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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 22 July 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 22 July 2019


Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

 

Electronically transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS)

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Who is a Service Voter, how can he cast vote, significance and challenges associated, Key features of ETPBS.

 

Context: In the seven phases Lok Sabha polls, a record 18,02,646 eligible personnel were enrolled and 10,84,266 voted through the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) or e-postal ballots.

 

Electronically transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS):

  • ETPBS is developed by Election Commission of India with the help of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), for the use of the Service Voters.
  • It is a fully secured system, having two layers of security. Secrecy is maintained through the use of OTP and PIN and no duplication of casted Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot (ETPB) is possible due to the unique QR Code.
  • Persons working in paramilitary forces and the military and government officials deployed in diplomatic missions outside India are classified as Service Voters.

 

Significance and benefits:

  • This system enables the entitled service voters to cast their vote using an electronically received postal ballot from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • The voters who make such a choice will be entitled for Postal Ballot delivered through Electronic Media for a particular election.
  • The developed System is implemented inline with the existing Postal Ballot System. Postal Ballot will be transmitted through Electronic Means to the voters.
  • It enables the voters to cast their vote on an electronically received postal ballot from their preferred location, which is outside their originally assigned voting constituency.
  • This system would be an easier option of facilitating voting by the electors as the time constraint for dispatch of postal ballot has been addressed using this system.

 

Class of Electors who are eligible for ETPBS:

  1. Service Voters, other than those who opt for proxy voting (Classified Service Voters).
  2. The wife of a Service Voter who ordinarily resides with him.
  3. Overseas Voters.

 

Features:

  • Service voters can avail this service from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • System facilitates creation of service voter electoral roll data.
  • Easy, Efficient and Hassle free.
  • It is a secure system, having two layer security.
  • OTP is required to download encrypted Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot file.
  • Secrecy is maintained and no duplicate of casted ETPB is possible due to QR code.
  • PIN is required to decrypt, print and deliver ETPB.

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Regional Air Connectivity- UDAN

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Key features of RCS.

For Mains: Significance, challenges and potential of RCS.

 

Context: Giving further fillip to Regional Connectivity in the country, 8 more routes (including 2 DoNER Routes) became functional Under Regional Connectivity Scheme/UdeDeshKaAamNagrik- UDAN scheme of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

 

About UDAN:

UDAN, launched in April 2017, is a flagship scheme of the Union Government to enable air operations on unserved routes, connecting regional areas, to promote balanced regional growth and to make flying affordable for masses.

The UDAN Scheme is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP)which was launched in June 2016.

 

Objectives of the scheme:

  • The primary objective of RCS is to facilitate / stimulate regional air connectivity by making it cheap and affordable.
  • Promoting affordability of regional air connectivity is envisioned under RCS by supporting airline operators through: Concessions and Financial (viability gap funding or VGF) support.

 

Significance:

The scheme gives India’s aviation sector a boost by giving a chance to small and first-time operators to be a part of the rapid growth in passenger traffic.


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

 

Why are parliamentary standing committees necessary?

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Parliamentary standing committees- roles, need, functions and significance.

 

Context: Eleven of the 22 Bills introduced in the ongoing session of Parliament have been passed, which makes it a highly productive session after many years. But these Bills have been passed without scrutiny by parliamentary standing committees, their purpose being to enable detailed consideration of a piece of legislation.

 

What’s the issue?

After the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha, parliamentary standing committees have not been constituted as consultations among parties are still under way. Partly as a result of this, the Bills were passed without committee scrutiny. They were discussed in Parliament over durations ranging between two and five hours.

 

Why have parliamentary committees?

