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14 June Current Affairs

Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019

In News:

In a major move aimed at making Aadhaar people friendly, the Union Cabinet has approved “The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019” to replace the earlier ordinance.

Impact:

The amendments would enable UIDAI to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhaar.

Subsequent to this amendment, no individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.

The salient features of the amendments are as follows:

  • Provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar number holder.
  • Provides for use of twelve-digit Aadhaar number and its alternative virtual identity to conceal the actual Aadhaar number of an individual.
  • Gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years.
  • Permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority; The authentication is permitted under any law made by Parliament or is prescribed to be in the interest of State by the Central Government.
  • Allows the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002.
  • Prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication.
  • Provides for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund.
  • Provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act and provisions by entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Background:

The Supreme Court in its judgement had held Aadhaar to be constitutionally valid. However, it read down/struck down few sections of the Aadhaar Act and Regulations and gave several other directions in the interest of protecting the fundamental rights to privacy.

Consequently it was proposed to amend the Aadhaar Act, Indian Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in line with the Supreme Court directives and the report of Justice B.N.Srikrishna (Retd.) committee on data protection, in order to ensure that personal data of Aadhaar holder remains protected against any misuse and Aadhaar scheme remains in conformity with the Constitution.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

In News:

SCO Summit 2019 is being held in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan.

About SCO:

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, also known as the Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai.

Founding members: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The cooperation was renamed to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation after Uzbekistan joined the organisation in 2001.

The SCO’s main goals are: strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.

Presently, the SCO comprises eight member states, namely the Republic of India, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan;.

The SCO counts four observer states, namely the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Belarus, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Mongolia.

The SCO has six dialogue partners, namely the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the Republic of Turkey, and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage), Bill 2019

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019.

Benefits:

The proposed Bill will protect the rights of married Muslim women and prevent divorce by the practice of instantaneous and irrevocable ‘talaq-e-biddat’ by their husbands.

It provides the rights of subsistence allowance, custody of minor children to victims of triple talaq i.e. talaq-e-biddat.

Key provisions of the Bill:

The Bill makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.

Definition: It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.  Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.

Offence and penalty: The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine.  (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.)

The offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by: (i) the married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or (ii) any person related to her by blood or marriage.

The Bill provides that the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused. The bail may be granted only after hearing the woman (against whom talaq has been pronounced), and if the Magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.

The offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman(against whom talaq has been declared). Compounding refers to the procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings, and settle the dispute.  The terms and conditions of the compounding of the offence will be determined by the Magistrate.

Allowance: A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children. The amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.

Custody: A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate.

Significance:

Time has come to put an end to the suffering of Muslim women who have been at the receiving end of instant talaq for several years. More than 20 Islamic countries have already banned the practice.

Information Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)

In News:

The Indian Navy is hosting a Maritime Information Sharing Workshop 2019 edition under the aegis of the Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) at Gurugram, Harayana.

Details:

The workshop aims to acquaint all participants about IFC-IOR and its information sharing mechanisms. It also aims to promote sharing of best practices in this field so as to yield better response to myriad security and safety challenges that IOR faces.

About IFC- IOR:

The IFC-IOR is being established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region and beyond, by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region.

The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram, which is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.

Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.

Significance and the need:

The IOR has a diverse set of littorals and island nations, each with their unique needs, aspirations, interest and values.

It is necessary to counter the Rise in maritime piracy in the region.

IFR-IRO would also ensure that the entire region is benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information and understanding the concerns and threats which are prevalent in the region.

The Indian Ocean is important for the following reasons:

It enjoys a privileged location at the crossroads of global trade, connecting the major engines of the international economy in the Northern Atlantic and Asia-Pacific. This is particularly important in an era in which global shipping has burgeoned.

Indian Ocean is also rich in natural resources. 40% of the world’s offshore oil production takes place in the Indian Ocean basin.

Fishing in the Indian Ocean now accounts for almost 15% of the world’s total.

Mineral resources are equally important, with nodules containing nickel, cobalt, and iron, and massive sulphide deposits of manganese, copper, iron, zinc, silver, and gold present in sizeable quantities on the sea bed.

Indian Ocean coastal sediments are also important sources of titanium, zirconium, tin, zinc, and copper. Additionally, various rare earth elements are present, even if their extraction is not always commercially feasible.

Source: The Hindu

Windrush Scheme

In News:

UK Home Secretary has issued another personal apology for the Windrush scandal, involving migrants being wrongly denied their British citizenship rights, as a latest official update revealed that hundreds more Indians were caught up in the row.

