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Using Aadhaar in Welfare Schemes

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Using Aadhaar in Welfare Schemes

 

Why in the News?

Recently, the international credit rating agency Moody’s Investor Service released a report, ‘Decentralised Finance and Digital Assets’, which pointed out security and privacy vulnerabilities posed by centralised ID systems like Aadhaar.

  • The report advocated for decentralised digital identity systems instead of centralised biometric systems like India’s Aadhaar.
  • It has referred that Aadhar carried the burden of establishing authorisation and concerns about biometric reliability.

How has India reacted?

The govt has strongly refuted the claims of the report stating that,

  • Aadhaar is “the most trusted digital ID in the world”
  • The authors of the report were unaware that seeding of Aadhaar in the MGNREGS database and payment to workers is by direct transfer to bank accounts and does not require authentication using their biometrics.

Rationale for the use of Aadhaar:

  1. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) issues Aadhaar, a unique identification number given to all Indian residents.
  2. For enrolment of Aadhaar certain unique identifiers of individuals are collected that includes:
    1. Demographic details of individuals
    2. Biometric fingerprints
    3. Iris scans 
  3. The collected details are stored in the Aadhaar database.
  4. The objectives of introducing Aadhaar:
    1. To ensure that all residents have a unique ID.
    2. To curb corruption in accessing welfare programmes by eliminating “ghost” and “fake” individuals.
  • Eg: In accessing rations under the Public Distribution System (PDS), an individual is called a ‘ghost’ if they access rations in the name of a dead person, and a ‘fake’ if they access rations even though they are not officially entitled to it.
  • With the linkage of Aadhar with ration card, when an individual tries to access rations at a ration shop using biometrics or iris scans, it will be sent to Aadhaar database for authentication.
  • This has resulted in substantial savings in welfare schemes through the usage of Aadhaar.
    1. To facilitate several government-to-citizen cash transfer programmes.

What is Aadhaar’s role in cash withdrawals?

  1. Aadhar is used for directing payments in MGNREGA through at least three steps:
    1. Aadhaar number of the worker must be linked to her job card.
    2. The Aadhaar must also be linked to her bank account.
    3. Aadhaar number must be linked correctly through her bank branch.
  2. National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), acts as a clearing house of Aadhaar-based payments.
  3. Individuals can withdraw money from their Aadhaar-linked bank account from private banking kiosks which uses their point of sale (PoS) machines to authenticate individuals using their biometrics. This is called Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS).

Concerns associated with the use of Aadhaar:

  1. Issue of corruption in the form of Quantity fraud.
  • For instance, Aadhaar cannot detect or prevent a fraud in which the ration card holder with an entitlement of 35 kg of rice is given only gives 30 kg by the dealer.
  1. Need for authentication has led to multiple trips to ration shops by the people, as there is no guarantee that the authentication will work.
  2. Hurdles in meeting the biometric authentication requirements such as,
    1. Lack of reliable internet
    2. Fading fingerprints among daily wage workers
    3. Lack of phone connectivity to get an OTP etc. has led to denials
    4. Older women, people with disabilities, or those living in remote areas are more prone to hardships and exclusions.
  3. The CAG report of 2022 states that UIDAI did not have a system to analyse the factors leading to authentication errors.
  4. Misdirected payments through Aadhaar which happens when one person’s Aadhaar number gets linked to somebody else’s bank account.
  • For instance, Aadhaar payments of people got redirected to Airtel wallets.
  1. Security concerns:
    1. Banking correspondents using the AePS operate without any accountability framework. 
    2. Some of them ask individuals to biometrically authenticate multiple times in AePS and money from workers’ accounts have been withdrawn or signed up for government insurance programmes without their knowledge.
    3. For instance, the ₹10 crore scholarship scam in Jharkhand from 2020.

NASA’s asteroid-hunting spacecraft OSIRIS-Rex

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NASA’s asteroid-hunting spacecraft OSIRIS-Rex

 

Why in the News?

Recently, NASA’s asteroid-hunting spacecraft OSIRIS-REx (Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer) collected samples from asteroid 101955 Bennu and landed in the Utah desert. 

What was OSIRIS-REx’s mission?

  1. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched in 2016.
  2. It completed a series of complex manoeuvres to propel itself into orbit around Bennu in 2018.
  3. The OSIRIS-Rex’s probe employed touch-and-go Sample Acquisition Mechanism which used a blast of nitrogen gas to avoid contaminating the debris into the spacecraft’s sample collection chamber. 
  4. The spacecraft released its sample capsule above our planet’s atmosphere recently and fired its engines to escape the earth’s gravity to begin a new journey to study another asteroid, Apophis, in 2029.

Asteroid Bennu:

  1. The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter contains infinite no. of space rocks, ranging from pebbles to the 800-km-wide Ceres.
  2. Some of the orbits of these asteroids brings them closer to Earth called as near-earth asteroids (NEA) which may turn out to be a threat due to collision on earth someday.
  3. Even if these rocks don’t directly threaten the earth, planetary gravitation can cause their paths to change with each orbit.
  4. Certain asteroids wider than a kilometre can stray into a collision course with the earth, which can cause severe damage if it collides on earth. This has pushed space agencies to draft plans to deflect them away or destroy them altogether.
  5. The regolith brought from Bennu can contain organic molecules that help find how life on earth began.

Can asteroids be mined?

