Current Affairs Current Affairs - 26 August 2017 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 26 August 2017

General Affairs 

Taj Mahal was never a temple, Archaeological Survey of India tells Agra court
  • Taj Mahal is one of the most disputed architectural wonders in India, with much debate being held on the monument's alleged origin as a Shiva temple ever since a book 'Taj Mahal: The True Story' by P N Oak raised this issue.
    According to the proponents of this theory, 'Tejomahalay', the Shiva Temple built by Raja Jai Singh, is said to have stood at the exact spot where the Taj Mahal now stands, and the temple's building was allegedly appropriated by Shah Jahan to bury his wife Mumtaz in the 'Sanctum Sanctorum' of the temple, after Raja Jai Singh removed the Shivalingam from the temple and made a new temple elsewhere.
    A largely forbidden idea for history buffs and the tourism industry alike, this theory routinely pops up at various courts of the country, with petitioners demanding that the Archaeological Survey of India and Central Government declare the 'truth' about the Taj Mahal.
    WHAT IS THE 'TRUTH' ABOUT TAJ MAHAL?
    Answering a similar court case by some Lucknow based lawyers in the Agra Civil Court, the Central Government again filed an affidavit on 24th August 2017, claiming that the Taj Mahal had been constructed by Shah Jahan and there was no proofs of any temples having existed at the place. The affidavit has also referred to a judgment of the Supreme Court that no matters pertaining to the Taj Mahal can be heard at the local or high court level.
    Talking to India Today, an ASI official said that this writ had been filed in the Agra Civil Court on 8th April 2015 by Lucknow based Hari Shankar Jain and his 5 friends, making the ASI and Central Government as respondents. The writ asserted citing some alleged 'proofs' that the Taj Mahal is actually TejoMahalaya. Now, with the ASI and Central Government denying this assertion made by the petitioners, the lawyer of the petitioners has filed an objection to this reply. The next date for hearing has been set at 11th September.
    According to the available information, the Central Information Commission has also asked the Central Government to clarify whether the Taj Mahal had been constructed by Shah Jahan or was it a temple which had been given to Shah Jahan by Rajput Kings as a gift.
    OFFICIALS TO STUDY SPOTS ON TAJ MAHAL'S SURFACE
    Meanwhile, the ASI has appointed two officials at the Taj Mahal who will study the reason for the black spots being seen on the Taj Mahal's surface, as pointed out by Agra Tourist Welfare Chamber Secretary Vishal Sharma through India Today earlier. ASI Official A K Bhatnagar said that these spots are probably due to the feces of insects being deposited on a large scale on the marble surface. He said that the scrapings of these black spots will be tested in the laboratory to find out the reason for this spotting. Only then the work of applying Fuller's Earth mud packs will be resumed at the main dome of the monument.
    Bhatnagar said that for this purpose, the Central Industrial Security Force has also been asked to shut down the lights it had installed at the Taj Mahal a few months earlier to enhance security as in the monsoon season, insects get attracted to these lights in large numbers and then sit on the marble surface of the monument, which could be causing these black spots.
    In 2016 too, the Taj Mahal had faced a similar infestation of insects, which left green spots on the monument surface. All these spots are at a very high altitude, where nobody can reach without climbing gear, making it difficult to clean them.
    Social activist Amir opined that these frequent disputes over the Taj Mahal's origins as a temple or as a tomb create a bad impression of India in the international community and the Supreme Court should settle this issue once, so that it does not come up again and again through people who are only seeking publicity for themselves.

