Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 03 August 2023

UIDAI is using AI to tackle payment frauds

GS Paper - 3 (ITC)

As more frauds related to the Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS) come to the fore, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), has turned to artificial intelligence-based systems in a bid to limit the cases — this includes developing technologies around fingerprinting and facial recognition. The UIDAI has rolled out an in-house Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning technology-based Finger Minutiae Record – Finger Image Record (FMR-FIR) modality which is able to check the liveness of a fingerprint to detect the use of cloned fingerprint during the authentication process.

How does the Aadhaar fingerprint technology work?

  • The technology was rolled out in February this year and uses a combination of both finger minutiae and finger image to check the liveness of the fingerprint captured.
  • The measure was implemented after instances of people creating fake fingerprints using silicone to syphon off money from unsuspecting individuals’ bank accounts were reported.
  • The problem gets compounded on account of the fact that a large part of the AePS user base is in rural areas.
  • In effect, the AI-based technology is able to identify whether the fingerprint is from a real, or ‘live’ finger, or a cloned one.

Payment frauds on the rise

  • According to the Home Ministry, in the financial year 2020-21, 2.62 lakhs financial crimes, such as money launderingbriberycorruption and different kinds of frauds, were reported. The number jumped to 6.94 lakhs in 2022, a report, released by the Standing Committee on Finance — headed by BJP MP Jayant Sinha — said.
  • Citing data it received from the supervised entities of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the committee noted that payment-related frauds are on the rise in India – In FY21, the volume of such frauds was a little over 700,000, which by FY23, increased to close to 20 million.
  • According to the information submitted to it by the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), in the year 2022, out of 6,94,424 complaints related to financial frauds only in 2.6 per cent of cases an FIR was registered.
  • The details shared with Parliament revealed that between November 2021 and March 2023, more than 2,000 complaints related to AePS were received by the offices of the RBI’s ombudsman.

New IPCC assessment cycle begins

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded its elections, marking the beginning of the seventh assessment cycle. The elections commenced, during the IPCC’S 59th session held in Nairobi, Kenya. In the process, the body elected James Skea, professor of sustainable energy at Imperial College, London, as the new IPCC Chair.

About IPCC

  • It was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • The IPCC produces comprehensive assessment reports (ARs) that are considered the most authoritative source of scientific knowledge on climate change.
  • So far, it has released six ARs — the final synthesis report of the sixth AR came out in March 2023 — and with the latest elections, the body has initiated a new cycle of producing the next AR.

What does the IPCC Chair do?

  • The primary role of the IPCC Chair is to oversee the reports which come out in each assessment cycle.
  • Together with the IPCC Bureau, the Chair also sets the research agenda, which could include the release of additional special reports on specific topics.
  • The Chair is required to possess a rare combination of scientific and diplomatic skills, which are needed to get the approvals of governments on the report summaries.
  • The tenure of the Chair usually lasts five to seven years, depending on the duration of the assessment cycle, and they can serve up to two terms only — India’s RK Pachauri remains the only person till now to serve two terms as the Chair. He headed the fourth and fifth assessment cycles of the IPCC, between 2002 and 2015.

What are the IPCC assessment cycles?

  • So far, the IPCC has had six assessment cycles, during which it released six comprehensive assessment reports.
  • In each of these cycles, the body also produced several special reports on specific topics. Not only this, IPCC also publishes methodology reports during these cycles, in which it provides guidelines for governments to estimate their greenhouse gas emissions and removals.
  • Kickstarter in 2015, the sixth assessment cycle, the most recent one, was concluded in March this year with the release of the synthesis report — a relatively non-technical summary of the previous report that came out during the cycle.
  • The previous reports included reports put out by the three working groups, including Working Group I, which aims at assessing the physical scientific basis of the climate system and climate changeWorking Group II, which examines the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change and its consequences, and the Working Group III, which focuses on climate change mitigationassessing methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere
  • Notably, the IPCC doesn’t conduct its research, but asks the authors to “assess the thousands of scientific papers published each year to provide a comprehensive summary of what is known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks”.

ISRO rocket debris on Australian shore

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

large object found on the shores of western Australia a couple of weeks ago has been confirmed to be the debris of an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) rocket, the Australian Space Agency said. ISRO has agreed with the assessment, saying the debris could be from one of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rockets. The ISRO said the agency was still to decide on the future course of action.

Are such incidents normal?

  • Junk from space objects falling to the earth are not unheard of. Most such incidents involve relatively small fragments from rockets that survive the friction of the atmosphere.
  • These usually do not make big news, also most of the time the space junk falls into oceans thus posing little danger to human populations.
  • But there have been a few highly publicised falls as well. In recent times, a large chunk of a 25-tonne Chinese rocket fell into the Indian Ocean in May 2021.
  • The most famous such case remains that of the Skylab space station, a predecessor to the currently operational International Space Station, which disintegrated in 1979.
  • Large chunks from this disintegration fell into the Indian Ocean, some of them falling on land in Western Australia.

Isn’t it dangerous?

  • The threat to life and property from falling space junk is not negligible. Even when falling into the oceans, which is more likely since 70 per cent of the earth’s surface is ocean, large objects can be a threat to marine life, and a source of pollution.
  • However, there are no recorded incidents of these falling objects causing any appreciable damage anywhere on the earth. When they have dropped over land, so far, it has been over uninhabited areas.

What happens if these objects cause damage?

  • There are international regulations governing space debris, which include junk falling back on the earth.
  • Most space-faring countries are signatories to the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.
  • This convention is one of the several international agreements that complement the Outer Space Treaty, the overarching framework guiding the behaviour of countries in space.
  • The Liability Convention deals mainly with damage caused by space objects to other space assets, but it also applies to damage caused by falling objects on earth.
  • The Convention makes the launching country “absolutely liable” to pay compensation for any damage caused by its space object on the earth or to a flight in air. The country where the junk falls can stake a claim for compensation if it has been damaged by the falling object.
  • In the current case, if the PSLV junk had caused any damage in Australia, India could have been liable to pay compensation, even if the object fell into the ocean and was then swept to the shores.
  • The amount of compensation is to be decided “in accordance with international law and the principles of justice and equity”.
  • This provision of the Convention has resulted in compensation payment only once so far — when Canada sought damages from the then Soviet Union, for a satellite with radioactive substance that fell into an uninhabited region in its northern territory in 1978. The Soviet Union is reported to have paid 3 million Canadian dollars.

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