Current Affairs 6th March

SC says new rules to regulate OTT platforms lack teeth #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court said the government’s new rules to regulate OTT (over-the-top) platforms lacked teeth to punish the violators or to screen offensive content even as it protected Amazon Prime Video India Commercial head Aparna Purohit from arrest in theTandav web series row.

Ready for new laws: SG

Mr. Mehta agreed to consider drafting new regulations or even legislation to address the concern raised by the court about OTT platforms.

The court recorded in its order that the new rules notified days ago were “more in the nature of guidelines” and there was “no effective mechanism for screening or to take appropriate action” against violators.

The court said the assurance given by Mr. Mehta to it that the government would consider taking “appropriate steps” for any “further regulations/legislation” as seen as fit. The Bench ordered that the regulations/legislation, once done, should be placed before the court.

During the hearing, Amazon, represented by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, complained about an oral remark made by Justice Bhushan that some films featured on OTT platforms had pornographic content. Mr. Rohatgi said the remark had been picked up by the media and bandied about. “Amazon does not show pornography,” he said.

‘No pornography’

Mr. Mehta intervened to say that Justice Bhushan did not mean “pornography” literally but meant that some content was “almost pornographic”.

“But Mr. Mehta, I can show you 10,000 movies on Amazon, there is no pornography in any of them. I myself watch these movies in the evenings… These are great movies,” Mr. Rohatgi exclaimed.

The court issued notice on her plea for bail and directed that the police should not arrest her as long as she cooperates with the investigation. Ms. Purohit had approached the top court against the Allahabad High Court decision to deny her anticipatory bail.

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Pochampally rainbow woven into six yards #GS1 #Culture

Boga Balaiah, a traditional handloom weaver from Pochampally village in Telangana’s Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district, has put the colour wheel to shame with his effort in creating a sari. He has woven magic with an amazing 121 hues and an equal number of motifs to embellish the sari he has created after two years of strenuous work.

Mercerised sari

With the Ikat-dyed mercerised cotton sari, which holds one motif in each box of separate shade as part of the design, Mr. Balaiah is aiming for a national award from the Ministry of Textiles. The 61-year-old says it had been his dream for 10 years to create such a sari with so many colour shades and motifs.

He used 11 eco-friendly colours each in warp and weft, namely, green, golden yellow, blue, brown, parrot green, grey, orange, Ananda (a shade in blue), lemon yellow and Rani Pink (fuchsia), which gave the sari its 121 shades.

Five stages

A single white thread separates every two shades at regular intervals. In addition, he dyed the yarn in five stages with 11 colours each time, to get all the 121 shades in the 1.5 inch border with temple design. The ‘ pallu ’ has 11 shades, also with the temple design.

Aiming to weave 16 saris of this kind, he has completed two so far. Balaiah, who had inherited his profession from his father, had woven a sari with 1400 hues earlier. He says he wishes to bring national award to Pochampally, which is well known across the country for its Ikat saris and dresses.

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‘Disengagement key for progress in ties’ #GS2 #IR

India expects China to work with it to ensure complete disengagement “at the earliest” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which was key to restoring the relationship.

The Foreign Ministers of both countries, S. Jaishankar and Wang Yi, in a phone call on February 25 reviewed the status of disengagement, which has been completed on the north and south banks of Pangong lake and is in progress in other areas along the LAC. Both Ministers also agreed to establish a hotline.

It was India’s “expectation that the Chinese side will work with us, both through the WMCC [Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on border affairs] and Senior Commanders’ meetings, to ensure that disengagement in the remaining areas is completed at the earliest. 

This would allow both sides to consider de-escalation of forces in Eastern Ladakh as that alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquillity and provide conditions for progress in our bilateral relationship.

Since the meeting, there has been no official word so far on the progress of disengagement in the Gogra-Hot Springs area and in Demchok. There are also long-persisting tensions involving the blocking of patrols in the Depsang plains, which Indian officials have said predated the current crisis.

India’s Ambassador to China Vikram Misri conveyed a similar message in Beijing to Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui, emphasising that “maintaining peace and tranquillity in border areas had always been the basis for development of bilateral relations.” He also raised “outstanding consular issues pertaining to Indian nationals.

A MEA statement after the phone call noted India’s view that restoring normalcy to the broader relationship would first require complete disengagement and then de-escalation. Troops on both sides remain present in large numbers in depth areas and have not yet returned to their normal positions in peacetime. 

