24 October, 2020

  • House panel mulls action against Amazon (Polity & Governance)
  • India’s UN journey, from outlier to the high table (International relation)
  • Forex reserves hit record high of $555.12 bn (Indian Economy)
  • Pakistan to stay on FATF grey list till 2021 (International relations)
  • Taking on the Centre (Polity & Governance)
  • Question for the day

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: House panel mulls action against Amazon - 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations, Polity and Governance

    Sub Theme: House panel against Amazon | UPSC

    House panel mulls action against Amazon

    E-commerce giant Amazon declined to appeared before the Joint Committee of Parliament that is examining the draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, stating that its “subjects experts” cannot take the risk of traveling from the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Stating that Amazon’s “refusal” amounts to a breach of parliamentary privilege, BJP MP and chairperson of the JPC, Meenakshi Lekhi, told reporters that the panel was unanimous about taking “coercive action” if no one from the company appears next Wednesday.

    Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Paytm are among the companies from whom the committee has sought views on data security and protection amid concerns that the privacy of users is being “compromised” for commercial interest.

    A brief History of the bill

    K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India (2017) “right to privacy” case. In a landmark verdict, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India affirmed the right to privacy as a fundamental right. The court underscored the need for a balance between data regulation and individual privacy (Aadhar case)

    The doctrine of triple test –

    • Existence of law
    • Legitimate state interest – public good; a tool for inclusion.
    • Test of proportionality – only minimalist and necessary information is collected.

    During the case, government set up an Justice BN Srikrishna Committee to devise India’s data protection framework. After public consultation, the committee submitted a draft Personal Data Protection Bill. Ultimately, the Personal Data Protection Bill was introduced into Parliament in December 2019.

    The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 after being tabled in Indian Parliament by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in  December 2019 was sent to Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in consultation with experts and stakeholders. The Committee consists of 30 members in total, with 20 members from the Lok Sabha  and 10 members from the Rajya Sabha.

    The issues over which the deliberation is likely to be happening in the JPC

    Data localization and restrictions on cross border data transfers.

    1. The 2018 draft said a copy of all personal data gathered in India should be stored in India if it is transferred abroad. The 2019 bill adjusts this to say only personal data classified as “sensitive” or “critical” need be stored in India.
    2. The Bill also makes things more difficult for a company as it will have to obtain approval of the Data Protection Authority (DPA) for cross border transfer of data.

    Powers of the government to exempt government departments/agencies (not originally present in Justice BN Srikrishna Committee report)

    The 2019 Bill gives the power to the Central Government to exempt any governmental agency from complying with the provisions of the 2019 Bill (eg: Data principle rights – Right to confirmation, correction and right to be forgotten) wherein the same is deemed necessary or expedient in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the country, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, or in order to prevent the incitement of commission of any offence relating to any of the above.

    The above power vested with the government is very broad leaving scope of mis-use and misinterpretation of the same.

    It has been criticized by Justice B. N. Srikrishna, the drafter of the original Bill, as having the ability to turn India into an “Orwellian State". ("Orwellian" is an adjective describing a situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society.)

    The 2018 Bill stated that personal data may be processed if such processing is necessary for any function of the Parliament or any state legislature. The 2019 Bill has deleted this provision and limited the processing of personal data, without consent of data principal, for provision of any service or benefit to the data principal from the State or for the issuance of any certification, license or permit for any action or activity of the data principal by the State, with respect to the functions of the state authorized by law.

    This also goes against the Supreme Court ruling on the right to privacy in the Puttaswamy judgement which mandates government and authority to declare specific objectives for gathering or collecting personal data.

    Powers of the government to seek access to anonymized personal data/non-personal data.

    Another major provision in the 2019 bill — absent in the 2018 draft — is the mandate to companies to give the government “anonymised or other non-personal data” for broad purposes like “better targeting of delivery of services or formulation of evidence-based policies”.

    Non-personal data includes any data other than personal such as weather data, e-commerce shopping data, traffic and food delivery data, among many others.

    Composition of the Data Protection Authority of India (DPA), which consists only of government members under the PDP Bill. The Authority majorly comprises secretaries from the Cabinet, Department of Legal Affairs and the MeitY.

    Significant data fiduciary

    Bill gives the Central Government the power to notify any social media intermediary as a significant data fiduciary. Significant data fiduciaries are subjected to more onerous responsibilities, such as audits, maintenance of records, data protection impact assessments, and appointment of data protection officers.

