Daily Current Affairs for 23rd July 2021

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Laws for surveillance in India

Why in News

Recently, the central government has claimed that all interception in India takes place lawfully in response to the finding by a global collaborative investigative project in response to Israeli spyware Pegasus.

Key Points

  • Communication surveillance in India takes place primarily under two laws:
  • The Telegraph Act, 1885; and
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • While the Telegraph Act deals with interception of calls, the IT Act was enacted to deal with surveillance of all electronic communication, following the Supreme Court’s intervention in 1996.
  • A comprehensive data protection law to address the gaps in existing frameworks for surveillance is yet to enacted.

Telegraph Act, 1885

  • Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act, “On the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of the public safety, the Central Government or a State Government or any officer specially authorised in this behalf by the Central Government or a State Government may, if satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence, for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order, direct that any message or class of messages to or from any person or class of persons, or relating to any particular subject, brought for transmission by or transmitted or received by any telegraph, shall not be transmitted, or shall be intercepted or detained, or shall be disclosed to the Government making the order or an officer thereof mentioned in the order”.
  • Under this law, the government can intercept calls only in certain situations:
  • The interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India,
  • The security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or
  • For preventing incitement to the commission of an offence.
  • These are the same restrictions imposed on free speech under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • Significantly, these restrictions can be imposed only when there is a condition precedent, the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of public safety.
  • Additionally, a provision in Section 5(2) states that even this lawful interception cannot take place against journalists.
  • Provided that press messages intended to be published in India of correspondents accredited to the Central Government or a State Government shall not be intercepted or detained, unless their transmission has been prohibited under this sub-section.

Supreme Court intervention

  • In Public Union for Civil Liberties v Union of India (1996), the Supreme Court pointed out lack of procedural safeguards in the provisions of the Telegraph Act and laid down certain guidelines for interceptions.
  • A public interest litigation was filed in the wake of the report on “Tapping of politicians phones” by the CBI.
  • The court noted that authorities engaging in interception were not even maintaining adequate records and logs on interception.
  • Among the guidelines issued by the court were setting up a review committee that can look into authorisations made under Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act.
  • The Supreme Court’s guidelines formed the basis of introducing Rule 419A in the Telegraph Rules in 2007 and later in the rules prescribed under the IT Act in 2009.
  • Rule 419A states that a Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Home Affairs can pass orders of interception in the case of Centre, and a secretary-level officer who is in-charge of the Home Department can issue such directives in the case of a state government.
  • In unavoidable circumstances, Rule 419A adds, such orders may be made by an officer, not below the rank of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India, who has been duly authorised by the Union Home Secretary or the state Home Secretary.

IT Act, 2000

  • Section 69 of the Information Technology Act and the Information Technology (Procedure for Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 were enacted to further the legal framework for electronic surveillance.
  • Under the IT Act, all electronic transmission of data can be intercepted. So, for a Pegasus-like spyware to be used lawfully, the government would have to invoke both the IT Act and the Telegraph Act.
  • Apart from the restrictions provided in Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act and Article 19(2) of the Constitution, Section 69 the IT Act adds another aspect that makes it broader i.e., interception, monitoring and decryption of digital information “for the investigation of an offence”.
  • Significantly, it dispenses with the condition precedent set under the Telegraph Act that requires “the occurrence of public emergency of the interest of public safety” which widens the ambit of powers under the law.


Central University in the Union Territory of Ladakh

Why in News

Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the setting up of a Central University in the union territory of Ladakh, while also giving its nod to an Integrated Multi-purpose Infrastructure development corporation.

Key Points

  • The decision was taken at the meeting headed by Prime Minister of India, with an aim of addressing regional imbalances in higher education level and stimulating the intellectual current within the broader society of Ladakh.
  • The authorised share capital of the Corporation will be ₹25 crore and recurring expenditure will be around ₹2.42 crore per year. Presently, there is no such similar organisation within the newly formed UT of Ladakh.
  • The government said that the approval has the potential to generate employment as the corporation will be undertaking various developmental activities.

