The HINDU Notes – 22nd May 2019 - VISION

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 22nd May 2019

📰 Tally EVM-VVPAT slips before final counting, Oppn. tells EC

Poll body non-committal, says decision likely today after full panel meeting

•Twenty-two opposition parties met the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday demanding that tallying of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in five polling stations in each Assembly segment with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) be done prior to counting votes cast in EVMs.

•If any discrepancy is found anywhere during the VVPAT verification, hundred per cent counting of paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that Assembly segment should be done, the Opposition parties demanded. The EC, however, remained non-committal on these demands and told the parties that there would be a special meeting of the full Commission on Wednesday to examine the issue.

•The Opposition parties together and individually have met the EC 94 times in the last few months with the same request.

Sharp exchanges

•Tuesday’s meeting saw a sharp exchange between the Opposition parties and the poll body. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora cited the Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday, dismissing a petition by a Chennai-based group for matching of all VVPAT slips with EVMs, where it has called the plea a “nuisance”. According to sources, Mr. Arora said the court said a discussion on the issue would be a waste of time.

📰 EC to set up control room for EVM complaints

Decision comes amid widespread complaints and protests over unauthorised transport of machines

•Faced with widespread Opposition allegations of EVM swapping and tampering, the Election Commission on Tuesday announced that an EVM control room (011- 23052123) will be set up at the Nirvachan Sadan for handling any EVM-related complaints till the completion of counting.

•The control room will become operative from 11 a.m. on May 22.

•Afzal Ansari, BSP candidate from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh, had held a sit-in protest along with his supporters outside an EVM strong-room in the constituency on Monday, demanding deployment of five of his representatives outside the storehouses in eight-hour shifts. The issue was resolved after the local administration allowed one representative at each of the strong-rooms in the five Assembly segments, the EC said.

•In Chandauli, reserve EVMs and VVPATs were being moved to a strong-room when several Samajwadi Party supporters protested saying the machines used for polling could be tampered with.

•Following the protests, representatives of other candidates also gathered at the strong-room and demanded that the machines be sent back. The reserve machines were then stored at a Collectorate office that was sealed.

•The District Election Officer however, informed the EC that all the parties had been given advance intimation about the movement of reserve EVMs to the strong-room and all procedures were duly followed.

•Again in Uttar Pradesh’s Domariaganj, supporters of various political parties staged a protest against the movement of EVMs on May 14. The local poll officials said they had been kept in reserve. An alleged incident was also reported in Jhansi, where EVMs were found inside a City Magistrate’s vehicle. It turned out that the machines were either kept in reserve or had malfunctioned and were being taken back to the strong-room, said an official.

•Responding to the allegations, the EC issued a statement that the visuals circulating in various media platforms did not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls.

•“After the close of polls, all polled EVMs and VVPATs are brought under security cover to the designated strong-rooms, which is sealed with double locks, in the presence of the candidates and observers of the Election Commission,” said the Commission, adding that the entire process is videographed. The panel also said continuous CCTV coverage is done till completion of counting.

•“Each strong-room is guarded with round-the-clock security by the Central Armed Police Forces…the candidates or their designated agents remain present at the strong-room for 24X7 vigil at all times. On the counting day, the strong-rooms are opened in the presence of the candidates/agents and observers under videography,” it said.

•Before counting, agents are shown the address tags, seals and serial numbers of EVMs to confirm that they were used in the actual polls, said the Commission.

📰 Supreme Court cautions couples on divorce terms

‘Non-compliance would invite contempt’

•A couple who choose to divorce by mutual consent will be susceptible to contempt of court if they do not abide by the various conditions of compromise finalised by the court, the Supreme court has said.

•In a recent order by a Bench led by Justice R. Banumathi, the apex court used its extraordinary powers and allowed a couple based in Uttar Pradesh to part by mutual consent after 20 years of marriage, provided they withdraw the several criminal cases filed against each other.

•“In case of non-compliance of the terms of compromise, parties would be liable for contempt of this court in addition to other remedies available under law,” the court warned.

•The appeal filed by the husband, after his divorce petition was dismissed by the lower courts, in the Supreme Court took an amicable turn when the Bench referred the case for mediation. The parties agreed to part by mutual consent and agreed to file a separate application agreeing for dissolution invoking the powers under Article 142 of Constitution.

•The case was settled after the husband agreed to pay his estranged wife Rs. 10 lakh in full and final settlement of her claims “towards monthly maintenance past, present and future and in full quit of all other claims”. He also agreed to put fixed deposits worth Rs. 3 lakh for his daughter and contribute Rs. 1 lakh for her wedding.

📰 SC rejects plea for 100% EVM-VVPAT verification

Terms PIL petition a ‘nuisance’

•The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a writ petition for 100% random physical verification of EVM-VVPAT in the Lok Sabha polls of 2019.

