The end of the Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) regime on January 1.
IUC: one telecom operator paid a charge to another on whose network a subscriber’s voice call was completed
Now companies should focus on upgrading their networks and service
The measure was delayed by a year by regulator TRAI due to concerns that not all operators were ready.
India’s high density telecom market is poised for further growth as it awaits expansion through 5G and Internet-connected devices.
Economic Survey of 2019-20 pointed out, intense competition has reduced the number of private players.
Public sector operators BSNL and MTNL still face a challenge and their future must be clarified early, with efforts to improve their technological capabilities and service levels.
A parallel trend has been the rise in 4G subscribers from 196.9 million in September 2017 to 517.5 million out of a total wireless subscriber base of 1,165.46 million in June 2019.
The end of the IUC should spur an expansion of high-capacity networks, going beyond 2G and 3G that some telcos continue to use.
For TRAI, which has stressed the importance of consumer welfare through adequate choice, affordable tariff and quality service, it is important to tread cautiously on claims made on behalf of the sector, that higher tariffs alone can ensure the health of telecoms.
Badly priced spectrum could lead to auction failures and lack of genuine competition is bound to hamper the growth of the next big wave of telecoms, of which the 5G piece is critical for new services.
The second dose
With the U.K. regulator granting an emergency-use authorisation for AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine on December 30, three vaccines have now been greenlighted for use even before a full approval is granted.
Unlike the mRNA vaccine platform of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, AstraZeneca uses a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that carries the genetic material of the spike protein to elicit an immune response.
Requiring only 2°-8°C for transport and storage, it can be administered in existing health-care settings, allowing rapid deployment.
Together with the cost, which is much cheaper than the mRNA vaccines, this is particularly critical to help end the pandemic in the global south.
The emergency use approval makes it easier for similar assent to the vaccine tested and manufactured in India.
However, the European Medicines Agency, on the same day, clearly said that “additional scientific information on issues related to quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine is deemed necessary” to give a similar nod.
If the pandemic forced scientists, companies and regulators to quickly make available safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines, delaying the second dose to maximise the benefits is altogether a new strategy.
The untested approach might probably be appropriate for the U.K., which is facing the brunt of the virus, as a desperate measure.
Since delaying the second dose appears to be increasing the efficacy, and as the U.K. has approved a delayed second dosage, India should carry out large trials to test this.
An ill-conceived, overbroad and vague ordinance
Article 213 (1) of the Constitution of India provides: “If at any time, except when the Legislative Assembly of a State is in session, or where there is a Legislative Council in a State, except when both Houses of the Legislature are in session, the Governor is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinances as the circumstances appear to him to require: …”
There are, therefore, three pre-conditions to be satisfied before the Governor promulgates an ordinance:
The State Legislature should not be in session
Circumstances should exist for promulgating an ordinance
Those circumstances must warrant immediate action
There is no established practice requiring the Governor (or the President under Article 123 of the Constitution) to state the circumstances for immediate action.
A healthy convention should develop and the preamble to any ordinance should state the immediacy for promulgating it when the Legislature is not in session.
The reason for immediate action is, as yet, not justiciable and it is unlikely that any court will delve into this arena.
But the Supreme Court of India has held that the existence of circumstances leading to the satisfaction of the Governor can be inquired into.
The preamble to the The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, commonly called the anti-love jihad ordinance, merely indicates what it provides for, namely, unlawful conversion from one religion to another by coercion, misrepresentation and so on “or by marriage”.
Let us try and imagine the circumstances requiring promulgation of the ordinance as far as marriage is concerned.
If one fraudulent or coercive inter-faith marriage is taking place, the police can certainly prevent it, as they supposedly do in child marriages. An ordinance is not required for it.
However, if more than one such fraudulent or coercive inter-faith marriage is expected to take place, the State government would have information of mass conversions for the purpose of marriage.
In the normal course, it is unlikely that these mass conversions would be in secret and almost simultaneous.
Assuming a somewhat unbelievable scenario does exist, how does one justify immediate action for promulgating an ordinance?
Consider the consequences of some provisions of the ordinance, and we are actually witness to them. Section 3 prohibits conversion or attempt to convert any person from one religion to another by coercion or fraud etc. or by marriage.
One can understand conversion for marriage, but if an adult person desires to get converted to the religion of the other before marriage, what objection can anybody have?
Section 7 provides that upon receiving information (it may be fake news) that a religious conversion is designed to take place, a police officer is authorised under the Criminal Procedure Code without orders from a Magistrate and without a warrant, to arrest the person so designing, if it appears that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented.
Should someone genuinely desire to convert but not get married, that person would have to inform the District Magistrate (DM) two months in advance of the plan through a declaration, under Section 8.
Finally, the burden of proof — Section 12 provides that the burden to prove the conversion was not on account of coercion, fraud, etc. or by marriage will be on the person who has caused the conversion.
The ordinance is prone to abuse and we have seen its consequences — of intimidation, bullying, arbitrary arrests and the loss of a foetus. It is ill-conceived, overbroad and vague in many respects.
It vilifies all inter-faith marriages and places unreasonable obstacles on consenting adults in exercising their personal choice of a partner, mocks the right to privacy and violates the right to life, liberty and dignity.
In short, it is unconstitutional.
Instant loan apps | ToI
The crackdown on instant loan apps, which lure customers into debt traps by offering easy small loans but at an exorbitant rate of interest and short repayment windows, has blown the lid on what police believe is a Rs 21,000 crore racket.
At least three suicides in Telangana have been linked to the apps and a Chinese connection has surfaced with the arrest of a Chinese national who managed call centres that directed the crude but fast growing operations.
The ease of availing the loan was the trap that lured the cash strapped customers in.
Without direct interface with creditors, by just downloading a mobile app which asks for permissions like access to phone contacts, submitting personal and Aadhar details and bank statements, the loan was credited to bank accounts.
But when customers failed to repay, other apps with which their data was illegally shared would swoop in and offer loans to repay the earlier loan, creating a vicious chain of debt.
The customers were also reportedly subjected to extreme harassment by collection agents, who also defamed them on social media, and through access to their phone contacts.
These instant loan apps, with no links to any RBI recognised financial institution, highlight the threats posed by the fast evolving digital economy with regulators and law enforcement always one step behind fly by night operators.
The economic crisis and the lack of access to institutional credit will aggravate this problem.
Modernising policing to meet cyber threats and a strong data protection law that protects consumers from online abuse is the need of the hour.
India conveys serious concerns to Pak High Commission at repeated instances of atrocities against minority community
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Australia changes word in national anthem to honour indigenous people
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Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex to re-open from January 5
More than 800 academics sign petitions lauding progressive farm laws enacted by Govt
Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan launches missed call facility for LPG consumers in Bhubaneswar