAN POLITY & GOVERNANCE
Why You Should Know?
• After multiple objections and extensions, the J&K Delimitation Commission submitted its final report on May 5, 2022, two years after it was appointed to redraw the electoral boundaries in Jammu and Kashmir as per the mandate set by the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
• In its order, a notification of which was published in the Gazette of India, the three-member panel carved out additional six Assembly seats for the Jammu region and one for the Kashmir valley as per the Act.
• The final order of the Commission has set the stage for elections in the erstwhile State that last held Assembly polls in 2014.
What is delimitation?
• Delimitation is the process of redrawing boundaries of the Lok Sabha or Assembly constituencies, the Election Commission of India states.
• The process is carried out in accordance with changes in the demographic status of a State or Union Territory. Delimitation is done by a Delimitation Commission or Boundary Commission.
• The orders of the independent body cannot be questioned before any court. In the past, Delimitation Commissions were set up in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002.
• Before the abrogation of Article 370 that accorded a special status to J&K, delimitation of its Assembly seats was carried out by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
• The delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies, meanwhile, was governed by the Constitution.
What is the J&K Delimitation Commission?
• The last time a delimitation exercise was carried out in Jammu and Kashmir was in 1995, based on the 1981 Census.
• Jammu and Kashmir was under President’s rule at that time. There was no Census in 1991 in J&K due to the tense situation in the valley.
• In 2001, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed a law to put the delimitation process on hold till 2026.
• The Centre set up a Delimitation Commission in March 2020, six months after the State of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated and reorganised as the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
• The Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, was tasked with delimiting the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the UT of J&K based on the 2011 Census and in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 and the Delimitation Act, 2002.
• The panel was given a year to complete the delimitation plan but was given two extensions.
• After considering submissions and considering factors like “geographical features, communication means, public convenience and contiguity of areas”, the Delimitation Commission released its final report on May 5.
What are the key takeaways from the final report?
• First, J&K is split into two divisions, with Jammu having 37 Assembly seats and Kashmir 46. After the Commission’s final draft, six additional Assembly seats are earmarked for Jammu (revised to 43) and one for Kashmir (revised to 47). The total number of Assembly seats in the UT will increase from 83 to 90.
• Second, the Commission has recommended the Centre to nominate at least two Kashmiri Pandits to the Legislative Assembly.
• Third, the panel has proposed nine seats for the Scheduled Tribes (STs). These will include six in Jammu (Budhal, Gulabgarh, Surankote, Rajouri, Mendhar, Thanamandi) and three in the valley (Gurez, Kangan, Kokernag). Seven seats have been reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SCS) in the Jammu region.
• Fourth, the Commission has also recommended that the government consider giving displaced persons from Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir representation in the Assembly through nomination.
• Fifth, in its final order, the Commission has noted that it has considered the “Jammu & Kashmir region as one single Union Territory”, and merged Rajouri and Poonch (from Jammu division) with the Anantnag constituency in the Kashmir region. The new constituency has been renamed as Kishtwar-Rajouri.
• Sixth, the Commission has said it renamed 13 constituencies considering public sentiment in the region.
• The order shows that in Kashmir, the names of Gulmarg (from Tangmarg), Hazratbal, Zadibal, Lal Chowk, Eidgah have been restored. In the Jammu region, the name of the Gulabgarh constituency has been restored.
• The final order of the Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir holds a lot of political significance.
• The completion of the delimitation exercise will pave the way for Assembly elections – a crucial step in the possible restoration of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir.
• Union Home Minister Amit Shah had stated earlier this year that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir will be restored once the situation becomes normal”.
• The Commission has added seven more Assembly seats, keeping the 2011 census as the basis. With this, Jammu with a population of 53 lakh (43% of the total population of 122 crore) will have 47% seats, while Kashmir which has a population of 68 lakh (56%) will have 52% of the seats.
• The new constituency has five ST Assembly segments from the Jammu region. In J&K, Gujjar and Bakarwals form the ST community which is 11.9% of the total population, as per the 2011 census. This restructuring is likely to have an electoral impact.
Who criticised the Commission?
• Regional political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, barring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have slammed the Commission for acting as an “extension of the BJP”.
• Rejecting the recommendations, former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti termed the proposal as another means to disempower the people of J&K.
• The National Conference (NC) claimed that the final order was an attempt to help the BJP get an advantage in elections.
• The NC has been critical of the Commission and had boycotted it before the intervention of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
• The Peoples Conference and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) have also expressed their disappointment.
