April 2020

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

A Cyber Wing in the National Cadet Corpsop-ed snap

  1. The 2014 Annual Security Report reveals that 2013 was a ‘particularly bad year’ with cumulative annual threat alert levels increasing by 14% since 2012.
  2. The writer explores the possibility of creation of a ‘Cyber Wing’ in each the 4 divisions of the NCC in India.
  3. The motto of the NCC is Unity and Discipline.
  4. The cadets must be given encouragement by way of financial rewards, recognition, scholarships for further studies in cyber security.
  5. With programmes like Digital India, National Optical Fibre Network, e-Governance, e-commerce and e-Services, our vulnerability in cyberspace cannot be condoned.

The potential of opening up Iranop-ed snap

  1. Iran + US & its P5+1 partners have reached a Framework Agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme.
  2. Iran has broadly agreed to 3 things – reduce the centrifuges that produce enriched uranium, reduce its existing stocks, change its heavy water Arak reactor to produce non-weapon grade plutonium.
  3. Iran is already a sort of ally of US against ISIS extremists in Iraq.
  4. Iran, with about 80 million people, is the largest country in the region. It has massive oil and gas resources and a technologically well-educated people.
  5. A post-nuclear-deal Iran may look westward for technology and investment and to China for infrastructure and consumer goods.
  6. As for India – our imports of Iranian oil, and increasingly gas through an undersea pipeline, could rapidly be stepped up.
  7. Pharmaceuticals are another promising area, as are IT services. So, the potential exists to build a solid economic and financial relationship with Iran.
  8. Let us hope the euphoria of the Teheran crowds does not prove a false dawn.

Land ‘Billed’op-ed snap

  1. The writer is an activist who brings forth the plight of displacement in the name of land acquisitions for development projects.
  2. Given that 90% of our coal, 50% of most minerals & prospective dam sites are mainly in Adivasi regions, there is likely to be a continuing tension on land acquisition.
  3. At the heart of the 2013 law was the provision of seeking the consent of those whose lands were to be acquired and of caring for those whose livelihoods would be destroyed in the process.
  4. The current ordinance undoes those provisions & comesa cross as a virtual resurrection of undiluted powers of “eminent domain”, which the 1894 law conferred on the state.
  5. He states that the SIA is the basic minimum requirement to keep the arbitrary land acquisitions under check.
  6. Prior consent of those who have occupied the lands is must for healthy development of business. It may appear to be time taking but any hasty push to acquire land costs even further more delays.
  7. He finds that the ever increasing pressure on cities and an industry producing very few jobs but high on ecological footprints cannot be persisted with in the longer run.
  8. It is in everybody’s interest to recall the proposed changes in the Land bill.

Juveniles need reform, not prisonop-ed snap

  1. By clearing amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act and allowing juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 to be tried and punished as adults for ‘heinous offences’ (offences that are punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or more), the Cabinet on April 22 sounded the death knell for juvenile justice.
  2. The government claims that since this assessment will be done with the help of psychologists and social experts, the rights of the juvenile would be protected.
  3. The new Bill is violative of India’s constitutional mandate and its international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  4. As per the writer, there are 3 flawed assumptions: children are as culpable or blameworthy as adults; it is scientifically possible to determine maturity & mindset beyond reasonable doubt; and the transfer system will effectively deter juvenile crime and enhance public safety, particularly of women.
  5. Instead of dealing with the root causes of juvenile crime, such as poverty, broken families, unregulated access to pornography, or the failure of the child protection system, the government seems to be blindly targeting adolescents.
  6. With the Ministry and the Cabinet having turned their back, all hopes are pinned on Parliament to do what is right for India’s adolescent children.

Concession in recessionop-ed snap

  1. The former finance minister/ Home minister writes about the cuts in the various CSS schemes all in the name of federalist ethos.
  2. The schemes like CCTNS, SIS that were framed keeping the modernisation of police forces and providing them with the requisite infrastructure to take on the maoists have been de linked from the annual budget 2014-2015 citing that police is a state list subject.
  3. This is when CCTNS is nearly on the verge of completion. The system needs to keep itself abreast with the latest in technology and so can not be left to the 29 state monitoring systems. It being of centralised nature need to be speedup under a central authority.
  4. However the MHA has expressed its resentment over the pruning. The writer expects similar response from the other ministries whose budgetary expenditure has been cut down.

