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GS: 2

International relations:

Sharing data across borders(The Hindu Opinion)

A scenario: The need of data access from other countries

Consider a scenario where a crime is committed in India and the suspect and victim are both Indian citizens. If the suspect used a U.S.-based messaging service to plan the crime, an Indian officer investigating would have to raise a request for data to the U.S. government where it is stored

Why data is rendered inaccessible?

  • Data is broken into pieces: Popular service providers increasingly store electronic communications in the cloud, breaking the data into “shards” and distributing the data across different countries
  • Companies do not store data locally: While these companies offer services in India, they do not store the data locally
  • No law to grant access to foreign law enforcement agencies: The current U.S. law prohibits service providers from disclosing user data to foreign law enforcement agencies.

Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act): recently signed by US

  • This act will enable the U.S. government to enter into agreements with like-minded states for cross-border data sharing
  • This will allow law enforcement agencies from these states to directly obtain electronic data, held by communication service providers headquartered in the U.S., to combat crime

Why India needs a better system for accessing data?

  • India in the first half of 2017 requested data from Facebook 9,853 times, of which only 54.3% were met
  • Companies like facebook provide only basic user information, however investigating agencies more than often need more information than that
  • India-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty: Currently, an officer in India would have to make a request for electronic data under the India-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to access content data held by a U.S. company
  • This process is time consuming: This process has often been criticised by the Indian police for being time consuming, sometimes even taking as long as three years, as well as being cumbersome and outdated.

Effect: India will soon push for agreement with US

New Delhi, on the back of this development, will soon push for an India-U.S. data sharing agreement to serve the interests of its law enforcement and, more importantly, to make headway in the global cyber norms conversation

  • Direct access to a company under CLOUD Act: An Indian officer for the purposes of an investigation will no longer have to make a request to the U.S. government but can approach the company directly.

But there are conditions for foreign states wishing to sign data sharing agreement with US

Protection of privacy and civil liberties: The U.S. requires the foreign states to share a common commitment to the rule of law and the protection of privacy and other civil liberties

US Attorney general to verify: India would be considered to satisfy these requirements based on a determination by the U.S. Attorney General.

An established procedure: India will need to ensure that its authorities collect, retain, use and share data as per an established procedure

Review by court: In addition, Indian laws must provide for electronic data requests to be reviewed by a court or other independent authority

Conclusion

As of now, India falls short of these requirements. However, with the government looking to legislate on a new data protection law, this can soon change. 

Indian Constitution and Polity:

‘Court had no business to dilute Act’(The Hindu)

What has happened?

In its review petition filed before the Supreme Court on Monday, the Centre said the court had no business to dilute the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and make it easier for accused persons to escape arrest.

SC’s view

The Act is weakly implemented instead of being misused as the conviction rate is low

Changes made by SC:

  • Anticipatory bail: To allow accused persons under the Act to apply for anticipatory bail under Section 18 of the Act
  • Preliminary enquiry: An FIR should be registered only after a “preliminary inquiry” was held by a Deputy Superintendent of Police to check if the complaint was “frivolous”

Government’s view

The reason of low conviction rate

Delay in lodging the FIR, hostile witnesses and complainants, absence of proper scrutiny of cases by the prosecution before filing charge sheet and lack of proper presentation and appreciation of evidence by the court

Effect of introducing preliminary enquiry

Only reduce the rate of registration of cases, conviction, increase pendency and per se serve as a deterrent in filing FIR

Heinous crimes are committed against SC/STs: So no violation of Article 21

Objecting to the court’s reasoning that non-availability of anticipatory bail was violative of Article 21 (fundamental right to personal liberty), the government reminded that offences under the Act are “heinous crimes committed to humiliate and subjugate members of the SCs/STs with a view to keep them in a state of servitude.”

Section 18 is a deterrent

Section 18 of the Act is its “backbone” as it enforces an inherent deterrence and instils a sense of protection among members of the SCs/STs

No delay in filing review plea: Ministers(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Union Ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Thawar Chand Gehlot on Monday hailed the government’s decision to file a review petition against the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

Why the delay

According to Ministers: The 11-day delay in filing the review petition was because due to closing of courts due to long weekend

Govt. tightens its grip on fake news(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting headed by Union Minister Smriti Irani on Monday amended the guidelines for accreditation of journalists

Accreditation can be cancelled

Accreditation of a journalist (both television and print) can be cancelled/annulled if the news reported by them is found to be “fake”

Procedure to be followed

Agencies involved: On receiving complaints of “fake news”, it will be referred to the Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media and to the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if it relates to electronic media.

