- Concerns about India US Digital Trade
- Uniform civil code
- Custodial Torture
- Report Fish Disease App
- Red-eared sliders turtle
- Order of the Nile award
During Prime Minister U.S. state visit, cooperation on technology emerged as a prominent talking point and yielded some of the most substantive outcomes. However, digital trade is also the area where some of the biggest U.S. tech companies have recently flagged multiple policy hurdles, including “India’s patently protectionist posture”.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- Current Status of India-U.S. Technology Trade
- Taxation Measures of Concern Raised by CCIA
- Concerns about India’s IT Rules 2021
- Criticisms of the new draft of the data protection law
- Data Localisation
- Firms’ views on the draft Telecom bill
- Other policy barriers to digital trade with India
Current Status of India-U.S. Technology Trade:
- In FY2023, the U.S. became India’s largest overall trading partner, with bilateral trade increasing by 7.65% to $128.55 billion in 2022-23.
- However, digital or technology services have not been a major component of bilateral trade.
- According to a report by the CCIA, the U.S. had a $27 billion trade deficit in digital services with India in 2020.
Tech Partnership Initiatives:
- The Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) was announced by President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to enhance tech collaboration.
- The iCET focuses on areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors, and wireless telecommunication.
- The Strategic Trade Dialogue, established under the iCET, aims to address regulatory barriers and align export controls for smoother trade and deeper cooperation.
Semiconductor and Telecommunications Collaboration:
- An MoU on Semiconductor Supply Chain and Innovation Partnership was signed with a combined investment valued at $2.75 billion.
- Two Joint Task Forces were launched to focus on Open RAN network and research in 5G/6G technologies.
- Both countries have shown enthusiasm for future technologies like AI and Quantum Computing, establishing the Quantum Coordination Mechanism and a joint fund for AI commercialization.
Concerns of U.S. Tech Firms:
Imbalance and Misalignment in Economic Relationship:
- The CCIA has highlighted a “significant imbalance” and “misalignment” in the U.S.-India economic relationship.
- While the U.S. has extended market access and openness to Indian companies, the same reciprocity has not been observed from the Indian side.
- The CCIA notes that the Indian government has implemented protectionist industrial policies, favoring domestic players over U.S. digital service providers, thus tilting the playing field.
Discriminatory Regulation and Policies:
- The CCIA points out discriminatory regulations and policies in India, citing the example of guidelines on sharing geospatial data that provide preferential treatment to Indian companies.
- U.S. tech firms express discontent over India’s deviation from democratic norms and values, and the increasing government control over political speech.
- These factors make it challenging for U.S. companies to operate in India and hinder their ability to thrive in the market.
Concerns about India’s Democratic Values:
- During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit, concerns were raised about India’s democratic values compared to those shared by the U.S., which are considered fundamental to the bilateral partnership.
Taxation Measures of Concern Raised by CCIA:
Expanded Equalisation Levy:
- U.S. tech firms have raised concerns about the expanded version of the “equalisation levy” imposed by India on digital services.
- The original equalisation levy was introduced in 2016 to “equalize the playing field” between resident and non-resident service providers of digital services.
- In 2020, the Indian government introduced “Equalisation Levy 2.0,” which imposes a 2% tax on gross revenues received by non-resident e-commerce operators from providing e-commerce supplies or services to Indian residents or non-resident companies with a permanent establishment in India.
Double Taxation and Complicated Framework:
- The introduction of the equalisation levy in 2016 resulted in double taxation and added complexity to the taxation framework.
- Constitutional validity and compliance with international obligations were also questioned.
- Sweeping and Vague Scope:
- The 2020 amendment to the equalisation levy made its scope sweeping and vague, creating uncertainties in its application.
- The CCIA argues that the Indian government implemented the levies unilaterally, while 135 other countries were awaiting clarity on an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agreement to reform the global tax system.
- The OECD agreement aims to remove digital services taxes and similar measures and commit countries to refrain from introducing such measures in the future.
Concerns about India’s IT Rules 2021:
- The IT Rules 2021 place a compliance burden on social media intermediaries (SMIs) and platforms with five million or more registered users, affecting several U.S. firms.
Impractical Compliance Deadlines and Content Take-Down:
- The rules require intermediaries to take down content within 24 hours upon receiving a government or court order, which is seen as impractical in some cases.
- The platforms are also required to appoint a local compliance officer.