No more carrots, only sticksop-ed snap

  1. Lakhvi’s release speaks volumes about the sincerity of Pakistan to fight terrorism. Infact, his arrest coming as a pleasure stay during which he even fathered his child is a bigger sham.
  2. USA has committed to renewed military and humanitarian aid despite of Pakistan having a record of diverting them against India.
  3. USA did not respond to the release of Lakhvi unmindful of the fact that 6 out of the 167 killed in 26/11 were US nationals.
  4. In order to make Pakistan check sponsoring the terrorism, sanctions and coercive diplomacy should be resorted to by both India and USA.
  5. USA should impose sanctions the way it made IRAN budge from its stance on nuclear power. It should impose sanctions on the activities of ISI officials and their deep assets in USA.
  6. ISI officials can also be denied visa. Covert operation is also one of the options that can be explored.

Maharashtra Ban and Bovine economicsop-ed snap

  1. What will poor farmers do now that they can’t sell their economically unviable cattle to the butcher?
  2. Bulls and bullocks are extremely expensive animals to maintain anyway, but particularly so beyond their productive years.
  3. The consequence of shutting the butcher’s door on cow-bull-bullock slaughter might therefore be clandestine killing.
  4. As regards cows, if religious sentiment is to override economic reality, the farmer will have no choice but to double the price of milk.
  5. Caught between hard economics, temperamental rain and the government, the farmer has always died.
Crop Insurance – PMFBY, etc.

Two risks that haunt agriculture – Weather & Pricesop-ed snap

  1. Still, less than 20% of the Indian farmers are covered by crop insurance.
  2. Somehow, the Indian psyche cannot seem to accept paying the insurance premium that would be foregone should no adverse event take place.
  3. It is also true that most poor people cannot afford even the lowest premium for insurance.
  4. And imagine it this way – a staggering 70% of the junta which depends on Agriculture wakes up everyday facing risk & uncertainty.
  5. As Indian agriculture will have to adopt new and expensive technologies to counter climate change, insurance cover becomes even more critical.
  6. Narendra Modi government needs to be applauded for trying to introduce a market-based farm income insurance scheme combined with weather-based crop insurance products that will replace the ad hoc grants.
Net Neutrality & The Debate Around It

How to have an informed debate on Net Neutrality?op-ed snap

We all know the cons of doing away with Net Neutrality. Broadly, we do. Add to this – when an uninformed citizenry gets to decide on bigger matters like this – Flipkart ends up getting 1 rating in plenty 😉

  1. But let’s for a moment – take a step back and see a possible rationale to this.
  2. In the telephone networks, 1-800 toll-free numbers allow businesses to subsidize users’ access fees, but that same mechanism is missing for Internet data services.
  3. This is possibly what Airtel Zero wanted to achieve? Maybe!
  4. Should we have fast lanes for different services – Video on Demand vs. Content only?
  5. Yes, because certain type of traffic need faster delivery, such as video streaming, while others such as emails and file transfer don’t!
  6. But will the network providers chide away from the lower tier/ slower lane services?
Iran’s Nuclear Program & Western Sanctions

The road from Lausanneop-ed snap

  1. The Nuclear agreement has left many crucial details to be worked out in the next round of talks, including sequencing of sanctions-relief and details of inspection regime.
  2. Iran is expecting rapid relief on sanctions from UN and EU.
  3. US is looking for conclusive proof of Iranian compliance with the nuclear inspections and limiting Iran’s programme, before taking off sanctions.

  4. Israel has tried all efforts against this deal, which will later draw the international attention on the Israeli arsenal.
  5. If a deal is reached, it will significantly reduce the risk of further proliferation in the Middle East.
Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

Is your food safe enough?op-ed snap

This year, WHO’s theme is ‘Food Safety’ – To ensure that everyone has the answers to a few questions: What is in your meal and where did the ingredients come from?

  1. WHO is concerned about streamlining the supply chain and stressing on stakeholders to promote food safety.
  2. The approach to food safety requires multi-sectoral collaboration, as it passes through multiple hands from farm to plates.
  3. As groundwater resources deplete & put pressure on other factor, farm markets shift to ‘chemically managed’ crops.
  4. The increasing disregard for food safety norms is based on multiple factors including lack of awareness and training, absence of compliance or plain corruption.

Microfinance Story of India

New regime, old philosophyop-ed snap

  1. There is always a case for direct government intervention to solve any one of our many chronic problems, to justify the need for MUDRA bank.
  2. The govt. is trying to ensure equity through determined government action that previously drove the govt. to nationalise banks and bring priority sector lending.
  3. However, such ‘directed credit’ has not worked successfully in the past.
  4. The govt. control over banks had led to large-scale corruption and repeated recapitalisation through taxpayers’ money.
  5. MUDRA bank has been over-burdened with many conflicting objectives and too-many roles, viz. a lender, consultant, regulator, think tank and an agent of social change.
  6. This new bank has little accountability for taxpayers’ money, which has already wasted on numerous initiatives to “support” small businesses of various kinds.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

How India gains from the Iran N-deal?op-ed snap

  1. The deal could have significant effects on India’s energy needs, as it will allow imports of oil and natural gas from Iran.
  2. Analysts point that oil prices would drop further as a permanent agreement would be reached with Iran, as Iran would then increase its oil production.
  3. A fall in global oil prices would be good news for India. Why?