Disposing complaint within 15 days: Both the agencies will have to dispose of each complaint within 15 days.

Suspension during investigation: During the period of probe, the journalist’s accreditation will be suspended.

When the charges are proved

The accreditation shall be suspended for a period of 6 months in the first violation and for one year in the case of second violation and in the event of third violation it would be cancelled permanently

Federalism and fairness(The Hindu Opinion)

What has happened?

Federalism is once again the focus of political discourse in India. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah set the cat among the pigeons when he highlighted Kannada pride by unveiling an official state flag last month. Then in a Facebook post on “Regional Identity & Federalism”, he advocated the need for States to have both financial and cultural autonomy

Concerns of the South

Dependant Northern states: Taxing the southern States to spend on the northern States

Terms of reference for the 15th Finance Commission: The Centre’s direction to use the 2011 Census instead of the 1971 Census for population data has riled the south. As the population in these States has stabilised, the concern is that their share of tax allocation would reduce

Constitutional context: An indestructible union of destructible States

  • The Federation is a Union because it is indestructible
  • Political scientist Alfred Stepan classified India as a “holding together” as opposed to a “coming together” federation
  • The units of Indian federation have undergone multiple transformations since 1947. This is because Article 3 of the Constitution empowers Parliament to create new States
  • While such a provision can be seen as giving the Union too much power, it has arguably been central to holding India together since it allows the federation to evolve and respond to sub-national aspirations.

Hence, from a constitutional perspective, it would not be accurate to say that India is moving from a union to a federation of States

The Larger question

Whether there is a need to reconsider the distribution of powers between the Union and the States?

Removing Article 356:  The President’s Rule

  • While the flexible nature of federalism under the Constitution has served India well, the continued existence of provisions such as Article 356 (President’s rule) goes against the grain of federalism
  • Any serious political movement around federalism should question the necessity of retaining such constitutional provisions which are vestiges of colonial rule.

Shift in political and economic power to States

  • While some have felt that this trend would reverse after the formation of a Central government with a simple majority for the first time in 25 years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to assuage such concerns by invoking the idea of “cooperative federalism”
  • The 14th Finance Commission, in 2015, recommended raising the share of States in the divisible pool of Central taxes from 32% to 42%

However, beyond this measure, the Centre has not inspired much confidence regarding its commitment to federalism

Recent Issue with Finance commission

  • States such as Karnataka have asserted their linguistic and cultural rights in the wake of the Centre’s interventions such as a promotion of Hindi.
  • Skewed terms of reference of FC: Now, the skewed terms of reference for the 15th Finance Commission have brought the south together in making a strong case for fiscal federalism
    • The Commission has been using the 1971 Census for population data to ensure that States that have been successful in family planning are not penalised
    • This came in the wake of the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution which froze the distribution of Lok Sabha seats among States for 25 years, which was extended for another 25 years, in 2001. This prudent political compromise is now being tested

Deepening fault lines

  • Federalism is ultimately based on trust between its various constituent units
  • If a set of States perceive that their progress is being penalised, the viability of such a federation comes into question
  • While the southern States contribute to the nation economically, they don’t occupy a central space politically and are further marginalised culturally

Conclusion

Finally, unless the concerns regarding fairness are addressed from constitutional, financial and cultural fronts, the fault lines developing in our federation could deepen further.

Cauvery again (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Cauvery matter is once again before Supreme Court

Why another round of litigation in Cauvery dispute?

  • Tamil Nadu has moved the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the Centre for not complying with the direction to frame a scheme to implement the water-sharing arrangement set out in the February 16 judgment
  • The Centre has sought three more months and some clarifications in the court order

Difference of opinion b/w Tamilnadu & Karnataka

  • While Tamil Nadu wants the ‘scheme’ envisaged by the court to mean nothing other than the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee, mentioned in the Tribunal’s final award
  • Karnataka says there is no reference to a ‘board’ in the apex court’s order, and that the Centre could frame a scheme different from that described by the Tribunal.  It contends that the apex court envisaged a ‘dispute resolution body’, and not the ‘management board’ favored by the Tribunal

