27 Sep 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
GOVERNANCE
1. Aadhaar gets thumbs up from Supreme Court
2. Boost to SC/ST quota in promotions
3. SC proceedings can be live-streamed
4. Ordinance allows panel to supersede scam-tainted MCI
5. New telecom policy aims to provide broadband access to all citizens by 2022
C. GS3 Related
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Aadhaar survives
2. Opacity in the name of privacy
F. Tidbits
1. Cabinet approves 100% govt. stake in GSTN
2. Centre hikes import duty on select goods
3. Package for sugar mills cleared
4. BSE can now launch gold, silver futures
5. G-4 for UN Security Council reform, multilateralism
6. Modi gets UN environmental honour
7. Recyclers storing electronic waste hazardously: Environment Ministry
8. NDRF battalions to have women contingents
9. Punjab plan to eliminate malaria
10. Chardham project: NGT forms panel
11. E-cigarette sale continues unabated in Rajasthan
12. Meghalaya mulls NRC-like exercise
13. Barges with cargo from Bihar enter Assam via Bangladesh
14. MHA merges police forces in six Union Territories
15. SC dismisses plea on Gogoi appointment
16. SC ruling on adultery today
G. Prelims Fact
1. Almonds
2. Astra
3. ‘Biggest bird’ dispute put to rest
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Aadhaar gets thumbs up from Supreme Court

 

  • The Supreme Court, in a majority opinion, upheld Aadhaar as a reasonable restriction on individual privacy that fulfils the government’s legitimate aim to provide dignity to a large, marginalised population living in abject poverty.

Observations

  • The Constitution does not exist for a few or minority of the people of India, but ‘We the People’.
  • Aadhaar is a document of empowerment. An unparalleled identity proof. A document that cannot be duplicated, unlike PAN, ration card, and passport.
  • It is better to be unique than the best. The best makes you number one, but unique makes you the only one.
  • Technology had become a vital tool for ensuring good governance in a social welfare state. Schemes such as the PDS, scholarships, mid-day meals and LPG subsidies involve a huge amount of money, and fool proof Aadhaar helped welfare reach the poor.

Constitutionality

  • Majority opinion upheld the constitutionality of Aadhaar.

Arguments

  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote a sharp dissent, declaring Aadhaar unconstitutional.
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who wrote the lone dissenting opinion declaring Aadhaar unconstitutional, held that the unique identity scheme reduces a person to a 12-digit number.
  • He said that if the requirement of Aadhaar is made mandatory for every benefit or service which the government provides, it is impossible to live in contemporary India without Aadhaar.
  • The legitimate aim of the state to provide dignity to the poor could have been fulfilled by adopting less intrusive measures. Why has Aadhaar been made the sole repository of identification?
  • He said efficiency in governance could not steamroll fundamental freedoms. If so, there was a danger of a society crossing the line which divided democracy from authoritarian cultures.
  • The entire Aadhaar programme, since 2009, suffers from constitutional infirmities and violations of fundamental rights. The enactment of the Aadhaar Act does not save the Aadhaar project. The Aadhaar Act, the Rules and Regulations framed under it, and the framework prior to the enactment of the Act are unconstitutional, he held.

Privacy

  • Aadhaar is a reasonable restriction on individual privacy.
  • The Supreme Court quashed or read down several provisions in the Aadhaar Act in order to de-fang any possibility of the state misusing data.
  • For one, the court held that authentication records should not be retained for more than six months. It declared the archiving of records for five years as bad in law.
  • It also prohibited the creation of a metabase for transactions.
  • It read down Section 33 (1), which allowed the disclosure of Aadhaar information on the orders of a District Judge. This cannot be done now without giving the person concerned an opportunity to be heard.
  • The Supreme Court struck down Section 33(2), which allowed the disclosure of Aadhaar information for national security reasons on the orders of an officer not below a Joint Secretary.

Arguments

  • The Supreme Court said neither were individuals profiled nor their movements traced when Aadhaar was used to avail government benefits under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016.
  • The statute only sought minimal biometric information, and this did not amount to invasion of privacy.
  • Countering the argument that the Aadhaar regime would facilitate the birth of a surveillance state, Justice Sikri wrote that Aadhaar exhibited no such tendencies.
  • Authentication transactions through Aadhaar did not ask for the purpose, nature or location of the transaction.
  • Besides, information was collected in silos and their merging was prohibited. The authentication process was not expanded to the Internet.
  • The collection of personal data and its authentication was done through registered devices. The Authority did not get any information related to the IP address or the GPS location from where authentication was performed.
  • The Aadhaar structure makes it very difficult to create the profile of a person, Justice Sikri reasoned.
  • The absence of a legislative framework for the Aadhaar project between 2009 and 2016, before the Aadhaar Act came into existence, left the biometric data of millions of Indian citizens exposed to danger.
  • Justice Chandrachud did not agree with Justice Sikri’s majority view that since information was collected in silos in Aadhaar, potential surveillance or profiling by the state or private entities was impossible.
  • He countered that when Aadhaar was seeded into every database, it became a bridge across discreet data silos, which allowed anyone with access to this information to re-construct a profile of an individual’s life.

