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[op-ed snap] Island hopping

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SAGAR strategy

Mains level: Reclaiming ties with India’s neighborhood in light of China’s increasing interference


Context

Relations improving with the Maldives

  1. In India a month after assuming his new responsibility, the President of the Maldives, Mr. Solih has assured New Delhi that the Maldives is pivoting to the ‘India First’ policy
  2. The five-year-long tenure of his predecessor, Abdulla Yameen, was marked by a serious deterioration in ties with India, as Mr. Yameen steadily took his nation towards authoritarianism and into a close embrace with China
  3. Mr. Solih’s government has adopted a different vision — one anchored in decentralised and people-centric governance
  4. India seems to enjoy a special place in his worldview

Balancing concerns 

  1. The joint statement issued during Mr. Solih’s visit reflects a fine balance between the interests of both countries
  2. To help the Maldives address its budget deficit and development challenges, India has worked out a generous $1.4 billion assistance package
  3. Besides, India has offered visa facilitation that will allow Maldivians to visit India easily (with reciprocal facilities for Indian visitors to the Maldives)
  4. 1,000 “additional” training slots for the next five years
  5. Close cooperation on political and diplomatic issues and support to the Maldives as it seeks to rejoin the Commonwealth and its entry into the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
  6. The visit resulted in the conclusion of four agreements relating to cooperation for information technology, culture, agri-business, and visa arrangements

Equations changing in the neighbourhood

  1. The deliberations in Delhi took place as China’s footprint in South Asia has increased in recent years
  2. There is a growing realisation that owing to Beijing’s strategic objectives, economic capability and assertive diplomacy, it is not feasible for India to supplant China in neighbouring countries
  3. But India has its own advantages, assets and friends
  4. The intention is to leverage them fully, deriving benefit from the neighbours’ essential thirst for maintaining balance in their external relations
  5. The change in the Maldives has been followed by a re-assertion of democratic impulses in Sri Lanka, as symbolised by the return of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister
  6. India enjoys close relations with Mauritius and Seychelles
  7. A new grouping of India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles, focussed on maritime security and economic development, looks attainable in the short term

Way forward

  1. In devising a smart action plan to implement the SAGAR, or Security and Growth for All in the Region, strategy, that was announced by Mr. Modi in March 2015, New Delhi should accord equal importance to its two key goals: address its neighbours’ concerns on security challenges; and harness enticing opportunities for the Blue Economy
  2. Even others such as South Africa, whose President is due to visit India in January next year, and Kenya, much enthused from having hosted recently the first global conference on the sustainable Blue Economy, may be happy to join
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Maldives

[op-ed snap] Move fast and fix things: on safeguarding users’ privacy

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Safegurading citizens data and right to privacy in India


Context

Right to privacy under strain

  1. Movement on a privacy law has become gridlocked in recent months
  2. A draft law to safeguard it is beset with controversy in a closed drafting process without much transparency
  3. It has no clear path to enactment and is not listed for the ongoing winter session of Parliament
  4. On the other hand, the government has prioritised more data collection and privacy-impairing legislation
  5. These include the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, which is listed for discussion and voting
  6. Another instance is the political firestorm after Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification authorising digital surveillance by 10 Central government agencies

Involvement of Facebook

  1. Facebook’s motto was to “move fast and break things”
  2. By now we have all heard various variations of it to mock the social networking platform which is identified globally for privacy breaches and misinformation campaigns — even interfering in the election processes of major democracies
  3. The latest in this torrent of disclosures is the investigation by The New York Times documenting a range of private deals struck by Facebook for reciprocal sharing of user data with the knowledge of top management
  4. Some deals permitted access even to private chats

Similar ploy in India

  1. Even prior to the disclosures by Cambridge Analytica, Indian civil society activists had fought against Facebook very publicly on net neutrality
  2. The company had proposed to offer users without Internet on their phones a platform called “Free Basics”, with a bouquet of essential websites
  3. In December 2015 it argued that by facilitating access to websites beyond Facebook, its intent was purely altruistic
  4. This deal was opposed on grounds of net neutrality by those who recognised that Facebook would become a gatekeeper to the Internet
  5. The opposition to “Free Basics” won, with a ban on it being imposed by the telecom regulator
  6. Facebook was not clearly stating how it would use the personal data of users on the Free Basics platform

