India Wants UN to Adopt Illegal Section 66A Measures to Combat 'Cybercrime'; Nupur Sharma Played By BJP’s Book, Until it Came to the Prophet
China ready to work with India for Sri Lanka, inflation forecast raised to 6.7%, no mask no fly, Adani to found climate think tank, third global VPN provider pulls out of India, para shooters win gold
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
June 9, 2022
A “top American general” has articulated what the Indian government and the media have carefully carefully avoided for years. The general yesterday described Chinese activity across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh as “eye-opening.” General Charles A Flynn, Commanding General, US Army Pacific, said, “The [Chinese] activity level is eye-opening. Some of the infrastructure being created in the PLA’s Western Theatre Command is alarming. One has to ask the question ‘why’, and get a response as to what their intentions are.”
“Recognising” the Indian government's “great efforts” in supporting Sri Lanka, China yesterday expressed its willingness to work with New Delhi and the international community to help Colombo tide over its crushing economic crisis. In a media briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian outlined the Chinese government’s recent humanitarian assistance of 500 million RMB (approximately $73 million) to Sri Lanka. “We also noted the Indian government made great efforts in this aspect. We recognise that, and we are willing to work with India and other members of the international community to help Sri Lanka and other countries with difficulties to help these developing countries to get through this situation,” he said. China’s official acknowledgement of Indian assistance to Sri Lanka — $3.5 billion this year via currency swaps, loan deferment and credit lines — is signiﬁcant, coming amid a geopolitical contest between the two powers in Sri Lanka. Earlier this year, China had expressed disappointment over Colombo replacing a proposed Chinese energy project in three islands off Jaffna with an Indian project.
The Adani group, which is routinely hauled over the coals in Australia and India by environmental groups, is planning a think tank on the climate crisis. It will promote renewable energy from the point of view of the developing world. The group is heavily invested in fossil fuels and seeks to diversify into renewables.
India has suggested to a UN ad hoc committee the adoption of measures similar to those prescribed in Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, to counter digital crime. The ‘vagueness’ of the offences listed in the section had led to dozens of arrests of people for harmless social media posts. In 2015, the Supreme Court had struck down these very provisions as unconstitutional. Now an attempt is being made to bring them in through the backdoor. An Indian delegation of officials from the Ministries of External Affairs, Home Affairs and Electronics and Information Technology, is attending the second session of the International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes in Vienna. The Indian proposal is facing choppy waters with some countries uncomfortable with broadening the definition of cybercrimes in this fasion.
A statement by The Caravan’s multimedia reporter, Shahid Tantray, on facing police harassment has raised disturbing questions about the government’s bid to criminalise journalism, especially (but not exclusively) in Kashmir. In Delhi, the police have named prominent freelance journalist Saba Naqvi in a hate speech FIR alongside Hindutva militants. Naqvi’s post was satirical – she posted a WhatsApp forward she had received of an atomic reactor and a shivaling – while some of the Hindutva activists had actually called for violence.
Russia’s Rosneft is holding back on signing new crude deals with two Indian state refiners as it has committed the oil to other customers. Indian refiners have been snapping up cheap Russian oil, which has been shunned by Western companies and countries since sanctions were imposed on Moscow. Without new term supply deals with Rosneft, Indian refiners may turn to the spot market for more expensive oil. It also indicates that Russia has managed to keep exporting its oil despite US-led sanctions imposed to choke off revenues. Drawn by discounts, Indian Oil Corp, Bharat Petroleum Corp and Hindustan Petroleum opened negotiations with Rosneft earlier this year for six-month supply deals. So far, only IOC, the country’s top refiner, has signed a deal with Rosneft, to buy 6 million barrels every month, with an option to buy 3 million barrels more. The other two refiners’ requests have since been turned down by the Russian producer.
