Insights Daily Current Events, 10 September 2015
Paper 2 and 3 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies, and Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Call drops: TRAI gives 15 days to operators
Coming down heavily on increasing number of call drops, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has offered a 15-days deadline to the telecom companies to strengthen and optimize their network.
- TRAI has also warned that it would have to step overboard if telecom companies do not work on minimizing call drops.
- Trai has offered a 15-days deadline after which it would review and assess performance of telecom companies failing which the regulator will “cross the bridge” if the companies fail to do the needful.
- TRAI has also assured its support to the telecom companies in dispelling the fears regarding radiation from mobile towers. TRAI has decided to work with the concerned authorities and help spread the message that fear of radiation from tower causing health hazards like cancer is completely misplaced.
- The government has offered the telco companies that towers can be put up on government buildings.
- The issue of frequent call drops has become severe in the recent months and concern has been raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well in this regard.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed serious concern over the issue of call drops and had asked officials to explain the steps being taken to address the problem, which directly affects the common man.
- An audit done by an independent agency in Delhi and Mumbai in the month of June and July, on behalf of TRAI, had found that operators such as Vodafone, Idea, Reliance and Airtel failed to meet quality of service norms, especially on the parameter of mobile call drops. The survey found that Tata (CDMA) in Delhi and Bharti Airtel in Mumbai are the only service providers meeting the benchmark of less than 2% call drops.
What is a Call Drop?
There is no standard definition of a dropped call. In telecommunications, it referes to the telephone calls which, due to technical reasons, were cut off before the speaking parties had finished their conversation and before one of them had hung up (dropped calls).
Why a call drops? – telecom services providers’ arguments:
There are many reasons why a call drops, including network infrastructure, spectrum allocation, traffic, as well as the handsets that consumers use. However, telecom service providers give the following reasons:
- Inadequate number of cell sites directly impact quality of services.
- Limited number of towers is leading to inferior customer experience and growing customer inconvenience.
- Several challenges are being faced by the industry during installation of sites, including State bodies’ actions against towers without prior notices, restrictions by municipalities, sealing orders, power supply issues and difficulties in getting clearances for installing sites.
- The service providers have also said that over 10,000 cell sites have been made non-operational due to some trivial reasons across major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Patna and Jaip
Various demands by the telecom companies to improve the quality of services:
- need of additional spectrum.
- harmonisation of airwaves to improve capacity.
- they be allowed to install towers on government buildings.
- alignment of State policies with the Telecom Department’s advisory of mobile tower installation.
- It is the independent regulator of the telecommunications business in India.
- It was established in 1997 by an Act of Parliament to regulate telecom services and tariffs in India.
- In January 2000, TRAI was amended to establish the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory functions of the TRAI.
- The TDSAT was set up to resolve any dispute between a licencor and a licensee, between two or more service providers, between a service provider and a group of consumers. In addition, any direction, TRAI orders or decisions can be challenged by appealing to TDSAT.
Sources: The Hindu, TRAI.
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Australian panel gives conditional nod for N-deal
An Australian Parliamentary Committee has given a cautious go ahead to its government to export uranium to India by listing a set of conditions. The merits of selling uranium to India were being examined by experts as part of the Treaties Committee’s inquiry into the Government’s proposal.
The recommendations made by the australian parliamentary committee include:
- Set up an independent nuclear regulator in Australia.
- Separate India’s civil and military nuclear facilities and allow safety inspections for transfer of uranium.
- India should be encouraged to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India is not a signatory of the NPT nor CTBT.
- The bilateral treaty only be ratified if India manages to achieve the full separation of civil and military nuclear facilities.
- India should establish a new, fully independent, nuclear regulatory body.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency verify that inspections of India’s nuclear facilities live up to international standards.
Experts believe that these recommendations could further delay the actual supply of uranium to Indian nuclear reactors.
How this deal will benefit Australia?
- Uranium sales to India would boost Australia’s uranium mining industry and mining industry in general.
- The quantum of uranium involved could easily double the size of the uranium mining industry in Australia, bringing significant export revenue, and business and employment opportunities at a time when commodity prices for other mining exports are slowing the pace of growth in Australia’s mining industry.
How India will be benefited?
- For India, the significance of the proposed Agreement is possibly even greater. As an emerging world power with a considerable shortfall of generating capacity, nuclear powered electricity generation will grow as one of a number of generating sources selected because of their low carbon emissions.
- Australian authorities estimate India’s uranium import could grow up to 2,000 tonnes a year, valued at 200 million dollars.
- Australia holds about a third of the world’s recoverable uranium resources, and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes a year.
- Indo-Australian nuclear deal that was signed by Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and Narendra Modi in September 2014. The Australia-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement provides a framework for greater cooperation between both the countries on a broad range of nuclear-related areas, such as nuclear safety, production of radioisotopes and regulatory and technological advances in the nuclear fuel cycle.
- India currently gets about 50% of its energy from coal, which the report noted is the lesser option when compared with nuclear power. Presently, only 2% of India’s energy is generated by nuclear power.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB, IE.
Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Himalaya Diwas celebrated in Uttarakhand
Himalaya Diwas was celebrated in Uttarakhand on September 9. Chief Minister Harish Rawat has officially declared September 9 as ‘Himalaya Diwas’ – a day which would be celebrated across the State to spread the message of conservation of the Himalayan ecosystems.
