GST Slab Hikes Proposed; Apple Lawsuit Body Blow To Pegasus

China holds more Himalayan battle drills, 26 legislations to be tabled, India feared Pak breakup in ’71, BCCI prescribes meat curbs for cricketers, Manish Tewari feels kinetic about Mumbai attacks

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 24, 2021    

Pratik Kanjilal

In another blow to state cybersurveillance, Apple has sued the NSO Group of Israel in US federal court. Apple wants to permanently prevent NSO from using its products, which would destroy the company’s core business ― give governments full access to a target’s smartphone through Pegasus spyware. NSO documents leaked to the New York Times in 2016 showed that it charged governments $650,000 to spy on 10 iPhone users — along with a setup fee of half a million. 

A network of fake ‘Sikh’ social media profiles, promoting divisive narratives about the Indian government, nationalism and terrorism, has been exposed by the non-profit Centre for Information Resilience. The BBC reports that 80 accounts have been suspended. The influence operation used accounts across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote Hindu nationalism and pro-government narratives and sought to delegitimise the farmers’ protests, claiming they had been hijacked by “Khalistani terrorists”. Well before this, the Indian government itself had claimed that the protests were “infiltrated by Khalistanis”.

In an editorial titled ‘Narendra Modi is humbled by India’s farmers’ the Financial Times says  that “the episode highlights once again the pitfalls of the premier’s hard-driving, strongman approach.” It adds, “Effective as he may be as an election winner, the premier has shown again that he is much less adept at day-to-day governance and policymaking.”

Confusion in the ranks of the BJP and its supporters over the promise to repeal the farm laws is growing. At first, prominent leaders said they would be back. Now, BJP general secretary Dushyant Gautam says “the way things were going at farmers’ protest sites” and “the atmosphere that was being created influenced the PM’s decision.”

The arrest of human rights activist Khurram Pervez continues to cause outrage, undermining the government’s talk about democracy in fora overseas and putting the spotlight on the volatile situation in Kashmir. Criticism of the national government is being erased from Kashmiri news websites, under pressure from New Delhi.

More ominous signals from China. State-owned TV showed infantry from the Xinjiang military district, part of Western Theatre Command, conducting precision strike drills at 17,000 feet in the Karakoram mountains, reports South China Morning Post. This is the latest of a series of high-altitude battle capability drills carried out by the PLA near the border after disengagement talks faltered last month.

The GST Fitment Committee has proposed raising the tax slab of 5% to 7% and of 18% to 20%, reports CNBC TV18. GST on gold and silver may be hiked to 5% from 3%. To be discussed by a committee on Saturday, the proposal is making some states uncomfortable. Indirect taxes are unfair as the burden is borne disproportionately by the poor and offset tax benefits given to big corporates.

Two doses of Covaxin is 50% effective against symptomatic disease, according to the first real-world assessment of India’s indigenous vaccine published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. An interim study recently published in The Lancet showed that two doses of Covaxin or BBV152, had 77.8% efficacy against symptomatic disease and present no serious safety concerns. 

In a bizarre order, Allahabad High Court has concluded that oral sex with a child is “less serious”, and reduced a sentence by three years, saying that oral sex attracts a lower penalty under POCSO. Read why this is so wrong.

Four Muslim clerics charged under UAPA have secured bail in Tripura. They had been detained since November 4, when they were visiting people affected by communal violence last month.

IPS officer Param Bir Singh’s lawyer Abhinav Chandrachud told an inquiry commission yesterday that his client’s corruption allegations against former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh were based on “hearsay” and his deposition would have “no value”.

Nearly 20,000 years ago, a Himalayan glacier “abruptly” changed course and over time fused with an adjacent glacier in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand. This is the first time that such a turn in a Himalayan glacier’s course has been recorded, possibly owing to climate change and tectonic movements.

In Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa district, a labourer’s hand was cut off by his employer when he demanded his wages on Sunday. The arrears are reported to be Rs 9,000. The victim, in a critical condition, belongs to a Scheduled Caste construction worker in Dolmau village.

Data on the eSHRAM portal shows that 95% of domestic workers earn less than Rs 10,000 per month. They are mostly women, Scheduled Castes and other backward classes.

Priya Ramani profiles Swaiman Singh, the New Jersey cardiologist and president of the 5 Rivers Heart Association, who came to India in early December 2020 on a short trip to offer medical assistance to a family friend at the farmers’ protests, but stayed put for a year to run a free clinic at the Tikri border, largely self-financed.

BCCI has recommended only ‘halal’ meat for the Indian cricketers during their stay in Kanpur for the series-opening Test against New Zealand. The catering and menu document, reports PTI, has categorically disbarred pork and beef products, though they have never featured due to health restrictions. And where does the leather for the official cricket ball come from, anyway?

This post is for paid subscribers