Blocked By India For 15 Years, Dalit NGO Gets UN Accreditation; Poll Paradox: BJP’s Bugbear AAP Helped it Secure Record Gujarat Victory
Covert phone tapping illegal, 12% stolen data is Indian, no Census before general election, PM’s costliest foreign trip was for Howdy Modi, UK English tests ‘barking mad’, women 6% angrier than men
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
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Snapshot of the day
December 9, 2022
“BJP rule has been much less successful at improving Indians’ poor health and woeful education. Child mortality rates are falling, but patchily. More than a third of children under five are stunted, a higher rate than in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In 2018, around half of all rural children in fifth grade could not read to second grade levels. And after two years of school closures during the pandemic, the situation is unlikely to have improved,” reports The Economist. “These failures, again, reflect the BJP’s choices… A lot of the answer is its Hindu chauvinism. In Gujarat, UP and elsewhere, the BJP has successfully presented itself as a defender of high-caste Hindus, while mollifying the populous lower castes with hate speech against Muslims and just enough welfare.”
For the final poll results, go to the Election Commission website, for Gujarat and for Himachal Pradesh. For the by-elections, here are the details. The late Mulayam Singh Yadav’s MP seat, Mainpuri, was won by ex-MP Dimple Yadav of the Samajwadi Party by over two lakh votes ― that’s 64.08%.
The details of expenditure on PM Modi’s foreign visits in the last five years have been given in Parliament papers. The costliest visit was to the US in September 2019 (for Howdy Modi) at Rs 23,27,09,000, followed by one to Brazil in November 2019 at Rs 20,01,61,000 and to Argentina in Nov 2018 at Rs 15,59,83,000. The cheapest visit was to Japan in Sept 2022 at Rs 23,86,536.
The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has voted to grant special consultative status to nine NGOs, including one that advocates Dalit human rights. The NGOs include International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), whose accreditation had been blocked by India for 15 years. ECOSOC voted on a US draft resolution despite last-minute attempts by China, Russia and India to block the NGOs’ accreditation. The resolution was adopted by 24 in favour, 17 against and 12 abstentions.
Not just in Manipal, Muslim students across India are deluged by hate in the classroom. Scroll reports that Muslims students say they face it from peers and, even more troublingly, from teachers.
Credit Suisse’s 13th edition of its Global Wealth Report shows that wealth inequalities remain high. India has the most concentration of wealth (46%) in the top 1%, in the world, after Russia and Brazil.
The Supreme Court has not taken kindly to comments on the Collegium by government functionaries. “You have to advise them,” it told the Attorney General yesterday. As Bar & Bench reported, the Supreme Court responded to the Vice President and said that as per the Constitution, Parliament has the right to enact laws but the court has the power to scrutinise them. In a sign that the government does not want to look aggressive, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju responded to a query in Parliament: “There is no proposal to reintroduce the National Judicial Appointments Commission with suitable modifications.”
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance has come down heavily on the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) for delay in the release of the 7th Economic Census data that captures the geographical spread of economic activities, ownership patterns, and people engaged in establishments, before the data becomes infructuous. The Economic Census was conducted in 2019.
The Modi government is unlikely to conduct the decadal Census – originally slated for 2021 – before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, reports Business Standard. “No preparation has begun to conduct the Census. Fieldwork started in April 2020 — eight to nine months beforehand. There is little time left to conduct the Census in April 2023. If the Census is not done next year, it is unlikely to be conducted in 2024 because it will clash with the schedule for the general elections,” a government official told the newspaper.
The Delhi High Court yesterday observed that tapping phone lines or recording calls of individuals without their consent is “breach of privacy” . Justice Jasmeet Singh said that the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution is violated: “Only with the consent of the individuals concerned, can such activity be carried out, otherwise it will amount to breach of the fundamental right to privacy.” Justice Singh cited the Supreme Court’s judgement in KS Puttaswamy v Union Of India to say that right to privacy is inalienable and attached to every individual as a precondition for being able to exercise their freedom. The observations were made in the order granting bail to former Mumbai Police chief Sanjay Pandey in a money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate.