A $1/barrel fall in international crude oil prices is likely to reduce India’s net import bill by $0.9 billion a year.


What else?

  • The Farzad-B gas field project – Discovered by OVL in 2008, might receive a fillip because India could not pursue the project aggressively until now, due to US sanctions against Iran.
  • Gas Pipeline – Between India and Iran.
  • Chabahar Port Route – The peace agreement will lead Indian govt. to push for completion of Chabahar port route to Afghanistan, a gateway to Central Asia.
Iran’s Nuclear Program & Western Sanctions

Iran-P5+1 talks: Breakthroughop-ed snap


Key Points:

  1. Iran and P5+1 agreed on the framework for a draft plan of action that would be ready by June 30th this year.
  2. The draft plan envisages to limit Iran’s nuclear programme for civilian nuclear activities only.
  3. The plan of action clearly states the no. of enrichment plants & centrifuges Iran will have access to, as well as their verification by IAEA.
  4. The UN will terminate all its resolutions sanctioning Iran, which had crippled its economy.
  5. The breakthrough deal will have wider geopolitical repercussions on all of West Asia, which is witnessing the results of the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia
  6. The deal will bring big relief for India, who found it difficult to strengthen its civilizational ties with Tehran in face of international sanctions.
Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

Safe food, from the farm to the plateop-ed snap

Food safety is critical for public health as food-borne diseases affect people’s well-being, strain health-care systems, and adversely impact national economies, tourism and trade.

  1. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, the elderly and the sick.
  2. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, the elderly and the sick.
  3. The emergence of street foods assumes public health significance, as a source of food-borne diseases.
  4. Establish a network of food safety authorities at national/international level, to promote exchange of food safety information and improve collaboration.
  5. Incorporation of food safety in disaster mgmt. programmes and emergencies, due to likelihood of food in the affected areas getting contaminated and causing outbreaks of foodborne disease.
Microfinance Story of India

The fine print of Mudra Bankop-ed snap

  1. The bank will be financially challenged since inception, if it is funded through non-budgetary support.
  2. The funds for the bank would be sourced from shortfall in the achievements of the priority sector lending (PSL) targets.
  3. Currently, the shortfall in the PSL targets of the domestic scheduled commercial banks are deposited in Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) and for foreign banks in Small Enterprises Development Fund.
  4. The fact of the matter is that banks have been surpassing the targets in all years, since 2002, except for the last three years.
  5. The shortfall lies only in agricultural loans, but it would be unfair to divert the target for agriculture from RIDF to micro units.
Microfinance Story of India

A catalyst for India’s 10% GDP growthop-ed snap

  1. Informal sector accounts for 90%of our non-agricultural workforce, 50% of the GDP & 40% of the non-farm GDP.
  2. Analysts point that the Indian GDP can be raised by almost 15% if the informal sector data is incorporated in the GDP series.
  3. The MUDRA bank will boost loans and cut borrowing costs for the cash-starved domestic small businesses.
  4. It is using micro finance, an economic development tool to assist the lower income groups to develop and grow their small businesses.
  5. This government is right to see the potential of this sector to drive up jobs and taxes.
  6. This will create a force multiplier on the economy and tax revenues by a successful formalisation of the informal sector.
Foreign Policy Watch: The BCIM Corridor

BCIM: Can India Be a Driving Force?op-ed snap

  1. India has finally gotten serious about a new regional cooperation framework known as Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Cooperation.
  2. This concept has been under discussion for more than a decade & a half but India has been mostly reluctant about it.
  3. With the Indian government’s focus on regional connectivity and China’s push for a Southern Silk Road, all 4 countries are now engaged in the initiative.
  4. The current Indian government has given clear indicators that it is likely to place regional integration high on its economic diplomacy agenda, be it SAARC, ASEAN or BCIM.
North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Where armed insurgents roam about freelyop-ed snap

  1. The ceasefire agreement with NSCN puts restriction on movement outside camps, prohibition on acquiring any new arms and refraining from extortions and intimidation.
  2. The agreement makes these cadres eligible for remuneration from govt.
  3. The free movement of insurgent cadres had created an atmosphere of fear amongst civilians, who are later forced to offer support to them.
  4. The ceasefire ensures that there will be no state operation against these armed groups.
  5. The solution lies in raising a common Northeast law enforcement force for monitoring internal cross border ‘ceasefire signatory’ insurgencies.
  6. The monitoring and supervision of the ceasefire camps should be carried out on a monthly basis, which includes updated data of cadres, weapons and illegal activities.