Daily Current Affairs: 23 Jul 2021
The laws for surveillance in India, and the concerns over privacy
(Topic- GS Paper II-Governance, Source- The Hindu)
Why in the news?
- In response to the finding by a global collaborative investigative project that Israeli spyware Pegasus was used to target at least 300 individuals in India, the government has claimed that all interception in India takes place lawfully.
Law covering surveillance in India
Communication surveillance in India takes place primarily under two laws
- The Telegraph Act, 1885
- The Information Technology Act, 2000.
Telegraph Act, 1885
- It governs the use of wired and wireless telegraphy, telephones, teletype, radio communications and digital data communications.
- It gives the Government of India exclusive jurisdiction and privileges for establishing, maintaining, operating, licensing and oversight of all forms of wired and wireless communications within Indian Territory.
- Under this law, the government can intercept calls only in certain situations — the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence.
- These are the same restrictions imposed on free speech under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
- Section 5(2) of the act allows central and state governments to prevent the transmission of messaging during a “public emergency or in the interest of public safety”, or “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state”.
- Additionally, a proviso in Section 5(2) states that even this lawful interception cannot take place against journalists.
Supreme Court intervention
- In Public Union for Civil Liberties v Union of India (1996), the Supreme Court pointed out lack of procedural safeguards in the provisions of the Telegraph Act and laid down certain guidelines for interceptions.
- Public interest litigation was filed in the wake of the report on “Tapping of politician’s phones” by the CBI.
- The court noted that authorities engaging in interception were not even maintaining adequate records and logs on interception.
- Among the guidelines issued by the court were settings up a review committee that can look into authorisations made under Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act.
- The Supreme Court’s guidelines formed the basis of introducing Rule 419A in the Telegraph Rules in 2007 and later in the rules prescribed under the IT Act in 2009.
B N Srikrishna Committee
- Government has appointed a committee of experts on data protection under the chairmanship of Justice B N Srikrishna that submitted its report in July 2018.
IT Act, 2000
- Section 69 of the Information Technology Act and the Information Technology (Procedure for Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 were enacted to further the legal framework for electronic surveillance.
- Under the IT Act, all electronic transmission of data can be intercepted. So, for a Pegasus-like spyware to be used lawfully, the government would have to invoke both the IT Act and the Telegraph Act.
- Apart from the restrictions provided in Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act and Article 19(2) of the Constitution, Section 69 the IT Act adds another aspect that makes it broader — interception, monitoring and decryption of digital information “for the investigation of an offence”.
Support for orphans sees varying progress
(Topic- GS Paper II-Scheme for Vulnerable Section, Source- The Hindu)
Why in the news?
- Recently, Prime Minister had announced that the government would launch a slew of welfare measures for children who had lost their parents to COVID-19.
- This was followed by similar announcements by different State governments.
State government’s initiatives
Mukhyamantri COVID-19 Pariwar Aarthik Sahayata Yojna
- Delhi Chief Minister has announced Mukhyamantri COVID-19 Pariwar Aarthik Sahayata Yojna, under which ₹50,000 would be given as a one-time compensation to all families who lost someone to COVID-19.
Chief Minister’s Bala Seva Yojana
- It has been launched by the Karnataka government.
- Under this scheme, the children would get ₹3,500 a month.
- The Tamil Nadu government has sanctioned ₹33.37 crore under the scheme to benefit a total of 1,045 children (including 101, who lost both their parents, and 944 minors, who lost either of their parents) so far.
- Under the scheme, children who have lost both parents (₹5 lakh) or even one parent (₹3 lakh) would have a corpus set up in their name to draw when they turn 18 and a monthly maintenance amount for children not housed in government homes.
- The scheme is ongoing and officials are involved in identifying the children from various districts.
- In Kerala, the government has identified 74 children who have been orphaned by the pandemic.
- As per data collected by the Women and Child Development Department, the number of children who have lost a parent to COVID-19 is 2,488, while six have been abandoned.
- Telangana has not adopted any special policy or funding to support the children orphaned by COVID-19, instead choosing to help them with existing schemes under the Women and Child Welfare Department.
Central Government Initiate
PM CARES for Children Scheme
- The scheme has been approved under the PM CARES fund for children who have lost both parents or the lone surviving parent or a legal guardian or an adoptive parent due to COVID-19.
- They will get a monthly stipend once they turn 18 and a fund of Rs 10 lakh when they turn 23 from PM CARES.
- Free education to be ensured for children who lost their parents to COVID 19.
- The children will be assisted to get an education loan for higher education & PM CARES Fund will pay interest on the loan.
- The children will get free health insurance of Rs 5 lakh under Ayushman Bharat Scheme (PM-JAY) till 18 years & premium will be paid by PM CARES Fund.
Microplastics in Ganga
(Topic- GS Paper III-Environment, Source- The Hindu)
Why in the news?
