Daily Current Affairs: 23 November 2021


Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics covered

  1. Personal Data protection Bill
  2. All India Survey on Domestic workers
  3. Guaranteed MSP
  4. Article 142 of Indian Constitution
  5. Global State of Democracy Report
  6. Cooperative Societies
  7. Places in News


1 . Personal Data protection Bill


Context: Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill adopted on Monday the report on Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 upon which it deliberated for over a year. As many as seven MPs have given dissent notes to the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Personal Data Protection Bill after the panel adopted its report at its meeting Monday.

Background

  • In 2017, the Supreme Court enshrined the right to privacy as a fundamental right within the ambit of the Constitution (Justice K.S.Puttaswamy(Retd) vs Union Of India )
  • The top court had directed the Centre to come up with a data protection framework for the country.
  • An expert panel headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice B.N. Srikrishna was set up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), which recommended the establishment of personal data protection legislation in its report.
  • The bill was introduced in the Parliament by Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, and the Joint Parliamentary committee was set up to deliberate on the bill, give their recommendations and submit their report to the Parliament.

JPC Objections

  • Clause 35 : JPC considered clause 35 as it assumes importance against the backdrop of recent revelations in the Pegasus spyware. According to Clause 35, in the name of “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 panel reached a middle path on the clause by agreeing that the Government had to record in writing the reasons to give exemption to any agency. Demands that this clause be suitably amended so as to include the provision to seek approval from Parliament for seeking such exemptions were not accepted.

About PDP Bill 2019

The Bill seeks to provide for protection of personal data of individuals, and establishes a Data Protection Authority for the same. 

  • Applicability: 
    • The Bill governs the processing of personal data by:
      • government,
      • companies incorporated in India,
      • foreign companies dealing with personal data of individuals in India.
    • Personal data is data which pertains to characteristics, traits or attributes of identity, which can be used to identify an individual. 
    • The Bill categorises certain personal data as sensitive personal data. 
    • This includes financial data, biometric data, caste, religious or political beliefs, or any other category of data specified by the government, in consultation with the Authority and the concerned sectoral regulator.
       
  • Obligations of data fiduciary: 
    • A data fiduciary is an entity or individual who decides the means and purpose of processing personal data.
    • Such processing will be subject to certain purpose, collection and storage limitations. 
    • For instance, personal data can be processed only for specific, clear and lawful purpose. 
    • Additionally, all data fiduciaries must undertake certain transparency and accountability measures such as:
      • implementing security safeguards (such as data encryption and preventing misuse of data), and
      • instituting grievance redressal mechanisms to address complaints of individuals. 
    • They must also institute mechanisms for age verification and parental consent when processing sensitive personal data of children.
       
  • Rights of the individual: 
    • The Bill sets out certain rights of the individual (or data principal).
    • These include the right to:
      • obtain confirmation from the fiduciary on whether their personal data has been processed,
      • seek correction of inaccurate, incomplete, or out-of-date personal data,
      • have personal data transferred to any other data fiduciary in certain circumstances,
      • restrict continuing disclosure of their personal data by a fiduciary, if it is no longer necessary or consent is withdrawn.
         
  • Grounds for processing personal data: 
    • The Bill allows processing of data by fiduciaries only if consent is provided by the individual.
    • However, in certain circumstances, personal data can be processed without consent. 
    • These include:
      • if required by the State for providing benefits to the individual,
      • legal proceedings,
      • to respond to a medical emergency.
         
  • Social media intermediaries: 
    • The Bill defines these to include intermediaries which enable online interaction between users and allow for sharing of information.
    • All such intermediaries which have users above a notified threshold, and whose actions can impact electoral democracy or public order, have certain obligations, which include providing a voluntary user verification mechanism for users in India.
       
  • Data Protection Authority: 
    • The Bill sets up a Data Protection Authority which may:
      • take steps to protect interests of individuals,
      • prevent misuse of personal data, and
      • ensure compliance with the Bill.
    • It will consist of a chairperson and six members, with at least 10 years’ expertise in the field of data protection and information technology. 
    • Orders of the Authority can be appealed to an Appellate Tribunal. 
    • Appeals from the Tribunal will go to the Supreme Court.
       
  • Transfer of data outside India: 
    • Sensitive personal data may be transferred outside India for processing if explicitly consented to by the individual, and subject to certain additional conditions.
    • However, such sensitive personal data should continue to be stored in India. 
    • Certain personal data notified as critical personal data by the government can only be processed in India. 
       
