TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related GEOGRAPHY 1. Thunderstorm warning for 4 States B. GS2 Related INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Vice-President to leave for South America tomorrow SOCIAL ISSUES 1. Nobel Literature Prize put off to 2019 after #MeToo turmoil C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. GST Council approves single form for filing of returns 2. Ministry fast-tracks security clearance 3. DoT to dial in ease of doing business D. GS4 Related E. Editorials HEALTH 1. To safeguard our future RIGHT TO PRIVACY 1. Architecture for privacy F. Prelims Fact G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
1. Thunderstorm warning for 4 States
- The Union government issued a fresh warning of thunderstorm and squall in West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the next 24 hours.A Home Ministry spokesperson said 124 people were killed and over 300 injured in thunderstorm and lightning that struck five States in the past two days.
- The maximum number of 73 deaths were reported from Uttar Pradesh, where 91 were also injured. Most of these deaths and injuries took place in the Agra region.In Rajasthan, 35 people were killed and 206 injured. Eight persons were killed in Telangana, six in Uttarakhand and two in Punjab. Nearly 100 people were injured in the three States.
- The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said a fresh western disturbance — a system of extra-tropical storms — is expected to bring rain to several parts of north India in the next 24 hours. Dust storms are also expected in Rajasthan and several parts of northeastern India in the next 48 hours.
- This is not an unusual system [of strong thunderstorms in the pre-monsoon period]; but every few years, the intensity of thunderstorms increases. In the northeastern and eastern India, such storms are more frequent.
- Currently, the forecast systems can warn of severe storms three days in advance, so more squalls and storms in north India could not be ruled out.Following the thunderstorm, power supply was cut in many areas as 12,000 electric poles were uprooted and 2,500 transformers damaged.
- The Home Ministry spokesperson said a fresh warning was issued of thunderstorm, accompanied by squall, in West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Thunderstorm was likely at isolated places in Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.
- Isolated places in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Odisha, north-western Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Rayalaseema, north-coastal Andhra Pradesh, interior Tamil Nadu and Kerala are likely to experience thunderstorm, along with gusty winds.
- Heavy rain is likely at isolated places in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Dust storm and thunderstorm are likely at isolated places in Rajasthan.
B. GS2 Related
1. Vice-President to leave for South America tomorrow
- Nine months after assuming office, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu is going on his maiden foreign tour to the South American countries of Guatemala, Panama and Peru on May 6.
- In the last year of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the External Affairs Ministry has roped in the President and the Vice-President to cover the ground that the Prime Minister himself is unable to do. Mr. Naidu, during his visit to the three countries from May 6 to 12, has 25 engagements, including meetings with the heads of the three countries.
- The tour is especially significant. China has been aggressively expanding its presence in Panama and Peru and we have very limited influence over these two countries.The tour to Guatemala is to reassert Indian influence. Guatemala has supported India’s permanent membership in the United Nation’s Security Council. It also has strained relations with both China and Pakistan.
- The tour to Panama is significant because of growing engagement between China and Panama. The country also has the highest presence of Indian diaspora of 15,000. In Peru, Mr. Naidu will participate in the celebration of 55 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
1. Nobel Literature Prize put off to 2019 after #MeToo turmoil
- For the first time in almost 70 years, there will be no Nobel Literature Prize this year, after the Swedish Academy that selects the laureate failed to contain a deep crisis stemming from the anti-sexual harassment #MeToo campaign.
- The body has been in turmoil since November, when in the wake of the global #MeToo campaign, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published the testimonies of 18 women claiming to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Jean-Claude Arnault, an influential figure on the Swedish culture scene.
- The revelations have sowed deep discord among the Academy’s 18 members about how to handle the matter, and in recent weeks, six of them have resigned, including permanent secretary Sara Danius.
- Seen as bearers of high culture, the Academy, founded in 1786, is traditionally known for its integrity and discretion, with its meetings and decisions shrouded in secrecy. But the row has turned into a titillating public spectacle, with Academy members dealing ugly blows to each other in the media.
- The last time the institution delayed a prize announcement was in 1949, when William Faulkner received the prize a year later, when Bertrand Russell was also honoured. The same scenario, in which two laureates are announced in one year, has also occurred on four other occasions.
- Several Academy members had recently suggested the 2018 prize could be postponed because of the crisis, which has dragged the body’s reputation — and that of the Nobel Literature Prize — through the mud.
- After the women spoke out in the media, the Academy cut all ties with Mr. Arnault’s cultural centre Forum in Stockholm, which it had subsidised for years and which was a key meeting point for the country’s cultural elite.
- Prosecutors announced in mid-March that they had dropped parts of their investigation against Mr. Arnault due to lack of evidence. The rest of the investigation is still ongoing.