Money Bill

  • The SC upheld the passage of the Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill.

Arguments

  • The majority opinion on the Constitution Bench that the Aadhaar Act was a Money Bill prevailed, but the dissenting judgment by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud questioned how a statute about an identity proof, Aadhaar, can be possibly passed as a Money Bill.
  • Justice A.K. Sikri pointed to Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act which required authentication by Aadhaar card if beneficiaries wanted to access subsidies, benefits and services.
  • Justice Sikri reasoned that since all these were welfare measures sought to be extended to the marginalised sections, a collective reading would show that the purpose is to expand the coverage of all kinds of aid, support, grant, advantage, relief provisions, facility, utility or assistance which may be extended with the support of the Consolidated Fund of India with the objective of targeted delivery.
  • In short, the majority view justified that Aadhaar was vital to ensure that government aid reached the targeted beneficiaries, and hence, the Act was validly passed as a Money Bill.
  • A Money Bill must deal with the declaring of any expenditure to be expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India. Section 7 does not declare the expenditure incurred to be a charge on the Consolidated Fund. It only provides that in the case of such services, benefits or subsidies, Aadhaar can be made mandatory to avail of them, Justice Chandrachud countered Justice Sikri’s view.
  • He also pointed out that the other sections of the Aadhaar Act which dealt with several aspects relating to the Aadhaar numbers were alien to the scope of Article 110 of the Constitution which defined a Money Bill.

Aadhar linkages

  • The majority opinion upheld the PAN-Aadhaar linkage, but declared linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile SIM cards unconstitutional.
  • The Election Commission may resume the voluntary linking of voter identification cards with the Aadhaar database, given that, prima facie, the judgment by the Supreme Court’s five-judge Bench does not have any adverse remarks on the issue.

Children

  • The court insulated children from the Aadhaar regime.
  • The card was not necessary for children aged between six and 14 under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as right to education was a fundamental right.
  • Statutory bodies such as the CBSE and the UGC cannot ask students to produce their Aadhaar cards for examinations like the NEET and the JEE.
  • Permission of parents and guardians was a must before enrolling children into Aadhaar.
  • Once they attained the age of majority, children could opt out of Aadhaar.

Section 57

  • The Supreme Court held the portion, which gives a free hand to private entities to demand Aadhaar from individuals, unconstitutional.
  • Section 57 allows not only the state but also any body corporate or person or private entity to demand Aadhaar from citizens for the purpose of identification.
  • This provision had offered statutory support to mobile companies and private service providers to seek individuals’ Aadhaar card for identification purposes.

Arguments

  • A mere contract between a private entity and an individual was not enough to demand Aadhaar from the latter.

Directions to the Government

  • The court further directed the government and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to bring in regulations to prevent rightfully entitled people from being denied benefits.

Significance

  • The resident has been recognised as being at the heart of the project, and they have gained new rights that help them assert their ownership over their data.
  • It will bolster good governance, and the delivery of services to the poorer sections of society.

Concerns

  • Lakhs of people would continue to be denied their universal rights for not having Aadhaar.
  • The majority opinion in the Aadhaar verdict is silent on deleting biometric data already collected by phone companies.
  • The judgment would help little in protecting the right to privacy because the Centre had privatised or outsourced many of its responsibilities. Such companies would have access to Aadhaar data.
  • The Supreme Court ruling that Aadhaar is not mandatory for opening bank accounts could affect online opening of accounts.
  • The bankers say that since there are no other officially valid documents apart from Aadhaar for use digitally, accounts cannot be opened online if the customer decides not to share the number.

2. Boost to SC/ST quota in promotions

 

  • A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has modified a 2006 judgment requiring the State to show quantifiable data to prove the backwardness of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community in order to provide quota in promotion in public employment.
  • It gives a huge fillip for the government’s efforts to provide accelerated promotion with consequential seniority for Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) members in government services.
  • The apex court also turned down the centre’s plea that overall population of SC/ST be considered for granting quota for them.

