New RBI initiatives
(GS-III: Indian economy and issues related to planning)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched two customer-centric initiatives of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI):
The RBI Retail Direct Scheme.
The Reserve Bank-Integrated Ombudsman Scheme.
The two schemes will expand the scope of investment in the country and make access to capital markets easier and more secure for investors.
What is the RBI Retail Direct Scheme?
The Scheme is aimed at enhancing access to the government securities market for retail investors.
It offers them a new avenue for directly investing in the securities issued by the Centre and the state governments.
Investors will be able to easily open and maintain their government securities account online with the RBI, free of cost.
The scheme offers a portal avenue to invest in central government securities, treasury bills, state development loans and Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs).
The scheme places India in a list of select few countries offering such a facility.
What is the Reserve Bank-Integrated Ombudsman Scheme?
It is aimed at further improving the grievance redress mechanism for resolving customer complaints against entities regulated by the central bank.
The central theme of the scheme is based on ‘One Nation-One Ombudsman’ with one portal, one email and one address for the customers to lodge their complaints.
The RBI has decided to integrate the three ombudsman schemes into one and also simplified the scheme by covering all complaints involving deficiency in service by centralising the receipt and initial processing of complaints to enhance process efficiency.
RB-IOS will do away with the jurisdictional limitations as well as limited grounds for complaints. RBI will provide a single reference point for the customers to submit documents, track status of complaints filed and provide feedback.
Please note that:
The central bank’s alternate grievance redress mechanism currently comprises three ombudsman schemes— the Banking Ombudsman Scheme (BOS), launched in 1995, the Ombudsman Scheme for Non-Banking Financial Companies (OS-NBFC), 2018 and the Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions (OSDT), 2019.
Importance of the schemes:
The move comes at a time when rising inflation adds pressure on the RBI to lift rates.
Tighter monetary policy is likely to weaken the demand for bonds, making it challenging for the government to execute its near-record borrowing program.
Other emerging-market nations in Asia, like the Philippines, have also sought to raise funds from citizens to battle the pandemic.
Cybercrime went up by 500% during pandemic
(GS-III: Cybersecurity related issues)
The 14th edition of c0c0n, the annual cyber security and hacking conference is being organised by the Kerala Police.
At the event, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat has stressed the need for a national framework to thwart cyber attacks that have been on the rise in the country.
Need for cybersecurity:
With data gradually transcending into the open domain with numerous firms permitting employees to work from their homes amid the pandemic, sensitive information has become susceptible to security vulnerabilities. The rise of digital payments has also increased complex cyber crimes.
Also, Cyber crimes have gone up by almost 500% in India during the global pandemic.
The Information Technology Act, 2000, that dealt with cybersecurity and cyber crimes is not equipped to consider new-age changes in the mode of functioning of businesses and modus operandi of crimes in cyberspace.
Need of the hour:
While a National Cybersecurity Strategy is in the offing, the country is also in dire need of a data protection law, with cybercriminals increasingly weaponising data as a tool against national security in the post-pandemic era.
We need to consider the emerging threats from new technologies such as drones, ransomware, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and also the role of nation states in such cyber attacks.
Steps taken by the Government to spread awareness about cyber crimes:
Online cybercrime reporting portal has been launched to enable complainants to report complaints pertaining to Child Pornography/Child Sexual Abuse Material, rape/gang rape imageries or sexually explicit content.
A scheme for establishment of Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) has been established to handle issues related to cybercrime in the country in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
Establishment of National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) for protection of critical information infrastructure in the country.
All organizations providing digital services have been mandated to report cyber security incidents to CERT-In expeditiously.
Cyber Swachhta Kendra (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) has been launched for providing detection of malicious programmes and free tools to remove such programmes.
Formulation of Crisis Management Plan for countering cyber attacks and cyber terrorism.
What needs to be done ahead?
Finally, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects as per the Constitution of India. States/UTs are primarily responsible for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of crimes through their law enforcement machinery.
