India Seeks Data on Over 1 Lakh Platform and Service Users Every Year; Why New Pension Scheme is a Fraud Perpetrated on the Aged
CJI takes up electoral bonds matter, Lambah's revelations on Modi, Pakistan, women’s participation in labour stagnates, opposition parties flee Kejriwal’s alliance dinner, Choksi shrugs off Red Corner
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 21, 2022
The executive summary of the US State Department’s report on human rights in India in 2022 notes: “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by police and prison officials; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners or detainees; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including violence or threats of violence, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, and enforcement of or threat to enforce criminal libel laws to limit expression; restrictions on internet freedom; interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement and on the right to leave the country; refoulement of refugees; serious government corruption; harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, workplace violence, child, early, and forced marriage, femicide, and other forms of such violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic and minority groups based on religious affiliation, social status or sexual orientation; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; and existence of forced and compulsory labour.”
It’s a long charge-sheet covering “official misconduct at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity. Lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and under-resourced court system contributed to a low number of convictions.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered a CBI enquiry against NGO Aman Biradari, run by prominent human rights activist Harsh Mander, for alleged FCRA violations. EAS Sarma, a former Union revenue secretary, says the CBI is barking up the wrong tree: the real threat to India is posed by the foreign corporate funding of Indian political parties which the Modi government amended the FCRA to allow.
Linked to corporate political funding is the question of electoral bonds, which has hung fire for three years. The matter was finally listed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala today. However, hearings on the long pending petitions stand deferred to April 11, when the court will examine if the matter should be heard by a constitution bench.
The Punjab administration extended the mobile internet shutdown in the state to midday today as it seeks radical preacher Amritpal Singh. The Wire’s Arfa Khanum Sherwani discusses the situation in Punjab with three experts, amidst the media blackout [in Hindi].
While the security of the Indian High Commission in London was breached on Sunday by pro-Khalistan protesters and the national flag was brought down, the Indian consulate in San Francisco was also attacked. India had summoned the UK deputy high commissioner and lodged a strong protest over the incident in London, and likewise in the US. Social media videos show that protesters burst through the security barriers of the San Francisco Police Department and installed two Khalistani flags inside the premises. They also spray-painted a huge graffiti saying “Free Amritpal” on the wall of the building, according to NDTV. In Canberra, Australia, Khalistan supporters gathered outside the parliament to protest against the police crackdown on radical preacher Amritpal Singh and his associates in Punjab, but India has not responded.
Shishir Gupta reports what the government would like us to believe: “The Pakistani connection between absconding Sikh extremist Amritpal Singh and his key arrested aide, Punjabi Bagh resident Daljit Singh Kalsi, has been established with the latter seen submitting a memorandum against India to the Consul General of Pakistan in the Sikh separatist hub of Vancouver in Canada.” And to add confusion to the picture, the Assam Police, which was understood to have taken custody of four of Amritpal’s associates in Dibrugarh, now say there are only three.
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Yesterday, a Srinagar court sharply asked how a conman posing as a PMO official managed Z+ security in the high-security state. The judge said that his own request for a personal security officer was pending, so “how is it possible that a man comes to Kashmir from Gujarat and gets a Z-plus security cover?” the judge asked. Mystery continues to shroud the role of the three men with “conman Kiran Patel”, who posed as PMO official on his last visit to Kashmir, but were let off. One of them is Amit Pandya, son of Hitesh Pandya, a PRO in the Gujarat Chief Minister’s office since 2001. Zee24’s Gujarat channel reported that Patel used to claim that he has three wives and 30 girlfriends.
Interpol has withdrawn the Red Corner Notice issued against fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi, allowing him to travel freely. Not good news for the Modi government, which had publicised its drive to bring back fugitive businessmen.
The Indian government made 8.23 lakh user data requests to Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft between 2013 and 2021, according to Surfshark. India ranked ﬁrst in South Asia and seventh in Asia with 58.7 accounts requested per one lakh population. Companies fully or partially disclosed data in 2.5 million requests. The overall disclosure rate in India is 55.3%. Meta and Google received the most requests from Indian authorities. In related security news, the Week reports that just under a quarter of Indian companies are equipped to face cyber-threats.
Formal job creation declined for the second month in January, falling to a 20-month low, according to latest payroll data released by the Employee Provident Fund Organisation. New monthly subscribers under the Employees’ Provident Fund have declined by 7.5% to 777,232 in January 2023 from 840,372 in December 2022. It is the lowest figure since 649,618 new subscriptions in May 2021.
The BJP’s lotus symbol is associated with both Hinduism and Buddhism and the ruling party should therefore be made a respondent in a case to ban the use of religious symbols and names by political parties, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has told the Supreme Court. The IUML was earlier made a party on the same ground, and had responded that 27 more political parties past and present, whose names or symbols evoke religion, should follow suit. They include the Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal, Christian Democratic Front, Islam Party Hind and Akhil Bharatiya Ram Rajya Parishad.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha said yesterday that it would be forced to launch another protest if the government does not fulfil its demands, including a law on minimum support price (MSP), debt waiver and pension. A 15-member SKM delegation met with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and submitted a demand charter.
Aam Aadmi Party national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had invited chief ministers of seven states ruled by parties other than the BJP and Congress for a dinner on March 18 to seek an alliance for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, but none of them turned up, reports PTI. It’s a setback to the AAP’s ambition to emerge as a third pole.
In what must be a setback to the secretive government, whose Attorney General tried to slip the Supreme Court a sealed cover in the OROP matter, the Chief Justice of India said, “This is fundamentally contrary to the judicial process. There cannot be secrecy in the Court. The Court has to be transparent.”
The woman who was urinated upon by a drunken man on an Air India flight has moved the Supreme Court, seeking clear zero-tolerance guidelines to deal with such “traumatic” instances. Her petition draws attention to the lackadaisical approach of Air India and Tata managers she reached out to, but who did not respond.
Indian airlines are projected to post a consolidated loss of $1.6-1.8 billion in FY23-24, according to aviation consultancy CAPA India.
What did PM Modi tell Satinder Lambah, India’s back-channel negotiator with Pakistan, who helped reach a draft agreement on Kashmir? An extract from the late diplomat’s memoirs.
A pornographic film played on monitors at Patna railway station instead of ads discomfited passengers waiting for trains on Sunday morning. The film ran for three minutes before the kill switch was hit. Passengers filed a complaint with the Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF). An FIR has been registered against Dutta Communication, which runs ads at the station, and it has been blacklisted and fined.
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