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GS: 1


Social justice:

Contested history (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The Lushai Expedition followed a devastating raid by Lushai tribesmen on the Alexanderpur tea estate in Cachar

Lushai expedition

  • The Lushai Expedition followed a devastating raid by Lushai tribesmen on the Alexanderpur tea estate in Cachar. Several were killed, including a planter, Winchester. The raiders also abducted Winchester’s six-year-old daughter, Mary
  • Thereafter, the British launched a massive punitive expedition into the Lushai hills
  • Tedim Chins, known to the British as Kamhows, from the Tedim ranges of the present Chin State of Myanmar, were British-friendly, and their service was enlisted in the hunt for Mary
  • Manipur was then bound by a 1762 treaty with the East India Company and was called upon to send troops accompanied by Maj. Gen. W.F. Nuthall to block northern escape routes around Behiang, but was not part of the Cachar column carrying out the expedition under Brigadier General Bourchier
  • The expedition lasted from December 9, 1871 to February 24, 1872, when Mary was rescued and the Lushai chiefs behind the raid surrendered
  • Nothing of significance happened on the Manipur side, but when the expedition concluded, Manipur troops intercepted a team of Kamhows returning from the British expedition with 957 Lushai captives
  • The Kamhows were held and the Lushai captives were freed. They settled in Manipur
  • Kamhow leader Kokatung was brought to Imphal and put in prison, where he died. Bourchier was outraged. Nuthall was also angry but later reasoned that Manipur was justified in doing this as the Kamhows had earlier raided and committed offences within Manipur

Boundary modifications

  • Pemberton line: In 1834, when the boundary of Manipur was redrawn to gift the disputed Kabaw valley to Burma, Chassad-Kuki settlements were left neither in Manipur nor Burma. This 1834 line came to be known as the Pemberton Line, after Capt. R. Boileau Pemberton who drew it along the foot of “Muring hills” (British records), indicating that these hills were once the domain of the MaringNagas
  • Towards 1881, Chassad became restive, and armed with muskets — which the British suspect were supplied by the king of Sumjok, a small Shan principality in Kabaw valley — made several attacks onTangkhul Naga villages nearby
  • Pemberton-Johnstone Line: The matter could not be adequately addressed because of the ambiguity of Chassad’ssubjecthood. The boundary was then redrawn to bring Chassad within Manipur and this brought peace. The boundary became the Pemberton-Johnstone Line after Col. James Johnstone, head of the 1881 boundary commission. Burma was invited but failed to turn up
  • Pemberton-Johnstone-Maxwell Line: This boundary was modified again in 1896 and thereafter came to be known as the Pemberton-Johnstone-Maxwell Line. This is the line ratified by the Rangoon Agreement of 1967 between India and Burma. The 1834 line is India’s earliest demarcated international boundary
  • In 1885, when the British again waged war on Burma to annex it, Manipur troops were called upon to march to Kendat in Burma to rescue European employees of the Bombay Burmah Company. It is also noteworthy that the Manipur army then had a sizeable number of Kuki soldiers. It is not true therefore that Manipur’s boundary did not extend into the southern hills. The fact is, unlike in its northern hills where large, fortified Naga villages practising a good measure of settled agriculture were common, its southern hills were largely barren of settled villages and population
  • Though changed considerably now, this demographic profile is still very much a marked feature of the State. Chandrakriti died in 1886, so he also cannot be justifiably associated with events during WWI as the article has done

GS:2


International relations:

Dark clouds across Asia (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

What awaits the Asia-Pacific in 2018? Prospects appear, if anything, bleaker than was the case in 2017. More disorder, coming with increasing signs of a breakdown in inter and intra-state relations, is perhaps on the horizon. The Asian region is nowhere near achieving the kind of equilibrium that the Concert of Europe brought to 19th century Europe

Intense geostrategic and geo-economic competition

China is the rising economic and military power in Asia today — the second most important economic power after the U.S. and having the second or third most powerful military

  • Competition from India & Japan: In seeking dominance over Asia, however, it not only has to contend with a strong military and economic U.S. presence in the region, but it also cannot afford to ignore the competition from Japan and India
  • In mid-2017 in Doklam, India had demonstrated that it was more than capable of standing up to China’s bullying tactics

Breaking of state

It is not China’s rise, but the breakdown of the institution of the state, as is evident in Afghanistan and Syria, that poses far more pressing problems for Asia