Supreme Court agrees to hear pleas challenging Article 35 A after Diwali
  • The Supreme Court today agreed to hear after Diwali pleas challenging Article 35 A, relating to special rights and privileges of permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
    A bench headed by Justice J S Khehar accepted the plea of the Jammu and Kashmir government that the pleas challenging Article 35 A be heard after Diwali.
    Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi and advocate Shoeb Alam mentioned the matter before a bench also comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice DY Chandrachud that even the Centre had no objection if the pleas were taken up after Diwali. "All the pleas will be taken up for hearing after Diwali", the bench said.
    Earlier, the apex court had favoured hearing of the matter by a five-judge constitution bench in case the Article was ultra vires of the Constitution or if there was any procedural lapse.
    3-JUDGE BENCH WILL HEAR THE MATTER: SUPREME COURT
    The court had said that a three-judge bench would hear the matter and refer it to a five-judge bench if necessary.
    The apex court was hearing a plea filed by Charu Wali Khanna, challenging Article 35 A of the Constitution and Section 6 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution which dealt with the "permanent residents" of the state.
    The plea has challenged certain provisions of the Constitution, which deny property rights to a woman, who marries a person from outside the state.
    The provision, which makes such women from the state lose rights over property, also applies to their sons.
    WHAT IS ARTICLE 35 A
    Article 35 A, which was added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
    It also empowers the state's legislature to frame any law without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating the Right to Equality of people from other states or any other right under the Indian Constitution.
    "Section 6 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution restricts the basic right of women to marry a man of their choice by not giving the heirs any right to property if the woman marries a man not holding the Permanent Resident Certificate.
    "Her children are denied a Permanent Resident Certificate, thereby considering them illegitimate - not given any right to such a woman's property even if she is a permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir", the plea said.

    While Jammu and Kashmir's Non-Permanent Resident Certificate holders can vote in Lok Sabha elections, the same individual is barred to vote in local elections in the state.

Ram Rahim verdict leads to violent clashes in Punjab, Haryana; 31 dead
  • After controversial godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was declared guilty in a rape case, violent clashes broke out in several parts of Punjab and Haryana. So far at least 31 Dera supporters have lost their lives in clashes.
    According to reports, 31 followers of the sect leader were killed in clashes and 100 injured with police in Panchkula.
    Dera Sacha Sauda supporters went on a rampage in different parts of Haryana and Punjab including Sirsa and Panchkula. Besides clashes with police, the cult's followers indulged in stone pelting, attacking mediapersons and damaging public properties despite heavy security arrangements being in place.
    CASES OF VIOLENCE IN PUNJAB, HARYANA:
    Delhi police has asked all SHOs, ACPs, DCPs and Joint CPs to patrol the area to prevent any further incidents.
    1000 Dera Sacha Sauda supporters have been detained, says Haryana's ADGP (Law & Order) Muhammad Akil.
    Section 144 was imposed in Noida in wake of Dera violence.
    Two buses were set ablaze on Mandoli flyover in Delhi's Nand Nagri while one was torched near Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Hospital in Delhi.
    Income Tax office in Punjab's Mansa set alight by Dera protesters.
    Dera supporters tried to put powerhouse on fire in Jakhal area of Fatehabad in Haryana.
    There were reports of at least 7 cases of violence in the national capital.  Delhi Police said a bus was torched in northeast Delhi's Loni Chowk. There were no immediate reports of any injuries in the incident.
    When an empty Rewa Express was stationed at Anand Vihar railway station in Delhi, Dera followers set two coaches on fire.
    Curfew was imposed in Panchkula, Sirsa, Bhatinda, Ferozpur, Sirsa, Mansa.
    Ram Rahim supporters set afire Moga, Malout and Balluanna railway stations in Punjab. Dera protesters tried to torch a school in Rajpura area of Patiala in Punjab but police controlled the situation.
    So far there have been 224 incidents of violence in Haryana. 64 instances of violence have been reported from Punjab.
    Cases of arson and violence was reported in Dera area. SWAT team and RAF team have reached the spot.
    In Punjab's Barnala, a telephone exchange was torched by Dera protesters in Chananwal village.
    Dera supporters tried to torch Malot railway station in Muktsar in Punjab. Police has reached the spot.
    Media too face the brunt of violent attacks as media vans of Aaj Tak, India Today, NDTV, Times Now were attacked.
    In Haryana's Sirsa, India Today's video journalist was left injured as their car was attacked.
    A power house and Tehsil office was torched in Sanghrur, Punjab.
    As a precautionary measure, the government sounded an alert in all adjoining districts of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that the violence doesn't spill over to the state.
    Helicopters are being used to keep a watch on the situation in Panchkula.
    Police used tear gas shells to disperse Dera protesters in Panchkula.
    Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh sent out a message asking all Punjabis to maintain peace and harmony in the state. He said he won't allow anyone to disturb peace and tranquility.

