9 PM Current Affairs Brief – 13th November, 2017

Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news articles here


Justice in tamult’’

Justice in tamult’’


  • The registry published a circular notifying lawyers and litigants not to orally mention fresh cases before any other Supreme Court judge except before the Bench presided by the Chief Justice of India.
  • The Constitution Bench declared that the Chief Justice of India is the master who alone could decide what case goes to which judge in the Supreme Court

What is this new circular?

  • The circular is issued by the Registry of the Supreme Court.
  • The circular asks lawyers and litigants not to orally mention fresh cases before any other Supreme Court judge except before the Bench presided over by the Chief Justice of India.
  • The circular has in effect, put a stop to the practice of lawyers or litigants mentioning their cases before Justice J. Chelameswar’s court, the number two judge in the supreme court.
  • The circular does not provide for a contingency where the CJI is either on leave or is unable to come to court for any other reason.

Why is this circular significant?

  • The circular is significant as it was an oral mention before Justice Chelameswar’s Bench on November 9 that led to a series of events culminating in an almost spur-of-the-moment hearing by a five-judge Constitution Bench led by the Chief Justice of India on November 10.

What was the issue?

  • On November 9, advocate Kamini Jaiswal had made an urgent oral mention of a petition before a two-judge Bench. The petition wanted the investigation into the medical college corruption case to be transferred from the CBI to a SIT supervised by a retired CJI.
  • The petition said the FIR suspected that a conspiracy was highlighted to bribe Supreme Court judges.
  • The two-judge Bench immediately listed the case for hearing on the same afternoon and ordered a Constitution Bench of the “first five judges in the order of seniority” to be set up on November 13 to hear Ms. Jaiswal’s petition.

What was the CJI’s reaction to it?

  • The Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Misra effectively prevented the scheduled hearing on November 13 by laying down the law that no two-judge Bench can command the Chief Justice of India to constitute Benches to hear cases in the Supreme Court.
  • The Chief Justice of India is the sole master and carries the complete administrative prerogative over which judge should hear which case in the apex court. The Constitution Bench, in effect, nullified the two-judge Bench’s order.

Chief Justice of India

  • Chief Justice is the senior most judge in the country, i.e, he is at the apex in the court of law. He sits in the supreme court, the court of Apex.
  • The most powerful authority someone as a chief justice can have is, to become an acting President or vice President when the post is vacant until the next President is selected.
  • CJI is constitutional post. He/she is who gives oath to president/vice President of india.
  • He/she assigns judicial and administrative work to judges and registers.
  • Represent India in International Judicial/ legal forum.

The appointment of CJI

  • The Chief Justice is appointed by the President in consultation with such other judges of the Supreme Court and High Court as he may deem necessary.
  • Convention dictates the appointment of the senior most judges of the Supreme Court as Chief Justice.
  • The other judges are appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief justice and such other judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts as deemed necessary.
  • The Consultation with the Chief justice is considered necessary for the appointment of any judge other than the Chief justice.

How powerful is CJI?

  • MORAL POWER: Chief Justice is the senior most judge in the country, i.e, he is at the apex in the court of law. He sits in the supreme court, the court of Apex.
  • POLITICAL POWER: The most powerful authority someone as a chief justice can have is, to become an acting President or vice President when the post is vacant until the next President is selected.
  • LEGAL POWER: As head of the supreme court, the chief justice is responsible for the allocation of cases and appointment of constitutional benches which deal with important matters of law. Chief Justice allocates all work to the other judges who are bound to refer the matter back to him or her
  • POLITICAL POWER: On the administrative side, the Chief Justice carries out the following functions: maintenance of the roster; appointment of court officials and general and miscellaneous matters relating to the supervision and functioning of the Supreme Court.

The Constitution itself clearly lays out heightened powers for the CJI. Broadly, these are:
The CJI swears in the President and Governors;

  • The President must consult with the Chief Justice before appointing Supreme Court or High Court judges;
  • Article 127 gives the CJI power to appoint ad hoc Supreme Court judges
  • Article 128 the power to sit retired Supreme Court judges
  • Article 130 the power to sit the Court outside of Delhi (with the President’s approval)
  • Article 146 the power to appoint officers and servants of the Court
  • Article 222 the power to move high court judges to another high court
  • Articles 257, 258, and 290 which gives the CJI the ability to appoint an arbitrator to resolve certain financial disputes between the centre and the states
  • He or she is also paid a bit more than the rest of the justices, (presumably) for taking on these additional responsibilities.
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South China Sea, Rohingya on ASEAN map

South China Sea, Rohingya on ASEAN map


  • The maritime dispute over the South China Sea, exodus of the Rohingya citizens of Myanmar into Bangladesh and India, North Korean nuclear posturing and Islamic State-linked terrorism are likely to be the key talking points at the 31st ASEAN summit

What else is on the list?