C. GS3 Related
1. GST Council approves single form for filing of returns
- The Goods and Services Tax Council on Friday decided to convert the GST Network into a 100% government enterprise, and implement a single form for GST filing from the current three.
- At its 27th meeting, the Council also decided to create a Group of Ministers to review the plan for imposition of a cess on sugar. The cess was meant to subsidise sugarcane farmers as their production cost is much higher than the selling price.
Returns filing reconciled
- The Council also decided to create another GoM to consider implementation of a 2% incentive for digital transactions.
- There has been a discussion over the last several months on one method of return filing that Nandan Nilekani had suggested and another that the officials from the State governments had suggested. The Sushil Modi Group of Ministers has found a reconciliation between the two.
- Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said the Council approved a single, monthly return form that would become applicable in six months. The current system of filing the GSTR-1 and GSTR-3B forms would continue till then.
- After six months, there will be a single monthly return for everybody, except composition dealers and those who file returns with zero transactions. After this, for six more months, businesses will be able to avail provisional credit in the new form, even if their sellers have not uploaded their sales invoices.
- During these six months, the GST Network will continuously feed the dealer data about what is the gap between what he is claiming as provisional credit and what is the actual amount he should be getting based on sellers’ invoices.
- After this transitional period, the new GSTR form will roll out in full and businesses will only be able to avail of input tax credit if their sellers have uploaded the invoices.The staggered introduction of the new returns would enable businesses to prepare for the same and make changes to their systems.
- Businesses are relieved that they would no longer be penalised for their vendors’ omissions. Simplicity of the new return forms would be key to its successful adoption by businesses as past experience with complicated forms and processes indicates that complexity reduces compliance.
- While some of these ideas are welcome, the impossibility of the buyer to upload missing invoices or to take provisional credit [once the final phase rolls out] may lead to losses for businesses where the suppliers are not traceable and tax has been paid to them. It may also impact cash flows on account of delayed credit in case of delay in upload of invoices by the sellers.
- The other issue under consideration was the imposition of a cess on sugar, particularly considering that its cost has risen beyond Rs.35 per kg, and the market price is between Rs.26 and Rs.28, and the sugarcane farmers are in great distress.
- The Council agreed to create a Group of Ministers comprising five Ministers, which will submit its recommendations regarding this issue to the Council within two weeks.
- While the decision on a sugar cess has been deferred for now, it would be ideal if it is not introduced given it was abolished when GST came in and GST was expected to subsume all such levies.If there is need for revenue augmentation, it can be done by increasing the GST rate rather than distorting the overall structure.
- The GST Council also agreed to the creation of a separate Group of Ministers to look into the issue of implementing a 2% incentive for digital transactions. This GoM will submit its recommendations by the next meeting of the Council.
- Jaitley also said that the Council had decided that the government would buy the remaining 51% stake in the GST Network, which is currently under private sector ownership.
- It was agreed that the 51% held by these private entities should be taken over by the government and eventually the Centre and the States will hold 50% each. The 50% of the States will be divided among themselves according to their GST ratios.
- The Council also recommended that the GSTN continue to employ people contractually and have the flexibility to get the best talent on the best terms from the market.
2. Ministry fast-tracks security clearance
- Among foreign countries, the maximum investment proposals in critical sectors like telecom and defence that was cleared by the Home Ministry in 2017, were from China, United Kingdom, U.S. and Mauritius.
- The Ministry said it has given security clearance to more than 5,000 investment proposals, including for Foreign Direct Investment, in the last four years.
- A senior Ministry official said that earlier the time taken for security clearance for a project was eight-nine months on an average. This has been brought down to 40 days since last year.
- The Ministry had formulated a new national security clearance policy in 2015 after the government decided to speed up projects, which were stuck for lack of approval by Intelligence Bureau (IB) or other agencies including the State police.
- The policy has 15 parameters on which inputs from security agencies are sought. Once it has got an application from an investor, the Ministry decides on the status of security clearance to the company within 4-6 weeks.
- The Ministry granted security clearance to 815 investment proposals in 2014, 1,201 proposals in 2015 and 1,260 in 2016.In 2017, security clearances were given to around 1,071 proposals, he said. In addition, 543 proposals were automatically cleared in 2015 due to implementation of the revised policy guidelines.
- Of these proposals, 390 pertained to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 235 related to civil aviation and 46 FDI proposals.Among the foreign countries, U.S., China (including Hong Kong), Mauritius, U.K. has received the green signal for the maximum number of projects at 10 each, followed by Germany 6, Bangladesh 3 and two each for Italy, Israel, Netherlands and Switzerland.
3. DoT to dial in ease of doing business
- The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will hold discussions with the industry to sort out various issues surrounding ease of doing business.
- The draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018, released earlier this week, aimed to attract $100 billion investments in the digital communications sector, providing broadband access for all with 50 mbps speed and creating 40 lakh new jobs in the sector by the year 2022.