Observations

  • Justice Rohinton Nariman held that this portion of the M. Nagaraj judgment of another five-judge Constitution Bench in 2006 was directly contrary to the nine-judge Bench verdict in the Indira Sawhney case.
  • In the Indira Sawhney case, the Supreme Court had held that the test or requirement of social and educational backwardness cannot be applied to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who indubitably fall within the expression ‘backward class of citizens’.
  • Justice Nariman pointed out that the Presidential List for Scheduled Castes contains only those castes or groups or parts as untouchables.
  • Similarly, the Presidential List of Scheduled Tribes only refers to those tribes in remote backward areas who are socially extremely backward.
  • The whole object of reservation is to see that backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis.
  • This will not be possible if only the creamy layer within that class bag all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were, Justice Nariman said and upheld Nagaraj’s direction that creamy layer applied to SC/ST in promotions.
  • It said that when a court applies the creamy layer principle to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, it does not in any manner tinker with the Presidential List under Articles 341 or 342 of the Constitution of India.
  • The caste or group or sub-group named in the said List continues exactly as before.
  • It is only those persons within that group or sub-group, who have come out of untouchability or backwardness by virtue of belonging to the creamy layer, who are excluded from the benefit of reservation.

3. SC proceedings can be live-streamed

 

  • The Supreme Court upheld the plea for live-streaming of its proceedings, observing that the use of technology is to virtually expand the court beyond the four walls of the courtroom.

Observations

  • It pointed out that in some cases the parties may have genuine reservations and may claim right of privacy and dignity.
  • Such a claim will have to be examined by the court and for which reason, a just regulatory framework must be provided for, including obtaining prior consent of the parties to the proceedings to be live-streamed.
  • The final decision whether to live-stream a case or not lies with the court, especially in sensitive ones. The decision cannot be appealed.
  • In a separate and concurring opinion, Justice Chandrachud wrote that the live-streaming would be the true realisation of the open court system in which courts are accessible to all. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, he said.

Significance

  • It will help those even in distant places to witness court proceedings.
  • Live-streaming of court proceedings has the potential of throwing up an option to the public to witness proceedings which they otherwise could not have due to logistical issues and infrastructural restrictions.

Pilot project

  • Justice Khanwilkar said live-streaming should start as a pilot project in the Supreme Court for cases of national importance.
  • Specified category of cases or cases of constitutional and national importance being argued for final hearing before the Constitution Bench may be live-streamed first.

4. Ordinance allows panel to supersede scam-tainted MCI

 

  • In a move to enhance governance and quality of medical education, an ordinance was issued dissolving the Medical Council of India (MCI) and replacing it with a seven-member Board of Governors led by NITI Aayog Member Dr. V.K. Paul.
  • The Ordinance supersedes the MCI and the powers of the Council have been vested in a Board of Governors (BoG).
  • The BoG will continue to perform till a council is constituted.

Background

  • The National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2017 to replace the MCI with a National Medical Commission is pending in Parliament.
  • It was based on the March 2016 ‘92nd Report’ of the Department related to the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Health and Family Welfare, and recommendations of a group of experts.
  • The Bill was taken up for consideration in January this year and was referred to the Department-related PSC on Health and Family Welfare for examination.
  • The PSC presented its 109th Report on the Bill to the House in March, and the Ministry, after examining the recommendations, obtained approval of the Cabinet for moving official amendments.
  • Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, in its judgment in May 2016, issued directions to the Centre to constitute an oversight committee with the authority to oversee all statutory functions of the MCI till a new legislation comes in.

Features of the Bill

  • The Bill provides for simplification of procedures and was aimed at spurring rapid growth in the number of Under and Post Graduate medical seats in the country.
  • The NMC Bill provides for distribution of functions among four autonomous Boards, whose members would be persons of proven ability selected through a transparent process.

5. New telecom policy aims to provide broadband access to all citizens by 2022

 

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the new telecom policy that aims to provide broadband access to every citizen at 50 Mbps speed by the year 2022.

The National Digital Communications Policy 2018

  • The National Digital Communications Policy 2018, which envisions attracting $100 billion investments into the country’s digital communications sector, aims at creating at least 40 lakh new jobs in the sector in the next four years.
  • The policy aims at expanding the IoT ecosystem to five billion connected devices, create globally recognised IPRs in India and create a fund for R&D in new technologies.
  • It also pitches for leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to enhance the quality of services offered, spectrum management and network security while also establishing India as a global hub for cloud computing.
  • The policy has called for a review of levies and fees — including licence fee, universal service obligation fund levy and spectrum usage charges, on the sector. This is expected to help the debt-laden telecom sector.

Features

  • Provide universal broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps to every citizen.
  • Provide 1 Gbps connectivity to all Gram Panchayats by 2020 and 10 Gbps by 2022.
  • Ensure connectivity to all uncovered areas.
  • Attract investments of USD 100 billion in the Digital Communications Sector.
  • Train one million manpower for building New Age Skill.
  • Expand IoT ecosystem to 5 billion connected devices.
  • Establish a comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguards the privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals.
  • Facilitate India’s effective participation in the global digital economy.
  • Enforce accountability through appropriate institutional mechanisms to assure citizens of safe and secure digital communications infrastructure and services.

