24 December Current Affairs
December 24, 2018
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25 December Current Affairs

Amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Act

In News:

In its bid to crack down on spread of fake news and rumours circulated on online platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook and other online platforms, the central government has proposed stringent changes under the draft of Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) that govern online content.

Implications:

The proposed amendments in the draft of the Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules] 2018, Rule 3(9) is bound to force social media platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter to remain vigil and keep users on their toes before posting or sharing anything that is deemed as “unlawful information or content”.

The changes proposed by the central government is aimed at curbing fake news or rumours being spread on social media and check mob violence ahead.

What the new rules propose?

The changes will require online platforms to break end-to-end encryption in order to ascertain the origin of messages. The social media platforms to “deploy technology based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms, with appropriate controls, for proactively identifying or removing or disabling access to unlawful information or content”.

As per the amendment, the social media platforms will need to comply with the central government “within 72 hours” of a query.

There should be a ‘Nodal person of Contact for 24X7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and officers to ensure compliance. The social media platforms will be keeping a vigil on “unlawful activity” for a period of “180 days”.

What necessitated this?

With concerns over “rising incidents of violence and lynching in the country due to misuse of social media platforms”, there is now need for online platforms to shoulder the “responsibility, accountability and larger commitment to ensure that its platform is not misused on a large scale to spread incorrect facts projected as news and designed to instigate people to commit crime”.

Criticisms:

The proposed changes have once again given rise to a debate on whether the government is intruding into the privacy of individuals, evoking sharp response from opposition parties. Similar apprehensions were raised with the Section 66A of the IT Act that enabled authorities to arrest users for posting content which was termed as offensive. However, the Supreme Court on March 24, 2015, struck down the law.

Background:

India has the second highest number of internet users in the world after China, an estimated 462.12 million. Among them, 258.27 million were likely to be social network users in the country in 2019.

Source: The Hindu

Review Of Aadhaar Verdict

In News:

A review petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking re-examination of its verdict by which the centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme was held as constitutionally valid.

Details:

The review petition has been filed against the September 26 verdict of the five-judge constitution bench which had said there was nothing in the Aadhaar Act that violated right to privacy of an individual. The court had also upheld the passage of the Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill by the Lok Sabha.

Background:

While declaring the scheme as constitutionally valid, the top court had struck down some of its provisions including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions. The constitution bench had held that Aadhaar would remain mandatory for filing of Income Tax returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN).

Need for review- demands by the petitioner:

The petition claimed that the Aadhaar program, which had been in existence prior to the enactment of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, had itself become an “instrument of transfer of sensitive personal data” belonging to citizens to foreign entities acting as biometric service providers at a time when the UIDAI in 2010 had no cyber or technical infrastructure to store such information.

This, the petition claimed, poses a massive national security risk, more so when, according to a Press Information Bureau notification, 100 crore enrolments had already taken place before April 4, 2016.

What was the contention against Aadhaar before the Supreme Court?

The main questions raised during the hearing on Aadhaar were:

Is the Aadhaar Act, 2016, constitutionally valid given that it was passed in Parliament as a Money Bill?

Why does every citizen need one identity proof — a unique identification number — to acquire government benefits? Can’t this be done using other documents, like ration card or passport?

Does Aadhaar take away our right to privacy — upheld as a fundamental right by a nine-judge Constitution bench of the court in August last year.

What happens if Aadhaar data becomes a tool for mass surveillance by the state, as the movement and activities of users can be tracked by collecting metadata?

Supreme Court: Majority Judgement Conclusions:

Supreme Court felt that the technology has become a vital tool for ensuring good governance in a welfare state.

Schemes such as PDS, scholarships, Mid-day Meals and LPG subsidies involve huge amount of money and Aadhaar helped welfare reach of the poor as a fool-proof mechanism.

Majority opinion upholds Aadhaar as a reasonable restriction on privacy. It fulfils Government’s aim to provide dignity to the marginalised.

Aadhaar unique ID cannot be duplicated, whereas, PAN, Ration Card can be duplicated. It upheld the passage of the Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill.

The authentication records should not be retained for more than 6 months. Archiving of records for five years is bad in law.

SC struck down Section 33 (2), which allowed the disclosure of Aadhaar information for national security reasons on the orders of an officer not below a Joint Secretary level.

Source: The Hindu

Chabahar port

In News:

India has formally taken over operations of Iran’s strategic Chabahar Port.

Details:

Iran formally handed over the port to India during a first meeting of the follow-up committee for the implementation of the Chabahar Agreement between Iran, Afghanistan, and India held recently in the port city Tehran.

Background:

The Chabahar Agreement was signed in June 2015 and approved by Iran’s Guardian Council in November 2016. Chabahar is being seen as a gateway for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with Central Asian countries.

Where is Chabahar port?

Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast.

Why Chabahar port is crucial for India?

The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.

Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.

With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.

With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.

Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This will in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.

From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

Source: The Hindu

Polavaram multi-purpose project

In News:

Andhra Pradesh government has launched works for erection of the first radial gate – the 41st one – at the Polavaram project site. The state hopes that the project works would be completed by May 2019 and water would be released to canals under gravity by December 2019.

Details:

The Polavaram project was accorded national status in 2014 in the Andhra Pradesh Bifurcation Act and its design was changed.

