India: Experts warn against ‘false hope’, say summer may not help tackle coronavirus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Experts warn against ‘false hope’, say summer may not help tackle coronavirus

Experts have warned against “false hope” following an analysis from China that said the number of cases decreased after average temperatures crossed 8.72 degrees Celsius.

INDIA Updated: Mar 10, 2020 01:26 IST

Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Passengers in masks at the Guwahati railway station.
Passengers in masks at the Guwahati railway station. (ANI Photo)

The summer heat may not necessarily kill or significantly weaken Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19), say some experts, who have warned against “false hope” following an analysis from China that said the number of cases decreased after average temperatures crossed 8.72 degrees Celsius.

Epidemiologists say that while rising temperature and humidity may lead to modest declines in the potency of Sars-CoV-2, countries should not depend on warm weather to slow transmission, as the new virus may not react to seasonal changes in the way that other seasonal viruses causing flu and common cold do.

The China study found that in cold regions, every 1°C rise in average temperatures led to an a cumulative increase in cases by 0.83, while in the higher-temperature group, every 1°C increase in the minimum temperature led to a fall in the cumulative number of cases by 0.86.

Also read: Here’s why coronavirus testing takes 15 minutes in China and a day in India

There may be a best temperature for the viral transmission and the virus’s sensitivity to high temperature could prevent it from spreading in warmer countries during the summer, concluded the study, after analysing the cases from around the world from January 20 to February 4, against meteorological data for January from China and the capitals of the affected countries.

The study from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou in Guangdong province was published on February 22. It is yet to be peer reviewed.

Another study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, however, points to sustained Sars-CoV-2 transmission in diverse climate conditions, from cold and dry provinces to tropical locations even within China. Kerala, the state with the first cases in India and where further transmissions were reported this week, has humid weather and a maximum temperature of around 32 degrees Celsius.

“Weather alone, such as an increase of temperature and humidity in spring and summer in the northern hemisphere, will not necessarily lead to decline in case counts without implementing extensive public health interventions,” said the Harvard study, which is also awaiting scientific review. “If Sars-CoV-2 behaves like other betacoronaviruses, it may transmit more efficiently in lower temperature than in the summer heat, but the size of the change is expected to be modest, and not enough to stop transmission on its own,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and one of the co-authors of the study.

Also read: IAF sending C-17 Globemaster to bring Indians back from coronavirus-hit Iran

“It’s a false hope to say it will disappear like the flu [in the summer] … we can’t make that assumption. And there is no evidence,” said Mike Ryan, executive director of World Health Organistaion Health Emergencies Programme, in a statement.

“We cannot depend on temperature alone. Rising temperatures lower the survivability of viruses on surfaces, but this is a modified virus that has started infecting humans. We don’t know how these changes will affect the survivability of the virus with changes in temperature or humidity,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology at Indian Council of Medical Research, and communicable disease adviser with Public Health Foundation of India. “Screening, contact tracing, testing, isolating cases, quarantining contacts and social are the way to control infection,” he added.

Massive containment efforts, and not rising temperatures, helped end the 2003 outbreak of Sars-Cov, the virus closest to Sars-CoV-2. “Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) did not die of natural causes. It was killed by intense public health interventions in mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Canada, and elsewhere… but in Toronto, Sars resurged after the initial wave and precautions were discontinued. The resurgence confirms that it was control measures that stopped transmission the first time,” said Lipsitch.

With little evidence on how this new virus will behave, epidemiologists are falling back on the behaviour of coronaviruses, particularly Sars-CoV, with which it shares the most similarity among the six other human coronaviruses, including Sars-Cov and seasonal coronaviruses OC43, HKU1, 229E, and NL63, which cause the common cold.

“Seasonal flu outbreaks show new viruses don’t follow seasonality associated with the common cold and flu viruses as people have no immunity against novel viruses, which makes infection in the first wave more potent. This makes it is difficult to predict behaviour. As infections reach a critical mass, people build herd immunity and the symptoms get milder. In countries like India, along with the seasonal peaks, we get flu and common cold cases throughout the year,” said an epidemiologist with the health ministry on condition of anonymity.

India: Veteran firefighters being missed as Parliament stuck in a deadlock

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Veteran firefighters being missed as Parliament stuck in a deadlock

In the Winter Session, the government agreed to just one debate under the rule, according to Trinamool Congrees Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandopadhyay.

