1. CBI, ED chiefs can now have five-year terms

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance

Tenure of 5 years

President Ram Nath Kovind promulgated two ordinances that would allow the Centre to extend the tenures of the directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate from two years to up to five years.

The chiefs of the Central agencies currently have a fixed two-year tenure, but can now be given three annual extensions.

Laws altered

While the change in tenure of the CBI Director was effected by amending the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the changes to the tenure of the ED Director was brought in by amending the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003.

The move comes just days before the present ED chief, Sanjay Kumar Mishra, was to retire on November 17.

Details

“Provided that the period for which the Director of Enforcement holds the office on his initial appointment may, in the public interest, on the recommendation of the Committee under clause(a) and for the reason to be recorded in writing, be extended up to one year at a time,” the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 read.

“Provided further that no such extension shall be granted after the completion of a period of five years in total, including the period mentioned in the initial appointment,” it further stated.

Criticism by Opposition

Not surprisingly, the move has riled the Opposition as the ordinances were brought in barely two weeks before the winter session of Parliament gets under way from November 29. “It is expectedly brazen. Why did they have to resort to an ordinance when Parliament session has been announced from November 29,” Congress Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu.

Stating that the Narendra Modi government has brought in 3.7 ordinances for every 10 Bills in the 17th Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress leader in Parliament Derek O’Brien tweeted, “How Modi-Shah’s BJP mock #Parliament and shamelessly use Ordinances. Same stunt repeated today to keep their pet parrots in ED and CBI.”

“Parliament session begins on 29th. To avoid its scrutiny, Centre on Sunday promulgates ordinances to extend the tenure of Directors of CBI and ED. This desperate hurry smacks of something fishy,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted.

“It is a clear case of making Parliament redundant and subverting democracy,” CPI general secretary D. Raja said.

Source: The Hindu

2. Creating safe digital spaces

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper I; Social Issues

Recognising that school-related violence is an infringement of children’s right to education and to health and well-being, UNESCO Member States have declared the first Thursday of November as the International Day against Violence and Bullying at School, including cyberbullying. The aim is to raise awareness among students, parents, members of the school community, education authorities and others about the problem of online violence and cyberbullying.

In India, an estimated 71 million children aged 5-11 years access the Internet on the devices of their family members, constituting about 14% of the country’s active Internet user base of over 500 million. It should also be noted that two-thirds of Internet users in India are in the age group of 12-29 years.

Tackling all kinds of bullying

School closures as a response to the COVID-19 lockdowns have led to an unprecedented rise in unsupervised screen time for children and young people, which in turn exposed them to a greater risk of online violence. Various reports have indicated increased incidence of cyberbullying and online child sexual exploitation by adults.

In the same vein, there is growing scientific evidence which suggests that cyberbullying has negative consequences on the education, health and well-being of children and young people. Published in 2019 and drawing on data from 144 countries, UNESCO’s report ‘Behind the numbers: Ending school violence and bullying’ highlighted the extent of the problem, with almost one in three students worldwide reporting being bullied at least once in the preceding month. Therefore, cyberbullying prevention interventions should aim at tackling all types of bullying and victimisation experiences at the same time, as opposed to each in silo.

Effective interventions also require gender-sensitive and targeted approaches that respond to needs of learners who are most likely to be the victims of online violence. A 2020 study by Plan International, involving 14,000 women aged 15-25 from across 22 countries, revealed that 58% of girls in the Asia-Pacific region reported online harassment. Globally, of the girls who were harassed, 14% who self-identified as having a disability and 37% who identified themselves as from an ethnic minority said they get harassed because of it.

The impact of online sexual harassment could have long-term negative impacts on mental health and well-being. Data on school bullying demonstrates its harmful impacts on students’ educational outcomes, mental health, and quality of life. Children who are frequently bullied are nearly three times more likely to feel left out at school than those who are not. They are also twice more likely to miss out on school and have a higher tendency to leave formal education after finishing secondary school.

Tackling the menace

Although online violence is not limited to school premises, the education system plays a crucial role in addressing online safety. Concerted efforts must be made to provide children and young people with the knowledge and skills to identify online violence so that they can protect themselves from its different forms, whether perpetrated by peers or adults. Teachers also play a critical role by teaching students about online safety, and thus supporting parental involvement.

For those looking to prevent and counter cyberbullying, the information booklet brought out by UNESCO in partnership with NCERT on Safe Online Learning in Times of COVID-19 can be a useful reference. It supports the creation of safe digital spaces and addresses the nuances of security. Similarly, to prevent the adverse effect of online gaming and the psycho-emotional stress that children could be undergoing, the Department of School Education and Literacy has circulated exhaustive guidelines to raise children and parental awareness.

At a time when COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in online bullying, we must redouble our efforts to tackle this menace. Cyberbullying may take place in a virtual world, but it has a very real impact on children’s health. The Union Ministry of Education and UNESCO are committed to ensuring access to safe, inclusive and health-promoting learning environments for all children.

It is imperative that digital and social media platforms are free of cyberbullying, if learners have to access quality education. More importantly, confidential reporting and redress services must be established. We encourage students, parents, schools, education authorities, members of the education community and its partners to take part in preventing online violence and promoting the safety and well-being of young people.

Source: The Hindu

3. How buyback using retro tax refund helps Cairn

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Economics

British oil and gas exploration company Cairn on Monday announced a share repurchase programme worth GBP 20 million (Rs 199.9 crore) prior to a larger buyback programme after the company receives approximately Rs 7,900 crore of $1.06 billion from the government of India. We examine details of the refund and Cairn’s share buyback plans.

Why is Cairn receiving a refund?

Cairn is set to receive a refund for taxes collected over an internal rearrangement process, in which Cairn UK transferred shares of Cairn India Holdings to Cairn India in 2006-07. Tax authorities treated the transfer as a sale and sought to impose taxes of Rs 24,500 crore over the transaction after passing an amendment in the IT Act allowing the government to tax the transaction retrospectively.

Cairn sold a majority of its India business to Vedanta resources Ltd. in 2011 but income-tax authorities barred it from selling about 10 per cent, citing pending taxation issues.

The government amended the Income Tax Act to allow for retrospective taxation of the transaction after the Supreme Court verdict in a similar case which held that Vodafone could not be taxed for a 2007 transaction that involved its purchase of a 67 per cent stake in Hutchison Whampoa for $11 billion.

After prolonged litigation Cairn won an award of $1.2 billion form the permanent court of arbitration at the Hague and sought to have it enforced through the seizure of government assets in other countries including those of Air India.

Post the verdict the government had in August amended the Taxation Laws Act to remove end all retrospective taxation on the indirect transfer of Indian assets prior to May, 2021. The government also moved to start talks to settle claims of companies that had been taxed retrospectively under the respective taxation amendment including Cairn and Vodafone.

How is Cairn using the refund?

Has previously announced that it intends to use the refund from the Indian government to distribute $700 million to shareholders through dividend payouts and share buybacks.

In a share repurchase a company buys back its own shares from the marketplace as a way to distribute earnings to shareholders.

Source: The Indian Express

4. Who is Kishanda, veteran Maoist ideologue arrested in Jharkhand?

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Internal Security

Last Friday, Jharkhand Police arrested CPI (Maoist) central committee member Prashant Bose alias Kishanda along with five others. Police sources said Kishanda, who is in late 70s, is part of the organisation’s “think tank”. Jharkhand Police chief Neeraj Sinha told a news conference on Sunday that the police have got hold of an “encylopaedia” of the Maoist organisation.

Kishanda is a founding member of the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) that merged with the People’s War Group to become the CPI (Maoist). Fifty cases are registered against him in Jharkhand, and he carried a reward of Rs 1 crore.

The arrest

It is learnt that police managed to reach Kishanda and the other five individuals following the surrender of two area commanders of the CPI (Maoist), Ballon Sardar and Suraj Sardar. Police acted on information that top Maoist leaders would be travelling from the Parasnath Hills in Giridih district towards the dense Saranda sal forest in West Singbhum.