East Asia: A troubled trajectory

  • Undoubtedly, East Asia will remain a troubled region for much of 2018, with the leadership of North Korea intent on playing increasingly dangerous games and engaging in nuclear sabre-rattling. It is unpredictable at this point whether this would lead to a major destabilisation of the region, with far-reaching consequences for Asia and the world
  • China-Pakistan & India: The future of the rest of the Asia in 2018 is again dependent on how the strategic triangle of state relations between China, Pakistan and India plays out, as also the extent to which events in West Asia deteriorate. The situation has become more complicated as China and Pakistan have further strengthened their axis, which is inimically disposed towards India. Fragmentation of already difficult relationships does not hold out much hope for any improvement in 2018

Indo-China relations

As it is, options for an improvement in relations in 2018 between China and India appear limited. The 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (October 2017) essentially highlighted China’s quest for global leadership and the means to achieve it, including making China’s military ‘world class’, one capable of ‘winning wars’. It contained few hints that signified a possible thaw in India-China relations

Intimidating India

In 2017, India-China relations had steadily deteriorated. China is clearly peeved that India refuses to participate in its Belt and Road Initiative that straddles Asia and Europe. The stand-off at Doklam in mid-2017 was possibly intended by China to be a ‘shot across India’s bow’, to send a message to India. More such situations will, in all likelihood, be repeated in 2018

  • Chinese pressure tactics: China can also be expected in 2018 to resort to other pressure tactics against India. Backing Pakistani intransigence in ‘needling’ India is certain to be one. Additionally, China can be expected to intensify its moves to displace India as the major partner in relations with many of India’s neighbours — 2017 had already seen China moving in this direction vis-à-visNepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. As it is, China has succeeded to some extent in denting India’s long-standing relationship with Russia, having established a strategic congruence with that country
  • India would again need to be on its guard in 2018 as China consolidates its takeover of Gwadar (Pakistan) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka) ports. Together with China’s establishment of a base in Djibouti (on the Horn of Africa), India could find itself at the receiving end of China’s ‘Wei-Qi tactics’

Growing closeness with US

As India grows closer to the U.S. in 2018, the India-China equation could further worsen. The most recent National Security Strategy of the U.S. refers to China as a ‘rival’, while welcoming India’s emergence as a ‘strategic and defence partner’. This is certain to ratchet up the rivalry between India and China in the Asia-Pacific region, likely to be further compounded by India’s association with the Quadrilateral (of U.S., India, Japan and Australia)

India-Pak relationship

Again, 2018 holds out little prospect of an improvement in India-Pakistan relations

  • The last year ended with a serious ceasefire violation along the Line of Control in the Rajouri Sector, in which army men, including a Major, were killed. In 2017 there was an over 200% increase in ceasefire violations, with infiltration touching a four-year high
  • Attack on CRPF: This year began with a major terrorist attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) elements on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Avantipur (Pulwama district) in which five CRPF men were killed
  • KulbhushanJadhav’s case: The treatment meted out to the family of KulbhushanJadhav (currently incarcerated in a Pakistani prison) and the fake news that followed their visit provides an index of Pakistan’s cold, calculated and consistent hostility towards India
  • SAARC:The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) continues to remain in cold storage. Pakistan has also not refrained from persisting with its proxies like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the JeM in its war with India

Afghanistan

In its neighbourhood, India must be prepared during 2018 for a further deterioration of the situation in already disturbed Afghanistan

  • The Afghan state is in real danger of imploding, and this situation could worsen. The latest attack by Mr. Trump on Pakistan’s duplicity in dealing with terrorism could well result in Pakistan adopting a still more perverse and disruptive role here, and providing further encouragement to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. The current peace talks may well collapse as a result
  • Any possibility of exerting greater military pressure by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and allied forces may prove futile

West Asia turmoil

The situation in West Asia in 2018 could well turn out to be far grimmer than in 2017. West Asia is at the crossroads today. The entire region is in turmoil

