Current Affairs 5th March

OTT platforms will not have to register: Centre #GS2 #Governance

The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has clarified that over-the-top (OTT) platforms will not have to register with the government, and no government nominee will be present in the self-regulatory body.

The statement said that during the interaction, Mr. Javadekar said the Ministry was open to any clarification or queries from the industry. “The Minister said it merely requires them to disclose information and that there is no requirement of registration of any kind with the Ministry.

The statement, quoting Mr. Javadekar, further said, “The rules focus on self classification of content instead of any form of censorship.”

The OTT platforms, he said, were expected to develop an effective grievance redressal mechanism to tackle complaints raised about the content on these platforms.

“Dispelling rumours, the Minister clarified that in the self-regulating body, no member will be appointed by the government,” the statement said. He informed the industry representatives that under the rules, the government would create an inter-departmental committee to look at complaints that remain unresolved at the self-regulatory level.

Content needs to be checked, says SC #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear to over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video that it is in favour of “screening” the content shown by them. It said some of the films hosted by the platforms were pornographic.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Amazon producer Aparna Purohit’s bail, said this “was not about pornography but the right to freedom of expression”. “But a balance has to be struck,” Justice Bhushan retorted. Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta said the content included “filthy abuses”.

The hearing was based on a plea by Ms. Purohit, Amazon Prime’s commercial head, against the Allahabad High Court decision to deny her pre-arrest bail in connection with the probe into Tandav , a web series hosted by the platform.

The FIR said the series ridiculed Hindu gods and the country’s political power corridors. Justice Bhushan said the court wanted to consider Ms. Purohit’s case in the light of the new guidelines notified by the government to hold social media and OTT platforms accountable for their content. The Bench asked the guidelines to be placed on record and scheduled a hearing for March 5.

IISc in top 100 list in natural sciences #GS2 #Governance

The Indian Institute of Science broke into the top 100 in the natural sciences category of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021.

With regard to subject rankings, there are two new entrants in the top 100 list: JNU’s anthropology programme and O.P. Jindal Global University’s law programme, which is also the only private institution in the list.

In the broad engineering and technology category, only three institutions made it to the top 100 — the Bombay, Delhi and Madras IITs — in comparison to five institutions last year. The Kharagpur and Kanpur IITs dropped out of the top 100 though the former is one of the government’s Institutes of Eminence (IoEs).

The Bombay, Delhi and Madras IITs, which are also IoEs getting extra Central funding with the specific aim of rising in global rankings, have all dropped several places this year as well.

DU falls 48 places

In the other two broad categories, the University of Delhi was the highest ranked Indian institution in social sciences and management, but fell 48 places to drop out of the top 200. The All-India Institute of Medical Sciences remained the only institution in the top 300 in life sciences and medicine, but also dropped more than 10 places.

Overall, 25 Indian programmes from 12 institutions made it to the top 100 in their specific subject areas, two fewer than in 2020. Two programmes from the IIT Bombay and one each from the the Madras and Kharagpur IITs slipped out of the list. Only two of the IoE programmes in the top 100 subject-specific list improved their rankings this year.

The top-ranked Indian programme globally is the IIT Madras petroleum engineering programme which dropped one place to the 30th rank, followed by mineral and mining engineering at Bombay and Kharagpur IITs, which are ranked at 41st and 44th place in their field. The University of Delhi’s development studies programme is the only other one in the top 50, sliding in at the 50th rank.

GoM suggests steps to stem ‘negative narrative’ #GS2 #Governance

In an effort to “neutralise” what it calls a “negative narrative”, a Group of Ministers (GoM), formed to fine-tune “government communication”, has come out with suggestions to track “50 negative and 50 positive influencers” on social media, “neutralise the people who are writing against the government without facts and set[ting] false narratives/spread[ing] fake news” and so on.

It also emerges that the decisions on capping FDI (foreign direct investment) at 26% for digital news media and the new IT rules that have a separate section dealing with code of ethics for Over The Top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix were a result of the GoM’s deliberations. The FDI cap was essential, the GoM felt, to constrict the foreign influence on Indian media.

Mr. Prasad suggested, “A list of media personnel and prominent persons, who are pro our line of thought — both nationally and globally, should be prepared. Few eminent academicians, Vice Chancellors, retired Indian Foreign Service officers etc, should be identified who can write our achievements and project our viewpoint.”

Ms. Irani, who held the I&B portfolio in the previous Modi government, recommended, “We should track 50 negative and 50 positive influencers.” The suggestion has been accepted by the GoM and the I&B Ministry has been given charge to implement it.

