Insights Daily Current Events, 15 April 2016
Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Microsoft sues US government over data requests
Microsoft Corp has sued the US government for the right to tell its customers when a federal agency is looking at their emails.
What is it all about?
The lawsuit, filed in federal court, argues that the government is violating the US Constitution by preventing Microsoft from notifying thousands of customers about government requests for their emails and other documents.
Microsoft’s suit focuses on the storage of data on remote servers, rather than locally on people’s computers, which Microsoft says has provided a new opening for the government to access electronic data.
The government’s actions contravene the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, and the First Amendment right to free speech.
Using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the government is increasingly directing investigations at the parties that store data in the so-called cloud.
- Microsoft argues that the government has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations.
- The 30-year-old law has long drawn scrutiny from technology companies and privacy advocates who say it was written before the rise of the commercial Internet and is therefore outdated.
Significance of this lawsuit:
The lawsuit represents the newest front in the battle between technology companies and the US government over how much private businesses should assist government surveillance.
- By filing the suit, Microsoft is taking a more prominent role in that battle, dominated by Apple Inc in recent months due to the government’s efforts to get the company to write software to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in a December massacre in San Bernardino, California. Apple, backed by big technology companies including Microsoft, had complained that cooperating would turn businesses into arms of the state.
- Microsoft and other companies won the right two years ago to disclose the number of government demands for data they receive. This case goes farther, requesting that it be allowed to notify individual businesses and people that the government is seeking information about them.
- Increasingly, US companies are also under pressure to prove they are helping protect consumer privacy. The campaign gained momentum in the wake of revelations by former government contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 that the government routinely conducted extensive phone and Internet surveillance to a much greater degree than believed.
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Law to increase workers’ bonus faces fresh hurdles
The government’s attempt to appease the working class by paying higher bonus under a 2015 law, applicable with retrospective effect from April 2014, has hit an embarrassing roadblock with High Courts in eight states staying the payment of such benefits.
What has happened?
The Payments of Bonus Act of 2015, passed by Parliament in December 2015 and notified on January 1, doubled the statutory bonus paid to employees and made more workers eligible for bonus by raising the salary ceiling under the law from Rs.10,000 a month to Rs.21,000 a month.
- Following this, state-level industry bodies across the country approached the courts for relief and the first stay on the retrospective applicability of the law was secured from the Kerala High Court on January 27. The court said the Act will be implemented from April 2015 till the plea is disposed.
- Since then, employers in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and even Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana have procured similar stays from respective High Courts.
- High courts in at least eight states have already stayed the retro-active provisions of the law in the last two months.
Experts had warned the ministry about the financial implications of the retro-active amendments on employers and pointed out that distributing bonus for the previous year after the books of accounts are closed is a difficult prospect.
However, government looks at it as an incentive for the industry as giving bonus to workers will lead to more productivity.
What the law says?
According to the law, an employer is mandated to give a minimum bonus of 8.33 per cent of salary to employees earning upto Rs 21,000 a month. However, for the purposes of calculating the bonus, only Rs.7,000 a month is considered as the salary.
The labour ministry has sought the opinion of the law ministry and will take necessary action as per their advice. The ministry may also solve the deadlock by approaching the Supreme Court.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
National Agriculture Market
PM Modi recently launched an electronic mandi to help farmers sell their produce online and do away with the problems many farmers face in agricultural markets. National Agriculture Market (NAM) has been incorporated by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation.
- This e-platform aims to provide more options to farmers to sell their produce and is part of implementation of the roadmap for doubling income of the farmers by 2022.
- In July last year, the Cabinet had approved setting up of an online national agriculture market with a budget of Rs 200 crore.
- The purpose behind NAM is the creation of a common national market for agricultural commodities through an e-platform network.
- National agricultural products market platform will integrate 585 wholesale markets across India under an online platform.
- NAM will ensure farmers get competitive returns and consumers get stable prices and steady availability.
- It will be implemented in 3 phases covering 250, 200 and 135 mandis during 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively.
- A budgetary provision of Rs.200 crores has been made to be spent over the next three years (2015-16 to 2017-18).
National Agriculture Market (NAM) was launched on the occasion of 125 birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar.
Sources: the hindu.
Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday Abhiyan
PM Narendra Modi recently launched ‘Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday Abhiyan‘ in Madhya Pradesh.
- The campaign was launched on the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar at his birthplace.
The aim of this campaign is to make nationwide efforts to strengthen Panchayati Raj and through it, boost social harmony in the villages, promote rural development and foster farmers’ welfare & livelihoods of the poor.
- The campaign will be run jointly by the Ministries of Rural Development, Agriculture, Social Justice, Labour and Information and Broadcasting along with the States.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Former Miss World and Bollywood actress, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has won the Global Indian Of The Year Award.
The World Bank in its annual report “Migration and Development Brief” has said that, India was the world’s largest remittance recipient in 2015 despite experiencing a $1 billion drop from the previous year, the first decline in its remittances since 2009. India retained its top spot in 2015, attracting about $69 billion in remittances, down from $70 billion in 2014. Other large remittance recipients in 2015 were China, with $64 billion, the Philippines ($28 billion), Mexico ($25 billion) and Nigeria ($21 billion).
The maiden Maritime India Summit was recently inaugurated in Mumbai by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The three day Maritime India Summit is aimed at attracting potential investors to the vast opportunities that the various components of the Maritime Sector have on offer. It is showcasing projects covering sectors like port development and modernization, Greenfield ports, port led development under “Sagarmala”, shipbuilding, ship repair and ship breaking, inland water transportation, coastal shipping, lighthouse tourism and cruise shipping, hinterland connectivity and logistics handling facilities to the potential investors from across the world.