Current Affairs 16th February

WhatsApp policy: Indians apprehensive about privacy, says CJI #GS3 #Security

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde said Indians have “grave apprehensions” about privacy from Facebook and WhatsApp. People have grave apprehensions about loss of privacy. You may be a two or three trillion company, but people value their privacy more. It is our duty to protect people’s privacy.

We are telling you what we heard and read – People think that if A sends a WhatsApp message to B and B to C. The circuit of messages is revealed to Facebook.

Companies’ denial

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the government, stated, “This is an apprehension of the nation… Privacy is part of our fundamental rights. They [WhatsApp and Facebook] cannot compromise our privacy… They cannot differentiate.”

The hearing concerned the new privacy policy introduced by WhatsApp on January 4. The allegation is that it scraps users’ ‘opt-out policy’. The user would have to, according to the policy, compulsorily consent to share their data with Facebook and its group, the petitioners have alleged. The policy deadline was February 8 initially, but it was extended to May 15.

Mr. Sibal denied allegations that WhatsApp was treating Europeans and Indians differently. “Europe has a special law [General Data Protection Regulations], India doesn’t. As soon as India has the special law, we will follow. We will follow the law of Parliament,”. The new privacy policy was applicable to the rest of the world except Europe.

Mr. Datar said the General Data Protection Regulations was followed by probably 20 countries in the world. Allegations of differential treatment being accorded to Indians were unfounded.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, for petitioner Karmanya Singh Sareen and others challenging the new privacy policy, said they were not on whether WhatsApp was encrypting messages or not. “We are on the point of sharing of meta data for profit. He urged the court to step in and ensure that no data is leaked.

Benefit of the News– Privacy concerns with recent WhatsApp policy.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-notice-to-centre-whatsapp-on-plea-alleging-lower-standards-of-privacy-for-indian-users/article33840452.ece#:~:text=Chief%20Justice%20of%20India%20(CJI,privacy%20from%20Facebook%20and%20WhatsApp.&text=It%20is%20our%20duty%20to,social%20media%2Finstant%20messaging%20giants.

With rules on geospatial data liberalised, map-making made easy #GS2 #Governance

In a move that could be critical for location-based services such as e-commerce, logistics and urban transport, the government on Monday freed public and private firms from the need to seek approval, security clearance, or licence for the collection, generation, storage and publication of geospatial data.

There were several restrictions around using geospatial data by agencies other than a few government departments. The government estimated the domestic geospatial market at ₹1-lakh crore in 2020 with an employment potential of nearly 22 lakh people.

This will liberalise the mapping industry and democratise existing datasets, a crucial requirement for achieving India’s vision to become a $5-trillion economy. There will not be any restriction on areas for mapping and surveying. Firms do not need approval for collecting geospatial data. They just need to self-certify.

Addressing a press conference, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said that in spite of being a government institution, even the Survey of India has to seek permission from the Ministries of Defence and Home, the Intelligence Bureau and others to carry out activities it was supposed to do on a regular basis. Such approvals often take several months to come, severely affecting the productivity of the institution.

Now, there is a complete deregulation with no approvals, security clearances or licences needed for acquisition and production of geospatial data for both public and private sectors. However, only Indian entities can own and store geospatial data finer than 1-metre horizontally and 3-metre vertically. Foreign entities, however, can licence such fine data, but not own them.

Benefit of the News– Ease in rule of geospatial.

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/with-rules-on-geospatial-data-liberalised-map-making-made-easy/article33844837.ece

Leatherback nesting sites could be overrun by Andamans project #GS3 #Environment

Proposals for tourism and port development in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands have conservationists worried over the fate of some of the most important nesting populations of the Giant Leatherback turtle in this part of the Indian Ocean.

The largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging, Leatherbacks are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic. Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and are also listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, according it the highest legal protection.

Surveys conducted in the A&N Islands over the past three decades have shown that the populations here could be among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally. There is concern now, however, that at least three key nesting beaches — two on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island — are under threat due to mega “development” plans announced in recent months. These include NITI Aayog’s ambitious tourism vision for Little Andaman and the proposal for a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay on Great Nicobar Island.

Little Andaman in focus

The Little Andaman plan, which proposes phased growth of tourism on this virtually untouched island, has sought the de-reservation of over 200 sq km of pristine rainforest and also of about 140 sq km of the Onge Tribal Reserve.

Two sites where key components of the tourism plan are to be implemented are both Leatherback nesting sites — South Bay along the southern coast of the island and West Bay along its western coast. South Bay is proposed to be part of the “Leisure Zone” where a film city, a residential district and a tourism special economic zone are to come up.

West Bay is to be part of West Bay Nature Retreat with theme resorts, underwater resorts, beach hotels and high-end residential villas.

The roughly 7-km-long beach at West Bay has been the site of ongoing marine turtle research projects. Set up post-2004 by the Andaman and Nicobar Environment Team (ANET), Dakshin Foundation, the Indian Institute of Science and the A&N Forest Department to monitor how turtle populations have responded after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, it has thrown up new information on turtles and their behaviour.

Not only are the numbers of females nesting here significant, satellite telemetry has revealed hitherto unknown migration patterns. Satellite-tagged female turtles have been tracked swimming up to 13,000 km after nesting on West Bay, towards the western coast of Australia and southwest towards the eastern coast of Africa. One of the tagged turtles travelled to Madagascar, covering 12,328 km in 395 days while another travelled 13,237 km in 266 days to the Mozambique coast.

Waning protection

For the Leatherback, perhaps even more important is Great Nicobar Island, the southernmost of the A&N group. Large numbers have been recorded nesting here — mainly on the long and wide beaches at the mouth of the Dagmar and Alexandira rivers on the west coast and at the mouth of the Galathea river along its south eastern coast.

Galathea Bay was, in fact, proposed as a wildlife sanctuary in 1997 for the protection of turtles and was also the site of a long-term monitoring programme. The monitoring was stopped after the tsunami devastation of 2004, but it provided the first systematic evidence of numbers and importance of these beaches.

The A&N Islands are prominent in the National Marine Turtle Action Plan released on February 1, 2021, by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The plan notes that “India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and included them in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1”.

South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman and Galathea on Great Nicobar, along with other nesting beaches in the islands, find a specific mention here as “Important Marine Turtle Habitats in India” and the largest Leatherback nesting grounds in India.

The plan identifies coastal development, including construction of ports, jetties, resorts and industries, as major threats to turtle populations. It also asks for assessments of the environmental impact of marine and coastal development that may affect marine turtle populations and their habitats.

The A&N Port Management Board had in 2019 floated an expression of interest for the container transhipment terminal here, along with that for a free trade warehousing zone, and the Prime Minister announced in August 2020 that a transhipment project would come up here on an investment of ₹10,000 crore.

The scale of the project and the investment proposed indicate it could signal the end of a crucial Giant Leatherback nesting site.

Benefit of the News– Conservation of Leatherback turtle

https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/leatherback-nesting-sites-could-be-overrun-by-andamans-project/article33845010.ece

The disengagement plan between India and China along the LAC #Gs2 #IR

Starting in April 2020, China amassed a large number of troops and armaments along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh and other areas along the 3,488 km LAC, leading to stand-offs and skirmishes at Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso (lake), Gogra-Hot Springs and other areas.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) moved into Indian territory and built fortified structures and defences, changing the status quo on the ground. While there are differences in perception on the alignment of the LAC, over the years both sides concluded a series of agreements to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border, while talks continued to resolve the dispute.

At Pangong Tso, PLA troops moved up to Finger 4 from Finger 8, and then a major clash occurred on the night of May 5, which resulted in injuries to over 70 Indian soldiers. On the north bank, India’s perception of the LAC lies at Finger 8 and the Army regularly carries out patrols till there, which were blocked as a result of the Chinese ingress.

On the night of May 9, clashes were reported at Naku La in North Sikkim. India responded by mobilising additional troops and equipment to match the Chinese build-up. Since then, several friction points emerged in eastern Ladakh and both sides initiated diplomatic and military talks aimed at disengagement and de-escalation, with India pushing for the restoration of status quo ante of pre-April.

How did earlier efforts at disengagement unfold?

India and China earlier reached an understanding for phased disengagement from all friction points followed by de-escalation from the depth areas along the LAC. It was during this initial process of disengagement that the violent clash occurred on June 15 at Patrolling Point (PP) 14 in Galwan Valley, resulting in the death of 20 Indian soldiers, including a Commanding Officer, and an unknown number of PLA casualties. This marked the biggest clash since 1967.

Despite that, disengagement continued at PP14 and PP15 in the Hot Springs area, and partial disengagement was undertaken at Hot Springs and on the north bank of Pangong Tso. The aim was to create a buffer at these locations with a small group of soldiers retained and rest moving back to their permanent locations.

However, PLA troops continued to sit on the ridgelines of Finger 4 overlooking Indian positions, which was a matter of significant concern to India as it would alter the status quo on the ground.

Fresh tensions occurred in the end of August on the south bank of Pangong Tso, as the Indian Army pre-empted Chinese moves and occupied several dominating peaks on the Kailash range on the Indian side of the LAC, which gave tactical advantage to India.

This resulted in a massive deployment of troops and tanks in very close proximity a couple of hundred metres of each other, at some locations. Several incidents of firing of warning shots also occurred, the first firing since 1975.

This stalled the earlier disengagement process. Both sides amassed around 50,000 troops and heavy equipment in eastern Ladakh and undertook preparations to remain deployed through the harsh winters in the high altitude region. On September 10, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow where they agreed on a five-point resolution to take forward the talks.

What is the latest agreement?

India and China on February 11 announced an agreement for disengagement on the north and south bank of Pangong Tso to cease their forward deployments in a “phased, coordinated and verified manner”, which according to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will “substantially” restore the situation to that existing prior to commencement of the stand-off last year.

As per the agreement, the Chinese side will move back its troops on the north bank to east of Finger 8 while Indian troops will move to their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3. “A similar action would be taken in the south bank area by both sides,” Mr. Singh said in the Rajya Sabha.

The agreement also entails that any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both north and south bank area will be removed and the landforms will be restored. There is also a moratorium on patrolling in this area until a resumption is discussed by both sides through diplomatic and military talks.

What is the way forward?

The Defence Ministry said last week that Mr. Singh’s statement made clear there were outstanding problems to be addressed, including at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang, and these issues would be taken up within 48 hours of the completion of the Pangong Tso disengagement, which could take two weeks or longer. Once complete disengagement is achieved at all friction areas, both sides will undertake de-escalation along the LAC.

Benefit of the News– India- China border disputes

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/explained-the-disengagement-plan-between-india-and-china-along-the-lac/article33841285.ece

Exports surge 6.2%, imports rise 2% #GS3 #Economy

India recorded a 6.2% surge in exports in January 2021, marking the second month in a row that outbound trade recorded positive growth after the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns dampened global trade through most of 2020.

Imports also grew for the second successive month in January, rising 2% as per quick estimates released by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Non-oil and non-gold imports recorded a sharper growth of 7.5%.

Exports in January 2021 were $27.45 billion, as compared to $25.85 billion in January 2020, exhibiting a positive growth of 6.16%. The Ministry added that the trade deficit was estimated at $14.54 billion, almost 5% lower than the $15.3 billion recorded in January 2020. Exports had grown by a marginal 0.14% in December 2020.

Overall exports in the first ten months of 2020-21 remain about 10% lower than the same period a year earlier, while imports have shrunk by 22.8%.

The trade deficit has sustained at a high level for the second consecutive month, which is a testament to the recovery in domestic demand, as well as the impact of higher commodity prices following the resurgence in global confidence.

She added that it was increasingly likely that the third and fourth quarters of financial year 2020-21 would see a reversion to a current account deficit.

“These products are major constituents of India’s export basket and mainly related to the labour-intensive sector of exports,” Mr. Saraf pointed out. Services exports remained a concern, with the Reserve Bank of India pointing to a 6.41% decline in outbound services trade in December 2020.

Services exports decline

“The worsening contraction in services exports meant that the services trade surplus recorded a year-on-year decline in December 2020, after a gap of nine months,” Ms. Nayar pointed out.

Mr Saraf also urged the government to notify the RoDTEP rates for refunding taxes and duties to exporters at the earliest so that exporters can finalise new supply contracts. Last week, exporters had flagged a slew of operational and policy hurdles that are deterring performance even though orders were coming in, and pleaded for a course correction.

Benefit of the News-Current Import- Export data

https://www.thehindu.com/business/exports-surge-62-imports-rise-2/article33845201.ece#:~:text=Imports%20also%20grew%20for%20the,Industry%20and%20Commerce%20on%20Monday.&text=Overall%20exports%20in%20the%20first,imports%20have%20shrunk%20by%2022.8%25.

WPI quickens to 2.03% after easing in December #GS3 #Economy

Inflation in wholesale prices quickened to 2.03% in January, after easing to 1.2% in December 2020, led by a spike in manufactured products suggesting that producers were likely regaining pricing power, after the initial pandemic shock, amid rising commodity prices.

January’s Wholesale Price Index (WPI) numbers also point to a divergence between wholesale and retail price trends in the month as consumer price inflation had eased to 4.06% from 4.59% in December. The Office of the Economic Adviser in the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade also revised the wholesale inflation rate for November 2020 from 1.55% estimated provisionally, to 2.29%.

While a negative inflation rate was recorded for food items, primary articles as well as fuel and power, inflation in manufactured products accelerated to 5.13% in January, almost two percentage points faster than November’s 3.23% pace.

Inflation in fuel and power stood at -4.78%, which Care Ratings said could be ‘misleading’ as retail prices of fuels ‘have reached their peak levels’.

“Higher prices in manufactured products is positive for business,” Care said in a note. “The recovery in commodity prices can be linked with the unlocking process as producers have also made up for their inability to produce in the first two months of the year by increasing prices.”

Benefit of the News-Current WPI

https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/wpi-inflation-rises-to-203-in-jan-on-costlier-manufactured-items-food-prices-ease/article33840447.ece#:~:text=Inflation%20in%20wholesale%20prices%20quickened,shock%2C%20amid%20rising%20commodity%20prices.

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