Current Affairs: 08-08-2017

PRELIMS

Centre extends Assam’s ‘disturbed area’ tag for another month under AFSPA

Topic: Challenges to internal security

Why in news?

The Centre has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Assam for one more month, declaring the entire state of Assam as a “disturbed” area due to various violent activities by insurgent groups ULFA, NDFB, and others.

The Union home ministry has also declared Meghalaya’s border areas adjoining Assam, and three districts in Arunachal Pradesh as “disturbed” under the AFSPA for two more months with effect from August 3.

What is AFSPA?

AFSPA, enacted in 1958, gives powers to the army and state and central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property that is “likely” to be used by insurgents in areas declared as “disturbed” by the home ministry.

  • The Act provides army personnel with safeguards against malicious, vindictive and frivolous prosecution.
  • Security forces can “arrest without warrant” a person, who has committed or even “about to commit a cognizable offence” even on “reasonable suspicion”.

What are ‘disturbed’ areas?

The state or central government considers those areas as ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.

How a region is declared ‘disturbed’?

Section (3) of the Afspa empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification in The Gazette of India, following which the Centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid. Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.”

 

Article 35A: Centre’s move for debate stirs hornet’s nest

Topic:Indian Constitution

Why in news?

The Centre’s move seeking “larger debate” over Article 35A of the Constitution, which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them, has triggered a political storm with several parties warning against any tinkering of the provision.

What you need to know about Article 35A?

  • Article 35A is a provision in the Constitution that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define permanent residents of the state. It was added through the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued under Article 370.
  • The Jammu and Kashmir Constitution was adopted on November 17, 1956. It had defined a Permanent Resident as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been a resident of the state for 10 years, and has lawfully acquired immovable property in the state, the article.

What’s the case now?

  • Attempts to undo Article 35A of the Indian Constitution would strike a fatal blow to the nationalists in the state. There is an ongoing case in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the Article, which prevents non-J&K state subjects from settling and buying property in the state. However, Kashmiris are apprehensive that such a move would open the sluice gates for a demographic transformation of the Valley.
  • The J&K government is also concerned at the reluctance of the Union government to file a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court. Against the backdrop of the escalating protests in Kashmir, this issue could potentially be explosive.

 

Nine High Courts oppose all-India judicial service

Topic:Separation of powers between various organs

Why in news?

Nine High Courts have opposed a proposal to have an all-India service for the lower judiciary, eight have sought changes in the proposed framework and only two have supported the idea. However, most of the High Courts want the administrative control over the subordinate judiciary to remain with the respective High Courts.

Background:

The government had given a fresh push to the long-pending proposal to set up the new service to have a separate cadre for the lower judiciary in the country. The idea was first mooted in the 1960s. Seeking to overcome the divergence of views, the government had recently suggested to the Supreme Court various options, including a NEET-like examination, to recruit judges to the lower judiciary. There were vacancies of 4,452 judges in subordinate courts in the country.

Need for an all- India Judicial Service:

The quality of judicial officers in the subordinate judiciary is a matter of concern.  The ever continuing decline in their quality will delay delivery of justice, increase pendency of cases, impair quality of judgments, and in turn affect competence of higher judiciary as well.

  • The proposal for setting up an AIJS, in the lines of Indian Civil Service, is hanging fire for more than five decades despite there were several proposals and decisions including that of the apex court, in its favour.
  • There is widespread hope that AIJS can deal with great many ills Indian judiciary face right now and revitalize it into a far more vibrant constituent of Indian governance and democracy.
  • The precise purpose of AIJS is to create a rigorous mechanism for appointment of persons of highest ability, impartiality and integrity to the district courts and to equip the subordinate judiciary in turn to serve as the feeder line for appointment of competent judges to the high courts or eventually the Supreme Court.

Who administers lower judiciary in the country?

In the Indian Constitution the judiciary and executive remained separate but the control of lower judiciary remains vested with the high courts.

 

MAINS

‘One Nation, One License’: Center sets for a fresh policy

Topic: GS-3, Economy – Communication

Context:                                               

  • The government has started framing a new telecom policy by the end of December, 2017.
  • The Centre will consider including a ‘one-nation one-license’ regime in the new telecom policy.