Rahul Gandhi chooses Norway over Lalu Prasad's 'BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao' rally
  • Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi may skip RJD chief Lalu Prasad's rally in Patna on Sunday as he is travelling to Norway.
    "On the invitation of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be travelling to Oslo for a few days," Gandhi tweeted today. "Looking forward to meeting and exchanging ideas with political and business leaders and research institutions," he said.
    Lalu's Rashtriya Janata Dal is organising a "BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao" rally on Sunday in Patna's Gandhi Maidan. It is the RJD's major show of strength after the party was ousted from the Bihar government with the JD-U moving out of the Grand Alliance and joining back the NDA.
    But the rally, pitched as a joint Opposition show, is already under cloud after a series of leaders announced they will not be attending it. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, and the Left have decided to skip.
    The Congress, however, has said it supports the rally and may send Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad as its representative. Rahul Gandhi had earlier indicated that he might be present at the Patna rally as Lalu has been a long-time friend and supporter of the Gandhi's.
    But analysts said the presence of the Gandhis at the rally, however, may affect Congress prospects as Lalu and his son are embroiled in multiple cases of corruption.

Srijan Scam: No amount of money can corrupt me, says Bihar CM Nitish Kumar
  • Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has hit out at the Opposition RJD for raising allegations of his involvement in the multi-crore Srijan scam in Bhagalpur. Speaking at a meeting of his party MLAs and MLCs on Thursday, Nitish said that no amount of money in the world was enough to corrupt him.
    "There is nothing in this world that can corrupt me. I have done politics with honesty all my life and will never compromise with my ideals," Kumar was quoted to have said at the meeting.
    RJD has been upping the ante on Kumar and his deputy, Sushil Modi in the Rs 871 crore Srijan scam alleging that there was direct involvement of the two leaders along with other top BJP leaders. RJD maintains that Kumar was Chief Minister and Sushil Modi, the Finance Minister between 2005-2013, the period when the scam is alleged to have taken place.
    It is notable that after Nitish requested the Central Bureau of Investigations to take over the case of Srijan scam for investigations, the premier investigation has begun their probe. The CM commented in the party meet that who so ever was involved in the scam would be dealt with in a stern manner and not spared.
    "Those guilty will not be spared, irrespective of the political party which they belong to. Proper inquiry will take place," said Nitish Kumar at the meeting.

