TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY 1. Europe’s new data protection regime: Lessons for India C. GS3 Related ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT 1. How information on a fire reaches the authorities and the ways in which firefighting can be improved ECONOMY 1. Set aside divestment proceeds for sick PSUs’ revival: panel DEFENCE 1. Draft Defence Production Policy, 2018 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. GSAT-6A to give armed forces a shot in the arm D. GS4 Related E. Editorials ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY 1. How science is stepping in to save the northern white rhino from extinction ECONOMY 1. Why do farmers go marching? F. Prelims Fact G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
B. GS2 Related
1. Europe’s new data protection regime: Lessons for India
- Europe’s new data protection regime offers a sound basis for India to craft its own legislation
- At present India has the second highest number of Internet users in the world, and is an important market for many global companies that have staked dominance within distinct silos of digital services.
- While Facebook enjoys sway over social networking, Google has completely taken over online search and email, and Amazon continues a growing capture of online commerce.
- This is further supplemented by a maturing, home-grown technology sector which learns not only its business models and operational strategies but even its corporate culture from such companies.
- Though there is friction between these global and local firms, they are united in a singular attempt to collect, store and analyse the online behaviour of millions of Indians. It is immaterial whether customers pay for digital services, for the business model of most firms always factors in a premium for personal data.
- Another layer for the extraction of information is added by the government. India has the unique distinction of being one of the few countries that gathers vast amounts of personal data through its compulsory national biometric ID scheme, Aadhaar.
- Its wide pervasive use goes well beyond public entitlements or regulated services to sundry services such as online matrimonial portals. It almost seems data is not the new oil — it is air itself.
The European template
- Though digital technology is finely threaded with the fabric of our lives, India maintains a curious omission of a comprehensive, enforceable data protection law.
- The limited protections which do exist are under the Information Technology Act, 2000, and its subordinate regulations remain substantially deficient and practically unenforceable.
- This stands in stark contrast to the European Union which has taken time to develop an advanced data protection framework, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that goes into effect in a few months.
- Even as a text, the GDPR is a progressive instrument. The very preamble of the GDPR, reflects an attempt to protect the rights of individuals through a data protection law, treating the requirements of industry and state as limited exceptions.
- It is this exercise of balance which Nehru adverts to in his letter to Huxley, stating that cottage industry is not to the exclusion of the power loom.
- Such search for balance comes from a recognition of the principled protection of the right to privacy within the text of a data protection law and then proceeds to exceptions which are determined under the legal doctrines of necessity and proportionality.
- Necessity is a threshold evaluation requiring objective evidence that is matched against a proportionality exam in which the advantages due to limiting the privacy right are weighed against the disadvantages.
- Such principles find legal articulation within the GDPR which makes them practically enforceable. These include a transparent system of data processing which makes users practically aware of what is happening with their personal information at all times.
- A user’s knowledge is raised to the level of control, where necessity and proportionality are placed both as exceptions and as positive obligations on companies and governments.
- For instance, they are allowed to use data only for the original purpose under which they were gathered and only to the extent and amount as necessary for performing the function as specified by a user.
- The sister doctrines of necessity and proportionality are not strangers to our own constitutional law.
- Even prior to their express recognition and linking to data protection by the Supreme Court last August, when it reaffirmed the fundamental right to privacy, they have found passing references through the decades.
- For instance, the Supreme Court has applied proportionality to strike down a law in the 1950s which completely prohibited the manufacture of tobacco bidis.
- Since the basis of law was to ensure adequate labour to work in the agricultural seasons, a blanket prohibition for all months was held to be disproportionate.
- Though further precedent exists which limits the sweep of state action, and further support has recently come from the Supreme Court, many rights advocates hold that a balancing exercise for these doctrines may become an unequal bargain between privacy and the demands of big data and the bigger state.
- There is a credible basis for such fears as often our courts have wavered from the principle of protecting fundamental rights to permitting an expansion of limitations placed on them, with the exceptions gradually swallowing up the rule.
- This sets up a credible challenge to the future of India’s data protection framework, with sufficient powers for the regulatory body and the courts which will function to enforce it and hold powerful corporations and governments to account.
- While we must learn and draw from the data protection principles of Europe, we must also focus efforts to ensure their effective enforcement.
- This will naturally be an effort in not only ensuring desirable legal language within the text of a law but also a larger environment of compliance and respect for privacy.
- Opportunity for positive outcomes exists in the domain of technology as India has already taken a global lead in enacting a progressive net neutrality regulation.
- But due to a lack of partnership between civil society and the government, there is a sense of cynicism overcast by the lack of a user-oriented data protection law.
