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Government mulling privilege notice against TMC MP Mahua Moitra for allegations against former CJI

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New Delhi [India], February 8 (ANI): The government is mulling a breach of privilege notice against Trinamool Congress (TMC) member of Parliament Mahua Moitra for making allegations against a former Chief Justice of India.
Sources in the government said remarks of TMC MP will not be taken lightly and will be acted upon.
A senior minister in the government said her remarks were against the rules.
He said that Article 121 has rules on restriction on the discussion in Parliament and provides that no discussion shall take place in Parliament with respect to the conduct of any judge of Supreme Court or of High Court in the discharge of his duties except upon the motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of the judge as hereinafter provided.
Moitra, who was taking part in the motion of thanks on the President’s Address on Monday, did not take any name but was apparently referring to former CJI Ranjan Gogoi, who is now a member of Rajya Sabha.
“The judiciary is no longer sacred, it stopped being scared the day a sitting Chief Justice of the country was accused of sexual harassment, presided over his own trail to clear himself and then proceeded to accept nomination to the upper house within three months of retirement with Z plus security cover,” she said.
Rule 352 (5) of rules of procedure and conduct of business in Lok Sabha can also be invoked against her which states that “this can reflect upon the conduct of persons and authorities unless the discussion is based on a substantive motion drawn in proper terms”.
The word persons or higher authority means persons whose conduct can only be discussed on a substantive motion drawn in proper terms under the constitution.
Sources said that the government is deliberating on actions that can be taken against the member. (ANI)

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CHALLENGES TO FULL-SCALE ADOPTION OF BLOCKCHAIN IN INDIA

India is still facing several roadblocks on the way to adopting blockchain technology more wholeheartedly. In order to embrace the technology and keep up with the world, the government needs to identify and address concerns like data privacy, define regulations and laws, and build the architecture and skill sets required.

Paridhi Maheshwari

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With more than 30,000 blockchain innovators and practitioners across India, blockchain technology has emerged as a transformative source of innovation and disruption. The technology has been widely recognised across the world and more so for its applications related to governance in the public domain. The core features of blockchain such as providing transparency and a platform for auditability in governance are the reasons for the technology gaining wider acceptance both within the public and the private sector.

As per a recent report on “National Strategy on Blockchain, 2021” by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, potential blockchain applications of high interest to the nation include farm insurance, transfer of land record, identity management, pharmaceutical supply chain, duty payments, power distribution, e-notary service, e-voting, agriculture and other supply chains, digital certificate management, IoT device management and security, public service delivery, digital evidence management system, electronic health record management, and microfinance for self-help groups.

Some of the global efforts by countries to embrace and promote blockchain technology include the Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) initiative of China that provides developer tools with a focus on standardization across public networks, the European Blockchain Partnership for developing a secure and resilient European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI), the Smart Dubai initiative by the UAE for becoming the “first city fully powered by Blockchain by 2021”, the UK’s food standard agency deploying blockchain for tracking the distribution of meat, the USA’s food and drug inspection authority deploying the technology in health data processing for a transparent supply chain, Brazil using the Ethereum network for eVoting, and Switzerland using the same for digital IDs.

Although blockchain has grown immensely and large corporations and the government in India are deploying the technology for several use-cases, there are numerous challenges. The major technological challenges are related to scalability and interoperability issues. Security and privacy of sensitive data are a major concern that hinders its growth, which is exacerbated by a lack of awareness, education, and skill set among its users.

One of the features of blockchain technology is that the data stored on the chain is recorded on every node on the network, making it difficult to maintain the privacy of data required as per the data protection laws such as Section 43A of the IT Act. Extensive research and development are being carried out in providing solutions to align with data protection laws and to protect the privacy of the users. Different forms of blockchain such as permissioned and private blockchain also exist to control the level of privacy in different elements of the data recorded. The “Right To Be Forgotten’, a prominent feature of the Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, cannot be satisfied due to the inherent core functionalities of blockchain which include a permanent record of data and accessibility of transaction history.

Privacy concerns around data ownership and sharing are ever-growing. Blockchain can be designed to be either public, private, consortium or hybrid. But, it is crucial to direct and design what part of the data remains on-chain and off-chain to avoid sensitive data of stakeholders involved in a transaction being exposed. For achieving higher interoperability across similar applications, it is imperative to create data standardization and process standardization across similar applications.