  • Syria: Syria has almost ceased to be a state. The war here entails major powers like the U.S. and Russia, proxies for certain West Asian countries, a medley of non-state actors, apart from terrorist outfits such as the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda
  • War with Islam:Intrinsic to the Syrian and West Asian imbroglio is the ongoing war within Islam featuring, at one level, intense rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, and at another, the spectre of a split down the line between the Arab and the non-Arab and the Sunni and Shiite worlds
  • Other issues:In addition, there are other forces aggravating an already complicated situation, viz. the war in Yemen, the disruption within the Gulf Cooperation Council, the nascent upheavals in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the spectre of de-stabilisation that hovers over much of the region. None of these issues is likely to find resolution in 2018, and could suck in more states of the region
  • Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:If the U.S. were to follow through with its announcement to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it might well ignite new tensions across the entire Arab world. This will further inflame radical Islamist ideas and tendencies across the region, paving the way for a new round of conflict
  • Resurgence of terrorism:This year could also see a resurgence in terrorism. Both the IS and al-Qaeda seem to have acquired a new salience lately. The collapse of the so-called Islamic Caliphate and its territorial demise has hardly weakened the terror potential of the IS. In much the same manner as the Afghan jihad in 1980s and 1990s exacerbated insurgencies across parts of the world, retreating IS members returning to their homeland could provide a new narrative of terrorism in 2018. Existing cells across many parts of the world could well be re-vitalised as a result. The wave of attacks seen recently in Afghanistan can be attributed to this vanguard of retreating IS fighters

Conclusion

Given such a scenario, it is difficult to be optimistic about a better 2018.

Trump outburst deepens Sino Pak ties (The Hindu)

Context

Central bank has already announced that it will use Yuan to settle bilateral trade

What has happened?

After Mr. Trump’s tweet, Pakistan’s Central Bank swiftly announced that it would use the Chinese Yuan to settle bilateral trade and investment with China

China: A more reliable ally

The rise in anti-American sentiments in Pakistan appears to be conflating with the perception of China as a more reliable ally. This is notwithstanding the recent differences between Beijing and Islamabad regarding some of the financial aspects of a hydropower project under the omnibus $57-billion China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

  • The Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) demanded the expulsion of the U.S. Ambassador during street protests in Lahore

Support to Pak continue

China, it said, will continue its economic support to Pakistan, which is its prime partner. China sees Pakistan as a prime partner “under the Belt and Road initiative, with land and sea projects worth billions of dollars (known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) under construction,” it observed.

Tuting row resolved, says Army chief (The Hindu)

Context

Tuting row

What has happened?

India and China held a Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) last week to resolve the incident of road building by Chinese civilians at Tuting in Arunachal Pradesh

Backdrop

  • In December last week, a group of Chinese civilians were noticed undertaking track alignment activity about one kilometre inside the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Tuting
  • On December 28, a joint team of the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) stopped them and sent them back during which some civil construction equipment, including two excavators, were left behind. Officials had said that there was no face-off at the site

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Larger bench to decide on Sec 377  (The Hindu)

Context

The Supreme Court has referred to a larger Bench a writ petition filed by five gay and lesbian members of the LGBT community to strike down the colonial Section 377 in the Indian Penal Code of 1860, which criminalises homosexuality

What has happened?

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India DipakMisra, decided to revisit a December 2013 verdict of the Supreme Court in the Suresh Kumar Kaushal versus Naz Foundation, which dismissed the LGBT community as a negligible part of the population while virtually denying them the right of choice and sexual orientation

Court’s observations

  • Law should change pace with life: The Bench said a section of people cannot live in fear of a law which atrophies their right to follow their natural sexual inclinations. It said societal morality changes with time, and law should change pace with life
  • Section 377: While the court noted that Section 377 punishes carnal intercourse against the order of nature, it added, “The determination of order of nature is not a common phenomenon. Individual autonomy and individual natural inclination cannot be atrophied unless the restrictions are determined as reasonable.”
    • The court observed that what is natural for one may not be natural for the other, but the confines of law cannot trample on or curtail the inherent rights embedded with an individual under Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution
  • It noted the arguments of senior advocate ArvindDatar and advocate MenakaGuruswamy, who appeared for the petitioners, that Section 377 is not a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right to choice

Who are the petitioners?

The petitioners include Navtej Singh Johar, Bharathanatyam dancer; Sunil Mehra, senior journalist; RituDalmia, restaurateur; AmanNath, an expert on Indian art and culture; and Ayesha Kapur, food and beverage industry consultant

Court’s view

The court agreed that both its decisions emphasising transgender identity in the NALSA case and the observations made by a nine-judge Bench in the right to privacy case upholding the right to sexual orientation and choice of sexual partners warrant a re-look into its dismissive verdict in the Naz case

What did the petition say?

A right to sexuality, sexual autonomy and freedom to choose a sexual partner forms the cornerstone of human dignity which is protected under Article 21

A paradigm shift

The order reveals a paradigm shift in the apex court’s views

  • A Review Bench of the Supreme Court, in January 2014, had agreed with the December 11, 2013 verdict refusing to strike down Section 377 IPC. The 2013 verdict had, instead, set aside the historic and globally accepted verdict of the Delhi High Court
  • The High Court had read down Section 377 and declared that the penal provision targeted homosexuals as a class

Larger bench to decide on Sec 377  (The Hindu)

Context

The Supreme Court has referred to a larger Bench a writ petition filed by five gay and lesbian members of the LGBT community to strike down the colonial Section 377 in the Indian Penal Code of 1860, which criminalises homosexuality

What has happened?

