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3rd February Current Affairs

Permanent Indus Commission

(GS-II: India and neighbourhood relations)

In News:

The annual meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission between India and Pakistan is due, but no schedule has been finalised as of now.

Details:

Under the Indus Water Treaty, it is mandatory to hold a meeting at least once every year ending March 31.

About the Indus Water Treaty:

It is a Water-Distribution Treaty, signed in Karachi on 1960, between India (Pm Jawaharlal Nehru) and Pakistan (President Ayub Khan), brokered by the World Bank.

How is the Indus water share between India and Pakistan?

Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, all the waters of the eastern rivers — the Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi — amounting to around 33 MAF (million acre-feet) annually is allocated to India for unrestricted use.

The waters of western rivers — Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab — amounting to around 135 MAF annually are largely for Pakistan.

The right to generate hydroelectricity:

Under the Treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through a run of the river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation.

It also gives the right to Pakistan to raise concerns on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.

Permanent Indus Commission:

The Permanent Indus Commission is a bilateral commission of officials from India and Pakistan, created to implement and manage goals of the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960.

The Commission according to the treaty must meet regularly at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan.

The functions of the Commission are:

  • to study and report to the two Governments on any problem relating to the development on the waters of the rivers.
  • to solve disputes arising over water sharing.
  • to arrange technical visits to projects’ sites and critical river head works.
  • to undertake, once in every five years, a general tour of inspection of the Rivers for ascertaining the facts.
  • to take necessary steps for the implementation of the provisions of the treaty.

Kerala’s proposal to limit Lokayukta’s powers

(GS-II: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies)

In News:

The Kerala government has proposed to amend the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act with an ordinance.

Details:

This move has drawn criticism from the opposition.

Changes proposed:

The government can “either accept or reject the verdict of the Lokayukta, after giving an opportunity of being heard”.

Currently, under Section 14 of the Act, a public servant is required to vacate office if directed by the Lokayukta.

The amendments are being opposed for two reasons:

The changes are proposed through an ordinance and hence there was no proper discussions on the matter.

It violates the fundamental spirit of the central Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

Who is a Lokayukta?

The central Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was notified on January 1, 2014.

Lokayuktas are the state equivalents of the central Lokpal.

Originally, the central legislation was envisaged to make a Lokayukta in each state mandatory.

However, after opposition, the law then created a mere framework, leaving it to the states to decide the specifics.

Given that states have autonomy to frame their own laws, the Lokayukta’s powers vary from state to state on various aspects, such as tenure, and need of sanction to prosecute officials.

Who is a Lokpal?

The Act provides for establishing a Lokpal headed by a Chairperson (who is or has been a Chief Justice of India, or is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court, or an eminent person who fulfils eligibility criteria as specified).

Members: Of its other members, not exceeding eight, 50% are to be judicial members, provided that not less than 50% belong to the SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, or are women.

Roles and functions: The Lokpal and Lokayukta are to deal with complaints against public servants, a definition that includes the Lokpal chairperson and members.

The Lokpal was appointed in March 2019 and it started functioning since March 2020 when its rules were framed.

The Lokpal is at present headed by former Supreme Court Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose.

Why do we need such institutions?

  • Maladministration is like a termite which slowly erodes the foundation of a nation and hinders administration from completing its task.
  • Corruption is the root cause of this problem. Most of the anti-corruption agencies are hardly independent. Even Supreme Court has been termed CBI as a “caged parrot” and “its master’s voice”.
  • Many of these agencies are advisory bodies without any effective powers and their advice is rarely followed.
  • There is also the problem of internal transparency and accountability. Moreover, there is not any separate and effective mechanism to put checks on these agencies.

In this context, an independent institution of Lokpal has been a landmark move in the history of Indian polity which offered a solution to the never-ending menace of corruption.

ISRO demonstrates hack-proof quantum communication

(GS-III: Developments in Science and Technology)

In News:

In a major step forward towards satellite-based quantum communication, scientists from Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre and Physical Research Laboratory successfully demonstrated quantum entanglement.

Details:

Using real-time Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), they conducted hack-proof communication between two places separated by 300 meters.

Significance:

Quantum communication is one of the safest ways of connecting two places with high levels of code and quantum cryptography that cannot be decrypted or broken by an external entity.

If a hacker tries to crack the message in quantum communication, it changes its form in such a manner that would alert the sender and would cause the message to be altered or deleted.

What you need to know about this technology?

Typical encryption relies on traditional mathematics and while for now it is more or less adequate and safe from hacking, the development of quantum computing threatens that.

Quantum computing refers to a new era of faster and more powerful computers, and the theory goes that they would be able to break current levels of encryption.

QKD works by using photons — the particles which transmit light — to transfer data.

QKD allows two distant users, who do not share a long secret key initially, to produce a common, random string of secret bits, called a secret key.

Using the one-time pad encryption this key is proven to be secure to encrypt and decrypt a message, which can then be transmitted over a standard communication channel.

Significance of this technology:

The encryption is “unbreakable” and that’s mainly because of the way data is carried via the photon. A photon cannot be perfectly copied and any attempt to measure it will disturb it. This means that a person trying to intercept the data will leave a trace.

The implications could be huge for cybersecurity, making businesses safer, but also making it more difficult for governments to hack into communication.

Electoral Bonds

(GS-II: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures)

In News:

Electoral bonds worth ₹1,213 crore were sold by the SBI in January.

Details:

Most of them (₹784.84 crore) were encashed in the New Delhi branch, pointing towards national parties, while the Mumbai branch sold the most (₹489.6 crore worth).

What are electoral bonds?

Electoral Bond is a financial instrument for making donations to political parties.

The bonds are issued in multiples of Rs. 1,000, Rs. 10,000, Rs. 1 lakh, Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 1 crore without any maximum limit.

State Bank of India is authorised to issue and encash these bonds, which are valid for fifteen days from the date of issuance.

These bonds are redeemable in the designated account of a registered political party.

The bonds are available for purchase by any person (who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India) for a period of ten days each in the months of January, April, July and October as may be specified by the Central Government.

A person being an individual can buy bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.

Donor’s name is not mentioned on the bond.

Issues associated with the scheme:

The Electoral Bond Scheme acts as a check against traditional under-the-table donations as it insists on cheque and digital paper trails of transactions, however, several key provisions of the scheme make it highly controversial.

Anonymity: Neither the donor (who could be an individual or a corporate) nor the political party is obligated to reveal whom the donation comes from.

Asymmetrically Opaque: Because the bonds are purchased through the State Bank of India (SBI), the government is always in a position to know who the donor is.

Channel of Blackmoney: Elimination of a cap of 7.5% on corporate donations, elimination of requirement to reveal political contributions in profit and loss statements.