One of the major applications of blockchain is in the supply chain industry but there is a lot of resistance by domain experts to deploy the technology due to trust issues, lack of infrastructure, or simply a lack of understanding of the technology itself. Many blockchain platforms exist today but a lack of understanding of their core functionalities and how they can function together remains a major hurdle for higher blockchain adaptability. It is crucial to educate and spread awareness of different functionalities of blockchain such as security, flexibility, scalability, etc. of open source blockchain platforms. Blockchain can be deployed in several industries and provide solutions to many use-cases. However, continuous production deployment can be only achieved if users are made aware of how the technology provides solutions to a specific domain.

As more and more people are connected to the blockchain network, the processing speed can significantly decrease since copies of the blockchain are maintained on each node every time a new transaction is added to the block. Its decentralised architecture can be slower than traditional systems, thus, there is a need to work upon a system upgrade that will allow faster synchronisation of transactions if more people are to be connected to the blockchain.

The data storage mechanism of blockchain is “append-only” which means it cannot be modified, replicating on the nodes and this demands higher storage capacity. As more blocks are added to the chain, the issue of scalability becomes more relevant. Scalability is a major roadblock in the full adoption of technology due to factors such as the configuration of the blockchain platform, consensus mechanism, block size, network bandwidth, processing power requirements, privacy requirements, architecture, and data storage. These factors can be addressed by improving the design architecture of its network and platform.

Since blockchain is distributed in nature, allocating resources to the network and node infrastructure varies and depends on the cost of maintaining the network, its security, and other essential requirements. Optimum allocation of resources is needed as lower resource allocation in such cases could highly affect the performance of the entire system.

Cryptocurrency mining uses consensus mechanisms such as proof of concept which requires the expertise of data scientists, making its adoption rather difficult. A combination of domain and technology expertise is a rare skill set to find and a lot of blockchain projects remain unsuccessful and incomplete due to resource constraints. If the skill set is not acquired timely, India could fall behind in the complete adoption of blockchain and remain unsuccessful as compared to the rest of the world.

Banking regulations require non-repudiation via in-person verification which is difficult due to challenges in implementing technological solutions to blockchain-based cryptocurrencies. Due to the lack of details regarding digital signatures, which is a core part of the blockchain, in Schedule I of the Information Technology Act, 2000, for transactions related to wills and negotiable instruments, immovable properties, etc., the application of the technology becomes difficult.

Since every entity in the network including the user and the node owns a private key, public key, and certificates, it is imperative to use Certificate Authority (CA) to maintain the privacy of data. Depending upon the nature of the targeted application, the choice of CA can be determined, and licensed CA could be used for transactions requiring signing using certificates.

Decentralized finance (DeFi) is poised to expand in India, providing opportunities for the unbanked and underbanked population of the country. DeFi provides financial services through a decentralised network and provides use cases such as cross-border remittances. As per a study by the World Bank, the average transaction fee is 7.45 percent, even for cross-border remittances in India, with traditional banks charging even higher fees. By embracing DeFi, such charges can be as low as 0.5 percent or even lower, benefitting millions of Indians transferring money to India.

But the state of regulations and compliance for blockchain and especially cryptocurrencies is still ambiguous in India. Currently, there are speculations that the Government of India is to introduce a bill in the Parliament to ban cryptocurrency transactions in India. The concerns are fuelled by the existence of money laundering activities that can be exacerbated through the usage of cryptocurrencies. However, it should be noted that due to its decentralised nature, the solution does not reside in banning the industry but in imposing tighter regulations and through increased taxation.

The Government of India is also talking about introducing its own central bank digital currency (CBDC) and there are many advantages to it. CBDC makes tax evasion more difficult and allows higher monitoring of illicit activities. It allows disruption of banks and clearing houses, also limiting the guarantee that is required to be provided by commercial banks. It becomes easier to monitor monetary policy, allowing for a direct control of the money supply and for using tools such as helicopter money, and also makes privately controlled money systems more transparent and secure. By providing low-cost bank accounts, CBDC provides higher financial inclusion to every citizen of the country. However, it should be noted that CBDC should exist in harmony with other cryptocurrencies to reap the full benefits of the technology.

