Har Ghar Tiranga Giant Citizen Data Harvesting Scheme; It’s Not Politics, It’s The Marketplace, Stupid
Punjab traders turn MSP from floor price to ceiling price, after disengagement, India has lost territory, citizens warn of IT raids & draft Bill against honour crimes, Adani second in Forbes rich list
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
September 16, 2022
This afternoon, Gautam Adani pulled ahead of Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton Chairman Bernard Arnault to reach second place in the Forbes Real Time Billionaires’ List. Only Elon Musk now stands between him and world domination.
On a more serious note, China has overtaken the US to return as India’s largest trade partner with $11.49 billion in trade in July, Commerce Ministry data showed, underscoring India’s growing reliance on its difficult neighbour. India-US trade was $11.08 billion in July, amid a demand slowdown and recession fears. The growth in trade with China owes to a surge in imports and near-flat growth in exports to the US during the month. The Commerce Ministry had earlier contested Beijing’s claim that it was India’s largest trading partner in 2021-22. Meanwhile, the trade gap with China has widened to nearly $9 billion, a third of the total deficit in July, with exports contracting 44% to $1.26 billion. Exports declined every month.
India will not provide fresh financial support to Sri Lanka on top of the $3.8 billion it has extended this year, says Reuters, as the island’s economic crisis, the worst in 70 years, starts to stabilise after a preliminary loan agreement with the IMF. India has been the biggest provider of aid this year but was vindictive, it would seem to Sri Lanka, after they did not honour India’s concern about a Chinese ship in its port. India issued an adverse tourist advisory which hurt its neighbour, then reprimanded it for not keeping its commitment to looking after minorities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and PM Narendra Modi will meet on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Uzbekistan this week and discuss strategic stability, the Asia-Pacific and bilateral cooperation within the UN and G20, the Kremlin has announced.
“The early tolerance for India’s position, along with its insistence that it would take time to unwind its deep security relationship with Russia, is beginning to run into greater resistance as the US and its allies ramp up efforts to impose a cap on the price for Russian oil to cut Putin’s income,” reports Bloomberg. “India also angered Japan by recently joining the Russia-led Vostok-2022 military exercises.” India kept out of naval drills near the historically disputed Kuril Islands out of deference to Japan, but an unnamed Japanese official asked if India would be comfortable if Japanese troops had participated in drills with Pakistan and merely “skipped exercises in the disputed region of Kashmir”.
Analysing grim data on the rise of autocrats, Deutsche-Welle says that the “sharpest turns toward autocracy have coincided with the election of illiberal leaders like Bolsonaro in Brazil, Andrzej Duda in Poland, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Narendra Modi in India.”
Oxfam India’s ‘India Discrimination Report 2022’ shows that discrimination causes 100% of employment inequality faced by rural women and 98% among urban women. Some 95% of the wage gap between male and female casual workers is due to discrimination. “Historically oppressed groups such as Dalits, tribals and religious minorities such as Muslims” also continue to face discrimination in accessing jobs, livelihoods, and agricultural credit. “During the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sharpest increase in unemployment (17%) was for Muslims,” it adds.
Fitch Ratings has slashed its projection of India’s economic growth to 7%, down from 7.8% in June, due to high inflation and interest rates. It forecast a slowdown to 6.7% in FY24, down from its earlier estimate of 7.4%. In its ‘Global Economic Outlook September 2022’ released yesterday, the rating agency said GDP growth of 13.5% in April-June, as per official data, was below its June expectation of 18.5%.
The Karnataka Protection of Right to Religious Freedom Act 2021, passed on Thursday, is set to be legally challenged. Metropolitan Archbishop of Bengaluru Peter Machado told The Quint, “Christian groups have already challenged the ordinance that has made this a law. Now, we will challenge the entire Act on the grounds of violating Article 25 of the Constitution and also the right to privacy.” After the Bill was passed in December 2021, the Karnataka government promulgated an ordinance to the same effect in May 2022. The Evangelical Fellowship of India challenged the ordinance, saying that it violates six Articles of the Constitution. The same challenge will now be extended to the Act.