    The government has pushed for greater state control in data protection-related measures previously on multiple occasions. For instance, sharing of companies’ data with other start-ups and data localization measures were proposed in the draft national e-commerce policy released in February 2019. Though the committee on non-personal data appointed by the IT Ministry is yet to release its report , the government still included provisions on non-personal data in the PDP Bill.

    Joint Parliamentary Committee

    • Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) is one type of ad hoc Parliamentary committee constituted by the Indian parliament.
    • It is formed when motion is adopted by one house and it is supported or agreed by the other house.
    • Another way to form a Joint Parliamentary committee is that two presiding chiefs of both houses can write to each other, communicate with each other and form the joint parliamentary committee.
    • The strength of a JPC may be different each time. But the Lok Sabha members are double compared to Rajya Sabha.
    • A JPC can obtain evidence of experts, public bodies, associations, individuals or interested parties suo motu or on requests made by them. If a witness fails to appear before a JPC in response to summons, his conduct constitutes a contempt of the House.
    • Decisions in the committee are made through simple majority voting, with the Chairperson having a casting vote.
    • Ministers are not generally called by the committees to give evidence. However, an exception can be made, with the permission of the Speaker.
    • The Speaker has the final word on any dispute over calling for evidence against a person or production of a document.
    • JPC has been formed on issues like 2G spectrum case (2011), VVIP Chopper scam (2013), Land Acquisition (2015).

    Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.

    Parliamentary privileges are defined in Article 105 of the Indian Constitution and those of State legislatures in Article 194.

    When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.

    Besides, Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook govern privilege.

    Privileges of Parliamentarians

    1. Freedom of Speech: According to the Indian Constitution, the members of Parliament enjoy freedom of speech and expression. No member can be taken to task anywhere outside the four walls of the House (e.g. court of law) or cannot be discriminated against for expressing his/her views in the House and its Committees.
    2. Freedom from Arrest: It is understood that no member shall be arrested in a civil case 40 days before and after the adjournment of the House (Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha) and also when the House is in session. It also means that no member can be arrested within the precincts of the Parliament without the permission of the House to which he/she belongs.
    3. Exemption from attendance as witnesses: The members of Parliament also enjoy freedom from attendance as witnesses.

    Privileges of Parliament

    Right to publish debates and proceedings: Though by convention, the Parliament does not prohibit the press to publish its proceedings, yet technically the House has every such right to forbid such publication.

    Right to exclude strangers: Each house of Parliament enjoys the right to exclude strangers (no-members or visitors) from the galleries at any time and to resolve to debate with closed doors.

    Right to punish members and outsiders for breach of its privileges:

    • In India, the Parliament has been given punitive powers to punish those who are adjudged guilty of contempt of the House.
    • Such contempt can be committed by the members of any House or any outsider. When a member of the House is involved for parliamentary misbehaviour or commits contempt he can be expelled from the House.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: India’s UN journey, from outlier to the high table – 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations, Polity and Governance

    Sub Theme: House panel against Amazon | UPSC

    Context:

    • The 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations (UN) makes it important for us to understand some important issues regarding UN.
    • This article focuses on the journey of India at UN so far. Now this particular article is not so much important from UPSC perspective.
    • What is important is to understand the issue of India’ permanent member ship of UNSC.
    • We know that India has been recently elected as a non-permanent member at UNSC.
    • And hence it becomes all the more important to cover this topic.

    Before going into the analysis, let us first understand the basics about UNSC. 

    Need for reform:

    • The Security Council's membership and working methods reflect a bygone era. Though geopolitics have changed drastically, the Council has changed relatively little since 1945, when wartime victors crafted a Charter in their interest and awarded "permanent" veto-wielding.

    Arguments in favour of India’s membership for UNSC

    • India’s values
      • With continuous and functional democratic experience, India is best suited to provide these values into UNSC which is often criticized for acting on behalf of few nations.
    • Founding member
      • Indian has not only been the founding member of Un but has actively participated in most initiatives of UN. (MDG, SDG Climate Change)
      • India has not only participated but has also taken lead roles in matters which are global like climate change, ozone depletion , counter terrorism and rule based global order
    • Experience
      • India, till now has been elected for seven terms for a two-year non-permanent member seat.
    • Contribution to UNSC
      • India has almost twice the number of peacekeepers deployed on the ground as much as by P5 countries.
      • India is the largest contributor to the UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO), with nearly 180,000 troops serving in 44 missions since it was established.
      • India is also among the highest financial contributors to the UN, with the country making regular donations to several UN organs.
    • Economy
      • India is now the 5th largest economy and one of the fastest-growing economies of the world.
    • Military/Space
      • Currently, India maintains the world's second-largest active armed force (after China)
    • Representative of Underdeveloped world
      • India is the undisputed leader of the Third world countries, as reflected by its leadership role in Non-Aligned Movement and G-77 grouping.
    • Growing Importance and acceptability of India
      • India’s growing popularity is evident in the successful electoral contests for various prestigious slots in the UNSC, the Human Rights Council, the World Court, and functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council, at times defeating the nominees of China and the United Kingdom.