In a nutshell, the adoption of the technology in India would accelerate when the regulations are well-defined by the Government of India, more awareness and training is provided for the required skill set in the industry, more universities and corporations offer courses and practical training to improve existing blockchain architecture and systems for battling scalability, privacy and security concerns around the technology.

Dr Badri Narayanan is the founding director of Infinite Sum Modelling, Seattle and a senior economist with University of Washington, Seattle. Pankhuri is an economist and serves as a Blockchain Expert at the United Nations and International Standard Organization (ISO). The views expressed are personal.

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India’s first forest healing centre inaugurated in Uttarakhand’s Ranikhet

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DEHRADUN: First Forest Healing centre of the country was inaugurated on Sunday at Ranikhet in Kalika Uttarakhand.

The forest healing centre has been developed by the Research Wing of Uttarakhand Forest Department after research on healing properties of the forests and its revitalising impact on overall health and well being. It is spread over an area of around 13 acres. Chief Conservator of Forest (Research), Sanjiv Chaturvedi, said, ‘’It draws inspiration from Japanese technique of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) and ancient Indian traditions and that basic theme is, be silent, go slow, think less and feel more.”

He further said that it involves many activities like forest walking, tree-hugging, forest meditation and sky gazing. He said, it has been found that because of typical molecular vibration patterns of trees, tree-hugging has a beneficial impact on the increase in the level of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, creating the pleasant effect and in countries like Iceland forest department has been making efforts to facilitate this activity for benefit of health purpose of local citizens.

This healing centre has been established in a pine-dominated forest as it has been found in various studies that coniferous like Pine trees emit certain oil compounds to safeguard themselves from various microbes and pathogens, which are called phytoncides. It has been found in various researches that these compounds help to multiply natural killer (NK) cells in our blood, which help in fighting infections and cancerous growth and enhance overall immunity.

Another important activity in this healing centre in forest meditation which is distinct from the traditional meditation system of controlling thoughts or concentrating the awareness on some particular point. This practice is based more on immersing oneself in silence and the ambience of the forest without making any extra effort.

Another activity is sky gazing which involves having a gaze at the swaying canopy above and the ever-changing sky. This uncommon view offers a new perspective as well as deep relaxation.

The healing centre maintains a register in which visitors share their experience. Various self-explanatory boards explaining these four activities in a simple language has been placed at the very entrance and also the instructions for leaving behind the phone, camera or any other destruction and also resist talking if people move in groups. For forest meditation and sky-gazing exercise, tree platforms have also been created.

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HARYANA VILLAGERS NOT WILLING TO HAVE LIQUOR SHOP ASKED TO SUBMIT PROPOSAL

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CHANDIGARH: Haryana Deputy Chief Minister, Sh. Dushyant Chautala while interacting with mediapersons here on Sunday said that any Gram Sabha of the state that does not want liquor vends to open in its village, can pass the proposal and send it to Haryana government through its Deputy Commissioner by March 15, 2021.

He said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the financial year started from May 19, 2020 instead of April 1, due to which this time it will start from May 20, 2021. At present, all the gram panchayats of the state have been dissolved, so those who don’t want liquor vends to open in their villages can pass their proposal in the gram sabha by March 15 and send it to the government through the Deputy Commissioner.

While sharing the details of the last two years, Dushyant Chautala, who also holds the portfolio of Excise and Taxation Department, said that 3048 proposals were sent to the government by the Panchayats for the closure of liquor vends in 2019-20, out of which only 57 proposals were accepted and 48 proposals were rejected, while the remainder were left out due to some objections. He said that during the year 2020-21, 898 proposals were received through Deputy Commissioners, out of which 430 villages were such where there was a complete ban on opening of liquor vends. Of those proposals, besides there were 468 cases in which multiple FIRs had been filed relating to sale of illicit liquor, due to which there was a ban on the sale of liquor there.

Sh. Dushyant Chautala said that during the last year, in the third-quarter, revenue of Rs. 1421 crore was collected, whereas in the third-quarter of this year, Rs. 1734 crore was collected as revenue. He said that it is noteworthy that 97 percent of the revenue collected in the last financial year was completed by the third quarter of this financial year. He said that by the end of the financial year, revenue collection is expected to be more than the target revenue. In the third quarter, additional excise duty to the tune of Rs 330 crore has been collected while Rs 140 crore has been collected as COVID-cess, he added. He said that a total of Rs 977.94 crore has been received as additional revenue in the last three quarters, which is an increase of about 19.85 percent over the previous year.

