Rahul Gandhi Says India is Now a 'Dictatorship for the Few'; Has Modi's 'Revdi' Scheme for Vendors Served These ‘Nano-Entrepreneurs’ Well?
How rich is Adani, really? 85% of net shutdowns in 2022 were in India, Siddique Kappan’s bail rejected, ‘secular marriage’ site draws interest, Corbett’s ‘Modi Circuit’ unfortunately recalls Pulwama
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
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Snapshot of the day
August 5, 2022
Today is the third anniversary of the Modi government’s ‘constitutional coup’ over Jammu and Kashmir’s status. Astonishingly, Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has spent three whole years under house arrest, without being charged or convicted for a specific crime. The Supreme Court has yet to take up multiple petition challenging the Union’s move.
In a special press conference this morning, former Congress president and MP Rahul Gandhi said democracy is “dead in India” and a “dictatorship has been established”, promoting the interests of just 4-5 people. Jean Drèze does a back-of-the-placard calculation of the economic divide [in Hindi]:
On the final day of the three-day dharna by the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, despite heavy rains, hundreds of workers from 15 states stayed on at Jantar Mantar to continue raising their voices. Fourteen states’ NREGA funds are in the red, and 64% of the budget for this financial year has already been spent. More than Rs 6,800 crore are due in wages only for this year; no payments have been cleared in West Bengal since December 2021. Workers spoke of “weeks of work without pay, the difficulty and distress caused by the National Mobile Monitoring System application and other technological interventions.”
Alt News has fact-checked a Union minister who said there were no farm-related suicides during Modi’s government and found that 78,303 people connected with farming died by suicide from 2014-2021 ― according to government data.
The BJP is selling polyester tricolours ― that’s now legal, but liberties have been taken. The Flag Code specifies a rectangular tricolour of “any size but ratio of the length to the height (width) should be 3:2”, with the Ashok Chakra at the centre amid three horizontal stripes in equal proportion. At the state BJP office, Deccan Herald found that many of the flags being sold were neither rectangular nor did they conform to the 3:2 ratio. Some placed the Ashok Chakra away from the centre. In some flags, the green stripes were wider than the saffron and white ones. Badly tailored flags were being sold for Rs 25 cash. No card or UPI payment, and no receipt. On the contrary, buyers must give their names. The BJP wants to hoist 75 lakh flags across Karnataka, including 10 lakh from its state headquarters in Malleswaram.
Tanushree Pandey examined 12 hate crimes since 2014, where Hindus and Muslims were killed, and identified a pattern of bias and state protection. She found that ‘justice’ figured only when Muslim perpetrators were involved, and Hindus went scot free “in almost all cases”. In the first 8.42 minutes here, Dhanya Rajendran looks at the patent discrimination in three Karnataka killings.
More news on the E(knath Shinde)-D(evendra Fadnavis) government which, even after a month, has not been able to swear in a single minister. Shinde is said to be unwell, so Fadnavis is carrying a list of ministers for approval from Delhi. Such is the stature of the new government in Maharashtra. Meanwhile, in Jharkhand, Chief Minister Hemant Soren says no attempts to topple his government will work.
India accounted for 85% of internet shutdowns in the first six months of 2022, among 10 countries where internet disruptions and restrictions were recorded, according to a new report published by internet watchdog NetBlocks and VPN service Surfshark. Asia is the most censored continent. In India, Jammu and Kashmir had the maximum shutdowns, though they were rampant elsewhere, too.
On July 28, the Assam government appointed Partha Pratim Mazumdar, an IAS officer, as the new coordinator of the National Register of Citizens. The NRC was finalised in 2019. Why does it need a new coordinator?
Financial fraud has shot up as digital payments and online banking become more prevalent. Some 42% of Indians have been conned, according to a national survey by LocalCircles, and 74% of them could not retrieve their money. Nearly half of the 11,065 respondents said they or someone in their family had been victims of fraud in the last three years. Some 29% said it was “bank account fraud”, 24% said “fraud by eCommerce sites”, and 21% said “other frauds”. Furthermore, 18% said “credit/debit card fraud”, 12% said “fraud by mobile apps”, 8% said “ATM card fraud”, and 6% said “insurance fraud”, while the remaining 3% did not respond.
Canadian police have issued a rare warning about 11 men linked to extreme levels of gang violence. The police have warned the public to avoid being near them. Of the 11, nine are of Punjabi origin.
There were 1,472 vacancies in the IAS and 864 in the IPS as on January 1, 2022, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said yesterday. The government has increased their annual intake to 180 through civil services examination since 2012, on the basis of the recommendations of the Baswan committee, Singh said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha.
