Current Affairs 14th March

Over 60% of active COVID-19 cases recorded in Maharashtra #GS3 #SnT

India recorded 24,882 fresh COVID-19 infections, the highest so far this year. This is also the highest daily rise in the last 83 days. As many as 26,624 new infections were recorded on December 20 last year.

Maharashtra continues to account for over 60% (63.57%) of the active COVID-19 cases with Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh constituting 87.72% of the new cases in the 24 hours till 8 a.m. on Saturday, according to the Health Ministry. The active caseload stands at 2.02 lakh (2,02,022) on Saturday, which is 1.78% of the positive cases, while the country registered 24,882 new cases in the last 24 hours.

“Eight States — Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka and Haryana — are displaying an upward trajectory in daily new cases. On the other hand, 20 States/UTs, including Goa, Bihar, Sikkim and Tripura, have less than 1,000 active cases,” the Health Ministry said. It said 140 deaths had been reported, with five States accounting for 81.43% of them. Maharashtra saw the highest casualties (56), followed by Punjab (34) and Kerala (14).

The cumulative recoveries stand at 1,09,73,260 and the national recovery rate is 96.82%. The gap between recovered and active cases is constantly rising and stands at 1,07,71,238. In the last 24 hours, India registered 19,957 recoveries, 86.43% of them concentrated in six States, with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of single day recoveries at 11,344.

“No mask, no flight,” say tough, new DGCA rules #GS3 #Economy

Passengers refusing to wear masks properly or follow social distancing norms during a flight despite repeated warnings could be put on a no-fly list for a period of three months to two years or more, according to an order issued by aviation safety regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The DGCA also said if a passenger refuses to comply with the instructions before a flight takes off, he or she should be deboarded. The strict instructions follow a Delhi High Court order after a judge noticed blatant disregard for COVID-19 safety protocols during a flight.

“In case any passenger on board refuses to wear a mask or violates the COVID-19 protocol even after repeated warnings, such passenger may be treated as ‘unruly passenger’ and the procedure in respect of handling such unruly passenger as provided in CAR (civil aviation requirements) shall be followed by the concerned airline.

The CAR on unruly passengers provides for an offender to be put on a no-fly list for varying periods — three months for verbal abuse, six months for physical assault and two years or more for life threatening behaviour. 

The internal committee constituted by an airline to look into the incident will decide which category the offence falls,” a senior official of the DGCA said. If a passenger is found violating the protocols before boarding a flight, then the DGCA order requires that airport staff hand them over to security personnel after sufficient warnings.

Gregarious bamboo flowering in Wayanad poses threat #GS3 #Environment

The “gregarious flowering of bamboo” inside the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) and the nearby Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and Gudalur forest division in Tamil Nadu this year may pose a threat to wildlife in the Nilgiri biosphere, a major tiger and elephant habitat.

The bamboo groves in the Wayanad forest are the mainstay of herbivores in the Nilgiri biosphere during summer. With the advent of the season, migration of wild animals starts from the adjacent sanctuaries in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to Wayanad due to shortage of fodder and water.

May affect migration

The gregarious flowering may adversely affect migration, especially by elephants, wild gaur, and other lower herbivores owing to the mass destruction of bamboo groves after the flowering. Bamboo groves, which grow in more than 500 hectares of the 344.44 sq km of the sanctuary, have fully bloomed, a phenomenon said to occur once in the life cycle of bamboo plants.

Moreover, pointing to a threat to wildlife as well as the ecology of the Nilgiri biosphere, it is reported that over 25% of bamboo groves in the WWS and nearby sanctuaries have bloomed since 2010, and the phenomenon is continuing.

Thorny bamboo ( Bamboosa bambos ) is a monocarpic (flowering only once) plant belonging to the Poaceae family (grass family), and its flowering cycle varies from 40 to 60 years. Profuse natural regeneration occurs from seeds after gregarious flowering. Seeds have no dormancy, and it helps germination under favourable conditions soon after seed fall.

Protection from fire

But protection from fire and grazing is essential for proper establishment of seedlings, he observed. Fire incidents have been comparatively low in the sanctuary for the past five years owing to summer rain and conservation measures implemented by the Forest Department.

Modi, Gotabaya speak ahead of Geneva vote #GS2 #IR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reviewed “topical developments” during a telephone call, just over a week before a crucial vote on Sri Lanka at the U.N. Human Rights Council, where Colombo has sought New Delhi’s support.

