IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 30th November 2017
India to implement Hong Kong Convention
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Infrastructure
Hong Kong Convention:
- India has drafted legislation to implement the ‘Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships’.
- The Hong Kong convention was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2009.
- The Convention is yet to come into force as it has not been ratified by 15 states, representing 40 per cent of the world merchant shipping by gross tonnage (capacity). Only six countries – Norway, Congo, France, Belgium, Panama and Denmark — have ratified it.
- The IMO Convention does not prohibit the beaching method which is followed in India.
- It will make the ship recycling industry safe for its workers and the environment
- India follows the beaching method to dismantle ships, which is often criticised for its lax safety and health aspects. Under this method, ships are first grounded and then dismantled.
- India is upgrading the world’s largest stretch of ship-breaking beaches on Alang-Sosiya in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district through a $76-million soft loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
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Part of: Mains GS Paper I- Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
- Credit rating agency Crisil is expecting proactive urban local bodies (ULBs) raising about Rs. 6,000 crore via the municipal bond issuance market route.
- The issuance will be on the back of policy and regulatory facilitation.
- Several ULBs have initiated their bond issuance process by appointing transaction advisors. And, in June this year, the Pune Municipal Corporation raised Rs. 200 crore by issuing 10-year bonds.
Benefits of municipal bonds route:
- Bonds offer ULBs structuring flexibility through longer tenures, annual interest payments, and fixed coupon rates compared with bank loans.
- Further, the capital market also has a large investor base, and can turn out to be more competitive than bank borrowing.
- The government’s move to develop civic infrastructure across the country through the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and SMART City missions requires significant capital spending by ULBs. These will have to be funded by market borrowings in addition to government grants.
- SEBI has notified guidelines on disclosure of financial information by ULBs at regular intervals.
- The government has also announced an interest subsidy scheme to make issuances competitive.
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India sitting on a malaria volcano
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
As per World Malaria Report released by WHO:
- In India the malaria surveillance mechanism detects a mere 8 per cent of cases, among the lowest in the world. Despite this, India accounts for 6 per cent of all malaria cases reported globally.
- Countries with weak malaria surveillance systems include India and Nigeria, two major contributors to the global burden of malaria, with 8 per cent and 16 per cent of cases, respectively, detected by the surveillance system.
- ”India has the highest malaria burden in the world outside sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso.
- India accounted for 58 per cent of all malaria deaths globally.
- A key impediment to eliminating malaria is a weak surveillance system.
- In contrast, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan achieved malaria-free status in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
- Malaria is a potentially life threatening parasitic disease.
- It is caused by parasites known as Plasmodium viviax (P.vivax), Plasmodium falciparum (P.falciparum), Plasmodium malariae (P.malariae) and Plasmodium ovale (P.ovale).
- It is transmitted by the infective bite of Anopheles mosquito.
- The disease has an incubation period of 10-15 days which means a person may develop symptoms after a fortnight of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
The report was brought out by the World Health Organisation noted.
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Part of: Mains GS Paper II- International relations
- Under the agreement, India and Singapore on Wednesday agreed on greater cooperation and activity in the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea
- The agreement includes maritime security, joint exercises and temporary deployments from the naval facilities of each other and mutual logistical support.
- The bilateral naval agreement has provision for mutual logistical support. The agreement would give the Navy the ability for extended deployments in the region.
- Singapore had accepted India’s proposal to institutionalise naval engagements in the shared maritime space, including setting up maritime exercises with like-minded countries and other ASEAN partners.
- The two countries also agreed to explore joints projects in research and development.
- The agreement is significant as the strait is considered a critical choke point for global commerce and is seen by China as a vulnerability for its energy security.
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TOPIC : General Studies 2:
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016: Re-introduction
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has decided to re-introduce the original Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 in the winter session of Parliament.
Despite resistance to the 2016 Bill followed by a year-long process to redraft it to reflect the demands of the community, the Ministry has taken the decision, and without a single change.
- In NALSA v. Union of India, the Supreme Court recognised that transgender persons have fundamental rights.
- The judgment was followed by a private member’s Bill, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, which was unanimously passed in the Rajya Sabha.
