Society related issues:
Preventing trafficking(The Hindu Opinion)
A proposed law on Human Trafficking
Scope of the bill
- The Bill addresses, among other things, aggravated trafficking for forced labour, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substances or hormones to a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage or after marriage.
- Promotion of human trafficking also punishable: The proposed law also punishes promotion or facilitation of human trafficking by, for instance, manufacturing fake certificates.
- Confidentiality of victims:The Bill ensures confidentiality of victims and witnesses, a time-bound trial, and repatriation of victims.
- Rehabilitation measures:It also provides for simultaneous measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of victims along with the trial.
- Interim relief:The victims are entitled to interim relief immediately within 30 days to address their physical and mental trauma, and further appropriate relief within 60 days from the date of filing of the charge sheet.
- Rehabilitation Fund:The Bill provides for the creation of a rehabilitation fund to be used for the physical, psychological and social well-being of the victim, including education, skill development, health care and psychological support, legal aid, and safe accommodation.
- Special Courts for speedy trial:The law demands that special courts be set up to ensure speedy trial.
Institutional mechanisms at all levels
- The Bill creates dedicated institutional mechanisms at the district, State and Central levels.
- These will be responsible for prevention, protection, investigation and rehabilitation work related to trafficking.
- NIA to play role as Anit-Trafficking Bureau: The National Investigation Agency will perform the tasks of the Anti-Trafficking Bureau at the national level under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Proposed Punishment
- Punishment under the proposed law ranges from a rigorous minimum of 10 years to life and a fine not less than Rs. 1 lakh.
- The Bill also provides for the attachment and forfeiture of property and proceeds for crime.
- Coordinating with International organisations:In transnational crimes, the national anti-trafficking bureau would coordinate with authorities in foreign countries and international organisations to facilitate investigation and trial proceedings.
Curbing misuse(The Hindu Opinion)
Misuse of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, isto settle personal scores and harass adversaries
What has happened?
The recent Supreme Court verdict that has taken note of the perception that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, is being rampantly misused to settle personal scores and harass adversaries
Final view of the author
- Rules and laws can be created to protect the innocent against misuse but the law itself should not be made soft
- Mere scope for misuse of an Act is not a ground to invalidate it
- In an ideal system, as long as every charge is judicially scrutinised and every investigation or prosecution is fair and honest, one need not worry about misuse and its adverse effects
- Also atrocities against Dalits are a grim social reality, necessitating a stringent law to combat it
Constitution courts seek to preserve the spirit of such legislation on the one hand and to evolve guidelines to prevent its misuse on the other
Two judgebench ruling
No absolute bar on advance bails: Section 18, which bars grant of anticipatory bail to anyone accused of violating its provisions, is not an absolute bar on giving advance bail to those against whom, prima facie, there is no case.
No arrest on a mere complaint: It prohibited the arrest of anyone merely because of a complaint that they had committed an atrocity against a Dalit or a tribal person
Written permission needed in case of public servants:In respect of public servants, no arrest should be made without the written permission of the official’s appointing authority; and for private citizens, the Senior Superintendent of Police in the district should approve the arrest.
Terms of separation(The Hindu Opinion)
The move to recogniseLingayats as a separate religion must be seen in a political and historical context
Request of classification at the time of finalization of Indian Constitution
- The Lingayats were recorded as a caste within the Hindu religion for the first time in the 1881 census done in Mysore state
- Their request to be classified as a separate religion instead was turned down at the time the Indian Constitution was being finalized
- The rationale: How can Shaivites not be Hindu?
Nagamohan Das committee
- The six-member Nagamohan Das committee, which was constituted three months ago, views Lingayats and those who believe in Basava’s philosophy as belonging to a separate religion.
- The latter criterion is an opening offered to Veerashaivas who are clubbed with Lingayats in official documents despite their theological differences with the latter.
- The Siddaramaiah government has now asked the Centre to endorse the committee’s view that Lingayats form a separate religion
Global lawmakers’ meet on Tibet called off(The Hindu)
Cancellation of the 7th World Parliamentarian’s Convention on Tibet (WPCT), which had been planned for April 26-28 in Delhi
Reasons for cancellation: Resetting ties with China
- The decision reflects “sensitivities” over upcoming high profile meetings between the Indian and Chinese leadership
- An “informal summit” between Prime Minister NarendraModi and Chinese President Xi Jinping even before they meet in Qingdao in June for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is being “worked on”
TPiE (Tibetan Parliament in Exile)
- Preparations for the event this year were in full swing, and parliamentarians from the self-styled “Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TPiE)” of the Central Tibetan Authority in India had met with several MPs in Delhi in December 2017 to extend invitations.