  1. Plans to study asteroids is to study planetary security and the origins of life on the earth.
  2. Apart from those, it is studied for deciphering the possibility of mining them.
  3.  Previous studies:
    1. NASA’s Galileo (launched in 1989) and NEAR Shoemaker (1996) and Japan’s Hayabusa 1 (2003) and Hayabusa 2 (2014) missions have found that asteroids are solidified debris from supernovae, and contain same matter as the solar system such as
      1. dust, rocks, water ice
      2. an alloy of iron, nickel and cobalt, a sort of natural steel.
    2. These materials can be extracted from asteroids,
    3. Water present in the form of permafrost or saturated minerals as a resource in space can be extracted.

Asia’s disputed waters

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Asia’s disputed waters

Why in the News?

Recently, Philippines removed barriers placed by Chinese vessels at the entrance to a lagoon off the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea (SCS).

  • The Chinese Coast Guard ships placed a 30om long barrier to prevent the entry of boats from the Philippines.
  • This became the latest in long-running tensions in the South China Sea.

Significance of SCS:

  1. The South China Sea is a strategic body of water adjoining the Western Pacific.
  2. The countries that open to the sea include China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and Philippines.
  3. Philippines refers to the waters off its coast as the West Philippine Sea. 
  4. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) states that about $3.37 trillion worth of trade passed through the SCS in 2016.
    1. 64% of Chinese trade passes through the sea, the highest for any country.
    2. Only 14% of U.S. trade passes through it.
  5. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reported that 80% of global trade by volume and 70% by value is transported by sea, of which one-third of global shipping passes through SCS.

Tensions In SCS and ramifications in the Indo-Pacific region

  1. UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) states that, every state “has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles” and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) up to 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline.
  2. The SCS dispute involves multiple claims to the land features such as islands and reefs and associated territorial waters. 
    1. Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reports that nearly 70 disputed reefs and islets are under contestation.
    2. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan have built more than 90 outposts on these disputed features. 
    3. Taiwan has one outpost in the Spratlys on Itu Aba island, the largest natural feature in the Spratly Island. 
  3. China’s activities:
    1. It has 20 outposts in the Paracel Islands and 7 in the Spratly Island.
    2. It has exerted control of the Scarborough Shoal through a constant Coast Guard presence since 2012.
    3. China indulged in activities of dredging and artificial island-building in the Spratlys, creating 3,200 acres of new land, along with a substantial expansion of its presence in the Paracels.

Diplomacy and arbitration:

  1. Given the complexity of the disputes and the multiple claimants mostly members of ASEAN, the grouping has focused on drafting a Code of Conduct (CoC).
    1. A Declaration on the Conduct of parties (DoC) was adopted in 2002 by the foreign Ministers of ASEAN and China for affirming “commitments to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS”. 
    2. The DoC also aimed at paving the way to a CoC.
  2. Case at Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA):
    1. Philippines initiated arbitral proceedings against China under UNCLOS for its violation, in 2013.
    2. China refused to participate, deeming the PCA as illegal.
    3. China claims in SCS is via “nine dash line”, the line that claims all of the South China Sea’s islands and features by China and stated that its claims are based on “historical rights” to the “waters and islands”.
    4. The PCA ruling:
      1. China’s claims were inconsistent with UNCLOS, as its historic rights to resources in the waters of the SCS extinguished due to its incompatibility with the EEZ provided for in the convention.
      2. There is no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.
      3. Under UNCLOS, “islands generate an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles and a continental shelf” but “rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf”.
      4. China rejected the ruling and issued a white paper claiming China’s sovereignty and relevant rights established throughout its history.

Tuberculosis (TB)

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Tuberculosis (TB)

 

Why in the News?

Recent studies have indicated that nutritional deficiency has led to an increase in TB cases in India, which has been compounded by drug shortages recently.

  • Shortage of Rifampicin, a medicine used for treating drug sensitive TB was not available in many parts of India since last year.
  • Since June 2023, three important medicines used for treating drug resistant TB — Linezolid, Clofazimine, and Cycloserine have faced a stock out.

TB and Nutritional deficit:

  1. Severe undernutrition is one of the contributing causes of deaths in TB patients.
  2. Undernutrition as a risk factor accounts for over 40% of new TB cases every year.

Key highlights of the study:

  1. Nutritional support led to 39% reduction in all forms TB disease (pulmonary and extra-pulmonary) and 48% reduction in microbiologically confirmed pulmonary TB.
  2. Early weight gain in the first two months was associated with 60% lower risk of TB mortality.
  3. Treatment w successful in 94% of TB patients and only 4% of mortality was reported during the trial period.

 

About:

Tuberculosis:

  1. An infectious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that commonly affect the lungs.
  2. Mode of transmission: A communicable disease transmitted from person to person via droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the active respiratory disease.
  3. Tuberculosis is preventable and curable.
  4. Those who are infected but not (yet) ill with the disease cannot transmit it.
  5. TB disease is usually treated with antibiotics and can be fatal without treatment.
  6. Symptoms: prolonged cough, chest pain, weakness, fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats.

Incidence if TB cases globally and in India:

  1. Global TB Report 2021: The estimated mortality rate among all forms of TB was 37 per 100,000 population in 2020.
  2. India has the highest burden of TB with two deaths occuring every three minutes from tuberculosis (TB).
  3. TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19 (above HIV and AIDS).
  4. The Covid-19 pandemic led to setbacks in the fight against TB in decades of gain achieved.
  5. Of the total number of people who develop TB each year, about 90% are adults, with more cases among men than women

Efforts taken so far:

  1. National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP)
    • Free of cost laboratory services to patients attending public health facilities and those referred from the private sector.
    • Special campaign to identify Active Case finding among risk groups: diabetes, chronic kidney and liver disease, patients on immuno-suppressants, etc.,