Government relief package for telecom sector
- In a move to provide relief to companies such as Vodafone Idea that have to pay thousands of crores in unprovisioned past statutory dues, the Union Cabinet has approved a crucial package for the telecom sector.
- The relief package provided much-needed relaxation to telecom companies Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel. “These are expected to protect and generate employment opportunities, promote healthy competition, protect interests of consumers, infuse liquidity, encourage investment and reduce regulatory burden on Telecom Service Providers (TSPs),
- The package primarily provided relief to Vodafone Idea, which is on the brink of going bankrupt. A moratorium on AGR-related dues will offer space to the cash-strapped firm to improve its business and clear dues over a longer period.
- The package, which includes one of the most important decisions approved by the Cabinet as part of the telecom relief package, is the moratorium of dues. A four-year moratorium has been approved on dues of telecom service providers (TSPs).
- However, TSPs who want to opt for the moratorium will have to pay interest on the amount availed under the benefit.
- The most crucial part of the measures is related to the contentious issue of AGR. The definition of AGR has been changed to exclude non-telecom revenue. “All non-telecom revenue will be removed from AGR,
- Another important announcement was related to rationalising spectrum charges that telecom firms have to bear.
- The monthly compounding of interest on spectrum usage charges will be replaced by annual compounding and the interest rate will come down
- The Centre has also announced 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in the telecom sector through the automatic route as part of its comprehensive package for the telecom sector.
- So far, up to 49% was allowed through the automatic route and anything thereafter had to necessarily go through the government route. These measures are expected to ease the cash flow issues being faced by some players in the industry.
- The package is also expected to boost 4G proliferation, infuse liquidity and create an enabling environment for investment in 5G networks.
- The telecom sector was hit by the apex court ruling in 2020, making it mandatory for Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to pay their pending dues to the Central Government.
- The telecom firms – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Communications – owed nearly ₹92,000 crore to the Centre as license fee and ₹41,000 crore as spectrum usage fees, as per the telecom department.
SC on Tribunal
- The Supreme Court accused the Central government of “cherry-picking” names for appointments to tribunals groaning under backlogs and left almost defunct by long-pending vacancies
- The CJI termed the state of tribunals and the thousands of litigants waiting for justice “pitiable”.
- Cases were adjourned for months. There was no manpower to form Benches. Litigants were made to travel to faraway States where there were at least some tribunal members available to hear cases.
- Tribunals were not part of the original constitution; it was incorporated in the Indian Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976.
- Article 323-A deals with Administrative Tribunals.
- Article 323-B deals with tribunals for other matters.
- Under Article 323 B, the Parliament and the state legislatures are authorised to provide for the establishment of tribunals for the adjudication of disputes relating to the following matters.
- Foreign exchange, import and export
- Industrial and labour
- Land reforms
- Ceiling on urban property
- Elections to Parliament and state legislatures
- Food stuff
- Rent and tenancy rights
- The latest retail inflation data suggest, at first glance, that price pressures have begun to moderate in the economy, with the August print for CPI showing inflation having slowed for a second straight month to a 5.3% pace, after July’s 5.59%.
- And the pace of price gains in at least three essential food components speeded up from the preceding month, with meat and fish, dairy and oils and fats posting significant accelerations.Edible oils have been on a tear for months now the August print was 33% after July’s 32.5% and an earlier round of cuts in import duties have had little impact in cooling their prices,
- Inflation in two other vital protein sources, eggs and pulses, also continued to remain a cause for concern.
- While inflation in eggs remained in the high teens at 16.3%, price increase in pulses was 8.81% after slowing 23 basis points from July’s 9.04% pace.
- A persistent and wider deflation in vegetable prices was the main positive contributor to the easing in overall food and beverages inflation last month
- The pace of inflation in fuel and light, clothing and footwear, health as well as household goods and services all ratcheted up last month.
- Transport and communication, which includes pump prices of the main automotive fuels of petrol and diesel, stayed stuck in double digits at 10.2% albeit
- Fears of future high inflation dampen sentiment and thus retard economic activity.
- Cutting fuel taxes is a sure-shot way to address a major component of price pressures and it is time the Government bites the bullet and acts to provide a more abiding solution.
Schools in future
- The COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest disruptor in the education sector. It has brought the future to us sooner than we ever imagined.
- Had there been no pandemic, the use of digital technologies in education would not have been so rampant.