Shaping political preferences

  1. By March 2018 the Cambridge Analytica exposé gathered steam
  2. Blockbuster reports by The New York Times and The Observer documented the compromising of personal data of Facebook users to micro-target them with subtle forms of political campaigning without their knowledge
  3. This was reportedly aimed at influencing their voting preferences and the outcome of elections

Investigation pending

  1. Concurrently the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT in April 2018 also started examining this issue
  2. While it did invite public comments, its proceedings have not been disclosed
  3. Subsequently, the matter at the ministerial level was referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation, which launched a preliminary investigation in September 2018
  4. Till date, there is little public information on movement in this investigation

Way forward

  1. Many of these problems go much beyond Facebook, to the entire wave of digitisation from the big building blocks down to a fine grain of Indian society
  2. To properly harness digitisation, we now have the challenge of developing and prioritising institutions of governance to protect users
  3. This must start immediately with a strong, rights-protecting, comprehensive privacy law
  4. At present, despite having the second highest number of Internet users in the world, India has little to show as a country in investigatory outcomes, measured regulatory responses or parliamentary processes which safeguard users
Right To Privacy

[op-ed snap] Controversial exit: U.S troops withdrawal from Syria

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Implications of changes in US foreign policy on India


Context

US exit from Syria

  1. US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull all American troops out of Syria and reduce by half the US forces in Afghanistan marks the end of a prolonged phase of American military interventions in the Middle East and South Asia
  2. This has predictably upset both the Washington establishment and America’s global allies

Reasons for exit

  1. US president claims that the physical infrastructure of the IS caliphate is destroyed and the U.S. can leave the war against the remnants of the jihadist group to the Syrian government and its main backers, Russia and Iran
  2. The caliphate is actually destroyed — the IS has lost 95% of the territory it once controlled and is now confined to narrow pockets on the Iraqi-Syrian border
  3. The U.S. would also not like to get stuck in Syria forever. It is basically Russia’s war
  4. The U.S. is already stranded in Afghanistan (for 17 years) and Iraq (over 15 years) without a way out

Geopolitics at play

  1. As America’s internal tussle on its external trajectory makes Washington an unpredictable factor in international politics, the rest of the world has no option but to factor it into their own geopolitical calculus
  2. The U.S. has only 2,000 troops in Syria
  3. They were not directly involved in the ground battle and were supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel group led by Kurdish rebels who were in the forefront of the fight against the IS
  4. The U.S. support for the Kurdish rebels has irked Turkey, which sees them as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, the rebels on the Turkish side who have been fighting Turkish troops for decades
  5. Turkey considers the military consolidation of Kurds as a strategic threat
  6. In the past, Turkey had attacked Kurds in some pockets on the Syrian side but was prevented from launching a full-throttle attack because of the U.S. presence

Impact on India

  1. Trump’s move will undermine the war against the Islamic State, help legitimise the Syrian ruler Bashar al Assad, and boost his backers in Moscow and Tehran
  2. In Afghanistan, the decision to downsize troop presence comes at a moment when Washington has embarked on direct talks with the Taliban brokered by Pakistan
  3. If the president does not change his mind, Delhi will have to take into account the consequences for India’s western neighbourhood, especially in Afghanistan where Washington has been fighting the longest war in American history

Way forward

  1. Insofar as Delhi is concerned, it must start preparing for the inevitable geopolitical turbulence, including the resurgence of the Islamic State and the potential return of the Taliban to power in Kabul, that could follow the American retrenchment in the Middle East and Afghanistan

With inputs from the article: As US retrenches

Foreign Policy Watch: Cross-Border Terrorism

Explained: Consumer Protection Bill, 2018

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Consumer Protection Bill, 2018

Mains level: Ensuring consumer protection against various miscreant activities


News

Background

  1. In a discussion in the Rajya Sabha Hon’ble Vice-President narrated his experience with a spurious weight-loss advertisement and how he lost money but never got the medicine.
  2. One year later, the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 20, 2018.
  3. The Bill, originally introduced in January 2018 in the last winter session of Parliament, seeks to replace the three-decade-old Consumer Protection Act, 1986, which was amended thrice but incompetent.