    Clearly, a seat for India would make the body more representative and democratic. With India as a member, the Council would be a more legitimate and thus a more effective body

    Based on these credentials, India’s claim for permanent membership is supported by G4 countries, majority of the permanent members of UNSC and the majority of countries in the United nation General Assembly.

    Road Blocks in India’s Path

    • Opposition from many countries
      • Opposition from some 30 middle powers such as Italy and Pakistan which fear losing out to regional rivals in the event of an addition of permanent seats, and the intrigues masterminded by one or two permanent members.
    • Chinese Veto power
      • China, which has veto power in the UNSC being one of its five permanent members, has been stonewalling India's efforts to become a permanent member.
    • India is still and underdeveloped country
      • Though India is a bright spot in the global economy and its macroeconomic fundamentals are stable, yet it shows poor performance in many socio-economic indicators like the Human Development Index.
    • Limited military might:
      • India’s capacity to project its military power beyond the Indian Ocean region is still to be tested. Further, India heavily relies on weaponry imports from US and Russia for its military requirements.

    A word of caution

    • India , if accepted as a new permanent member, must enjoy the same powers and prerogatives as the existing members.
    • The most critical and controversial issue remains the use of the veto power should be permanent members, described by some member nations as anachronistic and inconsistent with the principles of democracy and equality of member nations.
    • Either the right to exercise the veto power should be completely abolished or all the permanent members, old and new, should be vested with it. There have been suggestions that new permanent entrants to the Council should not have veto rights. Such mischievous ideas will shake the very foundations of the Security Council putting its restructuring in jeopardy.

    The world body must take note that a large geographical entity like India cannot just be ignored anymore.  It must be conceded its rightful place to play a larger role in world affairs for the benefit of mankind.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Forex reserves hit record high of $555.12 bn – Page 14

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations, Polity and Governance

    Sub Theme: House panel against Amazon | UPSC

    Context:

    According to the latest data released by the RBI, the forex reserves have touched all time high of $550-billion mark for the first time ever.

    Components of Forex Reserves

    The Forex reserves in India comprise of Foreign Currency assets (FCAs), Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), Reserve Tranche with IMF and Gold.

    Foreign Currency Assets (FCAs)

    This is the largest component of the Forex Reserves consisting of US dollar and other major global currencies such as Euro, Pound, yen etc. Additionally, it also comprises investments in US Treasury bonds, bonds of other selected governments, deposits with foreign central and commercial banks.

    Even though, Foreign Currency Assets (FCA) is maintained in major currencies, the foreign exchange reserves are denominated and expressed in US dollar terms.

    Special Drawing Rights (SDRs):

    The SDRs was created by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as an international reserve asset in the year 1969 to supplement its member countries' official reserves. The SDR is a basket of 5 currencies- Dollar, Euro, Pound, Yen and Yuan.  The SDRs are allocated to member countries in proportion to their IMF quotas.

    The value of the SDR is based on a basket of five currencies—the U.S. dollar, the Euro, the Chinese Renminbi, the Japanese Yen, and the British Pound Sterling. The value of SDR is set daily by the IMF on the basis of exchange rates between the currencies included in SDR. The value of SDR is denominated in terms of dollars.

    Uses of SDRs

    • SDRs can be held as part of Forex Reserves
    • SDRs can be exchanges into other freely usable currencies among themselves. (This signifies that SDR is neither claim nor currency of IMF Rather, it is potential claim on freely usable currencies of IMF members)
    • IMF members can also use SDRs in their transactions with IMF such as repayment of loans, payment of interest, payment for increasing their IMF quota and so on.
    • Members can sell a part or all their SDR allocations.

    Reserve Position in the IMF:

    The subscription of the quota consists of two components: (i) foreign exchange component and (ii) domestic currency component. Under the foreign exchange component, a member is required to pay 25 per cent of its quota in SDRs or in foreign currencies. This is termed as “reserve position in the IMF or reserve tranche” and is part of the member country’s reserve assets.