- Many today wonder about their online safety and express a loss of control. In this there is an important lesson from decades past — to continue our belief in the benefits of technology, we must continue to believe in its social control.
C. GS3 Related
1. How information on a fire reaches the authorities and the ways in which firefighting can be improved
1. Set aside divestment proceeds for sick PSUs’ revival: panel
- A Parliamentary panel has recommended the earmarking of a defined portion of proceeds from the divestment of State-owned enterprises for funding revival, restructuring and modernisation proposals of sick public sector undertakings (PSUs) that have the potential to turn around.
- In this manner, the government can extend a hand-holding support to the select sick PSUs that have the potential to turn around and sustain themselves in [the] future.
- The government had set a target of raising Rs. 80,000 crore in 2018-19 by selling stakes in the State-owned firms, with strategic divestment of 24 CPSEs (central public sector undertakings) on the cards and privatisation of Air India on track.
- Besides, NITI Aayog is preparing another list of sick PSUs that can be privatised, its chief executive officer Amitabh Kant said last month. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had asked the think-tank to look into the viability of sick State-run companies.
- The Aayog had already recommended strategic divestment of 40 sick public sector undertakings.
- In its report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry said it was of the firm opinion that while making a decision to disinvest PSUs, especially those that are profit-making, the government must accord due consideration to the jobs supported by them, the track record of their contribution to the national economy, their capex (capital expenditure) creation potential and also their role in balancing the social/regional fabric.
- The committee observed that timely approval of revival/restructuring/modernisation plans of CPSEs with accurate cost estimates, availability of funds with the government and the timely disposal of such funds are crucial factors.
1. Draft Defence Production Policy, 2018
- With the aim of creating up to 30 lakh jobs and a total turnover Rs. 1.7 lakh crore in defence goods, the Union government has called for public responses to its draft Defence Production Policy, 2018.
- The draft, made public on the Defence Ministry website a few days ago, has suggested further liberalisation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), by permitting up to 74% FDI under the automatic route. At present, up to 49% FDI is allowed through the automatic route, though no significant investment has come into the sector.
- The draft policy says the government’s aim is to achieve a turnover of Rs. 1,70,000 crore (approximately $26 billion) in defence goods and services by 2025, involving additional investment of nearly Rs. 70,000 crore (about $10 billion) creating employment for nearly 2-3 million people.
- It also hopes to achieve exports of Rs. 35,000 crore in defence goods and services by 2025 and make India a global leader in cyberspace and AI (Artificial Intelligence) technologies.
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in his Budget for 2018-19 that the government would bring out an industry-friendly Defence Production Policy, 2018 to promote domestic production by the public and private sectors and the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). The Defence Ministry will receive public inputs until March-end.
- The policy says the vision is to make India among the top five countries of the world in the aerospace and defence industries, with the active participation of the public and private sectors, fulfilling the objective of self-reliance as well as the demand of other friendly countries.
Make in India
- The policy aims to create an environment that “encourages a dynamic, robust and competitive defence industry as an important part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative”.
- The policy also hopes to “reduce current dependence on imports and to achieve self-reliance in development and manufacture” of several weapon systems/platforms, among them fighter aircraft, medium lift and utility helicopters, warships, land combat vehicles, autonomous weapon systems, missile systems and gun systems.
1. GSAT-6A to give armed forces a shot in the arm
- GSAT-6A, the second predominantly S-band communications satellite, is set to be launched from Sriharikota on March 29.
- It will complement GSAT-6, which has been orbiting since August 2015 at 83 degrees East longitude. The 2,000-kg-class 6A, costing about Rs. 270 crore, is a great deal more than a routine communications satellite. It is designated for the use of the Armed Forces and will not add any transponder capacity for general uses, according to sources in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- A special feature of the GSAT-6A is its 6-metre-wide umbrella-like antenna, which will be unfurled in once it is in space. The antenna is thrice as broad as the antennas generally used in ISRO satellites. It will enable mobile communication from anywhere via hand-held ground terminals. Regular communication satellites with smaller antenna require much larger ground stations, said a former director of ISRO.
- The S-band’s antenna was developed by ISRO’s Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad.
- The unfurl-able antenna, hand-held ground terminals, and network management techniques could be useful in future satellite-based mobile communication applications.
- GSAT-6A will also have a smaller 0.8-metre antenna for communication in the C band. GSAT-6A is slated to be launched at 4.56 p.m. on a GSLV rocket.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
1. How science is stepping in to save the northern white rhino from extinction
- The last male northern white rhinoceros, Sudan, died on March 19, aged 45, at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where he spent the last nine years under the watch of a 24-hour armed guard. There was a time when northern white rhinos could be found in southern Chad, the Central African Republic, southwestern Sudan, northwestern Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- In 1960, more than 2,000 were remaining, according to a World Wildlife Fund report. The number shrank to 15 in 1984 as they were hunted for their horns, an ingredient in traditional Vietnamese medicine. Only two northern white rhinos remain: Sudan’s daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu, neither of whom will be able to carry a pregnancy to term.
