The HINDU Notes – 04th May 2017(Daily NewsPaper Analysis)
📰 THE HINDU – CURRENT NOTE 04 May
⏳ SC puts critics of Aadhaar-PAN linkage in a spot
- Can a person who is voluntarily a part of a tax regime choose to say he will pay his taxes only in the certain way he wants to? Does he have a right to choose?
- The question from the Supreme Court came even as the petitioners claimed that the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to PAN under the newly-included Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act is a “direct invasion” by the state into the citizens’ right to make free, voluntary and informed consent.
- Critics argued in the Supreme Court that Section 139AA is a “chilling trajectory the state has taken to dilute civil liberties.”
- Arguing before a Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, the government compared the Aadhaar law to the Supreme Court’s recent order making it mandatory for the public to stand up when the national anthem was played in cinema halls.
- Counsel Arghya Sengupta, arguing for the government, said the court order might also have triggered conscientious objections.
- “But the order is a law nevertheless. You may not want to stand up for the national anthem, but that does not mean you sit down,” Mr. Sengupta argued.
- The government said Aadhaar, rather than causing inequality, bolstered equality between honest taxpayers and those who had till now evaded tax.
- Representing the petitioner Mr. Divan submitted that there was indeed a direct collision between the voluntary nature of the Aadhaar Act of 2016 and Section 139AA which made it mandatory for a person to possess an Aadhaar card to file income tax returns and continue to have a valid PAN.
- Mr. Divan said a citizen is “entitled” and not “obliged” under the Aadhaar Act to obtain an Aadhaar card to access certain benefits.
- He pointed to several provisions which mandate that the enrolling authority should first inform the citizen about where biometric details collected from him would be used.
- The government further argued against the absolute right to “informational self determination”.
- The state seeks information at various points, including at the time of births, deaths and marriages.
- Mr. Divan said even the Census Act, which took all kinds of personal data, did not allow disclosure of data collected even to a court of law.
What’s in news?
- To address privacy and security concerns over Aadhaar, the Centre is in the process of educating government agencies that sensitive data must not be made public, and is drafting amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Act to strengthen provisions for data protection and security.
Area of focus: the new IT law will quell security concerns related to digital payments as well as privacy issues.
- According to a report by the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS)- close to 135 million Aadhaar numbers and 100 million bank account numbers could have leaked from official portals dealing with government programmes of pensions and rural employment
- With Aadhaar being used to authenticate and authorise transactions, the financial risks presented by the disclosure of such data are greatly exacerbated
- As per the CIS report, the data in question has not been treated as confidential at all in several cases and the government agencies in question have, in fact, taken pains to publish them. “ These are wilful and intentional instances of treating Aadhaar numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII) as publicly shareable data by the custodians of the data,” the CIS report noted.
⏳ DoT’s Tarang Sanchar Portal to clear the air over mobile tower emissions
- The Tarang Sanchar Portal will help clear myths and misconceptions with regard to mobile towers the Department of Telecom (DoT), Ministry of Communications, said on 3 May 2017 following the launch of the web portal.
- A senior official of the DoT said the portal for sharing information on mobile towers and electromagnetic field (EMF) emissioncompliances empowers the common man person to know at the click of a mouse the mobile towers in a particular locality and whether they are compliant to the EMF emission norms defined by the government.
- The launch of the portal assumes significance in Goa as people in many parts of the State have been opposing the setting up of towers owing to the risk of health hazards associated with it.
- DoT has prescribed standards for electromagnetic emissions from mobile towers that are 10 times stricter than the standards prescribed by International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection and those recommended by World Health Organization.
- Though there is no scientific evidence of any health concerns from low power mobile base transceiver stations, the DoT felt a need to educate citizens about EMF emissions from mobile towers and status of their compliances.
- The portal has a public interface with a map-based search feature which will help users view the mobile towers in any locality.
- Detailed information about any tower site will be sent to email to the users on request.
- Users can also seek information on the EMF emission at a location by paying an online fee of Rs. 4,000.
- The tests will be conducted by the local Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) unit of DoT and the report will be submitted.
- In addition to Government to Citizen (G2C) services, the portal facilitates Government to Business (G2B) service delivery in a transparent and eco-friendly manner.
- The portal enables a method of maintenance and retention of end-to- end records, including submission of compliance by Telecom Service Providers and paperless processing by TERM cells.
