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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 27 March 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1]. Indo-U.S. civil nuclear pact likely to miss June deadline

[2]. India eyes Dhruv’s foreign market


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1]. Poor vote-getters blame the tools

[2]. Revisiting India’s nuclear doctrine 


Economy [The Hindu]


[1]. Infrastructure clouds connectivity


Indian Express


[1]. The twin pit solution


Live Mint


[1]. Building a legal ecosystem for Aadhaar


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. Indo-U.S. civil nuclear pact likely to miss June deadline

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Bankruptcy of reactor maker Westinghouse clouds operationalisation of the deal

 

June timeline

  • According to the agreement over liability issues and the negotiations that followed former U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January 2015 and Indian PM’s visit to Washington in June 2016, the two sides had agreed to “work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017” for six reactors to be built in Andhra Pradesh by Toshiba-owned Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL)
  • When completed, this was to be the first operationalisation of the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal, which was announced in 2008, and proof that both sides had effectively sorted out all their issues, including over the liability that suppliers must accept in the event of an accident
  • However, recent developments have led to uncertainty over the June 2017 timeline

 

Reason for concern

The reason for the concern is that the nuclear arrangement hinged on two major factors,

  • The completion of the India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA), as Toshiba and other suppliers for reactor parts are bound by Japanese laws
    • Still not ratified: While the NCA was signed in Tokyo in November 2016, it is yet to be ratified by Diet (Japanese Parliament)
    • The NCA was expected to have been ratified in early March during the current session, but proceedings in Japanese parliament have been derailed by a controversy over accusations against PM Shinzo Abe his wife and the Defence Minister Tomomi Inada of alleged favors a school in Osaka
  • The actual contract to be negotiated by the U.S.-based Westinghouse
    • Westinghouse has filed for bankruptcy under US Laws due to cost over-runs. This means that commercial contract with Westinghouse would be “delayed”

 

[2]. India eyes Dhruv’s foreign market

 

The Hindu

 

Context

In talks with Sri Lanka and Southeast Asian nations; emphasis on maintenance

 

News

As part of efforts to enhance defence cooperation and boost exports with friendly countries, India is in discussions with Sri Lanka and several Southeast Asian nations for the supply of Dhruv, the indigenously developed advanced light helicopter (ALH).

 

New mainstay of India’s regional defence cooperation

  • Supplying defence equipment
  • Providing assistance in setting up domestic manufacturing capability

 

Treading carefully: Ecuador story

This time, India is putting specific emphasis on maintenance and training in view of its experience of Dhruv sales to Ecuador, which got embroiled in legal issues.

  • Amid much fanfare in 2009, India bagged a deal to supply seven of these helicopters to Ecuador worth $45.2 million after defeating several global platforms. However, the euphoria was short-lived as four of them crashed
  • In October 2015, Ecuador unilaterally terminated the contract and in 2016, put the three helicopters on sale. Following this, HAL had moved a local court there. Of the four crashes, two had been attributed to pilot error and one to mechanical failure

 

Dhruv

Dhruv, designed and developed by the HAL, is powered by the Shakti engine jointly developed by it and Turbomeca of France. Over 200 helicopters are in service with the Indian military


Editorial/OPINION


[1]. Poor vote-getters blame the tools

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Criticisms of the reliability of the Indian electronic voting machine are unwarranted

 

What has happened?

Various political parties have raised allegations against the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) after their defeat the recently conducted assembly elections in 5 Indian states

 

Why EVMs cannot be blamed here?

  • Cannot be influence via signals: EVMs are standalone machines and are not networked either by wire or by wireless to any other machine or system. Hence, they cannot be influenced or manipulated by signals from mobile phones or any other source
  • Software of an EVM cannot be tampered with:The software in the machine is burnt into a one-time programmable chip or masked chip and can never be altered or tampered with.
  • Source code not shared:The source code of the software is not handed over to any outsider

 

Prescription of steps

ECI has prescribed a series of steps to in its standard operating procedures to enhance transparency and provide an opportunity for political parties and candidates to participate in testing the reliability of the machines