TMC spokesperson Saket Gokhale was granted regular bail by a Gujarat Magistrate’s Court yesterday evening. He has been rearrested at night and taken to an unknown destination, say his party colleagues. He was originally arrested after a complaint against his tweets about the Morbi bridge collapse. The second case was filed under the Representation of People Act by an official acting on behalf of the Election Commission
Over 1.76 crore cases were disposed of till September this year by district and subordinate courts across the country, the Law Ministry revealed in Parliament.
The Election Commission has informed TRS President K Chandrasekhar Rao that it has accepted the name change of his party from Telangana Rashtra Samithi to Bharat Rashtra Samithi.
South Asia-born Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani, a former executive of the controversial US health technology company Theranos and a close associate of Elizabeth Holmes, has been sentenced to 12 years and 11 months in federal prison for fraud. The US Attorney’s Office said Balwani risked patient health by misrepresenting the accuracy of Theranos blood analysis technology and defrauded Theranos investors of millions.
Britain’s English language test is dashing the hopes of nurses from India and other countries. One former hospital chairman has described the situation as ‘barking mad’, adding that it smacks of racism.
Women are 6% more angry than men across the world. In India they are 12% more angry, as per a Gallup/BBC survey between 2012 and 2021. Psychiatrist Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar told the BBC that she believes this is the result of tensions that have emerged as more women have become educated, employed and economically independent. “At the same time, they are tethered down by archaic, patriarchal systems and culture,” she says. “The dissonance between a patriarchal system at home and an emancipated woman outside of home causes a lot of anger.”
BJP’s 2018 victory in Tikamgarh annulled by court
The Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court declared the election of Rahul Singh Lodhi, BJP MLA from Tikamgarh’s Kharagpur constituency, “null and void”. Hearing the petition of Chanda Singh Gour, the Congress runner-up, the bench of Justice Nandita Dubey ordered that all his MLA benefits should be stopped immediately. The HC, which ordered the verdict to be sent to the state and Union election commissions, has ordered “strict action” against returning officer Vandana Rajput for “favouring” Lodhi, and barred her from poll work. Rajput was sub-divisional magistrate in Tikamgarh. The nephew of former Union Minister Uma Bharti, Rahul Lodhi won the 2018 Assembly election from Kharagpur with a margin of over 11,000 votes. He defeated sitting Congress MLA Chandra Singh Gour, who became MLA in 2013 by defeating Lodhi with a margin of 5,000 votes.
Bommai hasn’t kept promise of freeing temples
In December 2021, at the BJP’s state executive meeting, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had dramatically announced that he would “free temples from government control”. Giving autonomy to temples has been a pet project of the right for long, and also featured in the BJP’ 2018 Karnataka manifesto. But a year later, this Sangh parivar dream remains just that.
Karnataka has 1,80,000 temples, of which only 35,500 are under the Muzrai Department. But contrary to right-wing propaganda, the funds collected from these temples are not used to fund any minority organisation. A small percentage goes in the common pool to pay for the maintenance of smaller temples that don’t make enough money. The state government also gives funds from taxes for the development and maintenance of Hindu temples.
12% of stolen data of Indian origin
Around 5 million people globally have had their data stolen and sold on the bot market (where data is regularly refreshed) until now, of which 600,000 are from India, making it the worst-affected country, according to a study by NordVPN. At least 12% of all unique user data found in cybercrime marketplaces belonged to Indians. Personally identifiable user information — including passwords, financial information and even cookies — can be bought for under Rs 500.
The report covers databases that are actively updating user data, not dumps of old data. The latter, though more common, is less reliable. For instance, on December 2, a report by homegrown cybersecurity firm Cloudsek disclosed personal and health data of 1.5 lakh users from a Tamil Nadu hospital being sold. The data, which was from a database up to 15 years old, was being sold for around Rs 8,000 on a popular data marketplace.