Consumer Protection Bill, 2018

  1. The objective of the Bill is to provide for the protection of the interests of consumers and for the said purpose, to establish authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumers’ disputes.
  2. The Bill seeks to set up a central consumer protection authority (CCPA) to “promote, protect and enforce the rights of the consumers.”
  3. The CCPA can act on complaints of unfair trade practices, issue safety guidelines, order product recall or discontinuation of services, refer complaints to other regulators, and has punitive powers such as imposing penalties.”
  4. The Bill also seeks to provide Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions at national, State and district-levels to look into consumer complaints.
  5. Consumer Protection Councils will also be set up at the district, State, and national level, as advisory bodies. Consumer mediation cells will be set-up on the same lines.

Consumer rights

  1. The Bill defines “consumer rights” as the right to be protected against the marketing of goods, products or services which are hazardous to life and property.
  2. It is also the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, products or services; and to be assured of access to a variety of goods, products or services at competitive prices.
  3. It includes the right to be heard and to be assured that the consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate fora;
  4. It also includes right to seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and the right to consumer awareness.

Product liability

  1. The Bill also envisages provisions for product liability action on account of harm caused to consumers due to a defective product or by a deficiency in services.
  2. For example, a consumer can sue the cab aggregator if the taxi comes late and as a result, they miss a scheduled flight.
  3. Also, the case can be filed from anywhere, unlike the existing law which allows the consumer to register the complaint only from the same place of purchase of the product or where the service is availed.

Curbing misleading Ads

  1. The CCPA has the authority to direct the removal of a misleading advertisement, take punitive action such as imprisonment or imposing penalties on the advertiser and seller.
  2. It can even bar a person from endorsing the product or service for up to a year.
  3. The Bill also lists punitive actions against those who are found manufacturing, storing, distributing, selling, or importing products that are spurious or contain adulterants.


Comparison of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 with the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018

Ambit of law

1986 Act: All goods and services for consideration, while free and personal services are excluded

2018 Bill: All goods and services, including telecom and housing construction, and all modes of transactions (online, teleshopping, etc.) for consideration. Free and personal services are excluded.

Unfair trade practices

1986 Act: Includes six types of such practices, like false representation, misleading advertisements.

2018 Bill: The new Bill adds three types of practices to the list, namely: (i) failure to issue a bill or receipt; (ii) refusal to accept a good returned within 30 days; and (iii) disclosure of personal information given in confidence, unless required by law or in public interest.

Product liability

1986 Act: No provision.

2018 Bill: Claim for product liability can be made against manufacturer, service provider, and seller. Compensation can be obtained by proving one of the several specified conditions in the Bill.

Unfair contracts

1986 Act: No provision.

2018 Bill: Defined as contracts that cause significant change in consumer rights. Lists six contract terms which may be held as unfair.

Central Protection Councils (CPCs)

1986 Act: CPCs promote and protect the rights of consumers. They are established at the district, state, and national level.

2018 Bill: The new Bill makes CPCs advisory bodies for promotion and protection of consumer rights. Establishes CPCs at the district, State and national level.

Regulator

1986 Act: No provision.

2018 Bill: Establishes the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect, and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.

CCPA may: (i) issue safety notices; (ii) pass orders to recall goods, prevent unfair practices, and reimburse purchase price paid; and (iii) impose penalties for false and misleading advertisements.

Pecuniary jurisdiction of Commissions

1986 Act: District: Up to Rs 20 lakh; State: Between Rs 20 lakh and up to Rs one crore;National:  Above Rs one crore.

2018 Bill: District: Up to Rs one crore; State: Between Rs one crore and up to Rs 10 crore; National:  above Rs 10 crore.

