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Q.1) Supreme Court’s verdict that dilutes the SC/ST act, 1989, go at odds with the concerns raised by Ministry of Home Affairs in its annual report in 2017 and will render the act toothless. Substantiate.

Recently, the Supreme Court diluted the provision of SC/ST act on the pretext of its misuse by introducing the following changes to it.

  • Supreme Court has permitted anticipatory bail where there is no prima facie case.
  • Public servant can be arrested after approval of the appointing authority.
  • A preliminary enquiry should be conducted to rule out frivolous and motivated complaints.
  • Prior sanction of an appointing officer would be required before arresting a  public servant or other citizens.

But the the decision of Supreme Court is not in line with the concerns raised by MHA in it’s annual report in 2017.

Concerns raised by Ministry of Home Affairs:

The Ministry of Home Affairs, in its annual report in 2017, had noted how “despite the deterrent provisions made in the PoA Act, increasing atrocities against the members of SCs and STs had been a cause of concern to the Government”.

The MHA had stated that “it was, therefore, considered appropriate to strengthen the Act and make the relevant provisions of the Act more effective.”

While MHA advocated strengthening of the PoA act, SC went on to dilute it.

Verdict renders the act toothless

  • This act has many teeth but it seldom bites.
  • It is a powerful and precise weapon but only on paper and has failed in implementation.
  • It has failed at the lowest level of police and bureaucracy.
  • In most cases, FIR is not registered easily due to bias of the upper caste policemen because the law has severe punishment and imprisonments.
  • As per the dalit organsizations the  changes in the act will lead to “great miscarriage of justice”
  • Delays in arrests of the accused force victims to withdraw case.
  • If the fear of being arrest is removed, it will lead to increase in attacks and violence against SC/STs.
  • While the very purpose of this Act, implementation of a quick and efficacious trial, remains unachieved, the entirety of the Act will cease to exist with the latest judgment.
  • Public servant can now only be arrested after the ‘approval’ sanctioned by an ‘appointing authority’. This provision provide enough power in the hand of public servants which can be misused by them.
  • Low conviction rate is another problem in implementation of this act.
  • Failure in providing rehabilitation.
  • Majority of beneficiaries whom it was supposed to help are unaware of this legal provision.
  • Though few states have preventive measures, in rest of the states, there is little done to prevent atrocities.

Q.2) By glancing at the unbounded and unregulated data supply to the giant websites it seems that recent public and political outrage in India over Facebook data controversy has no rationale behind it and will not affect the unwanted use of personal data. Explain.

India is witnessing mass outrage over certain actions or non-actions of Facebook (FB) and a British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA), regarding the use of personal data for political messaging during the U.S. presidential elections.

Facebook controversy

The controversy arose after the disclosure that data
of 50 million users of Facebook in the US was compromised to benefit Donald
Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 by Cambridge Analytica.

This controversy created uproar in India, when it was disclosed that the same firm may interfere in the upcoming elections in India using Facebook, leading to issue of warning by government to Facebook.

Why this uproar and warning has no rationale behind it?

  • Facebook has clarified, the only illegal element here is that a research company transferred data to CA against FB policies. But both the company concerned and FB itself could have legitimately used the same user data for the same purpose of psychometrics-based micro-targeted political messaging for any of their paying clients.
  • Global digital companies such as Microsoft and Google works under the regulations of US government India must realise that they do not have the kind of leverage that the U.S. or even the European Union (EU) have over global data giants.
  • All data collected in India and transported abroad, remain largely out of our Indian control or influence.
  • India has not regulations regarding Social data.
  • Even if big websites are not misusing data, an extensive data market with data brokers exists in India.

Q.3) Why India is the only Bt cotton-growing country facing the problem of pink bollworm infestation? What possible options do India have to root-out this problem?

India is the only BT cotton-growing country facing the problem of pink bollworm infestation. None of the other 14 Bt cotton growing countries have seen this resistance.

Reasons why India is facing the problem of pink bollworm infestation:

  • The pink bollworm grew resistant because India restricted itself to cultivating long-duration hybrids since the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002.
  • Hybrids are crossess between two crops that often see higher yields than their parents, in a genetic phenomenon  called heteosis.
  • All other Bt cotton-growing countries mainly grow open-pollinated cotton varieties rather than hybrids.
  • India is the only country whose intellectual property laws have never prevented its farmers from either saving or selling seeds.
  • Other countries restrict saving and selling of seeds in various degrees.
  • Over 70 countries that are members of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, for example, allow farmers to reuse seeds from a protected plant variety, but not to sell them.
  • In the U.S., where plant varieties are patented, the patented seeds cannot even be reused.
  • China still successfully controls pink bollworm with first-generation BT cotton.
  • The US and Australia are moving on to third-generation BG-3 without having faced this problem.

Possible options that India have to root-out this problem:

  • One of the solution suggested by the National Seed Association of India is for the government to encourage a move back to Bollgard, the first iteration of Bt cotton as Monsanto hasn’t patented BG in India.
  • Both BG, which has a single bacterial gene called CryA1C, and BG-2, which has CryA1C and Cry2AB2, are designed to protect against pink bollworm.
  • If India cultivates both BG and BG-2, simultaneously, that can accelerate resistance among pests.
  • India need to base its policy on sound science and implement it stringently.
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