Business Affairs

Arvind Panagariya's contrarian line of thought may be behind his exit from NITI Aayog
  • The exit of NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya may have surprised many, but the writing had been on the wall for a while. Although Panagariya, a free market economist, said the Columbia University is not willing to extend his leave, he could not meet expectations of people who matter, including those in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
    In the last 27 years, Panagariya is the first head of a government think tank to resign before the tenure of the PM expires (Jaswant Singh did it in 1998, but to join the cabinet). The tenure of the vice chairman runs concurrently with the term of the PM. Within days of Panagariya resigning in early August, the government appointed conservative economist Rajiv Kumar in his place.
    NITI Aayog,which replaced the erstwhile Planning Commission, was set up to bring in bottom-to-top thinking, make decisions more practical and increase participation of state governments. Neither BJP officials nor cabinet members commented on his exit, but in private they admit that Panagariya's tenure was lacklustre.
    But his colleagues couldn't hide their 'excitement'. Fellow member Bibek Debroy took a potshot with this tweet: "The foreign influence wanes, so read the weather vanes. Filthy lucre of a foreign land/ Has sullied many a hand/ And fogged the brains." He was backing vice chairman designate Rajiv Kumar's comment that the influence of Indian-American economists was fading away as part of the ongoing transformation in the government. Panagariya is the second US-based economist to go, after former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. Panagariya was criticised for NITI Aayog's passive approach.
    "The biggest reform the NDA government brought in is GST. A government think tank should have brought in a paper of the probable challenges the country might have to face and the ways to tackle it. This would have smoothened the way for implementation of this tax reform," says Kashmiri Lal, national convener of SJM -and one of the fierce critics of NITI Aayog's working.
    But his exit is being seen as a 'transformation' in thinking in government quarters. Panagariya couldn't hide his 'unhappiness' last year at the pace of reforms in the NDA government. But his critics see this as his lack of understanding of the diversity of India. They say his ideas and reports couldn't shape the NITI Aayog's line of thought. Critics attribute this to the lack of leadership or the split in the thought process.
    However, Panagariya has denied dual power centres within NITI Aayog. Panagariya burnt bridges with the RSS, post NITI Aayog's report on contentious issues, including GM crops, disinvestment and health care. "All along, we opposed jobless growth. It was hard for us to implement many of his recommendations," says a cabinet minister.
    "Our economic philosophy revolved around production, employment and distribution, but nothing much was done," he adds. Although the government accepted his proposal for a strategic sale in Air India and the stake sale of various PSUS, it continued to strengthen many others.
    The oil ministry has been asked to work out the mergers of ONGC with HPCL, and Indian Oil with OIL. The PMO had asked NITI Aayog to look into the viability of sick state-run companies. Instead, it handed over a list of companies that could be closed down, says Ashwani Mahajan, co-conveyor of SJM. "Certain PSUS might be making losses because of legacy issues. Our idea is to revive them wherever possible," says another minister.

Dollar up before Yellen, Draghi speeches, Asia stocks head for weekly gain
  • Asian stocks traded tentatively on Friday as US political turmoil continued to erode risk sentiment, but the dollar strengthened as attention shifted to the central bankers' symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that began on Thursday.
    Overnight, Wall Street indexes closed between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent lower as a rift between US President Donald Trump and Congress appeared to widen.
    In a post on Twitter, Trump said Congress could have avoided a legislative "mess" if it had heeded his advice on raising the amount of money the government can borrow, known as the debt ceiling.
    That came after Trump said on Tuesday that he would be willing to risk a government shutdown to secure funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border.
    MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan, was about 0.1 percent lower in early trade, set to end the week 1.25 percent higher.
    Investors expect a volatile month ahead with a late-September deadline looming for the United States to raise the its debt ceiling or risk defaulting on debt payments, said Michael Purves, chief global strategist at Weeden & Co in Greenwich, Connecticut.
    "Why would you rush to buy this (Wall Street) dip with the debt ceiling looming?" Purves said.
    The MSCI World index was steady, heading for a 0.65 percent weekly gain.
    Japan's Nikkei climbed 0.25 percent, on track for a loss of 0.4 percent for the week.
    South Korea's KOSPI was little changed and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.3 percent.
    The dollar fared better than stocks as investors turned their sights to the Jackson Hole central bankers' meeting at which Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi are due to speak on Friday, although no new policy messages are expected from either.
    Yellen and Draghi will are scheduled to speak at 1400 and 1900 GMT respectively.
    The dollar was also helped by fewer-than-expected U.S. initial jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 19.
    The dollar was steady early on Friday at 109.51 yen, holding Thursday's 0.5 percent gain, and heading for a weekly gain of 0.3 percent.
    Japanese core consumer prices rose for the seventh straight month in July, a sign the economy is making slow but steady progress toward meeting the central bank's 2 percent inflation target, although the increase was still largely driven by higher fuel bills.
    The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major peers, was also little changed at 93.20. It is poised to end the week 0.15 percent lower.
    The euro was steady at $1.17985, set to end the week 0.3 percent higher.
    In commodities, crude prices fell overnight as some refiners shut down as Tropical Storm Harvey crossed the Gulf of Mexico, reducing their short-term crude demand.
    But oil prices rose on Friday as production was shut down on expectations Harvey would be a major hurricane when it reaches the Texas coast on Friday night or early on Saturday.
    US crude futures rose 0.65 percent to $47.74 a barrel, after Thursday's 2 percent slump. They're on track for a weekly fall of 1.6 percent.
    Global benchmark Brent LCOc1 advanced 0.4 percent to $52.35, after sliding 0.8 percent overnight.
    Copper remained near a three-year high hit on Thursday on signs of stronger demand in top consumer China while inventories fell in London warehouses.
    Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange inched up 0.2 percent to $6,700 a ton, extending Thursday's 1.9 percent gain and set to end the week up 3.3 percent.
    Gold was steady at $1,286.57 an ounce, heading for a 0.2 percent gain for the week.