Removal of Prohibited Content:
- SMIs are obligated to remove information or communication links within 72 hours in relation to six prohibited categories of content, based on user complaints.
- Critics argue that this may lead to censorship and limit freedom of expression.
Grievance Appellate Committees (GAC):
- The establishment of three-member GACs has drawn criticism. These committees have the power to hear user complaints regarding content-related issues and can reverse the decisions made by SMIs.
Additional Compliance Requirements:
- The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) added another layer of compliance by requiring platforms to make reasonable efforts to prevent the publication of content fact-checked as fake or false by the Press Information Bureau (PIB).
Criticisms of the new draft of the data protection law can be summarized as follows:
Ambiguities in Cross-Border Data Flows and Compliance Timelines:
- The draft lacks clear guidelines on how cross-border data flows will be regulated.
- Compliance timelines for implementing data protection measures are not specified, creating uncertainty for businesses.
Concerns about Data Localisation:
- The previous version of the law imposed data localisation requirements, which drew criticism.
- The new draft drops these provisions, but the absence of clear guidelines raises speculation about de facto localisation.
Impact on Operating Costs and Discrimination:
- Data localisation requirements can significantly increase operating costs for companies, especially foreign firms.
- Such requirements may be viewed as discriminatory, limiting the ability of foreign companies to store data outside of India.
India’s Role as a Data Hub and Global Implications:
- India has a large number of active internet users and aims to become a hub for data processing.
- India’s policies on cross-border data flows will have global implications, similar to the impact of the European Union’s GDPR.
Arguments for Data Localisation and Potential Drawbacks:
- Governments have various arguments in favor of data localisation requirements.
- However, such requirements can impose increased costs on companies and may be perceived as discriminatory against foreign firms.
- Definition: Data localisation refers to the practice of requiring data generated within a country’s borders to be stored and processed within that country.
- Importance: Data plays a crucial role in today’s technology-driven world, leading countries to implement data localisation mandates to keep data within their territorial boundaries.
- Foreign Tech Companies: Companies like Meta and Amazon operating in India often prefer to store their data in other countries where they have servers, which means the data leaves Indian borders.
- Cross-Border Data Flows: The new draft of the data protection law includes a provision stating that cross-border data flows will only be allowed to countries notified by the Indian government.
- Concerns and Criticisms: Industry experts question the basis for country notification and the terms for data transfers, raising concerns about potential discrimination and the exclusion of certain countries. The CCIA suggests supporting cross-border data flows through certifications, standard contractual clauses, and binding corporate rules.
- Previous Version of the Bill: The earlier version imposed data localisation requirements on data fiduciaries for specific types of personal data, drawing criticism from companies and foreign governments.
- Grey Areas in the New Draft: Critics argue that the new draft drops provisions on data localisation, creating ambiguity and speculation about de facto localisation.
Firms’ views on the draft Telecom bill:
- Sweeping Regulatory Ambit: The CCIA argues that the draft Telecommunications Bill, 2022, expands the definition of “telecommunication services” to include various internet-enabled services that differ significantly from traditional telephony and broadband services.
- Inclusion of OTT Communication Services: The current draft includes Over-the-top (OTT) communication services, such as messaging platforms, within the scope of “telecommunication services.” These platforms utilize the network infrastructure of Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to compete with voice calls and SMS services.
- Onerous Obligations: The CCIA warns that if the law is passed as it stands, it would subject several platforms to burdensome requirements, including licensing, government access to data, encryption mandates, internet shutdowns, infrastructure seizures, and potential monetary obligations.
- Global Authorization/Licensing Requirement: The industry body contends that the proposed law would impose a unique global authorization or licensing requirement on digital firms, which is unprecedented.
Other policy barriers to digital trade with India:
Digital Competition Act:
- The Parliamentary Committee on Finance proposed a “Digital Competition Act” to address anti-competitive practices by big tech companies.
- The CCIA suggests that the proposal, including estimated taxes for significant digital intermediaries, seems to primarily target U.S. tech companies.
Fines on Google:
- The CCIA expresses dissatisfaction with the Competition Commission of India’s fines imposed on Google for alleged anti-competitive practices in its Play Store policies and dominant position in the Android mobile operating system domain.
- The body considers this part of India’s attempt to use antitrust laws as a cover for protectionist industrial policy.
-Source: The Hindu
Prime Minister made a pitch for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and hit out at Opposition parties for allegedly inciting minority communities against it.
