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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 23 November 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill
  2. Countries veering towards authoritarianism on rise: report
  3. UNESCO study on school closures and gender equality
  4. Pakistan to allow India’s Afghanistan aid to pass through
  5. Co-op societies are not banks, RBI cautions

Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill

Context:

The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill 2019, has argued in its report defending the controversial exemption clause that allows the Government to keep any of its agencies outside the purview of the law. The JPC said that a secure nation alone provides the atmosphere which ensures personal liberty and privacy of an individual.

Relevance:

GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Cyber Security, Government Policies & Interventions, Internal security challenges through communication networks), GS-II: Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Significance of Data
  2. Personal Data Protection Bill 2019
  3. Advantages of the changes
  4. Issues with the bill
  5. About Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) report on PDP Bill
  6. Concerns raised by the JPC
  7. Recommendations of the JPC on PDP Bill
  8. Data Protection Authority (DPA): The solution?

Significance of Data

  • Data is the large collection of information that is stored in a computer or on a network.
  • Data is collected and handled by entities called data fiduciaries.
  • While the fiduciary controls how and why data is processed, the processing itself may be by a third party, the data processor.
  • This distinction is important to delineate responsibility as data moves from entity to entity. For example, in the US, Facebook (the data controller) fell into controversy for the actions of the data processor — Cambridge Analytica.
  • The processing of this data (based on one’s online habits and preferences, but without prior knowledge of the data subject) has become an important source of profits for big corporations.
  • Apart from it, this has become a potential avenue for invasion of privacy, as it can reveal extremely personal aspects.
  • Also, it is now clear that much of the future’s economy and issues of national sovereignty will be predicated on the regulation of data.
  • The physical attributes of data — where data is stored, where it is sent, where it is turned into something useful — are called data flows. Data localisation arguments are premised on the idea that data flows determine who has access to the data, who profits off it, who taxes and who “owns” it.

Personal Data Protection Bill 2019

  • The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 (PDP Bill 2019) is being analyzed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in consultation with experts and stakeholders.
  • The Bill covers mechanisms for protection of personal data and proposes the setting up of a Data Protection Authority (DPA) of India for the same.
  • Some key provisions the 2019 Bill provides for which the 2018 draft Bill did not, such as that the central government can exempt any government agency from the Bill and the Right to Be Forgotten, have been included.
  • The Bill proposes “Purpose limitation” and “Collection limitation” clause, which limit the collection of data to what is needed for “clear, specific, and lawful” purposes.
  • It also grants individuals the right to data portability and the ability to access and transfer one’s own data. It also grants individuals the right to data portability, and the ability to access and transfer one’s own data.
  • Finally, it legislates on the right to be forgotten. With historical roots in European Union law, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this right allows an individual to remove consent for data collection and disclosure.

The Bill trifurcates data as follows:

  1. Personal data: Data from which an individual can be identified like name, address etc.
  2. Sensitive personal data (SPD): Some types of personal data like as financial, health, sexual orientation, biometric, genetic, transgender status, caste, religious belief, and more.
  3. Critical personal data: Anything that the government at any time can deem critical, such as military or national security data.

Advantages of the changes

  • Data localisation can help law-enforcement agencies access data for investigations and enforcement.
  • As of now, much of cross-border data transfer is governed by individual bilateral “mutual legal assistance treaties”.
  • Accessing data through this route is a cumbersome process and also instances of cyber-attacks and surveillance can be checked easily.
  • Social media is being used to spread fake news, which has resulted in lynchings, national security threats, which can now be monitored, checked and prevented in time.
  • Data localisation will also increase the ability of the Indian government to tax Internet giants.
  • A strong data protection legislation will also help to enforce data sovereignty.

Issues with the bill

  • The current draft requires the DPA to maintain a cadre of adjudicating officers and specifies their desired areas of expertise.
  • All other important details, like the terms of appointment, jurisdictional scope, and procedure for hearings, are, however, left to be decided by the central government.
  • The Bill doesn’t even specify whether the adjudication process can, or should, be preceded by mediation, which could help in the amicable settlement of many complaints.
  • Many contend that the physical location of the data is not relevant in the cyber world. Even if the data is stored in the country, the encryption keys may still be out of reach of national agencies.
  • National security or reasonable purposes are an open-ended term, this may lead to intrusion of state into the private lives of citizens.
  • Technology giants like Facebook and Google have criticised protectionist policy on data protection (data localisation).
  • Protectionist regime supress the values of a globalised, competitive internet marketplace, where costs and speeds determine information flows rather than nationalistic borders.
  • Also, it may backfire on India’s own young startups that are attempting global growth, or on larger firms that process foreign data in India.

About Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) report on PDP Bill

  • The committee has retained the Clause 35/Exemption Clause -which allows the Government to keep any of its agencies outside the purview of the law – with minor changes.
  • The Clause in the name of “public order”, ‘sovereignty’, “friendly relations with foreign states” and “security of the state” allows any agency under the Union Government exemption from all or any provisions of the law.
  • The clause is for “certain legitimate purposes” and also there is precedent in the form of the reasonable restrictions imposed upon the liberty of an individual, as guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution and the Puttaswamy judgment.

Concerns raised by the JPC

  • The committee expressed concerns with possible misuse. Though the State has rightly been empowered to exempt itself from the application of this Act, this power may be used only under exceptional circumstances and subject to conditions as laid out in the Act.
  • The Bill creates two parallel universes — one for the private sector where it would apply with full rigour and one for the Government where it is riddled with exemption, carve outs and escape clauses.
  • A Bill that seeks to provide blanket exemptions either in perpetuity or even for a limited period to the ‘state’ and its instrumentalities, is beyond the legal power of the Fundamental Right to privacy as laid down in Puttaswamy judgement.
  • Bill does not provide adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy and gives an overboard exemption to the Government. Clause 35 is open to misuse since it gives unqualified powers to the Government.
  • The Bill pays little attention to “harms arising from surveillance and effort to establish a modern surveillance framework”.
  • The Bill has no provision to keep a check on collection of data by hardware manufacturers.

Recommendations of the JPC on PDP Bill

  • The JPC has called for the development of an alternative indigenous financial system for cross-border payments on the lines of Ripple (U.S.) and INSTEX (EU) and that the Central Government must prepare and pronounce an extensive policy on data localisation.
  • The JPC also said that the Government should make efforts to establish a mechanism for the formal certification process for all digital and IoT (Internet of Things) devices that will ensure the integrity of all such devices with respect to data security.
  • The JPC has recommended that all social media platforms, which do not act as intermediaries, should be treated as publishers and be held accountable for the content they host, and should be held responsible for the content from unverified accounts on their platforms.
  • It also said that under clause which deals with granting powers to the government to make rules, the government should decide the manner in which a data fiduciary can share, transfer or transmit the personal data to any person as part of any business transaction. The government should take the final call on whether sensitive personal data can be shared with a foreign government or agency.
  • The recommendations also give the government the scope to set up a future statutory body to look into the use of personal data by journalistic organisations.

Data Protection Authority (DPA): The solution?

  • One of the many important duties cast on the Data Protection Authority (DPA) that is to be created under the Bill is to adjudicate complaints received from data principals — individuals whose personal data is processed by others.
  • The DPA is set to function as what the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) termed as a “mini-state”. This refers to an agency that is entrusted with a mix of quasi-legislative (regulation-making), executive (supervision and enforcement), and quasi-judicial (adjudication) functions.
  • It comes with the risk that, absent structural safeguards, the agency might end up abusing or, conversely, neglecting some of its functions. A carefully-crafted regulatory design and robust accountability mechanisms are, therefore, essential.

Broad Mandate of the DPA, a problem

  • Unlike other sectoral regulators that oversee specific businesses, the DPA’s authority will extend to anyone who deals with personal data.
  • This may include individuals, private entities or any department or agency of the state.
  • Further, since each data principal is party to multiple online and offline relationships, the universe of regulated transactions becomes even larger.
  • Even a miniscule 0.5% rate of complaints out of the total shares of personal data will result in more than 10 million cases in a year. A caseload of this sort would be daunting for any agency.
  • As a consequence, the DPA may either be overwhelmed by the volume of complaints or may grossly under-prioritise this aspect, resulting in delays, erosion of trust and poorer outcomes.

-Source: The Hindu


Countries veering towards authoritarianism on rise: report

Context:

According to the Global State of Democracy Report, 2021 released by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International-IDEA) – the number of countries moving towards authoritarianism in 2020 was higher than that of countries going in the other direction, towards democracy.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Governance)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Democracy?
  2. Understanding Constitutional Democracy
  3. Opposite of Democracy – Autocracy
  4. Highlights of the Global State of Democracy Report, 2021
  5. Why is Democracy better than other regimes?