Background

  • The last telecom policy was announced in 2012.
  • The communication sector has been evolving at a rapid pace globally, especially with technologies such as 5G and Internet of Things.
  • There was a need for a new consumer-centric and application-centric policy.

C. GS3 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Aadhaar survives

Note to Students:
Note to the Students: From a UPSC point of view there are a few important areas to cover in this article. These are: 1) The idea of Aadhar 2) The concept of a Money Bill (Article 110)
3) The issues concerning data privacy of an individual

The News:

  • In a recent judgement by the Supreme Court of India, four out of five judges on a Constitution Bench ruled that the law enabling the implementation of the unique identification programme (Aadhar) does not violate the right to privacy of citizens.
  • The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and clarified areas in which it cannot be made mandatory.
  • The court is of the view that the project empowers marginalised sections and procures dignity for them along with services, benefits and subsidies by leveraging the power of technology.

Larger Background:

  • It is important to note that the Aadhaar Act was passed as a money bill.
  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha had classified this bill as a money bill.

What is a Money Bill?   

  • A Bill is said to be a Money Bill if it only contains provisions related to
  1. taxation,
  2. borrowing of money by the government,
  3. expenditure from or receipt to the Consolidated Fund of India. Bills that only contain provisions that are incidental to these matters would also be regarded as Money Bills.
  • A Money Bill may only be introduced in Lok Sabha. This is done so on the recommendation of the President.
  • It must be passed in Lok Sabha by a simple majority of all members present and voting.  Following this, it may be sent to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations, which Lok Sabha may reject if it chooses to.  
  • If such recommendations are not given within 14 days, it will deemed to be passed by Parliament.

What is a Financial Bill?

  • A Bill that contains some provisions related to taxation and expenditure, and additionally contains provisions related to any other matter is called a Financial Bill. Therefore, if a Bill merely involves expenditure by the government, and addresses other issues, it will be a financial bill.
  • A Financial Bill may only be introduced in Lok Sabha, on the recommendation of the President. The Bill must be passed by both Houses of Parliament, after the President has recommended that it be taken up for consideration in each House.
  • It is important to note that the Rajya Sabha has no power to reject or amend a Money Bill.  However, a Financial Bill must be passed by both Houses of Parliament.
  • The Speaker certifies a Bill as a Money Bill, and the Speaker’s decision is final.

Recent History:

  • In recent times, the unique identification programme was projected by sceptics, detractors and activists as an intrusion on citizens’ privacy.
  • Many sceptics were of the opinion that the Aadhar was a grand project to appropriate personal data for commercial exploitation by private parties and profiling by the state.
  • Last year, 2017, a nine-judge Bench had unanimously ruled that privacy is a fundamental right.
  • Ever since this decision by the Supreme Court, opinion began to spread that the unique identification programme was vulnerable in the face of judicial scrutiny.

Analysis:

  • On studying this judgement, one draws the conclusion that the Supreme Court has restored the original intent of the programme, which is to plug leakages in subsidy schemes and to have better targeting of welfare benefits.
  • Over the past few years, the Aadhaar came to play a large role in the lives of ordinary people.
  • The Aadhaar has acquired the shape of a basic identity document that was required to access services, such as:
    a)  birth and death certificates,
  • b) SIM cards,
  • c) school admissions,
  • d) property registrations and
    e) vehicle purchases

  • The recent judgment of the Supreme Court narrows the scope of Aadhaar but provides a framework within which it can work.
  • This judgement has two views,
    a) The majority opinion
  • b) The dissenting opinion/judgement  

The majority opinion:

  • The majority opinion has sought to limit the import of the scheme to aspects directly related to welfare benefits, subsidies and money spent from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Relying on official statistics, the majority favoured the scheme’s continuance for the sake of the 99.76% of people included under the scheme, rather than show anxiety over the 0.24% who were excluded because of authentication failure.
  • The Bench made an important statement by saying that “The remedy is to plug the loopholes rather than axe the project,”.

A few implications of the majority opinion:

  • The various controversial circulars and rules making it mandatory to

link mobile phone numbers and bank accounts to Aadhaar numbers have been declared unconstitutional.

  • Further, Section 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery Of Financial And Other Subsidies, Benefits And Services) Act, 2016, has been struck down to the extent that it authorised body corporates and individuals to use the Aadhaar number to establish someone’s identity.
  • Schools have been barred from making the submission of the Aadhaar number mandatory to enrol children.
  • A few other provisions have also been read down or clarified.

