TikTok among 59 apps banned by the Centre

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster ManagementWhy in news:

The Government of India banned 59 applications, most of them popular Chinese applications citing threat to national security and sovereignty.

Key Details:

  • The move is seen as a retaliatory step amid the tense border standoff between India and China.
  • The ban comes amid continuing tensions on the border between India and China.
  • The move was executed by the IT Ministry’s Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) and approved by the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC), who is a part of the National Security Council Secretariat.
  • It is said that the decision is a targeted move to ensure the safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.

What is the legal basis for India’s action?

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) invoked its power under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.
  • 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 deals with “Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource”): “Where the Central Government or any of its officers specially authorised by it, is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above, it may, by order, direct any agency of the Government or intermediary to block for access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by the public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource.”
  • The move is taken in view of the information available [that] they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
  • Meity said that it received many complaints and reports about misuse of mobile apps for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers that have locations outside India.
  • The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern that requires emergency measures.

How will the ban be enforced?

  • The notification is expected to be followed by instructions to Internet service providers to block these apps.
  • While this will impact the apps that need a live feed to serve any purpose, users might still be able to continue using apps that don’t need an active Internet connection to be used. But further downloads of these apps are likely to be blocked.

What will be the impact of the ban?

  • Some apps on the banned list are very popular in India.
  • Most of these platforms have Indian creators, for many of whom this is the only source of income. Many of these apps have offices and employees in India, and a few thousand jobs could be at stake.

Four Rafales to land in India by July-end

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster ManagementWhy in News:

The first batch of four Rafale fighter jets is scheduled to arrive in India in the last week of July 2020 amid continuing tensions on the border with China.

Details:

  • India has contracted 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets from France in fly-away condition with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE) under a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) signed in September 2016.
  • As per the IGA, deliveries begin 36 months from the signing of the contract and would be completed in 67 months.
  • In October 2019, on a visit to France for the Second India-France ministerial-level annual defence dialogue, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took formal delivery of the first Rafale jet built for the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Dassault Aviation’s final assembly facility.

India, Bhutan sign pact for first joint venture hydropower project

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

India and Bhutan took a major step forward for the construction of the 600 MW Kholongchhu project, their first hydropower joint venture project in Bhutan’s less developed eastern region of Trashiyangtse. The project’s “Concession agreement,” which was signed in the presence via video-conference of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in Delhi, and Bhutan’s Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji and Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma in Thimphu, marks a shift as it is the first time an India-Bhutan hydropower project will be constructed as a 50:50 joint venture, not as a government-to-government agreement.

Kholongchhu project:

  • It is India-Bhutan’s first hydropower joint venture project in Bhutan’s less developed eastern region of Trashiyangtse.
  • Kholongchhu project is one of four additional projects agreed to in 2008, as a part of India’s commitment to help Bhutan create a total 10,000 MW of installed capacity by 2020.

Key Details:

  • It is the first time an India-Bhutan hydropower project will be constructed as a 50:50 joint venture, not as a government-to-government agreement.
  • Once the project is commissioned, the JV partners will run it for 30 years, called the concession period, after which the full ownership will transfer to the Bhutan government.
  • It is considered a milestone in the India-Bhutan partnership, under which four hydropower projects have been built in the last 30 years totalling a capacity of 2,100 MW, and another two are under construction.

Challenges

  • The inter-governmental agreement for the Kholongchhu project was signed after prolonged negotiations on the structure of the joint venture, in April 2014, and the foundation stone was laid when Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Thimphu.
  • Progress on preparing the site ground to a halt in December 2016 over India’s new power tariff guidelines (on Cross Border Trade of Electricity – CBTE), until the government amended its guidelines after negotiations with the Bhutan government.
  • However, according to the agreement finalised, the project would be completed in the second half of 2025.

‘Israel’s annexation plans are illegal’

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

Israel’s aim to annex parts of the occupied West Bank was clearly illegal, the UN’s human rights chief said, warning that the consequences could be “disastrous”.

Key Details:

  • Israel intends to kick-start plans to annex its West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet urged Israel to “listen to its own former senior officials and generals, as well as to the multitude of voices around the world, warning it not to proceed along this dangerous path.”
  • She urged Israel to shift course, warning that the shockwaves of annexation will last for decades, and will be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as to the Palestinians.
  • She warned that “any attempt to annex any part of the occupied Palestinian territory will not only seriously damage efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region, it is likely to entrench, perpetuate and further heighten serious human rights violations that have characterised the conflict for decades.”

What are the West Bank settlements?

  • The West Bank is a patch of land that was captured by Jordan after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • Israel snatched it back during the Six-Day War of 1967 and has occupied it ever since.
  • It has built some 130 formal settlements in the West Bank, and a similar number of smaller, informal settlements have mushroomed over the last 20-25 years.
  • Over 4 lakh Israeli settlers — many of them religious Zionists who claim a Biblical birthright over this land — now live here, along with some 26 lakh Palestinians.
  • The vast majority of the world’s nations consider the settlements illegal.
  • The United Nations General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and the International Court of Justice have said that the West Bank settlements are violative of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • Under the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.
  • Under the Rome Statute that set up the International Criminal Court in 1998, such transfers constitute war crimes, as does the “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”.
  • Under the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, both Israel and the Palestinians agreed that the status of settlements would be decided by negotiations. But the negotiations process has been dead for several years now.
  • Israel walked into East Jerusalem in 1967 and subsequently annexed it. For Israel, Jerusalem is non-negotiable.
  • The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Most of the world’s nations look at it as occupied territory.

RBI schedules Op. Twist for July 2

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster ManagementWhy in news:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has scheduled another round of bond sale and purchase auction of ₹10,000 crores each on July 2, 2020.

Key Details:

  • The RBI decision comes after the review of current and evolving liquidity and market conditions.
  • The RBI will purchase longer tenure government bonds, that are maturing in 2027, 2029, 2031 and 2033, while selling four securities of shorter maturity, two of them maturing this year and two next year.
  • Operation Twist is primarily aimed at managing yields. The move will help soften the yields on long tenure bonds — that have stayed elevated — and help the government in borrowing funds at a lower rate.

Operation “Twist”:

  • Market experts had suggested unconventional steps by the central bankas policy rate cuts are unable to bring down the bank lending rates proportionately.
  • There were suggestions that the Indian central bank must resort to measures like ‘Operation Twist’ to ease the long-term rates.
  • RBI’s Open Market Operations (OMO)mechanism allows it to manage liquidity conditions in the banking system by sale or purchase of government bonds via open auctions.
  • Following the review of the liquidity status and market situation and an assessment of the financial conditions, the Reserve Bank has decided to conduct simultaneous purchase and sale of government securities under Open Market Operations (OMO) for 10,000 crore each.
  • ‘Operation Twist’ is when the central bank uses the proceeds from sale of short-term securities to buy long-term government debt papers, leading to easing of interest rates on the long term papers.
  • Under the OMO, RBI will sell four securities maturing in 2020 and will purchase the 6.45 percent government bond maturing in 2029.
  • RBI said that it reserves the right to decide the quantum of the OMOs and may accept or reject any or all bids either wholly or partially without assigning reasons.