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Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: Creamy layer principle in SC, ST quota for promotion: judgments, appeals

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Creamy Layer clause and its issues


The Centre has urged the Supreme Court to refer to a larger Bench its decision last year that had applied the creamy layer principle to promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government jobs.

What was the case about?

  • In Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta (2018), the court dealt with a batch of appeals relating to two reference orders, first by a two-judge Bench and then by a three-judge Bench, on the correctness of the Supreme Court’s judgment in M Nagaraj & Others vs Union of India (2006).
  • The Nagaraj case, in turn, had arisen out of a challenge to the validity of four Constitution amendments, which the court eventually upheld.

What were these amendments?

  • 77th Amendment: It introduced Clause 4A to the Constitution, empowering the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees if the state feels they are not adequately represented.
  • 81st Amendment: It introduced Clause 4B, which says unfilled SC/ST quota of a particular year, when carried forward to the next year, will be treated separately and not clubbed with the regular vacancies of that year to find out whether the total quota has breached the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court.
  • 82nd Amendment: It inserted a proviso at the end of Article 335 to enable the state to make any provision for SC/STs “for relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards of evaluation, for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of services or posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State”.
  • 85th Amendment: It said reservation in promotion can be applied with consequential seniority for the SC/ST employee.

What is Art. 335 about?

  • Article 335 of the Constitution relates to claims of SCs and STs to services and posts.
  • It reads: “The claims of the members of the SC’s and ST’s shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.”

How did the Nagaraj case proceed?

  • The petitioners claimed that these amendments were brought to reverse the effect of the decision in the Indra Sawhney case of 1992 (Mandal Commission case).
  • In that case the Supreme Court had excluded the creamy layer of OBCs from reservation benefits.
  • The court said reservation should be applied in a limited sense, otherwise it will perpetuate casteism in the country.
  • It upheld the constitutional amendments by which Articles 16(4A) and 16(4B) were inserted, saying they flow from Article 16(4) and do not alter the structure of Article 16(4).

Extending to SC’s and ST’s: A directive for the State

  • The SC ruled that “the State is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in matter of promotions.
  • However if they wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the State has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment.
  • It is made clear that even if the State has compelling reasons, the State will have to see that its reservation provision does not lead to excessiveness so as to breach the ceiling-limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely.
  • In other words, the court extended the creamy layer principle to SCs and STs too.

What happened in the subsequent Jarnail Singh case?

  • The Centre argued that the Nagaraj judgment needed to be revisited for two reasons.
  • Firstly, asking states “to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness is contrary to the Indra Sawhney v Union of India case where it was held that SC’s and ST’s are the most backward among backward classes.
  • And it is, therefore, presumed that once they are contained in the Presidential List under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution of India, there is no question of showing backwardness of the SCs and STs all over again.
  • Secondly, the creamy layer concept has not been applied in the Indra Sawhney case to SC/ST’s; the Nagaraj judgment, according to the government, “has misread” the Indra Sawhney judgment to apply the concept to the SCs and STs.

How did the court rule?

  • Last year, a five-judge Constitution Bench refused to refer the Nagaraj verdict to a larger bench.
  • However, it held as “invalid” the requirement laid down by the Nagaraj verdict that states should collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of SCs and STs in granting quota in promotions.
  • It said that the creamy layer principle — of excluding the affluent among these communities from availing the benefit —will apply.
  • The whole object of reservation is to see that backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis.
  • This will not be possible if only the creamy layer within that class bag all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were, the Bench said.
  • This being the case, it is clear that when a Court applies the creamy layer principle SC/ST’s, it does not in any manner tinker with the Presidential List under Articles 341 or 342.
  • It is only those persons within that group or sub-group, who have come out of untouchability or backwardness by virtue of belonging to the creamy layer, who are excluded from the benefit of reservation.

What happens now?

  • The Centre, while praying that the 2018 judgment be referred to a larger Bench, has referred once again to the 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment, submitting that the Supreme Court then did not apply the creamy layer concept to SCs and STs.
  • The Bench has said it will hear the matter within few weeks.
Citizenship and Related Issues

Areas where Citizenship (Amendment) Bill does not apply

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAB, ILP

Mains level : Citizenship issues in NE India



In the revised version of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) which is set to be introduced, the Centre has exempted certain areas in the Northeast, where the Bill has been facing protests.

CAB exempted states

In effect, it exempts the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, almost the whole of Meghalaya, and parts of Assam and Tripura, but keeps all of Manipur under its ambit.

Why are three states totally exempted?

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) states: “Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inter Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.”
  • The Inner Line Permit (ILP) system prevails in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. In Nagaland, Dimapur town is not under ILP as of now.

How does the ILP system work?

  • ILP is a special permit that citizens from other parts of India require to enter the three states. It can be obtained after applying online or physically, and specifies dates of travel and areas which the ILP holder can travel to.
  • When the regime was introduced under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873, the objective was to protect the Crown’s own commercial interests by preventing “British subjects” (Indians) from trading within these regions.
  • In 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”, to address local concerns about protecting their interests.

What does this exemption mean for beneficiaries under CAB?

  • In ILP states, there are already a large number of migrants from other Indian states. They live and work there equipped with long-term ILPs, and renew these.
  • The question now being asked, therefore, is whether a person who becomes an Indian citizen through CAB can, or cannot, apply for an ILP and work in such states, just like any other Indian citizen.
  • Also, multiple restrictions and regulations exist on entry and stay of “outsiders” (Indian citizens from outside that state/area) in areas under the Inner Line system or the Sixth Schedule.
  • These existing rules are expected to put the same restrictions on someone who has acquired citizenship through CAB.
  • The exemptions appear to imply, however, that no immigrant non-citizen living in these areas can be regularized as an Indian citizen through CAB.
  • The exemption means that no… Bangladeshi will be allowed to settle in Mizoram and other ILP states under CAB.

What is the Sixth Schedule, and which areas are exempted from CAB?

  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, described in Articles 244(2) and 275(1), relates to special provisions in administration of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram and provides special powers for Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in these states.
  • ADCs have powers to enact laws in areas under their jurisdiction on a variety of subjects, with the objective of ensuring development of tribal areas and boosting self-governance by tribal communities.
  • Mizoram is covered under the ILP regime in any case.
  • Among the other three states that have areas protected under the Sixth Schedule, tribal-majority Meghalaya has three ADCs that cover practically the entire state, except for a small part of Shillong city.
  • Assam has three ADCs and Tripura one, all with Sixth Schedule powers.

