UPSC PRELIMS & MAINS
‘Bhushan’s Conviction Is Against International Law’ :
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan’s conviction for criminal contempt of court by the Supreme Court seemed to be inconsistent with the freedom of expression law guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
ICJ considers that the conviction appears to be inconsistent with international standards on freedom of expression and the role of lawyers. It added that the judgment risked having a “chilling effect on the exercise of protected freedom of expression in India”.
∙ “While some restrictions of freedom of expression are permitted by international standards, a particularly wide scope must be preserved for debate and discussion about such matters as the role of the judiciary, access to justice, and democracy, by members of the public, including through public commentary on the courts”, it stated.
2. Turkey Renews Call For Talks, Sharing Of Resources With Greece:
Turkey’s Foreign Minister has said that Turkey favours a dialogue with rival Greece that would lead to the fair sharing of resources in the eastern Mediterranean, where the two countries are locked in a tense standoff.
∙ Greece, a member of the EU, claims the waters are part of its continental shelf. Greece has enlisted the support of the EU, which has condemned Turkey’s illegal activities and plans to blacklist Turkish officials linked to energy exploration.
What is the issue?
∙ Turkey disputes Greece’s claims that waters, where it’s searching for hydrocarbons, are part of Greece’s continental shelf, insisting that Greek islands near Turkey’s coast cannot be taken into account when delineating maritime boundaries. ∙ Ankara accuses Athens of trying to grab an unfair share of the eastern Mediterranean’s resources.
Treating Data As Commons:
∙ The draft report of the Gopalakrishnan Committee submitted to the Ministry of Electronics and IT has been put out for public consultation.
The Gopalakrishnan Committee:∙ The committee was set up in 2019 and is referred to as the Expert Committee on Non-Personal Data Governance Framework.It is a nine-member panel, headed by former Infosys vice-chairman Kris Gopalakrishnan.
∙ The Gopalakrishnan Committee was set up by the government for developing a governance framework for non-personal data.
∙ The Gopalakrishnan report is the first policy document globally that tries to address the issue of economic governance of digital society’s data.
∙ The committee has suggested that the non-personal data of an individual generated in the country should be allowed to be used by various companies. It envisages the wide sharing and availability of data in society.
o Only the data collected from non-privately owned sources, from society or community sources, have to be shared when requested for. Data from privately owned sources remain private.
∙ To ensure that companies share the required data, the report suggests developing a governance and legal basis for data-sharing requirements and obligations.
o Community trustees would act as the representative of the community and would articulate the community’s data ownership claim.
o Data collectors would be considered as data custodians who will use and secure data as per the best interests of the community concerned.
o Data trusts would act as data infrastructures that will enable data sharing, sector-wise, or across sectors, and which can be run by various kinds of third-party bodies.
o A Non-Personal Data Authority is envisaged to enable and regulate all the data-sharing activities.
o The committee recommends new legislation, to provide legal backing to the envisaged model.
Arguments in favor of data sharing:
∙ The article discusses the need for data sharing and its importance to build a strong and fair digital economy.
Data as a public good:
∙ Data collected from various communities are considered to be ‘owned’ by the relevant community. Such ‘community ownership’ means that the data should be shared back with all those who need it in society.
o The Gopalakrishnan committee’s concept of ‘community data’ is in line with the above argument.
Infrastructural nature of data:
∙ The article argues that like other public infrastructures like roads, electricity, etc., society’s digital data too can be considered a public infrastructure or ‘commons’ in the current digital economy.
∙ There is a need to ensure that such infrastructure is available to all interested entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Overcoming digital monopoly:
∙ A few corporations have vertically integrated all the digital components involved in the delivery of any digital service and have become global monopolies. Digital corporations have begun to dominate all sectors, including important ones such as education and health. Seven out of the top 10 companies globally today have a data-centric model.
∙ Such an unsustainable concentration of digital power poses significant challenges. This could have detrimental geopolitical impacts for some countries given the global domination of U.S. and Chinese companies in the digital sphere.
o At the national level, monopolies can lead to the exploitation of consumers and small economic actors, and of strangulating competition and innovation.
∙ One way of breaking the monopoly power would be by separating the infrastructural elements of digital service provision (data) from the business of digital service delivery. This could be enabled by ensuring access to society’s digital data to all. This would help address the scenario where dominant digital corporations are building exclusive control over any sector’s data as their key business advantage and hindering the progress of new companies.