  • First level of testing: During the first-level of testing before the machines are allotted to various constituencies from storage points, party representatives are invited. They can select at random 5% of the machines in which up to 1,000 votes will be polled to demonstrate the reliability and fidelity of the machines. A computer programme allocates, at random, machines to constituencies
  • Second level of testing: The second-level of testing is done when, from the constituency headquarters, machines are allocated — again at random, using a computer programme — to polling stations. At this juncture, the candidates — who by now come on the scene — are allowed to test the machines at random. The serial number of the machine sent to each polling station is shared with the candidates, who can pass on this information to their representatives in the respective polling stations
  • The final testing: Finally, before the start of the polling process on the day of the election, each presiding officer conducts a mock poll to demonstrate the “correctness” the machine in recording votes

 

Rebuffing the global examples

Author now tries to rebuff the global examples often cited to counter the usage of EVMs in India. Two countries that are often named are Netherlands and Germany where the use of EVMs has been given up without divulging a key fact.

  • Netherlands: In this case, it was a networkable PC-type of machine running on Operating System (OS)
  • Germany: Germany’s Supreme Court had disallowed electronic voting because their law did not have the enabling provision

 

Rebuffing the Trojan horse theory

Some people have floated the theory that an EVM has a Trojan horse inbuilt into the programming of the chip itself. Nothing could be more far away from the truth because the software, once fused into the EVM chip is unalterable, and the machine cannot be manipulated by sending messages from external sources.

 

[2]. Revisiting India’s nuclear doctrine 

 

The Hindu

 

Context

No First Use as a nuclear deterrent should work without additional caveats

 

What has happened?

Recently, the Kim Jong Nam, the brother of Kim Jong-Un was apparently assassinated in Malaysia by the use of chemical agent VX

 

In the first few paragraphs author contends that the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention has succeeded in only partly. He states that while the global norm against the usage of nuclear weapons has developed but the view around the usage of chemical and biological weapons is still evolving

 

India’s nuclear doctrine

India’s nuclear doctrine is guided by no-first use policy but in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, it reserves the right to retaliate

 

Author’s asks

If a roughly similar attack, as carried out against Kim Jong Nam, were to be carried out against Indians, whether military personnel, politicians or indeed civilians, how would New Delhi define “major”?

 

Rest of the article pertains to the American policy against Syrian use of Sarin nerve agent in the city of Damascus in 2013.

 

She ends the article by concluding that nuclear weapons are a credible deterrence but the deterrent factor should be employed as a last resort and should be used carefully


Economy


[1]. Infrastructure clouds connectivity

The Hindu

 

Context

Study finds only 14% of regional airports identified for subsidised connectivity are equipped

 

What has happened?

A study by Crisil Research has found that only about 60 out of the more than 414 identified un-served and underserved regional airports, under Regional Connectivity Scheme, have the necessary infrastructure to support flight operations

  • In other words, only 14% of the airports and airstrips listed under the scheme are equipped to handle small aircraft, that is up to ATR 42

 

What is Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)

  • Under RCS, the airlines will connect to small towns with flights of about 1 hour capped at Rs 2500
  • The centre will compensate for the losses by subsidising the airlines flying on regional routes so that they can charge Rs 2500 to passengers for one hour flight. This is also known as viability gap funding (VGF)
  • The ratio between centre to state of this VGF will be 80:20

 

Major challenges to operator participation in RCS

  • Concentration in metros: Though domestic passenger traffic in India has grown 10% a year in the five fiscal years ended 2016, to 85 million annually, it is concentrated in the 6 metro airports, which account for about 65% of the total domestic passenger traffic, leaving the rest to the remaining 73 airports
  • Lack of infrastructure: Only up to 60 airports / airstrips including 12 underserved ones are infrastructure-ready. They have the required runway length of up to 1,600 metres that can handle an ATR 42 operation and the terminal buildings
    • As of January 2017, 19 states had consented to the implementation of the scheme. Of these 11 — Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Puducherry, Uttarakhand and West Bengal — have signed memoranda of understanding. Together, these states have about 8 underserved and 173 unserved airports but only 23 of these have the requisite infrastructure

Indian Express


[1]. The twin pit solution

 

Indian Express

 

Context

Rural India is woefully under-informed of how it can both transform sanitation and earn money

 

Issue: Open Defecation Free (ODF) rural India

 

What has happened?