So, why has Manipur been an exception to both these kinds of regimes?

  • Manipur, like Tripura, was a princely state. When they joined the Indian Union (both in 1949; they became full-fledged states in 1972), they were out of the scheme of the Sixth Schedule.
  • Only from 1985, the Sixth Schedule was implemented in Tripura’s tribal areas.
  • When Tripura was given, the Centre had said that even in Manipur it would be extended shortly —but it never turned out to be a reality.

What about Manipur’s tribal areas?

  • Manipur has two geographically distinct areas. The valley, which includes Imphal, constitutes roughly 10% of the geographical area but holds around 60% of the state’s population.
  • These belong mostly to the dominant Meitei community. The remaining 90% is hill areas, home to the other 40% that include a wide range of tribes, including Nagas and Kukis.
  • The Centre, while granting statehood, was aware that certain problems could come up for tribals and hence introduced Article 371C.

But what is Article 371C?

  • It mentions special provisions for Manipur.
  • The powers granted through this provision protect the tribals of Manipur in the Assembly, primarily through the Hill Areas Committee of the Manipur State Legislative Assembly — which comprises MLAs from the hill areas of the state.

Are there any other provisions for Manipur?

  • The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971, passed by Parliament, paved the way for establishment of six Autonomous District Councils in Manipur in 1972.
  • However, that without the Sixth Schedule in place, these Councils have much lower powers in comparison to ADCs under the Sixth Schedule.
  • Last year, the Manipur People Bill, 2018 was passed by the Assembly. Said to be awaiting presidential assent, it proposes to several regulations on “outsiders” or “non-Manipuri people” in the state.
  • The Bill had undergone series of negotiations on defining the “Manipuri” people, after which a consensus was reached on 1951 as the cut-off year.

What about other states in the Northeast?

  • In November this year, the Meghalaya Cabinet approved amendments to the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act 2016, which will lead to laws that require non-resident visitors to register themselves.
  • The move came in the backdrop of demands for an ILP-like regime and concerns expressed by civil society and political leaders that people excluded from the NRC in Assam might try to enter Meghalaya.
  • In Assam too, there have been demands by certain sections for the introduction of an ILP regime.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

IUCN study on De-oxygenation of the Oceans

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Osteoporosis of the sea

Mains level : Impacts of oceanic warming



The world’s oceans have less oxygen today than they did up to, say, 1950 or 1960, according to a new study.

About the Study

  • The report is the work of 67 scientists from 17 countries around the world.
  • The IUCN, the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it, released the study at the United Nations Climate Change Conference currently underway in Madrid.
  • According to the findings of the study, the levels of oxygen in oceans fell by around 2 per cent from 1960 to 2010.
  • The deoxygenation of the oceans occurred due to climate change and other human activities (such as the nutrient runoff from farm fertilizers into waterways), the report said.

Threats posed by deoxygenation

  • In many parts of the world, including along the western coast of the United States, fish have been dying en masse — a clear illustration of the ways in which deoxygenation is choking the oceans.
  • Also, the loss of oxygen in the oceans can affect the planetary cycling of elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous which are essential for life on Earth..
  • As oceans lose oxygen, they become more acidic, a phenomenon that has resulted in some places in shellfish having their shells degraded or dissolved — the so called “osteoporosis of the sea”.
  • Apart from their declining oxygen content, oceans have, since the middle of the 20th century, absorbed 93 per cent of the heat associated with human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, leading to mass bleaching of coral reefs.
  • Also, since warmer water occupies more space than cooler water, NASA estimates that this is the reason for roughly a third of the rise in sea levels.
Banking Sector Reforms

International Financial Services Centres (IFSC) Authority Bill, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IFSC Bill

Mains level : Banking regulation in India


The International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019 is likely to be taken up by Parliament.

IFSC Authority Bill, 2019

  • The Bill provides for the establishment of an Authority to develop and regulate the financial services market in the International Financial Services Centres in India.
  • The Bill will be applicable to all International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) set up under the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005.

What is IFSC?

  • IFSCs are intended to provide Indian corporates with easier access to global financial markets, and to complement and promote further development of financial markets in India.
  • An IFSC enables bringing back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centres by Indian corporate entities and overseas branches/subsidiaries of financial institutions (FIs) to India.
  • This is done by offering business and regulatory environment that is comparable to other leading international financial centres in the world like London and Singapore.
  • The first IFSC in India has been set up at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in Gandhinagar.

What is the need for such an Authority?

  • The release issued by the government explained that currently, the banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC are regulated by multiple regulators, i.e. RBI, SEBI and IRDAI.
  • However, the dynamic nature of business in the IFSCs necessitates a high degree of inter-regulatory coordination.
  • It also requires regular clarifications and frequent amendments in the existing regulations governing financial activities in IFSCs.
  • The development of financial services and products in IFSCs would require focussed and dedicated regulatory interventions.
  • Hence, a need is felt for having a unified financial regulator for IFSCs in India to provide world class regulatory environment to financial market participants.
  • Further, this would also be essential from an ease of doing business perspective.
  • The unified authority would also provide the much needed impetus to further development of IFSC in India in sync with the global best practices.

What is the Authority that the Bill seeks to set up?

  • The International Financial Services Centres Authority will consist of nine members, appointed by the central government.
  • They will include, apart from the chairperson of the authority, a member each from the RBI, SEBI, the IRDAI, and the PFRDA; and two members from the Ministry of Finance.
  • In addition, two other members will be appointed on the recommendation of a Search Committee.
  • All members of the IFSC Authority will have a term of three years, subject to reappointment.

Functions of the Authority

  • According to the PRS note, the Authority will regulate financial products such as securities, deposits or contracts of insurance, financial services, and financial institutions which have been previously approved by any appropriate regulator such as RBI or SEBI, in an IFSC.
  • It will follow all processes which are applicable to such financial products, financial services, and financial institutions under their respective laws.
  • The appropriate regulators have been listed in a Schedule to the Bill, and include the RBI, SEBI, IRDAI, and PFRDA.
  • The central government may amend this schedule through a notification.
  • Other functions of the Authority are the regulation of any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions in an IFSC, which may be notified by the central government; and to recommend to the central government any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions, which may be permitted in an IFSC.