  1. Parliament is the embodiment of the people’s will. Committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning
  2. Committees are platforms for threadbare discussion on a proposed law.
  3. The smaller cohort of lawmakers, assembled on the basis of the proportional strength of individual parties and interests and expertise of individual lawmakers, could have more open, intensive and better-informed discussions.
  4. Committee meetings are ‘closed door’ and members are not bound by party whips, which allows them the latitude for a more meaningful exchange of views as against discussions in full and open Houses where grandstanding and party positions invariably take precedence.
  5. Members of Parliament may have great acumen but they would require the assistance of experts in dealing with such situations. It is through committees that such expertise is drawn into lawmaking. 
  6. Executive accountability to the legislature is enforced through questions in Parliament also, which are answered by ministers. However, department standing committees go one step further and hear from senior officials of the government in a closed setting, allowing for more detailed discussions.
  7. This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely

 

What are the types of committees?

  1. Most committees are ‘standing’ as their existence is uninterrupted and usually reconstituted on an annual basis; some are ‘select’ committees formed for a specific purpose, for instance, to deliberate on a particular bill. Once the Bill is disposed of, that select committee ceases to exist. Some standing committees are departmentally related.
  2. Financial control is a critical tool for Parliament’s authority over the executive; hence finance committees are considered to be particularly powerful. The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.

 

Powers:

Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).

 

Significance:

Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance. Bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition. Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees. 

 

What these committees do?

  • Support Parliament’s work.
  • Examine ministerial budgets, consider Demands for Grants, analyse legislation and scrutinise the government’s working.
  • Examine Bills referred to by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha.
  • Consideration of Annual Reports.
  • Consideration of national basic long term policy documents presented to the House and referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha.

 

Advantages of having such committees:

  • The deliberations and scrutiny by committees ensure that Parliament is able to fulfil some of its constitutional obligations in a politically charged environment.
  • They also help in obtaining public feedback and building political consensus on contentious issues.
  • They help develop expertise in subjects, and enable consultation with independent experts and stakeholders.
  • The committees perform their functions without the cloud of political positioning and populist opinion.
  • These committees allow the views of diverse stakeholders.
  • They function through the year.
  • They also offer an opportunity for detailed scrutiny of bills being piloted by the government.
  • They increase the efficiency and expertise of Parliament.
  • Their reports allow for informed debate in Parliament.

 

How can these committees be made more effective?

  1. Parliamentary committees don’t have dedicated subject-wise research support available. The knowledge gap is partially bridged by expert testimony from government and other stakeholders. Their work could be made more effective if the committees had full-time, sector-specific research staff.
  2. The national commission to review the working of the Constitution has recommended that in order to strengthen the committee system, research support should be made available to them.
  3. Currently, the rules of Parliament don’t require every bill to be referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny. While this allows the government greater flexibility and the ability to speed up legislative business, it comes at the cost of ineffective scrutiny by the highest law-making body. Mandatory scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees would ensure better planning of legislative business.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology.

 

Block Chain Technology

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Blockchain technology- what is it? How it operates? Concerns and potential.

 

What are Blockchains?

Blockchains are a new data structure that is secure, cryptography-based, and distributed across a network.

The technology supports cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and the transfer of any data or digital asset.

Spearheaded by Bitcoin, blockchains achieve consensus among distributed nodes, allowing the transfer of digital goods without the need for centralized authorisation of transactions.

 

How it operates?

  1. The technology allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure, peer-to-peer, instant and frictionless.
  2. It does this by distributing trust from powerful intermediaries to a large global network, which through mass collaboration, clever code and cryptography, enables a tamper-proof public ledger of every transaction that’s ever happened on the network.
  3. A block is the “current” part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed, goes into the blockchain as permanent database. Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. Blocks are linked to each other (like a chain) in proper linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block.

 

Benefits of blockchain technology:

  • As a public ledger system, blockchain records and validate each and every transaction made, which makes it secure and reliable.
  • All the transactions made are authorized by miners, which makes the transactions immutable and prevent it from the threat of hacking.
  • Blockchain technology discards the need of any third-party or central authority for peer-to-peer transactions.
  • It allows decentralization of the technology.