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Hate-spewing TV channels in India, which allowed BJP’s national spokespersons to make incendiary statements, are also now allowing others to abuse Hindu gods and goddesses, greatly vitiating the atmosphere. The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement criticising news channels “for deliberately creating circumstances that target vulnerable communities by spewing hatred towards them and their beliefs.” The Guild has invoked Radio Rwanda: “Seemingly inspired by the values of Radio Rwanda whose incendiary broadcasts caused a genocide in the African nation. EGI demands that these channels pause and take a critical look at what they have done by giving legitimacy to divisive and toxic voices that have made the national discourse coarse and the gap between communities unbridgeable.” Meanwhile, a counsellor who worked with with adolescents and young men in Delhi’s Tihar Jail in the 1990s, reflects and writes about young men drafted for the hate project and how the top leadership of the country needs to be answerable for the likes of ‘Vashudev’, the young man who started the ridiculous trend to “bycott” Qatar Airways.
The backlash against India is unprecedented, with several Gulf countries, a north African nation, and four Asian countries (20 countries and bodies so far) lodging protests against Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal’s comments.
The inflation forecast has increased to 6.7% from 5.7%. Inflation has been bigger and has risen faster than what the RBI had estimated in April and May, Governor Shaktikanta Das has admitted. Over 75% of the increase in inflation projections can be attributed to food. The RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee has decided to hike the policy repo rate by 50 basis points to 4.9%.
Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) has discontinued its disinvestment process after the government abandoned plans to privatise the firm. In a stock exchange filing, the company said the government has through a letter dated June 3, 2022, called off the present tender to sell its entire 53% stake in the company. “Accordingly, all the activities in connection with the disinvestment including the data room are being discontinued.” The Union government called off the expression of interest (EoI) after two out of the three bidders walked out.
The government aims to fetch Rs 65,000 crore from stake sales in the year to March 2023, sharply down from Rs 1,75,000 crore in the previous year. Of the 2021-22 target, only 8% was achieved. The LIC sale is fetching Rs 20,560 crore, a big chunk of the scaled-down target for the current year. Petroleum refiner BPCL’s disinvestment has now been called off, while IDBI Bank, Bharat Earth Movers Ltd, Container Corporation of India and Shipping Corporation of India are among others standing in a shaky sell-off queue.
A week after ExpressVPN decided to close down servers in India, SurfShark, a virtual private network provider, has decided to follow suit ahead of the new data regulation law that will come into force. The new laws require VPN providers to record and keep customers’ logs for six months, and customer data for five years. This would impact the privacy of millions of Indians and strongly damage the sector’s growth in the country, SurfShark points out. “Collecting excessive amounts of data within Indian jurisdiction without robust protection mechanisms could lead to even more breaches nationwide,” it feels.
The minimum support price (MSP) for paddy was hiked by the Union government, by Rs 100 per quintal for the 2022-23 kharif season. The rates for 14 kharif crops have been increased 4-8%. The 2021-22 was in the range of 1-7%.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has pegged India’s FY23 economic growth at 6.9%, the lowest by a major bank or institution.
The Union Environment Ministry tried to rebut the Environmental Performance Index 2022, in which India is tail-end Charlie. It said that some of the indicators used are “extrapolated and based on surmises and unscientific methods”. We’ve heard that one before, concerning estimates of India’s pandemic death toll.
In Andhra Pradesh, Pawan Kalyan of the Jana Sena Party has invited the TDP and BJP to put aside differences and join hands for the polls. This is not the first time Pawan is trying to broker peace between former allies, urging them to bring down the YSRCP government together. However, the BJP is content with its present alliance with the JSP, and is not inclined to an alliance with the TDP. The TDP had earlier indicated that they were open for an alliance, but as the BJP did not respond, TDP chief and former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu had remarked: “Political alliance cannot be a one-sided love affair.”
Long-standing Indian women’s cricket captain Mihtali Raj retired yesterday . She was a trendsetter. Now, Harmanpreet Kaur will lead the squad. Meanwhile KL Rahul has been ruled out as captain for the men’s team due to an injury. Rishabh Pant will captain India against South Africa in the first T20 in Delhi.