Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 04 August 2023

Report on ‘sub-categorisation’ of OBCs

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The long awaited report of a commission set up to examine the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) was submitted to President Droupadi Murmu. The four-member commission headed by Justice G Rohini, a retired Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, was appointed on 2 October 2017, and received as many as 13 extensions to its tenure.

Why was this Commission set up?

  • The commission was set up in recognition of the perceived distortions in the affirmative action policy, which was seen as leading to a situation in which a few castes cornered the bulk of benefits available under the 27% quota for OBCs, and tasked with suggesting corrective actions.
  • The report of the commission is widely expected to be politically sensitive and the contents of the report have not been made public as yet.

What is the need for sub-categorisation of OBCs?

  • OBCs get 27% reservation in central government jobs and admission to educational institutions.
  • There are more than 2,600 entries in the Central List of OBCs, but over the years, a perception has taken root that only a few affluent communities among them have benefited from the quota.
  • Therefore, there is an argument that a “sub-categorisation” of OBCs — quotas within the 27% quota — is needed in order to ensure “equitable distribution” of the benefits of reservation.
  • Even as the Justice Rohini Commission was examining the matter, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in August 2020 intervened in the sub-categorisation debate, ruling that the 2005 decision of another five-judge Bench in ‘E V Chinnaiah vs State of Andhra Pradesh’ must be revisited.
  • Chinnaiah’ had held that no special sub-quota can be introduced within the quota for SCs and STs for the benefit of castes or tribes that were more backward than the others on these lists.
  • The 2020 verdict of the SC referring ‘Chinnaiah’ to a larger Bench was passed in ‘State of Punjab vs Davinder Singh’ in which the court examined the validity of a 2006 Punjab law that created sub-classification within the SCs, and sought to reserve half the SC quota for certain identified castes.

The commission’s brief was originally to:

  • Examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List.
  • Work out the mechanismcriterianorms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs.
  • Take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.
  • It was set up with tenure of 12 weeks ending 3 January 2018, but was given repeated extensions.
  • On 30 July 2019, the commission wrote to the government that it had “noted several ambiguities in the list… [and] is of the opinion that these have to be clarified/ rectified before the sub-categorised central list is prepared”.
  • Thus, on 22 January 2020, a fourth item was added to the terms of reference: “To study the various entries in the Central List of OBCs and recommend correction of any repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription.”


CERT-In flagged Akira ransomware

GS Paper - 3 (ICT)

The central government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) issued an advisory flagging the emergence of a new ransomware called Akira. The Gurgaon police have also raised an alert about Akira.

What is Ransomware?

  • Ransomware is essentially a kind of malware — software used to gain unauthorised access to systems to steal data. This data can then be used by cyber criminals to demand a ransom.
  • Akira targets computer systems that run on Windows and Linux operating systems and is known to spread laterally across networks.
  • According to the advisory issued by the government, Akira steals personal dataencrypts it, and later extorts money from the victims.
  • In case a user refuses to pay, the ransomware actors threaten to release their data on the dark web.

What is Akira?

  • Akira is a new family of ransomware that was used for cyber attacks in the US and Canada in March this year.
  • This is different from the Akira ransomware that was flagged by Microsoft Defender Antivirus in 2017. In the US, the ransomware was reported to actively target several organisations and expose their sensitive data.
  • Akira uses a double-extortion technique to exfiltrate and encrypt data to increase the chances of extracting money from its victims.
  • It was first flagged in April, and a majority of its victims are from the US. The reason you are hearing about Akira right now is because of the number of organisations that it has impacted in the US and the latest advisory from the government.

How is Akira different from other ransomware?

  • Their routine includes exfiltrating data from hacked networks, then triggering encryption and posting a ransom demand.
  • Reportedly, once the gang is convinced that it has stolen enough data to extort money from the victim, they deploy Akira’s payload.
  • They Delete Windows Shadow Volume copies (a technology by Microsoft Windows that creates backup copies) from the devices using a PowerShell command: essential text-based instructions used to perform tasks, and manage systems, files, and settings.
  • After using the PowerShell command, the ransomware proceeds to encrypt a wide range of data file types and adds ‘.akira’ extension to them.


The crypto project WorldCoin

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

new cryptocurrency project called WorldCoin, from OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, has claimed over 2 million sign-ups across the world after its official launch on 24 July 2023. OpenAi was the company behind the AI chatbot ChatGPT.

What differentiates WorldCoin from many existing cryptocurrencies?

  • It is its use of biometrics. Its unique method of sign-up, involving scanning of irises, has rung alarm bells in countries such as FranceGermany and Kenya.
  • India also has at least 17 sign-up locations – mostly at Delhi Metro stations in the NCR region and a few in Bengaluru. In comparison, the United States has 10 locations and Japan has three locations, according to the WorldCoin website.

What is WorldCoin?

  • The Worldcoin protocol is intended to be the world’s largest identity and financial public network, open to everyone regardless of their country, background or economic status.
  • WorldCoin wants to offer users an account that only “real humans” can get, through what it calls a “World ID”.
  • For this, a customer has to sign up and do in-person eyes scan at particular locations, where their irises would be scanned through a ball-like object called an ‘orb’.
  • Once the orb’s iris scan verifies the person is a real human, it creates a World ID for them.
  • The reasoning given here is that biometric data would help differentiate between humans and Artificial Intelligence systems and prevent duplication of IDs from the same person.
  • It can then be used as an ID in a variety of everyday applications – such as a cryptocurrency wallet – without revealing the user’s identity.
  • The project has three aspects: a World ID or a digital identity for “proving an individual’s unique personhood,” a Worldcoin token (WLD) that is its cryptocurrency, and a World App that enables “payment, purchases and transfers globally using digital assets and traditional currencies.”
  • It says that creating a World ID (through the orb scanning) is not essential for accessing the app or tokens. But it provides certain incentives for doing so.

Who owns WorldCoin?

  • San Francisco and Berlin-based company Tools for Humanity is behind WorldCoin.  Altman is its Co-Founder and Alex Blania is its Co-Founder and CEO.
  • The company’s website simply states that it is a technology company that was built to ensure a “more just economic system”, and re-directs visitors to the WorldCoin website.
  • The Worldcoin can help address how the economy will be reshaped by generative AI technology.