- Tibetan community leaders also announced the “postponement” of the WPCT in the ongoing session of the ‘TPiE’ in Dharamshala this week.
Leaders of the Tibetan ‘parliament in exile’ (TPiE) are worried and called to discuss whether this was a phase in Sino-Indian ties, or a more permanent situation
Improving Sino-Indian ties?
- Dalai Lama’s decision to skip a visit to Manipur for the Indian Science Congress
- In the last few weeks, a visit by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to Beijing, and China’s decision not to oppose a move against Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris have indicated that the narrative is turning.
Yameen lifts Emergency in the Maldives(The Hindu)
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen lifted a 45-day State of Emergency on Thursday, after arresting dozens in that period, in a move that the opposition has accused of being politically motivated
Emergency was against SC Ruling
President Yameen imposed a State of emergency on February 5 for 15 days following a Supreme Court ruling that overturned convictions against nine opposition leaders, including exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed
President can’t be impeached by the Parliament now
President Yameen also stripped parliament of its power to impeach him.
Criticism from India
The emergency drew severe criticism from the opposition and from countries including India and the US
Indian Constitution and Polity:
What has happened?
In all-party meeting convened by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah here on Thursday unanimously decided against filing a review petition challenging the final Cauvery verdict
- It was decided to impress upon the Centre to set up a dispute-resolution forum.
- Union Minister Ananth Kumar said the Centre would establish the forum after consultations with the all riparian States
- Water Resources Minister M.B. Patil said the legal team suggested against filing a review petition in the Supreme Court.
What has happened?
- CEO of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Ajay Bhushan Pandey, was given the unique opportunity to conduct a PowerPoint presentation in a courtroom of the five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India DipakMisra.
- According to him It would take more than the age of the universe for the fastest computer on earth, or any super-computer, to break one key of Aadhaar encryption
Data was protected by a 2048-bit encryption
Court: Why the UIDAI had blacklisted 49,000 registered operators?
CEO:The CEO replied that these operators were de-registered for corruption, carelessness and harassment of the public.
CEO: Biometric changes could be updated through a process called ‘Aadhaar update.
Court:The tribal and people living on the fringes are poor and illiterate. How will they know what to do?
Alternatives mechanisms for authentication
Court: Does UIDAI have any statistics on the number of Aadhaar authentication failures so far?
CEO:Referred to provisions in the Aadhaar (Authentication) Regulations, 2016, to point out that there were alternatives to biometric authentication like demographics and electronic One Time Pin (OTP).
Is the economy back on track?(The Hindu Opinion)
Disturbances on account of demonetisation and GST were purely short term
- Employment-generating sectors like construction, the worst hit by demonetisation, have already started reviving — demand is picking up because of falling prices and this is obviously due to minimum exposure to black money
- There are indications that the government is realising the need to move towards the ideal GST by addressing the glitches experienced at present
- With the revival of India’s major markets such as the U.S., Eurozone and Japan since September 2017, exports have started picking up, accounting for about 15% of the GDP.
Fixing the rural economy
- No direct access to the market: Farmers don’t get the benefits of market prices for agricultural produce or rise in minimum support prices (MSP), they are deprived as they do not have direct access to the market.
- Selling at a competitive price: Farmers should be enabled to play their role as an effective supply force in the market and be in a position to sell their produce at a competitive price
Effective Solution: Building infrastructure support for agriculture sector
Three major challenges
- Federal Reserve’s approach: It is reported that the Federal Reserve is in for three hikes in the next one year
- Might weaken Indian currency: Withdrawal by foreign institutional investors in response to federal hikes may weaken the Indian currency and end up in a higher import bill, especially on the crude oil front, if exports do not pick up
- Rising crude oil prices
- Move towards protectionism by India’s major export market, the U.S.
‘10 missions on anvil to boost exports’(The Hindu)
What has happened?