  • Apart from participating in the ASEAN-India and East Asia Summits, in the three-day visit, Mr. Modi would also take part in special celebrations of the 50th anniversary of ASEAN,Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders’ Meeting andASEAN Business and Investment Summit.
  • The bilateral meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte with PM Modi and interactions with other ASEAN and East Asia Summit Leaders is also on the cards.

What is the crisis?

  • The Rohingya crisis is a human rights crisis with serious humanitarian consequences.
  • Large number of Muslim Rohingya have fled Myanmar, many crossing by land into Bangladesh, while others take to the sea to reach Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
  • The unfair policies of the Myanmar government in Rakhine state have resulted hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee since the late 1970s

Security cooperation

  • The main forum for ASEAN security dialogue is the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
  • India has been attending annual meetings of this forum since 1996 and has actively participated in its various activities.
  • The ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) is the highest defence consultative and cooperative mechanism in ASEAN.
  • The ADMM+ brings together Defence Ministers from the 10 ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States on a biannual basis.

Trade and Investment

  • India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing steadily, with ASEAN being India’s fourth largest trading partner.
  • The annual trade between India and ASEAN stood at approximately US$ 76.53 billion in 2014-15.
  • It declined to US$ 65.04 billion in 2015-16 essentially due to declining commodity prices amidst a general slowing down of the global economy.
  • Investment flows are also substantial both ways, with ASEAN accounting for approximately 12.5% of investment flows into India since 2000.


  • Economic ties between India and Southeast Asia are, for reasons of history, orientation and policy, today still rather thin.
  • There seems to be a trend of convergence between the economic orientations and policies of India and Southeast Asia, as it within ASEAN itself.
  • Free global trade and globalization are the common grounds between ASEAN and India.
  • Current relations
  • The year 2017 also completes 15 years of India-ASEAN dialogue at the summit.
  • 2017 also commemorates the completion of five years of strategic partnership between Asia’s third-largest economy and one of the most successful economic groupings in the world.
  • India’s bid to accentuate its links with ASEAN comes at a time of flux in the region with China seen as growing more assertive vis-a-vis its territorial claims in the oil and gas-rich South China Sea, which is also a major international maritime trade route.

What needs to be done?

  • India is yet to give a signal that its remains committed to a long-term strategic presence in the region.
  • Economically, India needs to develop connectivity with the region so that economic complementarities can be fully realized.
  • Militarily, India needs to evolve into a robust security provider in the region.
  • Diplomatically, it needs a sustained outreach.
  • Culturally, it needs to build on the shared cultural linkages.

What does the summit mean to India?

  • The India-ASEAN Summit symbolizes India’s commitment to deepen its ties with the ASEAN member states and the Indo-Pacific region as part of the ‘Act East Policy’.
  • The 10-member grouping ASEAN and India comprise a total population of 1.85 billion people which is one-fourth of the global population. The combined GDP has been estimated at over 3.8 trillion dollars.
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Nagivation rights figure in first Quadrilateral talks  & . Eye on China, India joins team of four

Nagivation rights figure in first Quadrilateral talks  & . Eye on China, India joins team of four


  • Embarking a new diplomatic initiative, India participated in the first formal official-level discussions conducted under the recently proposed regional coalition known as the ‘Quad’, the quadrilateral formation that includes Japan, India, the United States and Australia.

What was the discussion focused on?

  • The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners.
  • A free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large is proposed.
  • India’s statement sought to connect the clandestine links between North Korea and Pakistan in the development of their nuclear programmes.
  • The officials also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the region as well as on enhancing connectivity.