- However, industry and analysts had raised concerns over the huge investments sighting the weak financial health of the sector.
- The Secretary said the department planned to send the policy for Cabinet approval by next month, and start the roll out by July. Once the policy is cleared, a committee would be set up to review levies, particularly the SUC (spectrum usage charge).
- The draft proposed to review the levies and fees, including licence fee, universal service obligation fund levy and spectrum usage charges, which are expected to help the debt-laden sector.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
1. To safeguard our future
Why in news?
- The government aims to fully immunise 90 percent of children by year-end.
- Over the past few years, the government has taken tremendous strides in bringing health to the forefront.
- Part of this effort has been to ensure that every child receives vaccines to protect them from a range of infectious diseases.
- Few decades ago, polio was all too common, leaving many families terrified that the disease would strike at any time.
- Many in India, and the global community, thought this a challenge too large to surmount.
- Yet, through a comprehensive campaign which enlisted celebrities, religious leaders, health workers and others, we were able to eliminate the disease from our country, an achievement recognised in 2014.
- In fact, diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea account for the death of nearly 3 lakh children every year in India.
- Roughly speaking, this means a young life is lost every two minutes from these two diseases alone.
What can be done?
- What is most shocking is that most of these deaths are preventable through interventions, including immunisation.
- Vaccines are tools that protect children from dangerous infections.
- They are globally recognised as one of the safest and most cost-effective medical interventions.
- In a country as vast as ours, with varying socio-economic realities, vaccines can ensure that all children receive protection from vaccine-preventable diseases, irrespective of where they are born.
- The challenge, however, is building systems that reach the most remote rural areas or crowded city centers. Vaccines cannot help protect children if they don’t reach them.
Present efforts on this road…!!
- This is an important year for our country’s immunisation programme.
- In a recent address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Health Minister J P Nadda announced that the immunisation coverage was increasing by almost 7 percent each year, and currently stood at 80 percent.
- The government’s Intensified Mission Indradhanush initiative aims to fully immunise 90 percent of children by the end of the year.
- At the same time, the Government of India especially officials at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have been working to introduce a series of new vaccines, including two to prevent pneumonia and diarrhea, and a combination vaccine against measles and rubella.
- The Measles-Rubella vaccine was launched last year through a countrywide campaign, the largest of its kind in the world.
- As of February 2018, the campaign had immunised over 7 crore children.
- In order to repeat our success with polio elimination this time aiming for the ambitious target of eliminating measles by 2020 we need sustained political action that prioritises the health and development of our children.
- The 2018 budget outlined an initiative to alleviate a root of impoverishment for millions with the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), under Ayushman Bharat, the Modicare programme.
- By providing health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh to over 10 crore vulnerable families, the programme is a move towards ensuring that no one goes bankrupt because they get sick.
- There is no greater responsibility for a nation than to ensure the health of its children.
- Without action, young lives will continue to be lost. Therefore, today, more than ever before, it is imperative that each and every citizen not just parents and teachers, but also policymakers, journalists, and civil society members come together to ensure that our children grow up in a healthier and safer India, free from preventable disease and death.
1. Architecture for privacy
Why in news?
- Architecture for privacy Informational self-determination and the autonomy of an individual in controlling the usage of personal data have emerged as central themes across the privacy judgment.
- Data protection requires a strong regulatory framework with a hierarchy of regulators to protect basic rights
What’s in news?
- The debate engendered by the identity project has propelled us from being a predominantly pre-privacy society to one in which privacy protection in digital databases has emerged as a major national concern.
- The welcome and scholarly Supreme Court judgment on the right to privacy has made it abundantly clear that privacy protection is imperative, and any fatalistic post-privacy world-view is untenable.
Impact of such Judgement
- This provides us with a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at the design of digital services in India.
- On the one hand, we should have stricter provisions than the sector-specific standards in the US, where not only are identity theft rates unacceptably high, but also from where some of the world’s largest corporate panopticons like Google and Facebook have grown more or less unchecked.
- On the other hand, India should ideally have a more innovation-friendly setup than what the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can offer, which perhaps is unduly restrictive but is unlikely to be commensurately effective.
- Moreover, our designs need to be especially sensitive to our large underprivileged population, which may not have the necessary cultural capital to deal with overly complex digital setups.
- Recording transactions with a digital identity projects an individual into a data space, and any subsequent loss of privacy can happen only through the data pathway.
- Hence data protection is central to privacy protection insofar as databases are concerned.
- The critical challenge in the design of a data protection framework is that the main uses of digitisation long-term record keeping and data analysis are seemingly contradictory to the privacy protection requirements.
- The most common fear of digitisation is that of mass surveillance.
- Databases linked by unique identities can possibly create an infrastructure for totalitarian observation of citizens’ activities across different domains.