• The Congress said the proposal of six additional seats to Jammu and one to Kashmir “smacks of pre-determined erroneous assessment”. The BJP, meanwhile, has said it is happy with the panel for doing a great job”.
What lies ahead?
• The Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir has issued a notification of its final order in the Gazette of India. As per rules, the report has been published in newspapers.
• This will pave the way for the much-awaited first Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir after being stripped of its special status in 2019.
Govern Our Data
PAPER -3 SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Why You Should Know?
• When the Internet was just about taking off, techno-enthusiasts ushered in hopes of a world where knowledge and information would be abundant and free from the hands of the elite. The Internet would be democratic, giving everyone open and equitable access.
• Yet almost two decades later, this dream is barely alive. The Internet and its data, almost exclusively, lie in the hands of very large tech companies.
• The ownership of data has become the currency of the future. Many governments and inter-regional entities have been trying to undo this indiscriminate accumulation of data as well as protect data privacy by conceptualising different forms of data governance systems.
• They argue that data needs to be fundamentally understood as a form of social commons and that there should be thorough re-structuring of the data economy.
• They propose a semi-commons approach as the most pragmatic way to govern data in order to foster innovation and ensure equitable access.
• A handful of ‘platform capitalists’ now control the Internet. Platform capitalists are those who take advantage of their first mover privilege by rapidly expanding across the digital landscape.
• They then offer themselves as a platform for third party players for a price (Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.). These companies retain and expand their control through data accumulation and extraction.
• The importance of data accumulation in the digital economy cannot be overstated. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), ‘smart’ devices and related technologies, the possibility of data goes beyond that of the virtual to even the physical and social.
• Control over such data can even predict behavioural patterns. Platform capitalists have unbridled control over the data economy leading to exclusion and under-optimisation of the data for common good.
• It forestalls the prospects of smaller businesses and data communities. Additionally, since most of these companies are based in the West, it leaves developing countries to fend for themselves, left out of their own data’s immense possibilities and uses.
• The commodification of data has led to a finders-keepers logic which undermines human rights, encourages illegal data mining and profiling.
• State regulators have been trying to find a solution to better re-distribute and govern data structures.
• An approach which is currently in vogue, is the European Union’s individualist policy where individuals have ownership rights of their own personal data (for concerns on privacy) but their non-personal data (data that does not have any personal identifiers) is seen as the property of the data processors/collectors.
• There are multiple issues within this approach. First of all, assuming that there is no privacy risk with non-personal data is flawed.
• To quote the authors’ example, the data collected by smart energy systems, temperature and motion sensors seem harmless.
• But when they move up the data value chain, they hold the potential for smart home manufacturers to infer a lot of socio-behavioural insights that can profile individual households when clubbed with other data sets.
• Again, by letting data collectors have ownership rights over non-personal data keeps data within the bounds of the finders-keepers logic. It also does not offer an answer to how data can be equally redistributed
Platform capitalists have unbridled control over the data economy leading to exclusion and under-optimisation of the data for common good
• Another approach is that of data stewardship. Data stewardship “refers to any institutional arrangement where a group of people come together to pool their data and put in place a collective governance process for determining who has access to this data, under what conditions, and to whose benefit.”
• It can also take the model of a public-private partnership where private data can be used for governance issues and policies.
• The EU’s proposal for “data altruism organisations” which will enable the pooling of non-personal data for non-profit, “general interest” purposes and the World Economic Forum’s ‘Data for Common Purpose’ initiative are plausible examples of such an arrangement.
• By creating such privacy-focused data forums, the goal is to increase data-based value creation for optimum use.
• While it would be a marked improvement from platform capitalism, it remains to be seen whether these collectives can really unlock data’s potential. For one, such initiatives would need proper state-of-the-art infrastructure.
• Most countries in the Global South would then be at a huge disadvantage as they do not have the adequate equipment or resources. Data stewardship remains, therefore, an ideal solution while not exactly pragmatic.
The semi-commons approach
• Data has three layers. The semantic layer which has the encoded information. The syntactic layer which represents the information as machine-readable datasets and the physical layer which is the infrastructure through which one extracts data.
• An ideal data governance structure should prevent the possessors of the syntactic and physical layers from having exclusive rights over the semantic layer.
• A semi-commons approach to data governance seeks to balance public and private claims to data. It fundamentally recognises data as social commons where first movers do not get exclusive rights.
Data holders and seekers
• Data holders – be it private, public, or altruistic organisations can only have non-exclusive rights over the base layer of data (raw non-processed data).