Anglo-Indians left out as Bill to extend quota in legislature gets nod

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 331 of the Constitution

Mains level : Anglo-Indian MPs and thier powers and priviledges


  • The reservation for SC/ST communities and the Anglo-Indian community was to expire in January 2020.
  • But the new Bill will extend the reservation for SC and ST communities by 10 years, till January 25, 2030.
  • It did away with the reservation for Anglo-Indians in legislative bodies.

Representations of Anglo-Indians

  • To ensure representation of the communities in elected legislative bodies, similar to reservation for SCs and STs, Anglo-Indians were provided two nominated seats in the Lok Sabha and nominated seats in certain state Assemblies.
  • Article 331 of the Constitution provides for the representation of the Anglo Indian,
  • If President is of opinion that the Anglo Indian community is not adequately represented in the House of the people, he/she may nominate not more than two members of that community.
  • For the state Assemblies, Article 333 provided for the Governor to nominate the members.
  • Article 334(b) extended it for 40 years. Subsequent amendments ensured the reservation was extended till January 2020.
  • In 2009, the 95th Amendment extended it till 2020. But, according to the new Bill, it will cease to exist in January.

How are the different from elected one?

  • The nominated Anglo-Indian members of the legislative bodies enjoy voting privileges similar to other members.
  • It has exceptions when it comes to the election for President, as only elected members of both houses of Parliament, state Assemblies and Legislative Councils are allowed to vote as the electoral college.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

FrogPhone

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FrogPhone

Mains level : Not Much


Researchers have developed a device that will allow scientists to monitor frogs in the wild.

FrogPhone

  • Described as the world’s first solar-powered remote survey device that can be installed at any frog pond and which receives a 3G or 4G cellular network, it has been named “FrogPhone”.
  • It has been developed by a team from various Australian institutions, including the University of New South Wales and the University of Canberra.

How it works?

  • With FrogPhone, researchers can simply “call” a frog habitat.
  • After a call is made to one of the FrogPhones already on a site, the device will take three seconds to receive it.
  • During these few seconds, the device’s temperature sensors will get activated and environmental data such as air temperature, water temperature and battery voltage will be sent to the caller’s phone via a text message.
  • Because frogs are most active during night, researchers are usually required to make nightly observations in order to monitor them on site.
  • The FrogPhone will allow researchers to dial these devices remotely, and analyse the data later.

Benefits

  • It will reduce costs and risks, including the negative impact of human presence on the field site.
  • These devices also allow for monitoring of local frog populations more frequently than before, which is important because these populations are recognised as indicators of environmental health.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] RailWire Wi-Fi

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RailWire

Mains level : Various Digital India initiatives


Indian Railways has successfully completed the work of providing free public Wi-Fi at 5500 stations across the country.  This is a unique initiative as this Wi-Fi network is one of the largest Wi-Fi networks in the world.

RailWire

  • To transform the Railway stations into the hub of Digital inclusion, Indian Railways mandated RailTel, a Miniratna PSU under Ministry of Railways, to provide free high-speed Wi-Fi at the Railway stations.
  • The journey started in January 2016 from the financial capital of India – Mumbai Central station and in a span of 46 months Railways has successfully provided Wi-Fi at 5500 stations across the country.
  • The mission is to provide Wi-Fi at all Railway stations (except the halt ones).
  • The Wi-Fi is being provided under the brand name of RailWire.
Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

[op-ed snap] Small and inclusive

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Small Finance Banks

Mains level : Financial Inclusion


Context

INDIA’S central bank has been criticized for being conservative in lifting entry barriers for new players in the banking sector.

On tap licensing

  • It has been three years after the RBI approved licenses to 10 small finance banks.
  • It has now issued the final guidelines for licensing such banks throughout the year or on tap.

Guidelines

  • The bar has been raised for new entrants in terms of higher capital requirements — Rs 200 crore from Rs 100 crore earlier.
  • Stiffer prudential norms on a continuing basis.
  • Mandatory requirement to list after three years when the net worth tops Rs 500 crore.

Benefits

  • The new approach to granting differentiated licenses to small finance banks and payment banks is welcome.
  • In the current context, established full-service large banks are scaling back their franchises to reduce expenditure.
  • There is also the impact of the planned mergers of some of the state-owned banks.

Small banks

  • Small finance banks have the potential to provide an alternative to some of the existing institutions.
  • Their mandated focus on small and medium businesses, the informal sector, small and marginal farmers will increase financial inclusion.
  • It also serves a variety of unserved clients in the hinterland and tier three and four cities and towns.

Performance of SFBs

  • The RBI’s review of the performance of small finance banks shows that they have achieved their priority sector targets and attained the mandate for furthering financial inclusion.
  • These banks account for less than 0.5% of total deposits and less than 1% of total advances.
  • Many of them have been growing their loan books at a good clip. 

Limitations

  • Their challenge is in building a franchise.
  • There are also the challenges of ensuring relatively low-cost operations by diversifying their loan portfolios and lowering the old legacy loan stock and wholesale deposits. All these can get costly. 
  • They need to put in place robust technology platforms and modern risk management systems.

Way ahead

  • Experience has shown that a competitive banking system can help foster a more inclusive financial sector. 
  • Small finance banks could occupy the space being gradually vacated by some of the bigger banks.
  • They can complement them in segments such as micro and small businesses and the informal sector.
  • Their success will depend on asset quality, the level, and standards of governance and regulatory oversight.

Back2Basics

Small Finance Banks

  • The small finance bank shall primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and underserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganized sector entities.
  • There will not be any restriction in the area of operations of small finance banks.
Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

[op-ed snap] Trampling on grassroots: On T.N. local body polls

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Periodic elections to local bodies


Context

Three years the due date in 2016, rural local bodies in Tamil Nadu will witness elections in the last week of this month. Urban local bodies are also likely to have elected representatives next year. 

Travesty of law

  • It is a travesty of the law that these elections have been delayed. 
  • Cities, towns and villages have been under the rule of unelected officials for too long. 
  • Under a Supreme Court order, polls for all local bodies will have to be held.
  • The exception is only to those districts that have been divided recently to create new ones. 

Issues

  • Administrative lapses and political litigation over ward delimitation in various local bodies as per latest population figures in the 2011 Census resulted in the unprecedented delay. 
  • Originally announced on time in 2016, the notification was cancelled by the Madras High Court, citing irregularities in it. 
  • Since then, the issue of delimitation, the announcement of new districts and occasional litigation have contributed to the delay in elections.

