Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 18 May 2023

ASTR to detect phone frauds

GS Paper -3 (Technology)

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has developed an artificial-intelligence-based facial recognition tool that it claims has the capability of running checks on subscriber databases of telecom operators to deduce whether it contains multiple connections associated with the same person.

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The DoT claims the tool called Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition powered Solution for Telecom SIM Subscriber Verification (ASTR) can potentially bring down cyber frauds by detecting and blocking possible fraudulent mobile connections.

Origins of ASTR:

  • In 2012, DoT had issued an order to all telecom operators that they would have to share their subscriber database including users’ pictures with the department.
  • These images constitute the core database on which authorities are running their facial recognition algorithm using ASTR.
  • The ASTR project was conceptualised and designed between April 2021 and July 2021 by the DoT’s unit in Haryana.

Running test of the project:

pilot project was launched in Haryana’s Mewat region to test ASTR’s feasibility.Before the ASTR pilot project, there were approximately 16.69 lakh SIMs in Mewat, of which close to 5 lakh SIMs across all telecom operators were detected to be fraudulent.

Working mechanism of ASTR:

  • According to a case study, human faces in subscribers’ images are encoded using convolutional neural network (CNN) models in order to account for the tilt and angle of the face, opaqueness and dark colour of the images.
  • After that, a face comparison is carried out for each face against all faces in the database, and similar faces are grouped under one directory.
  • Two faces are concluded to be identical by ASTR if they match to the extent of at least 97.5 per cent.
  • ASTR is capable of detecting all SIMs against a suspected face in less than 10 seconds from a database of 1 crore images.
  • The DoT allows an individual to take nine legitimate mobile phone connections using a single identity proof.

Process after identification with ASTR:

  • Once the DoT has determined that a set of numbers have been obtained by people through fraudulent means, it shares a list of those connections with telecom operators to block.
  • According to the Ministry of Communication, an analysis of more than 87 crore mobile connections was carried out using ASTR in the first phase, where more than 40 lakh cases of people using a single photograph to obtain mobile connections were detected.
  • After “due verification”, more than 36 lakh connections were discontinued by telecom operators.

Making agri commodity value chains sustainable

GS Paper -3 (Economy)

India has a long history of producing agricultural commodities. Its scale and diversity have gone from strength to strength over the last three decades, such that the share of high-value agricultural commodities in the total GDP of the agricultural sector has significantly expanded.

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  • The growth has coincided with ensuring sustainability in commodity value chains.
  • This is due to the sector's contribution to environmental degradation, including through carbon emissions across the whole supply chain and the injudicious use of water and chemicals, which also threaten the long-term viability of production.

Commodities of global significance:

  • From a global sustainability viewpoint, agricultural commodities are often defined based on the level of their orientation towards international demand and supply in the form of exports.
  • Few key commodities of global significance, like soybean, cocoa, coffee, tea, rubber, palm oil, and cotton.
  • They are critically related to global sustainability challenges and currently drive significant environmental and climatic risks, including deforestation, biodiversity loss, freshwater depletion, and soil degradation.

India’s position:

  • India, one of the anchors of global agricultural commodity trades both as major consumer and producer.
  • India needs to include commodities that are actively importedsuch as oilseeds; whose production is both for domestic and international markets (fruits and vegetables); and which get significant attention within the policy and action spaces (rice and cotton).
  • Interventions in the production, trade and consumption of these commodities is likely to drive transformational impacts on environmental sustainability across the sector.

Challenges to sustainability:

  • Nudges for commodities oriented towards foreign markets may often be determined by India’s export policies or consumer preferences and regulations of sourcing destinations. For example, the expansion of cold-storage facilities to make export-oriented commodities more competitive in global markets is expected to increase energy demand.
  • The need to adopt better land-use strategiesdetermined by the nature of the production process, including the type of field preparation, the quality of seeds, and the amount and nature of inputs.
  • Strong governance mechanisms and policies support value chains, repurposing such support to improve production, sourcing, and consumption by targeting healthy and natural solutions can help have transformational impacts in commodity value chains.
  • The large number of people that depend on these value chains for sustenance, issues with working conditions and labour rights are depressingly common in commodity value chains in India.

Way Forward:

  • There are ways through which concerted and coordinated action can have a positive impact on commodity value chains.
  • There is need to combine with the right kind of support systems while keeping equity and justice in mind, agricultural commodity value chains can deliver for India’s people and its environment.


Production Linked Incentive Scheme 2.0

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Hon'ble Prime Minister approved the Production Linked Incentive Scheme 2.0 for IT Hardware with a budgetary outlay Rs. 17,000 crore.


  • Electronics manufacturing in India has witnessed consistent growth with 17% CAGR in the last 8 years. This year it crossed a major benchmark in production – 105 billion USD (about Rs 9 lakh crore)
  • India has become the world’s second largest manufacturer of mobile phones. Exports of mobile phones crossed a major milestone of 11 billion USD this year (about Rs 90 thousand crore)
  • The global electronics manufacturing ecosystem is coming to India, and India is emerging as a major electronics manufacturing country
  • Building on the success of Production Linked Incentive scheme (PLI) for mobile phones, the Union Cabinet approved PLI Scheme 2.0 for IT hardware

Salient features of the PLI 2.0 Scheme:

  • PLI Scheme 2.0 for IT hardware covers laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs, servers and ultra small form factor devices
  • The budgetary outlay of the scheme is Rs. 17,000 crores
  • The tenure of this scheme is 6 years

Significance Of the PLI Scheme:

  • India is emerging as a trusted supply chain partner for all global majors. Large IT hardware companies have shown keen interest in establishing manufacturing facilities in India.
  • This is further supported by a strong IT services industry having good demand within the country.
  • Most majors would like to supply domestic markets within India from a facility situated in India as well as make India an export hub.
  • It will create more than two lakh employment opportunities including 75 thousand direct employment.


  • The government in February 2021 approved the PLI scheme for IT hardware, covering the production of laptops, tablets, All-in-One PCs and servers with an outlay of Rs 7,350 crore.
  • PLI Scheme, launched in April 2020 with a focus on mobile phone production, has given a massive boost to electronics manufacturing in the country.India has become the world’s second-largest manufacturer of mobile phones.

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