- Recently, a Delhi-based environment NGO, Toxics Link, has revealed pollution by microplastics in Ganga River.
- The study, ‘Quantitative analysis of Microplastics along River Ganga’, was based on an analysis of water samples at Haridwar, Kanpur and Varanasi.
- The highest concentration of such plastic was found at Varanasi, comprising single-use and secondary plastic products.
- The samples were tested to identify the exact type or resin core and the results show the presence of at least 40 different kinds of polymers as microplastics.
- Microbeads were observed in Varanasi and Kanpur, while no beads were found in Haridwar.
- The most frequent size range observed in all the samples was <300 micrometre.
- Plastic is the most ubiquitous type of marine debris found in oceans and other water bodies.
- The debris can be of any size and shape, but those which are less than 5 mm in length (or about the size of a sesame seed) are called microplastics.
They can be divided into two main categories according to their source:
- Primary microplastics
- Directly released in the environment as small particles
- Laundering of synthetic clothes (35% of primary microplastics)
- Abrasion of tyres through driving (28%)
- Intentionally added microplastics in personal care products, for example microbeads in facial scrubs (2%)
- Originate from degradation of larger plastic objects, such as plastic bags, bottles or fishing nets
Effects of micro plastics
- Micro plastics are found in growing quantities in the ocean.
- Micro plastics found in the sea can be ingested by marine animals.
- The plastic then accumulates and can end up in humans through the food chain
- They have been found in food and drinks, including beer, honey and tap water.
- The effect on human health is as yet unknown, but plastics often contain additives, such as stabilizers or flame-retardants, and other possibly toxic chemical substances that may be harmful to the animal or human ingesting them.
- Concerns are growing worldwide about increasing plastic pollution, with a particular focus on the oceans, where nearly 50% of single-use plastic products end up killing marine life and entering the human food chain.
- In this regard, the European Union has planned to ban single-use plastic items such as straws, forks, knives and cotton buds by 2021.
- China's commercial hub of Shanghai is gradually restraining the use of single-use plastics in catering services. Its island province of Hainan has vowed to completely eliminate single-use plastic by 2025.
- On World Environment Day, 2018 the world leaders vowed to “Beat Plastic Pollution” & eliminate its use completely.
- Prime Minister has made announcements on August 15 and October 2 2019 that India would eliminate single-use plastics (SUPs) by 2022.
- The Nodal Ministry for the scheme is the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) ensured with the task of:
- It has a task of enforcing the ban on single-use plastics.
- It also has the task in finalizing the pending policy for Extended Producer Responsibility (a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility financially and/or physically for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products) for milk products.
RBI plans digital currency pilots soon
(Topic- GS Paper III-Environment, Source- The Hindu)
Why in the news?
- The Reserve Bank of India is likely to soon kick off pilot projects to assess the viability of using digital currency to make wholesale and retail payments to help calibrate its strategy for introducing a full-scale central bank digital currency (CBDC).
- On 25 January 2021, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stated that it is examining if there's a need to introduce Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in India. In case, the need for a digital currency arises, the bank will look for ways to operationalise it.
- In its February 2020 Bulletin, RBI cited the survey of central banks conducted by the Bank for International Settlements which revealed that around 80% of the 66 responding banks have started projects to explore the use of CBDC, including Canada, USA and Singapore.
About Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)
- The Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) is a legal tender and liability of a nation's central bank in the digital form.
- It is denominated in a sovereign currency and appears on the balance sheet of a nation's central bank.
- CBDC is a digital currency which can be converted/exchanged at par with similarly denominated cash and traditional central bank deposits of a nation.
Need for CBDCs in India
- The Digital Rupee provides India with the opportunity to establish the dominance of Digital Rupee as a superior currency for trade with its strategic partners, thereby reducing its dependency on the dollar.
- It will also help India in addressing the malpractices such as tax evasion, terror funding, money laundering, etc., as the central bank can keep a check on every unit of the digital currency.
- In June 2021 El Salvador has become the first country in the world to formally adopt bitcoin as legal tender.
- In May 2020, China started testing its Digital Yuan - Digital Renminbi (RMB).
- Several other nations have also started research and pilot projects related to CBDC such as Canada, USA and Singapore.
- China and USA are also battling to gain the supremacy across markets with the introduction of new-age financial products and India may get caught up in this digital proxy war.
- Furthermore, there's a wide disconnect between the number of bank accounts and mobile phone connections in India and CBDC can possibly bridge this gap.
H5N1 avian influenza
(Topic- GS Paper III-Science and Technology, Source- The Hindu)
Why in the news?
- Recently, an 11-year-old boy died of H5N1 avian influenza making this the first recorded death due to the bird flu in India of 2021.
