Crooks Exploiting Aadhar Vulnerabilities, Which Its Makers Knew About; PV Satheesh, Millet Man and Much More, RIP
Kisan mahapanchayat in Delhi, Culture Ministry shies away from arts funding, SA group against cheetahs for India, OFBJP Australia man faces trial for serial rape, Amritpal Singh plays ‘chor-police’
A newsletter from The Wire | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia and Sushant Singh | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
March 20, 2022
On Sunday, during a protest outside the Indian High Commission in London against the crackdown on Waaris Punjab De in India, militant Khalistani activists pulled down the Indian flag, according to PTI. The Ministry of External Affairs has raised security concerns and summoned the UK deputy high commissioner. High Commissioner Alex Ellis, who is currently away from the capital, has condemned the “disgraceful” act and called it “totally unacceptable”. No explanation of how the security breach took place.
As Sikh hardliner Amritpal Singh is still at large, Haryana Police have stepped up border checks, say reports. The day after Punjab Police launched a manhunt, Jalandhar Police chief Kuldeep Chahal said it’s a game of “chor-police”. In a media briefing, Chahal denied that there was any mishandling of the situation: “We arrested most of his supporters. Somehow, he managed to escape. We will arrest Amritpal Singh soon. Our main motive right now is to maintain law and order.” While the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab has extended the internet shutdown for another day till 12 pm on Monday, the situation on the ground appears fluid, and four of those arrested under the National Security Act have been temporarily externed to Dibrugarh Assam.
Balesh Dhankhar, one of the founders of the Australia wing of the ‘Overseas Friends of BJP’, and a key facilitator of PM Modi’s visit to Sydney in 2014, awaits trial on charges of drugging and raping five women after luring them with fake advertisements for translation services. Dhankhar has been accused of 13 charges of rape, six of administering an intoxicating substance (sleeping pills and a date rape drug), 17 of recording intimate videos without consent and three of indecent assault. As per various media reports, he has often bragged about having access to Prime Minister Modi on social media and is also mentioned on the official website of the global organisation professing support for BJP.
“Is it due to my asking questions about Adani,” asked Rahul Gandhi, while answering the questions of the Delhi police. He gave a 10-point reply hours after a Delhi Police team knocked his door for the third time in five days wanting details of a sexual assault case in the Capital which he had said the survivor did not want to report to the police. He also sought eight to 10 days to provide a detailed response, sources said.
Muting microphones in the Houses of Parliament, so that Opposition MPs are inaudible and their words don’t go on the record shows the presiding officers in a harsh light. By appointing personal staff to Rajya Sabha panels, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar is is undoing the efforts of the freedom Struggle, writes PDT Achary. Also, is Dhankhar prying on House committees?
The cartoonist Satish Acharya has the last word.
Late last night, the National Stock Exchange issued a three-page statement to assert that its surveillance actions on individual stocks and decisions to include or exclude stocks in various Nifty indices are driven by “transparent” policies and rules without “human discretion”. Responding to the Opposition’s charges, the statement comes two days after the exchange removed three Adani group stocks, including its flagship Adani Enterprises, from its short-term additional surveillance framework. Stocks are put under the additional surveillance framework to safeguard investors amid high volatility. The NSE statement also sought to defend its subsidiary NSE Indices’ decisions and said there was “no human discretion in deciding on inclusion or exclusion of stocks in any of if (sic) its indices”. Last month, the subsidiary had announced the addition of five Adani group firms into 14 of its indices, effective March 30, while retaining Adani Enterprises and Adani Ports and SEZ in its flagship Nifty 50 index.
Reports say that the Adani Group has suspended work on a Rs 34,900 crore petrochemical project at Mundra in Gujarat “as it focuses on resources to consolidate operations and address investor concerns following a damning report” by Hindenburg Research.
Indian HNI investment agency IIFL Wealth Management is trying to have a case filed against it in London, thrown out. It is accused of contributing to the scandal at payment solution provider Wirecard of Munich in 2020. It is alleged that in 2015, IIFL co-founder Amit Shah organised the sale of an Indian company, Hermes, which was resold to Wirecard at a heavily inflated price.
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With global crude oil prices slipping below $75 per barrel last week, Indian oil marketing companies are making a proﬁt of Rs 11.1 per litre on diesel and Rs 8.7 per litre on petrol, but consumers hoping for a price cut amid high inﬂation will be disappointed. Analysts believe OMCs will need two or three quarters of such proﬁts to recoup losses incurred through 2022 as they had frozen retail prices since May 2022.
There are signs of a slowdown in India’s passenger vehicle market, which has about 700,000 open bookings. Dealers admit that buyer interest has been muted since January, and that 2023-24 (FY24) will see a sharp slowdown in growth after after a spurt in the current financial year (2022-23, or FY23).
Vulnerabilities in Aadhaar are being exploited by crooks, the Times of India reports. Police investigations into recent cases, including a bank fraud, revealed weaknesses. For instance, the Unique Identification Authority of India system was not matching facial biometrics while generating IDs. The Aadhaar system cannot differentiate between a silicone fingerprint and a live fingerprint, and criminals have used silicone prints of pliant authorised agents, cops said. Similarly, iris scans can be fooled by colour printouts. Analysts like V Anand say these are serious systemic flaws, which UIDAI knew about all along.
China continues to build border infrastructure in overdrive and has not reduced troops along the LAC, said Indian Army Chief Manoj Pande. He also said that the situation is stable but needs to be watched closely at all times.
A letter written in February by a prominent South African animal rights group to the South African government has come to light, asking the government to not export South African cheetahs to India. Environmental lawyers for the EMS Foundation sent an urgent communication to Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy. “The communication raised concerns about the proposed project to remove 120 wild cheetahs over a 10-year period from South Africa and export them to India.”
The Financial Times reports that in India, “dogged unemployment poses an election challenge as youth are stuck in menial labour that does not match skills.” The Hindu Business Line probes if economic distress is linked to rising suicides.
Women own a little over a third of deposit accounts but only a fifth of the deposit amount in scheduled commercial banks, says a report by the Statistics Ministry. Also, only one of four bank employees are women. The report noted that not even one-fourth of the female population holds managerial positions across organisations. Also, their share in unpaid work is much higher.
The government has paid claims in just 5,036 hit and run cases since 2017-18, reports The Times of India. This is only 6% of the people killed or injured on the road. Nearly 80,000 die or are injured in road accidents annually.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud has said that a committee will soon be coming out with a legal glossary of inappropriate gender usage, to serve as a guide for lawyers, judges and petitioners.
Right to Food campaigners are mourning PV Satheesh, the original ‘Millets Man’, “a doyen in the field of millets in India. Deccan Development Society pioneered the reintroduction of millets in public programs. A mentor for many of us working on the right to food, Satheesh worked relentlessly till the end.”
Article 14 reports on how Indian media mainstreamed ‘Land Jihad’ propaganda and enabled far-right conspiracy theories. The comprehensive report reveals that Hindi mainstream media, in particular, drove hate narratives — the new normal in our times.
In a new development, the #MeToo movement has reached India’s conservation groups. A thread by Bahar Dutt, a veteran journalist in the field, lists the horrific instances faced by women working in the sector.