Composition of Commissions

1986 Act:

District: Headed by current or former District Judge and two members.

State:  Headed by a current or former High Court Judge and at least two members.

National:  Headed by a current or former Supreme Court Judge and at least four members.

2018 Bill:

District:  Headed by a president and at least two members.

State:  Headed by a president and at least four members.

National:  Headed by a president and at least four members.

Appointment

1986 Act: Selection Committee (comprising a judicial member and other officials) will recommend members on the Commissions.

2018 Bill: No provision for Selection Committee.  Central government will appoint through notification.

Alternate dispute redressal mechanism

1986 Act: No provision.

2018 Bill: Mediation cells will be attached to the District, State, and National Commissions.

Penalties

1986 Act: If a person does not comply with orders of the Commissions, he may face imprisonment between one month and three years or fine between Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000, or both.

2018 Bill: If a person does not comply with orders of the Commissions, he may face imprisonment up to three years, or a fine not less than Rs 25,000 extendable to Rs one lakh, or both.

E-commerce

1986 Act: No provision.

2018 Bill: Defines direct selling, e-commerce and electronic service provider. The central government may prescribe rules for preventing unfair trade practices in e-commerce and direct selling.

Indigenous Artillery Gun trials to enter next stage by June

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ATAGS

Mains level: Army’s need for new types of equipment and their development in India


News

  • The development of the indigenously-designed heavy artillery gun, the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), has advanced to a stage where user-assisted trials of the gun are likely to start by June.

Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS)

  1. The ATAGS is a 155mm, 52 calibre gun being developed by the DRDO on two parallel tracks: one prototype is being built in partnership with Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division), and the other is in collaboration with Bharat Forge.
  2. The gun currently weighs about 18 tonnes while the ideal weight for the army would be 14-15 tonnes.
  3. The gun has several significant features including an all-electric drive, high mobility, quick deployability, auxiliary power mode, advanced communications system, automated command and control system.
  4. It also sports a six-round magazine instead of the standard three-round magazine.
  5. This necessitates a larger chamber and is a major factor pushing up the overall weight of the system.
Indian Army Updates

All computers can now be monitored by Govt. agencies

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Challenges to internal security through communication networks, basics of cyber security etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of the MHA Order

Mains level: Cyber Security and associated issues


News

  • The MHA has issued an order authorising 10 Central agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.

Agencies free to Monitor

  • Intelligence Bureau
  • Narcotics Control Bureau
  • Enforcement Directorate
  • Central Board of Direct Taxes
  • Directorate of Revenue Intelligence
  • Central Bureau of Investigation
  • National Investigation Agency
  • Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW)
  • Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only)
  • Commissioner of Police, Delhi

Details of the Order

  1. The subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies.
  2. Failing to do will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.
  3. The MHA gave the authorisation under 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which says that the Central government can direct any agency after it is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient.
  4. This will be done in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence.
Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

[pib] NITI Aayog Releases SDG India Index, 2018

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SDG India Index

Mains level: India’s strategy and outcomes towards attaining SDGs


News

  • The NITI Aayog has released the Baseline Report of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index, which comprehensively documents the progress made by India’s States and UTs towards implementing the 2030 SDG targets.

SDG India Index

  1. The Index was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI), Global Green Growth Institute and United Nations in India and was launched by NITI Aayog.
  2. NITI Aayog has the twin mandate to oversee the implementation of SDGs in the country, and also promote Competitive and Cooperative Federalism among States and UTs.
  3. The SDG India Index acts as a bridge between these mandates, aligning the SDGs with the PM’s clarion call of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.
  4. It embodies the five Ps of the global SDG movement – people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace.