The Union Cabinet is likely to approve 10 new market development missions to aid exports, Union Minister for Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu said on Thursday.
Imports outpacing exports: a matter of concern
- Exports are growing this year because the base has been low for the past three to four years
- So though exports are growing, still it is underperformance considering that the world economy is growing
- The Centre has identified 12 services as ‘champion services’ and the Cabinet has approved Rs. 5,000 crore for promoting them
- Action plan for each of these sectors has been prepared which will promote the services domestically and globally e.g. medical tourism and aviation.
Development of Clusters
Work is also on to identify clusters which are traditionally known for exports of certain products around coastal areas so that exports can happen faster
- We are also identifying agricultural exports as a major thrust area
- Plans to create air hubs to evacuate agri products faster
What has happened?
President Donald Trump on Thursday directed imposition of tariffs on Chinese products, and restrictions on Chinese investments in America in a move that officials described as “historic” and is meant to push back against “economic aggression”
- The measures follow the completion of a special assessment of Chinese trade and investment practices that give Chinese companies “unfair advantage” and “forced U.S. companies to transfer technologies
- The review under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 was ordered by Mr. Trump last year.
- The President has now directed the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) that conducted the review to design measures, including tariffs, to mitigate the losses being faced by American corporations on account of such “forced intellectual property acquisition”
- The measures that will come into effect within the next two months could target 1,300 different products totalling tariffs up to $50 billion
The President has asked the USTR to start the process towards erecting a tariff wall, while the Treasury Department has been directed to device restrictions on Chinese investments that were taking over American technologies for military and strategic purposes
Tech super power
China’s declared objective is to establish itself as a technology superpower by 2025, such a scenario will be harmful for the U.S.
FB apologises for breach of trust(The Hindu)
What has happened?
Four days after details emerged of massive breach of privacy involving data of millions of Facebook users, company CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday apologised for a “major breach of trust” with its users.
Apps review likely
Mr. Zuckerberg said Facebook would be reviewing thousands of apps in an “intensive process.”
And promised to make it far harder for apps to “harvest” user information.
What has happened?
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that it will introduce ‘Face ID’ on July 1 to enable Aadhaar holders to authenticate their identity to access services, benefits and subsidies.
Advantage of authentication via Face ID
The Face ID would help people without biometrics or those with poor biometrics to avoid authentication failures and financial exclusion
Verifying demographic details of the Aadhaar-holder, like name, gender and date of birth:The Aadhaar number and demographic information of the Aadhaar number holder was matched with the demographic data in the CIDR.
The One Time Pin (OTP) based authentication with limited time validity:
The PIN was sent to the registered mobile number and/or e-mail address of the Aadhaar number-holder.
Then there was the multi-factor authentication: It was a combination of two or more of the modes — biometric or OTP or demographic — for authentication.
Right to choose any mode
The Regulation allows individuals the right to choose a suitable mode(s) of authentication for a particular service or business function to enhance security.
e-KYC via OTP or biometric authentication only
However, for the avoidance of doubt, e-KYC authentication should only be carried out using OTP and/or biometric authentication.
Protecting our data(The Hindu Opinion)
What has happened?
After the Cambridge Analytica crisis exploded, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad warned Facebook against the misuse of Indians’ data and any attempt to influence the electoral processes of this country.
Creating Psychological Profiles: Data mined from Indian users of social media may be used for purposes such as targeted cross-platform advertising, but analysed in bulk, such data can provide an intimate psychological profile including ideological preferences that together help campaign managers target communications and forecast voter behavior
Spread of Fake News: Social Media promotes content based on engagement rather than quality thus limiting users’ access to information, which in turn leads to political polarisation and the spread of fake news
No data protection law in India
Only a Whitepaper till now: In 2017 that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology released a White Paper by a committee of experts led by former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.N. Srikrishna, on a data protection framework for India.
Current Information Technology Act, 2000 inadequate: It only identifies six types of “sensitive personal data” and requires entities handling such data to have “reasonable security practices and procedures” in place before collecting the information
CA, Facebook &you(The Hindu Opinion)
The recent Facebook controversy is a wake-up call to press ahead with a robust data protection law
- Involvement of Elections and politics
- Need of a policy: Regardless of whether what Facebook and CA did was legal or not, something is broken in a policy environment in which the data of millions are taken and used when only 270,000 people knowingly or unknowingly gave consent
- Re-framing of current laws in pace with the rapidly evolving technology: And raising the question whether laws need to be reframed mandating an opt-out approach universally rather than an opt-in approach.