INDIA Updated: Mar 06, 2020 05:09 IST

Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The ongoing Budget Session of Parliament is stuck in a deadlock for the past four days over the Opposition’s demand to immediately discuss the Delhi riots. With the BJP in no mood to relent , legislative business has suffered.
The ongoing Budget Session of Parliament is stuck in a deadlock for the past four days over the Opposition’s demand to immediately discuss the Delhi riots. With the BJP in no mood to relent , legislative business has suffered. (PTI photo)

In July last year, the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha saw 33 bills (excluding the Finance and Appropriation Bills) being cleared in the Lok Sabha. The opposition leaders backed the government business — bypassing the standing committee scrutiny in several cases — but wanted an assurance from the government floor managers that they would be allowed to debate at least one issue a week under Rule 193 (a debate that ends without voting). That wasn’t forthcoming, and not one such debate under Rule 193 happened.

In the Winter Session, the government agreed to just one debate under the rule, according to Trinamool Congrees Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandopadhyay.

Many senior leaders in opposition parties say this, more than anything else, underlines the inability of the government when it comes to floor management.

The ongoing Budget Session of Parliament is stuck in a deadlock for the past four days over the Opposition’s demand to immediately discuss the Delhi riots. With the BJP in no mood to relent , legislative business has suffered.

Opposition leaders say that in the previous Lok Sabha, senior ministers of the BJP such as the late Arun Jaitley, the late Ananth Kumar or Venkaiah Naidu (now the country’s vice-president) managed the floor deftly.

In January 2016, when the fate of the GST bill and some other legislative business looked bleak, Naidu, then the parliamentary affairs minister, met Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi seeking her support to run the House — something which no other BJP leader had done before. Within the following few days, Jaitley and Naidu arranged a meeting between PM Narendra Modi and Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh to thrash out differences on the GST bill. The bill was finally passed in August 2016.

“Leaders like Jaitley maintained an excellent equation across party lines. Inter-personal equations play an important role… Also, he had the authority; if he promised something to Opposition leaders, they knew it would be done,” said a seniorOpposition leader who asked not to be named.

In 2014, Jaitley, the leader of the Upper House, took the final call on the Opposition’s demand for form a select panel on the Insurance Bill to review the clause on increasing FDI in the sector. While the Opposition was in a majority in the Rajya Sabha, he and Naidu also managed to negotiate their way to a panel that finally included members from both the ruling and the Opposition side said a senior RS official on condition of anonymity

In the UPA era, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee (who was also the leader of LS) handled negotiations with the Opposition. When Nitin Gadkari became the BJP president, Mukherjee quickly included him in his weekly meetings with LK Advani and Leader of Opposition in LS , the late Sushma Swaraj. It helped Mukherjee get a clearer picture of what the BJP wanted and also helped arrive at solutions on parliamentary issues.

The government doesn’t have anyone who can do this today, say analysts.

One of the best stories of parliamentary negotiations goes back to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee era. The BJP had stalled the patent bill brought by the earlier Congress government in 1995. But in 2002-03, India started facing trouble in the World Trade Organization and the NDA’s commerce minister Murosoli Maran moved the same patent bill with just two changes: the name of the minister presenting the bill and the date of introduction. The bill was later cleared.

“When Kamal Nath (the parliamentary affairs minister) used to hold luncheon meetings with members from opposition parties every week. But today the top leaders of the BJP do not negotiate…,” said a senior Congress leader requesting anonymity.

India: Centre to push development schemes for individuals in J&K, Ladakh

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Centre to push development schemes for individuals in J&K, Ladakh

Earlier this week, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired a meeting on social schemes for the two new UTs. Move aims to highlight government’s intent on development for the regions’ residents.

INDIA Updated: Mar 01, 2020 16:26 IST

Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A Kashmiri coppersmith working inside a workshop in the downtown of Srinagar.
A Kashmiri coppersmith working inside a workshop in the downtown of Srinagar.(ANI)

The Union government will sharply focus on government schemes aimed at individuals, such as scholarships or houses, in the Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, in an effort to push its development narrative in the region.