    Reasons for increase in the Forex Reserves

    Appreciation in Non-Dollar Major Currencies: As discussed before, the Foreign currency assets is held in the form of major currencies like Dollar, Euro, Pound, Yen etc. but it is expressed in terms of dollars. The value of the Foreign Currency assets could change on account of increase or decrease in the value of the non-dollar major currencies. In last 2-3 months, the dollar has depreciated by around 4.5% vis-a-vis other currencies such as Euro, Pound, Yen etc. This increase in the value of other major currencies has led to increase in Forex Reserves.

    Decrease in Crude oil Prices: The decrease in the Crude oil prices also meant decrease in our oil import bill and thus saving our Forex Reserves.

    RBI's Intervention: The RBI has also intervened in the Forex Market to buy dollars and enhance the Forex Reserves.

    How the increase in the forex reserves would benefit India?

    An important indicator of the stability of a currency is import cover. It measures the number of months of imports that can be covered with foreign exchange reserves available with the central Bank. The rising forex reserves have led to an improvement in India’s import cover to around 14 months. Further, an increase in the forex reserves will give the RBI the firepower to act against any sharp depreciation in the value of Rupee.

    Which one of the following groups of items is included in India's foreign-exchange reserves?  ( Prelims 2013)

    (a) Foreign-currency assets, Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) and loans from foreign countries. 

    (b) Foreign-currency assets, gold holdings of the RBI and SDRs. 

    (c )Foreign-currency assets, loans from the World Bank and SDRs. 

    (d) Foreign-currency assets, gold holdings of the RBI and loans from the World Bank.

    Which of the following best describes the term ‘import cover’, sometimes seen in the news? ( Prelims 2016)

    (a) It is the ratio of value of imports to the Gross Domestic Product of a country

    (b) It is the total value of imports of a country in a year

    (c) It is the ratio between the value of exports and that of imports between two countries

    (d) It is the number of months of imports that could be paid for by  a country’s international reserves.

    Gold Tranche" (Reserve Tranche) refers to (Prelims 2020)

    • a loan system of the World Bank 
    • One of the operations of a Central Bank
    • a credit system granted by WTO to its members
    • a credit system granted by IMF to its members

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Pakistan to stay on FATF grey list till 2021 – 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations, Polity and Governance

    Sub Theme: House panel against Amazon | UPSC

    Context: The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has decided to keep Pakistan on the “Grey List” till the next review of its compliance with the recommendations made in February 2021. FATF has urged Pakistan to completely implement a set of preventive guidelines which includes controlling terror funding emanating in the country. Turkey supported Pakistan and asked FATF Plenary to also consider good work done by Pakistan.

    Even in February, 2019, Pakistan was put under Grey list by FATF after missing 13 of the 27 targets that FATF had set for it in 2018. The grace period was then extended again because of the coronavirus pandemic.       

    ·        FATF Black List – Non-co-operative countries or Territories – are considered to be uncooperative in international efforts against money laundering and terrorist financing.

    ·        FATF Grey List – list of countries or territories with deficiencies in anti-money laundering efforts or terror financing for which they have developed an action plan with the FATF.


    Overall Review by FATF Plenary 21-23 October

    • During COVID pandemic, while governments around the world focuses on resources and efforts to help communities that have suffered from the pandemic, criminals continue to exploit the situation, including through fraud schemes linked to medical and protective equipment.
    • This is why the full and effective implementation of the FATF Standards remains critical. Countries and public authorities need to take a risk-based approach that prevents or mitigates the emerging criminal risks and trends linked to the pandemic and ensure funds reach legitimate recipients, particularly those in need. 

    Countries under Increased Monitoring

    • Jurisdictions under increased monitoring are actively working with the FATF to address strategic deficiencies in their regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing.
    • When the FATF places a jurisdiction under increased monitoring, it means the country has committed to resolve swiftly the identified strategic deficiencies within agreed timeframes and is subject to increased monitoring. This list is often externally referred to as the ‘Grey List’.
    • The FATF continues to identify additional jurisdictions, on an on-going basis, that have strategic deficiencies in their regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing.

    Suggestions made for Pakistan

    Pakistan should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies, including by

    1. Demonstrating that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of Terror Funding activity and that Terror Funding investigations and prosecutions target designated persons and entities, and those acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities.
    2. Demonstrating that Terror Funding prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions;
    3. Demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf, preventing the raising and moving of funds, identifying and freezing assets (movable and immovable) and prohibiting access to funds and financial services; and
    4. Demonstrating enforcement against Terror Funding violations, including in relation to Non-Profit Organisations, of administrative and criminal penalties and provincial and federal authorities cooperating on enforcement cases.