Urban Local Bodies

  • There have been frequent changes in the mode of electing mayors of city corporations and chairpersons of municipalities. 
  • Originally, direct elections were held, but it was changed to an indirect mode in 2006. 
  • In 2016, the Jayalalithaa regime opted for indirect elections, that is, only ward councillors would be elected by the people and these representatives would elect mayors and municipal chairpersons. 
  • The current government reversed the decision and chose the direct election model. 
  • Recently, it once again changed its mind and restored the system of indirect election, citing “better accountability and collective responsibility”. 
  • It claimed that there was scope for conflict between a directly elected head and the councillors, and it would be eliminated if councillors themselves elected the mayor or chairperson. 

Other challenges

  • The attitude of the two main parties towards the importance of local bodies has been quite lukewarm. 
  • The posts of the heads of various local bodies are politicised. This hampers devolution of funds and letting the various tiers work independently. 
  • District panchayats frequently undermined as most parties consider them as a redundant third tier among Panchayati raj institutions. 
  • Including local self-government bodies as partners in development is still a far cry.
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] Retributive justice: On Hyderabad vet rape and murder

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Women Safety - pursuing justice


Context

Justice in any civilized society is not just about retribution, but also about deterrence, and in less serious crimes, rehabilitation of the offenders. 

Disha incident

  • The heinous rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad shook the collective conscience of India.
  • It resulted in an outcry for justice for the victims and outrage over the persisting lack of safety for women in public spaces. 
  • Such societal pressure for justice weighs upon legal institutions, as the police are required to find the culprits with alacrity and the judiciary to complete the legal process without undue delay. 
  • But these institutions must uphold the rule of law and procedure even in such circumstances. 

The killing of the police

  • The police claim that two of the accused snatched their weapons and fired at them when the four had been taken to the crime scene to reconstruct the sequence of events. 
  • The National Human Rights Commission has deputed a fact-finding team to Hyderabad to probe the incident.
  • The guidelines set by the Supreme Court to deal with such events must be strictly observed to get to the bottom of this episode.

Public response

  • The jubilation on social media platforms and on the streets over the killings by the police stems from the public anger and anguish over the burgeoning crimes against women. 
  • There is a perception that the legal institutions are ill-equipped to deal with such crimes and to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

Way ahead

  • Much more needs to be done in terms of registration and charge-sheeting of sexual crimes by police and addressing the pendency in a court of such cases.
  • There has been greater awareness and improvement in both the policing and judicial process following the horrific bus gang-rape in 2012 in New Delhi. 
  • The Telangana government had issued orders for setting up a fast-track court to try the four accused and this should have brought closure to the case in a time-bound manner. 
  • Existing laws on sexual crimes and punishment need better application.
  • A recourse to brutal retribution as suggested unwisely by many is no solution. 
  • The political sanction of “encounter killings” to deliver swift retribution would only be a disincentive for the police to follow due process and may even deter them from pursuing the course of justice. 
  • Bending the law in such cases would only undermine people’s faith in the criminal justice system.
Internal Security Architecture Shortcomings – Key Forces, NIA, IB, CCTNS, etc.

[op-ed snap] Seeking truth and reconciliation in Chhattisgarh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Human Rights violations by security forces


Context

The Indian government claims that it is winning the war against Maoist guerillas in India’s forested regions. 

Government actions

  • It has dismissed accusations of human rights violations as propaganda by Maoists or their supporters.
  • It has jailed human rights activists and lawyers working in these areas. 
  • A recent report by a government-appointed inquiry commission shows that these accusations are credible and need to be addressed.

Anti-Maoist action

  • Seven-and-a-half years ago, 17 unarmed villagers, including six minors, were killed by security forces at Sarkeguda village in Chhattisgarh.
  • The commission established that the CRPF and police version of events was false.
  • It said that 15 of the villagers were killed at close quarters while fleeing in a ‘totally disproportionate and unwarranted use of force.” 
  • One man was killed in his home the next morning, while one succumbed to his injuries in hospital. 
  • The judge relied only on circumstantial evidence. The CRPF/police version was dismissed because the lawyers for the villagers picked holes in their claims.

Villagers’ testimony

  • The defence charge on delay is completely unwarranted because the villagers spoke to the press. 
  • They did not file an FIR with the police. It shows their complete and justified lack of faith in the system. 
  • The police was involved in the firing and the government’s own affidavits in the Supreme Court in the ongoing Salwa Judum case have established that the police have never acted on complaints from villagers.
  • The only point where the judge differs from the villagers is in arguing that the meeting that the villagers were attending was not an innocuous one to prepare for a seed-sowing festival because it was held at night and some people with ‘criminal antecedents’ were present. 
  • In an area where anyone can be arbitrarily accused and jailed, people with criminal antecedents are a dime a dozen. 
  • For the security forces, everybody is “hostile”. 

Holes in the judgement

  • Even after exposing the violations by security forces, the judge rewarded the perpetrators. 
  • He did not recommend any prosecutions, or compensation; only better training, better gadgets and better intelligence for the forces.
  • There are issues such as the 2012 Sarkeguda massacre and the Tadmetla arson, murder and rape a year earlier, as well as the accompanying attack on Swami Agnivesh and Art of Living representatives.

Human rights violations

  • High-level committees were appointed to look into releasing adivasi prisoners as well as examine the cases of journalists.
  • There has been no progress on addressing the widespread human rights violations, deaths, rapes and arson caused by Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt, despite severe indictments by the National Human Rights Commission in 2008 as well as by the Supreme Court in 2011. 
  • In an internal closure report on Tadmetla, the CBI pointed to the larger systemic issues of deliberate obfuscation by the security forces to ensure impunity. 
  • These include not keeping records of personnel on particular operations or details of ammunition used, deliberately fudging evidence etc.,
  • There have been several more cases of fake encounters, the most recent being of two villagers in the Munga jungle on November 5.

Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court’s 2011 ban on the use of surrendered Naxalites in frontline counterinsurgency has also been ignored by governments.
  • The Court has let this contempt pass without hearing for the last seven years. 
  • A ‘final hearing’ of the Salwa Judum case began in 2018, but one year on, there have been no dates for hearing.
  • The Sarkeguda inquiry raised the callous killing of 17 innocent villagers.

