India’s Battle With Big Tech to Intensify; Supreme Court Stays Imminent Bulldozing of Muslim Basti in Haldwani
Assam bulldozer victims to be compensated, what the ED was and what it has become, fungal diseases running riot, Dulat doesn’t know why BJP is upset, airborne urinator gets teeny-weeny flight ban
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
January 5, 2022
“The standoff between India and US tech giants will intensify in 2023 as New Delhi cooks up its own regulatory medicine for the world’s second most populous internet market — an unusual concoction of Europe’s strict antitrust approach and Chinese-style government surveillance. Three significant pieces of legislation likely to pass in 2023 will harden positions on both sides,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “New Delhi and Silicon Valley are squaring up for a battle among equals in 2023.”
Walmart and other PhonePe shareholders will have to pay nearly $1 billion in taxes after the digital payments company moved its headquarters to India from Singapore. The bill owes to the relocation and rise in value of PhonePe, which Walmart took majority ownership of after acquiring its parent, Flipkart Online Services. Now separated from Flipkart, the fintech firm is raising funds at a $12 billion pre-money valuation from General Atlantic, Qatar Investment Authority and others, triggering the hefty charge.
The Supreme Court has stayed a controversial Uttarakhand High Court order that would have seen upwards of 50,000 people – mostly Muslims – rendered homeless as their dwellings were demolished to clear land allegedly belonging to the railways. The apex court bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay Oka invoked precedent, natural justice and good old fashioned humane concerns to argue – in the face of the government’s urging – that peremptory evictions of this kind would not be allowed.
India has identiﬁed two lithium mines and a copper mine in Argentina for possible acquisition or long lease. A commercial evaluation is expected by end-February. The Centre had sent a team of three geologists to the Latin American nation “to assess potential lithium deposits” and possible acquisition opportunities last November.
Train ticketing platform RailYatri has conﬁrmed that it suffered a data breach on December 28, shortly after the Railway Ministry denied that leaked user data being sold on the Dark Web was from its system ― over 30 million user records were up for grabs. RailYatri suffered a similar breach in 2020, which was reported by Safety Detectives, a portal run by security researchers and privacy experts. That breach impacted 700,000 users, the portal said.
Former Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief Amarjit Singh Dulat has said Rahul Gandhi was working to unite the country and he did not join the Bharat Jodo Yatra for political reasons. In a conversation with Moneycontrol, Dulat said, “I have no idea why BJP leaders are upset with my visit. I was invited by the Congress party and I thought it was good for the country.” He said that the yatra has many political dimensions, which are clearly in the interest of the nation. “I am a man with a centrist approach, whatever I feel is best for my country, I say it without hesitation. Bharat Jodo Yatra is bringing people together and I realised it when I hit the ground. I have never seen such an enthusiastic crowd earlier.”
The coach who has accused Haryana minister Sandeep Singh of sexual harassment claims that the chief minister, BJP’s Manohar Lal Khattar, was attempting to influence the investigation and that she was being pressured to remain silent. On December 31, Chandigarh police had booked state sports minister and BJP leader Singh on charges of sexual harassment and wrongful confinement on her complaint. Singh had surrendered this portfolio but retained the printing and stationery department, and claimed that the allegations are false. On Wednesday, January 4, the woman spoke to reporters after appearing before the Chandigarh Police’s special investigation team.
Amid controversy around the extension of his tenure as Nagaland DGP, top cop T John Longkumer resigned on Monday, a week before a final Supreme Court hearing on his appointment. The apex court had earlier pulled up the Nagaland government for extending Longkumer’s tenure for six months even though he was to retire on August 31 last year. Longkumer’s extension was to end on February 28, but the 1991-batch IPS officer stepped down earlier since the state government has to appoint a new DGP before the Nagaland Assembly elections, expected in March. Traditionally, an officer holding the position of DGP when the elections begin continues until they end.
President Droupadi Murmu has given her assent to a Bill passed by the Gujarat Assembly, empowering the police to register cases against protesters in violation of Section 144 of the CrPC, which restricts the right of assembly. It amends Section 195 of the code, which states that no court shall take cognisance of any criminal conspiracy for contempt of the lawful authority of a public servant, except on a written complaint from the specific official. Before this amendment, the state police could only detain violators for a limited period of time. Now, for a cognisable offence, a public authority can arrest an accused without a warrant.
Anticipating China’s interference in the succession of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government in exile has planned for a democratic transition. In an interview, Penpa Tsering, President of the Tibetan government in exile, anticipated an action replay of a 1995 drama, when Beijing appointed a rival Panchen Lama while a boy chosen by the Dalai Lama was whisked away from the public eye. “What happens after the present Dalai Lama is no more, is a big challenge for the Tibetans, especially if the Sino-Tibetan conflict is not resolved,” he said. “We believe China will definitely interfere with the succession process of the Dalai Lama. They have been preparing for that for the last 15 years.”
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US President Joe Biden has renominated Eric Garcetti Ambassador to India, among a large number of recommendations for various posts, including several Indian-Americans such as Richard Verma, who will be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. The US has been without an envoy to India for over two years. In July 2021, Biden nominated Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti as his Ambassador to India but Senate confirmation had been pending for more than a year.
The Gauhati High Court has asked the Assam government to compensate people affected by the state police’s illegal ‘Bulldozer Action’ last year. The state has promised action against erring police officers within 15 days. The court said since the state should also offer compensation. Though it closed the suo motu proceedings, it said a report would be filed by the state in the matter. “The proceedings are closed with liberty to revive merely by filing a note,” it said.
Villagers from Nepal have again pelted stones on the Indian side at the Indo-Nepal border in the Dharchula area of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district. The incident occurred when labourers on the Indian side were building an embankment on the Indian side of Kali river, which acts as the border between Nepal and India, on Tuesday evening. The Indian side is constructing a 985 metre embankment on the Kali river on the Indian side, to protect Dharchula town from monsoon floods. Villagers on the Nepal side fear that building of embankment on the Indian side will push the flow of Kali River towards their side and it could lead to flooding on their side.
Senior Congress leader and five-time MLA from Bhatiyyat Kuldeep Singh Pathania is all set to be the next speaker of the Himachal Assembly. His unanimous election is a foregone conclusion as he is the only candidate in the fray.
Restofworld.org has a feature on Shaik Salauddin, the Uber driver turned union leader “who is brushing shoulders with top politicians and giving ride-hailing firms a run for their money.”
After a forgettable 2022 that brought barely half the revenues of pre-pandemic years, the Hindi film industry is betting on four big movies lined up for release in the first quarter. Trade experts expect revenues to be up 10-15% from a year ago, when theatres were shut during the third wave of the pandemic. Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan, to release later this month, leads the race, followed by Kartik Aryan’s Shehzada, Ajay Devgn’s Maidaan and Akshay Kumar-starrer Selfiee. However, several single-screen cinema owners said it would be difficult to continue operations if big Hindi language releases are few and far between.
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