- The mere existence of such infrastructure, if unrestricted, can potentially disturb the balance of power between the citizens and the state, stifle dissent and be a threat to civil liberty and democracy.
- A more common and subtle manner of erosion of privacy is by the way of losing control of informational self-determination both to the state and to other seemingly mysterious, uncaring and opaque bureaucracies.
- Often there is no obvious invasion of privacy, but one may sometimes become unsure about what information about her is being used by the state and other bureaucracies and for what purposes.
- Kafkaesque is an appropriate metaphor that has sometimes been used to describe the situation.
- Not only can personal information leach out and be used by unpredictable entities in unpredictable ways, but one can also be mis-profiled, wrongly assessed or even influenced using out-of-context data, without being able to control such actions or sometimes even being aware of them.
- Indiscriminate or unethical use of machine learning can also lead to profiling and privacy violations whose consequences are not immediately obvious.
- Exclusions and denials because of poorly thought out use cases, like perhaps because fingerprints do not match, and are more direct violations. Such callous omissions can even be threats to liberty and life.
- Traditional approaches to protection of rights have been less than effective, anywhere, mainly because the enforcement methods have been weak.
Road that leads to privacy debate
- When participation is voluntary, privacy self-management through notice and informed consent; collection, purpose and storage limitation; transparency; and individual participation through opt-in and opt-out have been advocated as foundational principles for privacy protection.
- However, notice and consent are usually ineffective because of information overload, choice limitation and consent fatigue as is often demonstrated by the customary negligent clicking of “I Agree”.
- The mandatory use of digital identities requires clearly establishing a legitimate state interest and enacting a proportional and just law.
- The role of consent in such situations is minimal, but collection and purpose limitation are important operative principles and citizen’s basic rights still need to be protected.
- However, the state’s understanding of and respect for this principle has often been questionable.
- Also, in either case, recognition and acknowledgement of purpose extensions have almost always been problematic.
- The European GDPR proposes the right to explanation as a countermeasure to indiscriminate and biased machine learning applications.
- However, predictive analytics rarely support causal reasoning and, without an expert audit of algorithmic and data biases, the explanations will most likely turn out to be inane.
What needs to be done?
- Effective data protection in India will require a strong regulatory framework with a hierarchy of data regulators that can protect our basic rights irrespective of our understanding of complex digital setups and levels of consent.
- Also, any solution that is solely based on detection of privacy violations and subsequent punitive actions is unlikely to be effective, mainly because the causal effects of privacy violations, especially of the Kafkaesque types, cannot be easily and immediately determined.
- What is required is an online architectural solution that prevents privacy invasions in the first place.
- Not only do the data regulators require independent authority, but they also need to actively participate in the data protection architecture.
- Apart from determining the fairness of algorithms and use cases, they need to play two other main roles.
- The first should be to determine, and explicitly list out, authorisations for data access for various data processing functions based on a rights-based principle in addition to consent.
- Purpose limitation needs to be built into such authorisations, and all-purpose extension requirements must be explicitly considered.
- The second role should be to ensure that data can be accessed only through audited, pre-approved and digitally signed computer programs after online authentication and verification of the authorisations presented.
- Both the data regulator and the data controller should maintain non-repudiable logs of all data accesses, and neither should be able to access the data independent of the other.
- The technology to support such regulatory functions exists, what is necessary now is an effective and rights-based data protection law, and the will to build the required regulatory capacity.
F. Prelims Fact
Nothing here for today!!!
G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements:
- UMANG (Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance) app aims to build common, unified platform and mobile app to facilitate single point of access for government services (centre, state and utility services) through mobile.
- It has been developed by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and National e-Governance Division (NeGD).
Which of the above statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question 2. Consider the following statements about Dust storms and Thunderstorms:
- Thunderstorms occur when atmosphere has moisture and dust storms take place when moisture is not present.
- Such events take place due to local instability arising out of deviation from normal temperature difference between upper and lower atmosphere.
Which of the above statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question 3. Consider the following statements about Advance Pricing Agreement:
- APA scheme endeavours to provide certainty to taxpayers in domain of transfer pricing by specifying methods of pricing and setting prices of international transactions in advance.
- It helps in determining arm’s length price of international transactions in advance for max period of 5 future years.
Which of the above statements are incorrect?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question 4. Consider the following statements about Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH):
- It aims to promote holistic growth of horticulture sector and also enhance horticulture production, improve nutritional security and income support tofarm Households.
- It also aims to enhance horticulture production, improve nutritional security and income support to farm Households.
Which of the above statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
Various sections of RPA act have to be suitably amended with changing times to prevent Corruption. In the light of this statement discuss about various initiatives taken by SC and EC to bring in accountability by representatives.
The immigration policy of UK has to be inclusive and should remove ambiguities to prevent Windrush type of controversies from surfacing. Discuss its implications on Indians.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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