‘Zero Rating’ will enhance Net access: Zuckerberg - (science and Technology)
- “Most of the folks who are pushing for Net neutrality have access to the Internet already. But the people who are not yet on the Internet can’t sign an online petition pushing for increased access to the Internet,” Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer, Facebook, said in a town hall-style event on the Indian Institute of Technology campus here on Wednesday.
- Reiterating his company’s “missionary” emphasis on enhancing access to the Internet in the developing world, including India, Mr. Zuckerberg argued that Facebook’s Free Basics and Zero Rating did not violate Net neutrality.
Film-makers return their awards - (Indian Polity)
- “I am more afraid today than I was during the emergency because now there are roving gangs looking to do violence against anyone who speaks out. If you don’t believe in armed struggle, then what do you do?
- This is what we have. We want to be part of the awakening happening around the country, like the scientists and artists and writers returning their awards,” said documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan on Wednesday, returning his national award, along with Dibakar Banerjee, Nishtha Jain, Rakesh Sharma and six others.
Central info commission ticks off BARC, DRDO – (Governance)
- For perhaps the first time, the Central Information Commission has told the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Defence Research and Development Organisation that they cannot withhold information in the guise of national security.
- The decision, delivered on October 23, comes nearly a year after activists sought to ascertain the compliance of a August 2014 National Green Tribunal (NGT) verdict on the allotment of nearly 10,000 acres of grasslands for military, power generation and research purposes at Challakere in Central Karnataka.
After 139 days, FTII strike grinds to a frustrating halt - (Governance)
- After a protracted and bitter face-off with the government over the appointment of BJP leader Gajendra Chauhan as the Film & Television Institute of India’s chairperson, the protesting students on Wednesday brought their 139-day strike to a frustrating and anticlimactic end.
- At a press conference, representatives of the FTII Students’ Association (FSA) said the students would return to class, alleging that the government was highly insensitive to their problems.
More than 100 scientists speak out against bigotry - (Indian Polity)
- Close on the heels of one set of scientists writing to President Pranab Mukherjee on the rising instances of “intolerance, polarisation and communal hatred”, another set of over 100 scientists from India and abroad released a statement online on the current state of affairs in the country “on the issues of reason, tolerance and scientific temper”.
- The scientists include Padma award winners and current and former heads of several leading scientific and engineering institutions.
Help change world order, Sudan tells India - (International Relation)
- On the third day of the India-Africa Forum Summit, political disagreement over the United States became evident between India and Sudan, one of the major emerging energy suppliers for India. While India focused on the commercial aspect of India-Africa ties, Sudan forcefully demanded that the summit should seek to change the world order.
- In the official briefings, the Ministry of External Affairs highlighted the trade talks taking place between leaders of India and several African countries during the summit, but Sudan’s Foreign Minister told The Hindu that his country wanted to discuss Africa’s rightful place in the changed United Nations Security Council and also wanted to highlight how American domination of world affairs was proving to be counter-productive.
“Australia helped in Rajan’s arrest” – (International Relation)
- The intelligence cooperation that led to the arrest of underworld don ‘Chhota Rajan’ is part of the “growing relationship” between India and Australia, says Australia’s top diplomat, Peter Varghese, adding that Australian law enforcement officials acted as soon as they received the “advice from Interpol” on Rajan aka Rajendra Nikhalje’s flight.
- Confirming that Australian officials believed that Chhota Rajan operated from Australia for nearly seven years, Mr. Varghese, who is Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, toldThe Hindu that several similar cases were being discussed between the two countries, including those on “trans-national crime and counter-terrorism”.
U.S. bomber pact in contrast to Indian Rafale deal - (International Relation)
- The United States on Tuesday announced the contract for building the next generation long-range strike bombers at a whopping $55 billion (Rs.3,57,500 crore), providing a stunning contrast to the way India has gone about concluding the purchase of Rafale fighters from France.
- Pentagon selected the U.S. defence major Northrop Grumman to build a fleet of stealth bombers that can strike deep inside enemy territory with nuclear bombs, and will replace the fabled B-52s, B-1s and B-2s. It is the biggest military contract anywhere in the world, and will result in the building of 100 new-age bombers that will begin entering service from 2020.
Govt. limits surrogacy to ‘infertile Indian couples’ - (Governance)
- Making it clear that India will not be a baby farm for “foreigners,” the Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it did not support rent-a-womb commercial surrogacy and would make such exploitation of women and children wombs punishable under the law.