Integrated Multi-purpose Infrastructure development corporation

  • Corporation will work for industry, tourism, transport and marketing of local products and handicraft.
  • Corporation will also work as main construction agency for infrastructure development in Ladakh.
  • The establishment of corporation will result in inclusive and integrated development of the Union Territory of Ladakh. It will ensure socio-economic development of the entire region and population of the Union Territory.
  • The impact of development will be multi-dimensional. It will help in further development of human resources and better utilisation thereof.
  • It increases domestic production of goods and services and will facilitate their smooth supply. Thus, the approval will help in realising the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for specialty steel

  • The Cabinet also approved a Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for specialty steel.
  • The duration of the scheme will be five years, from 2023-24 to 2027-28.
  • The scheme will give employment to about 525,000 people, of which 68,000 will be direct employment.
  • Speciality steel has been chosen as the target segment because out of the production of 102 million tonnes steel in India in 2020-21, only18 million tonnes value added steel/speciality steel was produced in the country.
  • The PLI Scheme for specialty Scheme will ensure that the basic steel used is ‘melted and poured’ within the country which means that raw material (finished steel) used for making specialty steel will be made in India only, thereby ensuring that Scheme promotes end to end manufacturing within the country.


PM-Cares scheme for children orphaned

Why in News

The Central Government introduced the portal to all the States and Union Territories on July 15 that proposes to enable online registration and tracking of applications with due safety precautions under the “PM-Cares for Children Scheme.”.

Key Points

  • The scheme seeks to provide long term support to children who have lost both parents, surviving parent, legal guardian or adoptive parents due to Covid-19 since the pandemic gained momentum in March 2020.
  • Any citizen can inform the administration regarding a child eligible for support under this scheme through the portal.
  • The scheme provides a corpus of ₹10 lakh to each child when he or she turns 18. This corpus will be used to give a monthly stipend from the age of 18 for the next five years to help with higher education.
  • At the age of 23, the beneficiary will get the entire corpus in lumpsum.
  • The government will also help with school education and extend a health insurance cover of ₹5 lakh under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme.
  • According to data shared by the Minister before the House, a total of 645 children were orphaned by COVID­19 between April 1, 2021 and May 28, 2021.


Central Bank Digital Currency

Why in News

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will introduce its own version of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in a phased manner.

Key Points

  • Objective of introducing digital currency is to make wholesale and retail payments to help calibrate its strategy for introducing a full-scale Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
  • An official digital currency would reduce the cost of currency management while enabling real-time payments without any inter­bank settlement.
  • A high level inter­ministerial committee set up by the Finance Ministry had recommended the introduction of a CBDC with changes in the legal framework including the RBI Act, which currently empowers the RBI to regulate issuance of bank notes.

Save on paper currency

  • India’s fairly high currency-to­GDP ratio holds out another benefit of CBDC, to the extent large cash usage can be replaced by CBDC, the cost of printing, transporting and storing paper currency can be substantially reduced.
  • The advent of private virtual currencies is another reason. If these private currencies gain recognition, national currencies with limited convertibility are likely to come under some kind of threat.
  • Transacting with CBDC would be an instantaneous process as the need for interbank settlement would disappear as it would be a central bank liability handed over from one person to another.
  • Moreover, foreign trade transactions could be speeded up between countries adopting a CBDC.

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

  • A central bank digital currency is the legal tender issued by a central bank in digital form.
  • It is the same as a fiat currency but the form is different and is exchangeable one-to-one with the government-issued money.
  • In other words, CBDC is the same as the legal currency in a digital form.

Significance of Central Bank Digital Currency

  • The introduction of CBDC has the potential to provide significant benefits, such as reduced dependency on cash, higher seigniorage due to lower transaction costs and reduced settlement risk.
  • The adoption of CBDCs can also have important implications for the banking system.
  • CBDCs can cause a reduction in the transaction demand for bank deposits and will reduce the intra-day liquidity for settlement of transactions. They could also cause a shift away from bank deposits.
  • The wider adoption of CBDC may also mean that the monetary policies have to be formed in a way to inject more liquidity in the system than needed to plug currency leakage from the banking system.


  • Therefore, the RBI will introduce the CBDC after careful consideration, and in any case, keeping India’s leadership position in the global payment system in mind.


H5N1 avian influenza

Why in News

On 21st July, Delhi recorded its first death due to the bird flu. An 11-year-old boy died of H5N1 avian influenza in Delhi.

Key Points

  • This is the first recorded death in 2021. In January, bird flu was confirmed in several states with thousands of birds, including migratory species, being found dead.

Bird Flu

  • Bird flu or avian influenza is a disease caused by avian influenza Type A viruses found naturally in wild birds worldwide.
  • The virus can infect domestic poultry including chickens, ducks, turkeys and there have been reports of H5N1 infection among pigs, cats, and even tigers in Thailand zoos.
  • Avian Influenza type A viruses are classified based on two proteins on their surfaces: Hemagglutinin (HA) and Neuraminidase (NA).
  • There are about 18 HA subtypes and 11 NA subtypes. Several combinations of these two proteins are possible e.g., H5N1, H7N2, H9N6, H17N10, etc.
  • There have been reports of avian and swine influenza infections in humans including A(H1N1), A(H1N2), A(H5N1), A(H7N9), etc.
  • The first report of human H5N1 infection was in 1997 and currently, over 700 human cases of Asian Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza A (HPAI) H5N1 virus have been reported to the World Health Organisation from 16 countries.
  • The infection is deadly as it has a high mortality rate of about 60%.
  • The most common route of virus transmission is direct contact, when a person comes in close contact with infected birds, either dead or alive.
  • Humans can also be affected if they come in contact with contaminated surfaces or air near the infected poultry.


  • According to US CDC, the reported signs and symptoms of avian influenza A virus infections in humans have ranged from mild to severe influenza-like illness.
  • Fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Severe respiratory illness e.g., shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, respiratory failure.
  • Neurologic changes like altered mental status, seizures.
  • Children and adults below 40 years of age were seen to be the most affected and mortality was high in 10-19 years old.


Great Indian Bustards of Kutch

Why in News

Recently, the Central Government informed that there were no Great Indian Bustards (GIB) in Kutch Bustard Sanctuary (KBS) in Kutch district of Gujarat as on 1st January 2021.

Great Indian Bustards and their habitats

  • Great Indian Bustards are the largest among the four bustard species found in India, the other three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican and the Bengal florican.
  • Its historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent but it has now shrunken to just 10% of it. Among the heaviest birds with flight, GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitats.
  • Being terrestrial birds, they spend most of their time on the ground with occasional flights to go from one part of their habitat to the other.
  • They feed on insects, lizards, grass seeds etc. GIBs are considered the flagship bird species of grassland and hence barometers of the health of grassland ecosystems.

Declining number of Great Indian Bustards

  • At the 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) held in Gandhinagar, the Central Government stated that the GIB population in India had fallen to just 150.
  • Of them 128 birds were in Rajasthan, 10 in Kutch district of Gujarat and a few in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The historical range of these majestic birds included much of Indian sub-continent but it has now shrunk by 90%.
  • Due to the species’ smaller population size, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorised GIBs as critically endangered, thus on the brink of extinction from the wild.

Causes of declining Great Indian Bustards

  • Scientists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have been pointing out overhead power transmission lines as the biggest threat to the GIBs.
  • According to the WII research, in Rajasthan, 18 GIBs die every year after colliding with overhead powerlines as the birds, due to their poor frontal vision, they can’t detect powerlines in time and their weight make in-flight quick manoeuvres difficult.
  • Kutch and Thar desert are the places which have witnessed creation of huge renewable energy infrastructure over the past two decades, leading to installation of windmills and construction of power lines even in core GIB areas.
  • Change in landscape by way of farmers cultivating their land, which otherwise used to remain fallow due to frequent droughts in Kutch, and cultivation of cotton and wheat instead of pulses and fodder are also cited as reasons for falling GIB numbers.


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