Earlier this week, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired a meeting on social schemes for the two new UTs. According to two officials who attended the meeting, it was decided that the schemes must see 100% coverage with no potential beneficiary being excluded for lack of funds. The meeting, attended by secretaries of home affairs, minority affairs, tribal affairs, rural development and officials from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh focused on the two main issues involved — challenging conditions on the ground and the financial implications of covering everyone. For instance, the two officials said, one of the participants pointed out how the limited availability of 3G network in the valley makes the enrollment process difficult.

The emphasis on schemes that touch individual beneficiaries comes from the belief that this will have a perceptible impact on the ground, and highlight the government’s intent on the development front to residents. Indeed, this has been one reason consistently put across by the government to support its decision of August 5, 2019 to scrap constitutional provisions that had given the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir special status and its citizens special privileges — the ability to ensure people in the region benefit from welfare schemes as much as those in the rest of the country have.

“Proper implementation of individual schemes can directly improve people’s lives,” one of the two officials said on condition of anonymity.

Individual beneficiaries have been a key element of the National Democratic Alliance government’s social schemes and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party made special efforts to carve out a vote-bank out of the 220 million who benefited from various schemes in the run-up to the 2019 national polls, reaching out to them through dedicated campaigns and interactions.

According to data provided by the National Scholarship Portal, Jammu and Kashmir has received 517,000 new proposals for pre-metric scholarship in the academic year 2019-20 but money has been disbursed in just 8,294 cases.

Similarly, as on February 26, against a total target of building 62,932 houses for the rural poor in the region, only 36,780 have been sanctioned and just 122 have been completed, according to the data available with the rural development ministry.

In the meeting, it was decided that the schemes such as scholarships, gas connections under the Ujjwala programme, and housing for the poor must start with a 100% offtake with complete enrolment and funding. “This is an important step. The government has targeted 100% saturation in social programmes earlier too. But this time, 100% offtake is also envisaged, making it a special case for J&K and Ladakh UTs,” said the second official, who too didn’t wish to be named.

One of the other challenges discussed at the meeting was data on potential beneficiaries. The data provided by Union territories officials didn’t match with that of the Union home ministry and the latter has been asked to devise an online mechanism for data reconciliation.

Former rural development secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra underlines that J&K has very low poverty indices and so the welfare programmes must focus on skill development and employment . “Livelihood programms would do very well in J&K. I remember in his first Pragati meeting with secretaries, the PM had reviewed J&K livelihood programme and sought its continuation. While some schemes such as housing or scholarships must target individual beneficiaries, entry point for livelihood schemes has to be in groups.”

Delhi riots: As the dust settles, scale of tragedy starts to unfold

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Delhi riots: As the dust settles, scale of tragedy starts to unfold

DFS data accessed by HT shows that Tuesday was the worst day of the riots and alone witnessed 89 incidents of arson.

DELHI Updated: Feb 28, 2020 07:33 I ST

Anvit Srivastava
Anvit Srivastava

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
People mourn next to the body of Muddasir Khan, who succumbed to injuries that he suffered on Tuesday.
People mourn next to the body of Muddasir Khan, who succumbed to injuries that he suffered on Tuesday.(Photo: Reuters)

At least 79 houses, 52 shops, five godowns, four mosques, three factories and two schools were set ablaze between Monday and Wednesday morning during the riots in north-east Delhi that claimed 38 lives and left about 350 injured.

A rough estimate by the Delhi Fire Service (DFS), which attended 218 calls related to arson during the riots from Monday to 8 am on Thursday, suggests that more than 500 vehicles, including two-wheeler’s, were burnt between Monday and Thursday morning.

DFS data accessed by HT shows that Tuesday was the worst day of the riots and alone witnessed 89 incidents of arson. While Wednesday saw 57 incidents of arson, 23 took place on Monday. Fourteen incidents of arson also took place between midnight and 8 am on Thursday, the data shows.

Most of these buildings and vehicles were burnt using petrol and kerosene by the raging groups moving around with no fixed plan, but armed with torches and petrol bombs.

Officials said a majority of these buildings and vehicles had been gutted completely.

Fire services chief Atul Garg said that despite the arson, only one death was reported due to fire.

“We had to remove a burnt body of an elderly woman from a building near Khajuri. She was trapped in her house when the rioters set it afire. She may have lost consciousness due to asphyxiation, after which her body was burnt. There was no other casualty because of fire,” Garg said.