Assurance by CJI

In the latest hearing the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, observed that the term ‘scheme’ mentioned in the judgment did not refer to only a ‘board’. He also assured Tamil Nadu that the court would ensure that it was not deprived of its share of Cauvery water

Conclusion

The Centre’s actions should not amount to undermining the finality of the highest court’s judgment and should aid its implementation 

GS: 3

Economy:

Millets and wheat over rice and meat (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

A shift to wheat, millets and maize from polished rice, to chicken and legumes from beef and eggs, along with leafy vegetables and coconut could reduce India’s micronutrient deficiencies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a study titled ‘Healthy, affordable and climate-friendly diets in India’ suggests

Data used

A team of researchers from Austria, the U.S. and India, headed by Narasimha D. Rao from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria, used the National Sample Survey of Consumption Expenditure in India (2011-12) and the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau to examine Indian diets

Findings

  • Nearly three-quarters of Indians consume less than the ideal number of calories a day, and more than half have protein deficiency
  • Micronutrient deficiency: The deficiencies of micronutrients were more prevalent: nearly nine in 10 Indians are iron-deficient, 85% do not meet the required intake of vitamin A, and two-thirds have zinc deficiency
  • Cost is a criteria: Cost was clearly a concern as deficiencies were found to decrease as household incomes increased. Surprisingly though, urban households had increased deficiencies compared to their rural counterparts (apart from vitamin A), which the researchers attribute to greater diversity of cereals in rural areas
  • South & East more vulnerable: the rice-based diets of south and east India make the people in these areas more vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies than people elsewhere
  • Budgetary constraints for poor: While those above the poverty line can make up for this nutritional inadequacy without their food budgets being affected much, nearly 160 million people below the poverty line cannot without exceeding their food budgets

Solutions proposed

Researchers suggest that the required micronutrients can be met by reducing the intake of rice (from 61% to around 40% of calorie share) and meat (expensive and with high greenhouse gas emissions) and replacing them with coarse cereals such as bajra and ragi, along with legumes, dark, leafy vegetables, and coconut

These dietary changes could also reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in India by up to 25%, the study shows

Bond loss: RBI eases provisioning norms (The Hindu) 

Context

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to ease the provisioning norms for bond losses for third and fourth quarters of 2017-18

Backdrop

Rising bond yields

What has happened?

RBI has now allowed banks to spread bond losses, incurred in 3rd and 4th quarters, over four quarters subject to certain terms

Terms by RBI

The RBI has set certain terms

  • Banks that use the option must make suitable disclosures in their notes to accounts/quarterly results providing details of the provisions for depreciation of the investment portfolio for the quarters ended December 2017 and March 2018 made during the quarter/year and the balance required to be made in the remaining quarters

Internal security:

Tragedy of errors (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Kashmir is not one but two problems. There is the problem of Kashmir between India and Pakistan and the problem in Kashmir between the people and the Central government

Basis of the problems

  • The first is based on Pakistan’s challenge to the legality of the State’s accession to India
  • The second on the disaffection of the State’s population that has created a problem of legitimacy for the Indian Union

Major blow to Indian legitimacy in Kashmir

Sheikh Abdullah’s removal from power and imprisonment in 1953, on the suspicion that he was conspiring with the Americans to create an independent State, was a major blow to the legitimacy of Indian rule in Kashmir

Timeline of events

  • The Indira-Sheikh agreement of 1975 meant a new beginning by reaching a compromise on the autonomy issue and bringing Abdullah back to power. Free and fair elections held in 1977 confirmed this outcome
  • Death of Sheikh Abdullah: Unfortunately, after Abdullah’s death in 1982, the Centre, and especially Rajiv Gandhi, actively destabilised Kashmir by forcing Farooq Abdullah, who had succeeded his father, to relinquish power. It then coerced the National Conference into an alliance with Congress, thus drastically eroding the legitimacy of the National Conference, the moderate face of Kashmiri sub-nationalism, in Kashmiris’ eyes
  • Rigged elections: The openly rigged 1987 election was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Undertaken to diminish the anticipated electoral performance of the opposition Muslim United Front (MUF), it had the opposite effect by forcing many disgruntled supporters of the MUF first to take to the streets and then, from 1990 onwards, to take up arms
  • Attack by Pakistan: Pakistan, unsurprisingly, meddled in troubled waters by infiltrating ISI-trained terrorists into the Valley and by training Kashmiri militants to attack Indian forces. This mayhem further strained the Kashmiris’ relations with the Centre
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