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India DipakMisra, decided to revisit a December 2013 verdict of the Supreme Court in the Suresh Kumar Kaushal versus Naz Foundation, which dismissed the LGBT community as a negligible part of the population while virtually denying them the right of choice and sexual orientation

Court’s observations

  • Law should change pace with life: The Bench said a section of people cannot live in fear of a law which atrophies their right to follow their natural sexual inclinations. It said societal morality changes with time, and law should change pace with life
  • Section 377: While the court noted that Section 377 punishes carnal intercourse against the order of nature, it added, “The determination of order of nature is not a common phenomenon. Individual autonomy and individual natural inclination cannot be atrophied unless the restrictions are determined as reasonable.”
    • The court observed that what is natural for one may not be natural for the other, but the confines of law cannot trample on or curtail the inherent rights embedded with an individual under Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution
  • It noted the arguments of senior advocate ArvindDatar and advocate MenakaGuruswamy, who appeared for the petitioners, that Section 377 is not a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right to choice

Who are the petitioners?

The petitioners include Navtej Singh Johar, Bharathanatyam dancer; Sunil Mehra, senior journalist; RituDalmia, restaurateur; AmanNath, an expert on Indian art and culture; and Ayesha Kapur, food and beverage industry consultant

Court’s view

The court agreed that both its decisions emphasising transgender identity in the NALSA case and the observations made by a nine-judge Bench in the right to privacy case upholding the right to sexual orientation and choice of sexual partners warrant a re-look into its dismissive verdict in the Naz case

What did the petition say?

A right to sexuality, sexual autonomy and freedom to choose a sexual partner forms the cornerstone of human dignity which is protected under Article 21

A paradigm shift

The order reveals a paradigm shift in the apex court’s views

  • A Review Bench of the Supreme Court, in January 2014, had agreed with the December 11, 2013 verdict refusing to strike down Section 377 IPC. The 2013 verdict had, instead, set aside the historic and globally accepted verdict of the Delhi High Court
  • The High Court had read down Section 377 and declared that the penal provision targeted homosexuals as a class

Rainbow of hope for LGBT community(The Hindu)

Context

The Supreme Court’s decision to refer to a larger Bench a writ petition to quash Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises homosexuality, has brought a ray of hope for  LGBT community members and activists who have been fighting a long battle for their rights

Expert view

Legal experts said that the matter was of utmost social and legal significance and a positive move had been initiated by the court for a re-look into the earlier judgment which, according to them, required reconsideration

Nations who have decriminalized gay sex

Twenty-six nations — Australia, Malta, Germany, Finland, Colombia, Ireland, the U.S., Greenland, Scotland, Luxembourg, England and Wales, Brazil, France, New Zealand, Uruguay, Denmark, Argentina, Portugal, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands — have decriminalised gay sex

Internal security:

Cybercrime victims can complian online (The Hindu)

Context

The Ministry of Home Affairs is set to launch a web portal where people who have faced online abuse and victims of cybercrimes like financial frauds can register complaints on a real-time basis. The Centre also plans to give access rights to banks on the portal to address cases of fraudulent transactions online.

Home Ministry set to launch web portal which will accept online abuse cases too

According to India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), there was a 21% increase per year in incidents of cybercrime.

Panel’s directives

  • The portal has been readied on the directives of a committee appointed by the Supreme Court to check circulation of child pornography and sexual violence videos on the Internet.
  • In December, the court asked the Centre to set up a cell in the Central Bureau of Investigation or the Ministry of Home Affairs to report and take down such videos and messages.

The portal will be operational from January 10

Access rights

“If money has been fraudulently withdrawn through someone’s credit or debit card, the person can log onto the portal and register a complaint. Since banks would be given access rights, the bank concerned would receive the complaint and take action immediately,” said a senior official of the Home Ministry.

Break silos of information (The Hindu)

Context

Prime Minister NarendraModi on Monday asked the State police chiefs to share information with one another as “security cannot be achieved selectively, or alone, and for that breaking of silos and information sharing among States can help make everyone more secure”

Backdrop

Concluding day of the annual conference of DGPs and IGPs at the BSF Academy in Tekanpur, Madhya Pradesh

Nearly 250 top officers from the State police forces and central police organisations participated in the three-day meet.