Way ahead

  • Announce a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which would catalogue and compensate for all deaths, and prosecute those responsible. 
  • Action against security personnel in Sarkeguda must be the start, but must not be allowed to become the end.
Human Rights Issues

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NHRC: Power and Functions

Mains level : Extra-judicial modes of delivering justice and Rule of Law


News

  • The killing by police of all four accused in the Hyderabad rape-murder case have been questioned over the legality and propriety of the action.
  • Extra-judicial or “encounter” killings have been a contested and divisive police procedure for decades.
  • This is what the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Supreme Court have said on the proper procedures to be followed during such action by police.

About NHRC

  • The NHRC is a Statutory public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993.
  • It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (TPHRA).
  • It is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “Rights Relating To Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants”.

Powers of NHRC

  • NHRC investigates grievances regarding the violation of human rights either suo moto or after receiving a petition.
  • It has the power to interfere in any judicial proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights.
  • It can visit any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government to see the living conditions of the inmates and to make recommendations thereon.
  • It can review the safeguards provided under the constitution or any law for the protection of human rights and can recommend appropriate remedial measures.

Limitations

  • NHRC does not have any independent mechanism of investigation. In majority cases, it asks the concerned Central and State Governments to investigate the cases of the violation of Human Rights
  • NHRC can only make recommendations, without the power to enforce decisions.
  • Its powers related to violations of human rights by the armed forces have been largely restricted.

NHRC’s guidelines on fake encounters

  • Justice Venkatachaliah, who was Chief Justice of India in 1993-94, underlined that “under our laws the police have not been conferred any right to take away the life of another person”.
  • And “if, by his act, the policeman kills a person, he commits the offence of culpable homicide whether amounting to the offence of murder or not unless it is proved that such killing was not an offence under the law”.
  • The only two circumstances in which such killing would not constitute an offence were-
  1. if death is caused in the exercise of the right of private defence, and
  2. under Section 46 of the CrPC, which “authorises the police to use force, extending upto the causing of death, as may be necessary to arrest the person accused of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life”.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG)

Mains level : Elephant connservation efforts



News

The 10th Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) Meeting has started at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia.

Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG)

  • The IUCN AsESG is a global network of specialists concerned with the study, monitoring, management, and conservation of Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus).
  • The overall aim of the AsESG is to promote the long-term conservation of Asia’s elephants and, where possible, the recovery of their populations to viable levels.
  • The AsESG acts as the Red List Authority for the Asian Elephant, carrying out Red List assessments for inclusion in the IUCN Red List
  • Group members have also helped in the development of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) system for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) and The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS).

Membership

  • There are currently over 110 volunteer members from 18 countries led by the Chair Vivek Menon from India.
  • All AsESG members are actively involved in some aspect of elephant conservation and/or management.
  • Apart from the members, the Group also has Ex-officio officials from all Range States nominated by the Ministry looking after elephant conservation in the country.
  • Membership is reviewed and reappointed approximately every four years.
Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

Adaptation Fund

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Adaptation Fund

Mains level : Clean development mechanism



News

Adaptation Fund

  • The Adaptation Fund is an international fund that finances projects and programs aimed at helping developing countries to adapt to the harmful effects of climate change.
  • It is set up under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • The Adaptation Fund is managed by the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB).
  • The secretariat of the Adaptation Fund Board provides research, advisory, administrative, and an array of other services to the Board, and consists of an international staff based in Washington, DC.
  • The World Bank serves as the trustee of the Adaptation Fund.

Members

  • The AFB is composed of 16 members and 16 alternates representing Annex I countries, Non-Annex I countries, Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDSs), and regional constituencies.
  • The AFB meets three times per year in Bonn, Germany.
  • The German Parliament has conferred legal capacity to the AFB.

Funding mechanism

  • The Adaptation Fund was initiated to be primarily financed by a share of proceeds from clean development mechanism (CDM) project activities and also with funds from other sources.
  • The share of proceeds amounts to 2% of certified emission reductions (CER) issued for a CDM project activity.
  • As the market for carbon credits plunged, other funding sources became more critical for the Adaptation Fund, and include donations from Annex 1 countries.
  • One unique feature of the AF is its direct access mechanism which enables accredited national implementing entities (NIEs) and regional implementing agencies (RIEs) in developing countries to directly access climate adaptation financing.

Why in news?

  • Since 2010, the Adaptation Fund has directed $532 million to 80 concrete adaptation projects in the most vulnerable communities of developing countries, serving 5.8 million direct beneficiaries.
  • In 2018, the Fund raised $129 million in new pledges, a record-setting year.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Palestine-India Techno Park

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Balanced relations between India, Palestine & Israel


News

The Representative of India to Palestine released third tranche of funding, worth $3 million, for the construction of a Palestine-India Techno Park.

The Palestine-India techno park

  • The techno park is meant to create a national business environment and culture “that will enable knowledge-based and creative enterprises as well as technology clusters to successfully operate locally, regionally and globally”.
  • In 2017, the park became a member of the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP), a global network of science and technology parks.
  • Its objectives include establishing an environment that is accessible to industry, supporting the process of commercialisation and industrialisation, supporting entrepreneurship and bridging the knowledge gap between the private sector and academia.

Indian investment in Palestine

  • In total, India has made a commitment of investing over $12 million, part of India’s broader framework of capacity building in Palestine.
  • The Indian government pays $3 million on a half-yearly basis.
  • Trade between India and Palestine stands at roughly US $40 million and spans automotive spare parts, medical tourism, agro-products, textiles, agro-chemicals and pharmaceuticals among others.
  • India’s investment towards the park is part of India’s support to the Palestinian cause.

Back2Basics

India, Palestine & Israel

  • Historically, India’s ties with Israel and Palestine have been more or less balanced. India fully established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992.
  • Defence and agriculture have formed the main pillars of their relationship.
  • In 1974, India became the first non-Arab state to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
  • In 1938, while expressing sympathies for the persecution of Jews in Germany, Mahatma Gandhi said, “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French”.
  • In 1988, India was one of the first countries to recognise the state of Palestine after the Palestinian National Congress declared independence.
  • At that time, India maintained its support for the two-state solution and championed a “sovereign, independent, united” Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem.
  • In 1996, India opened its Representative Office to the State of Palestine in Gaza, which was shifted to Ramallah in 2003.
  • In July 2017, PM Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Palestine.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Sukapaika River

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mahanadi river system

Mains level : Threats to natural water bodies



News

Embankments have killed Odisha’s Sukapaika river that was the lifeline of over 0.5 million people.