Indian peers help H-1B workers facing layoffs
In the past couple of months, firms like Meta, Twitter and Amazon have shed thousands of staff amid growing concerns about an economic downturn. Among those impacted are Indians working on H-1B visas, who must find employment within 60 days or leave the US. Fellow tech employees in the US familiar with H-1B anxieties are rallying to help their peers find jobs before they are forced to leave. They are sending encouraging messages, flagging job openings and tapping into personal networks to bring immigration lawyers, recruiters and job seekers onto common platforms.
The Long Cable
Poll paradox: BJP’s bugbear AAP helped it’s big win Gujarat
A fascinating paradox marks the relationship between the BJP and AAP, if the Gujarat election results are any indication. Throughout the campaign, BJP leaders kept belittling AAP and claimed that the main fight was between the BJP and Congress. In a way, this was true, if only because no one doubted it. No one even entertained the thought that AAP would emerge as number two in terms of either vote share or seats. Yet Amit Shah kept insisting in many interviews that the fight was only between BJP and Congress.
Why is AAP such a bugbear for the BJP? So much so that Amit Shah even decided to raise the Delhi municipal elections to a high-stakes fight, sending cabinet ministers and state CMs to campaign against AAP.
BJP’s main fear in Gujarat was that AAP would get a vote share of 15-20% and emerge as a national contender. AAP did manage 13%, though not the 20% that some credible pre-poll surveys had predicted, but enough for it to now be designated a national party. Arvind Kejriwal himself reacted to the exit polls and expressed satisfaction that AAP would have a sizable vote share and emerge as a national party. One could argue that AAP met its twin objectives of wresting the Delhi municipal body from the BJP and opening a reasonably good account in Gujarat. Indeed, AAP could be seen as a big net gainer from the current round of elections. While AAP remains the BJP’s bugbear, it has also helped the ruling party achieve an unprecedented election victory in Gujarat. This is the paradox that makes the relationship between the BJP and AAP so interesting.
Modi and Amit Shah have done everything possible in the past few months to see that AAP’s Gujarat foray is disrupted. Yet it is AAP’s 20% vote share in Saurashtra, a Congress stronghold, that helped BJP do so well in that region by splitting the Opposition vote to secure the bulk of extra seats there. Besides Modi’s campaigning, the Opposition vote split has played a significant role in the BJP reaching an all-time high of 156 seats, the highest ever secured by any party in Gujarat.
Congress had got 41% of the votes in the 2017 Gujarat elections, but it lost 14 percentage points this time and came down to a 27% vote share while ceding 13% to AAP. The BJP, on the other hand, improved its tally from 49% in 2017 to 52% now. The BJP gained 3% in vote share but got over 55 additional seats as compared to 2017 – a 57% increase in seats. This big increment could not have happened without AAP taking away a large chunk of Congress votes, especially in Saurashtra. AAP took most of its vote from the Congress, as its better performance in Saurashtra and rural Gujarat indicates.
So the contradiction continues to stare at us ― Modi and Amit Shah did everything to stop AAP in its tracks in Gujarat, and yet the BJP was partially benefited by AAP to score their best-ever tally in Gujarat. Indeed, in spite of being hounded by the BJP, AAP has actually aided Modi’s broader objective of making some states Congress-mukt. AAP has done this in Delhi, and now helped reduce Congress to its lowest vote share ever in Gujarat.
The Congress seems to enjoy the sight of the Modi government going after AAP leaders, but what it does not realise is that Kejriwal uses the victimhood card brilliantly to expand AAP’s footprint. Its high-profile Delhi municipal election victory and decent vote share in Gujarat may prompt the Modi establishment to go after the AAP leadership even harder. This would enable Kejriwal to make further forays as a victim in the Assembly elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh next year. It could be largely at the expense of Congress again. In both states, the BJP and Congress have always had a direct fight. AAP could emerge as a spoiler, as experienced in Gujarat. The Congress needs to think hard to counter this possibility.
