The HINDU Notes – 02nd May 2018 - VISION

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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 02nd May 2018

📰 Track II team holds talks in Pakistan

•A group of Indian experts visited Pakistan to discuss all aspects of bilateral ties and revive the Track II diplomacy process with Islamabad, amid the chill in the relationship after a number of terror attacks in India by Pakistan-based outfits.

•The original Track II initiative, Neemrana Dialogue, received a fresh start with the visit, diplomatic sources here said.

•The Indian side was led by former Foreign Ministry Secretary Vivek Katju, while the Pakistan side was led by former Foreign Secretary Inamul Haque.

•The interactions took place between April 28 and 30 in Islamabad, sources said.

•“The two sides discussed all aspects of bilateral relations and agreed that all issues between the two countries should be resolved through talks,” said a source.

📰 Iran deal built on lies, says Pompeo

U.S. Secretary of State backs Israel’s claims about Iran’s ‘secret nuclear weapons programme’

•Documents claimed by Israel as proof of Iran’s secret nuclear weapons programme are authentic and the U.S. is assessing the future of the Iran nuclear deal in light of the revelations, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said. Mr. Pompeo’s public endorsement of Israel’s position could be prelude to America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal later this month.

•President Donald Trump has set May 12 as the deadline to reimpose sanctions suspended under the 2015 nuclear agreement among Iran, the U.S., China, France, Russia, the U.K., and Germany. In October 2017, Mr. Trump had refused to certify that continuing with the Iran deal was “vital to the national security interests of the United States,” as required by a domestic law.

•Since then, Mr. Pompeo has become the Secretary of State and John Bolton, the National Security Adviser. Both are strong opponents of the deal, and Israel’s claims strengthen their hand within the administration.

•“For many years, the Iranian regime has insisted to the world that its nuclear programme was peaceful. The documents obtained by Israel from inside of Iran show beyond any doubt that the Iranian regime was not telling the truth. I have personally reviewed many of the Iranian files...,” Mr. Pompeo said in a statement.

•“We are therefore assessing what the discovery of Iran’s secret nuclear files means for the future of the JCPOA,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran deal.

Illicit activities

•Mr. Pompeo said American non-proliferation and intelligence officials have been analysing tens of thousands of pages and translating them from Farsi. “We assess that the documents we have reviewed are authentic.” Mr. Pompeo added that the deal had whitewashed Iran’s “illicit activities related to its military nuclear programme”.

•“Iran had many opportunities over the years to turn over its files to international inspectors from the IAEA and admit its nuclear weapons work. Instead, they lied to the IAEA repeatedly. They also lied about their programme to the six nations who negotiated the Iran nuclear deal. What this means is the deal was not constructed on a foundation of good faith or transparency. It was built on Iran’s lies.”

•Mr. Trump, who has all along argued for ending the nuclear agreement, said Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Iran’s weapon’s programme proved his point. But the President sought to keep some suspense on the fate of the deal itself. “So we’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump said during a press conference at the White House on Monday. “I’m not telling you what I’m doing. A lot of people think they know. And on or before May 12, we’ll make a decision.”

•French President Immanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angel Merkel had urged the Trump administration to stay with the deal, when they both visited the U.S. capital last week.

•With the Netanyahu government leaning on him heavily to scrap the agreement, and his key advisers now inclined towards his own instincts, Mr. Trump may be inching closer to what he always wanted to do. “As the President’s May 12 deadline to fix the Iran deal approaches, I will be consulting with our European allies and other nations on the best way forward in light of what we now know about Iran’s past pursuit of nuclear weapons and its systematic deception of the world,” Mr. Pompeo said.

📰 SC tells HCs to set up panels to monitor POCSO Act trials

SC tells HCs to set up panels to monitor POCSO Act trials
Supreme Court shocked by high rate of pendency of child sexual assault cases

•Shocked by the high rate of pendency of child sexual assault cases, the Supreme Court directed High Courts to set up panels of its judges to regulate and monitor trials under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

•The Supreme Court, which had ordered a review of the backlog under POCSO, found that States such as Uttar Pradesh have over 30,000 cases pending despite the child protection law coming into existence as early as 2012.

•Many States have not yet even set up Special Courts to try POCSO cases as mandated by the law.

Bad implementation

•In February, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra found the implementation of POCSO in a shambles and decided to review the issue. The Bench was hearing the case of rape of an eight-month-old child in the National Capital.