- Where traditional conservation methods failed to save this subspecies, science is stepping in. From the sperm of four northern white rhino bulls and living cells collected from 13 northern white rhinos before they died, researchers from Germany, the U.S., Kenya, Japan, Australia, Austria and the Czech Republic are planning a two-pronged approach – in vitro fertilisation and stem cell technology to resurrect the subspecies.
- The conservation effort is being spearheaded by Professor Thomas Hildebrandt, Department Head, Reproduction Management, of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW). From Berlin, a team of scientists from Leibniz-IZW will go to Kenya in May to extract eggs from Najin and Fatu. In Cremona, Italy, the eggs will be fertilised with the sperm of northern white rhino bulls. Sudan’s sperm is not viable due to lack of genetic distance.
- Once the eggs are fertilised, they will need surrogate mothers and the closest living relatives are the southern white rhinos. IVF has been performed successfully on the Asian lion and the team at Leibniz-IZW is developing the procedure for rhinos. Steven Seet from Leibniz-IZW is optimistic about IVF.
- In the next two to three years, it is probable that the world will welcome the first living IVF northern white rhino, he said in an email interview.
- However, one rhino will not resurrect a species or subspecies. Genetic diversity is the key, and this is where the expertise of Katsuhiko Hayashi, a reproductive biologist at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, who produced baby mice from mouse skin cells, comes in.
- They reprogrammed cells to behave like human embryonic stem cells, which were used to grow fertile mouse egg cells in a dish. Mr. Hayashi’s team will attempt to replicate this with northern white rhino cells.
- The living cell material of 13 northern white rhinos are stored in laboratories in Germany, the U.S. and Kenya. The aim is to take the cells from existing samples and develop them back into embryo stem cells.
- After reprogramming, the stem cells can form one cell which can grow into a sperm, and another into an egg. The fertilised egg will be transferred to the surrogate mother. Mr. Seet estimates that over the next four years alone, researchers will need at least €5 million to keep the project going. It is a hefty price to pay for our greed.
1. Why do farmers go marching?
- No doubt, agriculture is one segment of the economy on which vote-conscious governments haven’t skimped on outlays. Over the years, Central governments have allocated ever-rising sums towards procurement, input subsidies and rural employment schemes, while States have periodically announced loan waivers.
- But that farmer protests have persisted, and even intensified, perhaps shows that many of these schemes aren’t addressing the right set of problems. The reasons for agricultural distress have changed quite dramatically in recent years.
From shortage to plenty
- A few years ago, farmers seeking to register their protest used to do so beside wilted crops and parched farmlands.
- But in the last couple of years, farmers from Mandsaur to Salem have given vent to their angst by dumping vast quantities of unsold produce — tomatoes, grapes, onions and milk — on lakebeds and national highways.
- Historically, agricultural distress in India has been linked to truant monsoons, input shortages and lacklustre yields which frequently put growers on the road to penury.
- In recent years though, it is surplus output and unremunerative prices that have decimated farm incomes more often.
- Trends in India’s agricultural output over the last twenty years present an eye-opener to this problem of plenty.
- For an extended period from 1998-99 to 2009-10, India’s rice output stayed stuck at 85 million tonnes to 95 million tonnes, with drought years such as 2002 and 2004 seeing sharp downward blips.
- As consumption hovered at 80 to 90 million tonnes in this period, shortages were more frequent than surpluses.
- But after climbing to 105 million tonnes in 2011-12, India’s rice production has stayed well above the 100 million-tonne mark for the last six years, even scaling110 million tonnes in 2016-17. With offtake still stuck at about 90 million tonnes, there’s been persisting excess stock in the market. As a result, in the last five years, wholesale prices of paddy have crept up at a 2.4% annual rate.
- The wheat story is similar. From a yearly average of about 75 million tonnes in the decade to 2010-11, wheat output leapfrogged to average 94 million tonnes in the last six years.
- Output, now at 97-98 million tonnes, is now neck-and-neck with domestic demand (about 100 million tonnes) and it may only be a matter of time before it overshoots it. With rising supplies, wholesale wheat prices have inched up at a 2% yearly rate in the last five years.
- Not too long ago, India was facing a severe shortage of pulses, with output struggling to keep up with the rising protein intake of the masses. But farmers have dramatically ramped up pulses production too.
- From an annual average of 14 million tonnes in the decade to 2010-11, it has averaged 18 lakh tonnes in the last six years.
