The News Editorial Analysis 28 October 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 28 October 2021

Govt can’t get free pass by citing national security: SC orders probe in Pegasus snoop gate.

The Supreme Court appointed a three-member panel of cyber experts to probe the allegations.

 The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a three-member panel of cyber experts to probe the alleged use of Israeli spyware Pegasus for surveillance of certain people in India, saying every citizen needs protection against privacy violation and mere invocation of “national security by State” does not render the court a “mute spectator”.

Finding material that “prima facie merits consideration”, a bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli declined the Centre’s plea to appoint expert panel on its own, saying such a course would violate settled judicial principle against bias.

The top court urged its former judge Justice R V Raveendran to oversee the functioning of the three-member panel and sought a report expeditiously from the committee.

It posted the batch of pleas in the matter, including the ones filed by Editors Guild of India and veteran journalists N Ram and Shashi Kumar, for hearing after eight weeks.

The bench took note of the vehement submissions of the Centre on national security and rejected it saying, “…This does not mean that the State gets a free pass every time the spectre of ‘national security’ is raised”.

“National security cannot be the bugbear that the judiciary shies away from, by virtue of its mere mentioning. Although this Court should be circumspect in encroaching the domain of national security, no omnibus prohibition can be called for against judicial review,” the court said.

Pronouncing the verdict, the CJI said the Centre “must justify the stand that they take before a Court. The mere invocation of national security by the State does not render the Court a mute spectator”.

Justice Raveendran will oversee functioning of the panel of “cyber security, digital forensics, networks and hardware” and the three members are: Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Prabaharan P and Ashwin Anil Gumaste.

The apex court said that former IPS officer Alok Joshi and Sundeep Oberoi — Chairman, Sub Committee in (International Organisation of Standardisation/ International Electro-Technical Commission/Joint Technical Committee) — will assist Justice Raveendran to oversee the task to the committee.

The top court said that in this world of conflicts it was an extremely uphill task to find and select experts who are free from prejudices, are independent and competent, rather than relying upon any government agencies or any private entity.

“We make it clear that our effort is to uphold Constitutional aspirations and rule of law, without allowing ourselves to be consumed in political rhetoric,” the bench said, adding that this court has always been conscious of not entering political thicket.”Members of civilised democratic society have reasonable expectation of privacy. Privacy is not singular concern of journalists or social activists,” the bench said.

In a democratic country governed by rule of law, indiscriminate spying on individuals cannot be allowed except with sufficient statutory safeguards, by following procedure established by law under Constitution, it said. The bench had reserved order on September 13, saying it only wanted to know whether or not the Centre used the Pegasus spyware through illegal methods to allegedly snoop on citizens.

The apex court was hearing a batch of pleas seeking independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping matter. The pleas seeking independent probe are related to reports of alleged snooping by government agencies on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes by using Israeli firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus.

An international media consortium had reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware.

US to reopen land borders in November for fully.

The US had already announced that it would lift bans in November on all vaccinated air passengers who undergo testing and contact tracing.


The News Editorial Analysis 28 October 2021

 In this file photo taken on August 9, 2021 a vehicle approaches the USA-Canada border to enter the USA, which is still closed to Canadians for non-essential travel. (Jason Redmond / AFP). The United States will open its land borders with Mexico and Canada in early November to non-essential travelers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a senior White House official announced Tuesday.

The official said the administration would give the “precise date very soon” — both for land crossings as well as international air travel, which would be timed to “go together.”The United States had already announced in September that it would lift bans in November on all vaccinated air passengers who undergo testing and contact tracing.

In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, US borders were closed in March 2020 to travelers coming from the European Union, Britain and China, with India and Brazil added to the list later. Overland visitors from Mexico and Canada were also banned. The nearly 19 months of restrictions led to both personal and economic suffering. The White House source said the land border re-opening would happen in two phases. Initially, vaccines will be required for “non-essential” trips — such as visiting family or tourism — though unvaccinated travelers will still be allowed into the country for “essential” trips as they have been for the last year and a half.

A second phase beginning in “early January” 2022 will require all visitors to the United States to be fully vaccinated, no matter the reason for their trip.”This phased approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers or others to get vaccinated, enabling a smooth transition to the new system,” the official said.The White House cited Title 42 when thousands of Haitians gathered along the US-Mexico border were deported last month, with critics saying the law unfairly restricts those seeking asylum.

The White House official said Tuesday that details were still being sorted to allow vaccinated air travelers to enter the United States, including plans on how to undertake contact tracing on such visitors. Passengers will also be tested for the coronavirus, the official said.

Climate change impact could knock off 10% of India’s GDP, says report

The report also says that just under 18 million Indians could be at risk of river flooding by 2050 if emissions are high, compared to 1.3 million today.