The Centre has told the Supreme Court that medical students who returned from Ukraine cannot be accommodated in Indian universities in view of the absence of any statutory provision, and damage to standards of medical education in the country. It contends that they sought degrees overseas because they did not make the cut in NEET, and because of lower costs. Now, they may not be able to afford Indian medical colleges they are assigned to, and students there may launch litigations if they are perceived to lower the standards of the institution.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren met Governor Ramesh Bais and demanded a copy of the opinion sent by the Election Commission in the office of profit case against him. The uncertainty created by the governor’s silence is fuelling political instability in the state, though the JMM-coalition has triumphed in a trust vote. The government has been in overdrive with two important decisions: it has decided on 77% reservation in state government jobs for SCs, STs, backward classes, OBCs and economically weaker sections. The state cabinet hiked OBC reservation to 27% from 14%. It also accepted a proposal to use 1932 land records to determine who is a local inhabitant.
Following the AAP government’s promise to procure pulses at MSP, the area under moong cultivation in Punjab nearly doubled. The commitment, which coincided with an early harvest of wheat due to the heatwave, provided a window to the farmers to grow a third crop before the paddy season began in July. But it’s been a bad experience as the state government lifted only 11% of the crop at MSP, and a state scheme to compensate farmers for the difference between MSP and market prices was spun by traders to turn MSP from the floor price to the ceiling price, reports The Print.
Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh is to join the BJP next week, according to his party, the Punjab Lok Congress.
UP accounts for more than 70% of the 13.81 lakh trials pending in fast-track courts for heinous crimes against women, children and senior citizens, according to data shared by Law Minister Kiren Rijiju with chief justices of the high courts on September 2. With more than 60,000 cases pending, UP also leads in trials in progress in rape cases and matters under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. In the gruesome matter of two minor Dalit girls found hanging from a tree in Lakhimpur Kheri, Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak has thundered that six of the accused will be dealt with severely, but the track record is not reassuring.
Over 600 citizens, including human rights activists, have come together to say that income tax raids last week at the offices of the Independent and Public Spirited Media Foundation, Oxfam India and the Centre for Policy Research were alarming and without provocation. They said that the government “in the not-too-distant future will come for us, each one of us. Not just for civil society. Or civil servants. Or any other group.”
Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia has demanded the implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) in Sikkim to protect Article 371(F) of the Constitution which safeguards the rights of indigenous people of the state. Bhutia, founding president of Hamro Sikkim Party, called on the political class of the state to press for the implementation of ILP.
Thiruvananthapuram’s Pullampara in Kerala is on its way to becoming the first fully digitally literate panchayat in the country. The ‘Digi Pullampara’ project was launched by the panchayat in late 2021 to achieve 100% digital literacy and 3,300 people have been taught how to use smartphones to make calls, do internet banking and use WhatsApp and YouTube. All participants are aged above 45.
A World Economic Forum survey finds that 69% of Indians say climate change has already had a severe effect in areas they live and it is likely that their families will be displaced in the next 25 years.
Namibian cheetahs will be released into the wild in Madhya Pradesh by PM Modi on his birthday tomorrow. The ever-faithful ANI applied the Leni Riefenstahl touch and put out an image of the aeroplane ferrying the animals. But experts pointed out that it was not an Indian aircraft, but a Boeing 747-400 of Moscow-based TransAero Airlines, and the big cat painted on its nose is an endangered Amur tiger. Here are more details for wildlife buffs.
Har Ghar Tiranga giant citizen data harvesting scheme
By August 15, nearly 60 million Indians had uploaded their photos with the national flag on the Har Ghar Tiranga website. About 50 million had geotagged their homes and shared phone numbers to register on the portal. Now, digital rights activists believe that what seemed like an innocent voter outreach programme was a scheme to collect citizens’ data. The website claims that data would be deleted after the campaign. But almost a month after Independence Day, the photographs were still up.
The Har Ghar Tiranga programme was first discussed at a BJP convention in Hyderabad on July 2. The party hoped to reach 200 million people, BJP leader Vasundhara Raje had said. On July 6, the Ministry of Culture was appointed the nodal body for its implementation and the government aggressively publicised it, changing Indian cellphone caller tunes to a message asking people to upload photos. “No country has ever executed geotagging of its own citizens on such a massive scale,” Srinivas Kodali, a researcher with the Free Software Movement of India, told Rest of World. “Previously, some fragmented attempts have been made to geotag citizens for digital commerce; however, not at this scale, with an intention of electioneering.”
