Killing of Farmers 'Pre-Planned Conspiracy' Says SIT; As Omicron Looms, Lessons of Killer 2nd Wave Forgotten
Militants kill Kashmir police, 55 DD cameras for PM’s election stunt, e-commerce app installation fraud at peak, Kerala woman, 104, passes literacy exam while in Gujarat, the egg-hunt continues
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
December 14, 2021
In a blow to the Modi government, which continues to retain Ajay Mishra as junior home minister despite his attempts to cover up for his son, the Special Investigation Team probing the mowing down of farmers by a car allegedly belonging to Mishra’s son at Lakhimpur Kheri has said that the incident was a “planned conspiracy” and not “negligence or callousness.” The SIT wants the son and others accused charged with “attempt to murder”.
The government of Gujarat has booked the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa, under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, for allegedly “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” and “luring towards Christianity young girls” in its shelter home in Vadodara. The organisation has rejected the charge.
Public sector banks have lost nearly Rs 2.85 lakh crore on loans to 13 corporates even as the banks are used by the government to bail out Yes Bank and IL&FS, says the United Forum of Bank Unions. The 13 corporates’ dues were Rs 4,86,800 crore and were ‘resolved’ at Rs 1,61,820 crore, causing a loss of Rs 2,84,980 crore. Banks have approached the RBI seeking time till March 2023 for borrowers to meet commitments, after restructuring due to Covid. Banks argue that borrowers may not be able to meet thresholds prescribed by the extended deadline of October 2022. If they default, the accounts will turn into bad loans.
Public sector banks’ branch networks, which peaked in the March quarter of 2017, lost 4,389 branches by September due to mergers and closure of loss-making branches as a condition for capital infusion. Meanwhile, Congress’ leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the government should clear the air about legislation on cryptocurrencies.
In October, e-commerce app installation fraud in the peak sale season accounted for half of all downloads, according to a study by mFilterlt. The share of app installation frauds — in which cheap labour or automation is used to make fake installs that are never used — hit 51% in October. Frauds involving keeping an app open and adding products to a cart (without transacting) accounted for 63% of all downloads in October. App downloads are a criterion for valuing startups. Fraudsters earn from advertisers.
The Wall Street Journal writes that India is investigating the brief hacking of PM Modi’s Twitter handle. The government has told the paper that it would examine the IP address and ISP the hacker used. Top officials of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology were queried about the hacking of theTwitter handle and the Pegasus issue by a parliamentary panel led by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor but were evasive. On Pegasus, they said the matter is sub judice. “Officials simply ducked the question,” reports PTI. They appeared to be clueless and stated what was already in the public domain.
The anti-corruption watchdog Lokpal has utilised less than one-third of its sanctioned budget, deeply concerning the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.
General Bipin Rawat, writes The Economist, “was at times controversial. In 2016 Narendra Modi had selected him as army chief over the heads of two more senior generals. His subsequent appointment as overall commander was seen by some as a reward for breaking with a strong tradition of strictly insulating the army from politics by occasionally voicing views supportive of Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalist policies. In 2017 he awarded a commendation for “personal initiative” to an officer whose unit kidnapped a passerby in the restive region of Kashmir and strapped him to the bonnet of an army jeep in order to discourage stone-throwing.”
Four years on, the region has become even more restive: Two policemen were killed and 12 injured when militants opened fire on a police bus in a high security area near Srinagar. This is the first major attack on the security forces in the Valley since Article 370 was abrogated in 2019. The Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility, reports ANI, citing Kashmir Inspector General Vijay Kumar. The bus carrying personnel of the 9th Battalion of J&K Police’s armed wing was attacked at Zewan. Two days earlier, militants killed two policemen in Bandipora. At least 19 police personnel have been killed in militant attacks this year.
Reuters reports that a sharp drop in the use of masks is causing concern after the advent of Omicron, even as active Covid-19 cases are at their lowest and large political gatherings are being held (except in the case of the Peoples Democratic Party in Kashmir, whose youth convention was disallowed on Sunday on grounds of Covid). It’s eerily similar to what was happening in India before the second wave struck. There was a lack of clarity on policy and mass events like the Kumbh and election rallies continued. India was criticised for not telling the world in time about Delta, which quickly dominated the globe. BBC examines if anything has changed.
Last night, India voted against a draft resolution of the UN Security Council that attempted to “securitise” climate action and undermine the hard-won consensual agreements in Glasgow. India’s Permanent Representative to the UN TS Tirumurti said India will always speak up for the interests of the developing world.
A man who tried to fake his death by murdering a builder and passing the body off as his own has been arrested, police said. Sudesh Kumar did it to avoid being tried for another alleged murder – he was charged with but not convicted of the 2018 killing of his daughter, who had eloped. Kumar was released last year when jails were decongested on account of Covid-19.
The Bombay High Court is hearing a plea seeking deletion of the photo and name of the Prime Minister from the PM CARES Fund’s website, and deletion of images of the national flag and emblem of India. The petition said these violate the Constitution of India and the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, since the trust does not discharge governmental or sovereign functions. It is not a government fund and collections did not go to the Consolidated Fund of India.
PM Modi lunched with construction workers in his parliamentary constituency, Varanasi, yesterday. Intriguingly, the plates of everyone except him were placed the wrong way.