The call, initiated by the Sri Lankan side according to officials sources, assumes significance amid strained bilateral ties, following Colombo’s recent policy choices on key infrastructure projects, including a decision to boot India out of a Colombo Port terminal project and an approval for a Chinese energy project on the northern islands, close to the Tamil Nadu coast.

New Delhi conveyed its displeasure on both moves. Colombo has subsequently offered an alternative terminal project and is negotiating with the Adani Group.

The leaders reviewed topical developments and the ongoing cooperation between both countries in bilateral and multilateral forums. They agreed to maintain regular contact between relevant officials, including in the context of the continuing COVID-19 challenges,” and added that Mr. Modi “reiterated the importance of Sri Lanka” to India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.

As the Human Rights Council prepares to vote on a resolution on Sri Lanka’s rights record later this month, the Rajapaksa administration is counting on friends and neighbours, who are currently members of the Council, to back it.

President Rajapaksa earlier wrote to Mr. Modi, among other leaders, seeking a favourable vote. Reiterating Colombo’s expectation, Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage told The Hindu in a recent interview that “India cannot abandon us.”

Crucial role

It is widely predicted that India might abstain, given its own principle against country-specific resolutions and growing geopolitical concerns in the strategic island nation. All the same, those familiar with the Geneva process observe that India could still play a crucial role in last-minute negotiations among members of the council, and potentially tip the scales.

Intervening in an interactive dialogue in February on the report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights noting that Sri Lanka is “on alarming path towards recurrence of grave human rights violations”, India’s Permanent Representative in Geneva made an unambiguous call to respect the rights of the Tamil community. 

We believe that respecting the rights of the Tamil community, including through meaningful devolution, contributes directly to the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka. China, which is also currently a member of the 47-member council, has assured Sri Lanka of its support.

Economic assistance

Irrespective of how the Geneva vote goes, Colombo is faced with a major economic challenge, as it prepares to repay over $4 billion of its outstanding debt by next year. While Thursday’s media release said Mr. Modi and Mr. Rajapaksa discussed COVID-19 challenges — Sri Lanka’s first consignment of vaccines was a gift from India — it made no specific mention of economic assistance from India.

During his last call with Mr. Modi in May 2020, President Rajapaksa sought an additional $1-billion currency swap facility — the RBI extended $400 million — to boost the foreign reserves that are under enormous strain since the pandemic struck. India is yet to respond.

Earlier this week, Sri Lanka said China approved a 10 billion yuan ($1.54 billion) currency swap. In March last year, China granted an ‘urgent’ $500 million loan to Sri Lanka to cope with the economic stress of the novel coronavirus.

Mizoram group demands sanctions on Myanmar #GS2 #Governance

A Mizoram-based group representing the Zo indigenous people of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar has petitioned President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose sanctions on military-ruled Myanmar.

The Zo Reunification Organisation (ZORO) comprising the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi group of people has also asked the Centre not to turn away the Myanmar nationals who crossed over to escape the military regime and provide them shelter on humanitarian grounds.

Their letters to the President and Prime Minister were submitted through Mizoram Governor P.S. Sreedharan Pillai on March 12, two days after the Minister of Home Affairs asked the paramilitary Assam Rifles and four north-eastern States bordering Myanmar to check “illegal influx” into India.

Ethnically related

These four States – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram – share a 1,643 km border with Myanmar and people on either side are ethnically related. The Mizo people of Mizoram and the Kuki-Zomi communities in Manipur have a strong kinship with the Chins across the border.

The ZORO sought Delhi’s help for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar and immediate release of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President U. Wint Myint and other leaders of the National League for Democracy, who have been detained after the military junta seized control of an elected Myanmar government on February 1.

The organisation said India should take the lead in solving the current political crisis in Myanmar by imposing sanctions on the military junta for human rights violations. “We request you to take up the matter on a war footing to save innocent lives and in the best interest of supporting democracy in line with the international community,” it said in the letters.