The director said that from Monday till Thursday afternoon, more than 100 of their firefighters remained deployed in north-east Delhi at four fire stations in the region. “The fire stations that fall in the riot-hit areas are Gokalpuri, Shastri Park, Tahirpur and Shahdara. Usually these fire stations have two fire tenders each, always ready to respond. We increased these numbers to at least six to eight fire tenders in each fire station, as the phones in our control room just did not stop ringing,” said Garg, who led the fire fighters in the riot-hit areas on Tuesday.

However, many residents said they received no aid from the fire fighters when their houses and shops were burnt by raging mobs.

Bilkis Khatoon, who lives right behind the mosque in Ashok Nagar that was burnt, said the mob also set her house on fire.

“My house was completely damaged. There is nothing left. Had the firefighters reached in time, they could have saved my belongings and valuables,” she said, in tears.

An HT reporter who was in Gokalpuri during the riots on Tuesday said that around 11 am, when a tyre and bike accessories market in Gokalpuri was burnt, a fire tender could not reach the spot because it was stopped near Gokalpuri Metro station by a violent mob, and its personnel thrashed.

The fire tender was also destroyed.

Director Garg said five firefighters were injured in the violence. “While on our way to the spots, we had to face severe stone-pelting and vandalism. On our request, the police had given us two teams that cordoned us through the violent mob every time. We tried attending every call that we received. In most incidents of fire, the occupants of the buildings were either rescued by neighbors or they managed to escape in time,” he said.

Garg said five fire tenders were also damaged. While one was completely burnt, four others were vandalized and are repairable, he said.

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27 Islamic terrorists now being trained at Balakot for attack on India

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

27 terrorists now being trained at Balakot for attack on India, says Intel

According to the counterterror operatives, out of the 27, eight are from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. They are being trained by two instructors from Punjab, Pakistan and three from Afghanistan.

INDIA Updated: Feb 07, 2020 08:20 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The camp, targeted by the IAF as a reprisal for the suicide bombing in Pulwama by a Jaish terrorist, and also to prevent further attacks against India, is currently headed by Yusuf Azhar, kin of Maulana Masood Azhar
The camp, targeted by the IAF as a reprisal for the suicide bombing in Pulwama by a Jaish terrorist, and also to prevent further attacks against India, is currently headed by Yusuf Azhar, kin of Maulana Masood Azhar(ANI )

The Balakot camp of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), targeted by India in an air strike last February, is active again and currently training 27 terrorists, with the plan being to use them to launch terror attacks in India, intelligence and counterterror operatives said.

The camp, targeted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a reprisal for the suicide bombing in Pulwama by a Jaish terrorist, and also to prevent further attacks against India, is currently headed by Yusuf Azhar, kin of Maulana Masood Azhar, and is currently providing terror training to 27 extremists for launching attacks against India.

According to the counterterror operatives, out of the 27, eight are from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. They are being trained by two instructors from Punjab, Pakistan and three from Afghanistan. The operatives, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the intelligence at their disposal suggests that the training will be completed within this week, after which the terrorists will be ready for insertion into India. At the time when India launched strikes at Balakot, there were no less than 300 terrorists being trained there, according to the operatives.

The preparations for the terror offensive come even as around 40 JeM functionaries including Abdul Rauf were arrested on January 22, as part of Pakistan’s compliance with the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental agency which combats money-laundering and terror financing. Even as Rawalpindi GHQ does this, the Indian operatives say, it may also launch a full-fledged information campaign to actually project the February 26, 2019, Indian Air Force strike at Balakot as a victory for the Imran Khan regime.

According to them, the aim of such a campaign would be to boost public confidence in the political and military leadership, lift the morale of Kashmiris, counter the Indian narrative on both Balakot and Kashmir, and present India internationally as a threat to global peace and security.

The fact is that Pakistan’s terror factory is alive and kicking with no less than 32 foreign terrorists belonging to both JeM and fellow jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba being gunned down by Indian security forces from January 1, 2019, to January 31 this year. Three LeT terrorists were apprehended and no less than 102 Pakistani terrorists are still active in Kashmir valley, the Indian officials added. Available records show that out of 102, 59 belong to LeT, 37 to JeM and 6 to Hizbul Mujahideen.