Suspecting cattle smuggling, a group of cow vigilantes attacked a Maharashtra-bound truck on Tuesday night near Seoni Malwa town of Madhya Pradesh’s Narmadapuram district and allegedly killed 50-year-old Nazir Ahmed and left two others gravely injured.
Ten out of 13 private insurance companies empanelled under the NDA’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), have earned Rs 24,350 crore between 2016-17 to 2020-21 with their lucrative business models. But two government-owned firms out of five lost Rs 3,344 crore in the same duration, reveals Agriculture Department data presented in the Parliament. The stark difference came to the fore when in 2018-19 and 2019-20, all five government firms incurred losses of Rs 2,506 crore under the scheme while private companies earned a profit of Rs 9,278 crore. Launched in 2016-17, PMFBY is a crop insurance scheme.
BJP president JP Nadda had claimed on his Bihar tour that only the BJP would survive and all other parties, including regional parties, would perish. But its ally Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) refused to accept it and the Opposition ― including the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Left and Congress ― have termed it a dangerous thought for a democracy.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court yesterday rejected the bail application of journalist Siddique Kappan, who was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the Hathras case. Kappan, a reporter for Malayalam news portal Azhimukham, was arrested while on his way to Hathras to report on the gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in 2020. The Kerala Working Journalists Union has issued a powerful statement on why UAPA cannot be invoked to prevent a journalist from reporting. They have expressed the hope that the Supreme Court will note that the Lucknow bench is in violation of a journalist’s right to report.
Thousands of tribal students from Imphal, Manipur, yesterday staged a protest demanding the immediate release of All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) leaders, including its president, who were arrested on Tuesday. The student leaders were arrested just a day after ATSUM called for a 24 hour shutdown from 6 pm on August 3 till 6 pm on August 4 across the hill districts in the state. They have demanded that the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill 2021 (ADC Bill) not be tabled in the current session of the Assembly.
A rent-a-quote Muslim cleric – ever ready to help the ‘godi media’ manufacture new ‘controversies’ over Islamic intolerance on demand – criticised a Muslim singer, Farmaani Naaz, for recording a popular song on the Hindu god Shiva. The media then quickly turned this into a ‘Deoband fatwa’, and the right-wing ecosystem created fake Twitter handles in her name to drive the imaginary narrative further. All through, the singer herself kept saying she had faced no such criticism and had even received support from clerics.
‘Secular marriage’ site draws interest
At a time when religion- and caste-specific matrimony sites are booming, Kerala’s non-profit online platform ‘Secular Marriage Matrimony’ is buzzing with profiles and proposals of youngsters who seek to breach traditional norms of arranged marriage. Manu Manushyajathy, who launched the platform, says it has gained more popularity following the pandemic. Its Facebook page has crossed 50,000 followers, and the number of people posting profiles has increased.
“In 2014, I started a page where I used to share inspiring stories of couples and individuals who fought the odds to break patriarchy, caste and religion to live together,” says the 33-year-old maths teacher. “The response was overwhelming, and I realised there were so many people who sought to come out of the system and live a life beyond societal norms. Later, as people started sending me profiles, I started Secular Marriage Matrimony.” Manu faced cyber attacks but sustained his efforts. “I was inactive for a few years, as I had to focus on my studies,” he says. So far, Manu has facilitated 30 ‘secular marriages’.
In Kanpur, BJP cat’s paw taken for a ride
Ravi Rajput is dismayed. The salesman’s son attends the Florets International School in Kanpur. On August 2, Rajput had filed a police complaint against the school director for allegedly compelling students to recite Islamic prayers. The school has now been sealed. “The intention was never to shut the school down, only that the prayer stops,” said Rajput. “I never wanted my son’s education to suffer.” The pandemic was not easy for Rajput, who makes Rs 12,000 a month. By cutting down on expenses, he had managed to get his 11-year-old child re-admitted in school, because he knows that online education isn’t the same. According to Rajput, he filed the police complaint on the request of Geeta Nigam, the BJP Mahila Morcha president in Kanpur. “I would not have gone to the police station myself to register a case,” he said.
Nigam confirmed to Scroll.in that she had called Rajput and told him to go to the police station “if he wanted” and on August 2, the police filed an FIR. School managing director Sumeet Makhija has been booked under Section 295A ― outraging religious feelings ― and the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021. The complaint in the FIR alleged the school was involved in “shiksha jihad”. “The school is sowing the seeds of conversion in our children,” the FIR elaborated. The complaint also demanded that the school be sealed, but Rajput now claims he never wanted that at all.
Shah raps Bommai’s knuckles
The midnight meeting between Home Minister Amit Shah and top BJP leaders and Karnataka ministers on Thursday was fraught, reports The News Minute: “The situation in Karnataka “warrants review and Shah sought a status update.” Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra was pulled up for the law and order situation and Chief Minister Bommai was told that he had failed to keep order. The not-so-amicable meeting ended with a stern warning to Bommai, sources said.
