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Current Affairs – 24 December 2020

100% FDI IN DTH

In News

  • The Union Cabinet approved revision in changes in the information & broadcasting (I&B) guidelines for providing direct to home (DTH) services under which licenses would be issued for 20 years and 100 % FDI in the DTH sector.
    • DTH is a digital satellite service that gives TV viewing services directly to subscribers through satellite transmission anywhere in the country.

About

  • Till now, the FDI was limited to 49 %,the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was consulted in this regard.
  • Now, the licenses will be issued for a period of 20 years, compared to 10 years at the moment, and will be renewed for a 10-year.
  • The license fee has been revised from 10 % of gross revenue (GR) to 8 % of adjusted gross revenue (AGR), which will be calculated by deduction of GST from GR.
  • Broadcasting firms will have to pay the license fee on quarterly basis, rather than the annual basis as of now.
  • DTH operators are allowed to share infrastructure. DTH operators, willing to share DTH platform and transport stream of TV channels, on voluntary basis, will be allowed. “Distributors of TV channels will be permitted to share the common hardware for their Subscriber Management System (SMS) and Conditional Access System (CAS) applications.”

Significance

  • It may enable DTH service providers to invest for more coverage leading to increased operations and higher growth and thereby enhanced and regular payment.
  • Sharing of infrastructure by the DTH operators may bring in more efficient use of scarce satellite resources and reduce the costs borne by the consumers.

Other decisions

  • The Cabinet also approved the merger of four of its film media units — Films Division, Directorate of Film Festivals, National Film Archives of India, and Children’s Film Society, India — with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Ltd.
  • There was “duplication” between some of these organisations. After coming together, the governance will become better.

 

MRSAM

In News

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) achieved a major milestone with the maiden launch of Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) from Odisha coast.

About

  • Missile was fired from a ground mobile launcher at launch pad number-1 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) near Balasore, Odisha, and it hit the target with accuracy.
  • An unmanned air vehicle (UAV), ‘Banshee’, was first flown into the air, which was hit by the MRSAM.
  • The entire mission trajectory from the launch to plunging into the sea was monitored by various radars and electro-optico instruments.
  • The DRDO has jointly developed the missile in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries.
  • In April 2017, India had signed a contract with Israel for supply of the MRSAM.
  • MRSAM has been manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Ltd.
  • MRSAM Army weapon system comprises of Command post, Multi-Function Radar and Mobile Launcher system.
  • After its induction into the Indian Army, the missile will significantly enhance the combat effectiveness of the defence forces.

 

COAL MINING

In News

  • Recently, it has been approved that Coal can now be mined on non-forest lands of a mining area by just obtaining preliminary clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

About

  • Under the FCA, 1980, anyone wanting to carry out non-forest activities such as mining has to obtain forest clearance (FC) in two stages. The preliminary clearance is called the Stage I FC.
  • FC under the FCA, 1980, is considered granted only after a project gets the Stage II approval. The approval is obtained by fulfilling all the stipulated conditions like paying the cost of compensatory afforestation that is to be carried out and giving the compensatory afforestation land. Under FCA, mining can only start after the FC is granted.
  • A mining area can comprise of both forest and non-forest land. However, when applying for the FC, the FCA is applied on the entire piece of land, irrespective of its nature.
  • Permission for the commencement of mining operations only in non-forest areas could be considered by the state government after Stage I approval.
  • This would be in specific cases where the forest / non-forest land had already been broken within an area having an approved mining plan.
  • This would be subject to the compliance of the following conditions:
    • All the compensatory levies stipulated in Stage I approval have been deposited
    • Environment clearances for the total area have been obtained
    • Such permission in the non-forest area shall not create any obligation of fait accompli with regard to Stage II clearance for the proposed forest area

Privatization of coal sector

  • In this year,PM launched the auction of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining – following the center’s announcement under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, of opening the coal sector for commercial mining, ending the government monopoly on the sector.
  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy, 2017 was amended in 2019 to permit 100% FDI under automatic route in coal mining activities.

 

ILLEGAL TRADE IN WILD ANIMALS

In News

  • According to the researchers from Oxford Brookes University and the University of Western Australia in paper titled ‘Online trade in wildlife and the lack of response to COVID-19’,despite COVID-19 restrictions and the risk of animal to human disease transmission, illegal wildlife trade on social media networks has continued, with wild animals sometimes sold as “lockdown pets”.

About

  • The researchers found thousands of posts advertising wild animalson Facebook in Brazil and Indonesia, suggesting the pandemic was a great time to buy an exotic pet for companionship.
  • Although the COVID-19 pandemic represents a challenge for human health, it also offers an anthropocentric argument for persuading people to stop wildlife trade and consumption. Our findings show the actors involved in the trade of wild pets discussed the connection to zoonosis at a low rate, despite public outcry generated around COVID-19 and calls for widespread wildlife market bans.
  • Importantly, neither sellers nor consumers discussed the risk of local wildlife trade or human-wildlife interactions as a source of spillover for zoonotic diseases on the monitored online groups.

  • Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has described illegal wildlife trade as a “global threat”, which also has links with other organised crimes like modern slavery, drug trafficking and arms trade.
  • According to the 2016 UN World Wildlife Crime report, criminals are illegally trading products derived from over 7,000 species of wild animals and plants across the world.