Instead of introducing it in the Lok Sabha, the Ministry uploaded its own Bill, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015, on its website in December for public comments.
The 2015 Bill, which was largely based on the 2014 Bill, did away with the national and State commissions for transgender persons and transgender rights courts.
The Bill was fairly progressive since it granted a transgender person the right to be identified as a ‘man’, ’woman’ or ‘transgender’.
- The 2016 Bill, that was finally introduced in the Lok Sabha, was a conservative one instead. A highly diluted version, it also pathologised transgender persons by defining them as “partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male”.
- Met with backlash, the Ministry set up an expert standing committee on social justice and empowerment to examine the Bill.
- The proposed definition of ‘transgender person’ in the Bill “not only violates the fundamental rights to equality, dignity, autonomy but also freedom of transgender persons guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution”.
- Transgender persons remain at risk of criminalization under Section 377. The Bill doesn’t recognize the rights of transgender persons to partnership and marriage.
The Standing committee report:
The standing committee criticised the 2016 Bill for its stark deficiencies. It recommended:
- Re-drafting the definition of a ‘transgender person’ to make it inclusive and accurate.
- Providing for the definition of discrimination and setting up a grievance redress mechanism to address cases of discrimination.
- Granting reservations to transgender persons.
- The committee insisted that the law must grant equal civil rights to transgender persons (marriage, divorce and adoption).
- Provision of separate public toilets, counselling services to cope with trauma and violence as well as separate frisking zones for transgender persons at public places were some other recommendations made by the committee.
The decision to re-introduce the 2016 Bill on transgender rights makes a mockery of democratic norms. The Ministry’s decision to re-introduce the 2016 Bill disregards the pre-legislative consultative policy which requires Ministries to grant a minimum of 30 days for public comments and to place a summary of feedback/comments received from the public/other stakeholders on their website.
Connecting the dots:
- The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 had many flaws which were highlighted by the parliamentary standing committee as well. Discuss the issues and the recommendations of the committee.
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
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.
For free and open Internet: Net Neutrality
Basics: What is Net Neutrality?
- Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISP) and governments should treat all traffic equally, and not charge differently based on content/site/application. Users should be able to access all websites at the same speed and cost.
- This principle is considered a cornerstone of a free and open internet that provides equal access to all.
- The term was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003.
Why in news?
- Recently, India’s telecom regulator (TRAI) has published recommendations strongly backing net neutrality.
- It requires that barriers should not be created by telecom and Internet service providers for user choice by limiting their power to discriminate between content providers and different classes of content. Through binding rules and regulations, the power of access providers to selectively price or create technical imbalances is to be corrected.
- In India, the debate on net neutrality picked speed after Facebook launched the Free Basics program in December 2015.
- The TRAI (during February 2016) had barred telecom service providers from charging differential rates for data services, thus prohibiting Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero platform by Airtel in their present form.
There are no laws enforcing net neutrality in India. Violations of net neutrality have been common in India. Examples beyond Facebook’s Internet.org include Aircel’s Wikipedia Zero along with Aircel’s free access to Facebook and WhatsApp, Airtel’s free access to Google, and RCom’s free access to Twitter.
TRAI has mandated that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) should not deploy any discriminatory practices such as blocking, degrading or slowing down of certain web traffic while giving preferential treatment to any specific content at the same time.
The TRAI paper also suggests the formation of a regulatory body to monitor and deal with any such violation of net neutrality.
If the recommendations by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are accepted by the communications ministry, India will be ahead of the curve in internet rights.
It brings the country a step closer to what could be the world’s most progressive policy on equal internet access for all.
The TRAI’s decision is significant not just in setting a benchmark for other emerging countries that are considering similar regulations, but also in signalling a market-friendly regulatory approach to content providers.
Understanding the Net Neutrality debate:
When users pay an ISP for an internet plan, they are entitled to be able to access all online content, be it videos, games, news or social media sites, at the same broadband speed they have signed up for. This has been the basic principle guiding internet and ISP since the beginning.