Sukapaika

  • Sukapaika is one of the several distributaries of the mighty Mahanadi river in Odisha.
  • It branches away from the Mahanadi at Ayatpur village in Cuttack district and flows for about 40 kilometres (km) before rejoining its parent river at Tarapur in the same district.
  • In the process, it drains a large landmass comprising over 425 villages.
  • However, the river is undergoing sudden barrenness.

Why is the river diminishing?

  • The problem has its roots in 1952, when the state government blocked the starting point of the Sukapaika with an embankment to save the villages around it from floods.
  • Subsequently, in 1957, two major projects — Hirakud Dam in Sambalpur district and Naraj barrage at Cuttack — were built upstream on the Mahanadi, ostensibly to control floods in it.
  • However, the embankment on the Sukapiaka was not removed.
  • This left the distributary totally dependent on rainwater. The neglect has hit the 0.5 million people residing in the villages over the next half a century.
  • The riverbed has suffered erosion and it is full of hyacinth.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Climate warnings: On unmet emission goals

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Need to act on climate change


Context

Two reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on the impact of higher global temperatures on land, oceans and the cryosphere, lend urgency to the task before countries meeting for the UN conference. 

UN conference

  • The member-nations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have been trying to finalize measures under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement to commodify carbon emissions cuts and to make it financially attractive to reduce emissions.
  • The IPCC scientists’ research helps the international community decide on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • They are worried that even under the most optimistic scenarios, human health, livelihoods, biodiversity and food systems face a serious threat from climate change. 

Climate change

  • In the case of oceans and frozen areas on land, accelerated rates of loss of ice, particularly in Greenland, the Arctic and the Antarctic, will produce a destructive rise in sea levels.
  • Increases in tropical cyclone winds, rainfall, and extreme waves, combined with relative sea-level rise, will exacerbate catastrophic sea-level events.
  • All this will also hurt the health of fish stocks. 
  • For countries with a long coastline, local sea level anomalies that occurred once in a century may become annual events, due to the projected global mean sea level rise over the 21st century. 
  • This is alarming for the 680 million residents of low-lying coastal areas, whose population may go up to one billion by 2050, and for those living in small islands.

Way ahead

  • The new IPCC assessment underscores the need for unprecedented and urgent action in all countries with significant greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The industrialized nations need to provide liberal, transparent funding to developing countries under the Paris Agreement. 
  • The principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities, recognize that rich countries reduced the carbon space available to the poor. 
  • The developed world will be focusing in Madrid on creating a global system of accounting for emissions reductions, introducing credible carbon markets, and making some of the gains from these markets available to developing nations to invest in green energy. 
  • Scientists have a high degree of certainty on losses that will arise from climate change. There must be steady progress in addressing the damage. 
  • Even with the highest resolve, the existing Nationally Determined Contributions filed under the Paris Agreement fall short and need augmenting. 
  • There is a gap between planned emissions cuts, and what needs to be done by 2030 to contain global temperature rise at 1.5°C.
Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

[oped of the day] A potential seedbed for private profits

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TRIPS; UOPV; PPVFR

Mains level : Seed Bill


Context

The Seeds Bill 2019 is under Parliament’s consideration. 

Seeds – Governance in India

  • In 1994, India signed the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). 
  • In 2002, India also joined the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention. 
  • Both TRIPS and UPOV led to the introduction of some form of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) over plant varieties. 
  • Member countries introduced restrictions on the free use and exchange of seeds by farmers unless the “breeders” were remunerated.

Balancing conflicting aims

  • TRIPS and UPOV ran counter to other international conventions. 
  • In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) provided for “prior informed consent” of farmers before the use of genetic resources and “fair and equitable sharing of benefits” arising out of their use. 
  • In 2001, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) recognized farmers’ rights as the rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds.
  • National governments had the responsibility to protect such farmers’ rights.

India’s position

  • India was a signatory to TRIPS and UPOV as well as CBD and ITPGRFA. Any Indian legislation had to be in line with all. 
  • The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Act of 2001 sought to achieve this delicate balance. 
  • The PPVFR Act retained the main spirit of TRIPS viz., IPRs as an incentive for technological innovation. 
  • It also had strong provisions to protect farmers’ rights. 
  • It recognized three roles for the farmer: cultivator, breeder, and conserver. 
    • As cultivators, farmers were entitled to plant-back rights. 
    • As breeders, farmers were held equivalent to plant breeders. 
    • As conservers, farmers were entitled to rewards from a National Gene Fund.

Seeds Bill

  • A new Seeds Bill is necessary to enhance seed replacement rates in Indian agriculture, specify standards for the registration of seed varieties and enforce registration from seed producers to seed retailers. 
  • Any such legislation is expected to be in alignment with the spirit of the PPVFR Act.
  • A shift from farm-saved seeds to certified seeds would raise seed replacement rates.  
  • Certified seeds have higher and more stable yields than farm-saved seeds. Such a shift should be achieved not through policing, but through an enabling atmosphere. 
  • Private seed companies prefer policing because their low-volume, high-value business model is dependent on forcing farmers to buy their seeds every season. 
  • An enabling atmosphere is generated by the strong presence of public institutions in seed research and production. 

Seed policy in India

  • From the late-1980s, Indian policy has consciously encouraged the growth of private seed companies, including companies with majority foreign equity. 
  • Today, more than 50% of India’s seed production is undertaken in the private sector. 
  • These firms have been demanding favorable changes in seed laws and deregulation of seed prices, free import, and export of germplasm, freedom to self-certify seeds and restrictions on the use by farmers of saved seeds from previous seasons. 
  • Through various versions between 2004 and 2019, private sector interests have guided the formulation of the Seeds Bill. 
  • Even desirable objectives such as raising the seed replacement rates have been mixed up to encourage and protect the business interests of private companies. 