GS II- Polity
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?
- Positive aspects of Uniform Civil Code include
- Challenges in Implementing Uniform Civil Code Include
- Does India not already have a UCC for civil matters?
- How does the idea of UCC relate to the Fundamental Right to religion?
What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?
- The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India proposes to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set governing every citizen.
- The constitution has a provision for Uniform Civil Code in Article 44 as a Directive Principle of State Policy which states that “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
Article 44 is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy. These, as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.
Fundamental Rights are enforceable in a court of law. While Article 44 uses the words “state shall endeavour”, other Articles in the ‘Directive Principles’ chapter use words such as “in particular strive”; “shall in particular direct its policy”; “shall be obligation of the state” etc.
Article 43 mentions “state shall endeavour by suitable legislation”, while the phrase “by suitable legislation” is absent in Article 44. All this implies that the duty of the state is greater in other directive principles than in Article 44.
Positive aspects of Uniform Civil Code include
- UCC will divest religion from social relations and personal laws and will ensure equality in terms of justice to both men and women regardless of the faith they practice.
- There will be uniform laws for all Indians with regard to marriage, inheritance, divorce etc.
- It will help in improving the condition of women in India as Indian society is mostly patriarchal
- Informal bodies like caste panchayats give judgements based on traditional laws. UCC will ensure that legal laws are followed rather than traditional laws.
- It can help in reducing instances of vote bank politics. If all religions are covered under same laws, politicians will have less to offer to communities in exchange of their vote.
Challenges in Implementing Uniform Civil Code Include
- Implementation of UCC might interfere with the principle of secularism, particularly with the provisions of Articles 25 and 26, which guarantee freedom relating to religious practices.
- Conservatism by religious groups, which resist such changes as it interferes with their religious practices.
- It is difficult for the government to come up with a uniform law that is accepted by all religious communities. All religious groups- whether majority or minority have to support the change in personal laws.
- Drafting of UCC is another obstacle. There is no consensus regarding whether it should be a blend of personal laws or should be a new law adhering to the constitutional mandate.
Does India not already have a uniform code in civil matters?
- Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters — Indian Contract Act, Civil Procedure Code, Sale of Goods Act, Transfer of Property Act, Partnership Act, Evidence Act, etc.
- States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and, therefore, in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws. Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.
- If the framers of the Constitution had intended to have a Uniform Civil Code, they would have given exclusive jurisdiction to Parliament in respect of personal laws, by including this subject in the Union List. But “personal laws” are mentioned in the Concurrent List.
- In 2020, the Law Commission concluded that a Uniform Civil Code is neither feasible nor desirable.
How does the idea of a Uniform Civil Code relate to the fundamental right to religion?
- Article 25 lays down an individual’s fundamental right to religion; Article 26(b) upholds the right of each religious denomination or any section thereof to “manage its own affairs in matters of religion”; Article 29 defines the right to conserve distinctive culture. An individual’s freedom of religion under Article 25 is subject to “public order, health, morality” and other provisions relating to fundamental rights, but a group’s freedom under Article 26 has not been subjected to other fundamental rights.
- In the Constituent Assembly, there was division on the issue of putting Uniform Civil Code in the fundamental rights chapter.
- The matter was settled by a vote. By a 5:4 majority, the fundamental rights sub-committee headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel held that the provision was outside the scope of Fundamental Rights and therefore the Uniform Civil Code was made less important than freedom of religion.
-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express
Recently, the Delhi High Court has upheld the conviction and 10-year sentence (awarded in 2019) of five Uttar Pradesh policemen for Custodial Torture of a 26-year-old man causing his death in 2006.
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Aricle:
- About Custodial torture
- Reasons for Custodial Deaths
- What are the Provisions Available Regarding Custody?
About Custodial torture
- Custodial torture refers to the act of subjecting individuals who are under the custody of the police or other authorities to physical or mental pain and suffering.
- It is considered a serious violation of human rights and dignity, often leading to custodial deaths. Custodial deaths occur when a person dies while in custody.
Different types of custodial deaths include:
- Death in Police Custody: This can result from the use of excessive force, torture, denial of medical care, or other forms of abuse by the police.
- Death in Judicial Custody: These deaths may occur due to factors such as overcrowding in prisons, poor hygiene conditions, lack of adequate medical facilities, violence among inmates, or cases of suicide.
