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Trouble is brewing in the financial sector in India

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rouble is brewing in the financial sector in India

Shimla- All is not well in the financial sector in India. For the past few years, the  financial sector in India has been in the news for all the wrong reasons; be it the loan given to the liquor baron Vijay Malaya; the revelation of  Nirav Modi saga; ever mounting NPA amount in the public sector banks; payment default by  Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services  (IL&FS); for weeks the RBI and the Government were at  the loggerheads- that culminated with the infelicitous resign of the Governor prior to his completion of term; or be it woes the various private sectors banks like ICICI, Bandhan Bank, Kotak  Mahindra Bank or Yes bank are facing.

All these incidents are not only disconcerting but can have a preponderant impact on the financial markets. Off late, banks stocks have been on the downslide because of the uncertainty and pessimism caused in the market by the series of such unwanted events. There have been rumors of liquidity crunch in the market for some time now, the credit growth has been bleak, impacting the investment and hence job creation. 

After the series of payment default by the Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS), the Modus Operandi of non-banking financial companies in India is under serious scrutiny. The systematic risk associated with shadow banking in India might require a major relook. 

RBI has put 11 Public Sector banks under Prompt Corrective Action framework, and the majority of them are running in losses hence requiring a massive capital infusion. The problem of NPA is far from over in Public Sector Banks. 

The trouble with the private sectors banks will capitulate the demand for privatization of Public Sector banks, as these incidents have proved ownership of banks is not the root cause of the problems of Public Sector banks; moreover, these incidents proved private sector banks are not immune to troubles and changing ownership will not help much, as far as the problems of Public Sector banks are concerned. 

All this will have a bearing on India’s worldwide credit rating too, adversely affecting the investment ecosystem required for strong and stable economic growth. 

All this does not augur well for India’s development. The financial sector plays a critical role in the development of any nation. To reap the benefit of the economic potential, a robust and healthy financial sector with strong fundamental is required, along with an independent and accountable Central banker coalesced with a fair financial market regulator. 

At the moment there is a lot to cogitate for us. Our image, worldwide, has taken a dent, it needs to be restored. We cannot persist with the beleaguered financial system for too long. The financial sector is full of various risks, the key, however, is to infer the rumblings early and prepare to minimize such risks. 

We have a serious problem in our hands and we must act fast. If we don’t act in time, the problem may exacerbate further. And our Lehman Brother moment may not be far if we don’t manage these conspicuous risks. For a stable and sustainable growth, we need to put an end to these troubles brewing in the financial sector. It’s high time.

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South Asian Activists Join Hands to Form SAPAN (South Asia Peace Action Network)

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SAPAN initiative

Peace activists from India and Pakistan on March 28th through a virtual session resolved to float a South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN) to bring “peace-monger” groups and individuals working towards peace and stability in the region under one umbrella. These activists have been working on these issues for a long time and were talking about such a network much before the recent attempts at reconciliation between Delhi and Islamabad. Through this network they plan to urge both governments to reduce hostility and work towards a peaceful South Asia.

India and Pakistan peace activists came together for a virtual brainstorming session on March 28, inspired by the work of giants like Dr Mubashir Hasan, Asma Jahangir, Kuldip Nayar and Nikhil Chakravarty. On the agenda was the way forward for the movement, how to invigorate it by involving more allies, younger people and expatriates. The meeting coincidentally capitalised on a rare moment in recent years where there has been a deliberate lowering of hostility by both governments. With the recent announcement of a ceasefire by both armies and the meeting of the Indus Water Commissioners last week, a thaw between the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours does not seem impossible.

Regional Context, Education and Peace Journalism

“There is a need to place the India-Pakistan issue into a regional context’,’ said Beena Sarwar, senior journalist and editor of Aman Ki Asha, or ‘hope for peace. Then, Milind Champanerkar a Pune based writer and winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2017 also stated that “more progressive groups should emerge in both countries and should make peace building efforts in numerous regional languages of both countries as it would help more on the ground”. Rubina Saigol a Feminist scholar and Educationalist who was a pioneering member of the Women’s Action Forum, Pakistan, talked about how negative nationalism and infighting within the specified countries are derailing the peace process and laid emphasis on having Peace education programs for especially the youth of India and Pakistan which could help in tackling hyper-nationalism and could invariably lead to lesser defence budgets. Further, while speaking about the role of media in fuelling tensions between both countries renowned journalist Raza Rumi, editor Naya Daur said,  “There is conflict reporting, but we haven’t placed enough emphasis on peace journalism,’’ specifying that something needs to be done to build the existing peace constituencies on both sides.

