Knowledge of Vedas and Puranas to Fetch Students Credits; New Pegasus-Like Spyware Detected in 10 countries
IMD forecasts normal monsoon, 3 churches demolished by Manipur’s BJP govt, students repaying loans taken by univs, Ambedkar the architect of women’s empowerment, now, a start-up scam
A newsletter from The Wire | Founded by MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sushant Singh, Sidharth Bhatia, Tanweer Alam and Pratik Kanjilal | With inputs from Kalrav Joshi | Editor: Vinay Pandey
Snapshot of the day
April 12, 2023
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and senior party leader Rahul Gandhi met Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav in Delhi today and emerged from the meeting sounding very upbeat about the prospect of opposition unity. “This is a historic step to unite the opposition. We will develop the vision of the opposition parties and move forward. We will all stand together for the country,” Gandhi said.
Most people know India experienced direct censorship during the Emergency. As memories of it fade, censorship is back in a new and arguably more insidious avatar, the latest manifestation of which are the amended IT rules allowing the government to order the deletion of “fake, false or misleading” news . As a big section of mainstream media continues to remain complicit with the state’s agenda, political satirist Kunal Kamra has filed a writ petition in the Bombay high court demanding that the new rules be declared “unconstitutional” and a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens. N. Ram, former editor of The Hindu, has called the rules a “direct threat to journalism”.
Hearing Kamra’s petition on Tuesday, a division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale asked the Centre to disclose the “factual background” that led it to amend the IT rules. Challenging the constitutional validity of the amendments, notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on April 6, Kamra has pleaded that the changes “significantly curtail” his capacity to work as a political satirist and comedian. The court also asked the Centre, through MeitY, to reply by April 19 why the amendments should not be stayed. The next date of hearing is April 21. Meanwhile, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that a new law, namely the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, “will be tabled in the Monsoon Session of Parliament in July.” This amendment could also severely hurt news reporting and speech on the internet.
Elon Musk of Twitter was asked by the BBC about the harmful impact complying with Indian government takedown orders could have elsewhere by sending a sign to repressive regimes everywhere. “No, look, if we have a choice of either our people go to prison, or we comply with the laws, we’ll comply with the laws. Same goes for the BBC,” Musk replied.
The Vedas and the Puranas will fetch students credits under a new framework to be soon adopted by Indian schools, colleges and universities. Students will be able to earn credits for specialised knowledge in the “Indian Knowledge System”, according to the final report on the new National Credit Framework (NCrF) released by the University Grants Commission on Monday. The document lists 18 major vidyas, or theoretical disciplines; and 64 kalas, applied sciences or vocational disciplines and crafts, which can count towards credits earned during school education. This provision was not there when the draft NCrF was first put in the public domain for feedback in October 2022.
A Pegasus-like spyware, sold by an Israeli firm, has been used against journalists, opposition figures and advocacy organisations across at least 10 countries – including individuals in North America and Europe – according to new research published on Tuesday by Microsoft and the internet watchdog Citizen Lab, reports Reuters. Citizen Lab said in its report that it had been able to identify a handful of civil society victims whose iPhones had been hacked using surveillance software developed by QuaDream Ltd – a lower-profile competitor to Pegasus maker NSO Group, which has been blacklisted by the US government over allegations of abuse.
A day after Skymet, a private forecaster, said the monsoon in India was likely to be below normal this year as El Niño could have an adverse effect on it, the India Meteorological Department on Tuesday forecast a “normal monsoon” for the country. The department said rainfall during the southwest monsoon (June–September) would be 96% of the long-period average (LPA), which amounts to 83.5cm; it said an LPA of 96% to 100% was considered normal. The forecast has an error margin of +/-5% of the LPA. Any effect of El Niño on the monsoon will be visible “only during the second half of the season”, M Mohapatra, director general of the IMD, said. “All El Niño years are not bad monsoon years. About 40% of the El Niño years in the past [1951–2022] were years with normal or above normal monsoon rainfall.” The department, however, forecast a below-normal monsoon for Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana and parts of Himachal Pradesh.
