India makes push for U.K. immigration reform (The Hindu)
Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu and Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju’s visit to UK
- Review of immigration policies relating to India, including on student visas and the extension of a visa system introduced for Chinese visitors to the U.K.
- Introduction of a two-year visa system for business travellers
- Britain introduced the system for Chinese visitors in 2016
- Ease of getting visas and the costs which could prove prohibitive for the services sector. Costs have been rising amid a toughening of the U.K. policy regime in this area
- Visa-free travel for Indian diplomats in the U.K. Britain remained the only major European country not to bring in this policy
- Treatment of women on spousal visas
- It is a growing issue of concern, amid fears that women who had accompanied partners on spousal visas would be deserted in India, had their visas cancelled
During the course of his visit, Mr. Prabhu held a number of discussions, including taking part in the 12th India-U.K. Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) meeting, in which the recommendations of the Joint Working Group on trade were discussed. With Britain unable to commence formal discussions on a trade deal with India till it leaves the EU, the two countries have begun informal talks on the scope of potential trade opportunities through this working group
- Energy: India would be working with Britain on cooperation around new technical innovation when it came to the use of wind, tidal and solar energy, as well as the potential for British firms in this area to set up manufacturing facilities in industrial corridors in India
Upcoming CHOGM visit
The visits come in the light of the upcoming visit of Indian PM to UK for CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting)
MoU on illegal immigrants’return
Both India & Britain have agreed to the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding on the swift return of Indian illegal immigrants from the U.K
Significance: This issue has been repeatedly raised by the British government and cited as an obstacle to immigration reform on the British side
- The progress on this issue — the MoU will likely be signed during Mr. Modi’s visit — will be seen as a gesture of goodwill on the Indian side and will strengthen their calls for change on the U.K.
Iran rejects worries over impact of new US sanctions on Chahbahar project
No effect on Chahbahar project
Striking a defiant note over possible new sanctions against Tehran, Iran’s Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi has said the move will “isolate” the U.S., and rejected any worries that India’s Chabahar project will be affected
Backdrop: new sanctions by US
Shortly ahead of a deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to issue a waiver on Iranian compliance on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told presspersons that he “expects new sanctions” against Iran
Regardless of U.S. policy, the government has made it clear it will not change its commitment to the Chabahar project and special economic zone, which is seen as a major connectivity project at an estimated cost of $20 billion that will help India bypass transit hurdles posed by Pakistan, in order to trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia
Japan is cautious
U.S. allies such as Japan are understood to have expressed misgivings (a feeling of doubt or apprehension about the outcome or consequences of something) over investing in Iran, officials privy to the negotiations have said
- In 2016, before the U.S. elections, Japan had evinced (indicate) interest in partnering with India on the port project, which is part of a trilateral India-Iran-Afghanistan transit trade agreement
Other possible challenges to Chahbahar
Other than US sanctions that may thwart other countries from joining Chahbahar following other challenges can also hamper its future,
- CPEC to PACE: Another possible challenge could come from a recent Afghanistan-Pakistan-China trilateral ministerial meeting in Beijing, where the possibility of Afghanistan joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that goes through Gwadar port to make it the Pakistan-Afghanistan-China Economic Corridor (PACE) was discussed
India’s developmental activities in Iran
- The Chabahar Shahid Beheshti port, where India is developing several berths, is on track to be completed in 2018
- IRCON, the government’s railway construction company, has finished a survey to build the proposed $1.2 billion railway line from Chabahar to Zahedan on the Iran-Afghanistan border
Ties with India intact, says Israeli Ambassador (The Hindu)
India-Israel bilateral relations-Israeli PM Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to New Delhi
What has happened?
Israel on Friday said that India’s vote at the United Nations General Assembly against the American recognition of Jerusalem as its capital would not affect its ties with India
No effect on UNGN vote
Ambassador of Israel Daniel Carmon indicated that Israel and India maintained an “all-weather friendship” and that discussion on a bilateral Free Trade Agreement was under way and that India’s vote at the United Nations General Assembly against the American recognition of Jerusalem as its capital would not affect its ties with India
Indian Constitution and Polity:
Four SC judges air differences with CJI Misra (The Hindu)
Press conference organised by 4 senior judges of Supreme Court on difference over CJI
What has happened?
Four senior judges of the Supreme Court held a press conference and publicly accused Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra of selectively assigning cases to judges of his choice without any rational basis
Why this press conference is significant?