Recent incidents of firing on the Assam-Meghalaya border have highlighted the five-decade-old border issue between the two northeastern states. But it has also revived the demand for a separate cadre for Meghalaya. On a recent visit to Delhi, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma pressed PM Modi and Amit Shah for bifurcation of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre for IAS and IPS officers. The Ministry of Home Affairs does not favour creating a separate cadre for Meghalaya, because there aren’t enough officers there. Officially, of course, it was made known that Modi and Shah have assured Sangma that they’ll think about it. However, as tempers run high between Meghalaya and Assam over the border issue, the longer the Centre avoids dealing squarely with the conflict the more complex the situation will become, which does not bode well for the Northeast. Administrative convenience is no match for ethnic rivalries and local sentiments.
Prime Number: 979,327 vacancies
The government informed the Lok Sabha that there are 979,327 vacancies in the central government for different posts and departments. “As per Annual Report of Department of Expenditure, the number of vacant posts under various Ministries/ Departments of the Central Government, as on 01.03.2021, in Group A, B and C are 23,584, 1,18,807 and 8,36,936, respectively,” said the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions.
Chipko@50: Uttarakhand villagers describe how life has changed, 50 years after the birth of India’s most famous environmental movement. Climate disasters and restrictions on forest access are forcing residents of Raini village in Uttarakhand to leave the land where Chipko started.
Op Eds you don’t want to miss
Manu Pillai says that “the richness of being Indian is that we have multiple identities. Having an overarching identity is fine, but it would be sad if this were pushed at the cost of everything else, as if it is the only thing that matters.”
YSR Murthy writes that we need to introspect as the success of our constitutional democracy depends entirely on the people, and the political parties we establish as our instruments.
Sankarshan Thakur says Asatyamev Jayate: “There’s profit to be made from letting off rapists and murderers, the kind of profit that will far outweigh the derelictions of, say, a killer bridge collapse.”
Ibrar writes that Bengali Muslims are invisibilised in their own land. BJP’s Paresh Rawal’s “not-so-subtle slight at Bengali Muslim migrants in Gujarat planted a target on their back.”
Sanjay Kumar writes that ever since AAP made its intent clear on Gujarat with an energetic early campaign, there was a sense that the BJP was headed for a very big victory in the state: it was “pure electoral mathematics.”
Devendra Sharma writes that for the common man in Himachal Pradesh, being rooted as a ‘Himachali’ as a way to resolving a number of local issues was prime, which shaped the Congress victory.
The absence of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, coupled with a legal vacuum regarding data protection, provides a fertile ground for malicious actors of all kinds, writes Lokendra Sharma.
Sunanda K Datta Ray writes that Modi may find “a less grandiose perception of the G-20 presidency ultimately more rewarding.”
Chandrakant Lahariya writes that given the surge in measles cases, it’s time to step up jabs for all.
An excerpt from the Introduction of Karbala: A Historical Play by Premchand (translated from the Hindi by Nishat Zaidi). Premchand wrote a play about Islamic history to highlight communal tensions in 1900s India.
Kumkum Dasgupta writes that the Roxburgh Project envisages restoring and sustainably rehabilitating an ensemble of heritage buildings in the 273-acre Botanical Gardens in Kolkata and utilise the historic gardens as a lab for climate crisis awareness and environmental education.
The concluding episode on the British Raj in India, Empire, by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand.
Rana Ayyub received the Washington DC-based National Press Club’s highest Press Freedom honour — The Aubuchon Award — “and gave the room a sense of what it is like to be a journalist in India in 2022.”
Over and Out
Filmmaker Don Palathara lists what not to miss at the International Film Festival of Kerala, where films from across the world are being screened simultaneously on 14 screens in Thiruvananthapuram, from today to the 16th.
Making sense of the football fever in Kerala has made it to New Lines Magazine. The New York Times analyses the “fiercely loyal” Argentina and Brazil fan following.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.