Problematic provisions

  • Many of Bill’s provisions deviate from the spirit of the PPVFR Act and are against farmers’ interests and in favor of private seed companies.
  • The Seeds Bill insists on compulsory registration of seeds. However, the PPVFR Act was based on voluntary registration. As a result, many seeds may be registered under the Seeds Bill but may not under the PPVFR Act. 
  • Assume a seed variety developed by a breeder, but derived from a traditional variety. The breeder will get exclusive marketing rights. No gain will accrue to farmers as benefit-sharing is dealt with in the PPVFR Act.
  • As per the PPVFR Act, all applications for registrations should contain the complete passport data of the parental lines from which the seed variety was derived, including contributions made by farmers. This allows for easier identification of beneficiaries and simpler benefit-sharing processes. 
  • Seeds Bil demands no such information while registering a new variety. Thus, an important method of recording the contributions of farmers is overlooked and private companies are left free to claim a derived variety as their own.
  • The PPVFR Act is based on an IPR like breeders’ rights. It does not allow the re-registration of seeds after the validity period.
  • The Seeds Bill is not based on an IPR like breeder’s rights. Private seed companies can re-register their seeds an infinite number of times after the validity period. Due to this “ever-greening” provision, many seed varieties may never enter the open domain for free use.
  • A vague provision for the regulation of seed prices appears in the latest draft of the Seeds Bill. It appears neither sufficient nor credible. Strict control on seed prices has been an important demand raised by farmers’ organizations. 
  • They have also demanded an official body to regulate seed prices and royalties. In its absence, seed companies may be able to fix seed prices as they deem fit.
  • According to the PPVFR Act, if a registered variety fails in its promise of performance, farmers can claim compensation before a PPVFR Authority. In the Seeds Bill, disputes on compensation have to be decided as per the Consumer Protection Act 1986. Consumer courts are not the ideal and friendly institutions that farmers can approach.
  • According to the Seeds Bill, farmers become eligible for compensation if a plant variety fails to give expected results under “given conditions”. Seed companies would always claim that “given conditions” were not ensured, which will be difficult to be disputed with evidence in a consumer court.

The way ahead

  • Farmer-friendly pieces of seed legislation are difficult to frame and execute. 
  • Moreso as the clout of the private sector grows and technological advances shift seed research towards hybrids rather than varieties. In hybrids, the reuse of seeds is technically constrained.
  • The private sector has a natural incentive to focus on hybrids.
  •  In such a world of hybrids, even progressive seed laws become a weak defense.
  • Strong public agricultural research systems ensure that the choices between hybrids, varieties and farm-saved seeds remain open, and are not based on private profit concerns. 
  • Even if hybrids are the appropriate technological choice, seed prices can be kept affordable. 
  • For the seed sector and its laws to be truly farmer-friendly, the public sector has to recapture its lost space.

Back2Basics

TRIPS  – It sets down minimum standards for the regulation by national governments of many forms of intellectual property.

UOPV – The objective of the Convention is the protection of new varieties of plants by an intellectual property right.

PPVFR – enacted to provide for the establishment of an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders, and to encourage the development and cultivation of new varieties of plants.

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Lessons from Ambedkar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Dalit assertion and thier political empowerment


Context

  • R. Ambedkar is remembered on his 63rd death anniversary on December 6, principally as the chief draftsman of the Indian Constitution.
  • But above all Ambedkar was a valiant fighter for the cause of the Dalits.
  • His strategies to achieve the goal of empowering Dalits shifted with changing contexts but the goal always remained the same: attaining equality with caste Hindus in all spheres of life.

Ambedkar’s work for Dalit Empowerment

Separate electorate

  • It was in pursuit of this goal that in the early 1930s he advocated a separate electorate for the Dalits.
  • This demand was accepted by British PM MacDonald in his Communal Award of 1932, which granted Dalits 18% of the total seats in the Central legislature and 71 seats in the Provincial legislatures to be elected exclusively by Dalits.
  • However, Ambedkar’s success was short-lived because of Mahatma Gandhi’s fast unto death against a separate electorate for Dalits, which he saw as a British ploy to divide Hindu society.

Idea that never came to being

  • Ambedkar gave up his demand in return for an increased number of seats reserved for Dalits but elected by the general Hindu population.
  • However, Ambedkar regretted his decision because he soon realized that given the disparity in the number of eligible voters between caste Hindus and Dalits was huge.
  • With disparity in their socio-economic status, very few of the elected Dalits would be able to genuinely represent Dalit interests.

Defying untouchability

  • Both Gandhi and Ambedkar abhorred untouchability, but the terms they used to describe the “untouchables” demonstrated the wide gulf in their approaches to the issue.
  • Gandhi called them “Harijan” (God’s children) in order to persuade caste Hindus to stop discriminating against them.
  • For Ambedkar, this was a appeasing term and he used the nomenclature Dalit both to describe the reality of oppression and to galvanize his people to challenge and change the status quo.

Ally with the Muslim League

  • In the second half of the 1930s Ambedkar considered the Muslim League a potential ally.
  • He concluded that if Muslims and Dalits acted jointly, they could balance the political clout of caste Hindus.
  • However, he was disillusioned after the Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution of March 1940 demanding a separate Muslim majority state.
  • He felt this undercut Dalit interests in two ways. First, if the Muslim League succeeded in gaining Pakistan, it would drastically reduce the Muslims’ heft in Indian politics and allow caste Hindus a free hand in running the country.
  • Second, even if the bid for Pakistan failed, the Muslim League’s demand for parity in representation with the Hindus effectively marginalized all other groups, especially the Dalits.

Hindu code bill

  • After Independence Ambedkar made his peace with the Congress leadership believing that he could enhance Dalits’ rights from within the power structure.
  • He became Law Minister and Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee.
  • He resigned from the Cabinet in 1951 when his draft of the Hindu Code Bill was stalled in Parliament because conservative Hindu members opposed it.

Declining cause of Dalits

  • There are three major problems that continue to bedevil Dalit activism.
  • First, intra-Dalit differences based on sub-castes allows forces opposed to Dalit empowerment to divide Dalits and deny them the clout that they can wield in the Indian polity.
  • Second, interpersonal rivalry among Dalit politicians leads to the same result.
  • Third, the inability of the Dalit leadership to stick with their non-Dalit allies, especially in times of political adversity, makes them appear as unreliable political partners.

Conclusion

  • Although he died a frustrated man, Ambedkar’s devotion to the cause of Dalit empowerment has continued to galvanise Dalits until today.
  • This Dalit awakening is represented in student activism on university campuses as well as through the emergence of Dalit-based parties.
  • The most important lesson to learn from Ambedkar’s repeated exhortations is that unless they remain united, the Dalits will be denied their due share of political power.
Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

Explained: Personal Data Protection Bill — issues, debate

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Debat over Data Localization Policy in India



News

  • India’s first attempt to domestically legislate on the topic, the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019 has been approved by the Cabinet and is slated to be placed in Parliament this winter session.
  • The Bill has three key aspects that were not previously included in a draft version, prepared by a committee headed by retired Justice B N Srikrishna.

