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INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 24TH FEBRUARY 2020

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ISSUE: BIO-JET FUEL

In his monthly Mann ki Baat radio address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday (February 23) hailed the use of biofuel in an Indian Air Force transport aircraft, saying such innov

Biojet fuel

Biojet fuel, the PM said, is prepared from “non-edible tree borne oil”, and is procured from various tribal areas of India.

This fuel is made from Jatropha oil sourced from Chattisgarh Biodiesel Development Authority (CBDA) and then processed at CSIR-IIP, Dehradun.

Leh flight

According to a government release, the aircraft was flight tested and its performance was validated at Chandigarh Air Base prior to undertaking the operational flight to Leh.

The technology

The technology to produce this fuel was developed by CSIR-IIP in 2013, but it could not be tested and certified for commercial use immediately.

In 2018, the IAF sponsored this project and channelized its human and material resources for the complete range of fuel testing.

On July 27 that year, addressing the CII-SIDM seminar on promoting indigenised technologies, then Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, announced IAF’s intention to promote biojet fuels.

On December 17, 2018, ASTE pilots and engineers flew India’s first military flight using blended biojet fuel on the An-32 transport aircraft. The project was a combined effort of IAF, DRDO, Directorate General Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA) and CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum.

ISSUE: HOW TO UNIFY DEFENSE RESOURCES?

On Monday, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat said his office is working on a tentative timeline for the establishment of joint commands among the three defence services — Army, Navy and Air Force — beginning with an Air Defence Command.

What are joint commands?

Simply put, it is a unified command in which the resources of all the services are unified under a single commander looking at a geographical theatre. It means that a single military commander, as per the requirements, will have the resources of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to manage a security threat. The commander of a joint command will have the freedom to train and equip his command as per the objective, and will have logistics of all the services at his beckoning. The three services will retain their independent identities as well.

There are two tri-services commands at the moment. The joint command at the moment, the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), is a theatre command, which is headed by the chiefs of the three services in rotation. It was created in 2001 after a Group of Ministers had given a report on national security following the Kargil War. The Strategic Forces Command was established in 2006 and is a functional tri-services command.

What is the structure right now?

There are 17 commands, divided among the three services. The Army and the Air Force have seven commands each, while the Navy has three commands. The commands under the Army are Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, Central, Southwestern and the Army Training Command. The Air Force has Eastern, Western, Southern, Southwestern, Central, Maintenance and Training commands, and the Navy is divided into Western, Eastern and Southern commands.

These commands report to their respective services, and are headed by three-star officers. Though these commands are in the same regions, but they are no located together.

How do joint commands help?

One of the main advantages is that the leader of a unified command has control over more varied resources, compared to the heads of the commands under the services now. For instance, the head of one of the proposed commands, Air Defence Command, will have under him naval and Army resources, too, which can be used as per the threat perception. And the officer commanding the Pakistan or China border will have access to the Air Force’s fighter jets and can use them if needed.

Rawat clarified, however, that not all naval resources will be given to the Air Defence Command, nor will all resources of the Air Force come under another proposed command, Peninsula Command, for the coasts. The Peninsula Command would give the Navy Chief freedom to look at the larger perspective in the entire Indian Ocean Region in which China’s presence is steadily increasing.

The other key advantage is that through such integration and jointness the three forces will be able to avoid duplication of resources. The resources available under each service will be available to other services too. The services will get to know one another better, strengthening cohesion in the defence establishment.

Do militaries of other countries have such commands?

Several major militaries are divided into integrated theatre commands. China’s People’s Liberation Army has five theatre commands: Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern and Central. Its Western Theatre Command is responsible for India.

The US Armed Forces has 11 unified commands, of which seven are geographic and four functional commands. Its geographic commands are Africa, Central, European, Indo-Pacific, Northern, Southern and Space. Cyber, Special Operations, Transportation and Strategic are its functional commands.

Rawat has said India will not follow any country and find its own structure for the unified commands.

 

ISSUE: PROBLEMS WITH THE NEW DATA PROTECTION BILL

While framing a law for personal data protection, India had sought a middle path between the industry-friendly laissez faire approach of the US and the scrupulously strict, citizen-centric European General Data Protection Regulation. The former had enabled the explosive growth of the Silicon Valley giants. The latter seeks to protect citizens from unhealthy effects of the explosion.

The privacy Bill, drafted by Justice BN Srikrishna in 2018, did balance the interests of industry and individuals, but the version which was cleared by the cabinet in December had been reworked by the information technology ministry to foreground another stakeholder: The government.

At the same time, the burden on industry imposed by data localisation requirements had been reduced, at the cost of public safety. Justice Srikrishna anticipates that the system update would pave the way to an “Orwellian state”.

The government has arrogated to itself the right to define the nature of critical private data and the constitution of the proposed Data Protection Authority.

In the original draft, the body was at arm’s length from the government, with members appointed by an independent committee. The revised bill transfers this power to government officials, allowing the government of the day to acquire control of the institution.

The power to define sensitive and non-sensitive personal data, which is at the core of the privacy law, will also vest with the government.

Coupled with the right to call in all non-critical personal data held by any entity, this could legally and democratically enable pervasive state surveillance, which is a feature of authoritarian governments.

While increasing the government’s grip over the privacy law apparatus and allowing it to get under the hood, the revised draft has also diluted provisions requiring foreign fiduciaries from locating and processing data within the territory of India.

Data localisation was deemed necessary due to the slow and outdated processes of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which Indian authorities must follow to secure information from American entities for the purpose of law enforcement.

Whether localisation would provide faster access to the data of entities incorporated overseas remains a matter of debate, since the legal process would remain offshore.

However, the concerns about a shift in the balance of power raised by Justice Srikrishna are beyond question. Data laws are not made for an ideal world run by high-minded governments. They are written to protect the individual from both Big Digital and Big Brother.

 

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