After disengagement, India has lost territory on LAC
Chushul councillor Khonchok Stanzin says that “a stretch from PP15 in the Gogra-HotSprings area and the Kugrang Valley to Rechin La-Rezang La (in the Kailash Ranges) are now out of bounds… Around 75% of villages in the Chushul area are denied access to grazing grounds with the creation of buffer zones with China in Ladakh. The army can’t patrol there, how can villagers go?” On Tuesday, he said that the recent disengagement from Gogra-Hot Springs near the LAC had India agreeing to withdraw troops, not only from the face-off point at PP15, but also from PP16, to the Karam Singh Hill. He said that India has turned its own territory along its LAC with China into a “buffer zone”, with a moratorium on patrolling.
“India and China have agreed to a demilitarised buffer zone of 3-4 km between PPs 15 and 16. Since the PLA had a first mover advantage, the buffer zone is entirely on our side of the LAC. While the PLA has moved to its permanent post across the Jianan Pass/PP15, in all likelihood, India has established a new post on the edge of the buffer zone between PPs 15 and 16,” writes former Northern Army Commander Lt Gen HS Panag (retd). “It is unlikely that China will settle for anything short of buffer zones in Depsang Plains and the Charding-Ninglung Nala… The government’s majority and political narrative safeguard it from any adverse political fallout.”
Citizens draft national Bill against honour crimes
The Dalit Human Rights Defender Network has put together a 17-page draft Bill titled ‘The Freedom of Marriage and Association and Prohibition of Crimes in the Name of Honour Act 2022’. It seeks to “provide justice, compensation and rehabilitation in crimes committed in the name of honour vis-a-vis caste, faith, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, class, race, status and tradition.” The coalition is headed by A Kathir, founder-director of Evidence, which has been providing legal aid and other assistance to families of caste crime victims.
Rajasthan is the only state to have passed a Bill against honour killings and mob lynchings. The Dalit Human Rights Defender Network’s draft Bill is intended to be a national law.
Khalistan graffiti on Swaminarayan Temple, Toronto
The Indian High Commission in Canada yesterday sought strict action against perpetrators who defaced the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto with anti-India graffiti, reports Scroll. Videos of the shrine show ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ written on the walls.
Brampton South MP Sonia Sidhu said, “We live in a multicultural and multi-faith community where everyone deserves to feel safe. Those responsible should be located to face the consequences of their actions.” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said, “This type of hate has no place in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] or Canada.”
The Long Cable
It’s not politics, it’s the marketplace, stupid
Indian mainstream politics is now negligibly about principles, and more about the stock-market. On January 22, Congress candidates for the Goa Assembly elections took a solemn oath in a temple, church and mosque not to desert the party if and when elected. Well, that resonant covenant did not last long. Eight of the 11 MLAs elected on a Congress ticket have now joined the BJP.
As to the vow they had taken, Digambar Kamath has claimed that he went through a Prasad ceremony and God nodded yes to his resolve to switch over. It’s like a remake of how Moses, long years ago, accosted God on the mountain in a moment of perplexity, and brought back the Ten Commandments. Clearly, God, even in these satanic times, remains accessible to the repentant.
You may rightfully think there is a catch on the receiving side as well: the ruling BJP swears by Lord Ram as the source of its moral universe, as we have repeatedly witnessed.
Now, the aforesaid Lord is credited by the author of the Ramcharitmanas as being an exemplar of the edict that one may lose one’s life but not break a vow (Raghukul reet sada chali aayi/ Pran jaayein per vachan na jaayein). So what of the eight who have broken their vow? Clearly, had they not joined the principled ruling party, Lord Ram may never have pardoned their transgression.
There are, of course, those canny ones who hold the view that not Bhagwan Ram but Lord Bazaar has had the last word in the pious transaction. And as things are, the debate is by no means one-sided.
It should now be quite obvious that the republic’s enslavement to Lord Bazaar is complete, barring exceptions which only prove the rule: the communists, for example, remain ossified in their wrong-headed defeatism. But pray, who are they?
Often uninformed complaints are still made by the ardent hoi polloi about the undependable nature of the democratic process. Here is, therefore, a suggestion that may now be boldly embraced so that an example is set for other wobbling democracies to follow:
Let aspirants to political power in all elections be asked to stand as independent candidates, on the basis of whatever clout they claim to have. Once they are elected, let Indian politics thereon be guided by the structural genius of the cattle fair and the IPL.
Namely, let a Candidate-Mela be organised at the conclusion of the electoral process. Let all political parties desirous of buying up Member Stock be invited to bid for the elected independents. The auction would be democratic exercise, open and transparent, and all parties would get their due according to their standing in the Bazaar.