 

What real world problem does blockchain solve?

  • As of today nothing, but blockchain backers say it solves the problem of ‘trust’. Because the major cost of any transaction or exchange of services or goods is the act of verification — VISA charges fees to ensure that your card swipe is connected to your account or a property charges you for the effort of ensuring that you are entering into a genuine transaction — blockchain asks you to trust the energy-intensive nature of mathematical problems and have them masquerade them as ‘locks’ to secure your money, confidential documents or any kind of information.
  • While blockchain has the aura of transparency — anybody supposedly can check the history of a ‘block’ — it is at its core impervious to common sense. However, just as the inability to grasp in a visceral sense how letters typed on a mobile phone transform and make their way into another phone instantaneously a continent away does not stop people from using WhatsApp, blockchain technology has created enough hype and drama to have drawn the world’s wealthiest to invest in it and inveigle it into ordinary lives.

 

How blockchain can be used in public administration?

Blockchain has the potential to optimize the delivery of public services, further India’s fight against corruption, and create considerable value for its citizens.

  1. By maintaining an immutable and chronologically ordered record of all actions and files (“blocks”) linked together (“chain”) in a distributed and decentralized database, Blockchain creates an efficient and cost-effective database that is virtually tamper-proof. By doing so, blockchain promises to create more transparent, accountable, and efficient governments.
  2. In addition to creating a more efficient government, blockchain can also help create a more honest government. A public blockchain, like the one Bitcoin uses, records all information and transactions on the decentralized database permanently, publicly, and most importantly, securely. By allowing governments to track the movement of government funds, blockchain can hold state and local actors accountable for any misappropriations.
  3. Blockchain not only deters corruption through accountability, but it can also do so by bypassing the middleman entirely. Earlier this year, the World Food Programme began testing blockchain-based food and cash transactions in Pakistan’s Sindh province. Refugees in Jordan’s Azraq camp are now using the same technology, in conjunction with biometric registration data for authentication, to pay for food.
  4. With Aadhaar cards becoming nearly ubiquitous in India, adopting blockchain could be the next logical step in India’s pursuit of becoming a digital economy. Blockchain can play an important role in storing individuals’ data, helping conduct secure transactions, maintaining a permanent and private identity record, and turning India into a digital society.

 

Way ahead:

Technology has always proved to be disruptive, creating new opportunities and jobs and destroying old ones. If blockchain’s appeal lies in its appeal to destroy intermediaries — banks, courts, lawyers — it is unlikely to be smooth sailing. Moreover, there is already serious theorising by economists that shows how blockchain has its own vulnerabilities and susceptibility to creating new hegemons, power networks, cartels and challenges to global energy consumption.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Mains Question: What do you understand by blockchain technology? Evaluate its prospects and challenges.


GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

 

Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS)

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: AFRS- features, need, concerns and significance.

 

Context: On June 28, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released a Request for Proposal for an Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to be used by police officers across the country.

 

What is automated facial recognition?

AFRS works by maintaining a large database with photos and videos of peoples’ faces. Then, a new image of an unidentified person — often taken from CCTV footage — is compared to the existing database to find a match and identify the person. The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching is called “neural networks”.

 

What does the NCRB request call for?

  1. The NCRB, which manages crime data for police, would like to use automated facial recognition to identify criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead bodies, as well as for “crime prevention”.
  2. Its Request for Proposal calls for gathering CCTV footage, as well as photos from newspapers, raids, and sketches.
  3. The project is aimed at being compatible with other biometrics such as iris and fingerprints.
  4. It will be a mobile and web application hosted in NCRB’s Data Centre in Delhi, but used by all police stations in the country. “Automated Facial Recognition System can play a very vital role in improving outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification by facilitating easy recording, analysis, retrieval and sharing of Information between different organisations.”

 

How will the new database fit in what already exists?

NCRB has proposed integrating this facial recognition system with multiple existing databases. The most prominent is the NCRB-managed Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS). Facial recognition has been proposed in the CCTNS program since its origin.