Key issues of common interest

  • key issues of common interest in the “Indo-Pacific region” were discussed, with an eye on China and the aim reaching a common ground on a “free and open” Indo-Pacific
  • The boiling regional tension with China and Beijing’s assertiveness over the South China Sea issue, a statement from the Australian Foreign Ministry informed that freedom of navigation figured at the ‘Quad.’
  • Also, part of the discussions were proliferation threats, “including North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues, against which maximized pressure needs to be applied, ensuring freedom of navigation and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, and countering terrorism and other issues.
  • The officials examined ways to achieve common goals and address shared challenges in the region.
  • This includes upholding the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific and respect for international law, freedom of navigation and overflight; increase connectivity; coordinate on efforts to address the challenges of countering terrorism and upholding maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.

What is ASEAN?

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.
  • India’s relationship with ASEAN is an outcome of the significant changes in the world’s political and economic scenario since the early 1990s.

Look East Policy

  • ‘Look East Policy’ is India’s research for economic space.
  • The Look East Policy has today turned into a dynamic and action oriented ‘Act East Policy.
  • PM at the 12th ASEAN India Summit and the 9th East Asia Summit held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, in November, 2014, formally enunciated the Act East Policy.
  • India’s relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of our foreign policy and the foundation of our Act East Policy.

The Quad pivot

  • The Japan-proposed, U.S.-endorsed plan, including Australia, it is necessary that India analyze the impact of this admission on all its relations.
  • As a growing economy with ambitious domestic targets, India’s own needs often clashwith those of its neighbours.
  • More connectivity will eventually mean more competition, whether it is for trade, water resources, or energy.

What is the significance of the meet?

  • The meet comes after Japan publicly proposed the quadrilateral with India, US and Australia and then Canberra indicated its willingness to be a part of the political-security dialogue among the four democracies
  • The meet aims to counter China’s aggressive maritime expansion under its Belt and Road Initiative.

Some ways to deepen and try to inculcate some of the values —

  • Freedom of navigation
  • Maritime security
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Disaster response
  • Transparency

The policy of non-interference

  • The original policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states was noteworthy.
  • China and India’s emergence as major economic powers has lent greater urgency to trade liberalization.
  • It then in 2007 led to adopting a legal charter with a mandate to establish free movement of goods, services, capital and skilled personnel by ASEAN.
  • With the 2015 launch of the ASEAN Economic Community, the bloc is on the threshold of realizing its ambition of emerging as an integrated single market and to engage the rest of the world with a unified voice.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during the East Asia summit.

What is the East Asia Summit?

  • The first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 14 December 2005.
  • The East Asia Summit (EAS) is a forum held annually by leaders of, initially, 16 countries in the East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian regions.
  • Membership expanded to 18 countries including the United States and Russia at the Sixth EAS in 2011.
  • EAS meetings are held after annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings.
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First fauna survey begins in Krishna sanctuary

First fauna survey begins in Krishna sanctuary


The first status survey of the ‘fauna’ in the Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary (KWL), one of the rarest eco-regions in the world, has been commenced.

About Sanctuary:

  • The area was declared as wildlife sanctuary in 1998.
  • Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary and estuary located in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The sanctuary is sandwiched between the Bay of Bengal and the Krishna river and geographically falls in Krishna and Guntur district in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is one of the rarest eco-regions of the world because it harbors vast tracts of pristine mangrove forests.
  • It is believed by conservationists to be one of the last remaining tracts of thick primary mangrove forests of South India, which is rapidly disappearing due to absence of protective measures.
  • It includes Sorlagondi Reserve Forest, Nachugunta Reserve Forest, Yelichetladibba Reserve Forest, Kottapalem Reserve Forest, Molagunta Reserve Forest, Adavuladivi Reserve Forest and Lankivanidibba Reserve Forest.
  • A part of the mangroves is located far from the main mangrove area.
  • This unconnected region lies near Machilipatnam on its eastern side and Nakshatranagar on its western side.

Flora and fauna:

  • The estuary of Krishna River passes through the sanctuary, and the mangroves line the estuary.
  • It is believed that this region potentially holds one of the most significant populations of fishing cats in the world, and yet , no concrete survey on fishing cats or community-based fishing cat conservation efforts have been carried out here.
  • The area has the potential to become world’s first reserve for a few of the IUCN identified endangered species including the fishing cat or locally as bavuru pilli.
  • The sanctuary is home to reptiles including the gargen lizard, wall lizard and tortoise.