Plea on Hate Speech in Supreme Court
(GS-III: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention)
Two petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court on hate speeches in the recent past.
One petition asked the court to issue directions for action in such cases.
The second plea sought special provisions, insisting that the IPC wasn’t enough to deal with hate speech and rumour mongering.
Both petitions relied on a 2020 Supreme Court decision in Amish Devgun case where hate speech was linked to the violation of unity and fraternity and breach of human dignity, which constitutes an essential facet of the right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
What’s the issue?
The petitioners were concerned over concerted events in the recent past that targeted political, social and economic exclusion of Muslims through a series of rallies and hate speeches.
The petitioners sought implementation of guidelines on hate speech passed by Supreme Court in 2014 and on mob violence and lynching events in a subsequent decision in 2018.
What is Hate Speech?
Hate speech is an incitement to hatred against a particular group of persons marginalized by their religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, and so on.
The Law Commission, in its 267th report on hate speech, said such utterances have the potential to provoke individuals and society to commit acts of terrorism, genocide, and ethnic cleansing.
Why Hate Speech must be curbed?
Internal Security: The Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 was triggered by a fake video that incited communal passions.
Igniting extremist sentiments.
Misinformation and disinformation: Delhi Riots.
The world’s biggest social media companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and ByteDance, are exploring an industry-wide alliance to curb fake news on their platforms in India.
The Election Commission of India must tie up with tech companies to identify the creator of such news.
Educating the end-users.
The government should bring out a policy framework on the possible harm due to the internet messaging platforms to engage at a deeper level.
Imposing hefty fines, like in Germany the Social media companies face fines of up to €50m if they persistently fail to remove illegal content from their sites.
Need of the hour:
Hate speech is a discursive process of pushing marginalised groups outside of social, economic and political spheres of society by disseminating hate propaganda and encouraging discrimination. At its most harmful, it is widely recognized as a precursor to ethnic cleansing.
Public authorities must be held accountable for dereliction of the duty of care and also for non-compliance with this court’s orders by not taking action to prevent vigilante groups from inciting communal disharmony and spreading hate against citizens of the country and taking the laws into their own hands.
Permanent Commission for Women Officers
(GS-I: Issued related to women)
After the Supreme Court cautioned the Indian Army of contempt, the Centre has assured the court that it will roll out Permanent Commission (PC) option to all eligible women Army officers.
What’s the issue?
The Supreme Court in February 2020 directed the government to ensure that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission (PC) as well as command postings in all services other than combat.
Lt. Col. Nitisha vs. Union of India Case: On 25th March 2021, the Supreme Court held that the Army’s selective evaluation process discriminated against and disproportionately affected women officers seeking permanent commission.
What is a Permanent Commission?
A Permanent Commission means a career in the army till retirement, while Short Service Commission is for 10 years, with the option of either leaving or opting for Permanent Commission at the end of 10 years. If an officer doesn’t get Permanent Commission then, the officer can choose a four-year extension.
Women in Army: Background of the case:
The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992.
They were commissioned for a period of five years in certain chosen streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps, and Corps of Engineers. Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
Serving WSES officers were given the option to move to the new SSC scheme, or to continue under the erstwhile WSES. They were to be however, restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.
What was the main issue now?
While male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service, this option was not available to women officers. They were, thus, kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.
Why was the government against granting a permanent Commission?
Motherhood, childcare, psychological limitations have a bearing on the employment of women officers in the Army.
Family separation, career prospects of spouses, education of children, prolonged absence due to pregnancy, motherhood were a greater challenge for women to meet the exigencies of service.
Physical limitations: Soldiers will be asked to work in difficult terrains, isolated posts and adverse climate conditions. Officers have to lead from the front. They should be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks. The Govt. said women were not fit to serve in ground combat roles.
Behavioural and Psychological Challenges: Army units were a “unique all-male environment”. The presence of women officers would require “moderated behaviour”. The male troop predominantly comes from a rural background and may not be in a position to accept commands from a female leader.