- The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said surrogacy would be “altruistic” and not commercial, and limited to “infertile Indian married couples and not to foreigners.”
Centre takes steps to speed up affordable housing schemes - (Governance)
- Officials of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA) met the representatives of other Ministries — Finance, Defence, Culture, Civil Aviation, Environment and Forests and Climate Change — on Wednesday to set up a system through which affordable housing projects are cleared at a faster pace.
- At present, the government is battling a housing deficit of 18.78 million units and 95 per cent of it is required for the economically weaker population which lives in and around the urban centres.
Punjab’s farming sector in crisis - (Governance)
- Punjab’s farming sector is in crisis and showing signs of sickness as it suffers from falling productivity and shrinking returns. Farmers are reeling under debt, and owing to low profitability, small farmers, in particular, are quitting farming. In the past few years, around 28 per cent of them have entered the labour market.
- Agricultural experts say small farmers are working under severe economic constraints — their earnings are very low and they are indebted — and hence many are compelled to leave farming. Tragically, some reach a stage where they commit suicide.
Reforms need to reach the needy - (Economics)
- Liberalisation is premised on the need to create competitive markets and should be extended to all sectors. Much remains to be done in regulating the pricing of natural resources and improving the agricultural productivity.
- Though reforms are aimed at increasing the efficiency through enhanced competition, they do not automatically result in growth. Neither does economic growth by itself translate into better social sector outcomes. A definite policy paradigm that prioritises social welfare is needed.
Easing business blues - (Economics)
- The finding made in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2016’ report that improvements in the regulatory environment helped lift India’s ranking four places higher will serve as a shot in the arm for the government, given Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s avowed focus on economic development.
- The overall ‘ease of doing business’ ranking has climbed to 130 from a recalculated 134 last year following a change in methodology. And the distance-to-frontier score – which measures the absolute level of regulatory performance in an economy and the extent of improvement over time – has also advanced by two percentage points.
Carving out a path on China’s road - (International Relation)
- New Delhi has recently made a subtle move by trying to reverse the Kashmir discourse hitherto scripted and played by Pakistan for seven decades. The new move is accompanied by a sudden spurt in video clippings showing Pakistani atrocities in Gilgit-Baltistan. Hopefully, this is not a propaganda stunt and the policy shift will gain seriousness from now on.
- New Delhi’s move comes against the backdrop of China’s renewed push into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir through its $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. The subsequent “Karamay Declaration” of August 2015 defined Pakistan’s role in China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. The nexus is nothing new but the motivation, significance and implications of CPEC needs careful analysis.
Civil hands must soothe uncivil tempers - (International Relation)
- High-level talks between India and Pakistan are on hold once again. Smiles and nods from the Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly notwithstanding, tensions have mounted, with deadly skirmishes along the Line of Control and a series of fiery speeches from both countries’ military brass.
- The crisis has even spread to the sporting pitch, with officials being pressured to cancel plans for a highly anticipated cricket series.
Iran to join Syria peace talks - (International Relation)
- The U.S. has reversed long-standing opposition to Iran’s participation in peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, paving the way for a possible diplomatic breakthrough in the four-year conflict.
- Officials in Washington insisted the move was a “genuine multilateral invitation” and implied they had succeeded in overcoming Saudi Arabian opposition to Iran attending the talks in Vienna on Friday.
India can be a Top 100 country in a year: Kaushik Basu - (Economics)
- It is possible for India to break into the top 100 rankings in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business listing within one year, according to the Bank’s Chief Economist Kaushik Basu.
- India’s efforts to create a more conducive climate for business activity were “remarkable” and “substantial”, Professor Basu, who was the Indian government’s Chief Economic Adviser between 2009 and 2012, said in an exclusive conversation with The Hindu .
- Still, the nation’s absolute rank in the Bank’s 2016 Doing Business report was 130 and it had “no business being there,” he said.
Delhi utility reform lifted India’s ranking - (Economics)
- Reforms leading to greater ease of getting electricity in Delhi led to the improvement in India’s Ease of Doing Business 2016 ranking to 130 from 134 in the previous year, the World Bank said. As a result, India managed to outperform China on the ease of getting electricity. While India ranked 70th as against 99th last year on the parameter, China came at the 92nd spot.
- The reform relates to the elimination of an internal wiring inspection by the Electrical Inspectorate at Delhi’s power utility, the World Bank said.