Need for the survey:

  • It is the need of the hour to have an authentic data on the presence of the wildlife to prepare conservation strategies.
  • The survey was carried out by installing camera traps in the most strategic 20 wildlife grids.
  • It will proceed with the ‘Fishing Cat census’ once the data captured through the camera traps is examined.
  • The survey includes geo-tagging of the wildlife, particularly the fishing cat.
  • The credit for the rise of the fishing cat pollution goes to the conservation of the mangrove cover.
  • The India State of Forest Report 2015 shows that there has been a net increase of 17 sq.km. of mangroves forest cover in Krishna district since 2013.
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Future GDP growth to come from manufacturing : Prabhu 

Future GDP growth to come from manufacturing : Prabhu 


Commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu recently said that services industry had grown at the expense of manufacturing and agriculture and his government would look at increasing the share of manufacturing to 25 per cent in an expanded GDP.

Problems of India’s manufacturing sector:

Some of the issues pertaining to manufacturing are :-

  1. Cheap imports: After Globalisation reforms, Indian market is flooded with foreign products especially Chinese. This hinders growth of domestic firms.
  2. Labour laws: India has more labour laws combining centre and states. This leads to harassment and undue interference in industrial activity by bureaucracy.
  3. Lack of skilled manpower: India severely lacks skilled professionals .Only 2.5% of India have received skill training, compared to Japan (75%) and Germany (80%).
  4. Lack of capital: High Non Performing Assets’ of banks have reduced flow of money to industrial credit.
  5. Lack of technology: Indian firm spend than 10% in Research and Development.
  6. Infrastructural bottlenecks: poor road and rail connectivity. Erratic power supply. all this adds to high logistics cost decreasing competitiveness of Indian goods

India’s position in ease of doing index:

  • For the first time ever, India has jumped 30 positions to become the top 100th country in terms of  ease of doing business rankings this year. This was announced by the World Bank Group’s latest Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs report in Delhi on 31, October 2017.
  • Last year, India had moved just one point, from 131st position among 190 countries to 130th position.
  • India has embarked on a fast-paced reform path and has acknowledged a number of substantial improvements.

India’s potential  :

  • India has a massive workforce, an emerging supply base, and access to natural resources needed in production
  • The country could become a viable manufacturing alternative to China in industries ranging from apparel to auto components and might even dominate some skill-intensive manufacturing sectors
  • If India’s manufacturing sector realized its full potential, it could generate 25 to 30 percent of GDP by 2025, thus propelling the country into the manufacturing big leagues, along with China, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

Concerns / Challenges  :

  • Although the country’s manufacturing exports are growing its manufacturing sector generates just 16 percent of India’s GDP—much less than the 55 percent from services
  • a majority of India’s largest manufacturers don’t return their cost of capital a factor that dampens investment in the sector
  • Indian manufacturers lag behind their global peers because of lower productivity
  • Challenges associated with land acquisition, rigidity in labour laws, and poorly skilled manpower.


  1. Use of primitive technology or under utilization of technology.
  2. Poor infrastructure.
  3. Over staffed operations.
  4.  Expensive financing and bureaucracy.
  • In the era of globalisation, competing in international markets has become a challenge for the country’s private as well as state-owned firms.
  • Challenge posed by the growing Chinese clout by selling products at globally competitive prices.
  • Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) — a gauge of manufacturing performance — fell to 52.1 in September from 52.6 in August, indicating that growth in the sector lost some momentum.

National Manufacturing Policy

  • The Planning Commission has recently released the draft of the country’s first ever National Manufacturing Policy. The objective of the National Manufacturing Policy is to boost the country’s share of industrial production, employment; development of world-class infrastructure and investments in India’s manufacturing space.
  • The draft policy envisages establishment of National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ) equipped with world-class infrastructure that would be autonomous and self-regulated developed in partnership with the private sector.
  • The Cabinet approved the revised proposal of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry to put in place a National Manufacturing Policy.
  • The major objectives of the National Manufacturing Policy are to increase the sectoral share of manufacturing in GOP to at least 25% by 2022; to increase the rate of job creation so as to create 100 million additional jobs by 2022; and to enhance global competitiveness, domestic value addition, technological depth and environmental sustainability of growth.
  • The policy envisages specific interventions broadly in the areas of industrial infrastructure development; improvement of the business environment through rationalization and simplification of business regulations; development of appropriate technologies especially green technologies for sustainable development and skill development of the younger population.

