Mitras Analysis of News : 23-7-2017

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1.Digital trade games (The Hindu)

2.H1N1 returns (The Hindu)

1.Digital trade games (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the digital sovereignty before it can begin global trade talks.(GS paper III)


  • With the digital phenomenon restructuring most social sectors, it is little surprise that global trade negotiations are now eyeing the digital area in an attempt to pre-emptively colonise it. The issue is going to figure in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership talks among ASEAN-plus countries including India, which is staring in Hyderabad.
  • India gets ready to host the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) meeting among ASEAN members in July 2017, a group of farmers, trade unions, intellectuals and non-governmental organizations have gathered at Hyderabad to discuss about resisting RCEP agreement. E-commerce is going to e major agenda of discussion. 

About RCEP

  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a so-called mega-regional economic agreement, is a proposed free-trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and six others with which this bloc has foreign trade agreements (FTAs) — Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
  • The stated goal of the negotiations is “To boost economic growth and equitable economic development, advance economic cooperation and broaden and deepen integration in the region through the RCEP.”
  • RCEP covers trade in agricultural goods, industrial goods, services, investment, competition & dispute settlement, economic & technical co-operation and intellectual property. 

RCEP in Hyderabad 

  • Hyderabad meet would be the 19th round of negotiations for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. The last meeting was held in the Philippines. The five-day negotiations start from July 24 and will be inaugurated by Commerce and Industry Minister.
  • RCEP aims at liberalising norms for trade in goods and services and boost investment among 16-member countries. This will be the key round of talks as the member countries have yet to finalise the maximum number of goods on which duties will be eliminated.
  • India had pushed hard for opening of services trade, especially on Mode 4, which deals with cross-border migration of services professionals. Other nations have started to make discussions on e-commerce as part of those on services. Within e-commerce, issues like consumer protection, domestic regulatory frameworks, customs duties and data protection, among others, will be main focus.
  • Several of the members want India to eliminate duties on about 90 per cent of traded goods as part of the ambitious RCEP pact. But according to experts, it would be difficult for India to agree to this proposal as China is also part of this pact. Indian industry has already raised concerns over widening trade deficit and dumping of goods from China.  

About big data 

  • Big data is the key resource in the digital space. It is freely collected or mined from developing countries, and converted, or manufactured, into digital intelligence in developed countries, mostly the U.S. This digital intelligence forms a kind of “social brain” that begins to control different sectors and extract monopoly rents.
  • It is important to frame who owns data and digital intelligence, and how their value should be socially distributed. Most key data required for policymaking is increasingly with global data companies.

E-commerce as misnomer

  • The developed countries that are part of RCEP want global ecommerce rules. India has been evading talks around this but the trade officials would have to engage in these negotiations during the Hyderabad meeting.
  • The impressive growth of the global ecommerce industry, especially in developing countries like India, is the chief reason behind developed countries’ interest in including ecommerce in trade discussions. International ecommerce biggies have set eyes on developing nations. And for the same, they need rules that could improve the ease of doing business in such countries.
  • E-commerce is a misnomer in the meeting; the discussion is placing great limitations on digital policymaking by any country in the name of promoting e-commerce. There is need to understand the real nature of the digital issues involved and the relevant policy requirements of the present and the future.
  • There is the issue of the free global flow of data, data that underpins global media, or personal/social communication networks is one thing, data that today is increasingly basic to banking, retailing, the defence forces, public services, health and education services and so on is an entirely different matter. There is no one thing called “data” that countries could agree to let flow freely across borders.
  • Instead we have digitalised versions of banking, retail, public services, health services and so on. If something can be meaningfully negotiated at global trade talks, it is such digital services each of which has different dynamics and implications and needs different treatment.
  • So Instead of seeing it as a global flow of data, one must see it as a global flow of intelligence. Global flow of digital intelligence is going to be by far the single most important economic resource. Whoever has it controls everything.
  • Digital intelligence also tends to concentrate strongly around a few poles or centres. That is the very nature of intelligence, where two and two is more than twenty-two. This results in every sector getting organised around a very few centres of sectoral digital intelligence.

Digital trade talks

  • Developed countries make three key demands at digital trade talks. The first is a free and unhindered access to the “network” running throughout our society to mine social and personal data from every nook and corner. This includes full access to local networks, right to set up networks, no custom duties on digital goods, no requirement of local presence, no local technology use or technology standards commitments, and no source code transparency for digital applications that run through our social and personal spaces. Basically, India must give up its right to regulate digital technologies and networks within its territory.
  • The second demand in trade discussions is of ensuring completely free flow of data across borders, with no requirement of local storing, even for sensitive sectors like governance, banking, health, etc. Free global flow of data is a significant expression of self-declared ownership by global digital corporations over the social and personal data that they collect from everywhere, including India.
  • The third key demand is the exclusion from future regulation of all services other than those already committed to a negative list, which will of course include e-versions of every sector.
  • India has been resisting global digital trade negotiations. But attempts will be made to flatter its self-image of an IT or digital superpower to seek concessions.

