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Daily Current AFfairs 10.02.2022 (BIS scales up regulation of gold hallmarking, Quad Ministers set to meet in Australia, Quad is not a security alliance, says Blinken, Understanding the new Central Media Accreditation Guidelines)

Daily Current AFfairs 10.02.2022 (BIS scales up regulation of gold hallmarking, Quad Ministers set to meet in Australia, Quad is not a security alliance, says Blinken, Understanding the new Central Media Accreditation Guidelines)

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1. BIS scales up regulation of gold hallmarking

On an average, 150 market samples are taken from jewellers for quality checks

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Chennai region, has increased drawing of market samples to check the conformity to mandatory hallmarking of gold ornaments and Hallmark Unique ID (HUID) in jewellery.

Hallmarking of gold jewellery and artefacts for 14, 18 and 22 carat jewellery was made mandatory since mid-June 2021 in 24 districts of the State and Puducherry during the first phase.

BIS officials said on an average, nearly 150 market samples are being lifted from registered jewellers in Chennai and its neighbouring districts and Puducherry every month and tested.

The samples are tested at the BIS lab in the city, and hallmarking and assaying centres are pulled up as well if violations are detected. Testing of samples has just started and results are awaited, an official said.

G. Bhavani, head, Chennai branch office I, BIS, said there was a steady increase in the number of registered assaying centres and jewellers over the past year. “The number of jewellers has increased threefold. Nearly 2,335 jewellers have registered with the BIS till now in five districts, including Chennai, Vellore and Kancheepuram, compared to 673 jewellers in April 2021,” she said.

The BIS is also periodically conducting surveillance audits in about 120 assaying centres across the State. Audits have been done in all the centres at least once in the past one year and various aspects, including whether they follow standards and have the required infrastructure, have been checked.

A team of officials found a hallmarking centre without a valid licence in Coimbatore engaged in gold hallmarking as per the old system and seized hallmarked items worth ₹11 lakh recently.

“We have instructed jewellers to declare their old stock of hallmarked gold ornaments. Every piece of gold jewellery must have a HUID, a six-digit unique code, at the time of hallmarking. The HUID also enables customers to verify the genuineness of the hallmarked item through the BIS Care mobile application,” Ms. Bhavani said.

The BIS also monitors the hallmarking process in the assaying centres through a software.

In a bid to impart knowledge on standards, the BIS has also started 30 standards clubs in educational institutions in Chennai region, including Puducherry and Tirupattur.

BIS is the National Standard Body of India established under the BIS Act 2016 for the harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto BIS has been providing traceable and tangible benefits to the national economy in a number of ways – providing safe reliable quality goods; minimizing health hazards to consumers; promoting exports and imports substitute; control over proliferation of varieties etc. through standardization, certification and testing.

Keeping in view, the interest of consumers as well as the industry, BIS is involved in various activities as given below:

  • Standards Formulation
  • Product Certification Scheme
  • Compulsory Registration Scheme
  • Foreign Manufacturers Certification Scheme
  • Hall Marking Scheme
  • Laboratory Services
  • Laboratory Recognition Scheme
  • Sale of Indian Standards
  • Consumer Affairs Activities
  • Promotional Activities
  • Training Services, National & International level
  • Information Services

Important initiatives for effective implementation of the BIS Act, 2016 are

  • BIS (Hallmarking) Regulations, 2018 under the BIS act calls for Hallmarking of:

    • Gold jewellery and gold artefacts
    • Silver jewellery and silver artefacts
  • Penal provisions for better and effective compliance have been made stringent under BIS (Hallmarking) Regulations, 2018.

2. Quad Ministers set to meet in Australia

Jaishankar will join other Foreign Ministers to discuss cooperation on vaccines, tech and security

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will begin a visit to Australia on Thursday and attend a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Quad (India, Australia, United States, Japan), which is expected to discuss cooperation on vaccines, technology and regional security issues including related to China.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Friday’s Quad meeting, during Mr. Jaishankar’s first visit to Australia as EAM, will see the four ministers “exchange views on regional strategic issues given their shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.” “The Ministers will review ongoing Quad cooperation and build on the positive and constructive agenda announced by the Leaders at the two Summits in 2021, to address contemporary challenges such as the COVID pandemic, supply chains, critical technologies, climate change, infrastructure, etc.,” the MEA said.

Mr. Jaishankar will also hold a dialogue with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne. The visit will be followed by a trip to the Philippines on February 13. India and the Philippines last month signed a landmark $375 million deal for the supply of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. The MEA said the visits would “impart further momentum to bilateral relations with our key partners in the Indo-Pacific, Australia, and the Philippines, which is also a leading member of ASEAN.”

While the MEA statement did not mention China, U.S. officials said ahead of the meeting that the Quad would discuss “challenges that China poses”. “The Quad is an informal grouping of likeminded democracies who share many interests, principles, and values vis-à-vis the kind of region that we want to live in – a region based on a rules-based order in which all countries big and small follow the rules, a region in which disputes are resolved peacefully, and in which countries have the freedom to make their own sovereign choices,” Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink said, adding that the four Foreign Ministers “will discuss challenges to that order and to those values” and “part of that discussion will relate to the challenges that China poses to those values and to that rules-based order in a number of sectors”.

‘Cold war mindset’

China reacted sharply to that statement on Wednesday, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian saying the U.S. “despite its ruined democratic brand still forces other countries to accept its democratic standards and cobbles together cliques by drawing the ideological line”. Of the Quad, he said China “hopes the U.S. and other countries concerned will grasp the trend of the times, adopt a proper mindset and discard the Cold War mentality” and “contribute more to regional peace, stability and prosperity instead of putting a strain on the relations between regional countries”.

The Quad Foreign Ministers meet is expected to lay the groundwork for the second Quad leaders summit likely to take place this summer. In September last year, the four leaders, meeting in Washington for the first time, laid out an ambitious agenda for the grouping, from cooperating on vaccines to regional infrastructure and critical technologies such as 5G.

The four countries pledged to donate more than 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses globally and produce at least 1 billion doses by the end of 2022. In March last year, the four countries also set up a new critical and emerging technologies group focusing on 5G, technical standards and technology supply chains. Also in the works is a joint initiative to “identify vulnerabilities” and “bolster supply-chain security” for semiconductors.

3. Quad is not a security alliance, says Blinken

The U.S. has reiterated that the Quad is not a security alliance. On his way to a minister-level meeting in Melbourne , U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had highlighted aspects of the group comprised of India, the U.S., Australia and Japan, saying the Quad was bolstering maritime security and “pushing back against coercion” in the region.

“The Quad is becoming a powerful mechanism for delivering, helping to vaccinate a big part of the world and getting a lot of vaccines out there, strengthening maritime security to push back against aggression and coercion in the Indo-Pacific region, working together on emerging technologies and making sure that they can be used in positive ways, not negative ways, and an increasingly broad and deep agenda,” Mr Blinken said as per remarks released by the State Department.

“The Quad is not a security or military partnership. The Secretary was referring to one of many activities/platforms the Quad supports as part of our shared approach to the Indo-Pacific. Its purpose is to advance cooperation on key priorities in specific sectors that is consistent with international law and promotes our shared values and underpins peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hindu which had sought a clarification on the secretary’s remarks on Wednesday.

“We work to support the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity through open dialogue and information sharing on a diverse set of issue areas, including Maritime Security,” the spokesperson said.

China’s challenges to the “rules based order” and democratic values will feature in the Quad’s agenda, U.S. diplomat for East Asia and Pacific, Daniel Kritenbrink told reporters last week.

QUAD

QUAD is an informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia with the shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region

Significance/ Need of OUAD

  • Contain Assertive China: It aims to contain a rising China and its “predatory” economic, strategic and trade policies. Example: Recent Doklam Issue
  • China’s growing unilateralism: fear of China’s growing unilateralism drives major nations to reduce the regional imbalance by banding together
  • Open Indo-pacific: Free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large
  • Upholding Rules-based order: by ensuring freedom of navigation in south china sea and ensuring  free and smooth global trade
  • North Korea: Cooperation to curtail North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and unlawful acts.
  • Maintaining world order: The QUAD is important as a body to maintain the rules based order and that based on human rights and mutual respect.

Challenges/ Limitations/Concerns of QUAD

  • Multiple regional rivalries: Emergence of players like US and Japan has increased multiple regional rivalries in the region
  • US-China rivalry: Strategic analysts argue that India is dragging itself into the US- China rivalry
  • India’s stand: India objected to Chinese naval presence in Sri Lanka. Now India will not be able to object to U.S. naval warships and Japanese presence there
  • Non coherent Vision of QUAB: Coherence in the vision of Quad nation as a grouping is absent
  • Economic Interdependence: Quad nations like Japan and Australia have sound economic dependence on China and hence cannot afford to have strained relations with it

How should India balance QUAD and its relations with China

  • Bargaining tool: India can use QUAD card to take more advantages from China in the name of economic integration and bilateral relations
  • Credible Criticism: India should avoid itself from outright criticism of China in any forum e
  • Independent agenda: India should not put itself in line with the agenda of US or Japan
  • Expansion: India should bring other countries in support on major issues impacting India like Galwan Valley Issue, Pressurizing China to withdraw support from Pakistan’s terrorism adventures.

Way Forward

  • Formalisation: QUAD must formulate dialgue processes and also fix summit level talks annually.
  • Diversify Agenda: The agenda to counter China may not be sufficient in the long run, the platform must also address regional and global issues of terrorism, climate change and defence technology transfers.
  • Inclusivity: Many other collaborative partner nations should be included atleast as observers in the
  • Vision Statement: A more holistic vision document must be issued each year before a summit highlighting the agenda.
  • Space Technology: India, US and Japan already have the world’s best space agencies thus space collaboration can be an effective engagement for the QUAD.

4. Understanding the new Central Media Accreditation Guidelines

How has the earlier policy been amended? What are the provisions under which a journalist’s accreditation may be withdrawn?

The Government has issued The Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022 which outline the conditions for withdrawal of accreditation if a journalist acts in a manner prejudicial to the country’s security.

The new rules in laying down the conditions for withdrawal of accreditation, serve more as censorship rules rather than guidelines. This is concerning as the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked India 142nd among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2020.

In 2018, the PIB, had proposed a Fake News Guidelines under which accreditation could be cancelled if the journalist was peddling content that was ‘fake’. This was seen as a move to counter independent media outlets who had called out political leadership for putting out fake content.

Anuradha Raman

The story so far: The Government has issued a slew of rules for the media under a new policy on accreditation for journalists. The Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022 have outlined the conditions for withdrawal of accreditation if a journalist acts in a manner prejudicial to the country’s security, sovereignty and integrity, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or is charged with a serious cognisable offence. Most of the provisions are drawn from Article 19(2) of the Constitution which prescribes the restrictions to free speech guaranteed to every citizen of the country and are understood to serve as guidelines for the press and media.

How is this different from the past?

For one, the guidelines prepared by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting are more in the nature of proscriptions rather than prescriptions. In laying down the conditions for withdrawal of accreditation, they serve more as censorship rules rather than guidelines. Previous guidelines were more general in nature and did mention that accreditation would be withdrawn if found to be misused. In the new guidelines, there are 10 provisions under which accreditation to a journalist can be withdrawn.

How are they proposed to be implemented?

As per the guidelines, the Government of India shall constitute a committee called the Central Media Accreditation Committee chaired by the Principal DG, Press Information Bureau (PIB), and comprising up to 25 members nominated by the Government to interpret the guidelines for withdrawal of accreditation.

Why are these guidelines a matter of concern?

In 2020, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked India 142nd among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2020. Though freedom of the press is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, the ambit of freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution has been generally interpreted as having laid down the template for a free press in the country with subsequent pronouncements of courts ensuring it. These guidelines, point out experts, carry the threat of coming in the way of the functioning of a free media. Besides, they carry the risk of delegitimising reports, especially of an investigative nature. Any report critical of the Government could now be seen as prejudicial to the interests of the country and it will be left to the interpretation and discretion of the Central Media Accreditation Committee to read the guidelines and decide what is defamatory while denying accreditation to a journalist.

How do journalists get accredited?

A journalist with a minimum of five years as a full-time working journalist can apply for accreditation to the PIB, a process that is completed after a mandatory security check from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Any journalist working with a newspaper which has a daily circulation of 10,000; news agencies with at least 100 subscribers and digital news platforms with 10 lakh unique visitors can apply.

Accreditation helps in access to government offices and to special events and functions organised by the Government of India. Some Ministries like Home and Defence and Finance allow access only to accredited journalists.

Have there been attempts in the past to regulate the media?

Several attempts have been made by successive governments to keep the media in check by proposing guidelines more in the nature of censorship. As recently as 2018, the PIB, which functions under the I&B Ministry, had proposed a Fake News Guidelines under which accreditation could be cancelled if the journalist was seen as peddling content that was fake. This was seen as a move by the Government to counter other independent media outlets who had called out the Government and the political leadership for putting out fake content. The order was withdrawn under pressure. More recently the Government proposed a series of rules under the IT Act to check digital news content.

State Governments like Kerala and Rajasthan had come out with their own versions of proposed rules which were withdrawn under pressure and criticism. The most infamous move to control the press before the advent of private news channels was by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi when he proposed the Defamation Bill in 1988. Under pressure from a unified media and several sections of the public, the Bill was withdrawn.

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