• They can use and generate profit through it but are required to share data as other data seekers are entitled to accessibility in a semi-commons approach.
• Data seekers can have access to raw non-personal data and aggregate non-personal data (after due safeguards are met for irreversible anonymisation).
• However, this access is not an unconditional right. Different data seekers have different rights over the kind of data being sought.
• For example, individual data subjects can access their personal data and non-personal data. Public agencies have an authority access’ in the raw non-personal data and aggregate non-personal data held by other private players.
• Authority access refers to “entitlements of public agencies to access data on the grounds of fulfilling legitimate public policy functions, backed by specific legislation”.
• Private organisations can conditionally access raw and aggregate non-personal data. These conditionalities will have to be streamlined with the larger economic and social policies of a country.
• A semi-commons approach would need a thorough re-ordering of the current way in which data is hoarded and kept under the exclusive ownership of platform capitalists.
• One would need to build an equitable data market which encourages production through co-operation. The authors give the example of the Barcelona municipality which is building a smart city by creating a public-funded data infrastructure.
• Here, the public is equipped with smart contracts and cryptographic tools which allow them to directly contribute data to the city data commons on their own terms. Local companies and co-operatives are also given access to the city data commons.
• It also mandates data to be in machine readable format with open-source APIs. Furthermore, a semi-commons approach would help foster data-driven solutions and innovation in sectors which desperately need it.
• For example, NITI Aayog had commented that the agriculture sector, which desperately needs more data-driven innovation, would only have a mellow response from private Al players due to low profitably in comparison to other sectors.
• Therefore, a semi-commons approach, in order to be actualised, calls for a thorough change of perspective wherein data should not be thought of the exclusive property of one person or company but a form of social commons which needs to be properly regulated and redistributed.
NFHS-5: Total Fertility Rate Dips, Sharpest Decline Among Muslims
PAPER -2 HEALTH
Why You Should Know?
• The fertility rate in the Muslim community has seen the sharpest decline over the past two decades, shows a comparison of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data.
• Keeping in trend with the pattern over the years, the fertility dipped further in the community to 2.3 in 2019-21 from 2.6 in 2015-16.
• The overall total fertility rate (TFR) has reached replacement levels in the NFHS-5 at two children per woman in the country, declining from 2.2 in the NFHS-4, therefore showing below the replacement level of fertility at 2.1.
• While all religious communities have shown a decline in the fertility rate, thus contributing to a decline in the nation’s TFR, the decline has been sharpest in the Muslim community from 4.4 in NFHS-1 (199293) to 2.3 at present.
• The Muslim community’s fertility rate, however, remains the highest among all religious communities with Hindus following at 1.94 in NFHS-5, down from 2.1 in 2015-16. The Hindu community had a fertility rate of 3.3 in 1992-93.
• The NFHS-5 has found that the Christian community has a fertility rate of 1.88, Sikhs 1.61, Jains 1.6 and Buddhists and neo Buddhists 1.39, the lowest in the country.
• An accelerated decline in the fertility rate in Muslims has taken place twice-between 1992-93 and 1998-99 as well as between 2005-06 and 2015-16, when it dropped by 0.8 points in these rounds of the NFHS.
• “The fertility gap between Hindus and Muslims is narrowing. High fertility is mostly a result of non-religious factors such as levels of literacy, employment, income and access to health services.
• The current gap between the two communities is because of Muslims’ disadvantage on these parameters.
• Over the last few decades, an emerging Muslim middle class has been realising the value of girls’ education and family planning,”says Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India.
• The percentage of Muslim women who have had no schooling reduced from 32 per cent in NFHS-4(2015-16) to 21.9 per cent in NFHS-5(2019-21). In contrast, for Hindus, it saw marginal change – from 31.4 per cent in NFHS-4 to 28.5 per cent in NFHS-5.
• The NFHS-5 report said the number of children per woman declines with women’s level of schooling.
• Women with no schooling have an average of 2.8 children, compared with 1.8 children for women with 12 or more years of schooling.
• Women in the lowest wealth quintile have an average of 1.0 more children than women in the highest wealth quintile, and economic betterment organically leads to lower fertility rates, the report has found.
• “The data also shows that Muslims are increasingly conscious of family planning. The use of modern contraception among Muslims increased from 37.9 per cent in NFHS-4 to 47.4 per cent in NFHS-5,” adds Muttreja.
38% Men, 9% Women Aged Above 15 Yrs Use Tobacco Products
• Overall, 38 per cent men and 9 per cent women above 15 years of age use tobacco products, as per the National Family Health Survey 5(2019-21) released recently.
