Mobile SIM dealers to require police, biometric verification: IT Minister

August 17, 2023 09:00 pm | Updated 09:02 pm IST

In order to reduce cyber frauds performed through fraudulently acquired SIM cards, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will now require police verification for SIM dealers, Minister of Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw told reporters on Thursday. Recent efforts to curb fraudulent mobile connections have led to the blacklisting of 67,000 SIM dealers, 52 lakh connections, and the registration of over 300 First Information Reports (FIR), Vaishnaw said.

The data and evidence we saw showed us that there is complicity of dealers in cyber frauds, where attackers buy numbers in bulk, use them to call and defraud people, and quickly move on to another number. SIM dealers who are found complicit in such schemes will be fined ₹10 lakh,” Vaishnaw said.

The detailed guidelines on these new penalties are yet to be published by the DoT.

The enforcement move follows the launch of the Sanchar Saathi portal in May, along with the wider roll-out of fraud detection mechanisms to identify individuals who have registered more than nine mobile connections, the maximum that is permitted.

The facility to provide SIM connections in bulk to companies is being discontinued, and instead a “business” system is being put in place, where each corporate subscriber has to undertake KYC (‘Know Your Customer’) when a SIM is being issued to them. The existing bulk system requires companies to preserve records of individual subscribers.

A transition period will be provided for bulk subscribers to get themselves verified under the new regime, Vaishnaw said. Government, defense and law enforcement bulk subscribers will continue to be exempt from additional verification requirements, he added.

Argument that Article 370 can’t be amended post-dissolution of Constituent Assembly belied by constitutional practice: CJI

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave on Thursday argued in the Supreme Court that the abrogation of Article 370 is a colourable exercise of powers since the BJP government in its 2019 manifesto had proposed the repeal of Article 370.

Dave also argued that Article 370 had ‘achieved its life’ and could therefore not be abrogated after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in 1957. Countering such a contention, Chief Justice of India D.Y Chandrachud said that the argument that the power to abrogate Article 370 ended with the Constituent Assembly’s dissolution is belied by constitutional practice since several constitutional orders were issued after 1957.

During the proceedings, the Chief Justice also asked if the court was being invited to judicially review the wisdom underlying the decision to abrogate Article 370 while underscoring that judicial review must be confined to a constitutional violation only.

Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade apprised the Supreme Court that the abrogation has led to adverse consequences – for instance, J&K does not have proportionate representation in the Lok Sabha which amounts to a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court said on August 10 that the surrender of Jammu and Kashmir’s sovereignty to India was “absolutely complete” with the accession of the former princely state in October 1947, and it was “really difficult” to say that Article 370 of the Constitution, which accorded special status to the erstwhile State, was permanent in nature.

Observing that once Article 1 of the Constitution says India shall be a Union of States, including Jammu and Kashmir, the transfer of sovereignty was complete in all respects, a five-judge constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said.

Schedule 1 of the Indian Constitution contains the list of States and Union Territories and their extent and territorial jurisdiction, and Jammu and Kashmir figures there in the list. The Bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, B.R. Gavai, and Surya Kant, observed it cannot be said that some elements of sovereignty in Jammu and Kashmir were retained post Article 370.

Several petitions challenging the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which split the erstwhile State into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — were referred to a Constitution Bench in 2019.

Now, drones to monitor MGNREGA worksites

Increasing its surveillance of worksites under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme, the Union Ministry of Rural Development will be pressing drones into service to monitor both the progress and quality of assets produced.

According to a standard operating procedure (SOP) recently issued by the Ministry, the drones will be used for four types of monitoring: surveying the ongoing works, inspecting the completed works, impact assessment, and special inspection in case of complaints.

“There are several complaints about corruption in MNREGS works that we receive regularly. These vary from machines being used in place of the workers, many receiving wages without doing work, or works beyond the approved list being undertaken, and so on. Drones will be especially helpful in such cases for real-time monitoring and for garnering evidence,” a senior Ministry official said.

This will be the second big technological intervention introduced to keep a check on MGNREGA workers. From May 2022, the Union government made it mandatory to capture attendance at all worksites using a specially-developed mobile-based application.

The SOP stipulates that the drones will be used by the ombdusperson; according to the Act which governs the scheme, there should one ombudsperson per district who is responsible for registering suo moto complaints and disposing of them within 30 days. “For efficient monitoring and redressal of grievances, it is decided by the Ministry that the ombudsperson may use drone technology facilities for verification of the works virtually,” the SOP states. It has directed State governments to provide the facility to ombduspersons, as needed.

However, the Union government is not providing the States with any extra funds to deploy these drones. According to the guidelines, State governments are expected to draw the necessary funds from the administrative head, which is roughly 10% of a State’s MGNREGA budget. Rather than purchasing drones, the Union government has directed States to hire agencies specialising in drones for this purpose. The Ministry also proposes to form a centralised dashboard to store the videos and photos collected from the drones, for data analysis and reporting purposes.

Listen to today’s episode of the In Focus podcast

Sri Lanka’s economy and the impact of the IMF bailout

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had granted a bailout of $3 billion to Sri Lanka in March this year. The IMF had imposed nine conditions for agreeing to the bailout. Next month, the global lender will conduct its first review -- before the next tranche of funds under the bailout are released.

What are the conditions that Sri Lanka has to fulfil? What has been the public response to the austerity measures that the government has had to initiate? And what success has Sri Lanka had in restructuring its bilateral debt, especially with lenders such as China?

Train firing: RPF constable who killed senior, three passengers dismissed from service

RPF constable Chetan Singh Chaudhary, who shot dead his senior and three passengers on board a moving train last month, has been dismissed from service, an official said on August 17.

The order to sack Chaudhary was issued on August 14 by Railway Protection Force (RPF) Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, the official said. As per the official, Chaudhary was involved in at least three discipline-related incidents in the past.

Chaudhary (34) is accused of gunning down his senior officer, Tikaram Meena, and three passengers when the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Superfast Express was near Palghar station on the outskirts of Mumbai in the early hours of July 31.

The three passengers, Abdul Kadar Mohamed Hussain Bhanpurawala, Sayyad Saifuddin and Asgar Abbas Shaikh, were travelling in different bogies of the train. Chaudhary was later arrested by the Government Railway Police (GRP). The motive behind the chilling crime is still not clear.

Chaudhary first shot dead RPF Assistant Sub-Inspector Meena and a passenger in B5 coach with his automatic service weapon. He then gunned down another passenger in the pantry car of the train and one more traveller in S6 coach, according to GRP.

Chaudhary is now in judicial custody, the official said.

In Brief:

Nuh violence | Cow vigilante Bittu Bajrangi sent to 14-day judicial custody

Cow vigilante Bittu Bajrangi, arrested in connection with communal clashes in Nuh earlier in the month, was sent to 14-day judicial custody on August 17, police said. Bajrangi was produced in a Nuh court on August 17 from where he was sent to judicial custody in Neemka jail of Faridabad district, a senior police officer said.

Chandrayaan-3 moon lander separates from propulsion module

After 34 days on board the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, the propulsion module and the lander module parted ways on August 17 and have now embarked on their respective journeys. ISRO said that the lander module has successfully separated from the propulsion module. According to ISRO, “The lander will have the capability to soft land at a specified lunar site and deploy the rover, which will carry out in-situ chemical analysis of the lunar surface during the course of its mobility. The lander and the rover have scientific payloads to carry out experiments on the lunar surface.”

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.

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