Dissenting Judgement:

  • Justice DY Chandrachud in his dissenting judgement said that the “Aadhaar allows constructing profiles of individuals, which is against the right to privacy and enables potential surveillance,”.
  • Justice Chandrachud said: “Bypassing Rajya Sabha to pass Aadhaar Act amounts to subterfuge and the law can be struck down.”
  • He further observed that the Aadhaar cannot be treated as money bill and passing a bill as money bill which is not a money bill is a fraud on the Constitution,”.
  • Justice Chandrachud said if Aadhaar is seeded with every database then there is chance of infringement of right to privacy. He said there was absence of regulatory mechanism to provide robust data protection.
  • He went on to add that allowing private players to use Aadhaar will lead to profiling which could be used to ascertain political views of citizens.
  • Having said this, he agreed with the majority decision that mobile companies cannot insist on Aadhaar.
  • He also highlighted that biometric authentication failures have led to denial of rights and legal entitlements. He sighted the reason for such failures in the project’s inability to account for and remedy flaws in its network and design.
  • It is important to note that while a dissenting judgement has no force of law, it leaves open the possibility of being referred to a larger bench at a later stage.
  • He further ruled that the denial of benefits arising out of any social security rights is “violative of human dignity and impermissible under our constitutional scheme”.
  • He also observed that there was no institutional responsibility of the UIDAI to protect the data of citizens.

2. Opacity in the name of privacy

Larger Background:

  • On August 24, 2017, the Supreme Court had declared the right to privacy a fundamental right.
  • However, some observers were of the opinion that this judgement by the Supreme Court would mean that authorities would be shielded from scrutiny by citizens.

Analysis:

Issues of Contention:

  • The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018, drafted by the Srikrishna Committee identifies “personal data” as any data that directly or indirectly identifies a person. Further, this bill calls for amending clause 8.1.j of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
  • The Srikrishna Committee suggests amending this clause to authorise public information officers, or PIOs, to deny information containing ‘personal data’. This denial of information containing ‘personal data’ can be done so if they feel that such disclosure is likely to cause harm to ‘the data principal’, and if such harm outweighs the public interest.
  • It is important to note that the Bill defines ‘data principal’ as whoever the data relates to.
  • It is thus seen by some observers as going against the idea of the RTI.  
  • Critics believe that the Data Protection Bill extends the cover of ‘personal data’ over all such information.
  • They are of the opinion that the Data Protection Bill asks PIOs, who are now largely appointed at junior levels, to weigh public interest against the potential for harm to those identifiable in public documents.
  • Thus, pursuant to this, an important question to ask here would be:

Can we expect PIOs to assess which information is private, and then weigh the potential harm to individuals due to disclosure, guided all the while by public interest and the cause of accountability?

  • Critics believe that PIOs will now have a strong legal ground to play safe, and toss out RTI requests deploying an amended clause 8.1.j.

What is the objective of the RTI?

  • The RTI Act’s core aim is to bring accountability by making available public records which disclose the actions and decisions of specific, identifiable members of the political class and the bureaucracy.

A brief Look at The Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018

  • The Bill sets out certain rights of the individual.  
    These rights include:

(i) right to obtain confirmation from the fiduciary on whether its personal data has been processed,
(ii) right to seek correction of inaccurate, incomplete, or out-of-date personal data, and (iii) right to have personal data transferred to any other data fiduciary in certain circumstances.

What is a data fiduciary?

  • A data fiduciary is someone who “determines the purpose and means of processing of personal data”. Thus, in effect, anyone collecting or using our data is a data fiduciary.
  • The Bill provides for the establishment of a Data Protection Authority.  
    The Authority is empowered to:
    (i) take steps to protect interests of individuals,
    (ii) prevent misuse of personal data, and
    (iii) ensure compliance with the Bill.  
  • It will consist of a chairperson and six members, with knowledge of at least 10 years in the field of data protection and information technology.  Orders of the Authority can be appealed to an Appellate Tribunal established by the central government and appeals from the Tribunal will go to the Supreme Court.
  • The Bill allows processing of data by fiduciaries if consent is provided.
  • However, in certain circumstances, processing of data may be permitted without the consent of the individual.  
  • The grounds on which processing of data may be permitted without the consent of the individual include:  
  1. a) if necessary for any function of Parliament or state legislature, or if required by the state for providing benefits to the individual,
    b)  if required under law or for the compliance of any court judgement,
    c)  to respond to a medical emergency,
    d) threat to public health or breakdown of public order, or,
    e) for reasonable purposes specified by the Authority, related to activities such as fraud detection, debt recovery, and whistle blowing.
  • Processing of sensitive personal data is allowed on certain grounds. These include:
    a) based on explicit consent of the individual,
    b) if necessary for any function of Parliament or state legislature, or,
    c) if required by the state for providing benefits to the individual, or
    d) if required under law or for the compliance of any court judgement.
  • Sensitive personal data includes passwords, financial data, biometric data, genetic data, caste, religious or political beliefs, or any other category of data specified by the Authority.  
  • Additionally, fiduciaries are required to institute appropriate mechanisms for age verification and parental consent when processing sensitive personal data of children.

