Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 07 May 2023

EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act

GS Paper -2 (International Organization)

Members of the European Parliament reached a preliminary deal to bring general-purpose artificial intelligence systems (GPAIS) like OpenAI’s popular new chatbot ChatGPT under the ambit of regulation, and agreed on a new draft of the European Union’s ambitious Artificial Intelligence Act.

Need to regulate artificial intelligence:

  1. As artificial intelligence technologies become omnipresent and their algorithms more advanced, they are capable of performing a wide variety of tasks including voice assistance, recommending music, driving cars, detecting cancer etc.
  2. Many AI tools are essentially black boxes, meaning even those who design them cannot explain what goes on inside them to generate a particular output.
  3. Many AI tools have already manifested in wrongful arrests due to AI-enabled facial recognition, discrimination and societal biases seeping into AI outputs.
  4. Chat-bots based on large language models (LLMs) like Generative Pre trained Trasformer-3 (GPT-3) and 4 can generate versatile, human-competitive and genuine looking content, which may be inaccurate and use copyrighted material created by others.
  5. Prominent industry stakeholders including Twitter CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak signed an open letter asking AI labs to stop the training of AI models more powerful than GPT-4 for six months, citing potential risks to society and humanity.

Objectives of the EU’s AI act:

  1. The AI Act, the legislation was drafted in 2021 with the aim of bringing transparency, trust, and accountability to AI and creating a framework to mitigate risks to the safety, health, fundamental rights, and democratic values of the EU.
  2. It also aims to address ethical questions and implementation challenges in various sectors ranging from healthcare and education to finance and energy.
  3. The legislation seeks to strike a balance between promoting “the uptake of AI while mitigating or preventing harms associated with certain uses of the technology”.
  4. As the EU’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) made it an industry leader in the global data protection regime, the AI law aims to “strengthen Europe’s position as a global hub of excellence in AI.

About the Artificial Intelligence Act:

  1. The Act broadly defines AI as “software that is developed with one or more of the techniques that can, for a given set of human-defined objectives, generate outputs such as content, predictions, recommendations, or decisions influencing the environments they interact with”.
  2. It identifies AI tools based on machine learning and deep learning, knowledge and logic-based approaches and statistical approaches.
  3. The Act’s central approach is the classification of AI tech based on the level of risk they pose to the “health and safety or fundamental rights” of a person. There are four risk categories in the Act— unacceptable, high, limited and minimal.
  4. The Act prohibits using technologies in the unacceptable risk category with little exception. These include the use of real-time facial and biometric identification systems in public spaces; China-like systems of social scoring of citizens by governments leading to “unjustified and disproportionate detrimental treatment”.
  5. The Act lays substantial focus on AI in the high-risk category, prescribing a number of pre-and post-market requirements for developers and users of such systems.
  6. The Act envisages establishing an EU-wide database of high-risk AI systems and setting parameters so that future technologies or those under development can be included if they meet the high-risk criteria.

Reaction of AI industry to the legislation:

  1. Some industry players have welcomed the legislation; others have warned that broad and strict rules could stifle innovation.
  2. Companies have also raised concerns about transparency requirements, fearing that it could mean divulging trade secrets.
  3. The explainability requirements in the law have caused unease as it is often not possible for even developers to explain the functioning of algorithms.
  4. Lawmakers and consumer groups, on the other hand, have criticised it for not fully addressing risks from AI systems.


Medical tourism and promoting India’s growth

GS Paper -2 (Social sector)

India hosted the ‘One Earth One Health – Advantage Healthcare India – 2023’ programme in New Delhi, in a bid to promote India as a hub for medical tourism. With 500 foreign participants from over 70 countries, the two-day summit aimed to promote the export of medical services from India and provide networking opportunities for Medical Value Travel (MVT) experts, industry stakeholders and professionals.

More about the news:

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi touted India’s traditional healthcare systems as holding a lot of answers to stress and lifestyle diseases.
  2. He highlights the Indian philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family), and India sees medical value travel and health workforce mobility as important for a healthy planet.
  3. Urging countries to invest in India’s medicine industry, India ranked tenth globally for medical tourism, as per the Medical Tourism Index 2020-2021 (MTI).

