EWS Quota a Stupefying Inversion of Idea of Equality; Advantage BJP: Electoral Bonds Sale Extended in Assembly Poll Years
Justice Srikrishna reminds data privacy a fundamental right, ‘love jihad’ & hijab judges in Law Commission, backers of 11 unicorns to dump shares, Yogi administers bitter pill to Ayodhya sweet-sellers
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
November 8, 2022
The Union government has amended the electoral bonds scheme to allow the opaque bonds to be sold for an additional 15 days in a year in which Assembly elections are held. The BJP gets the lion’s share of these bonds, sometimes in excess of 96%. It is not clear if the Reserve Bank of India has been consulted. RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd.) said that the government’s decision is “shocking”, since the Supreme Court will hear pleas against the constitutionality of the bonds on December 6.
“Headline labour market metrics deteriorated in October 2022 with the labour participation rate falling from 39.3% in September to 39% and the unemployment rate rising from a low of 6.4% to 7.8%. The employment rate fell from 36.8% to 36%. Employment fell by 7.8 million,” informs Mahesh Vyas of CMIE. “Salaried jobs declined from 86 million in September 2022 to 84.7 million in October. …While the current salaried jobs at 85-86 million have crossed the levels seen just before the lockdowns, they need to rise further to come closer to 90 million to be considered as fully recovered.” He adds that “the pain of the significant loss of jobs — a massive 11.8 million among daily wage labourers and small traders in the last two months — needs attention as well. These are predominantly in rural India.”
After the news that eight former Navy officers have been detained by Qatar for nearly two months, it has come to light that 16 Indian sailors are in detention in Equatorial Guinea. In a letter to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Rajya Sabha MP AA Rahim said the crew of MT Heroic Idun, including the Indians, had been in detention since mid-August. On Twitter, he requested Jaishankar to “urgently intervene”. The Indian embassy there said thereafter that it has been in regular telephonic contact with the crew.
India joined Pakistan and nine other countries for a “search and rescue” exercise planned within the International Fleet Review (IFR) off the coast of Japan over the weekend. Japan had invited Pakistan and China but the latter abstained. A day later, China joined the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) in Yokohama, where India is an ‘observer’.
Retired Karnataka High Court chief justice Rituraj Awasthi has been appointed Law Commission chairperson. The Centre has also appointed Justice KT Sankaran, formerly of the Kerala High Court, Prof Anand Paliwal, Prof DP Verma, Prof Raka Arya and M Karunanithi as members of the Commission. The Law Commission of India was headless since August 31, 2018. Justice Awasthi was a judge of the Allahabad High Court and retired on July 3 as Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court. He had presided over the Full Bench of the High Court which upheld the ban on wearing hijab by Muslim girls in government colleges in Karnataka. Justice Sankaran was a judge of the Kerala High Court from February 2005 to December 2016. In 2009, he had detected ‘love jihad’. Later, another bench of the High Court found no evidence for it.
Yashwant Shinde, a former RSS pracharak seeking impleadment as a witness in the Nanded blast case of 2006, has claimed that he witnessed a conspiracy by Hindu fundamentalist groups that led to bomb blasts across the country in the mid-2000s. Shinde claims that VHP Secretary General Milind Parande was the mastermind and had organised the training in bomb-making which he had attended. The CBI and the lawyer of the accused, in a written submission, had opposed Shinde’s application to be added as a witness at the previous hearing. Now, The Caravan reports that the judge told the accused and the defendants on November 4 that the matter would go to a colleague, who would hear it on December 13.
Australia-based sociologist Dr Salvatore Babones, who said “India’s intellectual class is anti-India” during a discussion at the India Today Conclave in Mumbai on Saturday, is registered as a “foreign agent” with the US Department of Justice and the Australian government, for working with an Indian media company based in Noida. Babones confirmed that he “briefly worked” with Democracy News Live in 2020 and was paid USD 4,000. According to its website, the company works on issues using journalism as an instrument to create awareness and influence policymakers.
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The Telegraph reports that Delhi has asked its security agencies to identify and crack down on “urban” Maoists in the cities, NGOs and civil rights bodies overground which allegedly support an armed struggle in the jungles. On October 28, PM Modi’s statement about the need to uproot “Naxalism”, whether “the ones with guns or the ones with pens”, had raised concerns. “Urban Naxal” is a right-wing propaganda coinage. (See Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay’s oped below for parallels with McCarthyism in the US.)
Chinese engineers could soon begin work on a $1 billion project to revive the Teesta river in Bangladesh, after water-sharing talks with India stalled, casting doubt on food security goals. Bangladeshi officials have long complained that water levels have dropped as a result of Indian irrigation projects upstream, including the Gajoldoba barrage and the Teesta barrage. China’s ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming visited the river last month. The Power Construction Corporation of China (Power China) is inspecting the work area.
Defence indigenization “is a tough nut to crack”, Sushant Singh explains in The Morning Context, and has been made tougher by a government hell-bent on overhyping its atmanirbharta aims and achievements. He outlines the contours of a confused policy and its often detrimental effect on defence preparedness.
The Supreme Court has come down heavily on the Ranchi High Court for saying that petitions against Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren were maintainable. The top court has struck down the order and granted relief to Soren. Jharkhand has a maverick governor appointed by the BJP, who is mum on the decision of the Election Commission on complaints against Soren, fuelling uncertainty. The EC has received no further communication from the Jharkhand governor in the office-of-profit case against CM Soren, reports The Hindu.
Within a day of Azam Khan’s conviction in a hate speech case, his Rampur seat was declared to be ‘vacant’. The Supreme Court has asked the UP government to clarify by tomorrow why the Assembly Secretariat acted in such haste and Khan was not given time to appeal. On November 5, the Election Commission also issued a notification for a repoll in Rampur.
Justice BN Srikrishna, who headed the government-appointed committee on personal data formed after the Supreme Court found privacy to be a fundamental right in 2017, spoke to Article-14.com about the seizure of data devices of editors of The Wire: “Under the CrPC, the police need to obtain a warrant to enter your house or arrest you. The same principle should apply if they’re dealing with data, because data privacy is also a fundamental right under Article 21. It is as sacrosanct as one’s right to life and liberty, both of which are protected under Article 21. Therefore, data privacy cannot be taken away, unless there is a valid law passed by the appropriate legislatures. First, such a law must be passed by the legislature, no executive action can abridge this fundamental right. Secondly, the law must declare why it wants to infringe on the fundamental right under Article 21… Finally, they will have to demonstrate that it was required to be done and could not be done by a different method. You want to kill a mosquito, you would use a swatter, not a howitzer. This is known as the doctrine of proportionality, which has to be maintained.” Salil Tripathi writes that the police raid on the staff of The Wire for getting a story critical of a BJP figure wrong is an ominous development.
The Gandhi Peace Foundation has announced the award of its prestigious Kuldip Nayar Patrakarita Samman for 2022 to The Wire’s senior editor Arfa Khanum Sherwani.
Two male cheetahs brought from Namibia to the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh made their first kill within 24 hours of their release from a quarantine area to a larger acclimatisation enclosure, hunting down a cheetal (spotted deer). This was their first prey since their translocation from Namibia in mid-September along with six other cheetahs. The cheetahs ― Freddie and Alton ― were the first to be released into the larger enclosure on Saturday, after quarantine since September 17.
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