What is Data?

  • Data is any collection of information that is stored in a way so computers can easily read them (think 011010101010 i.e. binary formats).
  • Data usually refers to information about your messages, social media posts, online transactions, and browser searches.

Data Principal

  • The individual whose data is being stored and processed is called the data principal in the PDP Bill.

Why this data matters?

  • This large collection of information user’s online habits has become an important source of profits, but also a potential avenue for invasion of privacy because it can reveal extremely personal aspects.
  • Companies, governments, and political parties find it valuable because they can use it to find the most convincing ways to advertise to you online.
  • It is now clear that much of the future’s economy and law enforcement will be predicated on the regulation of data, introducing issues of national sovereignty.

Who handles my data, and how?

  • Data is stored in a physical space similar to a file cabinet of documents, and transported across country borders in underwater cables that run as deep as Mount Everest and as long as four times the Indian Ocean.
  • To be considered useful, data has to be processed, which means analysed by computers.
  • Data is collected and handled by entities called data fiduciaries.
  • While the fiduciary controls how and why data is processed, the processing itself may be by a third party, the data processor.
  • This distinction is important to delineate responsibility as data moves from entity to entity.
  • For example, in the US, Facebook (the data controller) fell into controversy for the actions of the data processor — Cambridge Analytica.

Storage of data

  • The physical attributes of data — where data is stored, where it is sent, where it is turned into something useful — are called data flows.
  • Data localisation arguments are premised on the idea that data flows determine who has access to the data, who profits off it, who taxes and who “owns” it.
  • However, many contend that the physical location of the data is not relevant in the cyber world.

How does the PDP Bill propose to regulate data transfer?

  • To legislate on the topic the bill trifurcates personal data.
  • The umbrella group is all personal data — data from which an individual can be identified.
  • Some types of personal data are considered sensitive personal data (SPD), which the Bill defines as financial, health, sexual orientation, biometric, genetic, transgender status, caste, religious belief, and more. Another subset is critical personal data.
  • The government at any time can deem something critical, and has given examples as military or national security data.

Changes accorded in Justice B N Srikrishna Committee recommendations

Storage

  • The draft had said all fiduciaries must store a copy of all personal data in India — a provision that was criticised by foreign technology companies that store most of Indians’ data abroad and even some domestic startups that were worried about a foreign backlash.
  • The approved Bill removes this stipulation, only requiring individual consent for data transfer abroad. Similar to the draft, however, the Bill still requires sensitive personal data to be stored only in India.
  • It can be processed abroad only under certain conditions including approval of a Data Protection Agency (DPA). The final category of critical personal data must be stored and processed in India.

Non-personal data

  • The Bill mandates fiduciaries to give the government any non-personal data when demanded.
  • Non-personal data refers to anonymised data, such as traffic patterns or demographic data.
  • The previous draft did not apply to this type of data, which many companies use to fund their business model.

Data fiduciaries

  • The Bill also requires social media companies, which are deemed significant data fiduciaries based on factors such as volume and sensitivity of data as well as their turnover, to develop their own user verification mechanism.
  • While the process can be voluntary for users and can be completely designed by the company, it will decrease the anonymity of users and “prevent trolling”.

Other key features

  • The Bill includes exemptions for processing data without an individual’s consent for “reasonable purposes”.
  • These include security of the state, detection of any unlawful activity or fraud, whistle blowing, medical emergencies, credit scoring, operation of search engines and processing of publicly available data.
  • The Bill calls for the creation of an independent regulator DPA, which will oversee assessments and audits and definition making.
  • Each company will have a Data Protection Officer (DPO) who will liaison with the DPA for auditing, grievance redressal, recording maintenance and more.
  • The committee’s draft had required the DPO to be based in India.

Other keywords

  • The committee’s draft had several other significant keywords that are expected to be in the Bill.
  • Purpose limitation” and “collection limitation” limit the collection of data to what is needed for “clear, specific, and lawful” purposes or for reasons that the data principal would “reasonably expect”.
  • It also grants individuals the right to data portability, and the ability to access and transfer one’s own data. Finally, it legislates on the right to be forgotten.

Debates around the Bill

  • With historical roots in European Union law, this right allows an individual to remove consent for data collection and disclosure.
  • After the Cabinet approval of the bill, an official source said this concept is still “evolving” and has not been “concretized” yet.
  • Government sources said they were open to the “widest debate on this Bill”.

Two sides of the debate

A. For data localisation

  • A common argument from government officials has been that data localisation will help law-enforcement access data for investigations and enforcement.
  • As of now, much of cross-border data transfer is governed by individual bilateral “mutual legal assistance treaties” — a process that almost all stakeholders agree is cumbersome.
  • In addition, proponents highlight security against foreign attacks and surveillance, harkening notions of data sovereignty.
  • The government doubled down on this argument after news broke that 121 Indian citizens’ WhatsApp accounts were hacked by an Israeli software called Pegasus.
  • Even before that, the argument was used prominently against WhatsApp when a spate of lynchings across the country linked to rumours that spread on the platform in the summer of 2018.

Why localize data?

  • Many domestic-born technology companies, which store most of their data exclusively in India, support localisation.
  • They have strongly argued that data regulation for privacy and security will have little teeth without localisation, calling upon models in China and Russia.
  • Many economy stakeholders say localisation will also increase the ability of the Indian government to tax Internet giants.

B. Against the Bill

  • Civil society groups have criticised the open-ended exceptions given to the government in the Bill, allowing for surveillance.
  • Moreover, some lawyers contend that security and government access are not achieved by localisation.
  • Even if the data is stored in the country, the encryption keys may still be out of reach of national agencies.
  • Technology giants like Facebook and Google and their industry bodies, especially those with significant ties to the US, have slung heavy backlash.
  • Much of this sentiment harkens to the values of a globalised, competitive internet marketplace, where costs and speeds determine information flows rather than nationalistic borders.
  • Opponents say protectionism may backfire on India’s own young startups that are attempting global growth, or on larger firms that process foreign data in India, such as TCS and Wipro.