 People to People Contact

Participants stressed the importance of urging both governments to normalise relations between the two countries and allow free movement of people across the borders.

“We need to broaden the peace constituency by bringing people together, learning from each other on issues that affect us and that have the potential to change our future”, said Ravi Nitesh, co-founder of the youth group Aaghaz-e-Dosti. Sheema Kermani, a Social activist from Sindh, Pakistan, also the founder of the Tehrik-e-Niswan Cultural Action Group said that “South Asia requires open borders and more people to people contact”, also emphasizing the fact that a better Visa policy shall be in place concerning India and Pakistan.

Siraj Khan, President of the Pakistani Association of Greater Boston who has also worked a lot in India emphasized having a better Visa regime in India and Pakistan and stated that “the artist connection is the biggest peace-builder, and more focus should be put on connecting artists of both countries”.

COVID and Beyond

Furthermore, Jatin Desai, former General Secretary of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, the region’s largest and oldest people-to-people group said that “Things are moving ahead. It is a very important moment, and we must take advantage of it,’’ stating that the pandemic has underscored the need for better cooperation within the region and had forced the governments on both sides to moot better connectivity projects. Farooq Tariq a Lahore based activist and General Secretary of Pakistan Kissan Rabita stated that South Asian governments shall all work together in providing Covid vaccinations for their people.

Thus, all activists hoped the current thaw in India-Pakistan relations will lead to more exchanges between the countries which will further strengthen South Asia. Participants in several breakout rooms at the meeting discussing the way forward strongly felt the need to counter the vitriol on social media targeting those who speak for peace. Other noted participants in the discussions included human rights activist Rita Manchanda, artist Salima Hashmi, former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, labour activist Karamat Ali, author Urvashi Butalia, General Secretary PIPFPD India chapter Vijayan M.J., Sanjoy Hazarika of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Panday, editor Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, senior journalist Panneerselvan, and former Indian Navy chief Ramu Ramdas who is also a Magsaysay awardee, besides several prominent Rotarians from both sides, among others.

Source: Aman Ki Asha, Beena Sarwar, Mandira Nayar, Vishal Sharma and some other peace activists present in the virtual session

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Read All New Rules, Guidelines for Social Media and OTT Platforms Issued by Indian Govt

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New Social media rules in India

New Delhi– The Government of India, following a recent tussle with social media platform (Twitter) and an OTT platform, has announced new rules to tighten the noose around them. The Government has rolled out its oversight mechanism in relation to social media platform as well as digital media and OTT platforms etc.

Yesterday, the Government announced Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The Government said these rules have been framed under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011.

Now, OTTs will have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories. These platforms were yet to release any statement in agreement or disagreement of these Rules. 

The justification given includes “misuse of social media by criminals, anti-national elements, prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, abusive language, defamatory and obscene contents and blatant disrespect to religious sentiments, prohibiting the publishing of content that the government deems unlawful, inducement for recruitment of terrorists, circulation of obscene content, the spread of disharmony, financial frauds, incitement of violence, public order etc., alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children and society.”

“India is the world’s largest open Internet society and the Government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India,” the Government said.

New Rules, Guidelines 

These guidelines include a provision to make messaging apps to break their end-to-end encryption policy to identify the origin of the messages or the users who first sent them.

“Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily like messaging would enable identification of the first originator of the information that is required only for prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years. The intermediary shall not be required to disclose the contents of any message or any other information to the first originator.”

The Government has also included it in its rules that these platforms would have to submit a monthly report to the government giving details of compliance with the government’s order.

“Publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediary.”

The social media platforms would also have to remove or prevent the publishing of whatever content the government prohibits.

“An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the Appropriate Govt. or its agencies through authorized officer should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.”

“Intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc. Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf.”

Though the Government has justified the formation of these Rules to safeguard the country and the interest of its people, the announcement has sparked a debate over the future of the right to speech and freedom of expression of opinion.

Currently, in India, there are 53 Crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 Crore YouTube users, 41 Crore Facebook users, 21 Crore Instagram users, and 75 Crore Twitter users.

The reason behind these new Rules, the government said,

“Persistent spread of fake news has compelled many media platforms to create fact-check mechanisms. Rampant abuse of social media to share morphed images of women and contents related to revenge porn have often threatened the dignity of women. Misuse of social media for settling corporate rivalries in blatantly unethical manner has become a major concern for businesses. Instances of use of abusive language, defamatory and obscene contents and blatant disrespect to religious sentiments through platforms are growing.”