Porous border

Six Mizoram districts – Champhai, Lawngtlai, Siaha, Saitual, Hnahthial and Serchhip – share a 404-km-long porous border with Myanmar’s Chin State. At least 100 people, including deserters of the Myanmar police and fire service department, have taken shelter in the border areas of Mizoram.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga had earlier announced that his government would provide shelter and other relief to the Myanmar refugees on humanitarian grounds. While some refugees are being provided with food and shelter by the district administration, several others have been reportedly accommodated by the locals in border villages.

Reaffirm 1991 Act on places of worship’ #GS2 #Governance

The CPI(M) Polit Bureau called the Supreme Court notice to the government seeking a response on the PIL petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay challenging the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991, “unfortunate”.

The Act mandates that the character of all religious places of worship should be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947, and no suit or proceedings shall lie in a court of law with respect to the character of places of worship.

This effectively barred courts from entertaining cases which raise disputes over places of worship that existed as of August 15, 1947. While invoking this exemption, the Supreme Court in the 2019 Ayodhya verdict reaffirmed that similar such cases cannot be entertained with respect to other sites in view of this Act.

“The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) reaffirms that the grounds on which this law was enacted need not be re-examined. The Central government must respond to the Supreme Court, seeking its views, in a firm affirmation of the Places of Worship Act, 1991,” the party said in a statement here.

While there was no official response from the Congress, Rajya Sabha member and senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi in a tweet said the notice by the Supreme Court to the government was merely a “ prima facie view”.

Adding a note of caution, he said this notice should not lead to “reopening of closed issues” and “scraping of old wounds”.

Pollution linked to virus spread: Vardhan #GS3 #Environment

There is emerging evidence to suggest that exposure to ambient air pollutants, especially PM2.5 and NO2, contribute to the spread and virulence of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Furthermore, ambient air pollution is a known risk factor for multiple adverse health outcomes, including chronic cardio-respiratory morbidities, and the presence of said morbidities renders the affected population more vulnerable to COVID-19.

To worsen matters, he added, closed indoor spaces provide ideal environments for viral transmission due to the lack of ventilation preventing the dilution of viral particles, and the absence of ultraviolet rays which can potentially inactivate the virus.

Speaking about the challenges before NIREH, Dr. Vardhan said the World Health Organization (WHO) had reported in 2018 that over 91% of the global population resides in areas where ambient air pollution levels exceed the normal limits prescribed by the WHO, resulting in around 4.2 million annual deaths.

Water pollution

He further explained that the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health estimated that 1.8 million deaths worldwide are related to “water” (mainly microbiological contamination) and 0.5 million deaths occur due to chemical pollution of water and soil by heavy metals and other man-made chemicals.

“Another major source of water pollution that is yet to be appropriately quantified is plastic debris. It has become an important environmental problem because of its ubiquitous prevalence, persistence, accumulation in aquatic food chains, and adverse effects on aquatic organisms and potentially to human health.

He added that the emission of huge quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere is the main cause of climate change. “Thus, research, especially targeted at estimating the burden of pollution/climate change and consequent health effects, is essential to design and implement suitable intervention strategies that will enable the achievement of the sustainable development goals of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme.

Relooking the Mandal verdict and quota cap #GS2 #Governance

The story so far: The Supreme Court, while considering the validity of the reservation for the Maratha community in Maharashtra on Monday, decided that it will hear all the States on the 50% limit on total reservation imposed by the court in the Indra Sawhney case (1992). This is because the 16% quota for Marathas would take the total reservation in Maharashtra beyond the limit of 50%. 

Over the years, several other States, including Tamil Nadu, have passed laws that allow reservation going beyond 60%. The court is also keen on hearing the views of the States on the 102nd Amendment of the Constitution, by which the National Commission for Backward Classes was given constitutional status.

What are the quota-related issues on which the SC wants States’ views?

The five-member Constitution Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan wants to decide whether the judgment in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India , known as the Mandal verdict, needs to be referred to a larger Bench or “requires a relook in the light of subsequent Constitutional amendments, judgments and changed social dynamics of society, etc.” 

This is because the earlier judgment had declared that reservation cannot exceed 50% in total. As Indra Sawhney was a decision by a nine-member Bench, a Bench of at least 11 judges will be needed to reconsider the question.

Also, the court wants to consider whether the reservation for Marathas effected through a 2018 Act (the Socially Economically Backward Class Act), and amended in 2019, is covered by the “exceptional circumstances” mentioned in theIndra Sawhneyjudgment, which had said the 50% limit can be exceeded in “certain extraordinary situations” as a special case. This relaxation, it said, was meant for people inhabiting remote and far-flung areas who are away from the mainstream of national life and who may have “conditions peculiar to and characteristic to them”.