“It was necessary to disengage at all friction points in order to contemplate de-escalation of forces in this sector. “That alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquillity and provide conditions for progress of our bilateral relationship.”

China’s position

China has conveyed a different position on restoration of ties, and called on India to put the border dispute in a “proper” position. “While that the two countries have boundary disputes is an objective fact, which should be taken seriously, it is not the whole of China-India relations, and it should be put at a proper place in the overall bilateral relations. It added that “there has been some wavering and backpedalling in India’s China policy” because of which “practical cooperation between the two countries has been affected.”

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Farm laws an internal matter of India: envoy #GS2 #IR

Maintaining that the new agricultural laws are an “internal matter” of India, new U.K. High Commissioner to India Alexander Ellis said the debate in the British House of Commons set for Monday was part of issues linked to India that were quite “regularly debated” there.

“Things that happen in India have ripples in the U.K., partly because you do have such a big community in the U.K. So these things get debated,” Mr. Ellis told journalists, explaining that the farm laws and the protests were being discussed as a result of a petition that crossed 1,00,000 signatures, even though the U.K. government’s position was that the issue was an internal one for the Modi government to resolve in India.

“As the Indian diaspora grows and becomes more successful in many countries in the world, you’re going to see more of this …. as India grows, becomes more international and ever more significant in the world, there will be more debate about the government’s views,” Mr. Ellis said, but would not confirm whether the parliament debate had been raised by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar during his call with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Wednesday.

MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said Indian missions in the U.K. had engaged the government, civil society and others about the agricultural laws adopted in India last August, and had also given them information on the talks with various farmers’ unions currently protesting at Delhi’s borders.

During the Foreign Minister’s call, both leaders also spoke about the U.K.’s upcoming “strategic review” on its Indo-Pacific policy as well as preparations ahead of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit, that is expected in the “coming months. 

One of the highlights of the visit is the possible beginning of India-U.K. Free Trade agreement negotiations, which Mr. Johnson is understood to be keen to announce post-Brexit, even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to Portugal in May for an EU-India summit. 

Mr. Johnson’s earlier planned visit for Republic Day in January had to be put off due to a rise in coronavirus cases in the U.K., and he will also receive Mr. Modi in June as India is a special invitee along with Australia and South Korea to the G-7 summit of the world’s biggest economies.

Mr. Ellis said he hoped for a “swift resolution” of the dispute between the Indian government and British company Cairn Energy that won an arbitration settlement of $1.2 billion from India. Cairn Energy executives met with Finance Ministry officials last month, but there has been no visible movement on the dispute, and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman indicated on Friday that the government would appeal the arbitration verdict.

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Rise in COVID-19 cases in six States, says Health Ministry #GS3 #SnT

No new COVID-19 fatalities have been reported in 18 States and Union Territories in the 24 hours up to 8 a.m. on Friday but Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have seen a steep rise in new cases during that time.

Maharashtra saw the highest number of casualties (60), followed by Punjab with 15 fatalities. Kerala reported 14 deaths. The Ministry said the six States reported high number of new cases. It said 84.44% of the new cases reported in the 24 hours (16,838) were from these States.

“Maharashtra continues to report the highest daily new cases at 8,998, followed by Kerala with 2,616 while Punjab reported 1,071 new cases. India’s total active case load stands at 1.76 lakh [1,76,319]. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have shown a reduction in the active cases in the last 24 hours.

Twenty States/Union Territories have less than 1,000 active cases while Arunachal Pradesh reported only 2 active cases. The cumulative doses of COVID19 vaccine administered in the country crossed 1.90 crore on Friday, the release said. A total of 10,34,672 vaccine doses were given.

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Nirmala dismisses report on human rights issues #GS2 #Governance

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman lashed out at the U.S. think tank Freedom House — which has downgraded India’s status from “free” to “partly free” — accusing the body of not even getting the “Indian map” correct. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry on behalf of the government also issued a statement calling the report “misleading, incorrect and misplaced”.

Speaking to reporters at an interaction in Indian Women’s Press Corps on Friday, Ms. Sitharaman said, “I am concerned about a group which does not get the Indian map correct. And this body as per its website says it is an independent body. 

It doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand what is the sovereign territorial map of India and in a country as diverse as India they have gone into freedom of religion and everything,” she said.

“How do I take you seriously on matters which are so intrinsic to a multi-diverse country, where religions of ancient days have lived together for centuries without any kind of cleansing. Get my map straight and then get your act to talk about my country and its freedoms,” Ms. Sitharaman said.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, in a statement said, that the think tanks’s “Democracy under siege” is misleading, incorrect and misplaced. The statement pointed out that there are many States, which have non-BJP governments, elected through a free and fair process.

Technology for air-to-air missiles tested #GS3 #SnT

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Friday successfully carried out a flight demonstration based on Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) technology from Integrated Test Range (ITR) Chandipur off the coast of Odisha.

“Successful demonstration of SFDR technology has provided DRDO with a technological advantage, which will enable it to develop long range air-to-air missiles. “At present, such technology is available only with a handful of countries in the world.”

Stating that all the subsystems, including the booster motor and nozzle-less motor, performed as expected during the test, DRDO stated that many new technologies were proven, including SFDR technology.

During the test, air launch scenario was simulated using a booster motor and subsequently, the nozzle-less booster accelerated it to the required Mach number for Ramjet operation. The performance of the missile was monitored using the data captured by electro optical, radar and telemetry instruments.

Separately, the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE), Kolkata, carried out keel laying for the third stealth frigate for the Navy under Project-17A.

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India reaffirms Lanka defence ties #GS2 #IR

With the participation of the Indian Air Force Chief and 23 aircraft in the three-day event in Colombo to mark the 70th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), India sought to reaffirm its strong defence cooperation with Sri Lanka. The last time Indian aircraft took part in such an event was in 2001, on the occasion of the SLAF’s 50th year, according to Captain Vikas Sood, Defence Adviser at the Indian High Commission.

A team of 4 Sarang Advance Light Helicopters, Surya Kiran (Hawks), Tejas Fighter Aircraft, Tejas Trainer and the Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft from India were in Sri Lanka this week, to participate in a fly past and acrobatic display event with the SLAF, held by Colombo’s seafront.

During Sri Lanka’s over three decade-civil war, India has played a crucial role, politically and at times, using its military. While the controversial Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) presence here, and ‘Operation Poomalai’ of 1987 — when the Indian Air Force dropped food supplies in Jaffna — drew criticism from sections, the Indian military’s “support” has been repeatedly acknowledged by Sri Lanka’s national leaders.

In Sri Lanka’s post-war era, Indo-Lanka military partnership has focused mostly on training and capacity building. According to Captain Sood, about 1,200 Sri Lankan military personnel are trained in India every year. That is about 50% of the total training we offer, and shows the priority we accord to Sri Lanka, adding that Sri Lanka had “huge potential” to contribute to regional security.

Fire-fighting operation

Last year, Indian Navy and Coast Guard personnel helped the Sri Lankan Navy in a crucial fire-fighting operation, when an oil tanker went up in flames, off the island’s east coast. Further, Sri Lanka’s strategic location makes it a crucial partner for all countries in the region. Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan was also in Sri Lanka to attend the 70th year celebrations. 

This visit signifies the strong bond and friendship between the two countries and their Armed Forces. Over the years, Sri Lanka is known to have maintained strong military ties with several partners in the region and beyond.

Domestically, its defence sector is accorded high priority by all governments. A decade after the war, Sri Lanka allocates one of the biggest chunks of its annual budget to the defence sector — an estimated LKR 23,250 million for the year 2021.

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‘OPEC+ move to hit recovery’ #GS3 #Economy

India, the world’s third-biggest oil importer, on Friday said the decision by major producers to continue with output cuts as prices move higher could threaten the consumption led-recovery in some countries.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, agreed on Thursday not to increase supply in April as they await a more substantial recovery in demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Crude prices rose after the announcement and are up 33% this year.

Brent crude futures for May on Friday rose to $67.44 a barrel, and are on track for an almost 2% gain this week. As one of the largest crude-consuming countries, India is concerned that such actions by producing countries have the potential to undermine consumption-led recovery and more so hurt consumers, especially in our price-sensitive market.

India, hit hard by the soaring oil prices, urged producers to ease output cuts and help the global economic recovery from the pandemic.

