Biden Administration Warns Against Russia Tilt; Ilhan Omar Asks Why He Is Soft On Rights Violations In India
Australia & Canada scholars erased, threatened for criticising Indian govt, CAG slams UIDAI & Railways, auto prices hiked, deceased and retired cops transferred in MP as detective Bhaskar Bose returns
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
April 7, 2022
A Delhi court has directed the CBI to immediately withdraw the lookout notice issued against former Amnesty India chief Aakar Patel in an FCRA case, which prevented him from travelling overseas this week ― though he had recovered his passport from custody by due process. In the Supreme Court this morning, responding to a plea seeking the deportation of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis illegally in India, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said acidly, “These are political issues. Please take it up with the government. If we have to take up all your PILs, then why did we elect the government? There are houses like Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.”
Suspected state-sponsored Chinese hackers appear to have run a cyber-espionage campaign against the Indian power sector in recent months, the threat intelligence firm Recorded Future told Bloomberg. They attacked at least seven load dispatch centres in north India doing grid control and transmission near the disputed India-China border in Ladakh. One was previously targeted by another hacking group, RedEcho, which Recorded Future says shares “strong overlaps” with a hacking group that the US identified with the Chinese government. The hackers also compromised a national emergency response system and the subsidiary of a multinational logistics company.
“China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. History has proven once again that no matter how the international landscape may evolve, and how our respective domestic situations may change, China and Pakistan relations will always stand unbreakable and rock solid,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said yesterday. And India? Zhou Bo (Retired Senior Colonel, Chinese People’s Liberation Army and Senior Fellow, Centre for International Security and Strategy, Tsinghua University) shares the Chinese perspective of Sino-Indian ties with Sushant Singh (a contributor to The India Cable). He says China is only concerned about India being so concerned about China.
The Biden administration has warned India against aligning itself with Russia and US officials are “disappointed” with New Delhi’s reactions to the Ukraine invasion. Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said that the US has told India that the consequences of a “more explicit strategic alignment” with Moscow would be “significant and long-term.” Last week, US Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh issued a stern public warning.
A group of academics have quit the Australia India Institute at Melbourne University, citing concerns for academic freedom and alleging interference by the Indian High Commission. A letter to Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell dated March 29, signed by 13 affiliated fellows, alleges the Indian High Commissioner to Australia has intervened in the institute’s activities and research or views unflattering to the image of India were blanked out. Canadian academics say they’re being harassed and threatened by diaspora groups and trolls for criticising the Indian government and its support of Hindutva.
The first case of XE, a more transmissible Covid-19 variant, was detected in Mumbai on Wednesday, a civic health official told news agencies. A case of the Kappa variant was also detected during a serosurvey. ‘Sources’ were at it again, though, saying XE detection was not exactly XE. The XE variant is a recombinant mutation of the BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron strains. Initial studies find the XE variant has a growth rate of 9.8% over that of BA.2, and it is called the stealth variant because it’s not easily detected. WHO says it believes that the latest mutant may be more transmissible.
Aadhaar is falling short on confidentiality in data archiving and in the delivery of cards to people, says a CAG report, ‘Functioning Of Unique Identification Authority Of India’, tabled in Parliament on the last day of the budget session. “There were instances of issue of Aadhaar with the same biometric data to different residents indicating flaws in the de-duplication process and issue of Aadhaar on faulty biometrics and documents.” Almost half a million records had to be cancelled up to 2016. Read here for the summary.
Another CAG report slammed Indian Railways for not improving track infrastructure despite investing Rs 2.5 lakh crore on mobility augmentation. Tabled in Parliament yesterday, it said that the travel time of trains has increased and overall punctuality has declined. “Even with a low benchmark and higher threshold, the punctuality of mail/express trains over IR declined from 79% (2012-13) to 69.23% (2018-19), that too at the terminating stations only.” It highlighted the failure of Mission Raftaar, introduced in 2016-17 to speed up trains by 2021-22. “The average observed speed of mail/express and freight trains until 2019-20 was, however, still around 50.6 kmph and 23.6 kmph. Out of 478 superfast trains, the scheduled speed of 123 trains (26%) was less than the specified speed of 55 kmph,” the CAG report said.
Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri has cited the recent hijab controversy in Karnataka and targeted democracy in India: “We must stop being deceived by the mirage of the pagan Hindu democracy.” This was in a 8.43 minute video clip released by the terror outfit online, and verified by the American SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks white supremacist and jihadist organisations online. Zawahiri also reads out a poem he wrote for “our Mujahid sister” and her “brave feat”. Bigotry in India, backed by those in power, now encourages dastardly terror outfits to be critical.
At least two Indian refiners plan to buy less Saudi oil than usual in May after the kingdom raised the official selling price to record highs for Asia, reports Reuters, as India increases purchases of cheap Russian crude. India, the third-biggest oil importer and consumer, has been hit hard by rising crude prices, with pump prices in some states touching record highs. Most of India’s oil imports are from the Middle East. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are top suppliers to Asia’s third-largest economy.
A sharp and snappy video by The Quint asks how Yati Narsinghanand calls for violence, incites people to kill but is never called out for terrorism? Are people in power scared of him, or do they have his back?
Three days after alleged attacks on reporters in a hate assembly in the national capital, journalists across platforms assembled yesterday in the Press Club of India to express shock at the event attended by Yati Narsinghanand and Sudarshan TV editor-in-chief Suresh Chavanke, notorious for their hate speeches. Excoriating the Delhi Police, Hartosh Singh Bal, Political Editor, The Caravan, said that the assault in the Burari ground is a grim reminder of another assault on his colleagues when they were talking to riot victims in Northeast Delhi.
Only 177 civilians and 406 security personnel were killed in Jammu and Kashmir between May 2014 and August 4, 2019, while 87 civilians and 99 security personnel were killed in less than half that period, from August 5, 2019 to November 2021, after the abrogation of Article 370, the government told Parliament.
A bill more regressive than the colonial parent law ― the Criminal Procedures (Identification) Bill, 2022 ― is now cleared by both Houses of Parliament. Home Minister Amit Shah says it would help increase conviction rates. Shah also told the Rajya Sabha: “Data would be protected and shared through secure mechanism so that people's privacy is not risked.”
The Department of Military Affairs has finalised a proposal for future recruitment based on tour of duty. The Army will test it, recruiting soldiers for a fixed period of three years. The concept would reduce the burden of pay rises and pensions in the force, which is nearly 13 lakh strong.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin has written to the PM to withdraw the “regressive and undesirable step” of hurriedly introducing central examinations for admissions to central universities (CUET). He has said that CUET, based on the NCERT syllabus, will “sideline our diverse school education systems, favour mushrooming of coaching centres and place students from our state in a disadvantageous position.”
A Business Standard analysis shows that fund utilisation for the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin programme has fallen by three-fourths in the last two years. In 2019-20, the government was able to utilise 82.5% of allocated funds, but a Parliamentary Standing Committee report shows that in 2021-22, only 21% was utilised until January. Last year, utilisation was 49.5% of Budget Estimates. It had declined even before the pandemic.
In a jolt to the BJP, the National Conference (NC) retained power in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) in Kargil, despite the saffron party exiting the alliance and withdrawing crucial support. In fact, the NC won over a BJP councillor. The BJP had faced severe criticism for supporting the NC in the LAHDC while calling it part of the “Gupkar gang” in Kashmir. In Kargil, the BJP enjoyed power in an alliance with the NC.
The Delhi High Court has quashed an office memorandum issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, absurdly requiring Supreme Court and High Court judges to get political clearance for private foreign travel.
“There is no report of deaths due to manual scavenging. However, 161 persons have died due to accidents while undertaking hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks during the last three years,” the government told the Lok Sabha yesterday.
Ambani or Adani ― who will be the richest? Having massively enriched themselves while the rest of India tumbled into poverty before and after the pandemic, it is a close race, says qz.com, between these favourite oligarchs from Gujarat.
Sahitya Akademi awardee Amar Mitra has won the O Henry Prize, America’s oldest and most coveted prize for short fiction, for his story The Old Man of Kusumpur (Gaonburo in the original Bangla), written in 1977 and translated in 1990. It shows how long it can take work in Indian languages to reach readers overseas. On the other hand, Geetanjali Shree’s Ret Samadhi, translated into the English Tomb of Sand by Daisy Rockwell, has made it to the Booker shortlist.
It is 200 years since the cauliflower travelled to India. Scroll.in reports that it was “first repudiated as an exotic vegetable,” but has come a long way since ― all the way to gobi Manchurian.