•The court said that there were just two days left before counting and the country should be allowed to choose its government. The court would not stand in the way. Dubbing the public interest litigation filed by a collective of technocrats called ‘Tech4All’ a “nuisance”, the Vacation Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M.R. Shah junked the PIL in a brief hearing.

•The Bench pointed out that all the seven phases of polling were over and the country was looking forward to form a new government on May 23. The PIL was ill-timed and would only disrupt the electoral process which was on its last spring to the finish line, it noted.

•The PIL had cited the recent allegations of changing the EVMs even as the Election Commission of India has strongly denied them.

•The PIL said the Supreme Court’s order in April to raise the physical verification of votes using Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (EVM-VVPATs) from one EVM to five EVMs per Assembly segment was not enough of a safeguard from tampering. There was a need for 100% physical counting for foolproof poll results on May 23, it said. On May 7, a Supreme Court Bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had dismissed a plea by 21 Opposition parties to review its April judgment.

📰 Japanese award for Shyam Saran

Japan to confer national award on Shyam Saran

•Japan on Tuesday bestowed a national award on former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran in recognition of his contribution to strengthening Japan-India ties. “In recognition of his contributions to strengthening the strategic relations Ambassador Saran will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star,” read a statement.

📰 Chinese-built drones may steal data, warns U.S.

Tech sector faces increased scrutiny amid trade war

•Washington has warned that Chinese-made drones could be giving spy agencies in Beijing “unfettered access” to stolen data, according to a report in American media.

•The Department of Homeland Security sent out an alert on Monday flagging drones built in China as a “potential risk to an organisation’s information”, CNN reported.

•The U.S. government has “strong concerns about any technology product that takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian State that permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or otherwise abuses that access,” wrote CNN, quoting the DHS alert.

Huawei’s 90-day reprieve

•The warning comes as China’s tech sector attracts unprecedented scrutiny amid China-US trade war.

•Washington has cranked up the heat on China’s Huawei by banning American companies from selling or transferring U.S. technology to the telecoms giant, though the U.S. Commerce Department has granted the firm a 90-day reprieve.

•U.S. intelligence believes Huawei is backed by the Chinese military and that its equipment could provide Beijing’s spy agencies with a backdoor into the communications networks of other countries.

•U.S. has also pushed its closest allies to reject Huawei technology. The DHS report did not name any specific Chinese manufacturers, but China-based DJI produces about 70% of the world’s commercial drones.

📰 West Nile fever cases in Kozhikode go unnoticed?

More unreported cases suspected

•Has the reporting of West Nile fever cases from Kozhikode district this summer gone unnoticed?

•A month after a boy from Malappuram died of West Nile fever in March, four cases of the infection have been reported from within the Kozhikode Corporation limits too. According to sources in the department, three Japanese Encephalitis cases were reported from areas such as Chathamangalam, Kundungal, and Vellayil between January and February.

•The presence of the West Nile virus was identified from the mosquito samples collected from these areas and serum samples of the close contacts of the infected persons by a team from the National Centre for Disease Control. There could have been more unreported cases of the disease as 80% of the infected people do not show any symptoms, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Human infection is most often the result of bites from infected mosquitoes of the Culex genus.

•“Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, which circulate the virus in their blood for a few days,” says the WHO.


•Kozhikode Additional District Medical Officer Asha Devi, who is in charge of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) that records data on various diseases in the district, told The Hindu that the information about the West Nile fever cases had been uploaded on the Health Department website on time. Asked about the possibility of sub-clinical infections, which do not show up the symptoms, she said nothing had been reported so far though the department was keeping a vigil.

•Mosquito eradication works had been taken up in areas from where these cases were reported. Steps were also taken to create awareness among local residents, she added.

Health dept. clueless

•The Health Department is, however, still clueless about the source of the West Nile infection in Malappuram as the samples of dead crows and mosquitoes collected from the premises of the boy had turned negative.

•Another case of West Nile fever was also reported from the district in the course of the investigation into the mysterious outbreak of encephalitis in the past few months.

•The department had formed a drastic response team and devised a treatment protocol after over 60 encephalitis cases were reported from Malappuram.

•Doctors in private and government hospitals had been asked to report unusual fever cases to the surveillance team under the DMO to spot potential epidemic cases.

•With the onset of the monsoon expected in the next two weeks, the possibility of mosquito breeding could be higher, said a senior Health Department official, adding that there need to be more vigil.

📰 UN lowers India’s FY20 GDP growth forecast

Says it will be 7.1% instead of 7.5%

•The United Nations (UN) has lowered its forecast for India’s GDP growth in 2019-20 to 7.1% from its estimate in January of 7.5%, citing an overall slowdown in global growth.

•The UN World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2019 report said that the global economy is experiencing a broad-based growth slowdown led by slowing industrial production coupled with the weakening of international trade activity due in large part to the unresolved trade disputes between the U.S. and China.