What is Democracy?

  • Democracy is a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation.
  • The word democratic refers not only to political democracy but also to social and economic democracy.
  • The two current types of democracy are:
    • Direct democracy: The people directly deliberate and decide on legislation.
    • Indirect / Representative democracy: The people elect representatives to deliberate and decide on legislation (such as in parliamentary or presidential democracy.)
  • The people of India elect their governments by a system of universal adult franchise, popularly known as “one person one vote”.

Understanding Constitutional Democracy

  • The basic difference between a democracy and a constitutional democracy is that while democracy can only guarantee that the power is vested with the people (the majority, in fact), the constitution preserves the rights of the minority and prevents them from unwelcome contingencies of the majority will.
  • The constitution also acts as a bridge between the people and the state, a bridge that was curated with a vision to put a check on state power. It also protects the pluralistic fabric of the society from the succumbing to the waves of temperamental shift in public mood.
  • The constitutional morality balances popular morality and acts as a threshold against an upsurge in mob rule.

Opposite of Democracy – Autocracy

  • Autocracy is a system of government in which supreme power over a state is concentrated in the hands of one person (commonly referred to as a dictator), whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of coup d’état or other forms of rebellion).
  • Both totalitarian and military dictatorship are often identified with, but need not be, an autocracy.
  • Totalitarianism is a system where the state strives to control every aspect of life and civil society. It can be headed by a supreme leader, making it autocratic, but it can also have a collective leadership such as a commune, military junta, or a single political party as in the case of a one-party state.

Highlights of the Global State of Democracy Report, 2021

  • According to the report – while 20 countries moved in the direction of authoritarianism, seven countries moved towards democracy.
  • The pandemic has prolonged this existing negative trend into a five-year stretch, the longest such period since the start of the third wave of democratisation in the 1970s.
  • Democratically elected Governments, including established democracies, are increasingly adopting authoritarian tactics. This democratic backsliding has often enjoyed significant popular support.
  • The report highlighted the case of Brazil and India as “some of the most worrying examples of backsliding. However, India remained in the category of a mid-level performing democracy as it has since 2000, the report showed.
  • The United States and three members of the European Union (EU) [Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, which holds the chair of the EU in 2021] have also seen concerning democratic declines.
  • In non-democratic regimes, the trend was deepening according to the report.
  • The report cited the example of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations about electoral integrity as part of the increasing trend of questioning elections in established democracies.

Why is Democracy better than other regimes?

Evidence

  • Except China – Authoritarian states have not performed better than democracies. E.g., Africa and West Asia, where authoritarian governments have dominated, remain world economic laggards.
  • In Taiwan and South Korea, their transitions to democracy saw their economies moving up to the next level and become much more inclusive.
  • Similarly, the Latin American military dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s had a terrible economic and social record and with the return of democracy and the “pink wave” of Left populist parties that prosperity and social progress were ushered in.

Evidence from Inclusive states in India

  • Kerala and Tamil Nadu have done more to improve the lives of all their citizens across castes and classes than any other State in India and both states have also had the longest and most sustained popular democratic movements and intense party competition in the country.
  • In contrast, in Gujarat, where a single-party rule has been in place for nearly a quarter century, growth has been solid. But it is accompanied by increased social exclusion and stagnation in educational achievement and poverty reduction.

Myths around authoritarian model of decision-making

  • The assumption that the authoritarianism model of decision-making can rise above the challenges in a democratic setup is false.
  • Democracies are in fact more likely to meet the necessary conditions for successful decision-making as elected representatives are answerable to a broad electorate if they want to win elections.
  • Democracy allows for forms of negotiation and compromise that can bridge across interests and even balance otherwise conflicting imperatives for growth, justice, sustainability, and social inclusion.
  • Democracy’s conflicts and noise may make things more difficult, but having to respond to a wide range of interests and identities not only protects against disastrous decisions, but also allows for forms of negotiation and compromise that can bridge interests and even balance otherwise conflicting imperatives for growth, justice, sustainability, and social inclusion.

Equality and Freedom

  • Democracy promotes equality by endowing all citizens with the same civic, political and social rights even as it protects and nurtures individuality and difference.
  • Whereas in China (authoritarian state) the cost of development is huge – e.g., Cultural Revolution has made enemies out of neighbors and the One child policy has devastated families and erased a generation. Ongoing violent, systematic repression of the Uyghur Muslim and Tibetan minorities is also a case in point against Authoritarian decision making.
  • Conversely, India’s democracy has opened social and political spaces for subordinate groups and has built a sense of shared identity and belonging in the world’s largest and most diverse society. Individual liberties, community identities, religion and thought freedoms, all of which confer recognition on human beings, have all been protected in India.