  • The idea is that integration of fingerprint database, face recognition software and iris scans will massively boost the police department’s crime investigation capabilities. It will also help civilian verification when needed. No one will be able to get away with a fake ID.
  • It also plans to offer citizen services, such as passport verification, crime reporting, online tracking of case progress, grievance reporting against police officers, and more.
  • The new facial recognition system will also be integrated with Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS), as well as state-specific systems, the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT), and the Koya Paya portal on missing children.

 

Concerns:

  • Cyber experts across the world have cautioned against government abuse of facial recognition technology, as it can be used as tool of control and risks inaccurate results.
  • Amid NCRB’s controversial step to install an automated facial recognition system, India should take note of the ongoing privacy debate in the US.
  • In the absence of data protection law, Indian citizens are more vulnerable to privacy abuses.
  • Use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition constrict the rights of particular class of people.
  • In the US, the FBI and Department of State operate one of the largest facial recognition systems.
  • International organisations have also condemned the Chinese government on its use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition to constrict the rights of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority.
  • The AFRS is being contemplated at a time when India does not have a data protection law. In the absence of safeguards, law enforcement agencies will have a high degree of discretion. This can lead to a mission creep. The Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 is yet to come into force, and even if it does, the exceptions contemplated for state agencies are extremely wide.

 

Need of the hour:

The notion that sophisticated technology means greater efficiency needs to be critically analysed. A deliberative approach will benefit Indian law enforcement, as police departments around the world are currently learning that the technology is not as useful in practice as it seems in theory. Police departments in London are under pressure to put a complete end to use of facial recognition systems following evidence of discrimination and inefficiency. San Francisco recently implemented a complete ban on police use of facial recognition. India would do well to learn from their mistakes.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 2 and 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Indian Forest Act amendment

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Key features of the Indian Forest Act and amendments.

For Mains: Need for review and the expected outcomes.

 

Context: Across India, activists for tribal rights have said the proposed IFA amendments will divest tribals and other forest-dwelling communities of their rights over forest land and resources.

 

 

Highlights of the draft amendments:

  • The amendment defines community as “a group of persons specified on the basis of government records living in a specific locality and in joint possession and enjoyment of common property resources, without regard to race, religion, caste, language and culture”.
  • Forest is defined to include “any government or private or institutional land recorded or notified as forest/forest land in any government record and the lands managed by government/community as forest and mangroves, and also any land which the central or state government may by notification declare to be forest for the purpose of this Act.”
  • While the preamble of IFA, 1927, said the Act was focused on laws related to transport of forest produce and the tax on it, the amendment has increased the focus to “conservation, enrichment and sustainable management of forest resources and matters connected therewith to safeguard ecological stability to ensure provision of ecosystem services in perpetuity and to address the concerns related to climate change and international commitments”.
  • Increased role of states:The amendments say if the state government, after consultation with the central government, feels that the rights under FRA will hamper conservation efforts, then the state “may commute such rights by paying such persons a sum of money in lieu thereof, or grant of land, or in such other manner as it thinks fit, to maintain the social organisation of the forest dwelling communities or alternatively set out some other forest tract of sufficient extent, and in a locality reasonably convenient, for the purpose of such forest dwellers”.
  • The amendment also introduces a new category of forests — production forest. These will be forests with specific objectives for production of timber, pulp, pulpwood, firewood, non-timber forest produce, medicinal plants or any forest species to increase production in the country for a specified period.

 

Indian Forest Act, 1927:

  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878.
  • Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
  • It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest.
  • It defines what a forest offence is, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.