- It has the complete collated technical details of over 14.5 lakh base stations spread across the country.
What’s in news?
- Endangered and hard-to-spot dholes, or Indian wild dogs, will soon test their fortunes in the Eastern Ghats.
- The Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP), running a conservation breeding centre for the species, plans to reintroduce a pack of 16 into the forests.
- Dholes are protected under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and listed as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
- Attempts to save other species:
- Darjeeling’s Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park had a programme for the red panda
- Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme was undertaken in Assam.
- The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is a critically endangered suid, previously spread across India, Nepal, and Bhutan, but now only found in Assam.The current world population is about 150 individuals or fewer.
- The red panda (Ailurus fulgens), also called the lesser panda, the red bear-cat, and the red cat-bear, is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. The red panda has been classified as Endangered by the IUCN because its wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 mature individuals and continues to decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression, although red pandas are protected by national laws in their range countries.
What’s in news?
- The National Institution for the Transformation of India (NITI) Aayog has recommended that faculty at “world class” institutions prioritise research and be allowed to “reduce their teaching responsibility,”
- World class universities also ought to be allowed to recruit research staff from abroad and be encouraged to compete for research projects from industry.
- Universities ought to be ranked according to metrics such as teaching, research output and funding won from the private sector.
- This would ensure that investments in research better translate to more products and bolster “innovation and development”.
World class universities:
- ‘World class universities’ are part of a government-outlined plan to raise funding for 10 public and 10 private universities and mould them into institutions that rank among the world’s best.
‘National Science, Technology and Innovation Foundation’
- The NITI Aayog proposes setting up of a new ‘National Science, Technology and Innovation Foundation’
- Head– distinguished scientist.
- Main Task:
- Coordinate with science and technology departments, ministries, governments and private sector bodies and deliberate on national issues and recommend interventions.
- Review progress of projects every six months and propose “course corrections” for achieving these goals.
New Database of schemes
- Creation of a database of all existing schemes related to science and technology across ministries and departments.
- Objectives behind creation of Database:
- This will provide information on the coordinating ministry, its objectives and available funds.
- Key purpose would be to avoid “duplication of efforts, reduce approval times, increase accountability and collaboration between entities and measured outcomes,”
Other notable recommendations:
- More public private partnerships.
- Given the government’s “limited funds” the NITI Aayog recommends research priorities to water management, agriculture, energy, waste management, health, connectivity and security.
What’s in news?
- The Army carried out a successful test of the advanced BrahMos Block III Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Range: It brings the strategic Malacca straits under its control.
- Importance: Precise capabilities of BrahMos missile for quick sea access and denial in the event of a conflict, and its testing in the Andaman Sea is a reflection of the changing dynamics in the Indian Ocean.
- BrahMos is a product of joint collaboration between India and Russia and is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against surface and sea-based targets.
- The range of the supersonic missile was initially capped at 290 km as per the obligations of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Since India’s entry into the club, the range has been extended to 450 km and the plan is to increase it to 600km.
The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a multilateral export control regime. It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.
⏳ SC seeks Khurshid’s advice in talaq case
- The Supreme Court on 3 May 2017 asked senior advocate Salman Khurshid to assist it as amicus curiae before a Constitution Bench scheduled to hear a batch of petitions arguing that the practices of triple talaq and polygamy violate the fundamental rights of Muslim women.
- The Constitution Bench will examine if these personal law practices are the “fundamental traits” of the minority religion.
- The Centre wants the court to re-open the debate whether personal laws can be brought under the ambit of Article 13 (laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights) of the Constitution.
- If the Supreme Court agrees that personal laws are included in the definition of laws under Article 13, the door will be opened wide for an aggrieved person to challenge a particular personal law of a religion in court as violative of the Fundamental Rights.
- If the challenge succeeds in court, the personal law, to the extent of its inconsistency, shall become void.
- The Centre has also asked the Supreme Court to determine whether triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy are protected under the freedom of religion under Article 25, and whether this Article is subject to fundamental rights, especially the right to life and freedom of speech and expression.
⏳ J&K students to get more scholarships
- Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar has announced a slew of measures to offer a fillip to education for students of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The quota for J&K students pursuing higher education under the PM Scholarship Scheme has been enhanced from two seats per sector per college to 10 seats.
- The scheme has been offering scholarships to 5,000 students of the State to pursue education in engineering, medical, management and hospitality sectors across the country.