  • Exemptions: 
    • The central government can exempt any of its agencies from the provisions of the Act:
      • in interest of security of state, public order, sovereignty and integrity of India and friendly relations with foreign states, and
      • for preventing incitement to commission of any cognisable offence (i.e. arrest without warrant) relating to the above matters.
    • Processing of personal data is also exempted from provisions of the Bill for certain other purposes such as:
      • prevention, investigation, or prosecution of any offence, or
      • personal, domestic, or
      • journalistic purposes.  However, such processing must be for a specific, clear and lawful purpose, with certain security safeguards.
         
  • Offences: 
    • Offences under the Bill include:
      • processing or transferring personal data in violation of the Bill, punishable with a fine of Rs 15 crore or 4% of the annual turnover of the fiduciary, whichever is higher, and
      • failure to conduct a data audit, punishable with a fine of five crore rupees or 2% of the annual turnover of the fiduciary, whichever is higher.  Re-identification and processing of de-identified personal data without consent is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years, or fine, or both.
         
  • Sharing of non-personal data with government: 
    • The central government may direct data fiduciaries to provide it with any:
      • non-personal data and
      • anonymised personal data (where it is not possible to identify data principal) for better targeting of services.
         
  • Amendments to other laws: The Bill amends the Information Technology Act, 2000 to delete the provisions related to compensation payable by companies for failure to protect personal data.

2 . All India survey on Domestic workers


Context: The first All India Survey on Domestic Workers was flagged off by Labour and Employment Minister Bhupender Yadav on Monday. The Ministry said the work would be completed in a year.

About the Survey

  • It covers 742 districts in 37 states and Union Territories.
  • This survey will cover all types of domestic services like cook, driver, housekeeping, tutor (for children), watchman, etc.
  • The survey is being carried out by the Labour Bureau.
  • It is aimed at estimating the number of domestic workers at the national and State levels, those engaged in informal employment, and migrant and non-migrant workers; the proportion of domestic workers who stay at their employers’ homes and those who do not; the wages of such workers; and other socioeconomic factors.
  • The survey would also include details of the number of households with “livein and liveout” domestic workers and the average number of workers engaged by various kinds of households.
  • The impact of COVID19 on wages would be a part of the survey in the States and Union Territories.

Other Surveys to be conducted ny the Government

  • The survey for domestic workers is among five national jobs surveys that will be conducted periodically and provide crucial data for an upcoming national employment policy being planned by the government.
  • In September, the government released the results of the first All-India Quarterly Establishment-based Employment Survey (AQEES) for the April-June quarter.
  • The other four surveys are the All-India Survey of Migrant Workers, All-India Survey of Domestic Workers (launched Monday), All-India Survey of Employment Generated by Professionals and All-India Survey of Employment Generated in the Transport Sector.

Domestic workers in India

  • Domestic workers constitute a significant portion of total employment in the informal sector.
  • According to the latest data on the e-Shram portal, around 8.8 percent of the registered 8.56 crore informal sector workers fall in the category of domestic workers.
  • Domestic workers are the third-largest category of workers after agriculture and construction.
  • According to an International Labour Organisation report, India officially employs as many as 4.75 million people as domestic workers.
  • The ILO report also highlights how the workers are slow to get recognition and there are no laws and policies to regulate and protect workers employed in this sector.

Benefits of the survey

  • Though domestic workers were a significant part of the total informal sector employment, there was a lack of data on the employment conditions.
  • This evidence-based study will help the government understand the issues pertaining to them and also guide them in making effective policies.
  • Experts also believe that if there was data available then policy-making would be easier and protecting domestic workers from exploitation would be easier.

3 . Guaranteed MSP


Context : Despite the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi committing to repeal the three farm laws, farmers have said their protest will continue — and have written to the PM with their six remaining demands, including, most importantly, a legal mandate for minimum support prices (MSP).

About Guaranteed MSP

  • MSPs are the prices at which, on paper, the government promises to procure agricultural produce from farmers. At present, the government announces MSPs for 23 crops, but procurement happens only for a few among them. Also, procurement varies quite a lot across states.
  • Government does announce MSPs every year but it is not required to do so by law.
  • The compulsion to procure on MSP is political, not legal. But if there were to be a law backing the MSP regime, the government would lose its existing discretion in choosing not to procure.
  • A legal mandate for MSP would force the government to purchase all the produce that any farmer wants to sell at the declared MSP. It would also have to procure from all states, and all crops for which MSPs are announced.