Yet the Pakistani narrative is designed to establish that Balakot was a victory for Islamabad as the military shot down an Indian MiG-21 Bison fighter and captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. The Imran Khan government is expected to use the media to propagate that Pakistan is all for peace but ready for war. The propaganda is designed to convey that the Pakistani leadership was strong as it “defeated” India in battlefield and at global forums. And it will use the wing commander’s return to substantiate its claims that it did so out of a desire for peace and from a position of strength.

The officials said that Islamabad was forced to hand over Abhinandan after India signalled its readiness to follow up with a missile strike.

Interestingly, the officials said that the Imran Khan government will also try to highlight that for the first time India was brought under international pressure over Kashmir, despite Islamabad’s continued failure to do so at the United Nations.

India slips to 112th in gender gap index, bottom 5 of health and economic fronts

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India slips to 112th rank on WEF’s gender gap index, in bottom 5 on health, economic fronts

While Iceland remains the world’s most gender-neutral country, India has moved down the ladder from its 108th position last year on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report to rank below countries like China (106th), Sri Lanka (102nd), Nepal (101st), Brazil (92nd), Indonesia (85th) and Bangladesh (50th).

INDIA Updated: Dec 17, 2019 05:37 IST

Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

New Delhi
Worldwide, women now hold 25.2 per cent of parliamentary lower-house seats and 21.2 per cent of ministerial positions, compared to 24.1 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively last year.

India has slipped four places to rank 112th globally in terms of gender gap amid widening disparity in terms of women’s health and survival and economic participation — the two areas where the country is now ranked in the bottom-five, an annual survey showed on Tuesday.

While Iceland remains the world’s most gender-neutral country, India has moved down the ladder from its 108th position last year on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report to rank below countries like China (106th), Sri Lanka (102nd), Nepal (101st), Brazil (92nd), Indonesia (85th) and Bangladesh (50th).

Yemen is ranked the worst (153rd), while Iraq is 152nd and Pakistan 151st.

“The time it will take to close the gender gap narrowed to 99.5 years in 2019. While an improvement on 2018 -– when the gap was calculated to take 108 years to close — it still means parity between men and women across health, education, work and politics will take more than a lifetime to achieve,” the WEF said.

Geneva-based WEF, an international organisation for public-private cooperation, said this year’s improvement can largely be ascribed to a significant increase in the number of women in politics.

The political gender gap will take 95 years to close, compared to 107 years last year. Worldwide, women now hold 25.2 per cent of parliamentary lower-house seats and 21.2 per cent of ministerial positions, compared to 24.1 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively last year.

However, the economic opportunity gap has worsened, widening to 257 years, compared to 202 years last year. The report said one of the greatest challenges to closing this gap is women’s under-representation in emerging roles, such as cloud computing, engineering and data and AI.

The WEF had published its first gender gap report in 2006, when India was ranked relatively higher at 98th place.

Since then, India’s rank has worsened on three of four metrics used for the overall ranking. While India has improved to 18th place on political empowerment, it has slipped to 150th on health and survival, to 149th in terms of economic participation and opportunity and to 112th place for educational attainment.

The WEF said economic opportunities for women are extremely limited in India (35.4 per cent), Pakistan (32.7 per cent), Yemen (27.3 per cent), Syria (24.9 per cent) and Iraq (22.7 per cent).

It also named India among countries with very low women representation on company boards (13.8 per cent), while it was even worse in China (9.7 per cent).

On health and survival, four large countries — Pakistan, India, Viet Nam and China — fare badly with millions of women there not getting the same access to health as men, the WEF said.

It also flagged abnormally low sex ratios at birth in India (91 girls for every 100 boys) and Pakistan (92/100).

The WEF said India has closed two-thirds of its overall gender gap, but the condition of women in large fringes of India’s society is precarious and the economic gender gap runs particularly deep.

Since 2006, the gap has significantly widened and India is the only country among the 153 countries studied where the economic gender gap is larger than the political one.

Only one-quarter of women, compared with 82 per cent of men, engage actively in the labour market — one of the lowest rates globally (145th).

Furthermore, the female estimated earned income is mere one-fifth of the male income, again among the world’s lowest (144th).

Women account for only 14 per cent of leadership roles (136th) and 30 per cent of professional and technical workers.