Promoting domestic industries:
∙ The proposed model would incentivize the entry of start-ups into the digital business sector by helping ensure the widespread availability of society’s data to all. If everyone gets greater access to non-personal data, they can develop their digital businesses or other activities with it. ∙ This would result in increased economic activity resulting in higher economic growth and higher job opportunities.
∙ A robust domestic data/AI industry will also help reduce India’s dependence on U.S. and Chinese companies.
∙ India has done well in being the first country to come up with a comprehensive framework in the domain of digital policy and governance.
∙ This could provide India a formidable first-mover advantage to acquire its rightful place in the digital world.
India, Russia To Hold Naval Drills In The Andaman Sea:
What’s in News?
India and Russia are scheduled to hold the bilateral naval exercise, Indra 2020, in the Andaman Sea.
∙ Amid high operational alert by the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) due to the ongoing stand-off with China in Ladakh, Indra 2020 will be held in the Andaman Sea, close to the strategic Strait of Malacca.( important strait for India and China, most of the trade take place here and it connects Indian ocean and South China sea)∙ It comes just after India withdrew from the Kavkaz-2020 multinational exercise in Russia.
Naval Exercise Indra:
∙ It is a bi-annual bilateral exercise which began in 2003.
∙ India and Russia are the participating nations.
Note: ∙ In July 2020, frontline warships of the Indian Navy conducted a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Nimitz strike group in the same area near the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) islands as it was transiting the Indian Ocean.
∙ USS Nimitz was returning from the South China Sea through the Malacca Strait where it undertook freedom of navigation operations.
Privy Purse Bill In Lok Sabha:
∙ The Privy Purse was used as a conciliatory move to get the princely state rulers to surrender their sovereignty to the Indian union.
o As defined from 1949 under Article 291 of the Indian Constitution, a privy purse would be a fixed, tax-free sum guaranteed to the former princely rulers and their successors. The sum was intended to cover all expenses of the former ruling families and would be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
∙ The Constitution (Twenty-sixth Amendment) Act, 1971 abolished this provision of privy purses and princely privileges.
o It was seen as an important step in the further democratisation of Indian society. It represented the momentum of social change in the country.
The Number Of Accidental Deaths, Suicides Grew In 2019:
NCRB What’s in News?
The annual National Crime Records Bureau report has been released.
∙ The number of suicide cases and accidental deaths registered an increase across the country last year from the 2018 figures.
o The suicide rate in cities (13.9%) was higher compared to the all-India average. Accidental deaths in the country increased by 2.3%.
o The rate (per lakh population) increased from 31.1 to 31.5.
∙ Delhi recorded the highest number of deaths due to dangerous driving and overall road accidents in 2019 among all cities. Delhi, according to the data, was only second to Chennai in reporting road accidents in 2019.
o The number of road accidents in Delhi, however, has seen a decline of 7.2% as compared to 2018.
∙ As per the provisional data released by the National Statistical Office, India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has suffered its steepest contraction on record in the April-June quarter, as output shrank 23.9% in the quarter in comparison to the same period in 2019.
∙ The stringent COVID-19 lockdowns in force during the period of the first quarter seem to have hollowed out demand. Private consumption spending, which accounts for almost 60% of GDP, has contracted 26.7% as consumers have limited themselves only to essential spending and stopped almost all discretionary spending.
Effect of lockdown on sectors:
∙ The services category including trade, hotels and transport have been severely hit by the pandemic-linked restrictions.
∙ The manufacturing sector has registered a contraction as demand for products deemed non-essential declined, and factories, even after reopening, struggled to run amid shortages of labour and added safety norms.
Decline in exports:
∙ Exports, which contribute to almost 20% of GDP, have registered a massive decline due to lockdowns, restrictions in the movement of goods, cancellation of orders from importing countries.
Uncertainty and investment decline:
∙ Investment activity has witnessed a steep contraction of about 47% as large businesses have decided to conserve cash and have refrained from any capital spending in the face of uncertainty, and smaller firms have prioritized survival.
∙ There are concerns that the economic contraction may not be just a transient phenomenon and there is the possibility of an extended slowdown.
Limited fiscal space:
∙ The Centre’s pandemic mitigation expenditure helped expand its consumption spending by 16.4% year-on-year and thus helped soften the overall blow to GDP. ∙ There is very limited scope for such an expenditure growth over the next three quarters because of the following reasons:
o The fiscal deficit in just the first four months of the financial year has already exceeded the full year’s budgeted target and the central government has expressed its desire to respect the fiscal limits set by the FRBM Act.
o Revenue receipts for the government have decreased due to the economic contraction. Unaccounted informal sector:
∙ The NSO data are provisional figures and are expected to undergo revision as they do not capture the informal sector due to difficulties in collecting data.