Ahead of the G20 Summit in Rome, a new climate impact report found that India is among the countries that could all see more than 10 per cent knocked off their GDP due to worsening climate impacts. The others include the US, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea.

The study, conducted by a team of over 40 scientists at CMCC, a research centre that serves as the Italian focal point for the IPCC, found that climate impacts are already hitting the G20.  Over the last 20 years, heat-related deaths have increased by at least 15 per cent in all G20 countries, while forest fires in the G20 have burnt an area one and a half times the size of Canada. 

 If all 2030 climate targets are met, Earth will still heat by 2.7℃ this century. Here’s why that’s not ok.

The report finds that the G20 as a whole stands to lose about 4 per cent of GDP due to climate shocks as soon as 2050  and 8 per cent by 2100. “Heat waves will last 25 times longer by 2036-2065 if emissions are high (4 degree C), over five times longer if global temperature rise is constrained to about 2 degree C, and one-and-a-half times longer if emissions are very low and temperature rise only reaches 1.5 degree C,” it said with respect to India.

It says that just under 18 million Indians could be at risk of river flooding by 2050 if emissions are high, compared to 1.3 million today. Even assuming sufficient water and nutrient supplies, not including the impact of climate change on pests or diseases, or extreme events such as floods or storms, and including a strong effect of CO2 fertilization, sugarcane, rice, wheat, and maize yields in India would fall as the climate warms, the report projects.

18 million Indians could be at risk of flooding

Nearly 18 million Indians could be at risk of river flooding by 2050 if emissions are high, compared to 1.3 million today. Total labour is expected to decline by 13.4% under a low emissions scenario by 2050 and by 24% under medium emissions scenario by 2080.

Sri Lankan president appoints task force led by controversial monk for ‘One Country, One Law’.

The ‘One Country, One Law’ was an election slogan of Rajapaksa in 2019 when he was elected president with an overwhelming support from the country’s Buddhist majority.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed a 13-member task force, headed by a hardline Buddhist monk known for his anti-Muslim stance, for the establishment of the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept in the island nation and to prepare a draft Act.

The ‘One Country, One Law’ was an election slogan of Rajapaksa in 2019 when he was elected president with an overwhelming support from the country’s Buddhist majority.

The task force, appointed by President Rajapaksa through a special gazette for the establishment of the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept, is headed by Galagodaaththe Gnanasara, the hardline Buddhist monk who became a symbol of anti-Muslim hatred in the country.

Gnanasara’s Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or the Forces of Buddhist Power, was implicated in the anti-Muslim riots in 2013.

The task force also has four Muslim scholars as members but no representation has been allowed for the minority Tamils.It has been entrusted with the job of preparing a draft for the implementation of the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept, according to the gazette released on Tuesday.

The final report is to be submitted by February 28, 2022 after monthly reports to President Rajapaksa on its progress.

Article 168 (1) of the Constitution provides that all existing law would be read subject to the new Constitution.

However, Article 16 (1) provides that all existing law shall be valid and operative, notwithstanding any inconsistency with the chapter on fundamental rights.

The ‘One Country, One Law’ concept was promoted by the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to win the support of the Sinhala majority as a counter to the rising Islamic extremism.

The attempt to practice the Sharia law in the country was opposed by the nationalist groups, saying it promoted Muslim extremism.

The campaign gained added impetus after the 2019 Easter suicide attack in which over 270 people, including 11 Indians, were killed.The attack was blamed on the extremist Islamic group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ).

Nine suicide bombers, belonging to local Islamist extremist group NTJ linked to ISIS, carried out a series of blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, killing over 270 people and injuring more than 500 people on April 21, 2019.The Buddhist-majority nation was about to mark a decade since ending a 37-year-long Tamil separatist war in May 2009 when the bombings in 2019 rocked the country.

AAP government to provide Rs 1 crore ex-gratia to family of firefighter who died in line of duty.

‘Praveen Kumar is a hero of Delhi Fire Service. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the family in these tough times,’ Jain said in a statement.

Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain on Wednesday said the AAP government will provide an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the family of “brave firefighter” Praveen Kumar who succumbed to burns after getting injured in the line of duty, an official statement said.

Jain made the announcement during a visit to the family of Kumar, who succumbed to his burn injuries on Wednesday that he had sustained during a fire fighting operation in Narela Industrial Area on October 9.

“Praveen Kumar is a hero of Delhi Fire Service. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the family in these tough times,” Jain said in a statement.

The statement said that Home Minister Jain declared an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to support the family of the martyr. According to the statement, Praveen Kumar had joined the Delhi Fire Service as a fire operator. After the completion of his training, he was posted at Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) Narela fire station. On October 9, a fire broke out at a paper plate manufacturing unit in Delhi’s Narela Industrial Area.