Details:

The Windrush Scheme enables Commonwealth citizens, their children, and some other long term residents of the UK to obtain documentation confirming their status free of charge.

Who is eligible for support under the scheme?

  • a Commonwealth citizen who settled in the UK before 1 January 1973 or has right of abode.
  • a child of a Commonwealth citizen parent who settled before 1 January 1973, where you were born in the UK or arrived in the UK before the age of 18.
  • a person of any nationality who settled in the UK before 31 December 1988 and is settled in the UK.

Background:

The Windrush generation refers to citizens of former British colonies who arrived before 1973, when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain were substantially curtailed.

The name derives from the ship MV Empire Windrush, which on June 22, 1948, docked in Tilbury, Essex, bringing nearly 500 Jamaicans to the UK.

The immigrants came at the invitation of the British government, which was facing a labour shortage due to the destruction caused by World War II.

While a large proportion of them were of Jamaican/Caribbean descent who came on the ship Windrush, Indians and other South Asians were also affected by the UK government’s handling of their immigration status.

What is happening to them?

A scandal over the treatment of members of the Windrush generation has been mounting in recent months as a multitude of reports have come out about mostly elderly people being denied services, losing their jobs and even facing deportation.

Many of the Windrush generation had arrived as children on their parents’ passports. And although they have lived in Britain for many decades – paying taxes and insurance – they never formally became British citizens.

Amid the tightening of the immigration rules, an estimated 50,000 long-term UK residents could now be facing problems.

Source: The Hindu

Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG)

In News:

A joint team of German-Russian scientists is all set to launch next week a space telescope- Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG).

About the telescope:

It will create a three-dimensional (3D) X-ray map of the universe and unveil unknown supermassive black holes, dark energy and stars.

The telescope will be launched into space on a Russian-built Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on June 21, 2019.

The four-year mission will survey the entire sky eight times and track the evolution of the universe and dark energy — a mysterious repulsive force — that is accelerating its expansion.

It also aims to detect up to three million supermassive black holes — many of which are unknown — and X-rays from as many as 700,000 stars in the Milky Way.

The telescope is the first to be sensitive to high-energy ‘hard’ X-rays and map the entire sky.

The SRG will also find how dark matter — the main engine of galaxy formation — is spread in the universe.

The SRG will, however, not detect gamma radiation.

Background:

X-ray sky surveys have also been conducted by previous missions, but they were not able to map the entire sky.

While Germany’s ROSAT mission in the 1990s was sensitive only to ‘soft’ X-rays, with energies of about 2 keV, existing missions, such as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and NuSTAR, can see high-energy radiation and resolve tiny details of cosmic structures. But, they see only small parts of the sky.

Source: Down to Earth

Jnanpith Award

In News:

Renowned English fiction writer Amitav Ghosh was recently felicitated with 54th Jnanpith Award. He is the 1st English language writer to become a Jnanpith laureate.

About:

The Jnanpith Award is one of the prestigious literary honours in the country. The award was instituted in 1961.

Eligibility: Any Indian citizen who writes in any of the official languages of India is eligible for the honour.

Initially English language was not considered for the Award but after 49th Jnanpith Award, English language was added to the list of languages for consideration.

Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV)

In News:

DRDO recently conducted maiden test of an indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV).

Details:

HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft.

HSTDV is dual-use technology and can have multiple civilian applications. It can be used for launching satellites at low cost and can also be available for long-range cruise missiles of future.

Asiatic golden cat

In News:

The coat of Asiatic golden cat comes in five other shades besides the golden colour in Arunachal Pradesh, scientists have discovered.

Details:

Its coat comes in six types: cinnamon, golden, gray, melanistic, ocelot and tightly rosetted.

The Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) is listed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species.

It is found across eastern Nepal through north-eastern India to Indonesia.

Scientists believe that the wide variation displayed in the cat’s coats provides them with several ecological benefits such as occupying different habitats at different elevations — from wet tropical lowland forests to alpine scrubs — and providing camouflage while preying on pheasants and rabbits.

Jammu Kashmir Reservation Bill

In News:

Cabinet has approved the Jammu Kashmir Reservation Bill.

Details:

The Jammu & Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2014, provides reservation to the persons belonging to Pahari community, clan or tribe having distinct cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity, in government jobs.

This will bring relief for persons in Jammu and Kashmir residing in areas adjoining international border.

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