This conference assumes importance because judicial protocol dictates that sitting judges should not interact with the media
Reasons for the conference as given by the judges
Four judges said that they had collectively tried to persuade the Chief Justice to take remedial measures but their efforts failed
- The judges said that with the independence of the judiciary and the future of democracy at stake, they had “no other choice but communicate to the nation to please take care of this institution.”
- The administration of the Supreme Court is not in order. Many things undesirable have happened in the last few months. As senior-most judges of the court and of this country, we hold a responsibility to the institution and to the nation
- Several other important cases like this had been assigned to preferred Benches over the past months. The convention of the court demands that important cases of public interest or sensitive matters should be first heard by the CJI. If the CJI is not willing for some reason to hear the case, it should be assigned to the next senior-most judge in the Supreme Court. Instead of that, such cases have been assigned to certain Benches and eventually given a quiet burial.
Trigger for the conference
Justice Chelameswar recounted that the trigger for the press conference was a meeting they held with the Chief Justice on Friday morning regarding the assignment of a petition, seeking an independent probe into the mysterious death of CBI judge B.H. Loya, to a particular Bench. (Loya was the CBI judge hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheik encounter case)
Accusation on CJI
Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph — the senior-most judges after the CJI — accused Justice Misra of assigning cases of “far-reaching consequences to the nation” to junior hand-picked judges against the time-tested convention, practice and tradition of the court
Just 4.9% of higher edu teachers are Muslim (The Hindu)
Recently released All India Survey on Higher Education for 2016-17
- Lower Muslim representation: At 4.9%, Muslim representation among teachers in higher educational institutions in India is much lower than the community’s proportion in India’s population (14.2%)
- The representation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is also lower than the populations of the two categories
- Representation of SCs at 8.3% of the total number of teachers in higher educational institutions, ST representation is 2.2%
- The SCs account for 16.6% of India’s population and STs about 8.6%
- At the all-India level, teachers belonging to the general category are more than half, that is, 58.2% of the total number of teachers in India; OBCs follow at 31.3%
Survey done by: Ministry of Human Resource Development
Odisha seeks GI tag for Kandhamal turmeric (The Hindu)
The golden yellow spice is known for its medicinal value
The Odisha government has applied for a GI tag on Kandhamal haladi (turmeric variety).
The golden yellow spice, named after the district where it is produced, has been cultivated since time immemorial and is known for its medicinal value.
CTTC filed the claim
- The Central Tool Room & Training Centre (CTTC), under the MSME Ministry, filed the application with supporting documents and test reports to justify its claim.
- It was accepted after due scrutiny by the GI Registrar authorities in Chennai, Sachi Kanta Kar, the head of IPFC-CTTC, said.
A GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
A team of experts, scientists and members of Kandhamal Apex Spices Association for Marketing (KASAM) have carried out research work for over two years on the origin and properties of the turmeric variety with technical guidance from the CTTC and the district administration.
Source of employment
- More than 60,000 families (nearly 50% of Kandhamal population) are engaged in growing the variety.
- The crop is sustainable in adverse climatic conditions
Passports will not carry address, parents’ names (The Hindu)
Orange jacket for ‘emigration check required’ passports
The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday announced that new passports will soon be printed without the names of parents and the home address of the applicant
The statement came even as it was declared that the passports for the Emigration Check Required (ECR) category will be printed with orange jackets.
Committee was set up
- A three-member committee comprising the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Women and Child Development was constituted to examine various issues pertaining to passport applications where mother/child had insisted that the name of the father should not be mentioned in the passport and also relating to passport issued to children with single parent and to adopted children
- The decision was taken after the committee gave its report to the MEA on an application from a single mother for her child’s passport.
But data would still be captured via forms
However, sources said that application forms for new booklets would continue to capture the data regarding parents and postal addresses as mentioned in the passport holders’ previous booklets.
Consultation with ICAO :Last page no longer needed
- After consulting the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding compatibility of passport booklets minus the address and parents’ names printed on the last page, with Machine Readable Travel Documents
- the MEA concluded that, “the last page of the passport and other travel documents issued under the Passports Act, 1967 and Passport Rules, 1980 would no longer be printed”.
Booklets with orange jackets would be designed by and printed at the Indian Security Press in Nasik.
ECNR will have blue jacket
It is understood that the passports in the Emigration Check Not Required (ECNR) category will continue to have blue jacket.