- Clear laws on ownership of data: there must be clear laws on the ownership of data and what data need to be protected.
Personal Data cannot be the new oil
Individuals must own it, have a right to know what companies and governments know about them and, in most cases, that is, when there are no legitimate security or public interest reasons, have the right to have their data destroyed.
The CA issue is a wake-up call for India; the government is still dragging its feet on framing a comprehensive and robust data protection law.
EU leaders to push for privacy protection(The Hindu)
What has happened?
European Union leaders will on Thursday press tech giants to protect personal data in the wake of the scandal over information harvested from Facebook, draft summit conclusions said.
Move comes amid the Facebook row
- The Brussels summit is tackling the row over the misuse of Facebook data by British firm Cambridge Analytica, which played a role in U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign.
- The leaders will further discuss the issue at a summit in the Bulgarian capital Sofia in May, it added.
What has happened?
The Home Ministry has told a parliamentary panel that forces were “unable to detect deep planted mines” with the technology presently available in the areas affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE)
The Committee of Estimates headed by senior BJP leader MurliManohar Joshi tabled the report, ‘Central armed police forces and internal security challenges – evaluation and response mechanism’
- The committee desires to take up the matter with the research organisations concerned like DRDO to counter the threats posed by Maoists,”
- The Home Ministry informed the Lok Sabha that it had sanctioned 157 MPVs for Central armed police forces (CAPF) to be procured from the Ordnance Factory Board in three years.
Science and Technology:
Indigenous technology tested on BrahMos(The Hindu)
What has happened?
The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was on Thursday successfully test-fired with an indigenous seeker for the first time. So far the seeker, a critical technology in missiles, came from Russia.
Seeker’, a critical technology, used to come from Russia
The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was successfully test-fired with an indigenous seeker for the first time. So far the seeker, a critical technology in missiles, came from Russia
The seeker was jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, and BrahMos Aerospace.
Seeker, is a closely guarded secret technology
- Seeker technology, which determines the accuracy of a missile, is a closely guarded secret. Mastering it is a significant milestone in missile technology and would reduce import dependence.
- BrahMos is joint collaboration between India and Russia and is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against surface and sea-based targets.
- The range of the supersonic missile was initially capped at 290 km as per the obligations of the Missile Technology Control Regime. Since India’s entry into the club, the range has been extended to 450 km and the plan is to hit 600km
Cockroach DNA reveals mighty little secrets(The Hindu)
Genome sequencing may throw light on the insect’s ability to heal itself in the most harshest of environments
The American cockroach is the largest common house cockroach, about the length of a AA battery. Also called the water bug, it can live for a week without its head. It eats just about anything, including faeces, the glue on book bindings, and other cockroaches, dead or alive
American cockroach’s genome
- All these feats and more are encoded in the American cockroach’s genome
- The complete set of genetic instructions was sequenced by Chinese scientists and published this week in Nature Communications
- They annotated thousands of genes, including more than 1,000 thought to help the insect detect chemical cues from the environment.
- Genes for taste:Among these are more than 300 genes associated with perceiving bitter tastes, which could help them decide which foods are safe.
- Identified Genes that have damaging effect: The scientists also interfered with more than 20 genes thought to be related to immunity, reproduction and development, and found that doing so had damaging effects on the cockroaches.
- Genes such as these are promising targets for future pest control methods
While the German cockroach only inhabits human environments (particularly kitchens), the American cockroach flourishes in a wide range of habitats.
Repertoire of proteins
Cockroaches need eyes, sugar receptors, ways to survive nasty environments
As a result, “cockroaches have to have a very large repertoire of proteins, and therefore a lot of genes,”
In terms of basic biology, comparing the genomes of primitive cockroaches and termites — which evolved from cockroaches — will allow scientists to learn more about eusociality, a rare phenomenon in which organisms cooperate through sophisticated division of labout
- The team is identifying the proteins and pathways involved in the regeneration process in cockroaches, with the hope that they can be harnessed for medical treatments.
- Cockroach extract has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to speed healing on cuts and burns.