The Deputy Chief Minister said that while on one hand the State Government is making every effort to enhance the excise revenue in the state, on the other, there should be a complete ban on the sale of illicit liquor. While sharing the statistics of sale and penalty of illicit liquor during the last five years, he said that in the year 2016-17, a total of 619 cases of illicit liquor were seized on which a fine of Rs 12.83 crore was imposed. Similarly, in the year 2017-18, a total of 549 cases were seized, and a fine of 25.45 crore was imposed. A total of 567 cases were seized in the year 2018-19 and a fine of 18.44 crore while a total of 590 cases were seized in the year 2019-20 on which a fine of 3.69 crores was imposed. He said that the State Government has taken strict action during the current excise year 2020-21 and so far, 668 cases of illicit liquor have been siezed and a fine of Rs 90.13 crore has been recovered. He said that while the total revenue of Rs. 6361 crore was collected last year, this year revenue of Rs. 6214 crore has been collected until March 4, 2021, while this excise year will be till May 19, 2021. So, this year’s revenue is likely to be higher than the previous year, he added.

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PUNJAB CM ORDERS IMMEDIATE ACTION ON NEW SEVEN-POINT AGENDA 2022

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With a “record-breaking” 84.6% of the manifesto commitments already accomplished, and the promise of fulfilling the remaining in the next one year, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday directed all ministries and departments to move aggressively and proactively to push for the realisation of the 7-point ‘Agenda 2022’ he had unveiled in the Vidhan Sabha on Friday.

The agenda, aimed at ensuring total protection of people and their properties in an environment of peaceful co-existence conducive to saving the lives and livelihood of all Punjabis against all odds, is centered around citizen welfare through a holistic focus on overarching development of the state. The overarching goal of the agenda is to ensure the development of a ‘Kaamyab & Khushal Punjab’.

The futuristic agenda, which has set the stage for his government beyond the current term of his government, is designed to meet the aspirations of the people of Punjab, Captain Amarinder had announced in the Vidhan Sabha on Friday while sharing with the House his goals ahead. Cognisant of the fact that this would need more time, he had said, during his speech in response to the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the Governor’s address in the Vidhan Sabha, that “I am sure that the people of Punjab are conscious of this.” He had also expressed the confidence that the people of the state will not be carried away by the “false promises and euphoric claims of some leaders who are completely detached from Punjab and Punjabiyat,” but would continue to repose confidence in his transparent and responsive government.

The 7-point agenda that encompasses the Chief Minister’s promises are to fully protect the Zarr and Zameen of the State at any cost. Ensure peaceful co-existence (Shantmayee Samaj) for all in the State. Save lives and livelihood (Jaan and Jahan) of all Punjabis against all odds or situations. Reach out to every needy person (Zarrorat Mand) to alleviate his economic miseries, and provide them their due benefits under the socio-economic programmes of the government. Empower youths (Sashakt Naujawan) of the State by enabling them to stand on their own feet. Ensure adequate food, and shelter at affordable prices (Sasti Roti and Pakki Chhat) for all deserving populations of the State; and develop every village, and town of the State in a manner that everybody gets an equal opportunity to live a quality life.

Pointing out that of the 546 commitments/promises made to the people of Punjab in the manifest during the 2017 elections, his government had fulfilled 455, the Chief Minister also assured the House that the remaining promises of his Government will also be fulfilled in the time left at its disposal.

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INS KARANJ ALL SET TO BE COMMISSIONED ON 10 MARCH

Preeti Sompura

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Mumbai: Indian Naval Ship (INS) Karanj, which will be commissioned on March 10, is the third of the six Kalvari-class diesel electric submarines to start functioning in the navy since 2017. The Navy has inducted two submarines of the same class–the INS Kalvari and INS Khanderi–from Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL’s) where the INS Karanj was built. Motani Suhail, master chief of the submarine, said: “There will be 39 personnel onboard when the submarine works in shifts. They have been specially trained for a long period to serve on the submarine for months, which is quite a challenging task. Once the submarine is in action, the crew have to ensure they do not make any noise.