•“Across both developed and developing countries, growth projections for 2019 have been downgraded,” the report said. “Alongside a slowdown in international trade, business sentiments have deteriorated, casting a cloud on investment prospects. “The Indian economy, which generates two-thirds of the regional output, expanded by 7.2% in 2018,” the report added. “Strong domestic consumption and investment will continue to support growth, which is projected at 7% in 2019 and 7.1% in 2020.”

•While the slowdown in European Union has meant exports from nations such as Bangladesh have also slowed as the EU is one of its major export destinations, India is on a stronger footing because of the nature of its export destinations.

•“India’s exports remain more robust, as around half of exports are destined for faster-growing Asian markets,” the report said.

•Overall, the UN lowered its growth forecast for South Asia marginally to 5.8% in 2020 from the 5.9% estimated for the year in January.

📰 IRDAI panel for simplifying fire cover norms

•A working group of insurance regulator IRDAI, that revisited the structure of products providing cover to homes, offices, commercial establishments and MSMEs, has recommended many changes, from simplification of the policy wordings and provision of adequate cover to insuring homes in multi-storeyed apartments for total saleable price.

•Seeking comments on the group’s report, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) said wordings and terms and conditions of the basic policy for fire and allied perils for all categories of risks are driven by the erstwhile All India Fire Tariff, 2001. Insurers, however, have been permitted to sell add-ons to the basic cover. IRDAI had set up the group in view of the huge gap between economic losses and insured losses, post catastrophic events, for homes, offices, commercial establishments and MSMEs. The group submitted its second and last part of the report in November.

Structure remains same

•Noting that the protection needs of the insuring public for their assets against fire and allied risks are met by Standard Fire and Special Perils Policy (SFSP), the group said the product structure remained, more or less, the same since the All India Fire Tariff revision in 1988. “Though the tariff has undergone several changes since then, the last in 2001, these changes were more in the rules of underwriting and premium rates rather than in the basic structure, coverage and terms of insurance or the claims settlement processes.”

•Noting the product, created years ago, does not seem to be meeting the true protection needs of the insuring public, the group recommended introduction of three different versions of the product as a measure to address the present practice of same product being sold to large commercial customers as well as homes and small shops.

•The first, and the simplest of the three with most relaxed terms, would be for homeowners while a slightly more refined version would be for micro commercial establishments having value at risk of up to ₹5 crore. A moderated version of the existing product is recommended for commercial risks having value at risk from ₹5 crore to ₹50 crore.

•The group also recommended coverage of all perils in the base product itself to “avoid mis-selling and inadequate coverage for unsuspecting public. Now, many perils do not form part of the base product and are sold as add-on/riders on customer demand or sales push. “For example, earthquake, which has caused large scale economic losses in different parts of the country in recent past, is not a default cover in fire insurance but has to be opted by express demand,” the report said.

•The group said there has to be a system of default sum insured for all the dwellings such that the insured value is a reasonable estimation of the correct value of construction cost of the building. Towards this, it wanted the General Insurance Council or the IIB (Insurance Information Bureau) to create a database of cost of construction for each square feet of carpet area for different geographies and construction types. The insured would declare only the carpet area and the sum insured of the dwelling shall be auto-calculated at the given rate. Likewise, insurance of apartments in multistoryed building should be for total saleable price of the unit based on rates published by the State government concerned. Policyholder will have the option to increase this rate if the actual rate is higher than ready reckoner, but not reduce below it. “In case of a total loss, per square foot rate specified in the policy shall be sacrosanct and claim shall be paid after multiplying it with the actual area of the apartment,” the report said.

📰 This World Turtle Day, spotlight on freshwater turtles

‘Turtle Spotting Week’ encourages people to record findings

•Throwing a spotlight on freshwater turtles ahead of World Turtle Day on May 23, the India Biodiversity Portal has initiated a ‘Turtle Spotting Week’ as part of a unique exercise to document the creatures across India.

•“There are at least 28 species of freshwater turtles which can be spotted across the country and we felt that not enough attention was being given to them. Research and conservation activities in particular are limited and we wanted to encourage more people to document their findings,” explained Anuja Mittal, a wildlife biologist and an independent turtle researcher.

•Ms. Anuja and Sneha Dharwadkar, a herpetologist, are hosting the initiative as part of the Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises of India Group, which aims to promote research and conservation of the species.

•As part of the ‘Turtle Spotting Week’, which began on May 17, people with any interest in freshwater turtles or tortoises are being encouraged to register on the India Biodiversity Portal.

•They can subsequently upload their observations with photos and details about the date, time and place.

Species spotted

•Among the turtles sighted in Tamil Nadu is the Cochin Forest Cane Turtle in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, an extremely rare species which is endemic to India. The rare Leith’s Softshell Turtle was also observed at Melagiri.

•Recordings have also been made of the Star Tortoise near Point Calimere, Kodikkarai. Apart from these, the other species found in the State include the Black Pond turtle and the Indian Flapshell turtle.

•“We have had around 12 observations of turtles in Tamil Nadu recorded on the portal and there is scope for a lot more documentation in the coming days,” Ms. Anuja added.

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