- Death in the Custody of Army or Paramilitary Forces: Such deaths can happen as a result of torture, extrajudicial killings, encounters, or incidents of crossfire involving military or paramilitary personnel.
Custodial Death in India:
- In recent years, the number of custodial deaths in India has been a cause for concern.
- In 2017-2018, a total of 146 cases of death in police custody were reported.
- This number decreased to 136 in 2018-2019, 112 in 2019-2020, 100 in 2020-2021 but increased again to 175 in 2021-2022.
- The highest number of custodial deaths were reported in Gujarat, with 80 cases in the last five years. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar also had a high number of cases.
- The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended monetary relief in 201 cases and disciplinary action in one case related to custodial deaths.
Reasons for Custodial Deaths
- Absence of Strong Legislation: India does not have an anti-torture legislation and is yet to criminalise custodial violence, while action against culpable officials remains illusory.
- Excessive force: Law enforcement officials may use excessive force against a person in custody, which can lead to severe injuries or even death.
- Neglect: Failure to provide adequate medical care, nutrition, or hygienic conditions to the person in custody can also result in custodial deaths.
- Abuse: Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by law enforcement officials can cause custodial deaths.
- Torture: Torture, whether physical or psychological, can lead to severe injuries and even death.
- Suicide: Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and trauma can drive a person to commit suicide while in custody.
- Medical conditions: Existing medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, can become life-threatening if not adequately treated while in custody.
What are the Provisions Available Regarding Custody?
- Under the Indian Constitution, Article 21 provides for the protection of the right to life and personal liberty, and it states that no person shall be deprived of their life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
- The right to be protected from torture is also considered a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- Article 22 provides protection against arrest and detention in certain cases, and it stipulates the right to counsel as a fundamental right.
- Role of State Government:
- Police and public order are State subjects, and it is primarily the responsibility of the State government to ensure the protection of human rights.
- Role of Central Government:
- The Central Government issues advisories and has enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHR), 1993.
- This act stipulates the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Commissions to look into alleged human rights violations by public servants.
- The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) Section 41 was amended in 2009 to include safeguards for arrests and detentions, reasonable grounds and documented procedures, transparency to family and friends, and legal representation.
- The Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for punishment for injury inflicted for extorting confession under sections 330 and 331.
- The crime of custodial torture against prisoners can be brought under sections 302, 304, 304A, and 306 of the IPC.
- The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, provides for the protection of an accused person’s confession made to the police.
- Section 25 of the Act stipulates that a confession made to the police cannot be admitted in court.
- Section 26 of the Act provides that a confession made to the police by a person cannot be proved against that person unless it is made before the Magistrate.
- The Indian Police Act, 1861, provides for the dismissal, penalty, or suspension of police officers who are negligent in the discharge of their duties or unfit to perform the same under sections 7 and 29 of the Act.
-Source: Indian Express
Recently, the Rugose Spiralling Whitefly, which attacks palms, coconuts, and bananas, has been spotted in Pune city.
GS III: Agriculture
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Whitefly
- Attack Mechanism of Whitefly
- Effects on Coconut Production:
- Winged insects with soft bodies, closely related to aphids.
- Tiny, sap-sucking pests that can proliferate in vegetable and ornamental plantings, especially in warm weather.
- Originally found in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, and has spread to 22 other countries in Central and South America.
- Mainly infests coconut palms and other broad-leaved hosts in its native range.
- Considered an invasive insect species.
Attack Mechanism of Whitefly:
- Whiteflies initially target the lower leaves of coconut palms.
- They extract sap from the underside of the leaf, resulting in the secretion of honeydew.
- The honeydew settles on the upper surface of the adjacent lower leaf.
- The presence of honeydew promotes the growth of black, sooty mold.
- Sooty mold is a secondary infection caused by the whitefly infestation.
- The impact on coconut production is severe.
- Reduction in coconut size and decrease in water content are observed.
Effects on Coconut Production:
- Whiteflies have a detrimental effect on coconut crops.
- Reduction in coconut size and quality.
- Decrease in the water content of coconuts.
- Serious implications for coconut yield and production.
-Source: Indian Express
The Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying will launch the Report Fish Disease (RFD) App at Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi.
GS II: Health
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the Report Fish Disease App
- About Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana
About the Report Fish Disease App:
- The app aims to strengthen the farmer-based disease reporting system and improve the reporting of aquatic animal diseases in India.