-Source: The Hindu


UNESCO study on school closures and gender equality

Context:

Educational disruption due to prolonged closure of schools across the globe will not only have alarming effects on learning loss but also poses threat to gender equality, a new study by UNESCO has pointed out.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Gendered impacts of Covid-19 school closures study
  2. Way Forwards suggested

About the Gendered impacts of Covid-19 school closures study

  • The global study titled “When schools shut: Gendered impacts of Covid-19 school closures” brings to the fore that girls and boys, young women and men were affected differently by school closures, depending on the context.
  • At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by school closures.

Highlights of the study on impact of school closures

  • In poorer contexts, girls’ time to learn was constrained by increased household chores. Boys’ participation in learning was limited by income-generating activities.
  • Girls faced difficulties in engaging in digital remote learning modalities in many contexts because of limited access to internet-enabled devices, a lack of digital skills and cultural norms restricting their use of technological devices. The study pointed out that digital gender-divide was already a concern before the Covid-19 crisis.
  • School closures have impacted children’s health, notably their mental health, well-being and protection.
  • Girls reported more stress, anxiety and depression than boys in 15 countries across the world. LGBTQI learners reported high levels of isolation and anxiety.

Way Forwards suggested

  • The study calls on the education community to factor gender in policies and programmes to tackle declining participation and low return-to-school rates in vulnerable communities, including through cash transfers and specific support to pregnant girls and adolescent mothers.
  • Continued efforts are needed to track trends and expand interventions to bring an end to child marriages as well as early and forced marriages, practices which rob girls of their right to education and health and reduce their long-term prospects.
  • A strong need for no-tech and low-tech remote learning solutions, measures to enable schools to provide comprehensive psychosocial support and to monitor participation through sex-disaggregated data, among other necessary measures is needed.

-Source: The Hindu


Pakistan to allow India’s Afghanistan aid to pass through

Context:

  • One month after India offered humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister said that his government would allow the aid to transit over the land route through Pakistan.
  • India had protested the delay in Pakistan’s permissions for the aid to be facilitated, including most recently at the 8-nation Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan in New Delhi, which had ended with a declaration that called for assistance to be ‘unimpeded’.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the transit of aid to Afghanistan
  2. Afghanistan–Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement
  3. Radcliffe Line

About the transit of aid to Afghanistan

  • India offered to supply the 50,000 tonnes of wheat as humanitarian aid via the Wagah land border crossing with Pakistan in October 2021. However, Pakistan did not respond positively to the move.
  • India had protested the delay in Pakistan’s permissions for the aid to be facilitated, including most recently at the 8-nation Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan in New Delhi, which had ended with a declaration that called for assistance to be ‘unimpeded’.
  • Even a Taliban delegation that recently visited Islamabad had raised the issue of allowing the shipment of the wheat with the top Pakistani leadership.
  • After this the Pakistan Prime Minister announced Pakistan’s decision to allow the wheat India has offered to provide Afghanistan as humanitarian assistance to go through Pakistan as soon as modalities are finalized with the Indian side.

Afghanistan–Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement

  • The Afghanistan–Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (also known as APTTA) is a bilateral trade agreement signed in 2010 by Pakistan and Afghanistan that calls for greater facilitation in the movement of goods amongst the two countries.
  • In 2017, the President of Afghanistan announced that The Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade Agreement (APTA) has expired, and issued a decree banning Pakistani trucks from entering the country via the Torkham and Spin Boldak border crossings.
  • The 2010 APTTA allows for both countries to use each other’s airports, railways, roads, and ports for transit trade along designated transit corridors.
  • The agreement does not cover road transport vehicles from any third country, be it from India or any Central Asia country.