PM of India has set October 2, 2019 as the target date for rural India to be Open Defecation Free (ODF)

 

Remarkable progress has been achieved, but there is still a very long way to go

 

Two differing approaches

Rural people and government have different sets of approaches as far as sanitation if concerned.

 

Rural people’s approach

  • Preference to large septic tanks: Rural people favor to construct a septic tank, a large, sealed underground chamber, the larger the better
  • The cost of such tanks range from Rs 20000 to Rs 70000 which is too expensive for many poor people
  • Masons also recommend septic tanks because they can make more money from construction

 

Government’s approach

  • Smaller twin pit: The government recommendation is the much smaller and cheaper twin pit. This has two leach pits, with a ‘Y’ junction, so that one pit can be filled at a time
  • Turning waste to asset:The practice is to fill one, which may take the average family five to eight years, cover it over when nearly full, and leave it to stand while the second pit is used.
    • After about a year, the contents of the first pit have turned into harmless— and valuable — fertiliser: A family’s waste turns from being a liability in a septic tank to a growing asset
    • Each visit to the loo is an investment; the more it is used, the quicker will be the return. The pit can be emptied safely and its contents used or sold

 

What is actually happening at the ground level?

Rural people who already have twin pits are getting septic tanks installed.

 

So, what might be the reason that people with twin pits are installing septic tanks?

Author states that it seems a lack of awareness & complete ignorance about the perceived benefits of the twin pits is leading to this situation. The Information, Education and Awareness (IEC) campaigns have not focussed on informing rural people about the benefits of twin pits.

 

Note: Aspirants can quote the recent incident in the exam where led by ParameshwaranIyer, the secretary in charge of the Swachh Bharat Mission, principal secretaries from almost all states set a splendid example by themselves getting down into pits, digging out fertiliser and being photographed handling it.

 

Can understanding about twin pits and fertiliser solve the problem of partial usage?

Not at once. But if the principal secretaries inspire their staff to empty pits, and if this filters down the hierarchy to field workers, perhaps this could become transformative, and support efforts in changing norms and practices


Live Mint


[1]. Building a legal ecosystem for Aadhaar

 

Live Mint

 

Context

There is an untenable tension between the approaches of the executive and the judiciary to Aadhaar

 

What has happened?

Recently, the present government made Aadhaar mandatory for an individual for filing tax returns or obtaining and retaining a PAN card

  • Expansion of coverage: It should be noted that government has also notified the expansion of Aadhaar to cover over 30 schemes. An Aadhaar number will now be mandatory for ex-gratia payments to Bhopal gas leak victims, the SarvaShiksha Abhiyan, Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Scheme, National Action Plan for Skill Training of Persons with Disabilities and National Health Mission etc

Author’s contention: Issues remain

Author states that there are still some issues remaining with the Aadhaar

  • Conflicting position of Judiciary vis-à-vis executive: While SC had allowed the usage of Aadhaar for various government schemes but it also stated that the use of Aadhaar must be voluntary &could not be made mandatory until such time as the matter was finally decided
  • In August 2015, a three-judge Supreme Court bench allowed the government to use Aadhaar for the public distribution system and for distributing liquefied petroleum gas cylinders
  • In October 2015, the Supreme Court also allowed the government to use Aadhaar for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, among a handful of schemes

 

Two different approaches on the use of Aadhaar has given rise to needless tension. Until the matter is fully decided upon in the SC, government should restrain itself from making the Aadhaar mandatory as it can lead to litigation

  • Absence of any legal environment: With Aadhaar there is an ensuing need for legal framework to protect the rights of the citizens. Legal checks and balances are essential here
    • No right to privacy: At a hearing in July 2015 pertaining to various petitions challenging the validity of the Aadhaar project, attorney general MukulRohatgi asserted that the Indian Constitution does not guarantee a right to privacy. He is correct. In 1954 and then in 1964, benches of eight and seven judges, respectively, ruled that there was no fundamental right to privacy. The government has said that it is drafting a privacy Bill to address the issue—but its failure to provide a timeline or show any urgency points to its disinterest

 

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that a legal ecosystem for Aadhaar that is grounded in constitutionality is essential and the Aadhaar Bill was a good first step but neither the government nor the Supreme Court have followed up adequately



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