Priority for cybercrimes

  • Modi said cybercrimes should be given top priority and dealt with immediately, an official release said
  • In this context, he particularly mentioned the importance of social media.
  • He said messaging should rely on local languages for greater effectiveness.
  • Referring to the radicalisation of youth, Mr.Modi urged the top police officers to use technology to pinpoint the problem areas.

India an organic entity

Mr.Modi said India was an “organic entity” and not an “assembled” one, and asked the police officers from the States to open up in sharing information on illicit financial dealings.

Increasing acceptance worldwide for sharing of data

He said while openness was getting increased acceptance worldwide, there was a need for greater openness among the States too, on security issues

The Conference

  • Following a directive of Mr.Modi, the Home Ministry has been organising the conference outside the national capital since the NDA government came to power in 2014.
  • The previous three conferences were held in Guwahati, Rann of Kutch and Hyderabad.
  • The Prime Minister recalled how the nature and scope of the conference had changed since 2014, beginning with it being shifted out of Delhi.
  • He appreciated the officers who had been instrumental in facilitating this change.
  • Modi said the conference had now become more relevant, in the context of challenges and responsibilities facing the country.
  • He said the new format of the conference had resulted in a marked improvement in the quality of discussions.

Centre to review rules on anthem (The Hindu)

Context

The court had justified the playing of the anthem in cinema halls, seeing it as an opportunity for the public to express their “love for the motherland.”

Bench had observed

The Bench had observed that the protocol of showing respect and honour to the anthem was rooted in “our national identity, national integrity and constitutional patriotism.”

Criticised by the SC itself

But the order had attracted criticism from within the highest judiciary itself

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, while sharing a Supreme Court Bench with Justice Misra (now Chief Justice) in October 2017, had doubted the logic behind the order, saying there was no need for an Indian to “wear his patriotism on his sleeves.”

Where do we stop then?

“The next thing will be that people should not wear T-shirts and shorts to the movies because it will amount to disrespect to the National Anthem… where do we stop this moral policing?” Justice Chandrachud had observed.

A Petition to recall the order

  • The Bench was hearing a petition filed by the Kodungalloor Film Society, Kerala, to recall the order
  • The apex court had then left it to the government to “take a call” and issue a notification describing the circumstances and occasions for showing respect to the National Anthem.

Earlier order

On November 30, 2016, a Supreme Court Bench led by Justice DipakMisra, before he became the CJI, had directed that “all cinema halls shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present are obliged to stand to show respect…” The November 2016 order had come on a writ petition filed by Shyam Narayan Chouksey.

SC for larger warnings on cigarette packs (The Hindu)

Context

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed a Karnataka High Court order reducing the size of pictorial warnings on packages of tobacco products to 40% of the package space

Citizens’ health paramount

The court foregrounded the health of citizens over the concerns of the tobacco industry and favoured a government regulation requiring packets of tobacco products to sport pictorial warnings covering 85% of their packaging space

Bench’s observations

A Bench led by Chief Justice DipakMisra said it is mild to say that tobacco consumption and use causes “deterioration of health”. The apex court said “destruction of health” is a more appropriate phrase to explain the harm caused by tobacco

Petitions

The court was hearing several petitions against the High Court decision, including one filed by NGO Health for Millions Trust

  • The Division Bench of the High Court had struck down the amendment to the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling Rules) 2008, as amended in 2014

‘Better impact’

Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal and advocate R. Balasubramanium, both appearing for the Centre, challenged the High Court decision to reduce the size of pictorial warnings, saying in a country where illiteracy is rampant, the more prominent the warning, the better impact it would have on the minds of the people

  • Life sans health is not worth living and the chewing of tobacco or smoking of cigarettes or bidis, etc., causes irretrievable hazard to health.
  • It is the obligation of the State to make the people aware as regards the injurious nature of these indulgences
  • Apart from the victim of the habit, the family suffers. The whole society faces peril, Mr.Venugopal argued
  • The High Court decision has left tobacco manufacturers with a free hand to sell “obnoxious and poisonous products in the market with no warning or 40% warning on the packages”, Mr, Venugopal submitted

‘Ban tobacco’

In their counter, senior advocate KapilSibal for the tobacco industry said effects of tobacco were horrible. “So, let the government ban tobacco products,” he submitted.