The Bench will also examine whether the State government had made out a case warranting such an exception for Marathas based on the report of the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission headed by former Justice M.G. Gaikwad.

Last September, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the 2018 Maharashtra law granting reservation to Marathas in education and jobs.

Is there any other issue on the rights of States?

One of the issues that cropped up in the debate over the Maratha reservation is the effect of the 102nd Constitution Amendment introduced in 2018. This amendment grants constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes and says the President would notify the lists of backward classes for all States in consultation with the Governors. This has raised apprehensions about whether the power of State governments to make inclusions and exclusions from the list of backward classes has been taken away.

Therefore, the court has framed important questions: whether the 102nd Amendment deprives States of the power to make laws for socially and educationally backward classes and confer benefits on them, whether the newly introduced Article 342A of the Constitution abridges the State legislatures’ power to enact laws under Articles 15(4) and 16(4), which respectively deal with special provisions for other backward classes and reservation in employment, and whether all this affects the federal structure of the Constitution.

Any judgment on the Maratha reservation issue would inevitably have to deal with three issues — the 50% ceiling on total reservation, the power of States to determine who its backward classes are and confer benefits on them, and the legislative competence of State legislatures regarding backward classes after the introduction of the 102nd Amendment.

The court has decided that all States have a stake in the outcome, and therefore, it wants to hear their views.

What do past judgments say on a ceiling for quotas?

It was inM.R. Balaji vs State of Mysore(1962) that the Supreme Court first ruled that reservation, being a special provision for backward classes, should not normally exceed 50%. It held that the order earmarking 68% of seats in engineering, medical and other technical courses was a “fraud” on the Constitution. 

However, it added that it would not attempt to lay down in an inflexible manner what the proper percentage of reservation should be. “Speaking generally and in a broad way, a special provision should be less than 50%. The actual percentage must depend upon the relevant prevailing circumstances in each case,” it said.

The presumption behind the 50% rule was that equality of opportunity was the norm, and any special provision for socially and educationally backward classes or reservation for backward classes in public employment was an exception. However, in State of Kerala vs. N.M. Thomas(1975), the majority of the Bench disagreed with the proposition. 

It said the special measures in favour of backward classes in Articles 15 and 16 were not exceptions to the rule. On the contrary, these were an emphatic way of ensuring equality of opportunity — to the point of even making reservations. Justice S.M. Fazal Ali wrote that in his opinion, the 50% norm inBalajiwas only a rule of caution and does not exhaust all categories.

In Indra Sawhney , even though most judges agreed that reservation was not an exception to the equality norm, the court ultimately laid down the 50% limit. 

“Just as every power must be exercised reasonably and fairly, the power conferred by Clause (4) of Article 16 should also be exercised in a fair manner and within reasonable limit — and what is more reasonable than to say that reservation … shall not exceed 50% of the appointments or posts…?” 

Citing Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s opinion in the Constituent Assembly that reservation should be “confined to a minority of seats”, the Bench fixed the maximum permissible quota at 50%. At the same time, it said the strict rule could be relaxed in extraordinary situations given the country’s great diversity.

How will a judgment in this case impact reservation?

If the court, through a larger Bench, comes to the conclusion that the 50% ceiling is not a hard-and-fast rule and that it may be breached if a State’s backward class population is considered high, it would be a big boost for the affirmative action policies of various State governments. 

Not only would it enable the Maharashtra government to implement its quotas for Marathas to the extent of 16% reservation in education and jobs, but other States, such as Tamil Nadu, would also be able to preserve their present levels of reservations. For instance, Tamil Nadu has enacted a law to protect its 69% total reservation. 

As the Tamil Nadu law, which was subsequently included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution (by which the Act would be beyond judicial review on the ground of violation of anyone’s fundamental rights) has been separately challenged before the Supreme Court, the removal of the ceiling would be a major victory for the State.

The decisions would also have relevance to the legal challenge to the introduction of the 10% quota for the economically weaker sections among those who do not fall under any reservation category. By this move, the Centre has already exceeded the 50% limit, and at present, only 41% of seats or posts are meant for open competition in central employment and educational institutions.