Problem with this

  • India has had MSPs for several crops for several decades now, but that has not resolved the problem of agrarian distress. On the other hand, a guaranteed MSP can have quite a few unintended consequences that might make the attempted cure worse than the disease. A good example is from the United States, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter between 1977 and 1981.
  • To alleviate the economic condition of dairy farmers, Carter announced that the price of milk would go up by 6 cents per gallon every 6 months. But to maintain these prices, the Carter administration had to increase the demand for milk. It chose to do so by offering to buy as much cheese as anyone would sell to the government at a predesignated price. This was, in essence, a ‘guaranteed MSP’.
  • As the months and years rolled by, more and more cheese was produced and sold to the government. Dairy farmers were happy with higher milk prices, and kept increasing production far in excess of the real demand. Most of the milk went into making cheese, which was then sold to the government.
  • But the government did not know what to do with it. It ran out of space, and had to rent several caves to store the cheese. By 1981, Carter’s dairy support programme was costing American taxpayers $2 billion every year, while the government was stuck with mountains of unutilised cheese.
  • The administration of President Ronald Reagan who succeeded Carter stopped the automatic increases in prices, gave the cheese away for free, and paid dairy farmers to cut down on the production of milk.
  • In India, the percentage of people involved in agriculture is far higher, and they are far more economically distressed than any Western country. A legally mandated MSP regime is likely to be neither feasible nor sustainable in the long run. Already grain stocks lying with the government are more than twice its buffer requirement, and sometimes end up rotting.

Possible way forward

  • It seems logical that instead of bypassing the market by using MSPs, the government should make efforts to enable farmers to participate in the market. However, most Indian farmers have small and marginal landholdings, making them uneconomic.
  • The way forward is to ramp up investment in the agriculture sector. This means better irrigation facilities, easier access to credit, timely access to power, and ramping up warehouse capacity and extension services, including post-harvest marketing. The approach has to be to raise the farmers’ bargaining ability and choices before them.

Other Solutions

  • At a fundamental level, the problem is there are just too many people involved in Indian agriculture for it to be truly remunerative. Agriculture accounts for just 17% of India’s GDP while employing 55% of its population. To a great extent, the solution to the economic distress of Indian farmers lies outside agriculture — in boosting India’s industrial and services sectors.
  • These two sectors can potentially soak up the excess labour that is at present engaged in unremunerative farm activities. Rapid growth of industries and services for the next couple of decades could alleviate India’s farm distress. This, however, is not happening. Data show that manufacturing lost half its jobs between 2016 and 2019, even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
  • Post pandemic, there is a trend of more and more people re-joining agriculture. In the short term, many economists argue that the best way to alleviate distress would be to provide direct cash transfers to the rural poor.

4 . Article 142 of Constitution


Context : Coming to the rescue of a Dalit student, who could not get admission to IIT-Bombay as he was unable to pay the admission fee on time due to technical glitches while using a credit card, the Supreme Court Monday invoked its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to direct authorities to create a seat for him within 48 hours.

About Article 142

  • Article 142 (1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.
  • Article 142 (2) Subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, the Supreme Court shall, as respects the whole of the territory of India, have all and every power to make any order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself.”
  • The provision that vests sweeping powers in the Supreme Court for the end of ensuring “complete justice” has been used generally in cases that involve human rights and environmental protection.
  • Earlier in the Ayodhya case also Supreme court used the power under Article 142 to grant five acres of land in Ayodhya, but outside the disputed area, to Muslim parties. The Supreme Court, implicitly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the disputed site, said that it was invoking Article 142 “to ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied”.

5 . Global State of Democracy Report 2021


Context: The number of countries moving towards authoritarianism in 2020 was higher than that of countries going in the other direction, towards democracy, the Global State of Democracy Report, 2021 released by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

About Global state of Democracy Report

  • The Global State of Democracy is a biennial report that aims to provide policymakers with an evidence-based analysis of the state of global democracy, supported by the GSoD Indices, in order to inform policy interventions and identify problem-solving approaches to trends affecting the quality of democracy around the world.
  • It is based on analysis of events that have impacted democratic governance globally since the start of the pandemic, based on various data sources, including International IDEA’s Global Monitor of Covid-19’s Impact on Democracy and Human Rights, and International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy (GSoD) Indices.
  • It is released by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