About Bird Flu or Avian Influenza
- Avian influenza (AI) commonly called bird flu is a highly contagious viral disease caused by Influenza Type A viruses which generally affects poultry such as chickens and turkeys
- These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.
- H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza.
- Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans.
- However, some, such as A (H5N1) and A (H7N9), have caused serious infections in people.
- Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person.
How does H5N1 influenza spread to people?
World Health Organization Observation
- According to the WHO, it does not usually spread from person to person.
- The WHO has also pointed out that there is no evidence for the virus to spread through properly prepared and cooked poultry as the virus is sensitive to heat and dies in cooking temperatures.
- However, it can be deadly when it does infect humans, with a mortality rate of almost 60%.
- Recently, samples from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Kerala had tested positive for the A (H5N8) strain of the virus, while samples from Himachal Pradesh had tested positive for A (H5N1).
(Topic- GS Paper III-Agriculture, Source- The Hindu + PIB)
Why in the news?
- Many aquaculture farmers in Andhra Pradesh have recently planning to update the details of their produce online and market their stocks through e-Santa Platform.
About e-Santa Platform
- The term e-SANTA was coined for the web portal, meaning Electronic Solution for Augmenting NaCSA farmers' Trade in Aquaculture.
- e-Santa is a platform to connect aqua farmers and buyers across the country, to avoid middlemen
e-SANTA will RAISE the lives & income of farmers by:
- Reducing Risk
- Awareness of Products & Markets
- Increase in Income
- Shielding Against Wrong Practice
- Ease of Processes
- It will act as an alternative marketing tool between farmers & buyers by eliminating middlemen.
- It will revolutionize traditional aquafarming by providing cashless, contactless and paperless electronic trade platform between farmers and exporters.
- e-SANTA can become a tool to advertise collectively the kind of products the buyers, fishermen & fish producing organisations are harvesting, so people in India & internationally can know what is available & in the future, it can become an auction platform”, .
- The Platform is available in many languages, which will help the local population.
About National Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture (NaCSA)
- National Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture (NaCSA) is an extension arm of Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
- The objectives of NaCSA are to encourage and uplift the small and marginal farmers through organization of clusters and maintaining Best Management Practices in shrimp culture.
- The primary advantage of cluster approach to shrimp farming is that it contributes to substantial reduction in cost of production.
Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP)
(Topic- GS Paper III-Agriculture, Source- PIB)
Why in the news?
- Government is implementing Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP) as a sub scheme of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) since 2020-21 for the promotion of traditional indigenous practices.
About Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP)
- The scheme mainly emphasizes on exclusion of all synthetic chemical inputs and promotes on-farm biomass recycling with major stress on biomass mulching;
- use of cow dung-urine formulations;
- plant-based preparations and time to time working of soil for aeration.
- Under BPKP, financial assistance of Rs 12200/ha for 3 years is provided for cluster formation, capacity building and continuous handholding by trained personnel, certification and residue analysis.
Note: Telangana has not taken up natural farming so far under BPKP programme.
About Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
- Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, launched in 2015 is an elaborated component of Soil Health Management (SHM) of major project National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
- Under PKVY, Organic farming is promoted through adoption of organic villages by cluster approach and Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification.
About Organic Farming
- According to FSSAI,’organic farming’ is a system of farm design and management to create an ecosystem of agriculture production without the use of synthetic external inputs such as chemical fertilisers, pesticides and synthetic hormones or genetically modified organisms.
- Organic farm produce means the produce obtained from organic agriculture, while organic food means food products that have been produced in accordance with specified standards for organic production
Other Government Initiatives to Promote Organic Farming
Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD)
- Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD-NER) is a Central Sector Scheme, a sub-mission under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA.
- It was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare in 2015 for implementation in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
- The scheme aims to develop certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of the entire value chain.
- Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)
- PGS is a process of certifying organic products, which ensures that their production takes place in accordance with laid-down quality standards.
- PGS Green is given to chemical free produce under transition to ‘organic’ which takes 3 years.
- It is mainly for domestic purpose.
- Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)
- It is the food regulator in the country and is also responsible for regulating organic food in the domestic market and imports.
- National Program for Organic Production (NPOP)
- NPOP grants organic farming certification through a process of third party certification for export purposes.
- Soil Health Card Scheme
- Soil Health Card Scheme has led to a decline of 8-10% in the use of chemical fertilizers and also raised productivity by 5-6%.
One District - One Product (ODOP)
- The programme aims to encourage more visibility and sale of indigenous and specialized products/crafts of Uttar Pradesh, generating employment at the district level.
- The presence of aggregators is imperative to bring about economies of scale for the small and marginal farmers.
PM Formalization of Micro Food Processing Enterprises (PM FME)
- The Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) launched the PM FME scheme as a part of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’.
- It aims to bring in new technology, apart from affordable credit to help small entrepreneurs penetrate new markets.
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