India’s telecommunication network:

India’s telecommunication network is the second largest in the world by number of telephone users (both fixed and mobile phone).

  • Major sectors of the Indian telecommunication industry are telephone, internet and television broadcast industry.
  • It has one of the lowest call tariffs in the world enabled by mega telecom operators and hyper-competition among them.
  • India has the world’s second-largest Internet user-base. As on 31 March 2016, there were 342.65 million internet subscribers in the country.

National Telecom Policy 2012:

The National Telecom Policy, 2012 was approved by the Union Cabinet on May 31, 2012.

Its mission:

  • To develop a robust and secure state-of-the-art telecommunication network providing seamless coverage with special focus on rural and remote areas for bridging the digital divide and thereby facilitate socio-economic development.
  • To create an inclusive knowledge society through proliferation of affordable and high quality broadband services across the nation.
  • To reposition the mobile device as an instrument of socio-economic empowerment of citizens.
  • To make India a global hub for telecom equipment manufacturing and a centre for converged communication services.
  • To promote Research and Development, Design in cutting edge ICTE technologies, products and services for meeting the infrastructure needs of domestic and global markets with focus on security and green technologies.
  • To promote development of new standards to meet national requirements, generation of IPRs and participation in international standardization bodies to contribute in formation of global standards, thereby making India a leading nation in the area of telecom standardization.
  • To attract investment, both domestic and foreign.
  • To promote creation of jobs through all of the above

It’s objective:

  • The primary objective of NTP-2012 is maximizing public good by making available affordable, reliable and secure telecommunication and broadband services across the entire country.
  • It recognizes the role of such services in furthering the national development agenda while enhancing equity and inclusiveness.
  • Availability of affordable and effective communications for the citizens is at the core of the vision and goal of the National Telecom Policy – 2012.
  • NTP-2012 also recognizes the predominant role of the private sector in this field and the consequent policy imperative of ensuring continued viability of service providers in a competitive environment.
  • Pursuant to NTP-2012, these principles would guide decisions needed to strike a balance between the interests of users/ consumers, service providers and government revenue.

Current challenges to the telecom industry:

  • The tax rate after GST is now 18 percent from the previous 15 percent resulting in a load over the telecom sector which is already under financial burden.
  • The next issue in sight is that, the telecommunication firms currently works for area or circle wise service.
  • But generating a state-wise revenue will result a large number of IT firms and accounting systems, and will need a great increment in compliance effort, multiple audits, multiple assessment, and a chain impact of taxes on account of credit blockages in each and every state.
  • Telecom sector of the country is the second largest diesel consuming sector after railways. If petroleum products remain outside the GST bill then it will be very difficult for tower companies to set of their input liabilities

Current government initiative:

  • The government has got down to the job of framing the new telecom policy by the end of December, 2017.
  • The new National Telecom Policy will focus on areas such as Internet for all, next-generation technologies (like 5G and Internet of Things), skill development and security, among others.
  • The Centre will consider including a ‘one-nation one-licence’ regime in the new telecom policy.
  • The move is likely to remove the distinction between local and STD calls, as service providers will not need separate licences for operations in various parts of the country. A single licence would be sufficient.
  • Department of Telecommunication plans to go for a wide consultation and outreach before finalizing the new policy and expects to have it in place by March 2018.

Need for a new policy:

  • The new policy formulation is needed for the telecom sector is saddled with financial difficulties.
  • Revenue and profitability of both large and small operators have come under severe pressure after the entry of aggressive competition.
  • The telecom industry’s debt has touched 6 lakh crore, and a latest report by rating agency ICRA has warned that industry revenue will plunge another 6 per cent in the current financial year due to competition and pricing pressure.
  • Under the NTP 2012, the Telecom Ministry has issued technology-neutral telecom licences, which was delinked from spectrum.
  • The new policy also looks down upon finalization of spectrum trading and sharing rules, full mobile number portability, increasing spectrum supply for the industry, Right of Way norms and e-KYC.
  • Thus, these problems are more than enough to formulate a new policy.

 

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