- The passport holders with ECR (Emigration Check Required) status would be issued a passport with orange jacket and those with non-ECR status would continue to get a blue passport
- Passports won’t serve as address proof anymore
- Indian passports have a blue cover, diplomatic and official passports have white and red jackets, respectively.
- Applicants who haven’t cleared 10th standard are given a passport with ECR category. This means if they want to travel abroad for work to a group of 18 countries, most of them in Gulf, they would only be allowed to leave India after obtaining an ‘Emigration clearance’ certificate from the office of Protector of Emigrants.
A senior government official claimed that a passport cover which visibly stigmatised its holder as not being well-educated may not be helpful and rather make them an easy prey for unscrupulous elements.
Strong performances in manufacturing, construction, and consumer non-durables sectors and government spending help spur November IIP
Industrial output growth quickened in November to a 25-month high of 8.4% bolstered by strong performances in the manufacturing, construction, and consumer non-durables sectors, official data show
CPI for December
Separately, Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for December showed retail inflation quickened to a 17-month high of 5.21%, spurred by food and fuel price gains.
Growth in various sectors
- The acceleration in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) growth was significant, coming after October’s 2.24% increase.
- Growth in the manufacturing component of the index touched 10.2% in November, up from 2.47% in the previous month.
- This strong performance was accompanied by a 13.5% jump in the infrastructure and construction sector, up from 5.21% in October.
Economists said a low base — in November 2016, when the government demonetised high value currency, IIP grew 5.1% even as the index number itself shrank from the preceding month– and public spending contributed to the stronger IIP reading.
Inflation quickens to 5.21% on food costs (The Hindu)
December retail inflation hits 17-month high
Inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index accelerated to a 17-month high of 5.21% in December, from November’s 4.88% as food, housing and fuel costs continued to strengthen.
Economists said quickening retail inflation would likely lead the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to retain its cautious monetary stance.
The present indications are that the RBI will go for long pause in its rate policy.
- Inflation is being largely driven by housing and vegetables
- Out of these two, vegetables are a seasonal effect and housing has a large weightage in the index
- A more sustained influence is that of rising fuel prices.
Housing segment inflation accelerates
The housing segment saw inflation accelerate for the sixth straight month in December to 8.25%, from 7.36% in Novembe
Inflation in food and beverages segment increased
Inflation in the food and beverages segment quickened to 4.85%, from 4.41%
Inflation in vegetables segment the fastest
Within this, inflation in the vegetables segment touched 29.1%, the fastest pace of gains among all items in the food groups.
Easing inflation in clothing and footwear
Inflation in the clothing and footwear segment eased in December to 4.8%, from 5.04% in the previous month
Science & Tech
Focus on building capacity to meet country’s needs
The 42nd Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), PSLV-C40, was launched successfully on Friday by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from the First Launch Pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota and it placed 31 satellites across two orbits.
The PSLV had as its primary payload the country’s fourth satellite in the remote sensing Cartosat-2 series, weighing 710 kg
The 30 other co-passenger smaller satellites, together weigh 613 kg. Of them, 28 are from other countries.
The Cartosat-2, whose imagery will be used to develop various land and geographical information system applications, was placed in a circular polar sun synchronous orbit 505 km from the Earth. The satellite’s design life is five years.
Two technology demonstrators
It is the two other Indian satellites in the payload that have generated much excitement.
Two satellites called technology demonstrators
Both are called technology demonstrators, indicating significant strides in miniaturisation.
Of the two, one is a microsatellite of the 100 kg class. “This is a technology demonstrator and the forerunner for future satellites of this series,” the ISRO said.
- The other one, a nanosatellite, named Indian Nano Satellite (INS) – 1C, is the third in its series
- Its predecessors were part of the PSLV-C37 launch of February 2017
- The INS-1C, whose mission life is six months, carries the Miniature Multispectral Technology Demonstration payload from the Space Applications Centre.
Opportunities for future
“With a capability to carry up to 3 kg of payload and a total satellite mass of 11 kg, it offers immense opportunities for future use,” the ISRO said.
- Of the 28 foreign satellites, launched as part of deals made by ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation Limited, three were microsatellites and 25 nanosatellites
- There were 19 satellites from the United States and five from South Korea
- The United Kingdom, France, Canada and Finland had a satellite each.