  • No scientific value: Instead of a ban, the government is using “absolutely horrifying” pictures with no named source or scientific value on the tobacco packets.
  • Violation of fundamental right to do business: The use of such pictures on 85% packaging space is a violation of their fundamental right to do business under Article 19 (1) (g), Mr.Sibal submitted
  • He submitted that a parliamentary standing committee has already recommended pictorial warnings on 50% space and this should be adopted till March 31, 2018, when the issue would be re-examined.

The next date of hearing is scheduled on March 12, 2018

No material to probe Gandhi death again (The Hindu)

Context

There is no substantive material to justify a need to re-investigate the assassination of the Father of the Nation, amicus curiae AmarendraSharan said in his report to the Supreme Court on Monday

British conspiracy

Seventy years after the assassination on January 30, 1948, the Supreme Court had asked Mr.Sharan to conduct an independent enquiry into the case files and evidence on the basis of a PIL filed by Dr.PankajKumudchandraPhadnis that a fourth bullet was found and there was a British secret service conspiracy to kill the Mahatma

Role of Savarkar

On the role of Vinayak D. Savarkar in the conspiracy, the amicus report said he was the former president of the Hindu Mahasabha and the “foremost ideologue of the right wing Hindutva philosophy at the relevant time.”

  • Though Savarkar was acquitted of the charges of conspiracy and no appeal was filed against his acquittal, Mr.Sharan points out that the Justice JivanLalKapur Fact-Finding Commission had analysed evidence and returned a finding that “all these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group.”
  • The Supreme Court amicus leaves his enquiries into the alleged role of Mr.Savarkar with the words, “Since the late Vinayak D. Savarkar had been acquitted, at this stage, it would neither be advisable/desirable nor possible to come to a definitive finding with respect to Vinayak D. Savarkar’s role in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.”

The 4th bullet

The alleged fourth bullet was recovered from Gwalior and not Delhi. The recovery of this bullet was declared inadmissible on the insistence of the defence that it had no connection with the assassination, the report said. There was no documentary evidence to show that a British secret service was tasked with carrying out the murder


GS: 3


Science and Technology:

India unveils Pratyush, its fastest supercomputer yet (The Hindu)

Context

India’s supercomputing prowess moved up several notches Monday after it unveiled Pratyush, an array of computers that can deliver a peak power of 6.8 petaflops. One petaflop is a million billion floating point operations per second and is a reflection of the computing capacity of a system.

4th fastest

According to a statement by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pratyush is the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world dedicated for weather and climate research, and follows machines in Japan, USA and the United Kingdom

Into the 30s

It will also move an Indian supercomputer from the 300s to the 30s in the Top500 list, a respected international tracker of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

Installation

The machines will be installed at two government institutes: 4.0 petaflops HPC facility at IITM, Pune; and 2.8 petaflops facility at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast, Noida.

Budget

The government had sanctioned ₹400 crore last year to put in place a 10-petaflop machine.

For monsoon forecasting

  • A key function of the machine’s computing power would be monsoon forecasting using a dynamical model
  • This requires simulating the weather for a given month — say March — and letting a custom-built model calculate how the actual weather will play out over June, July, August and September.
  • With the new system, it would be possible to map regions in India at a resolution of 3 km and the globe at 12 km.

Economy:

The age of crypto- economics (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The Finance Ministry recently issued a statement warning against investing in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (CCs). Likening CCs to ‘Ponzi schemes’, it linked them to terror-funding, smuggling, drug-trafficking, and money-laundering. The stern advisory came after three other warnings issued by the Reserve Bank of India

Why the distrust?

Two aspects of the bitcoin phenomenon have attracted great interest

  • The challenge it poses to states and central banks
  • The potential of its underlying technology to unleash a new wave of creative destruction.

CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency)

  • It would be safe to say that the world’s top central bankers have finally realised the futility of trying to control CCs.
  • They are preparing to join them — by issuing their own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDCs).
  • A CBDC is a complex tool whose functionality is still being researched. But there is one flaw endemic to any CBDC: the contradiction between the centralising tendency of a CBDC and the decentralising technology that underpins cryptocurrencies.

CCs emerged due to distrust of bankers

  • What economists conveniently forget when discussing CCs such as bitcoin is the trigger for it: distrust of bankers.
  • The global financial crisis of 2008-09 raised a simple question: what option do people have if banks are not to be trusted?

Financial Crisis of 2008 gives rise to Blockchain

A man (or a group of people) named Satoshi Nakamoto provided an answer: a peer-to-peer, ‘trustless’ electronic cash system based on a technology called blockchain.

Why is it attractive?

  • In order to be functional, a virtual currency must solve the problem of double spending.