Before Karanj, INS Kalvari and INS Khanderi have been commissioned in the Indian Navy in 2017 and 2019, respectively. If everything goes as planned, the navy aims to commission remaining three submarines as scheduled. Karanj sailed for over 100 days as part of trials before being commissioned. All the six Kalvari-class submarines have the same capabilities but they can be deployed in different roles. This includes guarding a strategic point in the sea, laying mines, gathering intelligence, dropping marine commandos and engaging with enemy ships as per orders

Karanj is seen as a small submarine having a length of 60 metres. Though it cannot be compared to the nuclear-powered submarine Arihant, this class of conventional submarines have their own advantages.Kalvari-class submarines are being constructed by public sector shipbuilder Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL). As per the contract with a French company, they would teach MDL and transfer the technology to India so it can make these ships indigenously. A total of six submarines are to be built at the MDL. These were the Scorpene-class submarines ordered by India in 2005 with MDL being the licensed builder of the SSK class submarine in collaboration with France’s Naval Group in Mumbai. Trials of two – the Vela and Vagir – are underway while the construction of sixth Vagsheer is under way.

Karanj, however, has been built without any kind of supervision of the French company and even the crew has been trained by Indian Navy officials. An official said the French company too learnt a lot from us as the Indian Navy has been using submarines for past 50 years made in Russia, Germany and the UK. According to MDL, the state-of-the-art technology used in Scorpene-class submarine means that the submarine has superior stealth features such as advanced acoustic silencing techniques, low radiated noise levels and ability to launch crippling attacks with precision-guided weapons on board. The attacks can be launched with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, while underwater or on surface. The stealth features give it an edge unmatched by most submarines, while it is also designed to operate in all theatres of operation, showcasing interoperability with other components of a naval task force, the MDL said.

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Mamata not daughter of Bengal but ‘aunt of infiltrators, Rohingyas’: Suvendu Adhikari

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Slamming the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Suvendu Adhikari on Sunday said the former is not a daughter of Bengal but the aunt of infiltrators and Rohingyas.

Ahead of the speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Brigade Parade ground, Adhikari said, “The Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Left-Congress alliance both want to divide Bengal with appeasement politics. If TMC comes to power again, Bengal will become Kashmir. What happened to the pundits of Kashmir the same will happen to you.” Mentioning TMC’s slogan ‘Bangla nijer meyekei chaye’ (Bengal wants its own daughter), Adhikari said, “Nobody accepts you (Mamata Banerjee) as their own daughter. You are the ‘khala’ (aunt) of infiltrators and Rohingyas.”

Hitting out at TMC, he said the party has turned into a private limited company, adding, “The chairman of the TMC private limited company is Mamata Banerjee and the ‘tolabaaj bhaipo’ (corrupt nephew) is its managing director. Mananiya (Banerjee) has bought a thinker with Rs 500 crore. The money was siphoned from MGNREGA, PM Awas Yojana and the smuggling of coal, sand and cow.”

Suvendu Adhikari is contesting against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Nandigram seat in the upcoming Assembly polls.

Addressing a public meeting in Behala yesterday, Adhikari said, “If Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was not there, this country would have been an Islamic country and we would be living in Bangladesh. If they (TMC) came back to power, West Bengal will become Kashmir.”

“Nandigram is not a challenge for me. I am going to Nandigram to defeat her (Mamata Banerjee) and send her back to Kolkata. I thank the national party leadership for the responsibility given to me. I will work to make lotus bloom in Nandigram and across West Bengal. She (Mamata Banerjee) is going to lose this election (in Nandigram) by over 50,000 votes,” added Adhikari.

The BJP on Saturday fielded Adhikari from Nandigram against TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, setting the stage for a high-profile contest from the seat in the state assembly elections.

West Bengal Assembly elections will be held in eight phases starting from March 27 with the final round of voting taking place on April 29. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.

West Bengal is likely to witness a triangular contest this time with TMC, Congress-Left alliance and the BJP in the fray.

State party chief Dilip Ghosh said the Bharatiya Janata Party will definitely win by 200 of the total 294 Assembly seats.

“We will not get less than 200 (seats). It will definitely be more than 200. We did not begin preparations today, we had started five years back,” said Ghosh.

After winning 3 seats in the 2016 Assembly election in West Bengal, the BJP made deep inroads in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections winning 18 seats and reducing TMC’s tally to 22. Out of the total 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal, Congress won two seats, the Left drew a blank.

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