    The Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

    • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 by the Ministers of its Member jurisdictions at Group of Seven (G-7) Summit in Paris.  
    • The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating
    • money laundering,
    • terrorist financing and
    • other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. 
    • FATF is therefore a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.
    • FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally.

    International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG)

    • Since 2007, the FATF’s International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) has analysed high-risk jurisdictions and recommended specific action to address the ML/FT risks emanating from them.
    • In 2009, the Leaders of the Group of 20 specifically called on the FATF to reinvigorate its process for assessing countries’ compliance with international AML/CFT standards and to publicly identify high-risk jurisdictions by February 2010. This call reinforced the revision process already underway within the FATF and led to the FATF’s adoption in June 2009 of new ICRG procedures.
    • Since that time, the G20 has called for the continuation of FATF efforts to fight against money laundering and terrorist financing and to regularly update the public list of jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies.

    FATF Revised 40 and IX Recommendations –

    • Initially, FATF Report contained a set of 40 recommendations which provided a comprehensive action plan to combat money laundering. In 2001, development of standards in the fight against terrorist financing were added thereby adding 9 special recommendations.
    • The 40+9 Recommendations, together with their interpretative notes, provide the international standards for combating money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (TF). These are:
    1. Ratification and implementation of UN instruments 
    2. Criminalising the financing of terrorism and associated money laundering
    3. Freezing and confiscating terrorist assets
    4. Reporting suspicious transactions related to terrorism
    5. International Co-operation
    6. Alternative Remittance
    7. Wire Transfers
    8. Non-Profit Organisations
    9. Cash Couriers

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Taking on the Centre – Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations, Polity and Governance

    Sub Theme: House panel against Amazon | UPSC

    Punjab’s efforts to enact State amendments to override the effects of the Centre’s new agriculture laws has raised constitutional and legal questions.

    States can indeed amend central laws enacted under the Concurrent List, subject to the condition that provisions repugnant to the parliamentary Acts will have to get the President’s assent, without which they do not come into force.

    The Punjab Bills note that agriculture is under the legislative domain on the States, as the subject falls under the State List in the Seventh Schedule.

    The Centre has enacted its farm sector Bills by invoking Entry 33(b) in the Concurrent List, which concerns trade and commerce in, and production, supply and distribution of, “foodstuffs”. By stretching the entry’s meaning to include agriculture, Parliament has managed to pass laws in the domain of the States.

    In these circumstances, States aggrieved by the farm sector laws will either have to go the Punjab way to adopt Bills that would require presidential assent, as Rajasthan has decided to do, or challenge the validity of the central laws in the Supreme Court, as Chhattisgarh is said to be considering.

    Article 254

    Inconsistency between laws made by Parliament and laws made by the Legislatures of States

    (1)   If any provision of a law made by the Legislature of a State is repugnant to any provision of a law made by Parliament which Parliament is competent to enact, or to any provision of an existing law with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List, then, subject to the provisions of clause ( 2 ), the law made by Parliament, whether passed before or after the law made by the Legislature of such State, or, as the case may be, the existing law, shall prevail and the law made by the Legislature of the State shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void

    (2)   Where a law made by the Legislature of a State with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law with respect to that matter, then, the law so made by the Legislature of such State shall, if it has been reserved for the consideration of the President and has received his assent, prevail in that State: Provided that nothing in this clause shall prevent Parliament from enacting at any time any law with respect to the same matter including a law adding to, amending, varying or repealing the law so made by the Legislature of the State

     

    The case of Jallikattu

    Jallikattu was under a judicial ban in Tamil Nadu following the Supreme Court’s verdict in May 2014. An amendment to the relevant law, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, was needed to remove the basis on which the judgment was passed. As the Assembly was not in session and a volatile atmosphere prevailed in the State because of the strident demand for legal protection to the conduct of jallikattu, the State government promulgated an ordinance.

    PCA falls under Entry 17 (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in the Concurrent List of the Constitution. This means both the Centre and the States have concurrent power to enact laws on the subject. Subject to some restrictions and a prescribed procedure, State governments may amend central laws or have their own laws on the same subject in which the Union government has its own law.

    This ordinance to amend the PCA was brought after prior ‘instructions’ from the President under Article 213 of the Constitution. The draft of the ordinance was sent to the Union government, which examined it and gave its consent on behalf of the President to its promulgation by the Governor.

    Comments

    Md Ayaz Ahmed 1 month ago

    sir where is self assessment test

    Ravi 4 weeks ago

    sir where is self assessment test???