The Question

Given that anything digital can be copied, how do you prevent someone from spending the same unit of currency twice?

How the traditional banks do it?

Today’s cashless economy tackles this through a centralised ledger maintained by a ‘trusted’ intermediary — often a bank — on its own servers. But as per the definition of the problem, banks can’t be trusted, remember?

Decentralised ledger to track double spending

Nakamoto solved the double spending problem by designing a decentralised ledger that bundles data about transactions into blocks, timestamps them, and links each new block of transactions with the previous one in an immutable chain of blocks that are copied, authenticated, and updated continuously, and publicly, on thousands of computers — the blockchain.

Motivating members itself to validate every transaction

  • The blockchain uses economic incentives (payment in the form of bitcoins or other CCs) to motivate members of the network to do the work of validating every transaction
  • It does away with the bank’s role as an intermediary, and this is what differentiates CCs from (the digital version of) fiat currencies.

Central banks not happy to give the initiative to somethingwhich eliminates their role

Not surprisingly, central banks and states are not pleased to have the rug of the cashless economy — with which they’ve been smothering ordinary citizens — pulled from under their feet by a technology that regards them with disdain.

Why bitcoins remain attractive?

It has been pointed out that bitcoins, unlike a stock or a bond, are a purely speculative asset untethered to a material basis of value. While this is somewhat true, it doesn’t explain why bitcoins continue to remain attractive as a store of value

Deflationary nature

  • A major reason seasoned speculators find bitcoins irresistible is its deflationary nature, which makes it inflation-proof
  • Since there can only ever be 21 million bitcoins, unlike a fiat currency, it cannot suffer a loss in value due to inflation.

CCs may usher in the era of neo-liberal economics

  • In this regard, cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin may herald the next stage of neo-liberal economics:
  • The privatisation of currency and disciplining of the state (no more quantitative easing!) by reducing the fiat currency into one of many competing currencies.

State still has the taxes under its control

In theory, the state still has a trump card: it decides the currency in which taxes are paid.

Might not make any difference

But that may mean little in a scenario where the political apparatus has been captured by finance capital, which is increasingly the norm in democracies where unknown donors contribute astronomical sums to political parties.

Blockchain world

Amid all the frenzy over bitcoin’s rocketing values, it is easy to forget that it is just one version of one application (cryptocurrency) of a new technology (blockchain)

Just like the internet in its early days

In some ways, the present moment is analogous to the early days of the Internet, when Hotmail was an exciting new discovery and the Internet was synonymous with email.

So many CCs other than bitcoin

  • com, a website that tracks the market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies, lists 1,379 currencies
  • Away from the hysteria around bitcoin, lesser known cryptocurrencies such as Omisego, TRON, Golem, and Storj are attracting investments that are helping to set up an entire decentralised ecosystem and payments infrastructure on blockchain platforms that could radically transform the way businesses transact with each other.

Fundamental value proposition of the blockchain

  • The fundamental value proposition of the blockchain is that it eliminates the need for trust — a commodity without which exchanges of value (transactions) cannot happen
  • This means that individuals and businesses can do away with a whole bunch of intermediaries whom they pay for managing trust.

Example

Ethereum

  • For instance, on Ethereum, a blockchain platform that calls itself “the android of the cryptocurrency world,” you can set up an application that enables people to rent out idle storage space on their laptop
  • Someone who needs cloud storage can pay you directly, instead of paying Amazon, a leading cloud storage intermediary
  • You could thus monetise a resource that you didn’t even know you had
  • Ethereum, too, is listed on cryptocurrency exchanges, and it is worth $112 billion, not far behind bitcoin’s market capitalisation of $259 billion.

Stori

Well, Storj is an application that does precisely that, and it already enjoys a market cap of $298 million

Programmable money

Programmable money is another example of a decentralised blockchain-based application. Since digital currencies are software programs, one can program a particular CC such that, say, it cannot be used to buy the product of a company that uses sweat shop labour

Areas of advantage: IoT and AI

Two domains that would gain immensely from blockchain applications and CCs are Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT), since in an IoT world, thousands of devices would need to rapidly and seamlessly transact with each other in real time, without the devices’ owners having to dig into their wallets every time.

