Get Wired 24/8: Cong. MP Jumps Ship, IAMAI Against Zero-Rating, Another Aadhar Ruling, and More

Sharad Pawar tells Modi to do away with rule about GM crops

Former Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has told the Prime Minister to do away with a rule that former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had put in place. The rule in question is that which made it mandatory for developers of GM variety crops to obtain a No Objection Certificate from the concerned state before field trials. Pawar has written to Modi saying that the rule should be done away with it as it is choking the agricultural biotechnology sector. In response Jairam Ramesh has said, “Almost all the state governments had objected to Bt brinjal. Some of them have reservations about other GM crops as well. So it is better to have states on board on this. In any case, agriculture is a state subject. And we can’t assume that they do not know what is good for them”.

SC says no to mega rail project in the Western Ghats

The Supreme Court has given the Hubli-Ankola railway line project a red signal stating that it’s negative impact on the environment far outweighs it’s advantages. The original project involved construction of 329 bridges and 29 tunnels, which required the felling of more than 2.5 lakh trees on 965 hectares of forestland. The project was originally proposed in 1998 with the intention of transporting Iron ore from the Bellary-Hospet mines.

BJP to take in former Congress Leader Himanta Biswa Sarma

A month after the BJP accused him of being a key suspect in the alleged 2010 water supply scam in Assam, Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma met BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday and announced that he would now be working with the BJP. The BJP national leadership believes that the entry of Sarma would boost its electoral prospects in the state, which is going to polls next year. In February the BJP won 38 of the 74 municipal boards and town committees in the Assam civic elections.

Five people killed in train accident in Andhra Pradesh

A granite truck crashed in to an express train at crossing in at Madakasira, more than 450 km from capital Hyderabad, killing 5 and injuring 25. Sources said Karnataka MLA Venkatesh Nayak and the truck driver were among the five people killed due to four coaches of the Bangalore-Nanded Express derailing under the impact of the collision with the truck.

IAMAI opposes zero-rated plans

The Internet and Mobile Association of India have opposed any zero-rated plans. In its submission to the MyGov portal, the association clearly stated that it is not in favour of any plans that contradict net neutrality (especially paid or unpaid prioritisation). The IAMAI said, “these plans will ultimately harm Internet content and service providers by limiting competition among them, and, by extension, limit consumer choice”. Zero-rating (also called toll-free data or sponsored data) is the practice of mobile network operators, mobile virtual network operators and Internet Service Providers not to charge end customers for data used by specific applications or internet services through their network, in limited or metered data plans.

Onion prices reach record Rs.57 per kg

Since the beginning of August, the price has risen more than 80% as supplies fell. Farmers and traders don’t see any respite at least until the end of September, unless the government resorts to imports in a big way. Despite the price hike, not many farmers are able to take the benefit. Deficient rains last year and hailstorm in summer season caused a large number of farmers to lose their crop. Many also expected the government to take steps to keep prices under control.

Modi government to resurrect Tribal Council plan

The National Council for Tribal Welfare was set up in 2010 by the Congress-led UPA government but remained only on paper. The Modi government is now planning on reviving the council. Officials said the tribal affairs ministry has already prepared a note for reviving the council. The council will be  chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and have tribal affairs minister Jual Oram and chief misters of all Schedule V and Schedule VI states as its members. These states include Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

SC ruling on Adhaar could spell trouble for digital India

The Supreme Court’s ruling restricts the use of the Aadhaar number as eKYC (electronic know-your-customer) to distribution of cooking gas cylinders, kerosene and food grain through the public distribution system. This restriction could have a negative impact on schemes like the biometric attendance, Jan Dhan Yojana, digital certificates, pension payments and more recently the introduction of payments banks, all of which depend on the Adhaar number. The RBI has said that the operations of the payments banks should be technology driven from the very beginning, making the restriction on the Aadhar number an impediment. The apex court made the interim ruling on 11 August in an ongoing hearing where several pleas related to Aadhaar have been clubbed together. While some pleas concerned availing government benefits, other pleas stated that the number itself is violation of an individual’s privacy.

Lalita Babar breaks steeplechase national record

Indian athlete Lalita Babar broke the national record in the 3000m-steeplechase event of the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing on Monday. Babar finished fourth in her heat with a timing of 9′ 27.86” booking herself a slot in the finals.