- India harvested a record pulses crop of 23 million tonnes in 2017, matching the official demand estimate, thus dampening once-high market prices for a range of dals. This script of galloping surpluses dampening prices has played out in commercial crops such as sugarcane and tea too.
- If unremunerative prices have dogged other crops, fruit and vegetable farmers have been up against the high perishability of their produce. In the last fifteen years, India has doubled its potato output, trebled its tomato harvest and managed a fourfold increase in onion output. But poor storage facilities and State laws that keep farmers bound to their local mandis, have exposed farmers to wild swings in prices.
Driving the output
- It is noteworthy that agricultural output has held up at relatively high levels in recent years, despite erratic monsoons. This could be because the droughts in 2014 and 2015 have been far less severe than those in 2009 or 2002.
- In 2014, a drought year, the country still harvested 105 million tonnes of rice, 86 million tonnes of wheat and 17 million tonnes of pulses. Hefty hikes in the Centre’s Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) have also had a big role to play in farmers ratcheting up output. In the last ten years, the support prices for wheat and paddy have risen 73% and 108% and those on pulses have trebled.
- In recent years, State governments have also competed furiously with the Centre, announcing bonuses and their own support prices for crops such as onions, tomatoes, potatoes and even green chillies.
- It is early days yet to say if recent improvements in India’s farm output are here to stay. But after responding enthusiastically to signals from MSPs for many years, farmers have lately found the mechanism failing them. Market prices for many crops have tended to plunge and stay below their official MSPs for extended periods.
- For one, though the Centre announces MSPs for 24 crops, the bulk of its procurement operations (via FCI) are restricted to just two — rice and wheat, with NAFED chipping in on pulses.
- State-level procurement operations are even more adhoc, lacking both direction and funding. Therefore, while a farmer may plant mustard, grapes or onions in any given year based on the MSP promise, there’s really no guarantee that he will get that price when he visits the mandi.
- Two, even in crops where the Centre or State agencies are active, their market interventions tend to be too selective and sporadic to make any real difference to a majority of farmers.
- Despite the Centre doubling down on procurement in 2017-18, it will mop up only about a third of India’s rice and wheat output and a tenth of the pulses harvest. So, if good monsoons result in more crops moving into surplus zone, market forces will continue to prevail over MSPs.
- Three, given that the Centre’s market interventions on rice and wheat have proved so ineffectual despite large spends, it is unclear how the Centre or copycat States will fund MSPs in a host of other crops.
- To be fair, the NDA has been trying out new policy fixes to address such problems. It is piloting ‘price deficiency payments’ in place of MSPs to compensate farmers for price-related losses.
- It plans to replace input subsidies with direct cash transfers. It has kick-started a national electronic market for produce and is nudging States to repeal their APMC Acts, which prevent farmers from selling in markets of their choice.
- But its aggressive inflation-fighting efforts and on-off trade policies still work to the detriment of farmers. In the last couple of years, despite supply gluts, the Centre has continued with sizeable imports of wheat and pulses at low tariffs.
Handling of spikes
- Seasonal spikes in prices of sugar, atta or rice are often met with export taxes, minimum export prices or even outright export bans.
- States, on their part, continue to be quite adamant about levying high taxes and hanging on to the draconian mandis, which force farmers to rely heavily on middlemen.
- This puts the Indian farmer in a ‘Heads I win, tails you lose’ situation. If market prices of crops hit rock-bottom, the government is helpless to rescue them. But if prices soar, the government prevents them from making hay by clamping down.
- All this makes it clear why Indian farmers are seething. It’s for the same reason that salaried employees are often unhappy.
F. Prelims Fact
Nothing here for today!!!
G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements about Seeker Technology in Brahmos:
- European Union has an advanced data protection framework, named as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
- India currently provides data protection under Information Technology Act, 2000.
Which of the statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- None of the above
Question 2. Consider the following statements with respect to Forest Fire in India:
- Forest Survey of India (FSI) analyses the data by overlaying the digitised boundaries of forest areas.
- The FSI relays news of the fire to the concerned State.
Which of the statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- None of the above
Question 3. Consider the following statements:
- At present, up to 49% FDI is allowed through the automatic route, though no significant investment has come into the sector.
- Draft Defence Production Policy, 2018 has suggested further liberalisation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), by permitting up to 90% FDI under the automatic route.
Which of the statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- None of the above
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
General Studies III
ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Forest Fires have become a frequent phenomena in India. Suggest some measures to address this issue.
2. The slogan “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” is a myth in Indian economy with respect to farming. Farmers going on a protest march is a reflection of government’s apathy towards farmers. What are the issues faced by farmers in India and suggest some remedies in this regard.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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