•The PIL petition filed by Alakh Alok Srivastava said child rapists should be awarded the death penalty.

•Though the government was initially against the death penalty in child rape cases, saying “death penalty is not an answer for everything,” the rape of an eight-year-old in Kathua proved to be the last straw and the government recently promulgated an ordinance allowing courts to pronounce death penalty to those found guilty of raping children up to 12 years of age.

Speedy justice

•Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, for the government, informed the court about the ordinance. She submitted that it warrants investigation to be completed in two months and courts to dispose of appeals in six months, ensuring speedy justice to victims. But the court said the POCSO statistics showed that children and victims in many States were still waiting in the corridors of courts for justice.

•The Bench, also comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, issued a series of directions which supplement the ordinance. These include: the State police chiefs should constitute special task forces to investigate cases, High Courts should ensure that they are tried and disposed of by the designated Special Courts under the Act; POCSO judges will give no adjournments and make every effort to fast-track trial, witnesses should be produced in court on the day of the hearing and high courts should make every effort to provide a child-friendly atmosphere in tune with the spirit of the Act.

📰 DNA profiling Bill in Monsoon Session, Centre informs SC

PIL plea seeks use of technology to identify unclaimed bodies

•The government on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it would introduce the DNA profiling Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

•The government was responding to a PIL petition filed by NGO Lok Niti Foundation in 2012 on the use of DNA profiling for identifying unclaimed bodies, especially to match them with old cases of missing persons. A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, recorded the submission made by Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, for the government, and observed that the Centre should take steps as expeditiously as possible.

•The court said that with the competent authority undertaking to bring about a legislation there was no need for a mandamus from the Supreme Court in this issue.

•However, the counsel for the NGO urged the court to keep the matter pending as the government has been promising a law since 2007. The court said the petitioner was free to move the top court in case of any future grievances.

Law Commission report

•Last year, the Law Commission of India, in its 271st report, prepared the draft Bill named, The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017, after examining various judicial pronouncements and constitutional provisions.

•The exercise was initiated by the commission after the Department of Biotechnology forwarded its draft of ‘The Use and Regulation of DNA based Technology in Civil and Criminal Proceedings, Identification of Missing Persons and Human Remains Bill, 2016’.

•The Commission recorded that DNA profiling was indeed used for disaster victim identification, investigation of crimes, identification of missing persons and human remains and for medical research purposes. It, however, also flagged that privacy concerns and the ethics involved in this scientific collection of data were very high. The commission said the procedure for DNA profiling, if given statutory recognition, should be done legitimately as per constitutional provisions.

📰 SC admits plea to quash Section 377

A threat to human dignity: petitioner

•Seventeen years after he was imprisoned for his sexual orientation and efforts to help the LGBT community, the Supreme Court on Tuesday admitted the petition of a man to quash the “tyranny” of Section 377 IPC, which criminalises homosexuality.

•Arif Jafar, who ran an outreach programme at his Bharosa Trust in Lucknow, was beaten up in public by the police and jailed for 47 days in 2001. He termed Section 377 a threat to human dignity and freedom of choice.

•His office premises, where he conducted an outreach programme for homosexuals and distributed condoms, was raided. Literature on gender, sexuality and safe sex were seized by the police as evidence of “running a gay racket.”

•He was denied bail by the local sessions court. The charges mounted against Mr. Jafar, represented by advocate Sunil Fernandes, included conspiracy to promote homosexuality, “polluting the entire society” and abetting young persons to commit the offence of sodomy.

“Chilling effect”

•Mr. Jafar, who introduced himself to the Supreme Court as a “gay man and a citizen of India,” said the brutal shutting down of his peer support programme evoked a “chilling effect” on similar interventions to prevent and control HIV among men having sex with men. Sexual orientation and identity cannot be the basis of denying a person their inherent dignity.

•Mr. Jafar quoted the court’s decision in the recent Hadiya case judgment which upheld the fundamental right to determine the “choice of one’s intimate partner, within or outside marriage.” Section 377, the petition said, specifically and directly violates this right.

•A Bench led by Chief Justice of India issued notice to the government and tagged the petition with a series of petitions to be heard by a Constitution Bench.

•The Supreme Court had similarly on January 8 referred to a larger Bench a writ petition filed by five gay and lesbian members of the community to strike down Section 377.

📰 RBI allows FPIs to buy T-bills; debt limit stays

•The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to invest in treasury bills issued by the central government.