Key Highlights

  • The number of countries moving in an authoritarian direction in 2020 outnumbered those going in a democratic direction.
  • Democratically elected governments, including established democracies, are increasingly adopting authoritarian tactics. This democratic backsliding has often enjoyed significant popular support.
  • Some of the most worrying examples of backsliding are found in some of the world’s largest countries (Brazil, India). 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.
  • Authoritarianism is deepening in non-democratic regimes (hybrid and authoritarian regimes).
  • The year 2020 was the worst on record, in terms of the number of countries affected by deepening autocratization. The pandemic has thus had a particularly damaging effect on non-democratic countries, further closing their already reduced civic space.
  • Electoral integrity is increasingly being questioned, often without evidence, even in established democracies. The former US President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations during the 2020 US presidential election have had spillover effects, including in Brazil, Mexico, Myanmar and Peru, among others.

Observation about India

  • 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.

What is authoritarianism?

  • In government, authoritarianism denotes any political system that concentrates power in the hands of a leader or a small elite that is not constitutionally responsible to the body of the people. 
  • Authoritarian leaders often exercise power arbitrarily and without regard to existing bodies of law, and they usually cannot be replaced by citizens choosing freely among various competitors in elections. 
  • Authoritarianism thus stands in fundamental contrast to democracy.

What is autocratization?

  • Autocratization as a process of regime change towards autocracy that makes the exercise of political power more arbitrary and repressive and that restricts the space for public contestation and political participation in the process of government selection. 
  • Autocratization, in this context, means a regime change from a democratic to an autocratic one.

6 . Cooperative Societies undertaking Financia Activities


Context: 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. “The Banking Regulation Act, 1949 was amended by the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2020, which came into force on September 29, Accordingly, cooperative societies cannot use the words “bank”, “banker” or “banking” as part of their names, except as permitted under the provisions of BR Act, 1949 or by the RBI,” the RBI said.

About Co-Operative Societies undertaking banking activities

  • A co-operative society undertaking financial activities belongs to its members, who are at the same time the owners and the customers of their bank.
  • It is often created by persons belonging to the same local or professional community or sharing a common interest.
  • It provides their members with a wide range of banking and financial services (loans, deposits, banking accounts etc.).
  • They are registered under the States Cooperative Societies Act. They are also regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and governed by the Banking Regulations Act 1949Banking Laws (Co-operative Societies) Act, 1955.

About Cooperative Society?

  • A co-operative society is a voluntary association of individuals having common needs who join hands for the achievement of common economic interest.
  • Its aim is to serve the interest of the poorer sections of society through the principle of self-help and mutual help.
  • The main objective is to provide support to the members.
  • Nobody joins a cooperative society to earn profit. People come forward as a group, pool their individual resources, utilise them in the best possible manner, and derive some common benefit out of it.
  • A Co-operative Society can be formed as per the provisions of the Co-operative Societies Act, 1912. At least ten persons above of 18 years, having the capacity to enter into a contract with common economic objectives, like farming, weaving, consuming, etc. can form a Co-operative Society.
  • Cooperative Societies Act is a Central Act. However, ‘Cooperative Societies’ is a State Subject (Entry 32 of List II of Seventh Schedule to Constitution, i.e. State List). Though the Act is still in force, it has been specifically repealed in almost all the States and those States have their own Cooperative Societies Act.
  • Thus, practically, the Central Act is mainly of academic interest and as per preamble to the Act, the Act is to facilitate formation of cooperative societies for the promotion of thrift and self-help among agriculturists, artisans and persons of limited me


7 . Places in News


South China sea

  • South China Sea is the arm of the western Pacific Ocean that borders the Southeast Asian mainland.
  • It is bounded
    • on the northeast by the Taiwan Strait (by which it is connected to the East China Sea);
    • on the east by Taiwan and the Philippines;
    • on the southeast and south by Borneo, the southern limit of the Gulf of Thailand,
    • the east coast of the Malay Peninsula;
    • on the west and north by the Asian mainland.
  • The South China Sea and the East China Sea together form the China Sea.
  • The southern boundary of the South China Sea is a rise in the seabed between Sumatra and Borneo, and the northern boundary stretches from the northernmost point of Taiwan to the coast of Fujian province, China, in the Taiwan Strait.
  • It embraces an area of about 1,423,000 square miles (3,685,000 square km), with a mean depth of 3,976 feet (1,212 metres).
The East China, South China, and Yellow seas.
  •  The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims within the region by several sovereign states, namely Brunei, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan (Republic of China/ROC), Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. 

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