“Over the years, the increasing instances of misuse of social media by criminals, anti-national elements have brought new challenges for law enforcement agencies. These include inducement for recruitment of terrorists, circulation of obscene content, the spread of disharmony, financial frauds, incitement of violence, public order etc.”

In respect of news and current affairs publishers are expected to follow the journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Network Act, which is already applicable to print and TV. Hence, only a level playing field has been proposed.

The Rules has divided social media into two categories -social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. This distinction is based on the number of users on the social media platform. The government is empowered to notify the threshold of user base that will distinguish between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries.

Part- II of these Rules would be administered by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, while Part-III relating to the Code of Ethics and procedure and safeguards in relation to digital media would be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Digital Media Ethics Code Relating to Digital Media and OTT Platforms to Be Administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting:

“Since the matter relates to digital platforms, therefore, a conscious decision was taken that issues relating to digital media and OTT and other creative programmes on the Internet shall be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting but the overall architecture shall be under the Information Technology Act, which governs digital platforms.”

The government said that the Rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for news publishers and OTT Platforms and digital media.

Notified under section 87 of the Information Technology Act, these Rules empower the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to implement Part-III of the Rules which prescribe the following:

  1. Code of Ethics for online news, OTT platforms and digital media: This Code of Ethics prescribe the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities.
  2. Self-Classification of Content: The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”. The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.
  3. Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media.
  4. The platforms would have to form a self-regulatory body. There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body would be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.
  5. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will formulate an oversight mechanism. It will publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.  

At the same time, a debate is on the role of social media during protests expressing dissent that have been bothering the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at large. In fact, it’s the fundamental tendency of the governments irrespective of their ideologies to show the least tolerance towards public dissent. While, mainstream news channels well under the control of the government, social media platforms weren’t. Recent tussle between the Indian government and Twitter over removal or suspending thousands of accounts including that of Kisan Ekta Morcha and several other individuals and activists had aptly explains it.  

Moreover, manipulation of existing rules (like UAPA) for suppression of dissent in several cases has come into light during the ongoing farmers’ protest over three contentious farm laws.  

Featured Image: Tracy Le Blanc

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Videos: Uttarakhand ‘Glacier Break’ Triggers Massive Flooding, Several Dead, Over 150 Missing

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Uttarakhand flood videos

Uttarakhand-A “glacier break” at Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district today triggered a massive flood in the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers. While A dozen bodies have already been recovered, over 150 people are feared are still missing and feared to be dead. These people are mostly those working inside power projects. About 16 people, who were stuck in a tunnel of Tapovan dam, had been rescued at the time of writing. Efforts were on to rescue others trapped in another tunnel, which was being coordinated by the Army and ITBP. This natural disaster has also triggered debate among ecologists and environmental activists over building too many dams in the Himalayan region.

Videos of this tragic, as well as, horrifying incident have appeared on social media platforms. Videos showed scary scenes of the water tearing through a narrow valley below the power plant and destroying almost everything which came in its spate appeared.

According to the initial report issued by the Union Government, due to the glacier burst near Joshimath and avalanche, the flow of water increased greatly and first the water level started rising in the Rishiganga River and later in Alaknanda River. The massive flood washed away the Rishiganga small hydro project of 13.2 MW.

The flash flood also affected the downstream hydro project of NTPC at Tapovan on the river Dhauliganga, which is a tributary of the river Alaknanda.

There is no danger of downstream flooding and the rise in water level has been contained, as per the information given by the Central Water Commission (CWC).  There is also no threat to the neighbouring villages.  At the same time, the concerned agencies of the Centre and the State were asked to keep a strict vigil on the situation, and a team from DRDO, which monitors avalanches, is being flown in for surveillance and reconnaissance.  MD, NTPC has been asked to reach the affected site immediately.

Rescue and Relief Operations by the Centre and State Government are in full swing and 3 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have reached the spot. More than 200 ITBP personnel are on the spot, and one column and Engineering Task Force (ETF) of Army, with all rescue equipment, have been deployed.  Navy divers are being flown in and aircraft/ helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) are on standby.

“We are focusing on the second tunnel, that is tunnel number one, we’ve learnt that around 30 people are trapped there. We will be carrying out night operations also. Our teams are already on the job and we hope that we’ll be able to rescue them,” Vivek Pandey, ITBP, PRO, Uttarakhand told ANI.

IMD said that there is no rainfall warning in the region for the next two days. Efforts are being made to ensure that all missing people are traced and accounted for, the Government said.

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