Medical tourism:

  1. It is also known as medical value travel, health tourism or global healthcare, is the practice of travelling across international borders seeking medical services, mainly elective or complex surgeries.
  2. Stakeholders in medical tourism include airlines, hospitals, wellness centres and hotels, among others.
  3. Currently, the most sought-after destination for such procedures is Canada with its favourable environment, its robust medical tourism industry and its top-quality facilities and services. While universal healthcare is available to its citizens, most government hospitals in Canada also cater to foreign patients.

India a preferred MVT destination:

  1. India is a preferred location for medical tourists due to its cost-effective healthcare services, quality diagnostic equipment and trained doctors, with many of them fluent in English.
  2. India has 1000 recognized nurses-training centres with 10,000 nurses graduating annually. India also has Ayurveda, yoga & naturopathy and other traditional systems of medicine for the treatment of various ailments, promoting wellness tourism.
  3. Medical tourism in India has been on the rise in the past decade – with most patients hailing from Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
  4. From 2015-2018, the number of foreign medical tourists steadily increased from 2.34 lakhs to 4.95 lakhs.
  5. Apart from India’s neighbours, tourists from Iraq, Oman, Maldives, Yemen, Uzbekistan and Sudan chose India for medical services due to advanced facilities, skilled doctors and low cost of treatment.

Economic growth:

  1. India earned an estimated₹1, 35,193 crore, ₹1, 54,146 crore, and ₹1, 77,874 crore in foreign exchange in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively from MVT.
  2. Niti Aayog pegged India’s MVT at $3 billion in 2015 and estimated it to grow at 15%, it was estimated to rise to $9 billion by 2020, accounting for 20% of the global market share.
  3. The Centre rolled out the ‘National Strategy and Roadmap for Medical and Wellness Tourism’ in January 2022 to provide health services to the world at large.
  4. The most sought-after treatments are cancer treatment and organ transplant surgeries, as these are 65-90% cheaper rates when compared to US, Europe, Australia or even Singapore.
  5. India has 40 healthcare facilities accredited to the Joint Commission International (JCI) and 1400 National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH)-accredited hospitals. It also accounts for 6% of the global MVT market.
  6. NITI Aayog estimates that the Indian economy could earn an additional $9 billion by 2026 from MVT and wellness tourism. Globally, the MVT market is projected to grow from $13.98 billion in 2021 to $53.51 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 21.1%.

Government’s efforts to promote MVT:

  1. The Centre has launched a ‘Heal in India’ campaign to market the nation as a wellness and medical tourism destination. Under ‘Heal in India’, thirty-seven hospitals including thirty private hospitals across 17 cities have been identified to cater to MVT.
  2. India has launched e-visas for MVT travellers from 156 nations and has also accredited AYUSH centres, formalising their status in the Indian medical industry.
  3. Centre has widened its health assurance scheme ‘PM Jan Aarogya Yojana’, covering approximately 500 million people and established 150,000 health’s & wellness centres.
  4. The Centre also plans to launch a one-stop online MVT portal, which will include mapping of all medical facilitators including government and private hospitals, booking of services, payments and post-operative services. For better visibility, the MVT portal will be integrated with India’s tourism website, Incredible India.

Challenges for the MVT sector:

  1. India’s MVT sector lacks government regulations and monitoringboth the Ministry of Health and Tourism are involved in the promotion of MVT; a separate body is needed to head MVT and coordinate between various stakeholders.
  2. The prices for medical treatments differ as per the healthcare facility, leading to confusion as to the actual price for a particular procedure.
  3. India also does not provide medical insurance portability that is, allowing coverage of medical treatments under the tourists’ existing insurance plans.
  4. India’s national medical accreditation, NABH is not known globally. Most foreign countries prefer the US-based JCI accreditation to the NABH, limiting options for MVT facilitators in India.


Maldives Coast Guard Harbour project and India ties

GS Paper -2 (Bilateral Relations)

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Maldivian counterpart, laid the foundation stone for the Coast Guard ‘Ekatha Harbour’ at Sifavaru in Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF) atoll. The development marked a significant milestone in the growing defence ties between the two countries.

More about the news:

  1. The UTF project is among the biggest Indian grant-in-aid projects in Maldives, announced during External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit in February 2021.
  2. The Coast Guard of Maldives is the armed maritime force of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
  3. India also gifted the MNDF an additional landing craft during Singh’s visit to the island nation and attended the ceremony for the commissioning of the replacement ship for the ageing Huravee.

