Sunlight and shadow
- A country saddled with the colonial legacy of secretive
- Right to Information Act, 2005: far-sighted law that empowers the
- In news because: NDA government wants to amend the RTI law.
- UPA: Attempts were made by the UPA government also to weaken the law, including to remove political parties from its purview.
- Control over the tenure, salary and allowances of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at the Centre, and the State Chief Information Commissioners.
- Chief Information Commissioner and not more than ten Information
- Appointed by the President
- Recommendation of a committee: PM as chairperson, LoP in LS, Union Cabinet Minister nominated by PM.
- Cannot be a MP/MLA or political person
- Tenure: 5 years or until they attain the age of 65 yearsRemoval: President has to refer the matter to the Supreme Court for an enquiry. If the Supreme Court, after the enquiry, upholds the cause of removal and advises so, then the President can remove him.
- Supreme Court: right to information as being integral to the right to free expression under Article 19(1)(a); weakening the transparency law would negate that guarantee.
- Centre’s argument: EC is constitutional, IC is statutory
- National Campaign for People’s Right to Information’s PIL in SC:
- CIC has 23,500 pending appeals and complaints
- Either moribund or working at low capacity owing to vacancies
- Section 4: publish information suo motu
- The law envisaged that voluntary disclosure would reduce the need to file an application.
- Since fines are rarely imposed, officers give incomplete, vague or unconnected information to applicants with impunity.
- Proposals to make it easier to pay the application fee, and develop a reliable online system to apply for information, are missing.
- The law needs to be amended only to bring about full compliance by government departments and agencies that receive substantial funding from the exchequer, and to extend its scope to more institutions that have an influence on official policy.
- Any move to enfeeble the RTI Act will deal a blow to transparency.
CIC official slams Bill to change RTI
A voice of dissent has emerged from within the Central Information Commission (CIC) against the proposed changes in the RTI Act, which many argue would “weaken” information commissions, with a Commissioner urging the panel to write to the government for withdrawing the controversial amendment Bill.
- With Chief Information Commissioner R.K. Mathur on leave, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu on July 19 wrote to seniormost Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad to convene a meeting of all Information Commissioners on the subject, sources said.
- The PTI has a copy of the letter that says the proposed Bill intends to defeat the very purpose of the RTI Act 2005, besides being an affront to federalism enshrined as a basic feature of the Constitution.
- A call on his demand is yet to be taken by the Commissioners.
Dealing with the Taliban hand
August 2017: Trump unveiled his new Afghanistan policy
- His Afghan policy was going to be robust.
- “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”
- “agents of chaos”
- “We are going to finish what we have to finish in Afghanistan.”
- “We don’t want to talk with the Taliban. There may be a time, but it’s going to be a long time.”
- In news because: U.S. is setting the stage for direct talks with the very enemy it vowed to vanquish.
- previous attempts at dialogue with the Taliban ended in failure
- North Atlantic Treaty Organisation pulled out in 2014
- S. stopped releasing figures for the territories or populations under Taliban control, or the numbers of their fighters.
- Data and assessments on the strength and the combat capabilities of the Afghan military and police are no longer readily available, amidst reports of severe erosion of their fighting capabilities.
- UN grimly noted — late last year — rising opium production.
- increased by 87% to a record level of 9,000 metric tons in 2017 compared with 2016 levels.
- opium poppy cultivation: record 328,000 hectares in 2017, up 63% from 201,000 hectares in 2016.
- Rawalpindi’s game: withdrawal of the remaining international troops will be the main aim.The American move comes when there is pressure to limit any kind of engagement with Iran.
- Pakistan’s aim will be to reverse all the gains India has made at great cost over the years in Afghanistan.
Prospect of the Taliban slouching towards Kabul to be born again, most of New Delhi’s bets may be off.
Meddlesome and more
- S. President Donald Trump refused to accuse Russia of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election (despite allegations by all intelligence agencies in the U.S.).
- 15 years ago that these same intelligence agencies fraudulently claimed that Iraq’s Saddam Hussain had weapons of mass destruction.
- In joint press conferences, one head of government is not typically called on to label the other head of government a liar.