•The central bank’s move comes close on the heels of foreign portfolio investors being permitted to invest in corporate bonds with minimum residual maturity of above one year.

•“The requirement that investment in securities of any category [G-secs, State Development Loans or, in terms of this circular, corporate bonds] with residual maturity below one year shall not exceed 20% of total investment by an FPI in that category applies, on a continuous basis,” the central bank said in a circular issued on Tuesday.


•Incidentally, the April circular was issued to bring consistency across debt categories and hence it was stipulated that investments by an FPI in corporate bonds with residual maturity below one year should not exceed 20% of the total investment of that FPI in corporate bonds.

•“At any point in time, all securities with residual maturity of less than one year will be reckoned for the 20% limit, regardless of the maturity of the security at the time of purchase by the FPI,” the RBI said in Tuesday’s circular.

•According to the circular, if there are investments in securities with less than one year residual maturity as on May 2, and it constitutes more than 20% of the total investment in any category, the FPI will have to bring such share below 20% within a period of six months from the date of the circular.

📰 ‘Aadhaar biometric data is 100% secure’

India’s cybersecurity chief says there have been no cases of biometric leaks, and key data has several rings of protection

•Despite a series of government website failures and Supreme Court hearings over Aadhaar data security and privacy, India’s cybersecurity chief, Gulshan Rai, who is the Chief Information Security Officer in the Prime Minister’s Office, says he is confident of India’s cybersecurity systems, and wants the government, consumers and civil society to work closer to ensure that a balance between national security and privacy.

There have been a spate of incidents in which government-run websites, including those of the Defence Ministry, NICNET and the Supreme court, were hacked. What is the reason for this?

•There are several trends when it comes to cybersecurity that are leading to these attacks or incidents. The proliferation of IT is increasing in all sectors, including government, industry, everywhere. CERT has seen about one lakh reported cyber incidents in the past year, and the number is rising definitely. The financial sector has emerged as the place the most cyber incidents occur, then the government sector, then others. One startling trend is the spike in cases of cyber incidents in the medical sector.

Indians are facing increasing cyberthreats with bank accounts and identity details being hacked. How are you helping them?

•I agree that cases are rising, but it must be remembered that the weakness in the banking industry is due to too much outsourcing for services.

•These are the weak links that criminals exploit to identify customers who can be taken advantage of. The fact is that technological hacks are less than human fraud in these cases, and consumers need to be better educated about the risks of fraud if they want to protect themselves.

The people who are most vulnerable are those lacking such education. Is the government then pushing too far and fast with its digitalisation goals?

•No, there is no contradiction. The government is creating a massive awareness programme, pushing banks to advertise to educate consumers not to give away private information. Particularly after demonetisation, we have more than 2.8 billion e-transactions per day. Obviously, people have faith in these transactions.

•So transactions are increasing, and we need to do more to protect people, but consumers must do their bit too.

One of the big concerns on privacy and security comes from the Aadhaar database. In court, the government said there is a “10-foot wall” to protect Aadhaar data, which raised many laughs, but on a serious note, how secure is the Aadhaar data of every Indian?

•Yes, it is secure, 100%. Ultimately, what do you mean by the Aadhaar database? There are two parts to it: the demographic data (name, age, address, etc.) and the biometric database. When people speak of security, they are referring to the biometric database. So far, there have been no cases of biometric leaks.

•The central part has the maximum security, and is kept behind several rings of protection. Even with the worst cases of leaks that have appeared publicly, none have touched this central part.

•When Jio was attacked, it was their database that leaked, not the Aadhaar database.

But Jio has access to the Aadhaar database, as do others that need Aadhar authentication or “bridging” services?

•Yes, but it is their databases that need to be secured better. We do 180 crore (18 million) of Aadhaar authentications every day, how many breaches have been reported in comparison. I would say that accusations are far more than the reality. It is important for civil society groups to point out places where the government needs to improve, but it is necessary that they do it in a constructive manner.

Shouldn’t these input and authentication services also be taken care of by government agencies then? Does the Aadhaar Act, which includes the provision of outsourcing to these companies (Section 8(4)) need to be amended?

•These are places where we need to learn from experience, and Aadhaar has already moved to tighten its systems, and weed out such companies where there may be any problem. Let us remember that many countries want us to help them build their database. Why would they, if our system was not secure? We are the only country that has a 10-finger (biometric) database.

•You have expressed such confidence, yet you have been quoted as saying you don’t use Net banking and I see you carry a small phone, not a smartphone. How confident are you personally about cybersecurity systems, and what precautions would you suggest to all?