Significance of this project:

  1. The project marked a major step in their growing defence cooperation between India and Maldives.
  2. The facility will strengthen the capability of the Maldivian Coast Guard and facilitate regional humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.
  3. This naval facility will help Maldives stop sending vessels abroad for maintenance while boosting its maritime security capabilities.
  4. It is aimed at developing a maintenance and repair hub for naval vessels and that Maldivian personnel might also be trained as part of the project.

Controversy around the project in Maldives:

  1. There were allegations that the project is cover for Indian military presence in Maldives, this led to an “India Out” campaign in the island nation backed by its opposition leader Abdulla Yameen.
  2. Anti-India campaigners in Maldives had also alleged that Indian troops were stationed in a fast patrol vessel, India recently gifted to Maldives Coast Guard, which was commissioned as CGS Huravee.

Maldives significance to India:

  1. Due to the strategic location of Maldives in the Indian Ocean makes it important for India especially, in matters of defence and security.
  2. The island nation lies close to India’s exclusive economic zone and is in a place from where it can oversee maritime trade emanating from major choke points such as Strait of Hormuz, Red Sea to Suez Canal and Mozambique.
  3. friendly and independent Maldives is beneficial to India, particularly in the backdrop of growing Chinese attempts to expand its influence in the region.

Defence cooperation and other projects:

  1. In 2020, India had gifted a Dornier aircraft to Maldives and in 2019 handed over a patrol vessel. Last year, India had also given a coastal radar system to Male.
  2. Last year, Modi had announced that India will provide 24 vehicles and a naval boat and will build police facilities on 61 islands of the country.
  3. With the on-going defence cooperation between the two neighbours, including joint exercises and exchanges of visits by military officials, both countries share best practices and expertise in areas such as counterterrorism, disaster management, cyber-security and maritime security.

Other areas of cooperation:

  1. Both countries are working closely to address challenges, including those on maritime security, terrorism, radicalisation, piracy, trafficking, organised crime and natural disasters.
  2. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Soli kick-started the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP)—a $500 million project financed by India—that would comprise a 6.74 km bridge and the causeway link connecting capital Male with the neighbouring islands.
  3. Both sides had signed a cyber-security pact aimed at strengthening ties to tackle transnational crimes and terrorism in the Indian Ocean region.

Way Forward:

The handing over of these vessels are in line with India’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) that seeks to work together with and jointly develop the capabilities of friends and partners for a safe, secure, prosperous and stable Indian Ocean Region.


Government Programme for Non-Communicable Diseases Renamed

GS Paper - 3 (Health and diseases)

The addition of many new diseases or disease-groups and new health initiatives The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has also decided to rename the portal which enables population enumeration, risk assessment, and screening for five common NCDs, including hypertension, diabetes, and oral, breast and cervical cancers of the population aged above 30 years.

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

  1. NCDs are also known as chronic diseases, which are not caused by infectious agents and are not transmissible from person to person.
  2. NCDs are long-lasting and progress slowly, typically taking years to manifest symptoms.These diseases are often caused by modifiable risk factors such as unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use, and environmental factors.
  3. NCDs are a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, accounting for around 70% of all deaths globally.

Burden of NCDs in India

  1. The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative in 2017’ by the ICMR estimated that the proportion of deaths due to NCDs in India has increased from 37.9% in 1990 to 61.8% in 2016.
  2. The four major NCDs are:Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), Cancers, Chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) andDiabetes.
  3. Under NPCDCS, 677 NCD district-level clinics187 District Cardiac Care Units266 District Day Care Centres and 5,392 NCD Community Health Centre-level clinics have been set up.

Renaming of NCDs

  1. The Ministry said that since there has been an addition of diseases to the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS), such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, chronic kidney disease etc.,“there is a need that the Scheme in its present form may subsume all types of NCDs under a new name”. 
  2. MoHFW has decided to rename ‘NPCDCS’ as ‘National Programme for Prevention & Control of Non-Communicable Diseases [NP-NCD]’,” the Ministry noted.
  3. NPCDCS is being implemented under the National Health Mission (NHM) across the country.

Mitigation NCD burden

  1. Promote healthy lifestyle: Encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as regular physical activitybalanced and nutritious diet, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and getting enough sleep.
  2. Increase awareness and education: Increase awareness among the public about the risk factors of NCDs and educate them about ways to prevent these diseases.
  3. Improve healthcare infrastructure: Increase access to healthcare facilities, especially in rural and remote areas, to ensure early detection, treatment, and management of NCDs.
  4. Increase research and innovation: Increase research and innovation in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of NCDs to develop new and effective interventions.

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