Shah was in Bengaluru on a short visit to attend the ‘Sankalp Se Siddhi’ conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The visit was his first to the state after the spate of communal murders in coastal Karnataka and the public display of anger by BJP cadre and Hindutva followers in the state. Shah asked the party leadership in Karnataka how they could misread the pulse of the karyakatas.
Temple near Lahore’s Anarkali Bazaar reopened
A 1,200-year-old Hindu temple in Lahore formally opened to the public after it was reclaimed from a Christian family by the Pakistan government following a lengthy court battle. The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) last month reclaimed possession of the Valmiki Temple near Anarkali Bazaar from a Christian family, which had grabbed it over two decades ago. Besides the Krishna Temple, the Valmiki Temple is the only functioning Hindu temple in Lahore. The Christian family, which claims to have converted to Hinduism, had been facilitating only worship by Valmiki caste Hindus for the last two decades.
In 1992, in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in India, an armed mob stormed into the Valmiki Temple, demolished it and set it on fire. The ETPB spokesman told Dawn that a commission constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan stated that the temple must be renovated, and this was done.
The Long Cable
PM SVANidhi: Has this revdi scheme served rehdi-patri ‘nano-entrepreneurs’ well?
SVANidhi Mahotsav, launched with much fanfare by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in 75 cities from Leh to Nagercoil, concluded last week. As part of the Azadi ke Amrit Mahotsav celebrations, accomplishments of the PM Street Vendors Atmanirbhar Nidhi scheme for street vendors, whom MoHUA has christened “nano-entrepreneurs”, were highlighted. The din of the macro-level celebrations drowned out ‘nano’ aspects of the implementation story ― questions which neither Parliament nor its Standing Committee asked, and implementation experiences from the ground which a subdued civil society has not yet begun voicing. Many media platforms merely reported from the datasheets and statements offered at MoHUA’s pressers.
The most obvious question staring at us on PMSVANidhi’s dedicated website: why are there so few takers for the scheme launched in June 2020 to provide subsidised loans in three tranches to help street vendors impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown?
While the government counted 1.5 crore street vendors who sell vegetables, fruits, groceries, inexpensive clothes and footwear, a private survey put the figure at 4 crore. MoHUA set a target of only 50.47 lakh. About 42.31 lakh first loan applications were found eligible and only 30.52 lakh street vendors actually received the loan of Rs 10,000.
Only those who fully repay the first loan become eligible for the second loan of Rs 20,000. According to MoHUA’s dashboard, about 28% of first loan applicants were found eligible for the second loan. Less than 12% who received the first loan got the second loan. In Rajasthan, less than 3% women street vendors got the second loan, and less than 4% in West Bengal. Only 1,027 applications were found eligible for the third loan of Rs 50,000, and less than 50% of them actually received it.
While it is too early to comment on the third loan figures, the extremely low uptake of the second loan is cause for concern. Implementation data supplied to this author under the RTI Act pegs bad loans –which MoHUA itself labels as ‘non-performing assets’ (NPAs) – at 15.88%. So NPAs cannot be the primary cause of poor demand. Is the state of the local economy where street vendors operate to blame, or are loan procedures too cumbersome? Anecdotal evidence indicates that the emphasis on digital transactions, though many street vendors don’t own a mobile phone, the insistence on domicile certificates by lending institutions from applicants who are essentially migrants, and the cumbersome sanction process, are all dampeners.
PM SVANidhi implementation data supplied under the RTI Act for Rs 60 reveals more about the geographical, demographic and community-wise coverage than what MoHUA does through its expensively designed implementation dashboard. For example, UP and MP cornered the lion’s share, accounting for more than 43% of the first loan and 38.76% of the second loan beneficiaries. The five southern states and Puducherry cornered 28.11% of the first loan but 38.87% of the second loan disbursed. The Parliamentary Committee which probed PM SVANidhi’s implementation in 2021 did not quiz the ministry about this lopsided geographical coverage.
More than 51% of the first and second loan beneficiaries are OBC. Even in tribal-dominated Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, OBCs accounted for 57.42% and 45.44%, while Scheduled Tribes accounted for 3.57% and 8% only. Is this trend of OBC domination an unintentional outcome of the implementation process, or is it indicative of the NDA’s sustained campaign to court this segment of the electorate?
RTI implementation data also shows that only 0.01% of the beneficiaries belong to minority communities. Is the loan demand very low in this section, or have applicants not identified themselves as such, given the current atmosphere of minority-bashing? These are but a few questions requiring answers beyond MoHUA’s publicly disseminated data.