Dubious journals abound: study(The Hindu)
What has happened?
- A systematic study of the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) approved list of journals has confirmed what scientists have long suspected.
- The white list contains a huge number of dubious or predatory journals which publish substandard papers for a small fee with very little peer-reviewing, if at all.
The researchers had randomly selected 1,336 journals from 5,699 university-recommended journals that were included in the UGC list
The journals included were representative of science, arts and humanities, and social science. After excluding 327 journals that were indexed in Scopus/Web of Science, the researchers took up 1,009 journals for critical examination.
- 88% of 1,009 journals recommended by universities and included in the white list are dubious journals
- Only 112 journals met the criteria set by UGC to be included in the list
- Only 132 journals reached the secondary level of scrutiny for analysis
- The secondary level of scrutiny looked for misleading journal names such as ‘international’ and ‘global’ in journal titles, editorial policies, and nature of charges levied on authors
- Twenty journals were rejected at the secondary level and only 112 journals out of 1,009 were found to be genuine in all.
No verifiable addresses (email or postal)
34.5% journals in the list either did not provide these details or the details provided were incorrect and therefore rejected.
False claims about their impact factor
Of the remaining 660 journals, 528 were removed owing to false claims about their impact factor, being indexed in dubious indexing databases, incorrect ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) and poor credentials of editors.
A scam in itself
The dubious or predatory journal publishing in India parallels the Nigerian lottery scam
UGC should not maintain the white list
It is simply not equipped to do it efficiently. It should instead issue advisories on the quality of research publications
One app, 1,000 services: mKeralam(The Hindu)
What has happened?
Kerala, which last year became the first State to declare Internet a basic human right, has notched up another first by launching mKeralam, an app that will serve as a single window for accessing thousands of government services.
The two-day #FUTURE conclave, Kerala’s first-ever Global Digital Summit in Kochi
Kerala State Information Technology Mission
Developed by the Kerala State Information Technology Mission, the app will initially offer 100 citizen-oriented public services of 20 departments, before eventually expanding to 1,000 services from more than 80 departments.
Services covered already available on website
The services accessible via mKeralam are already available throughwww.kerala.gov.in
The idea is to offer simplified access to citizen services across multiple platforms, including website, mobile app, and Akshaya centres so that citizens can pick whichever mode is most convenient
Setting up infrastructure
The government is fast-tracking the setting up of Statewide infrastructure to render all public services accessible on the mobile app.
- It will be accessible at 1,000 public spaces evenly distributed across the State
- The Wi-Fi will be available at hospitals, bus stops, parks, libraries, government offices, and other such places where public services are accessed.
5,000 Wi-Fi spots
The objective is to have 5,000 Wi-Fi spots in five years by adding 1,000 spots each year
Cap on use:There would be unlimited access to government services, but there will be a cap on its use for other purposes, such as accessing social networking sites.
This differential provision of Wi-Fi, for government services versus other uses, has drawn some criticism on the grounds that it violates the principle of net neutrality.
One year unlimited free access
The rollout of KFI was marked by the government granting, for a period of one year, unlimited free access to the network to all who registered digitally for the #Future summit
What has happened?
The vast dump of plastic waste swirling in the Pacific ocean is now bigger than France, Germany and Spain combined — far larger than previously feared — and is growing rapidly, a study published on Thursday warned
80,000 tonnes of trash float as a mass in the ocean
Researchers based in the Netherlands used a fleet of boats and aircraft to scan the immense accumulation of bottles, containers, fishing nets and microparticles known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (GPGP) and found about 80,000 tonnes of buoyant plastic currently in the GPGP
16 times greater
That’s around the weight of 500 jumbo jets, and up to sixteen times greater than the plastic mass uncovered there in previous studies.
Quantity of plastic shocking
They found that the dump now contains around 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, posing a dual threat to marine life.
Microplastics may enter the food chain
- Microplastics, tiny fragments of plastic smaller than 50mm in size that make up the vast majority of items in the GPGP, can enter the food chain when swallowed by fish.
- The pollutants they contain become more concentrated as they work their way up through the food web
The other environmental impact comes from the larger debris, especially the fishing nets
These net fragments kill marine life by trapping fish and animals such as turtles in a process known as ‘ghost fishing’.