Home Ministry Current Affairs - 2019

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Home Ministry revokes security clearance to Qatar-based English news channel Al Jazeera

Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has revoked security clearance of Qatar government’s state-funded English news broadcaster Al Jazeera. It is believed that main reason for this revocation is considered to be over documentary made by Qatari channel on militancy in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), which Indian Government viewed as “biased”. Al Jazeera has reportedly filed petition for reviewing this decision.

Note: The role of MHA is limited to matter related to security clearance. The decision on cancellation of broadcasting licence of news channel is taken by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Key Facts

Foreign channels need security clearance from MHA and broadcasting clearance from Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Al Jazeera’s security clearance was valid from December 3, 2010, and expired on May 29, 2018. Earlier also Al Jazeera had was involved into controversy with Indian government before. In 2015, it had published an incorrect map of J&K. For this, Government had then suspended it for 5 days in which time they carried blank screen with a message running on it as instructed by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Some other channels who were rejected security clearances recently include ABC News, Focus NE TV, Voice of Nation, Jhankar News, Maa TV, Bhakti Sagar, M Tunes and Lemon News. In some cases channels have their permissions withdrawn for other reasons too such as owners seeking cancellations, non-operationalisation of channel, non-submission of documents.

MEA May 2018 notification

In May 2018, Ministry of External Affairs had reminded foreign journalists that it is mandatory for them to take prior permission before travelling to areas such as J&K as well as Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and parts of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan as these are considered protected and restricted areas.

Home Ministry notifies new SoPS for refilling of ATMs

Union Home Ministry has issued new Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) for cash refilling of automated teller machines (ATMs) after certain time period. It comes in view of rising incidents of attacks on cash vans, cash vaults, ATM frauds and other internal frauds leading to increased sense of insecurity. It will come into effect from 8 February 2019. There are over 8,000 privately owned cash vans operating across country, operated by non-bank private agencies, and they handle over Rs. 15,000 crore daily on behalf of banks.

Features of new SoPs

It sets deadline of replenishing cash in ATMs before 9pm in cities and 6pm in rural areas. In case of Naxal-hit districts notified by central government, e deadline will be 4pm. It makes mandatory on private agencies handling these operations to collect money from banks in first half of the day and transport them in armoured vehicles.

The agencies should provide private security for cash transportation with requisite number of trained staff. Every cash van must have one driver, two armed security guards, two ATM officers or custodians. One armed guard must sit in front along with driver and another in rear portion of van during transit. The cash van should not carry cash of more than Rs. 5 crore per trip. Each of cash boxes shall be secured to floor with separate chains and locks that can be opened only by using separate keys kept with different custodians.

During loading or unloading of cash, nature’s call, tea or lunch break, at least one armed security guard should remain present with cash van at all times. The eligible ex-serviceman must be preferably appointed for providing security for cash transportation.

No private security agency should appoint anyone for cash transportation with verification of person including police, Aadhaar and residence verifications, previous employer check, credit history check and fidelity insurance. Every cash transportation operation should be carried out only in secured cash vans fitted with GPS tracking device.

The cash van shall be provided with small CCTV system with at least five days recording facility and three cameras installed in front, rear and inside of cabin. The cash van shall be equipped with hooter, fire extinguishers and emergency lights to ensure quick reaction in case of attack. It should also be equipped with security alarm with GSM based auto-dialer along with motorised siren.

Private security agency should carry out cash handling, including counting, sorting, and bundling activities shall in secured premises in accordance with specific guidelines. These premises should be designed to include two physically independent areas, one for general office purpose and other for secured cash processing and handling activities. It should also accommodate space for cash deposit, collection, sorting, counting and delivery and dispatch on secured cash vans.