It should be obvious that this system would make the need for an Election Commission redundant, saving the exchequer much-needed moolah.
For some backward reason, there is still in this ancient land a petulant resistance to adopting the equitable practices of the Bazaar all across social, ethical, and political life. This is why our tryst with Vishwa Gurudom remains stymied. After all, if the purpose of politics is to acquire power, what better teacher than Lord Bazaar?
A Gautam Adani may very well succeed in showing the way out to uppity NDTV newscasters and anchors, but he dare not oust the least of the commercial messages that are the true and proper fare provided by the media now.
Only Indian democracy has the cultural resilience for this makeover to the flexibilities of buy and sell. Let us use that USP and hasten our march to world dominance.
(Badri Raina taught literature at Delhi University)
Potholes in the Bundelkhand Expressway may have crashed the career of Awanish Kumar Awasthi, former additional chief secretary (Home) of UP. He was allowed to retire despite Adityanath intervening twice with the Centre. Awasthi had had the expressway inaugurated by PM Modi during the monsoon, which quickly damaged the surface, and Modi was mocked on social media. Relations between Lucknow and New Delhi are decidedly cool, and many read Awasthi’s fate as the Centre’s move to rein in Adityanath and impose its will. Will the UP CM bring the bureaucrat back in some other meaty capacity, which doesn’t need the Centre’s concurrence?
Prime Number: 5%
As arguments continue in the Supreme Court on the constitutional amendment giving Economically Weaker Sections reservations of 10%, excluding SCs, STs and OBC, it is useful to remember that the Maj Gen (retd) SK Sinho Commission in 2010 had found that just 5% are economically weak but not in the reservation pool. That is the number of the EWS who are not socially discriminated against.
What does India’s updated Paris Agreement pledge mean for climate change? CarbonBrief explains.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
TCA Raghavan writes that it is tempting to let frustration and cynicism dictate inaction on the Pakistan floods. But an unstable and polarised nuclear power angry with itself and the world is not desirable.
There is more to Hyderabad state’s history than BJP’s ‘Liberation Day” narrative, writes Yunus Y Lasania.
If the Hindus take Mathura and Kashi by force, they may claim and take many more, writes Diptendra Raychaudhuri.
Omkar Goswami says India not holding the 2021 Census will cause it serious substantive and reputational damage. Madagascar, DRC, Ethiopia and Uzbekistan have not had one since the 1990s and Afghanistan not for four decades. Do we want India in that category?
Girish Kuber writes that Maharashtra losing the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat is troubling ― the Centre is favouring one state over another. ‘Double engine sarkar’ has been “belied.”
Vir Sanghvi writes that “we are moving into a new phase closer to totalitarianism. The signs were always there. Authoritarian societies don’t care what you eat. But in India, we are unreasonably obsessed with beef-eating. Authoritarians don’t like being made fun of. But totalitarians turn it into an obsession.”
Without adequate waste management infrastructure, mass gatherings like the Kanwar Yatra can pollute water, land and the air episodically, writes Jigyasa Mishra.
Navneet Sharma decodes the PM-SHRI scheme for schools: it seeks to armtwist states to adopt NEP 2020 in its ‘entirety’ and will create a hierarchy of schools.
Jaspreet Bindra writes that Sanskrit’s grammar appeals to logical thinking but claims that it is a natural AI language are excessive.
Pallavi Aiyar ponders an interesting question: if you were a cow, would you prefer to be a Swiss one or an Indian one?
Shreyasee Das of Temple University talks about How Disasters Can Shape Marriages, which she conducted along with Shatanjaya Dasgupta. In a conversation with journalist Bansari Kamdar, she explores the social and economic life of relationships under the stress of natural disaster.
Baradwaj Rangan interviews actor Amala Akkineni:
Over and out
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge has hit the stage. Come Fall in Love — The DDLJ Musical is currently in previews at the Old Globe in San Diego before a planned Broadway run. SRK’s character is called Roger, or Rog. The musical is being panned.
The new mobile banking Trojan SOVA, which can encrypt an Android phone for ransom and is hard to uninstall, is targeting Indian customers, says CERT-In. The fifth iteration of the virus was first detected in Indian cyberspace in July.
Bengali author Manoranjan Byapari has won the 2022 Shakti Bhatt Book Prize.
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.