About the Polavaram project:

Polavaram Project is a multi-purpose irrigation project.

The dam across the Godavari River is under construction located in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States also.

The project is multipurpose major terminal reservoir project on river Godavari for development of Irrigation, Hydropower and drinking water facilities to East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The project is likely to displace over 1.88 lakh people across 222 villages and so far, 1,730 persons in six villages have been rehabilitated by the government.

Source: The Hindu

Bullet Train

In News:

The latest information obtained by an activist under the Right to Information (RTI) has revealed that Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project may turn out to be a loss-making proposition and burden Maharashtra’s already dwindling finances.

Concerns over the project:

Several objections have been raised by various departments over the economic viability of the Shinkansen train, which could result in losses in the form of wasted Floor Space Index (FSI) and delayed loan repayment in the absence of proper frameworks.

Some part of the FSI at the station proposed at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai could “remain unutilised because of the height restrictions, leading to revenue losses”.

Criticisms:

The government is being criticised for clearing a project which has no practical benefit for the State and would add financial stress.

Moreover, the ministerial committee headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has not met to discuss the project since being incorporated in February 2017. The committee was tasked with carrying out an in-depth study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency report and the project’s feasibility.

Need of the hour:

Both Planning and Finance departments have called for a thorough study of bullet train economics in other countries before a decision is taken on its feasibility in India. Additionally, the departments said the Centre must clarify the formula for sharing the loan burden if the project remains loss-making for a long period of time. Since the State is coping with serious loss in income and further burden of loans, the impact of this project on government finances needs to be considered.

About the project:

The train, with a capacity of 750 passengers, will travel at speeds between 320 km/hr and 350km/hr and is expected to reduce travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai to three-and-a-half hours or less from the present eight. The project is expected to be completed in seven years.

How India benefits from bullet train?

High-speed connectivity – This will facilitate economic growth. Smaller cities along the way can also be connected with high-speed transit facility to these economic Centres through the bullet train network.

The bullet train project is expected to create 4,000 direct job opportunities, along with 20,000 indirect jobs. 20,000 construction workers will also be employed during the set up period of Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train.

Urban expansion – New bullet train stations set to come up along the route will attract urban growth. This will again shift the pressure of urbanisation from the existing urban Centres.

Open new avenues – When completed, the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project will present as a favorable destination for high-speed train technologies, attracting other parties working in the field.

The geostrategic importance of Bullet trains is:

The bullet train is symbol of strong trust between the India and Japan as it involves the technology transfer at the core of this deal.

The bullet train will create substantial positive impact on Indian economy thus building the economic influence of country in Asia and thus all over the world. In longer duration of time, this technology will reduce the dependence of India on Middle East countries for oil and other fuel products.

Being the clean technology India will set an example for cleaner methods for mass transportation, especially for other developing countries. For Japan too, this deal has geostrategic meaning. Earlier Japan has lost with China in export of Bullet trains in Thailand and Indonesia. This deal is diplomatic win for Japan.

Source: The Hindu

India’s Longest Railroad Bridge

In News:

The Bogibeel bridge is India’s longest railroad bridge. It was inaugurated recently.

Key facts:

The bridge is 4.94 km long in length. The double decker rail and road bridge, on the Bramhaputra river, will cut down the train-travel time between Tinsukia in Assam to Naharlagun town of Arunachal Pradesh by more than 10 hours.

Built by the Indian Railways, the double-decker bridge is strong enough to withstand movement of heavy military tanks.

The Bogibeel bridge will connect the south bank of the Brahmaputra river in Assam’s Dibrugarh district with Silapathar in Dhemaji district, bordering Arunachal Pradesh. The railways have reduced the distance between Dhemaji and Dibrugarh from 500 Kms to 100 kms with the completion of the project.

Paika Rebellion

  • Prime Minister has recently released the commemorative stamp and coin on Paika Rebellion.
  • The setting up of a Chair on the Paika Rebellion, in Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, was also announced.
  • It was an armed rebellion against the British East India Company’s rule in Odisha in 1817.
  • The Paiks were the traditional landed militia of Khurda, Odisha.
  • Rulers of Khurda were traditionally the custodians of Jagannath Temple and ruled as the deputy of Lord Jagannath on earth.
  • The British, having established their sway over Bengal Province occupied the Khurda’s land in 1803 and took over the hereditary rent-free lands granted to Paikas.
  • The Paikas rose in armed rebellion in 1817 under the leadership of Baxi Jagabandhu.
  • The tribals of Ghumusar and other sections of the population actively took part in it.
  • Many scholars, researchers and historians have opined that the Paika Rebellion was India’s first organized armed rebellion against British Raj.

Bogibeel Bridge

  • It is India’s longest rail-road bridge and 4th project across the river Brahmaputra.
  • It will connect Dhibrugarh and Dhemaji in Assam.
  • It aids connectivity between the north and south banks of Brahmaputra, falling in the eastern part of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It is a double deck bridge with a two-line railway track on the lower deck and a three-lane road on the upper deck.
  • It will reduce train travel time between Tinsukia in Assam to Arunachal Pradesh’s Naharlagun by 10 hours.
  • Foundation stone for the bridge was laid in the year 1997 and North East Frontier Railway constructed the bridge.

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