 

Concerns with regard to the present Draft Bill:

  1. The draft Bill reinforces the idea of bureaucratic control of forests, providing immunity for actions such as use of firearms by personnel to prevent an offence.
  2. The hard-line policing approach is reflected in the emphasis on creating infrastructure to detain and transport the accused.
  3. To penalise entire communities through denial of access to forests for offences by individuals. Such provisions invariably affect poor inhabitants, and run counter to the empowering and egalitarian goals that produced the Forest Rights Act.
  4. For decades now, the Forest Department has resisted independent scientific evaluation of forest health and biodiversity conservation outcomes. In parallel, environmental policy has weakened public scrutiny of decisions on diversion of forests for destructive activities such as mining and large dam construction.
  5. Impact assessment reports have mostly been reduced to a farce, and the public hearings process has been
  6. The exclusion of ‘village forestry’ from the preview of Forest Right Act (forest official supersedes Gram Sabha) is legally contradictory and would add confusion on the ground.
  7. The draft mentions that the state governments could take away the rights of the forest dwellers if the government feels it is not in line with “conservation of the proposed reserved forest” by payment to the people impacted or by the grant of land.

 

The need for review:

Many reports like the MB Shah report of 2010 and the TSR Subramanian report of 2015, have talked about amending the IFA.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

What is the three-language formula?

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: the three language formula, need, concerns associated over imposition of Hindi and the need for reforms.

 

Context: The Tamil Nadu government has once again reiterated its opposition to the three-language formula proposed by the Centre in the draft National Education Policy.

 

What is the formula?

It is commonly understood that the three languages referred to are Hindi, English and the regional language of the respective States.

 

Origin:

  • Though the teaching of Hindi across the country was part of a long-standing system, it was crystallised into a policy in an official document only in the National Policy on Education, 1968. This document said regional languages were already in use as the media of education in the primary and secondary stages.
  • In addition, it said, “At the secondary stage, State governments should adopt and vigorously implement the three-language formula, which includes the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking States.”
  • In the ‘non-Hindi speaking States’, Hindi should be studied along with the regional language and English. It added: “Suitable courses in Hindi and/or English should also be available in universities and colleges with a view to improving the proficiency of students in these languages up to the prescribed university standards.”

 

What did NEP 1968 say on promotion of Hindi as the link language?

On promotion of Hindi, the NPE 1968 said every effort should be made to promote the language and that “in developing Hindi as the link language, due care should be taken to ensure that it will serve, as provided for in Article 351 of the Constitution, as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India. The establishment, in non-Hindi States, of colleges and other institutions of higher education which use Hindi, as the medium of education should be encouraged”.

 

Why is there opposition to the teaching of Hindi which crystallised into a policy in an official document in 1968?

The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language. In the Constituent Assembly, Hindi was voted as the official language by a single vote. However, it added that English would continue to be used as an associate official language for 15 years. The Official Languages Act came into effect on the expiry of this 15-year period in 1965. This was the background in which the anti-Hindi agitation took place. However, as early as in 1959, Jawaharlal Nehru had given an assurance in Parliament that English would continue to be in use as long as non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.

 

What needs to be done?

There are numerous attractive ways to promote a language to the desired extent. So, instead of prescribing a set of languages, Draft NEP 2019 should give the freedom to choose “any three languages of 8th Schedule of the Constitution or official languages of the Union of India” as offered in the scheme of studies by the Boards of Secondary Education. This is a win-win solution for all.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Facts for prelims:

 

Bhabha Kavach:

Context: India’s first Lightest and indigenous Bullet Proof Jacket ‘Bhabha Kavach’ from Ordnance Factory Board gets nod of MHA.

Key facts:

  • Developed by OFB and MIDHANI this state-of-the-art jacket can withstand 7.62mm hard steel core or bullets fired from an AK-47 rifle, 5.56mm INSAS bullet and even the recently decommissioned 7.65mm bullet of self-loading rifle (SLR). 
  • It is half KG lesser than the prescribed weight of MHA along with the 360 Degree Protection and has achieved the protection level of NIJ III+.
  • Bhabha Kavach only weighs 9.2kg and is a major breakthrough for the Indian armed forces.