- However in 2007, US-based ISP Comcast Corp. was reportedly found to be delaying upload of files on Bitorrent. Delay in uploads affected the download speed as Bitorrent is a peer-to-peer service.
- FCC (Federal Communication Commission), an agency of US government, ordered Comcast in August 2008 to stop the discriminatory practice.
- The issue of net neutrality gathered momentum in 2015 when then US president Barack Obama pledged support for it and urged the agency to come with a strong rule on it.
- FCC ruled in favour of net neutrality, prohibiting any ISP from blocking, throttling, or giving special treatment in terms of speed to a content provider who has paid more than others.
The FCC’s position on net neutrality has changed under the new regime. The agency plans to repeal the net neutrality rules to regulate ISPs passed under the Obama administration through a vote on 14 December 2017.
In India, the debate on net neutrality picked speed after Facebook launched the Free Basics program in December 2015, earlier known as internet.org.
Free Basics gives free access to basic internet services to users who could not afford 4G data plans and were still using slower 2G networks. Though, Facebook wasn’t charging users anything extra, the notion of favouring access to certain content went against the basic principle of net neutrality.
TRAI banned Free Basics and other similar services such as Airtel Zero in February 2016.
(Case 1) An ISP could make it harder for users to access parts of the internet to drive more traffic on its own content-sharing platform. A lot of ISPs have their own video and music streaming service. Without net neutrality regulation, they can try to throttle access to services of a rival.
- For instance, during 2014 Netflix accused Comcast of interfering with buffering speed and visual quality on the video streaming platform. The issue was resolved after Netflix agreed to pay for access to CDN networks.
(Case 2) In various countries with no regulation on net neutrality, ISPs are already clubbing content into packages, compelling users to pay for apps and websites which were previously free.
- For example, Lisbon-based ISP MEO has got five different packs—Social (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Messaging (WhatsApp, Viber, Skype), Video (Netflix, YouTube, Twitch), Music (Pay Music, Spotify, TuneIn) and email and cloud (Gmail, Drive, Dropbox). To access these apps, subscribers have to pay an extra amount per month for every pack on top of the fee that they are already paying for the broadband connection to the ISP.
(Case 3) If net neutrality is not adhered to, ISPs can use their last mile infrastructure to block Internet applications and content (e.g. websites, services, and protocols), and even to block out competitors. Thus the ISPs will create an exploitative business model playing the role of gatekeepers and being able to control which websites load quickly, load slowly, or don’t load at all.
(Case 4) Another concern with lack of net neutrality is of different speed lanes and the effect it will have on startups that do not have the resource to pay for faster lanes.
- Studies have shown that slow loading websites frustrate users and this had a negative impact on the content provider.
- The study showed that websites which load in 5 seconds against 19 seconds witnessed 25% higher ad views, 70% longer average sessions and 35% lower bounce rates.
- So content providers who are on slower lanes will miss out to rivals who can afford to pay for the faster lanes.
Why Net Neutrality is good?
- Net neutrality creates rules of the road for a free and open Internet.
- In a recent judgment on the allocation of natural resources, Supreme Court had observed that “as natural resources are public goods, the doctrine of equality, which emerges from concepts of justice and fairness, must guide the state in determining the actual mechanism for distribution of material resources.”
- Beyond equality and reasonableness, a more tangible appreciation of Net neutrality is immediately felt on our liberty.
- The Internet today affords millions of Indians with an immediate audience without the traditional costs of distribution. Tinkering with its character, or carving it up in slices (as would happen in the absence of Net neutrality), would fragment its community and the diversity of choice offered by it. This would impact both the right to speak and the ability to receive knowledge, hence impacting our right to freedom of speech and expression.
- Net neutrality provides a level-playing field to content providers and startups. Net Neutrality lowers the barriers of entry and operations for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses by ensuring the Web is a fair and level playing field.
- We need the open Internet to foster job growth, competition and innovation.
Connecting the dots:
- What do you understand by net neutrality? Critically analyse in light of the recent decisions taken by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
The road to an open internet
Electric cars and us
Globalisation in retreat
International Labour Organisation’s ommmissions
How to free Indians from the medical poverty trap
India’s deteriorating public discourse
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