Aadhaar-Vote Link, J&K Delimitation Ring Alarm Bells; BCCI a Microcosm of India, Including the Dirt
Imperial study makes case for vax booster, Punjab's 'sacrilege' lynchings leave parties tongue-tied, data breaches in India, Jairam protests biodiversity amendments and Mohan Bhagwat talks BS on DNA
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
December 20, 2021
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, providing for linking of a citizen’s voter ID with Aadhaar, was introduced in the Lok Sabha this afternoon and passed within 30 minutes, despite public reservations. The Aadhaar link poses serious risks to the integrity of India’s system of universal adult suffrage. Analysts say the Election Commission has incorrectly stated that the linkage passes the “proportionality test”.
Politics in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be further roiled by the Delimitation Commission’s recommendations to add six new seats to the Jammu region and only one new seat to Kashmir. The new split will be 47 seats for (Muslim-majority) Kashmir and 43 seats for (Hindu-majority) Jammu in a 90 seat assembly. Going by the actual population split, Kashmir’s seats should be 50 or 51.
The Sensex and Nifty continued their slide this morning, shedding about 1.8% each. The only notable gainer is Sun Pharma. This is part of global risk-aversion on fears about Omicron and inflation. FIIs remain net sellers.
More than 60 countries are providing booster doses and India has at least four clinical trials in progress to test the feasibility of mixing approved vaccines for boosters. All vaccines offer some protection against serious illness from Omicron but less than what they offer from Delta. Pfizer and Moderna shots, when reinforced by a booster, appear to have initial success at stopping infections. AstraZeneca boosters also help those who have taken two AZ/Covishield jabs. A recent study by a team at Imperial College, London found that “vaccine effectiveness estimates against symptomatic Omicron infection” were “between 0% and 20% after two doses, and between 55% and 80% after a booster dose.”
About 90% of India’s vaccinated received the AZ shot (Covishield). Getting appropriate boosters to older people and high-risk groups is clearly an imperative. So what is India’s excuse for inaction? A newspaper editor says, “With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah busy with electioneering in poll-bound states, babus and technocrats are unwilling to take a stand on a unified jab policy.” Really! IndiaSpend says the country must adopt hybrid testing, deploying both Rapid Antigen Testing and RT-PCR to swiftly detect Omicron.
Thousands protested in Kohima Friday, demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) following the killing of 14 civilians on December 4 and 5. Organised by the Nagaland Students’ Federation (NSF), the protest included several civil society groups and student organisations, including the apex tribal body, the Naga Hoho. Foreign Policy has an article on how Army killings are reigniting the AFSPA debate.
The Sri Lankan Navy yesterday seized eight Indian fishing vessels, arrested 55 fishermen and charged them with poaching.
A scholar reports seeing some Indian ambassadors and embassies tweeting posters of the BJP. Tweeting the ruling party’s PR material, rather than the government’s, crosses a line ― unless the party owns the state.
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat said he was not talking up in the air (ANI’s delightful translation of the Hindi phrase he used is “I am not faffing”) when he said that “for over 40,000 years DNA of all people in India has been the same.” Tony Joseph, author of Early Indians, has debunked Bhagwat’s claim as dangerous fantasy, citing at least four large migrations that Indians are products of. Like all other groups worldwide, no Indian population group is unmixed.
The J&K government’s decision to hand over the Union Territory’s power assets to a Central government undertaking, seen as a ruse for privatisation, has triggered a strike by nearly 20,000 employees and plunged swathes of the region into darkness amid freezing cold. Employees contend that J&K is not on par with other UTs ― its population is three times that of the rest combined.
Disturbing news of two lynchings in Punjab have set alarm bells ringing. In separate incidents in Amritsar and Kapurthala, two people were attacked by mobs, allegedly for attempted sacrilege. Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi visited the Golden temple yesterday evening. With religious extremism being whipped up and mob impunity running high, the fact that major parties are not calling for justice could have grave consequences.
Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, a body of 32 right-wing Hindutva outfits, which has been disrupting Friday namaz held in the open in Gurgaon, has asked Muslims to “reconvert” and pray in Hindu temples: “We can organise a mass ghar wapsi in Leisure Valley here and they will be taken back in their castes and accepted with open arms.”
Several Opposition members have raised a range of complaints regarding the government’s taciturn stance in parliament, from “unsatisfactory” and incomplete answers to disallowing questions on the faceoff with China.
Floor leaders of parties whose Rajya Sabha MPs have been suspended for the entire winter session of Parliament have been asked to meet Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi to discuss “a way out”. However, they say that all parties should be invited.
Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar remembers his reportage of the 1971 War, where “the Indian media followed the official propaganda line unhesitatingly despite knowing fully that it contained many falsehoods”. The charge was led by the Times of India. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!
“I now pronounce you husband and husband”: Telangana’s first gay wedding was held in Hyderabad. Although Indian law doesn’t recognise same-sex marriages, the duo solemnised their relationship with a “promising ceremony”. Sophia David, a friend from Hyderabad, also from the LGBTQ community, officiated.