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Today's Headlines - 17 July 2023

Age of consent for data protection

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The upcoming data protection Bill could empower the Central government to lower the age of consent from 18, for accessing Internet services without parental oversight. It could also exempt certain companies from adhering to additional obligations for protecting kids’ privacy if they can process their data in a “verifiably safe” manner.

More about the News

  • This marks a key departure from the previous data protection Bill that was floated in 2022 where the threshold of children’s age was hard-coded at 18 years.
  • The change, however, is in line with data protection regulations in the Western world, with regions like the European Union and the United States prescribing a lower age of consent.
  • Lowering the age of consent under the 2022 draft had been a key ask of the industry, especially social media companies, as a hard-coded age of consent would have meant business disruptions for them on account of setting up new systems for obtaining parental consent for users under 18 years of age — a key demographic for such services.
  • The final change in the Bill that is headed to Parliament marks a series of twists and turns as a number of stakeholders attempted to prescribe what the age of children should be in India’s data protection law.

How the definition of a child kept changing

  • Justice BN Srikrishna committee report: The committee, which was set up by the Centre months before the Supreme Court’s landmark decision of upholding privacy as a fundamental right, submitted its report to the government in 2018. 
  • The report relied on the definition of majority under the Contract Act where the age of majority is 18 years and recommended that for individuals under 18 years, entities will have to seek parental consent.
  • Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019: The Justice Srikrishna committee report served as the precursor to the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 (PDP Bill, 2019) which retained its recommendation and defined a child as an individual under the age of 18.
  • Joint Committee of Parliament recommends lowering the age of consent: The PDP Bill, 2019 was referred to a Joint Committee of Parliament, which in late December 2021 came up with its final set of recommendations and proposed that the definition of children should be restricted to 13/14/16 years of age and be reduced from 18 years. 
  • Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022: After the Centre withdrew the earlier version of the data protection Bill from Parliament in August 2022, the IT Ministry came up with a new draft, called the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, last November, under which children were defined as those under 18 years of age.


New Scorpene class submarines for the Navy

GS Paper - 3 (Defence Technology)

The Defence Acquisition Council, the apex decision-making body for the acquisition of military equipment for India’s armed forces, cleared proposals worth thousands of crores to buy three additional Scorpene submarines and 26 Rafale Marine fighter jets for the Navy. The decision coincides with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day Paris trip. The three additional Scorpene submarines will be procured under Buy (Indian) category and will be built by the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai.

The new submarines

  • The MDL is building six Scorpene class submarines under the Project-75, as part of a $ 3.75 billion deal signed in October 2005, which allowed for transfer of technology from the French defence firm, Naval Group.
  • Of these, five have already been commissioned and the last one will likely be commissioned early next year. This project saw significant delays, with the first submarine originally slated for delivery in 2012.
  • The fifth submarine under this project, INS Vagir, was commissioned in January this year.
  • The others — INS KalvariINS KhanderiINS Karanj and INS Vela were commissioned between 2017 and 2021. In May this year, the sixth submarine Vagsheer began her sea trials.
  • Now, the DAC has given clearance for three additional Scorpene submarines to be built by the MDL. These are likely to have the same specifications as the ones before.

The need for the three additional submarines

  • The need to procure the three additional submarines was felt in the backdrop of the delayed deliveries of submarines under Project 75, as well as to bolster India’s dwindling submarine fleet.
  • Currently, the Navy has 16 conventional submarines in service – seven of the Sindhughosh class (Russian Kilo class), four of the Shishumar class (modified German Type 209) and five of the Kalvari class (French Scorpene class).
  • However, to carry out its full spectrum of operations the Navy needs at least 18 such submarines.
  • Moreover, at any given time, around 30 per cent of the submarines are under refit, thus further bringing down the strength of operational submarines. Even the latest Kalvari-class submarines are scheduled to go for upcoming refits very soon.
  • It will also help the MDL in further enhancing its capability and expertise in submarine construction.

How do they compare with nuclear submarines?

  • Nuclear submarines are coveted due to their theoretically unlimited endurance – a nuclear reactor on a submarine has an operational life of up to 30 years.
  • As they are not propelled by batteries, these submarines only need to come to the surface for replenishing supplies for the crew. They are also able to move much faster than conventional submarines.
  • First and foremost, nuclear submarines are expensive and require a significant amount of specialised experience to operate.
  • Second, with advancements in diesel electric technology, the range of conventional submarines as well as their stealth has gone up significantly.
  • Currently, India has 2 nuclear-powered submarines (SSBMs) of the Arihant class in service.

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