• The report also shows that only 1 per cent of women drink alcohol, compared with 19 per cent of men above the age of 15 years.
• The NFHS-5 survey has been conducted in an approximate 6.37 lakh sample households across 707 districts in 28 states and 8 Union Territories.
• At least 7.24 lakh women and 1.01 lakh men have been covered to provide disaggregated estimates up to district level.
• Women (19 per cent) and men (51 per cent) belonging to Scheduled Tribes are more likely to use tobacco than those from any other caste/tribe groups.
• Among men as well as women, the use of tobacco is higher in rural areas (43 per cent for men and 11 per cent for women) than in urban areas (29 per cent for men and 6 per cent for women).
• Nearly three-fifths of men (58 per cent) and 15 per cent of women with no schooling or less than 5 years of schooling use tobacco.
National Family Health survey (NFHS)?
• It is the Fourth Round of National Family Health Survey conducted under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW).
• The following are some of the major highlights of the program.
NFHS 5 and why is it important?
• What is NFHS 5? National Family Health Survey 5 is the recent round of the survey carried on by MoH&FW to bring out reliable data on emerging health and family welfare issues.
Rakhigarhi skeletons’ DNA Samples Sent for Analysis
PAPER -1 ANCEINT HISTORY
Why You Should Know?
• DNA samples collected from two human skeletons unearthed at a necropolis of a Harappan-era city site in Haryana have been sent for scientific examination, the outcome of which might tell about the ancestry and food habits of people who lived in the Rakhigarhi region thousands of years ago.
• The skeletons of two women were found a couple of months ago at mound number 7 (named RGR 7 by the Archaeological Survey of India or ASI), believed to be nearly 5,000 years old.
• Pots and other artefacts were also found buried next to them in a pit, part of the funerary rituals back in the Harappan Civilisation era.
• Seven mounds scattered around two villages (Rakhi Khas and Rakhi Shahpur) in Hisar district are part of the Rakhigarhi archaeological site.
• RGR 7 is a cemetery site of the Harappan period when this was a well-organised city. The two skeletons were unearthed about two months ago by our team. And DNA samples were collected by experts about two weeks ago.
• The samples will be first examined by the Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences, Lucknow for preliminary investigation and scientific comparison, before being sent further for forensic analysis from an anthropological perspective.
• Rakhi Garhi is a village and an archaeological site belonging to the Indus Valley Civilisation in Hisar District of the northern Indian state of Haryana, situated about 150 km northwest of Delhi.
• It was part of the mature phase of the Indus Valley Civilisation, dating to 2600-1900 BCE.
• It was among the largest settlements of the ancient civilisation, though most of it remains unexavated.
• The site is located in the Ghaggar-Hakra River plain, some 27 km from the seasonal Ghaggar river.
• Most scholars believe it to be between 80 hectares and 100+ hectares in area.
• Some Indian archaeologists, however, have claimed that the earliest settlements in Rakhigarhi predate the Indus Valley Civilization, and the site itself is 300 hectares in size.
• Only 5% of the site has been excavated; much of the area is yet to be excavated and published.: 215
• Another related excavation sites in the area are Mitathal and the smaller site Lohari Ragho, which are still awaiting excavation.
Counting India’s Covid Deaths
PAPER -2 HEALTH
Why You Should Know?
• The World Health Organization (WHO) reportonexcess mortality due to Covid-19 is the latest in a series of exercises in the last over a year that tend to suggest India’s official death toll is an undercount.
• The WHO report has pegged India’s excess mortality (people who probably would not have died if there was no pandemic) for 2020 and 2021 at 47.4 lakh.
• Several other studies have shown India’s Covid-related death count at anywhere between 25 lakh to 60 lakh. In fact, the upper bound for the WHO study is even higher
• While these figures are being debated, many important nuances are being missed.
The official count
• Any discussion on the undercount as of now is premature because India has not yet stopped counting its Covid deaths.
• The 5.24 lakh deaths counted until now is not the final official toll. The number is under constant revision, almost daily, and is likely to remain so for several months, if not years, Kerala, for example, is updating its death toll almost every day, and many other states have been doing it periodically.
• Last week, Assam added 1,300 deaths on a single day. Other states have made similar adjustments in the past.
• Even the death numbers reported in 2020 and 2021 are not final. The more than 21,000 deaths Kerala has reported in the last four months have not all happened this year. Most of them pertain to last year.