Utility of the Index

  1. The SDG India Index tracks progress of all States and UTs on 62 Priority Indicators selected by NITI Aayog, which in turn is guided by MoSPI’s National Indicator Framework comprising 306 indicators.
  2. The Index spans 13 out of 17 SDGs.
  3. Progress on SDGs 12, 13 & 14 could not be measured as relevant State/UT level data were not available and SDG 17 was left out as it focuses on international partnerships.
  4. A composite score was computed between the range of 0-100 for each State and UT based on their aggregate performance towards achieving 13 SDGs
  5. If a State/UT achieves a score of 100, it signifies that it has achieved the 2030 national targets. The higher the score of a State/UT, the greater the distance to target achieved.

Classification Criteria based on Score:

  • Aspirant: 0-49
  • Performer: 50-64
  • Front Runner: 65-99
  • Achiever: 100

Performance of states

OVERALL Aspirant Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh
Performer Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur,
Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Delhi and Lakshadweep
Front Runner Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh and Puducherry
Achiever NA

 

Overall Findings

Particular State UT
SDG India Index Score Range 42-69 57-68
Top Performer/s Himachal Pradesh & Kerala Chandigarh
Aspirant Uttar Pradesh Dadra & Nagar Haveli
  • Himachal Pradesh ranks high on providing clean water & sanitation, in reducing inequalities & preserving mountain ecosystem
  • Kerala’s top rank is attributed to its superior performance in providing good health, reducing hunger, achieving gender equality & providing quality education
  • Chandigarh leads because of its exemplary performance in providing clean water & sanitation, affordable & clean energy, generating decent work & economic growth, & providing quality education
Transition From MDG to SDG: Issues & Concern

[pib] NABCB Accreditation Secures Recognition in Asia- Pacific Region

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NABCB and other accreditation bodies mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Bodies facilitation India’s export in global markets


News

  • India’s national accreditation body, National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB), has secured equivalence for its accreditation for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS) Certification Bodies in Asia- Pacific region.

New agreement

  1. NABCB has signed the Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA) of the Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (PAC).
  2. Any industry carrying ISO 45001 certificate with NABCB logo will be recognized in the Asia Pacific region.
  3. The immediate beneficiary of this equivalence is the Indian Industry which is exporting products to various countries especially in the Asia Pacific region.
  4. It can also be used by regulators for establishing confidence in certified units as Goa Government has done by accepting OHSMS certification under NABCB accreditation in lieu of annual audits under Factories’ Act.
  5. Now, NABCB can facilitate export of Indian goods into the world market by attesting that these are certified as per international standards by competent certifying bodies.

Importance of NABCB Accreditation

  1. The NABCB accreditation programme is based on international standards, ISO/IEC 17021-1 and ISO 45001, applicable for OHSMS.
  2. The recognition by PAC is based on demonstration by NABCB that it complies with international standard, ISO/IEC 17011.
  3. NABCB is the third accreditation body in the Asia Pacific Region to become internationally equivalent in the region, the other two being the accreditation bodies of Hong Kong and Mexico.
  4. This status signifies that the accreditation of certification bodies by NABCB for OHMS will be accepted as internationally equivalent.

Why need Accreditation?

  1. Accreditation reduces risk for business and its customers by assuring that accredited Certification Bodies (CBs) are competent to carry out the work they undertake within their scope of accreditation.
  2. Accreditation Bodies (ABs) are required to comply with appropriate international standards and the applicable PAC application documents for the consistent application of those standards.
  3. ABs that are signatories to the PAC Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA) are evaluated regularly by an appointed team of peers to provide confidence in the operation of their programs.

Eliminating technical barriers for Exports

  1. Accreditation has become an essential tool for getting acceptance of inspection, testing and certification done in India internationally.
  2. It is referenced in many bilateral Free Trade Agreements like the India – Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement in which NABCB accreditation is a requirement for certification of electrical/electronic and telecom products.
  3. Thus, accreditation eliminates technical barriers to trade and facilitates export of Indian products in world market.

Back2Basics

National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies

  1. NABCB, a constituent Board of the Quality Council of India, is responsible for accreditation of certification/inspection bodies as per applicable international standards under an international system of equivalence.
  2. NABCB is internationally recognized and represents the interests of the Indian industry at international forums through membership and active participation with the objective of becoming a signatory to international Multilateral / Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MLA / MRA).
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.