Further, the Bench is also likely to decide on the question of whether backward classes should also be classified and determined only by the Centre, just as the list of Scheduled Castes is made by the Union government. As of now, only the President, or the Central government, can make modifications in the list of Scheduled Castes in respect of any State or Union Territory in the country. 

And this can be done only through a Parliamentary law. Article 342A, introduced through the 102nd Amendment, is similarly worded — it says that the President notifies the Backward Classes for each State or Union Territory in consultation with the Governor in the case of a State. It also says State governments must consult the National Commission for Backward Classes on all matters of policy concerning socially and educationally backward classes.

Retrospective laws and the Cairn tax dispute #GS3 #Economy

The story so far: In December last year, a three-member tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands ruled against India in its long-running tax dispute with the U.K.-based oil and gas company Cairn Energy Plc and a subsidiary, Cairn UK Holdings Ltd. The tribunal ordered India to pay about $1.4 billion to the company. Following this, Cairn Energy has successfully moved courts in five countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, to recognise its claim as per the arbitration award, according to PTI. 

The Netherlands, France, and Canada are the other three countries. Such a recognition by courts opens the door for Cairn Energy to seize assets of the Indian government in these jurisdictions by way of enforcing its claim, in case the latter doesn’t pay its dues.

What is the dispute about?

The dispute started in early 2014 when Indian tax authorities started questioning Cairn Energy requesting information on the group’s reorganisation in the financial year 2006-07. This escalated, and by 2015, the authorities had sent the company a draft assessment order, assessing in the process that there was a principal tax amount of $1.6 billion that was due.

The year in reference, 2006-07, was one in which big corporate changes and developments took place in Cairn Energy. It was the year in which it not only undertook a corporate reorganisation, but also floated an Indian subsidiary, Cairn India, which in early 2007 got listed on the Indian bourses. 

Through the corporate reorganisation process, Cairn Energy had transferred all of its India assets, which were until then held by nine subsidiaries in various countries, to the newly-formed Cairn India.

But the tax authorities claimed that in the process of this reorganisation, Cairn Energy had made capital gains worth Rs. 24,500 crore. This, the department asserted, was the basis of the tax demand.

In 2011, the U.K.-based Vedanta Resources bought a nearly 60% stake in Cairn India. In fact, four years after this, Cairn India received a tax notice for not withholding tax for the gains ascribed to its former parent company.

Is this case similar to Vodafone’s battle with the government of India?

The Vodafone case in 2007 was triggered by Hong Kong’s Hutchinson Telecommunications’ sale of its stake in India’s Hutchinson Essar to Vodafone International Holdings, based out of the Netherlands. The Hong Kong firm made a capital gain on this, which the Indian tax authorities deemed fit to tax. 

They held that Vodafone should have withheld the tax, and therefore imposed a liability on it. The Supreme Court quashed the taxman’s demand, concluding that it did not agree that the sale of shares in this case “would amount to transfer of a capital asset within the meaning of Section 2(14) of the Indian Income Tax Act”.

In the Union Budget of 2012, the Income Tax Act, 1961 was amended to make sure that even if a transfer of shares takes place outside India, such a transfer can be taxed if the value of those shares is based on assets in India. And this was applied retrospectively. The action against Cairn Energy was based on this move. India lost its arbitration case against Vodafone as well, with the government being asked to fork out aroundRs. 80 crore.

What happened after the tax claims in the Cairn Energy dispute?

After receiving a draft assessment order from the tax authorities, Cairn UK Holdings Ltd. appealed before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. The tribunal, while providing the company relief from back-dated interest demands, however, upheld the main tax demand.

The company had initiated proceedings of arbitration under the U.K.-India bilateral investment treaty. But during this time, according to a PTI report, “the government sold Cairn’s almost 5% holding in Vedanta Ltd” (the residual stake the firm owned after selling Cairn India), “seized dividends totalling Rs. 1,140 crore due to it from those shareholdings”, and “set off a Rs. 1,590-crore tax refund against the demand”.

What was the main argument of Cairn Energy during the arbitration?

The claimants, Cairn Energy and Cairn UK Holdings, argued that till the amendment was made to tax retrospectively in 2012, there was no tax on indirect transfers (transfer by a non-resident of shares in non-Indian companies which indirectly held assets in India). They also said the government had approved the 2006 reorganisation. The application of the 2012 amendments, they alleged, constituted “manifest breaches” of the U.K.-India bilateral investment treaty.