No socialist paradise

  • Of course, as happened in the early days of the Internet, some of the claims being made about blockchain are plain sill
  • It is true that the technology’s peer-to-peer orientation renders it more democratic. But it is not about to usher in a socialist paradise
  • Even the World Wide Web was supposed to be a decentralised, democratic space where everyone was equal. We all know how that turned out

A political promise

It so happens that right now any technology that drives decentralisation also carries some political promise by virtue of challenging the centralising tendency of power

But that is a byproduct, and not to be confused with its intent, which remains the same as with any other IT innovation of recent times: efficiency and profit

Bharat Net covers 1 lakh panchayats (The Hindu)

Context

The government on Monday said it had laid optical fibre in more than 1 lakh gram panchayats, completing the first phase of the BharatNet project that forms the backbone for the Digital India initiative.

Govt. aims to lay fibre network by Dec.

  • The delay-marred project aims to bring high speed broadband to all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats (GPs) through optical fibre.
  • The project, earlier called the National Optical Fibre Network, had obtained Cabinet approval in 2011 and the deadline was fixed for the end of 2013.
  • It was later deferred to September 2015 by the UPA government

Shifting deadlines

The NDA government re-examined the project status and set a target to complete the roll-out by the end of 2016. This was later delayed to December 2018. Now, the deadline is set for March 2019.

Second Phase

  • Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said, “For the second phase, financial incentive and disincentive clauses should be incorporated.”
  • Telecom Secretary ArunaSundararajan said the project’s second phase had been initiated and “we hope it will be completed well in time by December 2018.”

Amended companies act notified (The Hindu)

Context

The government on Monday announced that it has notified the Companies (Amendment) Act 2017, which is set to ease the implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016

Changes to impact share issuance at discount, managerial remuneration

The provisions of this Amendment Act shall come into force on the date or dates as the Central Government may appoint by notification(s) in the Official Gazette.

A few provisions in the Amendment Act have important bearing on the working of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016.

Section 53

Currently, Section 53 of the Companies Act 2013 prohibits the issuance of shares at a discount, something the new Act has changed.

Section 197

Similarly, Section 197 of the Companies Act 2013 requires the approval of the company in a general meeting for the payment of managerial remuneration in excess of 11% of the net profits.

Prior approval needed

The amended Act says that in case of payment default, “… the prior approval of the bank or public financial institution concerned or the non-convertible debenture holders… for such payment of managerial remuneration shall be obtained by the company before obtaining the approval in the general meeting.”

Restriction on valuers

  • Section 247 of the Companies Act 2013 prohibits a registered valuer from undertaking valuation of assets in which he has a direct or indirect interest.
  • Amendments limit the prohibition to three years prior to a valuer’s appointment or three years after the valuation was conducted

Data theft: on UIDAI exposé (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The UIDAI exposé is another reminderof the need for a robust data protection law

The UIDAI exposé is another reminder of the need for a robust data protection law

Undercover investigations or so-called sting operations occupy a complex and problematical ethical space in journalism, but it is impossible to fault The Tribune’s exposé, published after accessing Aadhaar’s database of names, numbers and addresses

Public interest outweighs the act of unauthorised access

To begin with, the public interest — which lay in showing how easily the database could be breached and drawing attention to the existence of an organised racket to facilitate this — far outweighed, or more than compensated for, the act of unauthorised access, in this case secured on payment of a few hundred rupees

In the best journalistic tradition

The investigation was written up in the best journalistic tradition — it focussed on how the data were being mined for money, it did not leak any Aadhaar numbers or other details to establish this, and it sought and received a response from shocked officials of the Unique Identification Authority of India before going to print

Would have been a Travesty of Justice

It would have constituted a direct attack on free public-spirited journalism and dissuaded attempts to hold public authorities and institutions accountable for shortcomings and promises.

Encrypted Aadhaar biometric database has not been compromised

Given the noisy hubbub and the misinformation about what was breached, it is perhaps important to stress that the encrypted Aadhaar biometric database has not been compromised

UIDAI: No misuse without obtaining biometric data

The UIDAI is correct in stating that mere information such as phone numbers and addresses (much of which is already available to telemarketers and others from other databases) cannot be misused without biometric data

Aadhaar project isn’t compromised

The suggestion that the entire Aadhaar project has been compromised is therefore richly embroidered.

Precautions should be taken

But even so, it is obligatory for those who collect such information — whether it is the government or a private player such as a mobile company — ought to see that it is secure and not used for purposes other than that for which it was collected

Need a legal framework for data protection

In this digital age, a growing pool of personal information that can be easily shared has become available to government and private entities. India does not have a legal definition of what constitutes personal information and lacks a robust and comprehensive data protection law

Conclusion

We need to have both quickly in place if the Supreme Court’s judgment according privacy the status of a fundamental right is to have any meaning.

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