“Violence, forced marriage and discrimination in access to health remain pervasive. The situation and the trend are more positive in terms of gender gaps in education… But a large difference persists for literacy rate; only two-thirds of women are literate compared with 82 per cent of men,” WEF said.

India ranks high on the political empowerment sub-index, largely because the country was headed by a woman for 20 of the past 50 years. But, female political representation today is low as women make up only 14.4 per cent of Parliament (122nd rank globally) and 23 per cent of the cabinet (69th), the report said.

Nordic countries continue to lead the way to gender parity and Iceland is followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden in the top-four. In the top-10, they are followed by Nicaragua, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Rwanda and Germany.

The WEF said one positive development is the possibility that a ‘role model effect’ may be starting to have an impact in terms of leadership and possibly also wages.

“For example, in eight of the top-10 countries this year, high political empowerment corresponds with high numbers of women in senior roles. Comparing changes in political empowerment from 2006 to 2019 shows that improvements in political representation occurred simultaneously with improvements in women in senior roles in the labour market,” the report said.

WEF’s Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said, “Supporting gender parity is critical to ensuring strong, cohesive and resilient societies around the world. For business, too, diversity will be an essential element to demonstrate that stakeholder capitalism is the guiding principle.” The issue of gender gap is likely to be among key focus areas for discussion next month at the annual meeting of the WEF in Davos, Switzerland.

The WEF said it is has committed to at least double the current percentage of women participants at the Davos summit by 2030.

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India’s new Citizenship Act and national register of citizens are inspired by “paranoia”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF QUARTZ INDIA)

 

REUTERS/RUPAK DE CHOWDHURI
Same-same, but different.
DIVIDED WE FALL

India’s new Citizenship Act and national register of citizens are both inspired by “paranoia”

By Manavi Kapur

India’s contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, which was cleared by parliament last week, has sparked violent protests across the country, for more than one reason. While there is anger that the legislation is discriminatory against Muslims, there are also fears of an influx of settlers.

The legislation aims to fast-track citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians who arrived in India before Dec. 31, 2014, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Afghanistan. For the immigrant religious minorities, the law effectively amends India’s Citizenship Act, 1955, which required an applicant to have resided in India for 11 years.

The upheaval in most of the country, is due to the exclusion of Muslims from the list. Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Myanmar, for instance, will not be given citizenship under the new law. Likewise, for Sri Lankan Tamils. Several people took to the streets in West Bengal, Kerala, and Goa, and some protests turned violent. In Delhi, police allegedly resorted to tear-gas shells, guns, and batons to push back protesters at Jamia Millia Islamia university.

In the northeastthough, the resistance to the legislation has a different hue.

The NRC piece

In Assam, which shares a border with Bangladesh, people fear an ethnic, and demographic shift due to an influx of immigrants—regardless of their religion. Violent protests in state capital Guwahati led the Indian government to shut down the internet in the state on Dec. 11.

Citizens here are also concerned about the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC), which requires people to produce documents of ancestry to be enlisted as Indian citizens. This exercise, undertaken by prime minister Narendra Modi’s government in Assam between February 2015 and August this year, was meant to “throw out infiltrators.”

The final list of citizens, published on Aug. 31, excluded nearly 19 lakh residents of Assam, including Hindus.

Ever since, India’s home minister Amit Shah has hinted at the possibility of a nationwide NRC. Shah referred to “illegal immigrants” as “termites” in April, and the citizenship act is now being seen in the context of the planned nationwide NRC.

By all accounts, the NRC in Assam only seems to have deepened the divide between the different cultural groups in the state, bringing back memories of the unrest of the 1980’s. This was a time when Assamese-speaking residents of the state feared being overpowered by Bengali-speaking Bangladeshi immigrants after Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971.

Some commentators have equated the NRC with ethnic cleansing, much like what the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar faced. The fear is that a nation-wide NRC could only prove disastrous where residents could be profiled on the basis of their religions and stripped of their citizenship overnight.

Citizenship Act and NRC

Protesters believe that the exclusion of Muslims and a nationwide NRC are products of the same school of thought. The paranoia against “outsiders” and “infiltrators” rings strong in both narratives, though by the government’s own estimates, the citizenship act will help a little over 31,000 people.