Way ahead:

  • There is need to get new manufacturing ideas into India and identify 6-7 greenfield areas to focus on that India can leapfrog globally.
  • Skill India, Make in India, Digital India will help in this regard. SIDBI bank, MUDRA bank etc. need to step up their contributions to extend extra credit to spur manufacturing sector, and government should improve labor laws, and implement insolvency and bankruptcy code properly.
  • Indian manufacturing sector need to be part of the global supply chain and benefit from these linkages.
  • There should be a mid-term review of the foreign trade policy.
  • The government plans to invite pension funds, sovereign funds and investors to India for round-table talks.
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Why WB’s foreign –bank prescription isn’t best cure for India

Why WB’s foreign –bank prescription isn’t best cure for India


World Bank’s annual Global Financial Development Report 2017-18 released recently.

Key highlights of the report:

  • Restrictions imposed on foreign banks in developing countries are hampering prospects of growth by limiting the flow of much needed finance to firms and households.
  • In its annual ‘Global Financial Development Report 2017/2018:Bankers without Borders”, the World Bank said that international banking can have important benefits for development, but is no panacea and carries risks.
  • Developing economy policymakers would do well to consider how to maximise the benefits of cross-border banking while minimising its costs.
  • Bank finance is essential for a vibrant private sector, and nurturing small and medium-sized businesses, the report said.
  • Developing countries can maximise benefits from a stronger banking system while shielding against risks through improving information sharing through credit registries, enforcing property and contract rights, and guaranteeing strong supervision of banks.
  • The global financial crisis has certainly led to a reevaluation of the potential benefits and costs of bank globalisation because many observers perceive global banks to have been mainly responsible for the transmission of shocks across borders.
  • Enabling foreign bank entry and improving financial openness -alongside well-functioning capital markets – can offer systemic benefits, including improved financial stability, greater competition, and improved resilience to economic shocks.
  • Besides public and private banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) too have rapidly enlarged their footprint over the past decade, increasing the flow of financing to the very firms and households that the World Bank report said.

About NBFCs:

  • Non-Banking financial companies are financial institutions that provide certain types of banking services, but do not hold a banking license.
  • These institutions are not allowed to take deposit from the public, which keeps them outside the scope of traditional oversight required under banking regulations.
  • NBFCs can offer banking services such as loans and credit facilities, retirement planning, money markets, underwriting and merger activities.
  • Non Banking Financial Company is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 of India, engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares, stock, bonds hire-purchase, insurance business or chit business but does not include any institution whose principal business includes agriculture, industrial activity or the sale, purchase or construction or immovable property.
  • The working and operations of NBFCs are regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) within the framework of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 and directions issued by it.

Types of NBFC:

  1. Asset Finance Company (AFC): An AFC is a company which is a financial institution carrying on as its principal business the financing of physical assets supporting productive/ economic, such as automobile, tractors, lathe, machine, generator etc.
  2. Investment Company (IC): IC means any company which is a financial institution carrying on as its principal business the acquisition of securities.
  3. Loan Company (LC): LC means any company which is a financial institution carrying on as its principal business the providing of finance whether by making loans or advance or otherwise for any activity other than its own but does not include an Asset Finance Company.
  4. Infrastructure Finance Company (IFC): IFC is a non-banking company which deploys at least 75 per cent of its total assets in infrastructure loans, has a minimum Net Owned Funds of Rs 300 crores and has a minimum credit rating of ‘A’.
  5. Infrastructure Debt Fund: It is a registered company as NBFCs to facilitate the flow of long term debt into infrastructure projects.

Micro Finance Institutions:

Micro Finance Institutions, also known as MFIs, a microfinance institution is an organization that offers financial services to low income populations. Almost all give loans to their members, and many offer insurance, deposit and other services. Great scales of organizations are regarded as microfinance institutes. They are those that offer credits and other financial services to the representatives of poor strata of population

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Why ABBA must go

Why ABBA must go


  • Deaths due to hunger has become a huge problem that India is dealing today and government still remains in denial.
  • The Food Ministry in Delhi issued an order in late October that is silent on the crucial issue of reinstating wrongly cancelled ration cards and makes token concessions with no guarantee of implementation.

What is the issue?