Right to Privacy to not affect Aadhaar-PAN linkage: UIDAI CEO
  • Right to Privacy verdict will have no bearing upon the requirement of tax payers to link their PAN with 12-digit biometric Aadhaar by this month-end. This was informed by UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey today. "There also, linking of PAN to Aadhaar is mandated by an amendment in income tax act...the linking will continue under that act and law. There is no change," said Pandey. With the Supreme Court upholding right to privacy as fundamental right, it was guessed that people can refuse to give their details in the Aadhaar in the backdrop of SC order. The Supreme Court "judgement has not said anything about the Aadhaar Act so the Aadhaar Act is a valid Act passed by the Parliament (and) is the law of the land", Pandey said. He further stated,"Aadhaar Act is a valid Act and this judgement has not commented anything on Aadhaar Act."
    UIDAI CEO exuded extreme confidence about continuation of Aadhaar's enrollment as Aadhaar Act's provisions protect privacy of people as a fundamental right. "The data will not be shared without the consent of the person. So there are number of privacy protection provisions inbuilt into the Aadhaar Act itself," he said. Except in circumstances such as national security, and such cases too have to be cleared by a committee headed by cabinet secretary, the details of biometric Aadhaar can never be shared with anyone.  "There is a use limitation, sharing limitation, purpose limitation...all these limitations and restrictions are inbuilt into the Aadhaar Act itself," he added.
    Aadhaar's currently required for a number of services. Not its just compulsory to link your Aadhaar with 10-digit PAN to file your income tax return but Aadhaar is also needed for a new PAN. Similarly, the government has given citizens till 31 December to link their bank accounts with Aadhaar. Availing benefits of subsidies under National Food Security Act (NFSA) also need Aadhaar.
    Recently, Aadhaar was also mandatory for availing of concessional benefits by senior citizens, students, research scholars & Arjuna awardees, and for availing subsidized loan by farmers. Poor women too can avail free cooking gas (LPG) connections under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana by applying for the unique 12-digit biometric identification number Aadhaar. The Aadhaar also also serves as a proof of identity and address  while applying for your passport online and gets you appoinment easily for the same. 

McDonald's case: NCLAT asks parties to settle row themselves
  • The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) today asked US fast food giant McDonald's and its estranged Indian JV partner Vikram Bakshi to consider settling their dispute among themselves.
    Putting off the matter for next hearing to August 30, the tribunal asked McDonald's to give an undertaking that the 169 outlets will be allowed to function till the negotiations are on.
    The parties will have to decide by August 30 whether they will consider settling the dispute or not.
    McDonald's has terminated franchisee agreement for the 169 outlets in north and east that were operated by Connaught Plaza Restaurant Ltd (CPRL), the joint venture (JV) with Bakshi.
    According to the termination notice issued by McDonald's to CPRL, the outlets have time till September 6 to function, post which they will have to stop using McDonald's name and trademark.
    The tribunal also asked Bakshi to give an undertaking that he would not pursue the criminal cases filed in India against McDonald's executives when they come for negotiations.

