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Saudi Arabia’s nod to Haj pilgrimage via sea route from India

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Haj by Sea

The Indian government’s proposal to send Haj pilgrims through the sea route has got the green signal from the Saudi Arabian government, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Monday.

The discussion on reviving the sea route came up during the signing of the annual bilateral Haj agreement for 2018 between India and Saudi Arabia in the presence of Naqvi and Saudi Minister for Haj and Umrah Mohammad Saleh bin Taher in Mecca on Sunday.

Naqvi said officials from both the countries will discuss all the necessary formalities and technicalities so that Haj pilgrimage through the sea route can commence in the coming years.

“Sending pilgrims through ships will help cut down travel expenses significantly. It will be a revolutionary, pro-poor, pilgrim-friendly decision,” Naqvi said.

The ferrying of Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterway was stopped in 1995.

The Minister said that another advantage with ships available these days is they are modern and well-equipped to ferry 4,000 to 5,000 persons at a time. They can cover the 2,300-odd nautical miles one-side distance between Mumbai and Jeddah in just three to four days.

The old ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance.

Naqvi said that last year he had discussed the option to revive sea route for Haj pilgrimage with Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari.

He said that Haj 2018 has been made fully digital.

On the issue of Indian Muslim women going to Haj for the first time without mehram (male guardian), the Minister said that separate accommodation and transport has been arranged for these women.

Also, female Haj Assistants will be deployed for their help.

More than 1,300 women have applied to go for Haj without mehram and all of these women will be exempted from the lucky draw. These women would be travelling in groups of four or more women, according to the new Haj policy of India.

So far, around 3.59 lakh applications have been received for Haj 2018, against the quota of around 1.70 lakh pilgrims.

“For the first time, we have given option to Haj pilgrims to opt for another embarkation point. This will ensure that there is no financial burden on Haj pilgrims even after removal of Haj subsidy. This decision has received overwhelming response,” Naqvi said.

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Union Cabinet approves new telecom policy

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telecom sector

New Delhi, Sep 26: Union Communications Minister Manoj Sinha on Wednesday announced that the central government has approved a new telecom policy — National Digital Communications Policy 2018– aimed to provide “broadband to all”. 

Meanwhile, the Telecom Commission has been also renamed as Digital Communication Commission.

The policy is designed to provide universal availability of 50 mega bits per second (Mbps).

It will be attracting investments worth $100 billion which was approved by the Telecom Commission in July after the Centre came out with a draft policy in May.

Besides this, the policy also aims to provide 1 Gbps (giga-bits per second) connectivity to all “Gram Panchayats” by 2020 and 10 Gbps by 2022.

Addressing media, after the cabinet meeting, Sinha said that among other targets the policy aims to “provide broadband to all and create 40 lakh jobs”. It also aims at providing a “ubiquitous, resilient, secure and affordable” digital communication services.

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Mammoth task to audit, erase Aadhaar data with private firms: Experts

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Aadhaar

New Delhi, Sep 26: Terming the Supreme Court verdict on Aadhaar a breath of fresh air for Indian citizens, experts on Wednesday said a completely new regime has to be put in place to protect the Aadhaar data that is lying with private companies.

Stating that private entities or individuals cannot avail Aadhaar data to provide consumer services, the apex court struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act which allowed sharing of data with private entities.

It means that telecom companies, e-commerce firms and private banks cannot ask for biometric and other data from consumers to provide their services.

“The Aadhaar verdict is a huge sigh of relief for citizens. The humongous task now is to ensure that the data that is already with private companies is not misused or sold,” Pavan Duggal, the nation’s leading cyber law expert, told IANS.

“The data now needs to be dismantled but the onus is to make sure companies do not make copies of the data and use it to monetise their operations. The big question is which agency will audit this humongous task,” added Duggal, also a leading Supreme Court lawyer.

The apex court also said that Aadhaar data can’t be shared with security agencies in the name of upholding national security and individuals too can complain about theft of their Aadhaar data.

“Private companies played a big gamble of integrating Aaddhar data with their systems wherein they spent a lot of money. The whole exercise is now futile and the country now needs a fresh Aadhaar ecosystem,” Duggal noted.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said Duggal, had already lodged more than 50 FIRs against private companies for Aadhaar data breach.

“Today’s judgment as read out in court signals massive changes in the Aadhaar project and the Act. The legitimacy of its stated purposes is destroyed. Even the majority signals significant concern by reading down portions,” tweeted New Delhi-based lawyer Apar Gupta.

Although experts are yet to read the verdict in fine print, they said the Supreme Court’s directive to Centre to bring a robust data protection law is the need of the hour.

“The Aadhaar data is saved in data centres outside the boundaries and law of our country. There is an urgent need for addressing newly emerging legal and cyber security challenges concerning Aadhaar ecosystem on an urgent basis,” Duggal said.

The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment last year, declared privacy a fundamental right. This set the government in motion to take steps to bring a new data protection legislation for the country.

The Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee submitted the Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 in July, suggesting amendments to the Aadhaar Act to provide for imposition of penalties on data fiduciaries and compensations to data principals for violations of the data protection law.

The 213-page report suggested amendments to the Aadhaar Act from a data protection perspective.

According to Duggal, “not just cosmetic changes, there is an urgent need for addressing newly emerging legal and cyber security challenges concerning Aadhaar ecosystem on an urgent basis”.

Supratim Chakraborty, Associate Partner at law firm Khaitan & Co, said the verdict that private parties cannot have access to individuals’ data was a double-edged thing.

“From a socialistic perspective and individualistic perspective, you need to have proper safeguards as to how your information is being used by a private party.

“However, from a business perspective, it could increase their expenses if they need to collect too much information one by one from an individual. It compels us to ponder whether there is a correct way to do business while protecting the privacy of users,” Chakraborty told IANS.

In Europe, as part of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force from May 25, EU citizens at any point may object to an organisation’s handling of their personal data.

The regulation specifically names “direct marketing and profiling” as personal data uses to which individuals may object.

According to Duggal, India should not cut-paste any other country’s law and must strive for data localisation.

“There is a need for more comprehensive legal frameworks to protect and preserve data and privacy of individual Aadhaar account holders in specific and the Aadhaar ecosystem stakeholders in general,” Duggal noted.

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Thank you Supreme Court for supporting Congress vision: Rahul Gandhi on Aadhaar Verdict

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New Delhi, Sep 26: Congress President Rahul Gandhi today described the Supreme Court judgement on Aadhaar as support to the Congress’ vision.

Reacting to the verdict, Gandhi also said that Aadhaar was a tool BJP intended to use to oppress citizens.

“For Congress, Aadhaar was an instrument of empowerment. For the BJP, Aadhaar is a tool of oppression and surveillance. Thank you Supreme Court for supporting the Congress vision and protecting”, he tweeted.

The apex court in its landmark verdict upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar document but with modifications by 4:1 majority.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra ruled that Aadhaar will not be required for opening bank accounts, admissions in schools or for getting mobile phone connections.

While Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said the Aadhaar Act cannot be treated as a money bill and passing it as one will be a fraud on the Constitution.

“Aadhaar cannot be treated as a money bill and passing a bill as money bill which is not a money bill is a fraud on the Constitution,” he observed in a separate minority dissenting judgement.

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