- Learners would not have been exposed to a huge variety of innovative content or digital formats of education in their own languages.
- Firstly, there is already a discernible shift in the focus from physical infrastructure towards digital and virtual requirements.
- Secondly, it is not edtech as much as it is the traditional face-to-face modes of learning in schools that will continue to be the greatest equaliser in education.
- Thirdly, skill-building for the requirements of the 21st century has assumed great significance.
- Fourth, accelerated and even differentiated instructional interventions will be required to overcome and reverse the impact of the pandemic.
- Lastly, it is likely that there will be more pressure on the government schooling system to expand its intake.
Schools in Future
- In this scenario, for schools to emerge as strong, inclusive and professional educational systems, it is essential to imagine what the schools of the future will be like.
- Firstly, schools will encourage extended networks rather than remain as closed classroom communities
- Secondly, schools will be proactive innovators. They will adopt innovative pedagogies and differentiated instructions as per the needs of the learners to enable them to become knowledge creators and, eventually, job creators.
- Thirdly, the future of jobs also has a direct bearing on the schools of the future. Routine jobs will become scarce. Students of the future will have to struggle with the new set of capabilities needed, hyper-information digressing into disinformation, virtual teams not seeing each other physically, and will constantly experience a swing between super speciality and cross-disciplinary skills
- Lastly, schools will forge stronger and more trusting engagement with families and communities.
- The online world of e-parents teachers meetings (e-PTMs), e-guidance to parents, and social media-based active communication with parents during the pandemic has opened up an entire world of possibilities.
Brics and origin of COVID 19
- India and China avoided an open clash at the BRICS summit last week over views on the origins of the COVID-19 virus, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong intervention in favour of a “transparent investigation” into the origins of the pandemic.
- “Today, global governance needs credibility. There must be a transparent investigation into the origins of the virus under the World Health Organization’s framework, and this must receive full cooperation from all countries,”
- According to the statement, all BRICS countries noted “that the cooperation on the study of origins of the SARS-CoV-2 is an important aspect of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic”.
- “We support science-based, inclusive of broad expertise, transparent, and timely processes, free from politicisation or interference, to strengthen international capabilities to better understand the emergence of novel pathogens and to help prevent future pandemics.
Data protection bill
The upcoming regime
- The proposed regime under the Bill seeks to be different from the existing regime in some prominent ways.
- First, the Bill seeks to apply the data protection regime to both government and private entities across all sectors.
- Second, the Bill seeks to emphasise data security and data privacy. While entities will have to maintain security safeguards to protect personal data, they will also have to fulfil a set of data protection obligations and transparency and accountability measures that govern how entities can process personal data to uphold users’ privacy and interests.
- Third, the Bill seeks to give users a set of rights over their personal data and means to exercise those rights. For instance, a user will be able to obtain information about the different kinds of personal data that an entity has about them and how the entity is processing that data.
- Fourth, the Bill seeks to create an independent and powerful regulator known as the Data Protection Authority (DPA). The DPA will monitor and regulate data processing activities to ensure their compliance with the regime. More importantly, the DPA will give users a channel to seek redress when entities do not comply with their obligations under the regime.
- Several provisions in the Bill create cause for concern about the regime’s effectiveness. These provisions could contradict the objectives of the Bill by giving wide exemptions to government agencies and diluting user protection safeguards.
- For instance, under clause 35, the Central government can exempt any government agency from complying with the Bill. Government agencies will then be able to process personal data without following any safeguards under the Bill. This could create severe privacy risks for users.
- Similarly, users could find it difficult to enforce various user protection safeguards (such as rights and remedies) in the Bill.
- A week before a meeting of Quad leaders in Washington DC, the Biden administration announced a new trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. (AUKUS).
- officials outlined a trilateral grouping that was security focused, suggesting it was different from but complementary to arrangements such as the Quad.
- A central feature of the partnership would involve a trilateral 18-month effort to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines which are quieter, more capable (than their conventional counterparts) and can be deployed for longer periods, needing to surface less frequently.
- The partnership would also involve a new architecture of meetings and engagements between the three countries and also cooperation across emerging technologies (applied AI, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities).
- Australia has felt increasing pressure from an assertive China, like other countries in the region, and has sought to strengthen its partnerships with India, the U.S. and the U.K., including through ‘plurilateral’ forums.