Markets closed today on account of Ganesh Chaturthi
  • All major markets including BSE, National Stock Exchange, Forex, Money Market and all other commodity markets are closed today on account of "Ganesh Chaturthi".
    On Thursday, the Sensex rose 0.09 percent or 28.05 points to 31,596 level, the NSE Nifty ended 0.05 percent or 4.55 points higher at 9857.05 level. Pharma stocks led the gains on the 30-stock Sensex.
    Infosys closed 2.01 percent or 18 points higher at 912.50 level amid reports that co-founder Nandan Nilekani is set to rejoin the board after former CEO and MD Vishal Sikka put in his papers on August 18, 2017.
    Shares of liquor stocks surged after the Supreme Court clarified that the liquor ban on highways did not apply to licensed establishments falling within municipal areas. Globus Spirits (11.26 percent ),  Pincon Spirit (10 percent),  Tilaknagar Industries (1.93 percent) and  United Spirits (3.89 percent) gained on the court's clarification

    Global Markets
    Asian stocks were mostly higher Friday as market players watched for comments at a central banks' annual meeting later in the global day.
    KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.4 percent to 19,434.54 in early trading. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 inched down 0.1 percent to 5,739.20. South Korea's Kospi was up nearly 0.2 percent at 2,379.86. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.7 percent to 27,706.87, while the Shanghai Composite index was also up 0.7 percent at 3,293.85.
    WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 5.07 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,438.97. Through the day, it flipped between gains of up to 0.3 percent and losses of up to 0.3 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 28.69 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,783.40.The market has drifted up and down since the S&P 500 set a record high earlier this month.

General Awareness

Supreme Court rules Right to Privacy as Fundamental Right

  • On August 24, 2017 The Supreme Court (SC)ruled that privacy is a fundamental right because it is essential to the right to life.
    i.A nine-judge Supreme Court bench declared privacy is a fundamental right that may impact everything from the government’s signature Aadhaar programme to civil liberties, rights to collection and use of personal data by Internet and financial firms. The decision can also impact restrictions on right to convert and choice of food.
    ii.Chief Justice JS Khehar informed that ruled privacy was part of the fundamental right to life and personal liberty guaranteed to all citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution.
    iv.The judgment will have a crucial bearing on the government’s Aadhaar scheme that collects personal details, biometrics to identify beneficiaries for accessing social benefits and government welfare scheme.
     v.National programmes like Aadhaar, NATGRID, CCTNS, RSYB, DNAprofiling, reproductive rights of women, privileged communications and brain mapping  involve collection of personal data, including fingerprints, iris scans, bodily samples, and their storage in electronic form. The Law Commission has recently forwarded a Bill on Human DNA profiling. All this adds to the danger of data leakage.
    Questioning the proposal to link Aadhaar
    • A bunch of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court in 2015 challenging Aadhaar as a breach of privacy, informational self-determination and bodily integrity.
    • Petitioners are expressing fear towards the data being collected for Aadhar card by private agencies may be misused, and questioning the proposal to link Aadhaar with PAN cards and phone numbers, and making the unique ID number mandatory for availing government benefits.
    • Former attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi had first raised this issue to challenge the opponents, but new A-G KK Venugopal has since clarified that not all aspects of privacy were fundamental rights.
    Explanation of Right to privacy
    • It had the reason for collection and use of personal data of citizens for Aadhaar become a law under the Aadhaar Act of 2016.The government claimed Aadhaar was a solution to end corruption in public distribution, money laundering and terror funding.
    • Supreme Court also concerned about collection and use of data was the risk of personal information falling in the hands of private players and service providers.
    • Both the government and service providers collect personal data like mobile phone numbers, bank details, addresses, date of birth, sexual identities, health records, ownership of property and taxes without providing safeguards from third parties.
    • The Supreme Court often demanded the government whether it has plans to set up a “robust data protection mechanism”.
    • The government informed the Bench a committee of experts led by former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.N. Srikrishna, has already been constituted on July 31, 2017 to identify “key data protection issues” and suggest a draft data protection Bill.

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