Radcliffe Line

  • On 17 August 1947, the borderline that separated India from Pakistan, known as the Radcliffe Line was revealed.
  • The Radcliffe line is spread through the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat till international border in Jammu in Jammu & Kashmir, dividing India and Pakistan into two different countries.
  • The Radcliffe line divided India into 3 parts: India, East Pakistan and West Pakistan.
  • This border line is today the international boundary between India and Pakistan on the western side and between India and Bangladesh on the eastern side.
  • Before independence, it was decided to partition India into India and Pakistan for the Hindu and Muslim communities respectively.
  • The provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan with an overwhelming majority of Muslims (more than 70% and 90% respectively) were granted to Pakistan.
  • The provinces of Punjab and Bengal only had a marginal majority of Muslims. Punjab had 55.7% of Muslims and Bengal had 54.4% Muslims. Even though Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted these provinces to go to Pakistan in their entirety, the Congress Party did not agree considering the feelings of the Hindu and Sikh populations.
  • It was decided to cut through these provinces and give portions to both countries.

-Source: The Hindu


Co-op societies are not banks, RBI cautions

Context:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cautioned members of the public not to deal with co-operative societies undertaking banking business by adding ‘bank’ to their names.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the RBI’s concern regarding Cooperative banks
  2. What are Cooperative Banks?
  3. Structure of co-operative banks in India
  4. Importance of Cooperative Banks:
  5. Problems with Cooperative Banking in India

About the RBI’s concern regarding Cooperative banks

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cautioned members of the public not to deal with cooperative societies undertaking banking business by adding ‘bank’ to their names.
  • It has also come to the notice of RBI that some co-operative societies are accepting deposits from non-members/nominal members/ associate members.
  • This is tantamount to conducting banking business in violation of the provisions.

What are Cooperative Banks?

  • Co-operative banks are financial entities established on a co-operative basis and belonging to their members.This means that the customers of a co-operative bank are also its owners.
  • Cooperative Banks continue to be important and the ideal organisations even in the changing economic environment, as participation and inclusion are central to poverty reduction.

More details about Cooperative Banks

  • Co-operative banks in India are registered under the State’s Cooperative Societies Act.
  • The Co-operative banks are also regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and governed by the Banking Regulations Act 1949 and Banking Laws (Co-operative Societies) Act, 1955.
  • The Registrar of Cooperative Societies (RCS) is in control of management elections and many administrative issues as well as auditing, and the RBI brought them under the Banking Regulation Act as applicable to cooperative societies.
  • Urban cooperative banks have been under the radar of the RBI, but because of dual regulation either of them did not have as much control over these banks in terms of supersession of boards or removal of directors.

Structure of co-operative banks in India

  • Broadly, co-operative banks in India are divided into two categories – urban and rural.
  • Rural cooperative credit institutions could either be short-term or long-term in nature.
  • Short-term cooperative credit institutions are further sub-divided into State Co-operative Banks, District Central Co-operative Banks, Primary Agricultural Credit Societies.
  • Long-term institutions are either State Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development Banks (SCARDBs) or Primary Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development Banks (PCARDBs).

Importance of Cooperative Banks:

The cooperative banking system has to play a critical role in promoting rural finance and is especially suited to Indian conditions.

Various advantages of cooperative credit institutions are given below:

  1. Alternative Credit Source:  The main objective of the cooperative credit movement is to provide an effective alternative to the traditional defective credit system of the village moneylender.
  2. Cheap Rural Credit: Cooperative credit system has cheapened the rural credit by charging comparatively low-interest rates, and has broken the money lender’s monopoly.
  3. Productive Borrowing:  The cultivators used to borrow for consumption and other unproductive purposes. But, now, they mostly borrow for productive purposes.
  4. Encouragement to Saving and Investment: Instead of hoarding money the rural people tend to deposit their savings in cooperative or other banking institutions.
  5. Improvement in Farming Methods: Cooperative credit is available for purchasing improved seeds, chemical fertilizers, modern implements, etc.
  6. Financial Inclusion: They have played a significant role in the financial inclusion of unbanked rural masses. They provide cheap credit to the masses in rural areas.

Problems with Cooperative Banking in India

  1. Politicians in local as well as in state use them to increase their vote bank and usually get their representatives elected over the board of director in order to gain undue advantages.
  2. The cooperatives in northeast states and in states like West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha are not as well developed as the ones in Maharashtra and Gujarat. There is a lot of friction due to competition between different states, this friction affects the working of cooperatives.
  3. A serious problem of the cooperative credit is the overdue loans of the cooperative banks which have been continuously increasing over the years.
  4. Large amounts of overdues restrict the recycling of the funds and adversely affect the lending and borrowing capacity of the cooperative.
  5. The cooperatives have resource constraints as their owned funds hardly make a sizeable portfolio of the working capital.
  6. Raising working capital has been a major hurdle in their effective functioning.

-Source: The Hindu

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