- Also, Rs. 52 crore has been granted for two sanctioned engineering colleges in the State – one at Sapakora in the Kashmir Valley and the other at Kathua in Jammu – under RUSA (Rashtriya Uchhatar Shiksha Abhiyan).
What’s in news?
- The government cleared a package to resolve the persistent rise in non-performing assets that are plaguing public sector banks and denting credit growth.
- The package includes an ordinance to amend the Banking Regulation Act of 1949 to empower the Reserve Bank of India to take more actions to check bad loans
- Bad loans in the Indian banking system have gone up sharply in the last one year.
- Reserve Bank of India data:
- Gross NPA, as a percentage of gross advances went up to 9.1% in September 2016 from 5.1% in September 2015.
- During the same period, stressed assets (which is gross NPA plus standard restructured advances and write-offs), moved up from 11.3% to 12.3% and some estimates suggested it had doubled since 2013.
- Public sector banks share a disproportionate burden of this stress. Stressed assets in some of the public sector banks have approached or exceeded 20%.
- Some estimates suggest the total stress in the Indian banking system is about ₹14 lakh crore.
- The Union Cabinet also kicked off the disinvestment process for hotels owned by the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC). The government’s stakes will be offloaded in Ashok Hotels in Bharatpur, Guwahati and Bhopal.
- Policy to give “preference to domestically manufactured iron and steel products” for government’s infrastructure projects
- The Centre also approved a National Steel Policy 2017 aimed at attracting ₹10 lakh crore investments in the steel sector by 2030-31.
- A central sector scheme, SAMPADA was approved with an allocation of ₹ 6,000 crore in a bid to decrease agro-waste and modernise processing.
Stressed assets = NPAs + Restructured loans +Written Off Assets
Non Performing Asset (NPA)
Written off assets
⏳ National Steel Policy 2017 approved by centre
- The Centre approved a National Steel Policy 2017 aimed at attracting Rs. 10 lakh crore investments in the steel sector by 2030-31.
- The policy gives “preference to Domestically Manufactured Iron & Steel Products (DMI&SP)” in Government Procurements.
- The policy is applicable on all government tenders where price bid is yet to be opened
- The policy projects creating crude steel capacity of 300 million tonnes (MT), production of 255 MT and “a robust finished steel per capita consumption of 158 kg by 2030-31, as against the current consumption of 61 kg.”
⏳ Allocation to SAMPADA Scheme to decrease agro waste and modernise processing
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for re-structuring the schemes of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) under new Central Sector Scheme – SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) for the period 2016-20 coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle.
- SAMPADA is an umbrella scheme incorporating ongoing schemes of the Ministry like Mega Food Parks, Integrated Cold Chainand Value Addition Infrastructure, Food Safety and Quality Assurance Infrastructure, etc. and also new schemes like Infrastructure forAgro-processing Clusters, Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages, Creation / Expansion of Food Processing & Preservation Capacities.
- The objective of SAMPADA is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease agri-waste.
⏳ Govt. mulls changes to UDAN scheme to attract more players
- The Centre may introduce changes to its regional connectivity scheme or UDAN to attract more players in the second round of bidding.
- Allowing single-engine aircraft to fly under the scheme, increasing route exclusivity for airlines and higher subsidy for helicoptersamong others are some of the proposals which may be considered.
- Airlines had asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to increase the exclusive flying rights on UDAN routes from three to five years.
- “However, we do not favour increasing the exclusive rights to five years since we feel airlines get enough safeguards by operating exclusively on a route for three years,” said another Ministry official.
- The airlines had also asked the Ministry to allow them to operate single-engine aircraft on routes under UDAN.
- However, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation is not in favour of the proposal due to safety reasons, according to a Ministry official.
- “We are persuading them to allow single-engine aircraft under the scheme,” the official said.
What’s in news?
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have designed an inflatable greenhouse that astronauts could one day use to grow fresh food and produce oxygen on Mars or Moon.
- The prototype involves an inflatable, deployable greenhouse to support plant and crop production for nutrition, air revitalisation, water recycling and waste recycling.
How it works?
- Astronauts exhale carbon dioxide, which is introduced into the greenhouse, and the plants then generate oxygen through photosynthesis.
- The water cycle begins with water that is brought along or found at the lunar or Martian landing site. Water is oxygenated, given nutrient salts, and it continuously flows across the root zone of the plants and returned to the storage system.