Current Affairs August 25

Facial recognition technology

To empower the Indian police with information technology, India approved implementation of the National Automated Facial Recognition System (NAFRS) to “facilitate investigation of crime and detection of criminals” in a quick and timely manner.

On its implementation, it will function as a national-level search platform that will use facial recognition technology: to facilitate investigation of crime or for identifying a person of interest (e.g., a criminal) regardless of face mask, makeup, plastic surgery, beard or hair extension

The technology is absolutely intrusive: computer algorithms map unique facial-landmarks (biometric data) such as shape of the cheekbones, contours of the lips, distance from forehead to chin, and convert these into a numerical code — termed a faceprint.

Thus, for the purposes of ‘verification’ or ‘identification’, the system compares the faceprint generated with a large existing database of faceprints (typically available to law enforcement agencies) through a database on driver’s licence or police mugshots).

But the real problem is that facial recognition does not return a definitive result — it ‘identifies’ or ‘verifies’ only in probabilities (e.g., a 70% likelihood that the person shown on an image is the same person on a watch list).

As NAFRS will collect, process, and store sensitive private information: facial biometrics for long periods; if not permanently — it will impact the right to privacy.

The Constitution of India does not explicitly mention the right to privacy. However, a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017) recognised it as a precious fundamental right

The Supreme Court, in the K.S. Puttaswamy judgment provided a three-fold requirement (which was reiterated in Anuradha Bhasin while examining denial of the ‘right to Internet’ to the people of Kashmir) to safeguard against any arbitrary state action.

Accordingly, any encroachment on the right to privacy requires–

— The existence of ‘law’ (to satisfy legality of action);

–There must exist a ‘need’, in terms of a ‘legitimate state interest’; and,

–The measure adopted must be ‘proportionate’ (there should be a rational nexus between the means adopted and the objective pursued)

–And it should be ‘least intrusive.’


If facial recognition technology is needed to tackle modern-day criminality in India, without accountability and oversight, facial recognition technology has strong potential for misuse and abuse.

 It is important to impose a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology till we enact a strong and meaningful data protection law, in addition to statutory authorisation of NAFRS and guidelines for deployment


Arctic cooperation

It is tempting to view the current geopolitics of the Arctic through the lenses of the ‘great power competition’ and inevitable conflict of interests.

This is mainly about the growing tensions between North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and Russia. There are eight countries that have direct access to the Arctic resources, i.e., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.

In 2013, six Observers joined the Council, including China, Japan, India, Italy, South Korea, and Singapore, bringing their total number to 13.

By the end of the Cold War, the geopolitical tensions and security concerns in the Arctic were almost forgotten.

The perceived ‘harmony’ was broken in 2007, when the Russian explorers planted their flag on the seabed 4,200m (13,779ft) below the North Pole to articulate Moscow’s claims in the Arctic

The regional tension increased after the Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2014.

Consequently, relations between the U.S. and Russia reached their lowest point again.

Russia’s intention to re-establish the military might of its Northern Fleet also creates the security concerns and features prominently in the Norwegian foreign policy.

On the other hand, some Russian military experts believe that the Barents Sea can serve as the launching area for a western seaborne attack

Why need for cooperation?

The Arctic region also bears the brunt of climate change.

Keeping in mind the existential threats, the environmental challenges should be an absolute priority for all players in the Arctic region.

These considerations should outweigh military and economic issues and unite countries for the sake of eliminating the potential (and real) dangers attributed to climate change.

There should be concerted efforts to minimise the adverse effects on the fragile Arctic ecosystem

The geopolitical vs strategic

The environmental transformation and rapid ice melting have also opened up new opportunities in the region, which includes trans-Arctic shipping routes.

These opportunities have inevitably attracted all stakeholders in the region, both the Arctic and non-Arctic states.

China, for example, with its self-proclaimed status of a ‘near Arctic state’, has been actively engaged in various projects across the region.

The importance of the Arctic region for China mostly stems from its energy security issues and the need to diversify shipping lanes.

Transport routes from China to Europe through the Arctic are not only much shorter but also free from the challenges associated with the Malacca Strait and South China Sea.


Sero survey

A sero-survey involves testing of blood serum of a group of individuals and this will be used to monitor trends in prevalence of the novel coronavirus, or SARS-COV-2, infection at the district level.

The surveillance will be conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Centre for Disease Control in collaboration with key stakeholders and state health departments.

After releasing the fourth sero survey results, the ICMR recommended —

—Acceleration of vaccination of the vulnerable population, especially yet-to-be-vaccinated health staff;

–Tracking COVID-19 infection in SARI cases in hospitals;

–And identifying clusters of current cases and cases of clinical severity for genome sequencing which would help track mutations of the virus

The second use of sero surveys is to find out whether community transmission has taken place or not

The third use of sero surveys is to assess how far or close we are to herd immunity


Recognition of Taliban

The Taliban’s horrific takeover of Afghanistan has triggered a new debate in international law on the issue of recognising an entity that claims to be the new government of a state.

Recognition of governments under international law is vital for several reasons.

It is important to know who the governing authority of the state is, who has the responsibility for effectually carrying out domestic and international legal obligations ranging from pursuing diplomatic relations to the protection of human rights, and so on.

Government vs state

“a change in government, however accomplished, does not affect the identity of the State itself.”

Thus, in the current debate, the issue is not about the recognition of Afghanistan, whose legal personality remains intact.

Whether countries recognise the Taliban regime or not will depend on their political considerations and geo-strategic interest

The test used in international law to make a decision about the recognition of a new government is that of ‘effectiveness’.

According to this principle, to recognise a government means to determine whether it effectively controls the state it claims to govern.

A doctrine competing with the effective control theory is that of democratic legitimacy.

According to this doctrine, recognition of a government also depends on whether it is the legitimate representative of the people it claims to govern.

Options for India

it will have to find a way to engage with the Taliban given India’s huge investments in Afghanistan and stakes in the South Asian region.

India should adopt a clear policy that it will deal with the Taliban simply because it is the de facto government, not because it is a legitimate one.

This principle should be followed for bilateral relations and also for multilateral dealings such as within the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation


Sportsperson  promoted  as government employee


After winning seven medals at the Tokyo Olympics, the Indian contingent was felicitated .

They were also given monetary awards by various State governments, sports bodies and others

In addition to cash incentives, States also offer government jobs.

The Railways is the biggest employer of sportspersons. It provides a secure job for athletes

The problem begins when sportspersons are appointed to a certain rank after which the floodgates are thrown open for further promotions.

 It may not really be deleterious to an organisation if sportspersons are promoted in non-gazetted ranks.

But promotion to gazetted ranks have a malefic impact not just on the organisation but also on the sportspersons.

Even after they are promoted to gazetted ranks, they naturally continue to play sports and participate in tournaments up to a certain age and have no exposure whatsoever to their professional requirements.

On attaining higher ranks like Superintendent of Police, they come back to their jobs without any training, exposure or experience. They prove to be misfits.