Digital industrialisation

  • India is still stuck in the IT realities of yesterday. It remains in denial about the major transformations in the sector that are taking place along with unprecedented job losses. Though India retains some key advantages in core IT areas, but the issues of e-commerce or digital trade are much larger.
  • We stand on the threshold of a digital society, where every major economic and social activity will be underpinned by digital intelligence. India need to consider a digital industrialisation strategy that ensures that the immense value arising from digitally-induced efficiencies in every sector is retained within India and not allowed to flow out uninhibitedly. If it allows such outflows, it will soon find itself on the wrong side of digital colonisation.
  • Domestic digital strengths should first be developed on the back of its big domestic market. This requires an independent digital policy, including protections for India’s incipient digital industry. This will not only ensure that our economy and society are not controlled from outside but also protect existing jobs and create many more new ones. 

Way ahead 

  • India must resist any digital trade negotiation. It has little to gain and much to lose. The initiatives like “Digital India” and development of “digital public goods” like the India Stack of basic digital platforms and infrastructural data systems that are open to all, will be helpful in developing a local digital industry.
  • India has much native technical and entrepreneurial capabilities in the digital area and a huge domestic market. Conditions are extremely good for developing strong domestic digital industry. But for this, India must stave off pressure for entering into binding global commitments that would forever kill any such prospects, apart from disabling Indian policymakers from appropriately regulating the digitisation of various sectors.

Question– What do you mean by digital sovereignty? What are its prospects for India?

2.H1N1 returns (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the significant rise in the number of Swine Flu (H1N1) influenza cases. (GS paper III)


  • Since the 2009 pandemic, H1N1 has become a seasonal flu virus strain in India even during the peak of summer as the spread of influenza virus declines when the temperature shoots up. Since its first appearance in 2009-2010, influenza A H1N1 has come to stay and has become a part of the seasonal flu virus; H3N2 and Influenza B are the other two to become the seasonal flu in India.  
  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), since December 2016, H1N1, H3N2 and Influenza B have been circulating in India. According to official data, Maharashtra alone has registered 284 deaths, which by itself is much more than the total mortality in the country as a result of H1N1 in 2016. So far this year around 12,500 people have been infected with the influenza A (H1N1) virus, of which 600 have died.
  • But there is every possibility of a spike in the number of cases in the coming months with cooler temperatures setting in and winter still months away. 

What is H1N1 virus?

  • H1N1 virus or swine flu is a respiratory disorder. According to WHO, the virus is a strain of influenza. It is commonly known as swine flu because it was detected in patients who were directly in contact with pig.
  • According to WHO, genetic analyses of the virus shows that it originated from animal influenza viruses. It was detected for the first time in North America in April 2009, after which it rapidly spread all around the world. In June 2009, the disease spread across 74 countries and territories.
  • As per WHO, the H1N1 virus spreads just like other seasonal influenza viruses, through air. It spreads from exposure to an infected person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, he/she leaves behind infected droplets. Exposure to these infected droplets can contaminate hands and surfaces.
  • The symptoms of H1N1 are similar to season flu. The symptoms included cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, headache and body ache. In extreme cases, the patient also feels chills and fatigue. The swine flu, like every other regular flu, can develop into serious problems such as pneumonia, lung infection and other breathing problems. 

Mutation in H1N1

  • Pune’s National Institute of Virology has carried out the whole genome sequencing and confirmed that the virus has not undergone any significant mutation to make it more virulent. The virus has undergone point mutations, which is normal and reflects its evolution, but this has no correlation with virulence whatsoever.
  • For instance, the California strain had been circulating around the world since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. But as a result of point mutations, a new strain ‘the Michigan strain’ emerged last year. India witnessed the circulation of both the California and Michigan strains in 2016. This year, surveillance revealed that the H1N1 virus found in India is only the Michigan strain.
  • WHO flu vaccine advisory group recommended the composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2017-2018 northern hemisphere influenza season.  It announced that the Michigan strain replaced the California strain in the northern hemisphere.
  • Based on its recommendation, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India has started making influenza vaccine using the Michigan strain, but the vaccine is yet to reach the market. According to an official of Serum Institute, the vaccine containing the California strain will be protective, to a large extent, against the H1N1 strain now circulating in India.

Way ahead 

  • Timely diagnosis and easy and wide availability of the drug are expected to reduce mortality. There are 42 laboratories providing diagnostic services across the country, and there is a compelling need to increase this number.
  • India needs is a national policy for influenza immunisation. While pregnant mothers, children aged below five and young people with asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are at a greater risk, there is no hard qualitative and quantitative data on the vulnerable population.

Question– What are the prevention strategies for H1N1? How government is working towards its prevention strategies?

Subscribe to Update