- The ISRO had seen its launch of August 31, 2017 being recorded as a failure
- The heat shield of PSLV-C39 did not separate, resulting in satellite separation occurring within the shield.
- It was only the second total failure of the PSLV in nearly 24 years: the PSLV-D1, in its maiden flight, failed on September 20, 1993.
Rights in the age of big data (The Hindu Opinion)
Data protection legislation should be about protecting people, not innovation
Concerns are being voiced this month in several Indian cities by members of the public, civil society groups, academic experts and technologists, think tanks, industry associations and technology companies to a committee headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, a former Supreme Court judge, tasked with making recommendations and drafting a data protection law.
White paper by BN SriKrishna Committee
This committee holds immense promise but a white paper it published, the primary public document on the basis of which public comment is solicited, gives reason for concern.
Balance between privacy and innovation
Subsequent paragraphs provide further explanation: “Since technologies such as Big Data, the Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence are here to stay and hold out the promise of welfare and innovation, India will have to develop a data protection law… to ensure a balance between innovation and privacy.” This framing of a trade-off between the demands of technological innovation and individual rights is a terrible bargain for our future
Fundamental rights and Innovation as equal?
It presumes to hold both fundamental rights and innovation as somewhat equal, or at the very least as competing values.
This appears contrary to the context and the mandate of the committee, as well as principles of individual liberty
The right to privacy
The formation of the Justice Srikrishna Committee on data protection was cited by government lawyers in the midst of Supreme Court hearings on the fundamental right to privacy in the Puttaswamy case.
A joint reading of all the six separate opinions which flow into the heart of the judgment lead to a singular inescapable conclusion
- The privacy protections that limit state intrusion and data protection laws should shield individuals rather than commercial interests or technological innovation.
Dangers of legal disruption to innovation
At this point a concern may arise about the dangers of a legal disruption to innovation
But using individual rights as a foundation is not the same as advocacy of Luddism (opposing technological change)— and may even be its very opposite
A Means not the end itself
- It would make big data subject to greater legality, the Internet of Things best suited to the Internet of people, and artificial intelligence subject to natural rights
- To forge such an understanding, a fundamental acknowledgement has to be forthcoming that technology is a means, and not the end in itself
Exist within the framework of law
- It must exist and work within the framework of the rule of law
- While traditional legal systems are slow to adapt and change, the right regulatory design will prevent pure market mechanisms that concentrate power and cause harm to individuals
Benefit of past expert efforts
- A practical way to operationalise individual choice in a data protection law is for the Srikrishna Committee to take the benefit of past expert efforts
- Most noticeably by the Justice A.P. Shah Committee which a little over five years ago proposed nine privacy principles acting on a “fundamental philosophy” of “ensuring that the privacy of the data subject is guaranteed”
Recommendations of AP shah committee
To operationalize these principles and account for “innovation” the A.P. Shah Committee among other things recommended, “the Privacy Act should not make any reference to specific technologies and must be generic enough such that the principles and enforcement mechanisms remain adaptable to changes in society, the marketplace, technology, and the government.”
Acknowledgement of data protection protecting individuals
- However, such existing recommendations proceed from a clear acknowledgement of data protection protecting individuals and not about protecting innovation, state interests for welfare objectives, or commercial interests of technologists and corporations
- To ignore them would be to chart a perilous path that has become apparent over the past few months with wider implementation of Aadhaar.
Constitutionalism as guide
- The Aadhaar project, which aims to usher a data-driven revolution in the private sector and at the same time act as a state policy panacea, has become a topic of continuing public concern
- Repeated press reports indicate continuing data breaches, exclusion and theft of benefits, lack of legal remedies and the prospect of profiling and surveillance.
- Sufficient evidence exists today persuading us to honour constitutionalism, privileging individual rights over innovation
In doing so, we must forsake the artificial reasonableness of a balancing exercise between unequals. Such caution was counselled by Justice Srikrishna himself when he quoted the Garuda Purana in an article critiquing judicial activism to state, “He who forsakes that which is stable in favour of something unstable, suffers doubly; he loses that which is stable, and, of course, loses that which is unstable.”
Luddism: the beliefs of bands of early 19thcentury English workmen that attempted to prevent the use of labor saving machinery by destroying it
- Any of a group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery inthe belief that such machinery would diminish employment.
- One who opposes technical or technological change
Misgivings: Doubts, reservations
IRAN & NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES