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Cinemas, Malls to stay open 24/7: Cabinet permits Night Shift for Women

The successful implementation of the Act depends on states, as the cabinet is only an advisory to state governments

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Shopping mall in India. Image source: worldbase9.com
  • The bill is expected to open the floodgates to various employment opportunities
  • The model law will also empower women by providing them with an opportunity to work on night shifts
  • It has a provision for five paid festival holidays, apart from the national holidays

The cabinet on Wednesday, June 29, cleared that it will allow malls, shops, cinema theatres to operate 24/7, throughout the year.

The move which can add thousands of additional skilled jobs is also seen as an effective way to encourage employment. The bill will also empower women by providing them with an opportunity to work on night shifts, given mandatory cab services and other workplace facilities for them.

In a statement, Labour and Employment minister said, “Women to be permitted during the night shift- if the provision of shelter, restroom, ladies toilet, adequate protection of their dignity and transportation etc. exists.”

Finance minister Arun Jaitley said, the bill intends to end the “protective discrimination” that limited employment opportunities for women.

However, the government clarified that the bill’s success will depend on the states, iterating that it only acts as an advisory to state governments.

Labour Secretary Shankar Aggarwal told The Hindu, “We will send it to the States immediately. The model law will be a ready made material for the State governments as this has taken shape after several rounds of extensive consultation within various ministries and the Cabinet.”

The bill has also proposed to exempt highly-skilled professionals like those in information technology sector or bio-technology from a daily nine-hour shift and has allowed them weekly 48 working hours.

It has also put forward a provision for five paid festival holidays, apart from the national holidays.

The law also brings various sectors (except factories) like printing, banking, insurance, stocks and shares brokerage, and “any other public amusement” which are currently not covered under the Factories Act 1948, under it. Even the small establishments that employ 10 or more workers will be taken care of in this Act, reported The Hindu.

The decision is viewed to bring parity in the legislative process and will even bring e-commerce companies under the labour law ambit.

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Yes, this will indeed increase the employment opportunities and night shifts for women would make them independent and courageous

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TikTok, Wikipedia Face Troubles With The Arrival of new Data Rules in India

As per the proposals, social media companies will have to modify their application as they are required to have a system in place by which a user can verify themselves

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Wikimedia
the government could pull down information provided by platforms such as Wikipedia, potentially hampering its functioning in India. Wikimedia Commons

With the window to submit comments on India’s proposed personal data protection law closing on Tuesday, a period of anxious wait for final version of the Bill started for social media firms.

This comes even as global Internet companies have called on the government for improved transparency related to intermediary Guidelines (Amendment) Rules and allay fears about the prospect of increased surveillance and prompting a fragmentation of the Internet in India that would harm users.

As per the proposed amendments, an intermediary having over 50 lakh users in the country will have to be incorporated in India with a permanent registered office and address. When required by lawful order, the intermediary shall, within 72 hours of communication, provide such information or assistance as asked for by any government agency or assistance concerning security of the state or cybersecurity.

This means that the government could pull down information provided by platforms such as Wikipedia, potentially hampering its functioning in India. In the open letter to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, leading browser and software development platform like Mozilla, Microsoft-owned GitHub and Cloudflare earlier called for improved transparency by allowing the public an opportunity to see a final version of these amendments prior to their enactment.

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, which was introduced in Lok Sabha in the winter session last year, was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) of both the Houses. The government last month decided to seek views and suggestions on the Bill from individuals and associations and bodies concerned and the last date for submitting the comments was on Tuesday.

Prasad, while introducing the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha on December 11, announced that the draft Bill empowers the government to ask companies including Facebook, Google and others for anonymised personal data and non-personal data. There was a buzz when the Bill’s latest version was introduced in the Lok Sabha, especially the provision seeking to allow the use of personal and non-personal data of users in some cases, especially when national security is involved.

Several legal experts red-flagged the issue and said the provision will give the government unaccounted access to personal data of users in the country. In their submission to the JPC, several organisations also flagged that the power to collect non-personal and anonymised data by the government without notice and consent should not form part of the Bill because of issues regarding effective anonymisation and potential abuse.

“Clauses 35 and 36 of the Bill provide unbridled access to personal data to the Central Government by giving it powers to exempt its agencies from the application of the Bill on the basis of various broad worded grounds,” SFLC.in, a New Delhi-based not-for-profit legal services organisation, commented.

The Software Alliance, also known as BSA, a trade group which includes tech giants such as Microsoft, IBM and Adobe, among others said that the current version of the privacy bill pose substantial challenges, including the sweeping new powers for the government to acquire non-personal data, restrictions on data transfers, and local storage requirements.

The mandatory requirement for storing a mirror copy of all personal data in India as per Section 40 of the Srikrishna Bill has been done away with in the PDP Bill, 2019, meaning that companies like Facebook and Twitter would be able to store data of Indian users abroad if they so wish. But the bill prohibits processing of sensitive personal data and critical personal data outside India.What is more, what constitutes critical data has not been clearly defined.

TikTok
On a plain reading of the definition, online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, ShareChat and WhatsApp are likely to be notified as SMIs under the Bill. Wikimedia Commons

As per the proposals, social media companies will have to modify their application as they are required to have a system in place by which a user can verify themselves. So legal experts believe that some system to upload identification documents should be there and something like the Twitter blue tick mark should be there to identify verified accounts.