  • The starvation deaths in 2002 became the facilitator for positive action, which included the passing of judicial orders and even political action. Since then, there has been appreciable improvement in programmes of social support including, but not limited to, the Public Distribution System (PDS). Similar action is required today.

Aadhaar seeding

  • Seeding refers to the practice of entering Aadhaar numbers for each household member on the ration card.
  • It is a pre-requisite for the Aadhaar-based Biometric Authentication (ABBA) system, the practice of using an electronic point of sale (PoS) machine to authenticate each transaction.
  • The Central government has been insisting on 100% Aadhaar “seeding” across schemes such as the PDS, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and pensions.
  • The government has made seeding and the ABBA mandatory in the PDS.
  • In their enthusiasm to achieve 100% Aadhaar-seeding targets, some field functionaries just deleted the names of those who did not submit Aadhaar details.
  • Few waited till the deadline and then struck off names. The government claims that all of these were “fake”, detected due to Aadhaar, thus saving crores of rupees.
  • According to the State Food Minister, their ration card was cancelled in July because they failed to seed it with Aadhaar.

What happened to the ones with no seeding?

  • Pensions suddenly stopped for many pensioners and they had no idea why. No one had told them about Aadhaar.
  • In some cases, the middlemen had seeded it wrongly. Others still had tried repeatedly and failed. Seeding is not as simple as it sounds.

The Aadhaar-based Biometric Authentication (ABBA)

  • Seeding is just one of the many barriers that the ABBA has created in the smooth functioning of the PDS.
  • The ABBA requires that family members be enrolled for Aadhaar and correct seeding.
  • At the time of purchase, the ABBA requires power supply, a functional PoS machine, mobile and Internet connectivity, State and Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) servers to be ‘up’, and for fingerprint authentication to be successful.

The ABBA system in PDS outlets is built around a set of “fragile technologies” (Drèze 2016) that need to work simultaneously for successful transactions. These are:

  1. Seeding of Aadhaar numbers: An eligible individual can become a beneficiary and access the PDS system only if her Aadhaar number is correctly seeded onto the PDS database and added to the household ration card.
  2. Point of Sale (PoS) machines: The entire process at the PDS outlet is dependent on the PoS machine. If it malfunctions, no transaction can be made. The first step in the process requires the dealer to enter the ration card number of the beneficiary’s household onto the PoS machine.
  3. Internet connection: Successful working of the PoS machine depends on internet connectivity as verification of the ration card number and the beneficiary’s biometric fingerprint is carried out over the internet.
  4. Remote Aadhaar servers: Remote Aadhaar servers verify the ration card number and initiate fingerprint authentication.
  5. Fingerprint recognition software: The beneficiary proves her identity by submitting to fingerprint recognition in the PoS machine. Upon verification, the PoS machine indicates that the beneficiary is genuine and that foodgrains can be distributed to her household.

Demerits of ABBA

  • There is enough evidence to show that the ABBA does not work. The Finance Ministry’s latest Economic Survey based on micro-studies, reports high biometric failure rates.
  • In Rajasthan, government data for the past year show that around 70% of cardholders are able to use the system successfully. The rest have either been tripped up by one of the ABBA hurdles or, less likely, they did not attempt to buy PDS grain.
  • In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, it is used to disburse MGNREGA wages and pensions: biometric failure rates are between 8 and 14%. In some months, one in four pensioners returns empty-handed.
  • Neither seeding nor the ABBA can stop quantity fraud. In a survey in Jharkhand, dealers continue to swindle people by cutting up to a kg of their grain entitlement despite successful ABBA authentication.
  • Identity fraud, for example in the form of duplicate ration cards, only requires Aadhaar-seeding; the ABBA is unnecessary.
  • Two caution on seeding: it can be foolproof against identity fraud only in a universal system. More seriously, it raises privacy issues.
  • People are being forced to cross five meaningless hurdles in the form of electricity, functional PoS, connectivity, servers and fingerprint authentication in order to have access to their ration.
  • If the government continues on the ABBA, it will actively sabotage the PDS, which, quite literally, is a lifeline for the poor.

What should be done?

  • The ABBA must be withdrawn immediately from the PDS and pensions in favour of alternative technologies such as smart cards.
  • This will allow us to keep the offline PoS machines with smart cards and throw out the Internet dependence and biometric authentication.
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