Concluding Remarks:

  • The government should be addressing these alarms raised by the Central Information Commission, the RTI’s apex watchdog.
  • Critics fear that if the Bill is passed as is, and the RTI Act is amended, it will deal a body blow to India’s hard-won right to information.

F. Tidbits

1. Cabinet approves 100% govt. stake in GSTN

 

  • The Union Cabinet approved increasing the government’s ownership in the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) to 100% from the existing 49% and also change the existing structure in line with a transition plan.
  • It approved acquisition of the entire 51% equity held by the non-government institutions in GSTN equally by the Centre and the State governments.

2. Centre hikes import duty on select goods

 

  • The government has released a list of 19 categories of items on which it would be hiking import duties, which include white goods such as air-conditioners, refrigerators and washing machines as well as non-essential items such as gems, travel bags and aviation turbine fuel (ATF).
  • The new rates will be applicable from September 27.

Why?

  • The Central Government has taken tariff measures, by way of increase in the basic customs duty to curb import of certain imported items.
  • These changes aim at narrowing the current account deficit (CAD).
  • It is aimed at reducing the drain of currency reserves and boost domestic demand.

Concerns

  • This increase in duty on imports with the already depreciating rupee would be quite a point of worry for the importers.
  • However, this hike in duty may not impact importers who procure from countries with which India currently has beneficial free trade agreements.

3. Package for sugar mills cleared

 

  • For the fourth time in the last five months, the Centre has approved incentives to help the cash-starved sugar mills clear thousands of crores in arrears of payment to cane farmers.

What?

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs cleared a ₹5,538-crore package which includes higher production assistance to farmers, as well as transport subsidies for mills trying to export sugar.

Background

  • Record harvests over the last two years have led to sugar production levels far above domestic consumption, resulting in a crash in prices and a liquidity crisis in the industry.

Concerns

  • None of the previous subsidy announced in May has been claimed by mills or paid to farmers, as several government conditions — including export quotas — had not been met.
  • Due to excess carry-over stocks and indication of similar excess production in the ensuing sugar season 2018-19, the liquidity problem of the sugar mills is likely to persist in the coming sugar season too.
  • As a result, cane price arrears of sugarcane farmers may also peak at unprecedented high level.

4. BSE can now launch gold, silver futures

 

  • BSE has received regulatory approval from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to launch delivery-based futures contract (a legal agreement to buy or sell something at a predetermined price at a specified time in the future) in gold (1 kg) and silver (30 kg).
  • The exchange will launch trading in these contracts on October 1.
  • Delivery centre of gold and silver futures contract will be exchange designated vaults at Ahmedabad initially, and then expanded across India in the second phase.

5. G-4 for UN Security Council reform, multilateralism

 

  • India and other Group-4 (G-4) countries reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism and called for the early reform of the UN Security Council (UNSC).
  • G-4 Ministers stressed that adapting the UN to the contemporary needs of the 21st century necessarily required reforming the Security Council.

American disinterest and UNSC

  • Given the American disinterest in the UN and other multilateral bodies, China, one of the five permanent members of the UNSC, has slowed down the move to expand the body.
  • The U.S. has no active opposition to the demand of these four countries to be included as permanent members of the UNSC, but the Trump administration has taken a benign approach to the proposed reform.
  • G-4 Ministers noted that despite an overwhelming majority of UN member states supporting Security Council reform, the negotiations launched in 2009 have not produced substantive progress over the 10 years.
  • The current composition of the UNSC does not reflect the changed global realities.

6. Modi gets UN environmental honour

 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been awarded with the UN’s highest environmental honour, also given to five other individuals and organisations, for his leadership of the International Solar Alliance and pledge to eliminate single use plastic by 2022.
  • Cochin International Airport was honoured with the award for Entrepreneurial Vision, for its leadership in the use of sustainable energy.

7. Recyclers storing electronic waste hazardously: Environment Ministry

 

  • Many of India’s electronic-waste (e-waste) recyclers aren’t recycling waste at all.
  • While some are storing it in hazardous conditions, others don’t even have the capacity to handle such waste, says a new report prepared by the Union Environment Ministry.

Background

  • India generates more than two million tonnes of e-waste annually, and the bulk of it is processed in the informal sector.
  • In 2017, the Centre brought into effect the E-waste Rules, which require companies that make or sell electronic equipment to collect a certain percentage of e-waste generated from their goods once they have reached their end-of-life.
  • In 2017-2018, the companies were supposed to have collected 10%. This would rise to 70% by 2023. But doing this would require these firms to work with licensed e-waste recyclers and ensure that all e-waste is properly disposed of.
  • India now has 178 registered e-waste recyclers, accredited by the State governments to process e-waste.