“The 2019 Bill introduces a new category of data fiduciaries called social media intermediaries (‘SMIs’). SMIs are a subcategory of significant data fiduciaries (‘SDFs’) and will be notified by the Central government after due consultation with the DPA, or the Data Protection Authority. Clause 26(4) of the Bill defines SMIs as intermediaries who primarily or solely enable online interaction between two or more users,” SFLC.in said.

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“On a plain reading of the definition, online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, ShareChat and WhatsApp are likely to be notified as SMIs under the Bill,” it added. (IANS)

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Indian Parliament Imposes Ban on E-Cigarettes

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products

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E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. Pixabay

Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of E-Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote.

The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha for replacing the ordinance promulgated last September.

Replying to members on the Bill, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged them to pass the legislation unanimously in the larger interest of the children.

“There is evidence now that e-cigarettes are very harmful. They can become a bigger menace than tobacco one day. So, the intention of the government has been to nip the problem in the bud itself,” the minister said.

While most members in the House supported the ban on e-cigarettes, some of the MPs wanted to know why conventional cigarettes aren’t banned as they are equally or even more harmful.

Many opposition members also expressed reservation over bringing the ordinance and introducing the Bill without sending the same to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

On why all tobacco products are not being banned, Harsh Vardhan said that he would be the happiest person if that happens.

“You see, in a country as vast as India, once a particular product has a very big consumer base and social acceptance, it is in fact very, very difficult to ban it,” the minister said.

On the reasons for bringing the ordinance, the minister said that apart from other things, some of the big tobacco companies changed their names and started making plans to enter India.

E-Cigarettes
Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote. Wikimedia Commons

“They had made full preparations. There was an announced entry of a company called Juul, one of the leading global manufacturers of e-cigarettes, in December 2019. It was probably one of the most imminent concerns that worried all of us,” he said.

Participating in the discussions, Trinamool Congress leader Santanu Sen argued for banning all tobacco products as all of them were harmful to human health.

“Of course, by this Bill we are preventing a person from committing suicide by jumping from the fifth floor, but we are also keeping the more affordable and accessible 10th floor wide open to jump from,” Sen said to highlight the serious health concerns posed by conventional cigarettes.

The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic.

“Smoking increases coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times. It increases stroke by 2 to 4 times. It increases lung cancer by 25 times and it increases the probability of COPDA (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) by 13 times,” the Trinamool leader said.

Congress MP B.K. Hariprasad said that he did not support e-cigarettes but opposed the way the Bill had been brought. He also suspected the intention of the government behind bringing the ordinance and subsequently the Bill hurriedly.

“People are smelling a rat in the way this Bill has been brought hastily,” Hariprasad said while making a case for banning all tobacco products as all of them were equally harmful.

He said the government should not succumb to tobacco lobbyists.

Senior CPI leader Binoy Viswam also raised questions around the manner in which the bill had been introduced as no survey or study was carried out before bringing the legislation.

Replying to members on the Bill, Harsh Vardhan said that all his life he had fought against tobacco lobbyists and therefore members should not have any suspicion on his intention.

Congress MP Rajeev Gowda said that the ban has to be a last resort rather than the first resort which is what has been the practice in this particular context.

“A ban or prohibition, as we have seen everywhere, results in underground activities. It results in criminalisation of the society. It results in the creation of a mafia that deals with the underground activity,” Gowda said while participating in the discussions on the bill.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. This also includes all forms of electronic nicotine as well as non-nicotine delivery devices such as e-hookahs and heat-not-burn products.

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products.

“Any comparison about their adverse health impacts with tobacco is misplaced. There is also no conclusive evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. On the other hand, there is definitely an emerging evidence all over the world that e-cigarettes have significantly harmful effects on health,” the minister said.

E-Cigarettes
The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that Apart From E-Cigarettes, a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic. Pixabay

Highlighting the harmful effects of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes, the minister said that nicotine sulfate was once approved to be used as a pesticide by the agriculture department.

“Recently, even that approval has been withdrawn considering its toxicity. Therefore, it is a chemical that is not even fit to be used as a pesticide. That is the latest about nicotine.

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“It is the most addictive substance currently known in the world and is even more addictive than heroin. There is currently no known treatment for nicotine-addiction anywhere in the world,” Harsh Vardhan said. (IANS)

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Russian Parliament Plans to Bring a Bill to Ship Devices With Pre-Installed Russian Apps

The government will also publish, per each device type, a list of Russian software that equipment vendors will need to include on devices sold in Russia

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Devices
The government will also publish, per each device type, a list of Russian software that equipment vendors will need to include on Devices sold in Russia. Pixabay

Aiming to protect Russian software firms from being “abused” by foreign technology companies, the Russian Parliament is now mulling to bring a bill that will force all Electronic Devices sold in the country, including smartphones, computers and smart TVs, to ship with apps from Russian tech firms pre installed in them.

If the bill is approved, the Russian government will publish a list of electronic devices that will need to comply with this new law. However, devices that don’t run a complex operating system OS or custom software will be exempted.

According to lawmakers, “the bill will protect the interests of Russian Internet companies and will reduce the abuse by large foreign companies, working in the field of information technology”, ZDNet reported recently.

Devices
Aiming to protect Russian software firms from being “abused” by foreign technology companies, the Russian Parliament is now mulling to bring a bill that will force all Electronic Devices sold in the country, including Laptops, smartphones, computers and smart TVs, to ship with apps from Russian tech firms pre installed in them. Pixabay

The government will also publish, per each device type, a list of Russian software that equipment vendors will need to include on devices sold in Russia.

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The firms who fail to comply would be eligible for fines of up to 200,000 rubles or roughly $3,100, and an eventual ban, following repeated offences, the report added. (IANS)