According to police, the five men and a woman, all of whom appeared “suspicious”, were intercepted in the Kandra police station area of Saraikela in Saraikela-Kharsawan district, and taken to a “joint interrogation centre”. Following sustained interrogation, two of the party were identified as Prashant Bose and his wife, Sheila Marandi alias Sheiladi.

The other four individuals were Birendra Hansda and Raju Tudu of Giridih, and Krishna Bahada and Gurucharan Bodra of West Singhbhum, all of whom are “active CPI (Maoist) members”, police said.

Rs 1.51 lakh rupees was seized from them. All six were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Kishanda’s career

Police sources said that in the early 1960s, Prashant Bose joined a labour organisation that was affiliated to the Naxals. He was arrested in 1974 and, following his release in 1978, went on to co-found the MCCI along with Kanai Chatterjee.

Thereafter, Bose started to organise ongoing protests against zamindars in Giridih, Dhanbad, Bokaro, and Hazaribagh. He worked with local Santhal leaders until around 2000, and strengthened the Naxal organisation in Palamu, Chatra, Gumla, and Lohardaga.

During this period, Bose fought against both police and upper caste zamindar militias such as the Ranbir Sena and Brahmarshi Sena, sources in the Jharkhand Police said.

In the CPI (Maoist)

Since the founding of the CPI (Maoist) in 2004, Kishanda has been a member of its central committee, Central Military Commission, and in-charge of Eastern Regional Bureau. He worked in the South Chhotanagpur area, and lived in the Saranda forest. He tried to strengthen the Maoist organisation in Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal, and was also part of the West Bengal State Committee.

According to police, Bose was involved in several Maoist actions, including the 2007 murder of Sunil Mahato, then general secretary of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the party’s sitting MP from Jamshedpur.

Impact of arrest

A day after Kishanda’s arrest, 26 Maoists including Milind Teltumbde, who headed the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh zone of the CPI (Maoist), were killed by security forces in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. The back-to-back setbacks are a major blow to the Maoists, and are expected to lead to considerable loss of morale.

In his news conference, Jharkhand DGP Sinha said Kishanda had been active for 40-45 years, and had trained most of the important leaders of the banned organisation. “After the formation of CPI (Maoist), Kishanda was second-in-command and its ideologue…his stature was far higher than his rank. After his arrest we have an ocean of information, and it will take us months to analyse it,” Sinha said.

The police chief paid a backhanded compliment to Bose’s ideological prowess: “He has been mentally far more alert than all of us. Go near him, and he will convert you into a Naxal!”

Source: The Indian Express

5. What is Kamo’oalewa?

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Science & Technology

In 2006, the PanSTARRS telescope in Hawaii spotted a quasi-satellite — a near-Earth object that orbits the Sun and yet remains close to the Earth. Scientists named it Kamo’oalewa, a word that is part of a Hawaiian chant, and alludes to an offspring that travels on its own. The asteroid is roughly the size of a Ferris wheel – between 150 and 190 feet in diameter – and gets as close as about 9 million miles from Earth.

Because of its small size (about 50 metres wide), this quasi-satellite has been difficult for scientists to study, and little was known about it so far. Now, a study in the journal Communications Earth and Environment offers insights into where this satellite could have come from.

One possibility is that Kamo’oalewa was a part of the Earth’s Moon, the study suggests. It could have broken away from the Moon due to a possible impact, and gone on to orbit the Sun rather than the Earth-like its parent does.

When scientists compared its spectrum with a lunar sample that was brought back to Earth during the Apollo 14 mission, they found striking similarities between the two. A mission to collect Kamo’oalewa’s samples has been scheduled for a launch in 2025.

Another possibility is that Kamo’oalewa was captured in its Earth-like orbit from the general population of Near Earth Objects. A third possibility could be that it originated from an as-yet-undiscovered quasi-stable population of Earth’s Trojan asteroids (Trojans are a group of asteroids that share an orbit with a larger planet.

Source: The Indian Express