What is it?
- ‘Himalaya Diwas’ is a call for the conservation of the Himalayan ecosystems to be taken up as a public campaign.
- ‘Himalaya Diwas’ is being observed by activists since 2010
Sources: The Hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Diplomat has immunity
The Saudi Arabian Ambassador, Saud Mohammed Alsati, protested against the recent raid on the diplomat’s house in Gurgaon, citing violation of conventions.
What the convention says?
- Under Articles 29-31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, any diplomat is “inviolable” and the state is bound to prevent any attack on him, his family and even his private residence, that “enjoys the same protection” as an embassy.
- Under the Vienna Convention, 1961, “diplomatic immunity” cannot be violated unless the country that has posted the diplomat waives it off.
- A saudi Arabian diplomat was recently accused of rape by two women from Nepal. Unaware of the diplomat’s status, Gurgaon Police raided the residence of diplomat.
- To protect its diplomat, the Saudi Arabian embassy had invoked “diplomatic immunity”.
Rules regulating the conduct of diplomatic agents is codified under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations (1961). They are:
- Under Article 29 of the Vienna Convention the Diplomat enjoys complete immunity against arrest or detention.
- Under Article 29, the person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity
- A diplomat enjoys immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State.
- The immunity of a diplomat from the jurisdiction of the receiving State (India) does not exempt him from the jurisdiction of the sending State (Saudi Arabia) .
- Waiver of immunity – The immunity of diplomatic agents may be waived by the sending State. While waiver of immunity in criminal cases is not common, it is routinely sought but rarely granted.
So the only option with India is to declare the diplomat a Persona non grata.
What Nepal can do now?
Nepalese government can only request Saudi government to take cognizance of the crime committed by their diplomat and try the Diplomat under Saudi laws. All this can happen only if the diplomat is removed from Indian soil and goes back to Saudi.
There is also geopolitical side to this issue. India and Saudi Arabia share cordial relations. Apart from the fact that Saudi Arabia is India’s second largest supplier of crude oil and its fourth largest trade partner (bilateral trade reached nearly $40 billion in 2014-15), it is also home to a sizeable diaspora of over 2.5 million Indians.
Sources: The Hindu, IE.
Paper 2 Topic: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Make CAG accountable to Parliament: PAC
The Public Accounts Committees of Parliament and state legislatures have recommended that the Comptroller and Auditor General should be a part of the legislature and be made accountable to the Parliament like in the UK and Australia.
- This move was proposed at the recently held all-India conference of Public Accounts Committees of Parliament and states and Union Territories. The conference was held after a gap of 15 years.
- During the 15th Lok Sabha, a suggestion was made by the then PAC that the Committee should be consulted before the appointment of the CAG and it should be part of the legislature like in the U.K. and Australia.
- PAC will make its recommendations to the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Prime Minister and the President before the term of the current PAC ends on March 31, 2016.
The PAC’s move, experts say, is likely to spark a debate on the Constitutional guarantees and autonomy provided to the CAG. Parliamentarians have always held that Parliament is supreme. But, experts say it is the Constitution that is supreme.
- The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India is an authority, established by the Constitution of India under article 148.
- CAG audits all receipts and expenditure of the Government of India and the state governments, including those of bodies and authorities substantially financed by the government.
- The CAG is also the external auditor of Government-owned corporations and conducts supplementary audit of government companies, i.e., any non-banking/ non-insurance company in which the state and Union governments have an equity share of at least 51% or subsidiary companies of existing government companies.
- The reports of the CAG are taken into consideration by the Public Accounts Committees (PACs) and Committees on Public Undertakings (COPUs), which are special committees in the Parliament of India and the state legislatures.
- The CAG enjoys the same status as a judge of Supreme Court of India in Indian order of precedence.
- Appointment: CAG is appointed by the President of India following a recommendation by the Prime Minister. On appointment, he/she has to make an oath or affirmation before the President of India.
- Removal: The CAG can be removed only on an address from both house of parliament on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.The CAG vacates the office on attaining the age of 65 years age even without completing the 6 years term.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Cabinet approves gold monetisation scheme and gold bonds
The Union Cabinet recently approved Gold Bond and Gold Monetisation schemes to reduce the metal’s demand in physical form and fish out idle gold lying with households and other entities.
- This move could bring an estimated 20,000 tonnes of idle gold lying with Indian consumers into the economy and also reduce India’s dependence on gold imports.
- Through the Gold Monetisation Scheme, gold in any form can be deposited with banks for a period of one to 15 years. This gold will earn interest and redemption will be at the prevailing market value at the end of the tenure of deposit.
- This scheme was actually announced in the Budget for 2015-16.
- The scheme also provides for incentives to the banks, while individuals and institutions can deposit as low as 30 gm of gold, while the interest earned on it would be exempt from income tax as well as capital gains tax.
Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme:
- The Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme is aimed at customers looking to buy gold as an investment. Under the Scheme, there will be no need to buy actual gold as customers can buy gold bonds which will be relatable to the weight of gold.
- The bonds will be issued in denominations of 5 grams, 10 grams, 50 grams and 100 grams for a term of five years to seven years with a rate of interest to be calculated on the value of the metal at the time of investment.
- However, there would be a cap of 500 grams that a person can purchase in a year. Such bonds would be offered to only Indian citizens and institutions.