Checks by the Ministry

  • The Environment Ministry conducted checks at 11 registered recyclers and one unregistered recycler in May this year.
  • The checks led the Ministry to conclude in its report that a number of transgressions were seen committed by the recycling facilities such as adopting non-environmentally sound methods of storage, handling and processing of e-waste, non-compliance with guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • Certain recycling facilities were non-operational or seemed to be inadequate to handle the capacity of e-waste.

8. NDRF battalions to have women contingents

 

  • The Union government has proposed to attach one woman contingent to each battalion of the National Disaster Response Force.
  • The force will help the female victims during disasters and calamities.

9. Punjab plan to eliminate malaria

 

  • The Punjab government in collaboration with the World Health Organization has launched a “’micro strategic plan” to eliminate malaria from the State by 2020.
  • Punjab is the first State in the country where the WHO will collaborate for elimination of malaria.
  • It would provide technical support to the State to achieve the set target.
  • The State is committed to micro-level surveillance under which each and every reported case of malaria would be investigated and remedial measures undertaken to prevent its further spread.

10. Chardham project: NGT forms panel

 

  • Following a plea challenging the environmental clearance granted to the Chardham highway project, the National Green Tribunal constituted an oversight committee to look into the issue.
  • The independent committee will consist of representatives from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), the Forest Research Institute and others.
  • The directions came while the green panel was hearing a set of pleas challenging the construction of the Chardham highway project, stating that the project will have adverse environmental effects.

Chardham highway project

  • It is a proposed two-lane (in each direction) express National Highway with a minimum width of 10 metres in the state of Uttarakhand.
  • The proposed highway will complement the under development Char Dham Railway by connecting the four holy places in Uttarakhand states includes Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
  • The project includes 900 km national highways will connect whole of Uttarakhand state.

11. E-cigarette sale continues unabated in Rajasthan

 

  • Despite the Centre’s advisory issued last month asking the States to stop the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) which use a nicotine-laced liquid, the Rajasthan government is yet to act to protect the adolescents and youths against nicotine addiction.
  • The sale of e-cigarettes continues unabated in the State.

Background

  • The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare had asked all States in an advisory issued on August 28 that the ENDS, including e-cigarettes, vape, e-sheesha, e-nicotine flavoured hookah and heat-not-burn devices were not sold, manufactured, distributed, traded, imported and advertised in any manner.
  • Seven States – Punjab, Karnataka, Mizoram, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh – have already prohibited manufacturing and sale of e-cigarettes and the Ministry had asked others to follow suit.

Why?

  • The products which enable nicotine delivery are a great health risk to the public at large, especially the children, adolescents, pregnant women and women of reproductive age.
  • The ENDS are also not approved as nicotine replacement therapy under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

12. Meghalaya mulls NRC-like exercise

 

  • The Meghalaya government will soon hold an all-party meeting to discuss an NRC-like exercise in the State to ensure that indigenous people are protected.
  • The demand for conducting an NRC-like exercise in all the North-eastern States is growing.

Background

  • The National Register of Citizens is a record of all legal citizens and it was created for Assam in 1951.
  • It is being updated under the Supreme Court’s supervision with March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for genuine Indian citizens.

13. Barges with cargo from Bihar enter Assam via Bangladesh

 

  • Almost a month after setting sail from Kahalgaon in Bihar, two 1,000-tonne barges carrying 1,233 tonnes of bagged fly ash reached western Assam’s Dhubri via Bangladesh.
  • The crossing over of the barges into India at Chilmari border in Dhubri district marked the beginning of a new era for inland water transport.
  • Cargo transport on such a scale had never been tried across two of the country’s largest river systems — Ganga and Brahmaputra.

14. MHA merges police forces in six Union Territories

 

  • The National Capital Territory of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh (Police Service) Rules, 2018, was notified on September 25.
  • The new rules have amalgamated police forces in six Union Territories.
  • The rules effectively mean that officers, who are not direct IPS recruits, could be posted in any of the six UTs and will be at the disposal of the MHA.
  • There are around 533 posts that will be covered under the new rules including Assistant Commissioners of Police and Deputy Superintendents of Police.
  • The rules will come into play upon promotion or direct recruitment of inspectors to the post of ACPs.
  • Half of the posts at ACP rank will be filled through direct recruitment and the other half through promotion.
  • Earlier these postings were decided by the respective UT administrators.
  • Moreover, a Service known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh Police Service will be constituted.