Under a new plan to fund infrastructure, public universities and institutes across India are taking loans of hundreds of crores. The burden to repay the loans is falling on the hapless students, reports Scroll.
Within 48 hours of Narendra Modi taking to Twitter to emphasise his government’s commitment to the welfare of Christians — he paid a rare visit to a Catholic Church on Easter Sunday in a move seen as aimed at placating Christians — three churches were demolished by the BJP-ruled Manipur government in the Imphal district for “illegal construction” on government land. The demolition comes days after the Manipur High Court vacated its order for status quo on an order for eviction drive. As actions speak louder than words, the irony here is obvious.
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While China has earlier announced the renaming of undersea features in various maritime regions, it has gone public for the first time about doing so in the Indian Ocean region. “The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] Navy has completed work on naming five seabed places in the international waters of the Indian Ocean, making a total of nine seabed place names in the international waters of the Indian Ocean,” the military channel of national broadcaster CCTV reported recently. A PLA officer called it an example of China’s “soft power”.
India plans to go ahead with a G-20 side meeting in Leh, capital of Ladakh, despite protests from Pakistan and China, which dispute the Union Territory’s status.
Four soldiers were shot dead in Bathinda, Punjab on Wednesday in an incident the army is describing as ‘fratricide’.
Unlike China, whose growth rate is projected to be 5.2% in 2023 against its current growth rate of 3% in 2022, India’s economic growth projection for the current fiscal is 5.9%, down from 6.1% projected earlier, according to the International Monetary Fund. Though the government is yet to release full-year GDP numbers, this forecast is lower than the RBI projection of 7%.
According to India’s Consumer Economy (ICE) 360 survey, policy choices in India between 2016 and 2021 led to extreme economic “degrowth” for the poorest households (a 53% drop in incomes) and massive growth at the top (39% increase). Indeed, “Amrit kaal” is only for the few.
During an interaction with DB Live – the YouTube channel of the Deshbandhu newspaper – the outspoken former governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik said that the allegations of crony capitalism against the Modi government in light of the Adani crisis will have an impact on the 2024 general elections. He further stated that the Modi government did not have any defence against the allegations that it played a role in Adani’s meteoric rise.
Eric Garcetti, the new US ambassador-designate to India, has arrived in Delhi and is all set to fill a position that has been vacant for more than two years. He is expected to play a key role in India-US relations – ranging from defence and security to development and military hardware. Despite pushback from several key US senators concerning an aide’s allegations of sexual harassment while he was serving as the mayor of Los Angeles, the Biden administration stood by Garcetti’s candidature.
Swaraj Abhiyan, the political party led by Yogendra Yadav, has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking an urgent hearing on its plea for a direction to the Centre to ensure that States have adequate funds to implement the rural employment guarantee scheme, MGNREGA. To which a bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said the plea may be mentioned for urgent hearing before the bench concerned. As of November 26, 2021, state governments are facing a shortage of ₹9,682 crore, and 100% of the allocated funds for the year have been exhausted before the conclusion of the year, the plea said.
BCCI, the richest cricket board in the world, has massive plans to upgrade at least five major stadiums, ahead of the ODI World Cup in October–November. Despite the game attracting huge money over the last decade, it continues to be a testament to poor facilities at the stadium.
In late March, India welcomed four newborn cheetah cubs – more than 70 years after the country officially declared the fastest land species extinct. But has India successfully reintroduced cheetahs? DW looks at how this project – based on poor science – is in conflict with stated national conservation and also at odds with the rule of law.
With the passing away of Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, South Asia and the world of public health lost a doyen who rationalised the essential use of drugs. India owes its generic medical industry to him. The prominent industrialist Keshub Mahindra also died Wednesday. The company he founded, Mahindra and Mahindra, was known as Mahindra and Mohammad before partition.