∙ The informal sector accounts for a major share of the Indian economy and there is wide acceptance of the fact that the lockdown has had a higher detrimental effect on the informal sector. This would imply that the current estimates are not indicative of the actual output decrease and the revised estimate might only provide a further drop in the growth numbers.
∙ There have been reports of a high level of job losses and income erosion. The latest survey-based data from IHS Markit though expects manufacturing PMI for August to register growth, also notes that job shedding would continue at a strong rate in the industry.
∙ This would have a detrimental impact on the disposable income in the hands of the people and also lead to decreased consumption expenditure.
∙ The still-rising trajectory of new COVID-19 infections would retard any recovery in growth.
Challenges in the agricultural sector:
∙ Despite a good performance in the agricultural sector, which grew 3.4%, outpacing 2019’s first quarter’s 3% expansion, it too faces headwinds in the form of higher than-ideal rainfall in August in several key crop-growing regions in western and central India and the uncertainty with respect to the impact of recent farm market ordinances.
∙ With COVID-19 hitting private consumption, demand recovery will hinge on government spending and the government must give up its fiscal conservatism and find innovative ways to mobilise resources.
IRDAI Sets Up Panel On Index-Linked Life Products:
Insurance regulator – Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) has constituted a six-member working group on index-linked products.
∙ Current IRDAI product regulations do not specifically permit insurers to sell index-linked products.
∙ As of now, in Ulips, one may invest in any of the fund options representing various asset classes such as equity or debt. However, the funds are actively managed by a fund manager and are benchmarked to an index. In an index-linked fund, there is no role of the fund manager.
o The investments in the index fund mirror the index that it tracks in the same weightage as per the index.
o The fund management charges, therefore, are very low in them compared to actively-managed funds.
The terms of reference of the Working Group:
∙ To examine the need for index-linked products in India especially with respect to the availability of various indexes and how it will better serve the needs and interests of customers relative to traditional savings products.
∙ To examine the Index-linked products, which were earlier available for sale in the Indian market in terms of product structure, ease of customer understanding and administrative processes, sales volumes and any other matter of relevance.
∙ To study practices of other jurisdictions in respect of Index-Linked product structure and their operations.
∙ To provide recommendations on specific aspects like product structure and its pricing and reserving along with suggestions on possible amendments to the current regulations like Product and Investment Regulation.
Manufacturing Activity Returns To Expansion In August: PMI
According to a monthly survey, manufacturing activity has re-entered the growth territory in August 2020.
∙ Seasonally-adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose from 46 in July to 52 in August, signalling an improvement in operating conditions across the manufacturing sector following four consecutive months of contraction.
∙ The growth is driven by a rebound in production volumes and new work, amid an improvement in customer demand following the resumption of business operations.
10.AGR Dues Issue In Telecom Sector:
The Supreme Court has held that telecom firms will get 10 years to clear their adjusted gross revenue or AGR dues and that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) should decide whether or not spectrum can be sold under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
Supreme Court rule on AGR dues
∙ In its judgment, the SC gave all telcos a 10-year timeline to complete the payments of AGR dues, instead of the old 20-year schedule suggested by the DoT.
∙ It also directed telcos to pay 10 per cent of the total AGR dues by March 31, 2020, following which they can make payments in annual instalments between 2021 and 2031.
∙ The non-payment of dues in any year would lead to the accrual of interest and invite contempt of court proceedings against such companies.
∙ A crucial issue of whether the spectrum could be sold under IBC will now be decided by the National Company Law Tribunal.
What is AGR?
∙ Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
∙ It is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees, pegged between 3-5 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.
What is the issue about?
∙ All the telecom companies that operate in India pay a part of their revenues as licence fee and spectrum charges to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for using the spectrum owned by the government.
∙ In its definition of AGR, the DoT had said that telcos must cover all the revenue earned by them, including from non-telecom sources such as deposit interests and sale of assets.
∙ The telecom companies were opposed to this and had challenged this definition of AGR in several forums, including the Supreme Court. On October 24, 2019, the SC had upheld the DoT’s definition of AGR.
∙ Though the telcos sought a review of the judgment, it was dismissed by the top.
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