• The 1,300 deaths Assam added on April 25 did not all happen that day,or that month, or this year. They most likely happened the previous year.
• Several hundreds, possibly thousands of deaths that states adjusted in 2021 would have actually happened in 2020. The additions to the overall tally are being made on the day these deaths are being confirmed, and not the day these might have happened.
• That would mean that even though the deathcount for 2020 still shows up as 149 lakh, chances are that it has already been substantially corrected, and may be revised even further at a later stage.
• Many of the deaths that would have happened in 2020 but are not included in the 149 lakh tally would have been accounted for at a later stage. Those deaths have not been missed; they will reflect in the statistics. The same is true for 2021.
• It is difficult to measure the scale of the undercount in a situation like this, particularly when the counting exercise is still on.
• A physical count, and verification of the dead in a country as vast as India during such chaotic times is bound to take a little more time than running some equations inacomputer model.
• The WHO report does not get into calculating the scale of the undercount for India or any other country. It has done a more straightforward exercise of calculating excess mortality.
• It has estimated the total number of people who likely died in India in 2020 due to all causes and, from that, has subtracted the expected number of all-cause deaths if there was no Covid. These ‘excess’ deaths are considered to be a director indirect result of Covid-19.
Multiple studies and estimates
• It is often argued that, because multiple studies have been pointing to similar estimates, they must be reflective of the true death toll in the country.
• What is being overlooked is that these studies have been throwing up similar estimates probably because they have all been using similar mathematical models and statistical methods. The researchers, and those doing peer reviews, belong to an overlapping set of people.
• What these studies certainly show is that there is a general agreement in academic circles on the usefulness of these models in the current situation, possibly based on their ability to simulate the reality in some earlier situations.
• That, however, is no guarantee that these models have an unquestionable capability to accurately mimic the dynamics of the current pandemic, whose nature and behaviour is far from fully understood.
• Computer modelling is routinely used by academics to simulate real-life situations. The accuracy of their results dependon the underlying quality of data and assumptions.
• Because of multiple layers of extrapolations involved, slight changes in assumptions or input data can significantly alter results.
• To estimate India’s Covid toll, the WHO study has relied, among various sources, on death registration data from the Civil Registration System (CRS).
• Several media houses had published monthly CRS data for a few states last year, and these numbers did not always match.
• Depending on which publication was selected to pick these numbers from, the output of the mathematical model would have been different.
• Also, the monthly CRS death data, even if obtained through an RT1applications, was only “provisional and subject to change. Only the numbers mentioned in the annual CRS report, released last week, are final.
• The quality of assumptions can also induce large uncertainties in the final result. In March 2020, a widely quoted computer modelling studyled by Ramanan Laxminarayan had predicted 1 to 3 million Covid-related deaths in India by the middle of April, roughly three weeks from that time.
• When nothing like that happened, Laxminarayan acknowledged that the risk of dying from Covid was actually a lot lower than he had originally assumed.
• Scientists admit that they still do not fully understand the nature and behaviour of this virus.
• It is thus difficult to assume that these processes and behaviours that epidemiologists have not fully understood have somehow found accurate description in modelling or machine learning algorithms.
CRS and SRS
• As discussed in The Indian Express earlier, the CRS data released last week do not throw any fresh light on this debate on their own.
• That is because CRS only has death registration data, and not every death in the country is registered. The actual death data is revealed by the Sample Registration Survey (SRS) whose report for 2020 has not yet been released.
• CRS and SRS are annual exercises that complement each other. The SRS uses a door-todoor survey in a few thousand sample towns and villages to produce an estimate of the to tal number of births and deaths in the country every year. This exercise is repeated after a few months to avoid duplication.
• The CRS is a database of all births and deaths that get registered. The CRS database is therefore a subset of the SRS.
• Over the last few years, as more and more people are registering their births and deaths, the CRS numbers are converging closer to the SRS estimates.
• These two systems might still not be perfect, but they are extremely robust sources of birth and death data.
• These data are consistent with the findings of the Census and a vast array of other data-collection exercises that together make up all the demographic, social and economic indicators that everyone agrees on.
• SRS numbers from the past 15 years have established that about 83 lakh people die in India every year on an average.
• If the SRS for 2020, whenever it comes out, reveals that 90 lakh or more people died in the country in that year, instead of the expected 82 to 84 lakh, then it would suggest that the computer models used by WHO or other studies were accurate in estimating 8 lakh excess deaths due to Covid19 in India in 2020. If the SRS numbers are not close to that, it can be inferred that those many never died.