- Rather than discussing global issues, ranging from nuclear disarmament to conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine, journalists were focussed on a domestic issue in the U.S.1960 Paris summit: between the leaders of France, the U.K., the S. and the USSR after the U.S. had lied that its spy plane that had been shot down over the USSR had been a weather plane.
- Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s outburst there against U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower led to a collapse of the summit.
- Don Levin of Carnegie Mellon University: From 1948-2000, the U.S. interfered in elections in other countries 81 times
- Central Intelligence Agency: “We’ve used posters, pamphlets, mailers, banners…We’ve planted false information in foreign newspapers. We’ve used what the British call ‘King George’s cavalry’: suitcases of cash.”
- USSR/Russia intervened at least 36 times in overseas elections between 1946 and 2000.
- Interventions are designed to advance the foreign policy objectives of the U.S.
- The indignation over Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the assessments of U.S. intelligence agencies stems primarily because he is undermining a foreign policy consensus in Washington to muscle into the power vacuum in Central and West Asia created by the demise of the Soviet Union.
- In early 2014, transcripts of a phone call between then Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt in which they discuss the makeup of the Ukrainian government after the impending ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych were released on YouTube.
That Mr. Obama’s Assistant Secretary had previously served as U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief foreign policy adviser and U.S. President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation underlines a consensus between Republicans and Democrats on foreign policy — and it is this consensus that Mr. Trump is now disrupting.
- Thousands of Indians die of snakebite every year, and we kill many more snakes in fear and retribution.
- Activists have struggled for years to help both people and snakes without loss of life.
- Prasadam Industries: “a Solar-Powered, ultrasonic rodent repeller that emits ultrasonic sound waves designed to keep snakes at least 50 metres away.”
- Frequencies above 20kHz are ultrasonic, but snakes sense low frequency sounds of less than 1kHz.
- No species of serpent is known to hear high frequencies.
- In 2001, Federal Trade Commission of the S. said that there was nothing to show that ultrasonic deterrent devices keep away insects, rodents or any other animal pests.
- The advice offered by conservationists and activists on how to reduce contact with snakes include carrying a torch at night and wearing footwear.
Tryst with trust
- The act of verification is what differentiates journalism from all other forms of communication.
- News may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is to empower people.
- Active blogger or a social media commenter do not subject their copy to a multi-tiered process as is the case with journalism.
- Journalism is both a public good and a business. Independent journalism can thrive only when it is economically sustainable.
- In real space, the quest for information is for transformation, rather than for validation.
‘Attackers came with firearms and sticks’
- “‘Vijay, break his legs’; ‘Dharmender, hit him hard on the head’; ‘And Naresh, you break his hands’. This is how they were talking among themselves,” said Mr. Aslam, his voice still shaking. “They were seven people. I remember the names of five of them,” he said.
July 30 NRC list only a draft: Rajnath
- Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday that the National Register of
Citizens (NRC) for Assam, to be published on July 30, was only a “draft” list.
He added that even after the NRC was finalised, there was no question of putting anyone in detention centres as people could appeal before the
- “The NRC is being updated in accordance with the Assam Accord signed on
August 15, 1985. The entire process is being carried out as per the directions of the Supreme Court which is constantly monitoring the process,” Mr. Singh said.
- As per directions of the Supreme Court, the Registrar General of India (RGI) is to publish the final draft list on July 30 to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
- Mattis seeks waivers from sanctions
- S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has sought waivers from sanctions on some countries making a transition from their military dependence on Russia, asserting that it will allow them to build closer security ties with America and strengthen U.S.’ allies in key regions.
- Mattis’ statement did not mention India, but for all practical purposes he has been seeking waivers for India from the punitive Countering America’s
Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, under which sanctions kick off on countries that purchase significant military equipment from Russia.
- China offers fresh grant of $295 mn to Sri Lanka
- President Sirisena calls it a ‘gift’ from Xi Jinping
- Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered Sri Lanka a fresh grant of two billion yuan ($295 million), as Beijing tries to expand its influence in the island-nation.
- President Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka, a partner in China’s Belt and Road project, made the announcement on Saturday at a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a Chinese-funded kidney hospital in his home constituency of Polonnaruwa.