On attending the distress call, Kumar along with two other firefighters were engaged in a firefighting operation. Unfortunately, the situation went out of control, the rear portion of the building collapsed and resulted in burn injuries to three of these firefighters.

“They were shifted to LNJP hospital for treatment but Kumar succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday. Home Minister Shri Satyendar Jain immediately went to meet the family of the deceased as soon as he heard the news,” the statement said.

Single women now ‘family’ in TN, to avail ration cards.

Single women in the State, who have separated from their husbands or parents, will now be recognised as ‘family’, and will be issued ration cards by the civil supplies department.

Single women in the State, who have separated from their husbands or parents, will now be recognised as ‘family’, and will be issued ration cards by the civil supplies department.

Sources said the change in criteria for definition of a family comes following multiple representations that women, who reside separately without legally parting ways with their partners, are unable to get ration cards.

Presently, the name of a family member can only be removed from the ration card in the event of the person’s death, marriage, adoption or divorce. Upon submitting documents, the name can be added to a new card or a fresh card can be applied for.

“When a husband is unwilling to remove the name of his wife, who lives separately, from the ration card, the woman is losing her food security guaranteed under the Constitution. Hence, based on the self-declaration of the woman, followed by a field verification report by the Revenue Inspector, Civil Supplies zonal officers are empowered to remove the woman from the husband’s ration card and issue her a new card,” said an official release from the State on Monday. Officials told TNIE the relaxation will be applicable to unmarried single women too. 

Benefits will reach the needy, says AIDWA

“The procedure for availing family ration cards will be the same for unmarried women who are separated from their parents. In both the cases, the beneficiary woman should have a kitchen with a gas connection to cook food at her house. She shall meet her food demands separately,” added the official.

The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), one of the organisations that has been demanding ration cards for single women, hailed the decision as progressive.

SK Ponnuthayi, State secretary of AIDWA, said single women from the lower economic strata could not avail of the benefits given during Pongal and the lockdown as they lacked ration cards. “Besides bringing food security, the decision will ensure that all the benefits given by the government reach the needy population,” Ponnuthayi said.

Echoing a similar view, senior advocate Sudha Ramalingam said there is no rationality in saying ‘one ration card for one family’. “There is no marital law that specifies that a married couple should live together. We are always guided by patriarchy. It’s due to custom that women live in the husband’s family. Even if there is no rift, working spouses may be staying at two different places,” she said.

Existing procedures
● A married woman living alone with children or dependents, is not eligible for a ration card unless she is divorced. A copy of court order granting divorce is needed to delete the name
● Unmarried single women are not considered ‘family’ as they “always live with their parents”

Revised norms
● A single woman who lives alone is eligible for family ration cards

Criteria for single women to get ration cards
● Women should have a kitchen with a gas connection (preferably) or a cooking facility.
● Written self-declaration of staying alone
● House will be audited by Revenue Inspector
● Aadhaar and Gas bill

Govt gets Rs 15,237 crore dividends from CPSEs so far this year.

The government received Rs 1,560 crore from NTPC, Rs 1,426 crore from Coal India and Rs 1,406 crore from ONGC.

The government on Wednesday said, it has received a dividend of Rs 6,665 crore from Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited in the fiscal year 2020-21, taking its total dividend received from central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) to Rs 15,237 crore so far this year.“Govt received final dividend of Rs 6,665 crore from BPCL for the FY 2020-21. This includes special dividend on account of gains especially on sale of BPCL’s stake in Numaligarh Refinery in March, 2021,” Secretary, Department of Investment Promotion and Asset Management (DIPAM), said in social media post on Wednesday.

As per DIPAM website, so far in the current financial year (April-October), the government has received Rs 8,572 crore as dividend from central public sector enterprises (CPSEs). The government received Rs 1,560 crore from NTPC, Rs 1,426 crore from Coal India and Rs 1,406 crore from ONGC.Among other significant contributors are Power Grid Corporation, which paid a dividend of Rs 1,033 crore in October. Others who announced dividends payments in October include Power Finance Corporation (Rs 296 crore), HUDCO (Rs 233 cr), Oil India Ltd (Rs 92 cr), Kudermukh Iron Ore Company Ltd (Rs 99 cr) and Satlaj Jal Vidyut Nigam (Rs 94 cr). IRCON, NHPC, CONCOR, and Hindustan Copper Ltd have respectively paid about Rs 148 cr, Rs 294 cr, Rs 67 cr and Rs 24 cr as dividend tranches to the Centre. Last year in November, DIPAM asked CPSEs to pay higher dividends and also asked them to pay it quarterly. The government has budgeted for Rs 50,000 crore dividends from CPSEs in the current financial year.


The News Editorial Analysis 27 October 2021

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