After Years Without US Ambassador, Garcetti In Last Lap To Chanakyapuri; Has BJP’s ‘Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed’ Recipe Gone Stale?
Anti-conversion laws violate India’s rights treaty commitments: USCIRF, govt may turf out phone apps, more Indian business families look overseas, fires taking forest cover that development spared
A newsletter from The Wire | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
March 15, 2022
The police have resumed the use of tear gas for the second day against protesters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, who have been clashing with them outside the Zaman Park home of former PM Imran Khan in Lahore. Dawn reports that Khan made a public address on video at 4:20 am, in which he compared the police action to the situation in Jammu & Kashmir. The Lahore protest has in the meantime spread to other cities.
While experts have said that an accurate sub-categorisation of OBC groups is impossible without a caste census, the Union government has told the Lok Sabha that the Justice G Rohini Commission, which is looking into sub-categorisation, has been working without data from the previous Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) conducted in 2011.
The accidental firing of a BrahMos missile into Pakistan in March last year embarrassed India before the international community and could have led to a war-like situation, the Union government told the Delhi High Court, while opposing the plea by an Indian Air Force officer against his dismissal in that episode. Wing Commander Abhinav Sharma and two others were charged with “gross negligence”, and on August 23, they were sacked after a court of inquiry held them responsible for deviating from SOPs. The Wing Commander, who was granted four weeks to file his rejoinder thereafter, moved the court on March 1.
Anti-conversion laws promulgated by various state governments violate international human rights treaties signed by India, a new report from the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has observed. An issue update released by USCIRF yesterday examines anti-conversion laws in 12 Indian states, and says their features violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Indian Express reports that Mauritius-based key Adani investor Elara India Opportunities Fund is also co-owner of a defence firm. “Records investigated by the Indian Express show that along with the Adani Group, it is a promoter entity in a defence company, Bengaluru-based Alpha Design Technologies Private Limited (ADTPL).” This fund was under the SEBI’s scanner earlier.
State-run energy firms, including ONGC Videsh Ltd, Bharat Petroresources Ltd, Indian Oil Corp and Oil India Ltd, are unable to access around $400 million in dividend payments stuck in Russia as Western sanctions have made it harder to transfer money out of the country. This stuck dividend is the Indian firms’ stakes in Russia’s CSJC Vankorneft and LLC Taas Yuryakh.
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The RBI has permitted banks from 18 countries to open special vostro rupee accounts (SVRAs) for settling payments in Indian rupees, the government told the Rajya Sabha. They are in Botswana, Fiji, Germany, Guyana, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Russia, the Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and the UK.
The value of the average banking fraud involving cards and internet banking was up 8.5% to Rs 34,802 in 2021-22 (FY22). There were 65,045 such instances of fraud in FY22, according to data released in the Lok Sabha this week. The total value involved was Rs 226.4 crore.
The Financial Times says that “wealthy cities can breathe cleaner air but India’s air pollution worsens”. India is the eighth most polluted country and 12 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are Indian. Swiss technology company IQAir says that weighted by population, India’s average PM2.5 concentration, measured in micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3) in 2022, was 53.3. The WHO guideline is 5 μg/m3.
More Indian business-owning families are enquiring about setting up offices overseas, reports Financial Express. Singapore and Dubai are preferred destinations ― financial hubs close to India with a favourable tax regime.
The UK Foreign Office has asked for an examination in a secret court of claims that British intelligence agencies tipped off the Indian authorities on British citizen Jagtar Singh Johal, which led to his custodial torture. Johal, who faces charges which may lead to a death sentence, has not been brought to trial in five and a half years, and he remains in custody.
In sharp comments against the treatment of the media in the former state of J&K, Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin has said that there are frequent “NIA raids on offices and residents of journalists… they are treated like criminals” … Modi’s repressive media policies are destroying Kashmiri journalism, intimidating media outlets into serving as government mouthpieces … journalists (are) surveilled … the government (uses) strong-arm tactics against media outlets to ensure favourable coverage … journalists are routinely summoned by the police, interrogated and threatened with charges such as income tax violations or terrorism or separatism. Several prominent journalists have been detained … many journalists self-censor or have simply quit. Fearing arrest, some have fled into exile overseas … at least 20 others (are) on no-fly lists to prevent them from leaving the country … we work under a cloud of fear.”
The Civil Aviation Ministry says information on Digi Yatra cannot be sought under RTI. Digi Yatra Foundation does not come under RTI, the ministry said in response to an RTI filed by MediaNama.
The CBI has launched an inquiry into allegations of corruption against the Indian Red Cross Society and its regional branches in five states and UTs ― Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Andaman and Nicobar Islands ― after the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare raised the issue with the investigative agency.
The Congress is persisting with its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into charges against the Adani Group and released a video of Rahul Gandhi asking if the country’s foreign policy is actually Adani’s business expansion policy. Today, the Delhi Police prevented leaders of 16 Opposition parties from marching to the Enforcement Directorate’s office and submit a letter demanding a probe into the “Adani scam”.
(Police out in strength to prevent Opposition leaders from marching on ED.)
Stone pelting has been reported on a mosque and an Urdu school in Rattihalli town of Haveri district of Karnataka yesterday. Police have arrested 15 Hindutva activists.
The Competition Commission of India has approved Reliance Industries Ltd’s Rs 2,850 crore acquisition of German firm Metro AG’s wholesale business in India. Subsidiary Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd signed agreements to acquire 100% equity in Metro Cash & Carry India for Rs 2,850 crore in cash as Mukesh Ambani consolidates his dominance in retail.
Having lost a series of mega projects to Gujarat, Maharashtra will now lose the once-profitable Mahananda Dairy to the Union government. It will be soon handed over to the National Dairy Development Board because, according to Maharashtra Dairy Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, the state government can’t run it.
With farmers on a Nashik-Mumbai long march and threatening to intensify their agitation spearheaded by the All India Kisan Sabha, the Maharashtra government will hold talks with their leaders today. Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis were to meet the farmers on Tuesday, but they were distracted by state government employees who went on strike to demand the Old Pension Scheme.