Free Press Journal

It’s Centre’s responsibility to warn states on drought: SC



New Delhi: The Centre today faced tough questions on its handling of drought-like situation in the country, with the Supreme Court asking whether it was not its responsibility to warn that states that such a scenario was likely to prevail in the near future.

It also chided Gujarat for not filing an affidavit on the matter, saying “just because you’re Gujarat doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like.” “It is the responsibility of the Centre to inform and warn that these (drought-affected) states will receive less rainfall.

“If you are told that 96 per cent is crop sown in a particular area of the state but you receive information of scanty rainfall, don’t just tell them that everything is right and think there is possibility of Centre telling states about a possible drought,” a bench headed by Justice M B Lokur said.

The remark by the bench, also comprising Justice N V Ramana came as Additional Solicitor General P A Narasimha, submitted that 256 districts in 10 states were declared as drought-affected.

He clarified that the declaration of a particular area as drought-affected does not mean that it was affecting the entire population of that area as all are not farmers or engaged in agriculture related occupation.

The law officer said the total population in such areas may be 33 crore but “the actual number of people affected by drought is likely to be less than what is reflected in gross population figures of such drought affected districts.”

The apex court said the Centre should adopt modern technology to assess drought situation in states instead of following “eye estimation” (cursory survey of farms) method which is not even mentioned in Manual for Drought Management.

The court directed the Centre to apprise it how many households in drought-hit areas got 150 days employment under MNREGA and asked it to submit a compilation of advisories on drought.

It also took Gujarat government to task for submitting note instead of an affidavit on the drought situation and directed it to file it stating details of rainfall data.

“Why have you not filed affidavit? Don’t take things so lightly, just because you’re Gujarat doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like,” the bench observed while asking it to submit the document by April 21.

After WhatsApp, Viber to encrypt user conversations

New Delhi, Apr 19 (PTI) Following the footsteps of larger rival WhatsApp, instant messaging app Viber will encrypt user messages to protect texts and calls on its platform from “interception”.

“Our team at Viber has been working hard to give you more control over your private conversations. Today we are taking another step in this direction by making your private communication even safer through end-to-end encryption, hidden chats and message deletion,” Viber COO Michael Shmilov said in a blogpost.

He added that the company has been working on this for a long time and users can “confidently use Viber without fear of their messages being intercepted – whether it is in a one-to-one or group message, on a call, on desktop, mobile or tablet”.

Earlier this month, Facebook-owned WhatsApp had announced end-to-end encryption to protect conversations of its over one billion users from hackers and “regimes”.

The development came close on the heels of a legal battle between Apple and FBI over the US agency’s demand that the iPhone maker help unlock its mobile phones. Many Silicon Valley players had supported Apple citing that user data privacy needs to be respected.

According to Viber website, it has more than 600 million unique users in 193 countries. In April last year, the company had announced crossing the 40 million-user mark in India.

Japan’s Rakuten bought privately-held Viber from Israeli entrepreneur Talmon Marco for USD 900 million in February 2014. Viber’s competitors include apps like LINE, Hike and WhatsApp.

“We’re rolling this out globally over the next two weeks, and you’ll see a grey padlock to confirm you are secured. Additionally, we’ve ensured each user has an individual cryptography key associated with his or her device, allowing you to benefit from an added layer of security,” Shmilov said.

Users can manually authenticate contacts to select they are “trusted” that changes the lock colour to green.

“If you ever see a red lock it means there is a problem with the authentication key. The breach may simply mean that a user has changed his or her primary phone. However, it can also indicate a man-in-the-middle-attack. To solve a possible breach state, the participant needs to be re-trusted,” he said.

Besides, Viber has also launched hidden chats that will allow users to hide specific chats from the main screen so no-one but the user knows they exist.