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The Hindu Editorial

4-October-2023

1. The trouble with a Nobel for mRNA COVID vaccines

Topic: GS3 – Science and technology.

Context:

  • The 2023 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their work on mRNA vaccine technology, which played a crucial role in the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The award recognizes their significant scientific accomplishments, but it raises questions about whether the mRNA vaccines truly benefited “all mankind” during the pandemic.
  • In the context of this article, it is important from exam perspective to have holistic understanding about mRNA vaccines – their benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits of mRNA vaccines over conventional vaccines:

  • Rapid Development: Faster vaccine development.
  • Adaptability: Quick response to new pathogens.
  • No Live Pathogen: No risk of causing disease.
  • Precise Targeting: Highly specific immune response.
  • Scalability: Efficient mass production.
  • Flexibility: Applicable to various diseases.
  • Reduced Manufacturing Risks: Lower contamination risk.
  • Immune Response: Strong humoral and cellular responses.
  • Customization: Tailored immune response.
  • Global Distribution: Easier storage and distribution.
  • Reduced Allergenicity: Lower likelihood of allergic reactions.

Drawbacks of mRNA vaccines:

  • Short Shelf Life: mRNA vaccines may have a shorter shelf life compared to some conventional vaccines, which can complicate distribution and administration.
  • Allergic Reactions: Although rare, mRNA vaccines have been associated with allergic reactions in some individuals, including anaphylaxis. Monitoring and precautions are required.
  • New Technology: mRNA vaccine technology is relatively new, and there is limited long-term safety and efficacy data. Continued monitoring is essential.
  • Production Capacity: Rapidly scaling up production to meet global demand can be challenging, leading to supply constraints during emergencies.
  • Cost: mRNA vaccines can be more expensive to manufacture and distribute than some traditional vaccines, potentially affecting access in low-income countries.
  • Vaccine Hesitancy: Public perception and hesitancy may be influenced by the novelty of mRNA vaccines and misinformation.
  • Unknowns: The long-term effects of repeated mRNA vaccinations are still being studied, and there may be unknown risks associated with multiple doses over time.

Mains question: Examine the advantages and challenges associated with the use of mRNA vaccines over conventional vaccines.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-trouble-with-a-nobel-for-mrna-covid-vaccines/article67376812.ece

2. Fixing the rot in the cooperative sector.

Topic: GS3 – cooperative sector.

Context:

  • Financial irregularities in the Karuvannur Service Cooperative Bank in Kerala have exposed a major scandal in the state’s cooperative sector.
  • Reports emerged of cooperative institutions failing to return deposits, leading to depositors queuing up for their money.
  • One of the main reason highlighted in the article regarding failure of cooperatives in India is – cooperatives are controlled by politicians with no domain expertise.

Issues with societies and urban cooperative banks in India:

  • Lack of Professionalism: Many cooperative banks are managed by individuals with limited banking expertise or experience, leading to inefficiencies and mismanagement.
  • Political Interference: Politicians often control cooperative banks, which can result in decisions influenced by political considerations rather than sound financial practices.
  • Governance and Accountability: Weak governance structures and a lack of transparency in decision-making processes can lead to misappropriation of funds and financial irregularities.
  • Financial Irregularities: Cooperative banks have been prone to financial irregularities, including loan defaults, embezzlement, and misallocation of funds.
  • Risk Management: Inadequate risk management practices and credit assessment procedures can result in high non-performing assets (NPAs) and financial instability.
  • Limited Capital Base: Many cooperative banks have a limited capital base, making them vulnerable to financial shocks and unable to absorb losses effectively.
  • Lack of Regulatory Oversight: Regulatory oversight of cooperative banks has been inconsistent, leading to lax supervision and insufficient enforcement of prudential norms.
  • Inadequate Technology Adoption: Many cooperative banks lag behind in adopting modern banking technologies, hindering their efficiency and customer service.
  • Weak Auditing and Accounting Practices: Inadequate auditing and accounting practices can result in inaccurate financial reporting and the concealment of financial irregularities.
  • Regulatory Fragmentation: Cooperative banks are subject to dual regulation by both the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and state cooperative departments, leading to regulatory fragmentation and coordination challenges.
  • Limited Access to Capital Markets: Cooperative banks often have limited access to capital markets for raising funds, restricting their ability to expand and strengthen their capital base.

Potential solutions:

  • Strengthen regulation: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should further strengthen its regulation of UCBs, in line with the international best practices. This should include stricter capital requirements, governance norms, and risk management practices.
  • Promote mergers and consolidations:The RBI should encourage UCBs to merge and consolidate in order to create larger and more stable banks. This would help to improve the asset quality and financial performance of the sector.
  • Support technological adoption: The RBI should provide financial assistance to UCBs to help them adopt modern technology. This would help them to improve their efficiency and customer service.
  • Improve professional management:The RBI should conduct training programs for UCB staff to improve their skills and knowledge. This would help to strengthen the corporate governance and risk management practices of UCBs.
  • Improve public awareness: The RBI and the government should raise public awareness about the risks associated with investing in UCBs. This would help investors to make informed decisions.
  • Create a deposit insurance scheme:The government could create a deposit insurance scheme for UCBs, similar to the one that exists for commercial banks. This would provide a safety net for depositors and boost their confidence in the sector.
  • Explore new business opportunities:UCBs could explore new business opportunities, such as microfinance and mobile banking. This would help them to grow their businesses and diversify their risks.

Mains question: Discuss the challenges faced by societies and urban cooperative banks (UCBs) in India and suggest measures to address them.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/fixing-the-rot-in-keralas-cooperative-sector/article67375968.ece

3. Using AI for audit techniques.

Topic: GS3 – Artificial intelligence

Context:

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and chair of the G20’s Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) warned against absolute dependence on AI in auditing due to potential inaccuracies.
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and chair of the G20’s Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) warned against absolute dependence on AI in auditing due to potential inaccuracies.

Challenges in Auditing AI:

  • CAG warns against excessive reliance on AI in auditing due to potential inaccuracies.
  • Ethical and inclusive AI is crucial for credible and trustworthy audits.
  • Challenges in auditing AI include transparency, objectivity, fairness, and bias avoidance.
  • The EU has introduced the EU AI Act to regulate generative AI tools and biometric surveillance.
  • Ensuring data integrity, especially when using sources like social media, is essential.
  • Addressing copyright and intellectual property issues related to AI-generated content is a critical concern.
  • Bias in AI data sets is a risk stemming from human bias, necessitating ethical considerations in AI development.
  • India needs AI regulations similar to the EU to ensure AI system safety and accuracy.
  • The CAG faces challenges in auditing AI systems, including regulation, data standardization, and data integration.

Proposed Solutions:

  • A common international audit framework for AI is needed as existing frameworks are limited.
  • Auditors must adapt existing frameworks, focus on ethics, use authentic data sources, address legal concerns, and assess IT controls and governance.
  • AI audit assignments may require collaboration with data specialists and programmers.
  • Compliance issues include Data Protection Impact Assessments for AI systems processing personal data.
  • Various AI auditing frameworks exist, including COBIT, US GAO, COSO ERM, and UK ICO frameworks.

Conclusion:

  • Auditors must evaluate risks, controls, and governance structures to determine their effectiveness in the absence of comprehensive AI auditing guidance.

Mains Question: What are the key challenges and ethical considerations in auditing AI systems, and how can governments and audit institutions address them effectively? 

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/using-ai-for-audit-techniques/article67376003.ece

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