•My personal philosophy is that we must reduce our surface of risk. I do use Net banking, but I reduce my risk by using it for a separate account where I keep a small amount, not connected to my main account where I conduct Internet transactions.

•What I said was that I don’t do any international internet banking, because I don’t believe we can control those transactions. I use a smartphone, but only when necessary.

📰 ‘Sub-village units will be powered too’

Centre says Saubhagya scheme will reach hamlets not covered by rural electrification programme

•The government on Tuesday responded to allegations that its village electrification programme was still incomplete despite its claims of 100% electrification, saying that the few remaining “sub-village units” would be covered under its Saubhagya household electrification scheme.

•“There are reports in some sections of media that some villages are still un-electrified, contrary to the government’s claim of achieving 100% village electrification,” the Ministry of Power said in a statement. “In this connection, it may be reiterated that the Government had taken up electrification of remaining un-electrified census villages, duly identifiable as per census code, reported by the States as on April 1, 2015, under ‘Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana’ (DDUGJY). Electrification of all these villages has been reported complete by all the concerned States.”

•“Some of the households in sub-village units viz. habitations/hamlets/Dhanis/Majras/Tolas may not be having electricity as of now, and it is felt that certain news agencies are reporting about such habitations,” it added. “All the remaining households located in the habitations/hamlets/Dhanis/Majras/Tolas associated with the census villages and households attached to urban settlements would be covered under ‘Saubhagya’.”

📰 Power drive

Getting affordable electricity to every household needs sustained policy support

•Access to electricity drives the productivity of households, empowers women and enables education and communication. Millions of homes still lack this vital resource in India. And as of April 1, 2015, the official count of unelectrified villages was 18,452. So when Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced that all inhabited villages now enjoy electrification, it signalled a significant milestone in the country’s development. It is an achievement that will raise aspirations in the remotest districts. Yet, broad-brush statistics conceal severe disparities, including the actual number of households in villages that have power connections, the number of hours they get reliable power, and the per capita power that rural and urban Indians consume. For one, the existing definition to declare a village electrified is coverage of a mere 10% of households and common facilities such as schools, panchayats and health centres. The claim of electrification pales when viewed against some of these realities. Rural household electrification has a wide range across States, from 47% to 100%. The average hours of power supplied in a day to rural areas in January 2018 ranged from 11.5 in Mizoram, 14.91 in Haryana and 17.72 in Uttar Pradesh to 24 hours in Kerala, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. These anomalies are often the result of infrastructure deficits and administrative inefficiency and they show that, even with supportive Central schemes, the Power for All 24x7 goal adopted by States and Union Territories with a deadline of April 1, 2019 is far from realistic.

•Census data for 2001 and 2011 indicate that the number of rural households that use electricity as their primary source of lighting rose by about 12 percentage points to 55.3%, while in that decade urban households rose five points to 92.7%. The per capita consumption between rural and fast-rising urban India also represents a challenge, since there is a divergence between the two. There are twin challenges to be faced in improving access and equity. To many, the falling cost of renewable, decentralised sources such as solar photovoltaics represents a ready solution for rural India. Yet, the evidence from States such as Maharashtra, which made an early claim to full electrification six years ago relying partly on solar power, shows that theft, damage and lack of technical capacity can pose serious hurdles. The answer may lie in a hybrid solution that ensures continued scaling up of both grid-connected and standalone solar systems in appropriate areas, augmenting conventional sources of electricity, with a clear emphasis on rooftop solutions for cities. Cheaper renewables will enable differential pricing for households in remote areas, a key determinant of wider social benefits of electricity. Rural electrification in India has been a long effort, achieving rapid growth from the Third Plan to the Twelfth Plan, but getting affordable power to every household needs sustained policy support.

📰 Restrictions near eco zone eased

•The government has eased infrastructure-development restrictions in the Bhagirathi river eco-sensitive zone, a 100-kilometre stretch between Gaumukh and Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand.

•The notification makes way for development projects for the marquee Char Dham project. In 2012, the government had severely restricted development works in an area of 4,179 in the vicinity of the stretch to protect the region’s ecology. But, in an amended notification made public in April, the Environment Ministry made some relaxations: “No change in land use will be permitted…except that strictly limited conversion of such lands may be permitted to meet the local needs including civic amenities and other infrastructure development in larger public interest and national security with the prior approval of State government with due study of environmental impacts.”

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