Given the exclusionary privileges, those protesting believe that the new law will only be used to polarize Indian communities, especially Hindus, against Muslims. On Dec. 11, just before the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was cleared, over 700 activists, academicians, and filmmakers wrote a letter to the Indian government expressing grave concern over these two proposed laws. “For the first time there is a statutory attempt to not just privilege peoples from some faiths but at the same time relegate another, Muslims, to second-rate status,” they wrote.

The new law, they wrote, also went against the tenets of the Indian constitution. “The CAB is at odds with Constitutional secular principles and a violation of Articles 13, 14, 15, 16 and 21 which guarantee the right to equality, equality before the law and non discriminatory treatment by the Indian state,” they wrote.

India: Detained Jamia students released; protests in AMU, Hyderabad, Kolkata

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Detained Jamia students released; protests in AMU, Hyderabad, Kolkata over clashes

Of the detained students, 35 were released from the Kalkaji police station and 15 from the New Friends Colony police station, reported news agency PTI quoting a senior police officer.

INDIA Updated: Dec 16, 2019 09:07 IST

Kainat Sarfaraz
Kainat Sarfaraz
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Students from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) hold placards and raise slogans to protest against the Delhi Police action on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), and in solidarity with the students of JMI, outside Police Headquarters in New Delhi on  December 15, 2019. (Photos by Amal KS)
Students from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) hold placards and raise slogans to protest against the Delhi Police action on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), and in solidarity with the students of JMI, outside Police Headquarters in New Delhi on December 15, 2019. (Photos by Amal KS)

As many as 50 Jamia Millia Islamia students who were detained after a clash with the Delhi cops were released in the early hours of Monday after being kept in the police stations for over six hours, police said.

The demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise took a violent turn on Sunday after protesters attempted to march towards arterial south Delhi roads and were stopped by the cops. The police said they had to resort to lathi-charge and fire tear gas shells after protesters started pelting stones and smashing cars and vehicles. The protesters set fire to at least four DTC buses, too, the police said.

Following the clashes, the police entered the university campus and detained several students. While 35 were detained at Kalkaji police station, 16 were detained at the New Friends Colony (NFC) police station near the varsity.

Chinmoy Biswal, deputy commissioner of police (south-east) said, “35 students detained at Kalkaji police have been released.”

According to some Jamia students, 15 students at NFC police station were also released. Rishabh Jain, a postgraduate student of the varsity present at the police station, said the detained students were released and have been taken to Jasola Apollo hospital and AIIMS trauma centre for medical reports.

On Sunday night, hundreds gathered outside the Delhi Police headquarters at ITO demanding the release of detained students.

The university administration, students and teachers dissociated themselves from Sunday’s violence and said that people from outside the campus were involved in clashes with the police.

Condemning police violence against students, a group of Jamia’s alumni members said, “The police entered the campus without the university authority’s permission and beat up students, injuring dozens, and destroying the university property. Many of them were studying in the university library, which was tear-gassed, and students were detained. By the latest account, students are still being treated for injuries in different hospitals in Delhi.”

After the police crackdown on the Jamia students, protests erupted on the campuses across the country. The situation turned violent in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on Sunday night after the students clashed with cops over the alleged police assault on the Jamia Millia Islamia students. The police fired tear gas shells at students outside the Aligarh Muslim University campus after protesters pelted stones at them.

Students of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), in Hyderabad, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi and Kolkata’s Jadavpur University also held demonstrations in solidarity with the Jamia students.

Earlier on Sunday night, the Delhi Minority Commission (DMC) issued a direction to the SHO of Kalkaji Police Station to release the “injured” Jamia students. The commission also asked the police to take the students for treatment at a reputed hospital without any delay.

India: Factory output shrinks, rising inflation at 5.5%

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Factory output shrinks, rising inflation at 5.5% begins to hurt

Factory output contracted 3.8% in October after shrinking 4.3% in September, in sharp contrast with an 8.4% expansion in October last year. Retail inflation continued to surge in November, fuelled by soaring food prices, as prolonged rains dampened vegetable supplies.

BUSINESS Updated: Dec 13, 2019 08:01 IST

Gireesh Chandra Prasad
Gireesh Chandra Prasad

Livemint, New Delhi
Factory output contracted 3.8% in October after shrinking 4.3% in September, in sharp contrast with an 8.4% expansion in October last year.
Factory output contracted 3.8% in October after shrinking 4.3% in September, in sharp contrast with an 8.4% expansion in October last year.(Reuters File Photo )

India’s industrial output shrank while inflation swelled, official data released on Thursday showed, highlighting challenges for policymakers battling an economic slowdown amid surging food prices.

