Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 07 January 2023

Village Defence Committees revived

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

After militants killed six people in two days in the Upper Dangri village of Jammu and Kashmir, locals have demanded that they be provided weapons to take on attackers. Responding to the demands, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha assured the people that they would get a Village Defence Committee (VDC) on the lines of those in Doda district.

What is a VDC?

  1. The VDCs were first formed in the erstwhile Doda district (now Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts) in mid 1990s as a force multiplier against militant attacks.
  2. The then Jammu and Kashmir administration decided to provide residents of remote hilly villages with weapons and give them arms training to defend themselves.
  3. The VDCs have now been renamed as Village Defence Guards (VDG). The new scheme to set up VDGs in vulnerable areas of J&K was approved by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in March last year.
  4. Like a VDC member, each VDG will be provided a gun and 100 rounds of ammunition.

How are VDGs different from VDCs?

  1. Both VDG and VDC is a group of civilians provided guns and ammunition to tackle militants in case of attack until the arrival of security forces.
  2. Under the new scheme, the persons leading the VDGs will be paid Rs 4,500 per month by the government, while others will get Rs 4,000 each.
  3. In the VDCs, only the Special Police Officers (SPOs) leading them were provided a remuneration of Rs 1,500 monthly. The SPOs, the lowest rank in the J&K Police, used to be retired army, para military or police personnel.
  4. The VDGs will function under the direction of the SP/SSP of the district concerned.

 

Centre declares TRF terrorist organisation

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

Three months after The Resistance Front (TRF), a shadow organisation of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), issued threats to journalists in Kashmir, the Ministry of Home Affairs declared it a “terrorist organisation” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for propaganda on terror activities, recruitment of terrorists, infiltration of terrorists and smuggling of weapons and narcotics from Pakistan into J&K.

According to a notification

  1. According to a notification issued by the MHA, TRF came into existence in 2019 as a proxy outfit of LeT, a proscribed terrorist organisation.
  2. TRF is recruiting youth through online medium for furtherance of terrorist activities and has been also involved in carrying out propaganda on terror activities, recruitment of terrorists, infiltration of terrorists and smuggling of weapons and narcotics from Pakistan into J&K.
  3. TRF is involved in psychological operations on social media platforms for inciting people of J&K to join terrorist outfits against the Indian state.
  4. According to the MHA notification, Sheikh Sajjad Gul, a TRF commander, has been designated as a terrorist under the Fourth Schedule of the UAPA.
  5. The activities of the TRF are detrimental for the security and sovereignty of India. A large number of cases have been registered against the members/associates of the TRF relating to planning of killing of security personnel and civilians of J&K, co-coordinating and transporting weapons to support proscribed terrorist organisations.
  6. The group had issued threats to a few media houses in the Valley for their “traitorous acts” following which several journalists had resigned from local publications.
  7. The first signs of TRF emerging as a strong militant group were visible when the J&K Police busted a module of overground workers in Sopore – the town was a strong Lashkar base in the Valley before it yielded its position to Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad – and Kupwara.

 

Data localisation rules in India

GS Paper -2 (Policy-Making)

Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Paytm are opposing the Centre's move to allow the transfer of personal data to some foreign "trusted" countries and want the data of Indians to be stored within the country only. According to a report by the Economic Times (ET), this is opposite to the stance taken by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Data localisation:

  1. The rules around data localisationin India are not clearly defined, but the introduction of the draft of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, in November last year brought the issue back to limelight.
  2. It is storing the data, critical and non-critical, within the boundaries of a country. It gives the country control over its data and helps formulate clearer policies around privacy and data security.

Advantages:

  1. According to experts, it also protects the country from foreign surveillance. It also results in greater accountability for firms like Google, Meta etc.
  2. It may also reduce a country's dependence on Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs). These are signed to facilitate the exchange of information between two countries. India has MLATs in 45 countries.

Threats:

  1. The company which stores the data locally may refuse to share the encryption keys with the government.
  2. It may lead to significant additional investments by global countries in India.

Data localisation norms in India come under different acts:

  1. These include the Companies Act, 2013 and IRDAI Regulation, 2015.
  2. Under Section 94 of the Companies Act 2013, organisations are required to store their financial information at the company's registered office. This includes data about equity shareholders, preference shareholders, debenture holders and annual returns filed by the company.
  3. According to the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) Payment and Settlement Systems Act 2007, the covered companies must store end-to-end transaction details within India.
  4. It applies to credit cards, debit cards, smart cards and money transfers. However, it also allows the organisations to share a copy of the data outside India if it is necessary to complete the payment.
  5. RBI guidelines and Payment and Settlement Systems Act mandate banks operating in India to store the entire payment system data/payment data only in India.
  6. Under the IRDAI (Maintenance of Insurance Records) Regulation, 2015, organisations need to store digital data related to policies and claims made in India inside the country's border.

About current status:

  1. The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the government on December 11, 2019, but was withdrawn in 2022.
  2. Later, in November 2022, a new draft, Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2022, was released for public consultation.

 

Data protection and localisation elsewhere:

  1. Out of 194 countries, an estimated 137 have put in place legislation to secure the protection of data and privacy.

 

Interest rate hike for small savings schemes

GS Paper -2 (Welfare Schemes)

Amid rising yields on government securities, the Finance Ministry hiked the interest rates for some small savings schemes by 20-110 basis points for the January-March quarter. While the hike will serve as protection against high inflation and interest rates, the small savings rates are still below desired levels.

More about the news:

 

The hike in small savings rates:

  1. This is the second consecutive quarter when the rates for small savings schemes have not been hiked across the board.
  2. While interest rates have been kept unchanged for a 5-year recurring deposit, the public provident fund scheme and the Sukanya Samriddhi scheme, rates for 1-year, 2-year, 3-year and 5-year time deposits and the senior citizens savings scheme have been hiked for January-March.
  3. In October-December, the Finance Ministry had hiked interest rates on some of the small savings schemes by 10-30 basis points, after keeping them unchanged for nine consecutive quarters.
  4. Interest rates were marginally hiked for 2-year and 3-year time deposits, the senior citizens scheme and the Kisan Vikas Patra.

 

Rising interest rate cycle:

  1. Coming amid a higher inflation rate and a rising interest rate cycle, the hike in small savings rate is seen as necessary to protect savers, especially senior citizens.
  2. The view is to balance the interests of senior citizens and persons saving in instruments without tax benefits, along with keeping the interest rate for small savings in check, as it essentially translate into a higher interest cost for the government when it borrows against the National Small Saving Fund.

 

Fixing level of rates:

  1. Interest rates on small saving schemes are reset quarterly, in line with the movement in benchmark government bonds of similar maturity.
  2. Typically, the small saving rates are linked to yields on benchmark government bonds, but despite the movement in G-sec yields, the interest rate changes have not strictly matched the yield movements over the past two years.

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