 

BIG TECH IN US, EU

In News

  • Recently, European Union (EU) issued two draft digital-services laws (Digital Services Act, and the Digital Markets Act) that could launch an overarching supervisory apparatus covering tech companies.
    • The laws could potentially render Big Tech liable to face multibillion-dollar fines in Europe and even the prospect of being broken up, if they failed to comply with the sweeping new regulations.
  • Simultaneously, the United States government initiated antitrust cases against Google and Facebook, and a large number of US states collectively launched action on the two companies and others for a range of alleged infractions.

About

  • The seemingly concerted onslaught from regulators and administrators on both sides of the Atlantic is seen as a culmination of several mini-steps over the years to curb the growing influence of Big Tech, but is now seen as marking a decisive shift in competition policy governing the sector.

EU regulations

  • The Digital Services Act is intended to create a single set of rules for the EU to keep users safe online, protect their freedom of expression, and help hold tech companies to account.
  • An innovative idea is to introduce a sliding scale, under which tech majors need to take on bigger obligations.
  • They could also face annual scrutiny of their dealings with illegal and harmful content under new rules of the European Commission, the EU’s top policy making body.
  • Fresh restrictions are also likely to supervise their use of customers’ data, and to prevent the firms from promoting their own services above those of competitors’ in search results and app stores.
  • Large fines — up to 6 per cent of a company’s annual turnover — and break-ups are threatened for non-compliance. Also, “recurrent infringers” could be made to divest “certain businesses, where no other equally effective alternative measure is available to ensure compliance”.
  • Digital Markets Act focuses on the regulation of “gatekeepers”, including the operators of search engines, social networks, chat apps, cloud computing services, and operating systems. This could cover Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

Action initiated in US

  • Google was accused for working with Facebook in “an unlawful manner” that violated antitrust law “to boost its already-dominant online advertising business”.
  • US states have asked that Google, which controls a third of the global online advertising industry, compensate them for “damages”, and sought “structural relief” – which could potentially force the company to divest some of its assets.

But will these measures succeed?

  • According to analysts, the US broadly seeks punitive action for infractions of the past, whereas the action by the EU has a wider scope, and is clearly forward-looking.
  • The impetus for sweeping action on Big Tech is far lower in the US than in the EU, given that almost all of the firms are American.
  • The new rules in the EU could force tech companies to revamp some of their practices across geographies, thereby potentially impacting more than the EU’s 27 countries and 450 million people. There could be a ripple effect, at least in the long term. In India, there is increasing regulatory scrutiny of these firms.

Repercussion in India

  • In November, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) initiated an investigation into alleged abuse of dominant position by the company to promote its payments app, Google Pay – the third major antitrust probe ordered by the regulator against the company.
  • Earlier in October, the CCI had received reports of Google abusing its dominant position in the Android-television market by creating barriers for companies that wanted to use or modify its Android operating systems for their smart TVs.
  • In June 2019, the CCI had said that Google had “abused” its dominant position in the domestic smartphone market by reducing the ability of original equipment and mobile phone markers to opt for alternate versions of its Android mobile operating system. It had then asked for a detailed investigation.
  • In 2018, CCI had launched a probe and fined Google Rs 136 crore for “search bias” and giving “undue” space to its flights option on its search homepage, over and above other rivals in the market. The regulator’s order was, however, stayed by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, where the case is being heard.

Way Ahead

  • EU laws still need to undergo a consultation process and can only then be passed by European lawmakers, a process that could take years. The UK regulator — Competition and Markets Authority — simultaneously announced its own plans to place limits on the tech majors. In any case, the EU laws would only come into force only after the Brexit transition period has ended.

 

FIRST TIGER TRANSLOCATION

In News

  • Uttarakhand forest department tranquilized the first tigress in the state in the buffer area of Corbett landscape, for translocating it to the Rajaji Tiger Reserve as part of the project to increase the density of the big cat there.

About

  • The project for translocation of tigers to the western part of Rajaji was approved by the central government in 2016.
  • A total of five big cats, including two females, from the Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve — nearly eight years since conceptualisation of the project and four years after clearance from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) — are scheduled to be translocated from Jim Corbett to Rajaji.
  • Spread over 557 sq km, Rajaji reserve has 37 tigers against a capacity of 83, and its western part spread over 380 sq km has only two tigresses —codenamed T1 and T2.
  • The eastern and the western part of the reserve are divided by a busy traffic corridor making it difficult for the tigers to migrate between the two parts.

Why translocation is needed?

  • The western portion of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, which occupies more than 60 per cent of the total reserve area, has only two tigresses, presumed to be unfit for reproduction as they above 18 years.
  • Despite Rajaji having 37 tigers, the eastern part cannot boost numbers in the western portion as the two are divided by a traffic corridor which makes it difficult for the big cats to migrate. With this relocation, a rise in tiger numbers can be expected in the western part next year.
Population of Tiger

·         India has 70 percent of world’s tiger population.

·         Jim Corbett national park (Uttarakhand) is the largest habitat of the big cats in India (231 tigers).

·         Corbett is followed by Nagarhole (127) and Bandipur (126), both in Karnataka.

·         First white tiger sanctuary – Madhya Pradesh (The maiden ‘White Tiger Safari’ was inaugurated in 2016).

Map: Tiger Reserves in India

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