“We were really hopeful that OPEC and OPEC+ would have eased the production cuts to some degree taking into account the fragile recovery of the global economy, particularly in developing countries. Rising oil prices are posing fiscal challenges for India, where heavily-taxed retail fuel prices have touched record highs, threatening the demand-driven recovery.

India imports about 84% of its oil and relies on West Asian supplies to meet over three-fifths of its demand.

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Secrecy shrouds proposed cryptocurrency Bill: IAMAI #GS3 #Economy

There is some amount of ‘secrecy’ around the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, a new regulation expected to be cleared by the Centre soon. India has more than 10 million buyers and sellers of cryptocurrency (mostly in bitcoins) constituting 10-15% of the global user base.

Many entrepreneurs have already built their businesses around cryptocurrency and also hundreds of techies are deployed in building the required software platforms and trading infrastructure for crypto exchanges.

If the government has plans to ban crypto, why does it require a bill when it can be done through an executive order. “There are hundreds of software developers working on blockchain projects in India using crypto. “Besides, there are skilled graduates from technology institutes supported by well-known venture capital funds who are in the space.

Benefit of the NewsCryptocurrency,%27A%20ban%20may%20hit%20hundreds%20of%20techies%2C%20crypto%20entrepreneurs%27,of%20India%20(IAMAI)%20said.

The Simlipal forest fire, and why it is a matter of concern #GS3 #Environment

The Simlipal forest reserve area frequently witnesses forest fires during dry weather conditions. A fire which started in the biosphere reserve area in February and has been raging for nearly a week now, was finally brought under control.

What is the Simlipal Biosphere reserve?

Similipal, which derives its name from ‘Simul’ (silk cotton) tree, is a national park and a tiger reserve situated in the northern part of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. Similipal and the adjoining areas, comprising 5,569 sq km, was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India on June 22, 1994, and lies in the eastern end of the eastern ghat.

Similipal is the abode of 94 species of orchids and about 3,000 species of plants. The identified species of fauna include 12 species of amphibians, 29 species of reptiles, 264 species of birds and 42 species of mammals, all of which collectively highlight the biodiversity richness of Similipal. Sal is a dominant tree species.

How intense was the fire?

According to the Regional Conservator of Forests Simlipal, Maloth Mohan, a total of 399 fire points have been identified in the fringe areas bordering the forest, close to the villages. “All of them have been attended to, and the fire is now brought under control,” he said.

A total of 399 fire points have been identified in the fringe areas bordering the forest.

How fire prone is Simlipal forest?

Generally, with the onset of summers and towards the end of autumn, the forest area remains vulnerable to forest fires. They are a recurrent annual phenomenon, but are also brought under control due to short span of precipitation. The months of January and February witness rainfall of 10.8 and 21 mm, respectively. The last incident of a major forest fire was reported in 2015.

This duration coincides with the shedding of deciduous forests in the forest areas. The fallen leaves are more vulnerable to catching fire and facilitate the spreading of these forest fires quickly over the entire forest area.

What causes the fire in Simlipal?

Natural causes such as lighting or even soaring temperatures can sometimes result in these fires, but forest officials and activists say most of the fires can be attributed to man-made factors. With dried leaves and tree trunks, even a spark can lead to a raging fire.

Secondly, jungle areas are also set on fire by villagers to clear the dry leaves on the ground for easy collection of mahua flowers. These flowers are used to prepare a drink which is addictive in nature.

Villagers also believe burning patches of sal trees will lead to better growth when planted again. The transition zone of the reserve has 1,200 villages with a total population of about 4.5 lakh. Tribals constitute about 73 per cent of the population.

This year, along with man-made factors, an advanced heat wave with the early onset of summer further deteriorated the condition.

How are these forest fires controlled and prevented?

Such fires are generally brought under control by natural rains. Forecasting fire-prone days and including community members to mitigate incidents of fire, creating fire lines, clearing sites of dried biomass, and crackdown on poachers are some of the methods to prevent fires. The forest fire lines which are strips kept clear of vegetation, help break the forest into compartments to prevent fires from spreading.

This year, the forest department intensified its mitigation measures and formed a squad each for 21 ranges across the five divisions to closely monitor the situation. 1,000 personnel, 250 forest guards were pressed into action. 40 fire tenders and 240 blower machines were used to contain the blaze. Awareness programmes are also being initiated at a community level to prevent such incidents.