Significance

  • The initiative is being viewed as the first step towards the creation of a central police cadre allowing for the posting of police personnel across the country irrespective of the force they are initially inducted into.
  • A central pool allowing inter-transferability would also ensure that local police personnel do not fall prey to serving vested interests in their home services and ensure that they don’t become complacent.
  • It will ensure that local police personnel in smaller locations such as Daman & Diu or Lakshadweep or Dadra and Nagar Haveli are able to learn modern policing methods from the capital of the country and go back home to employ these effectively.

15. SC dismisses plea on Gogoi appointment

 

  • The Supreme Court has dismissed as without merit a petition challenging the appointment of Justice Ranjan Gogoi as the next Chief Justice of India.
  • A Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said the issue did not need any interference of the court.

16. SC ruling on adultery today

 

  • A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra will decide whether the pre-Independence provision of adultery (Section 497) treats a married woman as a commodity owned by her husband and violates the constitutional concepts of gender equality and sensitivity.
  • The Chief Justice himself had orally observed that adultery did not even qualify as a criminal offence, and was at the most, a civil wrong.
  • He said adultery had a civil remedy – divorce. Sending a person to prison for five years for adultery does not appeal to common sense, he said.

G. Prelims Fact

1. Almonds

 

2. Astra

 

  • Astra is an all-weather beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, India.
  • It is the first air-to-air missile developed by India.
  • It features mid-course inertial guidance system driven by a fibre optic gyroscope with terminal active radar homing.
  • Astra is designed to be capable of engaging targets at varying range and altitudes allowing for engagement of both short-range targets at a distance of 20 km (12 mi) and long-range targets up to a distance of 80 km (50 mi).
  • Astra has been integrated with Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI and will be integrated with Dassault Mirage 2000 and Mikoyan MiG-29 in the future.

FOG

  • A fibre optic gyroscope (FOG) senses changes in orientation based on the interference of light which has passed through a coil of optical fibre.

Terminal guidance system

  • Terminal guidance refers to any guidance system that is primarily or solely active during the terminal phase, just before the weapon impacts its target.

Inertial Guidance

  • Inertial Guidance uses sensitive measurement devices to calculate the location of the missile due to the acceleration put on it after leaving a known position.

Active radar homing (ARH)

  • Active radar homing (ARH) is a missile guidance method in which a missile contains a radar transceiver and the electronics necessary for it to find and track its target autonomously.

3. ‘Biggest bird’ dispute put to rest

 

  • Scientists claim that they have finally solved the riddle of the world’s largest bird.
  • A study released by British scientists suggested that one species of elephant bird was even larger than previously thought, with a specimen weighing an estimated 860 kg — about the same as a fully-grown giraffe.

Vorombe titan (Elephant bird)

  • Elephant birds (belonging to the family Aepyornithidae) are an extinct group of colossal flightless birds that roamed Madagascar during the Late Quaternary.
  • Vorombe titan — Malagasy for “big bird” — the creature would have stood at least three metres (10 feet) tall, and had an average weight of 650 kg.
  • They definitely couldn’t fly as they couldn’t have supported anywhere near their weight.

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements:
 

  1. Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) is a not for profit organisation owned completely by the government.

  2. GSTN has been entrusted with the responsibility of building Indirect Taxation platform for GST.

  3. It seeks to establish a uniform interface for the tax payers and a common and shared IT infrastructure between the Centre and States.

Which of the above statement/s is/are incorrect?

  1. i) only
  2. iii) only
  3. i) and iii) only
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 2. Which of the following statement/s with respect to UIDAI is/are correct?
 
  1. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is a statutory authority established in 2009 by the government of India.

  2. It works under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

  3. It follows the provisions of the Aadhar Act, 2016.

Options:

  1. i) and iii) only
  2. iii) only
  3. ii) and iii) only
  4. All of the above

See

Answer
Question 3. Which of the following statements is incorrect?

 

  1. The G4 nations comprise Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan.

  2. Each of these four countries has figured among the elected non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

  3. G4’s primary aim is the permanent member seats on the Security Council.

  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 4. Choose the incorrect statement in relation to the Royal Indian Navy mutiny:
  1. RIN mutiny refers to the total strike and subsequent revolt by Indian sailors at Bombay harbour in 1946.

  2. The immediate issues of the revolt were living conditions and food.

  3. The strike spread to other cities, and was joined by elements of the Royal Indian Air Force and local police forces.

  4. The revolt was called off following a meeting between the President of the Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC), M. S. Khan, and Gandhiji.

See

Answer
 
 

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. Instrumentalism may be good for making the policy acceptable to the society but will not be a futuristic option. Comment.

  2. Suggest steps to prepare a good citizen charter.

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

“Proper Current Affairs preparation is the key to success in the UPSC- Civil Services Examination. We have now launched a comprehensive ‘Current Affairs Webinar’. Limited seats available. Click here to Know More.”

 

Enroll for India’s Largest All-India Test Series

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *