IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 9th February, 2016
General studies 2:
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
General studies 3:
Science and Technology – developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
TRAI rules in favour of Net neutrality
The telecom regulator recently struck down differential pricing for internet services offered by telecom players to mobile users, in a bid to uphold the principles of net neutrality.
This will be a big blow to Facebook’s Free Basics and other zero-rated platforms such as Airtel Zero for which the social media giant, Facebook had launched an aggressive campaign in December last year.
What is the recent TRAI ruling?
No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation.
Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified at the rate of Rs. 50,000 per day, subject to a maximum of Rs. 50 lakh, for any violation of the regulations by the service providers.
No differential rates for data services, rules TRAI:
Differential pricing means charging customers different prices for access to different websites and services.
Zero-rating platforms are services developed by telcos in partnership with internet service providers (ISPs)/app makers come give free access to customers for certain applications/websites.
TRAI had issued a consultation paper just about 60 days ago on differential pricing …TRAI deliberated on the issue for quite some time and anything on Internet cannot be differently priced. This is the broad point that TRAI highlighted in the regulation.
The TRAI said tariff for data services could not vary on the basis of the website/application/ platform/ or type of content being accessed.
For example, a consumer could not be charged differently based on whether she was browsing social media site A or B, or on whether she was watching streaming videos or shopping on the Internet, it added.
In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokesperson said, “While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings.”
Criticisms regarding TRAI ruling:
Differential pricing is an effective marketing tool and would help in bringing online the next one billion people. However with the TRAI ruling, less investments are expected into the internet sector when the government is pushing adoption of Internet.
It will negatively impact the growth of the industry and the consumers who may need such plans to afford data connections.
Differential pricing for different levels of services was a well-accepted principle across all industries and the concept inherently recognised the economic principle of paying differently for different levels of service and experience.
Net Neutrality in different countries:
The term ‘net neutrality’ was coined in the US by law professor Tim Wu while discussing “competing contents and applications.”
In the latest in the net neutrality tussle, Federal courts have given go ahead to rules that prevent net firms from blocking or slowing down online traffic.
The courts are not postponing implementation of net neutrality rules, despite opposition from firms such as Verizon and AT&T. The Federal Communications Commission is fighting to uphold net neutrality.
European Parliament in September 2015 voted against net neutrality for the entire Union. Only Slovenia and the Netherlands have net neutrality laws.
The country’s National Broadband Network (NBN) is holding discussions on net neutrality. NBN says the issue needs to be debated widely before taking a final decision
While China claims to have net neutrality, experts say internet service providers are owned and operated by the government, which has an iron grip on the content.
In the early days of the internet in China, the Communist Party stopped attempts by China’s Democracy Party to establish free internet access.
Experts say the Chinese government employs sophisticated technology to limit content online.
Meanwhile, Net Neutrality activists see it as a positive indication for future regulations on issues such as regulation of over the top applications such as WhatsApp and Skype.
The regulations are very progressive.
They do not seek a middle ground but take a clear stand, which is very much essential for a democratic country like India.
Connecting the dots:
What do you understand by net neutrality? Is free basics initiative of Facebook a violation of net neutrality? Substantiate
Explain the terms differential pricing and zero rating used in telecom sector.
Critically examine the implications of the recent TRAI ruling over net neutrality in achieving the objectives of Digital India scheme.
General studies 2:
India and its neighbourhood- relations
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements including India/ or affecting India’s interest
General studies 3:
Security challenges and their management in border areas, linkage of organised crime with terrorism
Indian Navy: Centrality of Indian Ocean for India’s prosperity and security
Recent International Indian navy’s second international fleet review was conducted at Visakhapatnam.
The scale and scope of the fleet review served to demonstrate India’s new prominence in the waters of the eastern hemisphere and also the centrality of Indian Ocean for India’s prosperity and security.
Importance of Indian Ocean:
History has taught India two bitter lessons: firstly, that neglect of maritime power led to loss of sovereignty, and secondly, that it takes many decades to restore maritime power after a period of neglect and decline.
India’s Maritime Interests:
Strategic Location and resultant need for a strong navy:
A long coastline studded with deep-water ports
Well endowed EEZ
a rich hinterland and island territories on both seaboards.
On Economic front:
India’s interests have become truly global. More than 40 per cent of its current GDP is linked to international trade. And most of this trade is sea-borne.
Our dependence on the sea for food, energy and minerals will grow exponentially in the coming years and this will necessitate a quantum increase in efforts to ensure the security of our maritime assets.
Hemmed in by the landmass of Asia to its north, Africa to its west and South East Asia and Australia to its East, the Indian Ocean is virtually a land-locked ocean.
Access to this ocean is controlled by several choke points, through which shipping has to necessarily pass.
A number of the world’s most important strategic chokepoints, including (Straits of Hormuz and Malacca) through which more than 50% of the world’s maritime oil is traded.
These vital choke points need to be kept open at all times to keep both our economy as well as the global economy running smoothly.
Energy Security and its importance:
IOR is contiguous to one of the major oil producing regions of the world – the Persian Gulf – the energy lifelines of the world as also major trade routes also pass through this region.
As a result of rapidly developing economies, the Asia-Pacific region’s share of world energy consumption will rise from the present 20 per cent to 31 per cent in 2020 with 80 per cent of this requirement being sourced from the Persian Gulf.
Today about 50 super-tankers traverse the sea-lanes between the Lakshadweep and Andaman Islands. This figure is expected to reach 150-200 by 2020.
Security of Energy Flows:
India’s annual oil consumption is expected to rise to 150 million tons by 2020, with the country likely to be the world’s single largest importer of oil by 2050.
Global energy interests also translate into the permanent and increasing presence of extra regional navies in the Indian Ocean in general and the Arabian Sea in particular.
Ensuring unhindered flow of oil from this region will be a major maritime pre-occupation, especially in times of conflict.
Securing our Maritime Interests:
As a mature and responsible maritime power, India has a clear self-interest in what happens in her geo-strategic maritime areas of interest.
At fundamental level, this ‘self-interest’ finds expression in the statement of our core national interest as derived from the Constitution of India, namely to assure the economic, material and the spiritual well-being of the ‘People of India’. Naturally, this core national interest requires the assurance of security in every form. Consequently, the maritime security of India and its environs is central to the functioning of the Indian Navy.
Sea Power in Peace and War
The term sea power is a much broader concept that entails at least four elements:
Control of international trade and commerce;
Usage and control of ocean resources;
Operations of navies in war;
Use of navies and maritime economic power as instruments of diplomacy, deterrence, and political influence in times of peace.
Unlike the concepts of land power or air power, which are generally defined only in military terms, sea power can never be quite separated from its geo-economic purposes.
The Benign Role apart from being traditional military might:
The Indian Navy’s role in providing timely succour to Indonesia and Sri Lanka, despite our preoccupation with relief operations in Andaman and Nicobar, in Tsunami is well documented.
Humanitarian and Disaster Relief capability of the Indian Navy was again evident during the recent cyclone
In fact, providing a responsive and effective Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief throughout the Indian Ocean Region remains a core focus area for the Indian Navy, considering that 70 per cent of the world’s natural disasters occur in the Indian Ocean Region.
The Potential for Conflict:
China and India are dependent on energy resources transported via the sea lanes in the Indian Ocean to fuel their economies.
Beijing’s regional vision – outlines its One Belt, One Road plan (Silk Road Economic Belt & Maritime Silk Road).
China’s ties with regional states have deepened, including the influx of Chinese capital into construction projects in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
China has also undertaken efforts to modernize its military, particularly its naval deployment capabilities to protect overseas interests like personnel, property and investments.
United States’ shifting from a foreign policy dominated by the Middle East to one centred on Asia has also been a contributing factor elevating concern over Indian Ocean security.
Hence strong navy can deter the ambitions of aggressors, assure friends and allies, gain and maintain access, and protect our citizens while working to maintain order at sea.
Maritime terrorism and piracy are today, the most potent threats to international maritime trade.
Complicating the maritime threat picture is growing speculation that a tactical nexus could emerge between piracy and terrorism.
The Fragile Peace in the IOR:
On the military level, conflicts exist along the all important ISLs: from the Bab-el-Mandeb and the Straits of Hormuz, along the coastline of South Asia, to the Straits of Malacca and – by way of geographical extension – to the South China Sea.
Piracy is rampant and terrorist organisations often operate in the poorly policed regions.
Opportunities for Maritime Cooperation
Globalisation imperatives have given impetus for concerted and cooperative effort of maritime forces in securing the maritime highways.
Cooperative efforts of the littoral countries of the Malacca Strait has led to a dramatic decrease in incidents of piracy and armed robbery.
On the Western flank of the region, the efforts of the multi-national ‘Task Force 150’ are underway to keep maritime crime in check.
An increasing number of navies around the world, including the Indian Navy views ‘Constructive Engagement’ as the answer to common maritime challenges.
At the intellectual level ‘Constructive Engagement’ amongst the littoral States of the Indian Ocean Region, the Indian Navy has taken initiative to set-up an inclusive and consultative regional forum ‘Indian Ocean Naval Symposium’.
Today, the geo-strategic significance of India as a stabilising power in the IOR is globally accepted and there is a distinct realisation that India is destined to play a larger global role in the years ahead.
Attitude towards Defence Expenditure:
Our current defence budget being less than 2 per cent of GDP is indicative of the prevalent ambivalence.
Although managing India’s growing economic interdependence has emerged as a key national objective, the navy’s share of the defence budget has remained modest at well below 20 per cent.
Coordination of Maritime Security:
We currently have a plethora of organisations handling policies and enforcement measures.
A formal mechanism for coordination among the multiple users of the sea would enable effective and time critical coordination among varied maritime related ministries and departments.
Creation of “an apex body for management of maritime affairs” is long overdue.
A good defence and foreign policy must, therefore, leverage the power of the Indian Navy to its best advantage.
The Navy on its part must retain the capability at all times to operate across the spectrum of conflict which will enable performance of security tasks from peacetime, through low-intensity and sub-conventional conflict to conventional conflict and if need be, even under a nuclear overhang.
Our fundamental quest for a better quality of life for our citizens remains irrefutable. However, the argument between guns and butter is not simply a zero-sum game. In order to facilitate growth and development of our citizens, we need to create a secure environment for our country. And a secure environment will be achieved only when it is abundantly clear that we are a strong, confident nation with a surplus of security assets and the resolve to act in our national interest.
Connecting the dots:
Throw light on how can Indian Navy enrich defence and foreign policy of India?
Can Indian Navy play role in ‘Constructive engagement’ amongst littoral states of IOR? Comment.
“Land power and Air powers are defined only in terms of military might but sea power can never be separated from its geo-economic purposes”. Examine.
Fight for Delhi: Centre of the tussle- Delhi’s tussle with the Centre over governance of various bodies of administration has been a problem since early ’90s when the then Union Territory was made the National Capital Territory with partial powers of a state.
Setting the cat among the pigeons- The irony in a short judgment of the Supreme Court on the Sebi Act of 1992 is that its observations have come in a case where the court actually lowered the penalty originally imposed by Sebi. Both Sebi and market players are stumped