Mr. Javadekar felt that the government overall should learn from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to communicate with the common man. On the negative narrative, he said, “The narrative is fuelled by around 20-30 people. The lines keep changing many times on a single day.”

‘Direct action’

Mr. Naqvi suggested direct action against those writing against the government. “We should have a strategy to neutralise the people who are writing against the government without facts and set[ting] false narratives / spread[ing] fake news,” he had advised.

The action points recommended by the GoM include enlarging the Prasar Bharati News Service into a “mainline news agency”. The agreed long-term strategies include “coordination with schools of journalism as present students are the future journalists”.

Mr. Puri told the GoM that the journalists who were supportive of the government, even if unemployed now, should be roped in. The report says this suggestion would also be acted upon. Mr. Thakur wanted the BJP and the Modi government to reach out to right-wing parties across the world to arrive at a common ground.

Bengaluru, Shimla ‘most liveable’ cities #GS2 #Governance

Bengaluru and Shimla were ranked as the most liveable in the categories of cities with more than and less than 1 million population respectively by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry’s Ease of Living Index.

The Ease of Living Index 2020, in which 111 cities participated during the assessment in 2020 that included citizens’ feedback, had Bengaluru at the top, followed by Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Surat, Navi Mumbai, Coimbatore, Vadodara, Indore and Greater Mumbai in the category of cities with over 1 million population. In cities with less than a million population, Shimla topped the list, followed by Bhubaneshwar, Silvassa, Kakinada, Salem, Vellore, Gandhinagar, Gurugram, Davangere and Tiruchirappalli.

The Ministry also released the Municipal Performance Index 2020, which rated 111 municipalities on their services, finance, policy, technology and governance. Indore topped the ranking of municipalities with over 1 million population, followed by Surat and Bhopal, and the New Delhi Municipal Council was the best among civic bodies with under a million population, followed by Tirupati and Gandhinagar.

At the online launch of the indices, HUA Minister Hardeep Puri said some State governments were not as serious as others about the implementation of the Smart Cities Mission. He said the special purpose vehicles in each city should be headed by the same person for the duration of the project.

India wants Chabahar port on key corridor #GS2 #IR

India wants Chabahar port to be included in the 13-nation International North South Transport Corridor that extends from India to Russia, and expand INSTC membership by including Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Pitching for Chabahar in the INSTC which goes via Iran’s biggest port Bandar Abbas, Mr. Jaishankar proposed that the land route via Kabul and Tashkent would form the INSTC’s “Eastern corridor”.

The event saw participation from several regional officials including infrastructure Ministers from Afghanistan, Armenia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan. The Port has already handled 123 vessels and 18 lakh tons of cargo, said an official statement issued after the conference, which include trans-shipments from “Russia, Brazil, Thailand, Germany, Ukraine and the UAE”.

Predicting that Chabahar will change the “geo-economy” of the region, Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammed Eslami called for assistance from India in developing the project, both through the provision of cranes and other equipment at the port as well as rail tracks, signal and switching equipment for the Chabahar-Zahedan railway project.

Credit lines

India has participated in the first phase of development of Shahid Beheshti port of Chabahar and we are now witnessing the supplying of equipment. It deems necessary for the Indian operator to facilitate the process of supplying the remaining equipment.

Fuel prices to drop if brought under GST, says SBI Research #GS3 #Economy

Bringing petrol and diesel under the GST regime could lead to a loss of as little as Rs. 1 lakh crore in annual revenue for the Centre and States while bringing pan-India prices of the fuels to Rs. 75 and Rs. 68 a litre, respectively.

With pump prices of petrol crossing the Rs. 100-per-litre mark in some States, Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das had expressed hope for a ‘calibrated and co-ordinated reduction’ in the high taxes levied by the Centre and States on fuels.

Tax revenue

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said last week that the Centre and States needed to discuss fuel taxes as they were a major source of tax revenue.

Assuming a GST rate of 28%, cess of Rs. 30 and Rs. 20 for a litre of petrol and diesel respectively (shared equally between the Centre and the States), crude oil price of $60 per barrel and a rupee-dollar exchange rate of 73, SBI Research has reckoned the Centre and States would, together, face a revenue deviation from Budget estimates of only Rs. 1 lakh crore, or 0.4% of the GDP, in FY22.

The report has adjusted for a rise in consumption if the fuel prices are reduced and assumed a 10% growth in petrol and 15% rise in diesel consumption in 2021-22.