What exactly did we celebrate in the Mahotsav, is the question taxpayers ought to ask because they foot the bill for the loans, the 7% interest subsidy that is paid back to the beneficiary and of course the cost of organising the SVANidhi Mahotsav.
(Venkatesh Nayak is Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi. Views are personal)
When IPS officer Tapan Deka was appointed director of the Intelligence Bureau, he superseded his IB colleagues Manoj Yadava, Manoj Kumar Lal and Amitabh Ranjan, who sought “respectful rehabilitation”. The government quickly agreed. Ranjan is the new director general of police of BJP-ruled Tripura, where Assembly polls are due early next year. Special director Manoj Kumar Lal has returned to his parent UT cadre, while Manoj Yadava has been sent to the National Human Rights Commission as director general (investigations). Only Anish Dayal Singh, Deka’s junior, continues at the IB as special director.
Prime Number: 10,491
That’s the number of cases pending in the Supreme Court which are more than 10 years old. This is out of a total of 71,411 cases pending before the top court, which included over 56,000 civil matters and over 15,000 criminal matters.
According to a study by FICCI’s Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy (CASCADE), India loses more than Rs 1 trillion a year due to fake and counterfeit goods. India has the Trade Marks Act, 1999), the Copyright Act, 1957 and the Patent Act, 1970, besides the Designs Act, 2000, the Geographical Indications of Goods Act, 1999 and the IT Act. The 2016 National Policy on Intellectual Property Rights lays down the framework for driving innovation in India. But lax enforcement, information gaps, corruption and a hopelessly complex legal system reduce all this to a mere statement of intent.
Op-Eds you don’t want to miss
The police filed FIRs for the killing of Chhattisgarh villagers only after their kin filed a petition, provided an account riddled with inconsistencies, detained the petitioners before their testimony was recorded, yet the Supreme Court chose to believe the state and punish those who knocked on its doors, writes Nandini Sundar in a critique of the recent Himanshu Kumar judgment.
Deccan Herald’s editorial describes the Enforcement Directorate as a “tool of the ruling party” and says it is the ED which “is the main weapon being wielded now”.
Maneesh Chhibber writes that contrasting responses to PILs on opaque Electoral Bonds and election-time “freebies” shows the Supreme Court in a bad light.
India shouldn’t cheer on the Taiwan knife-fight, writes Charu Sudan Kasturi. By trying to follow on after Pelosi’s visit, India’s chest-thumping politicians risk inflaming an already incendiary situation.
With one of the highest numbers of maternal deaths, India’s success in reducing maternal mortality is central to the global battle for safe motherhood. Today, it is the poor, pregnant and powerless who are most at risk of maternal death in this country, writes Patralekha Chatterjee.
Apar Gupta and Tejasi Panjiar say the withdrawal of the Data Protection Bill extends a status quo harmful for every Indian. It benefits unregulated and powerful interests in national security, the corporate sector and political interests.
The hurdles BSNL will have to surmount after the government unveiled the new package to remain a viable telecom services operator are daunting, writes Prosenjit Datta.
Lt Gen HS Panag (retd) writes that the Modi government must not underplay the issue of the construction of the G695 highway in Ladakh for the sake of improving bilateral relations. It had objected to the new bridge across Pangong Lake on the Chinese side of the LAC because it was in the territory illegally occupied by China. Why should it now dither when a highway is planned across a vast swath of Indian territory?
Yogendra Yadav reviews Vinayak Chaturvedi’s 480-page book on Savarkar, with the focus firmly on Savarkar’s political theory rather than his political action.
Sunita Aaron writes on how using the BSP is central to the BJP’s ambition in UP of winning “all 80 seats”.
“Writing is the most painful, challenging and fun part of filmmaking”, says Mahesh Narayanan.
Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Palanivel Thiagarajan interprets and deconstructs Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. [Partly in Tamil, with subtitles, but all lucid passages are in English.]
Over and Out
Footage from the court of Baroda (filmed in 1930-1935) shows two Bharatnatyam dancers performing with live musicians behind them. The musical instruments are of particular interest, as there appears to be a harmonium and bagpipes. It was routinely used at some point in Bharatanatyam recitals, which may surprise purists.
Pakistan’s Nooh Dastgir Butt and India’s Gurdeep Singh celebrated their weightlifting podium finish with murdered Punjab singer Sidhu Moosewala’s songs. The two medal winners from the two Punjabs bonded big-time.
The Indian Express reports that Uttarakhand tourism authorities are “working out a trail that will cover the places visited and activities done by PM Narendra Modi during a special episode of the survival reality show ‘Man vs Wild’, with Bear Grylls, shot inside the Jim Corbett National Park. The news report has neglected to carry what the ‘Modi Circuit’ is reminding readers of ― the long shoot took place during the Pulwama attack, in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed in cold blood, and continued even after the news broke.
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