What was India’s defence during the arbitration?

India’s counter to the main charge of Cairn Energy was that its 2006 transactions were taxable irrespective of the 2012 amendments.

It argued that “Indian law has long permitted taxation where a transaction has a strong economic nexus with India”. It said even if it is retrospective, it is “valid and binding applying the longstanding constitutional, legislative and legal framework in which the claimants have invested”.

What did the arbitration tribunal rule?

The tribunal said the tax demand violated the U.K.-India bilateral investment treaty. The tribunal said India “failed to accord Cairn Energy’s investments fair and equitable treatment” under the bilateral protection pact it had with the United Kingdom.

It also ordered India to compensate Cairn Energy and its subsidiary for “the total harm suffered” as a result of the breaches of the treaty.

What next?

It has been reported in the media that India will appeal against the tribunal’s decision.

‘Focus on growth than inflation’ #GS3 #Economy

Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Krishnamurthy Subramanian said on Saturday that the country requires growth at this juncture, even with economic trade-offs, as it aspires to increase its dominance and self- reliance in the global economy.

Dr. Subramanian’s comment comes ahead of the revision of policy framework and inflation targets for the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) headed by the RBI Governor by March 31.

Inflation target review

It would be the first review for the Reserve Bank of India since it was tasked with a mandated inflation target of 4% with a 2% deviation in either direction in June 2016, when it adopted a flexible inflation targeting model.

“At this juncture we must focus on growth and when it comes to pressures for trade-offs, we must be leaning on growth,” Dr. Subramanian said at a virtual annual regional meeting of the CII, Eastern Region.

‘Shun profiteering’

Speaking about realising ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, the CEA said the private sector had to get back to “Shubh Labh” (ethical profit) and refrain from profiteering.

He gave examples from healthcare studies for Auyushman Bharat where it was found that the rates of the private sector hospitals were 6-7 times higher than those run by the government and that readmission rates in them were also higher.

Dr. Subramanian also called for a change in the mindset on how to increase the pie of government taxes instead of seeking its reduction across sectors.

He said the cycle of private sector investment would begin though there was a lag and to support it, government spending in capex was necessary. The government had already begun it and it would trigger private investment, the CEA added.

Draft e-com policy moots safeguards against data misuse #GS3 #Economy

The government plans to lay down principles for usage of data for the development of any industry, where such norms do not already exist, and put in place adequate safeguards to prevent misuse and access of data by unauthorised persons, according to a draft national e-commerce policy.

The government is in the process of developing regulations for personal and non-personal data, the policy. The draft stated that sharing of data for industrial development would be encouraged and regulations for data would be provided for the sharing mechanism.

According to the draft, the government acknowledges the importance of data as an asset and needs to use data emanating from India for ‘Indian entities first’. An inter-ministerial meeting, under the chairmanship of a top official of the department for promotion of industry and internal trade, was held on Saturday to deliberate upon this draft.

For free and informed choice, it said that e-commerce operators would have to ensure that algorithms used by them were not biased and that no discrimination due to digitally induced biases was prevalent.

“Consumers have a right to be made aware of all relevant details about the goods and services offered for sale including country of origin, value addition in India, and any other such information which may be necessary for making an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage,”

Bitcoin hits $60,000 in record high #GS3 #Economy

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, on Saturday crossed a record high of $60,000. Bitcoin has risen sharply this year, broadly outperforming conventional asset classes, partly due to broader acceptance as a form of payment.

Raising money

In recent weeks, companies have taken advantage of its strength to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, capitalising on improved market sentiment.

A $1.5-billion bitcoin bet last month by Tesla saw Elon Musk’s electric car company join business software firm MicroStrategy and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey’s payments company Square in swapping some traditional cash reserves for the digital coin.

Coinbase, the biggest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, filed last month for a Nasdaq listing. Regulatory approval would represent a landmark victory for cryptocurrency advocates seeking mainstream endorsement.

Amid rising customer demand to own and invest in bitcoin, Goldman Sachs Group said it is exploring how to serve those clients while remaining on the right side of regulation. It recently restarted a cryptocurrency trading desk and this month it started dealing bitcoin futures and non-deliverable forwards.