- It has been developed by ICAR-NBFGR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research – National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources) under the National Surveillance Programme for Aquatic Animal Diseases (NSPAAD).
- The app is funded under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana, which is a scheme by the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India.
Benefits of the App:
- Farmers can use the app to report disease incidents in finfish, shrimps, and molluscs on their farms to field-level officers and fish health experts.
- This facilitates the farmers in receiving scientific advice for effectively managing the diseases.
- The app stores data about diseases on temporal and spatial scales, enabling the mapping of disease cases.
- It supports farmers in improving their reporting process, accessing scientific advice, and reducing losses caused by diseases, thereby contributing to increased income for farmers.
About Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana
- Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) was launched in 2020 to bring about Blue Revolution through the sustainable development of the fisheries sector over a period of five years (2020-2025).
- It is an umbrella scheme to develop the fisheries sector with a total outlay of Rs. 20050 crores.
It has two components
- The Central Sector Scheme (CS) component with a non-beneficiary-oriented scheme and a Beneficiary oriented scheme (Central Assistance for General Category – 40%; SC/ST/Women – 60%).
- A Central Sponsored Scheme (CSS) component also with a non-beneficiary-oriented scheme and Beneficiary oriented scheme. The different break-ups of funding are: Central Assistance for Northeastern States – 90%, Other States – 60%; and UTs – 100%.
The areas expected to be covered by the PMMSY are:
- Fish production
- Fisheries productivity
- Quality of fisheries and aquaculture sectors
- Post-harvest infrastructure and management
- Modernization of value chain
- Welfare of the fishers and fish farmers
- Fisheries management framework
The insurance coverage provided under the PMMSY includes
- Rs.5,00,000/- against accidental death or permanent total disability,
- Rs.2,50,000/- for permanent partial disability
- Hospitalization expenses in the event of accident for a sum of Rs. 25,000/-.
The objectives of the PMMSY are:
- Develop fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
- Harness the potential of fisheries sector in a sustainable, responsible, inclusive and equitable manner
- Efficient use of land and water resources to enhance fish production and productivity.
- Modernize value chain considering post-harvest management and quality improvement.
- Double fishers and fish farmers’ incomes
- Generate employment in the fisheries sector.
- Enhance fisheries sector’s contribution to overall agricultural Gross Value Added (GVA) and exports.
- Provide social, economic and physical security to fish farmers and fishermen.
- Develop a robust fisheries management and regulatory framework.
-Source: Indian Express, PIB
Recently, Officers of the Customs Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) seized 6,850 live red-eared sliders, a species of turtle, from two male passengers who arrived at the Tiruchi international airport.
GS III: Environment and Ecology
Red-eared Sliders Turtle:
- Native to the southeastern USA and Mexico.
- Semi-aquatic turtles found in fresh and brackish water ecosystems.
- Primarily spends time foraging in water or basking on rocks and logs.
- Considered one of the world’s 100 worst invasive non-native species.
- Notable feature is the red stripes behind each ear.
- Coloration ranges from dark green to brown, with yellowish ribbons on their bodies and along the edge of their olive-green shell.
- In the wild, they have a lifespan of 20 to 50 years.
- Red-eared sliders mainly feed on plants and small animals such as crickets and fish.
- IUCN classification: Least Concern.
- The species does not currently face significant conservation threats.
-Source: Down To Earth
Recently, the Egyptian President conferred the country’s highest state honour “Order of the Nile” award to the Prime Minister of India.
Facts for Prelims
Order of the Nile Award:
- Egypt’s highest state honor.
- Established in 1915 to recognize exceptional services to Egypt or humanity.
- Conferred upon Heads of state, Crown Princes, and Vice-Presidents.
Design and Symbolism:
- The Order of the Nile is a pure gold collar with three-square gold units representing Pharaonic symbols.
- The first unit symbolizes protection of the state against evils.
- The second unit represents the prosperity and happiness brought by the Nile.
- The third unit signifies wealth and endurance.
- The units are connected by a circular gold flower adorned with turquoise and ruby.
- Hanging from the collar is a hexagonal pendant featuring Pharaonic-style flowers and turquoise and ruby gems.
- The pendant has a protruding symbol representing the Nile, which unifies the North (represented by the Papyrus) and the South (represented by the Lotus).
- Recipients of the Order of the Nile are honored with a salute upon their death.
-Source: Indian Express