Factory output contracted 3.8% in October after shrinking 4.3% in September, in sharp contrast with an 8.4% expansion in October last year. Retail inflation continued to surge in November, fuelled by soaring food prices, as prolonged rains dampened vegetable supplies.

Experts said if economic growth does not show signs of an uptick in the December quarter, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may come under pressure to give further monetary stimulus to support the economy, given the fact that retail inflation is driven by food prices and is not across the board. Vegetable prices surged 36% in November from a year ago, data released by the National Statistics Office showed.

Retail inflation surged 5.54% in November as food price inflation measured by the Consumer Food Price Index rose 10% in November from 7.89% in October.

Pointing to a demand slump in the economy, manufacturing output, which accounts for three-fourth of factory output, contracted 2.1% in October. The contraction in consumer durables deepened in October. Production of items such as cars and household appliances contracted 18% in October, after shrinking 9.9% in the month before.

Capital goods production that reflects investments in manufacturing continued its sharp contraction in October too. It has now contracted by over 20% for the last three months. Energy generation, seen as a proxy for living standards, too remained muted. Mining output covering mainly coal and crude oil contracted by 8% in October, and electricity generation by over 12%.

“The broad-based industrial weakness continues. The fiscal and monetary policy measures will have a lagged impact on the economy,” said DK Joshi, chief economist at Crisil Ltd. “If economic growth remains weak in the December quarter, then there is scope for monetary policy to further support economic growth.” He said the factors that may have an impact on retail inflation in the weeks ahead include higher telecom tariffs and a possible increase in goods and services tax rates.

According to Sunil Kumar Sinha, director of public finance and principal economist at India Ratings and Research, the industrial output figures clearly suggest that the festival season could not arrest the declining growth momentum of the industrial sector, resulting in the manufacturing sector clocking degrowth for the third consecutive month in November. “This is unprecedented as the new series of IIP with 2011-12 as base year so far has not witnessed such consecutive months of degrowth either in the manufacturing, electricity or the industrial sector as a whole,” said Sinha.

The government has announced various measures to support the automobile industry, exporters, non-bank lenders and housing financiers in addition to announcing a sharp corporate tax rate cut for domestic companies not availing of any tax breaks and to new manufacturing companies. RBI has so far cut its benchmark repo rate five times in a row this year totaling 135 basis points.

India’s economy grew 4.5% in the second quarter, its slowest pace since March 2013.

India: Preparations on in Delhi’s Tihar jail to hang December 16 rape, murder convicts

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Quiet preparations on in Delhi’s Tihar jail to hang December 16 rape, murder convicts: Official

The preparations include approaching a prison in Bihar for gallows rope, writing to other states for services of hangmen, and inspections of the courtyard as well as the equipment that will be used to carry out the execution.

INDIA Updated: Dec 12, 2019 08:12 IST

Prawesh Lama
Prawesh Lama
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Protestors hold placards to demand justice for the rape and murder of the Unnao rape survivor who was burnt alive by her alleged rapists, at Shahidi Park, ITO, in New Delhi.
Protestors hold placards to demand justice for the rape and murder of the Unnao rape survivor who was burnt alive by her alleged rapists, at Shahidi Park, ITO, in New Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Prison officers in Delhi’s Tihar jail have begun arrangements to execute the four men convicted of the December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder of a physiotherapy student in the national capital, according to officials aware of the preparations.

These include approaching a prison in Bihar for gallows rope, writing to other states for services of hangmen, and inspections of the courtyard as well as the equipment that will be used to carry out the execution.

“We have ordered 10 new ropes from the Buxar jail. We are making preparations so that when the time comes, everything is in place. The ropes are made in Buxar jail by prisoners. They have to be of a particular type and should not break during the hanging or cut the throat. We had some old ropes but we did not want to take a chance,” said a Tihar officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh are on death row for the gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old woman who was tortured on a bus that she and a friend boarded in south Delhi’s Munirka. A fifth adult suspect in the case, Ram Singh, purportedly committed suicide in prison before the trial ended and a sixth was a minor at the time of the crime.

Prison officials did not indicate when the executions would take place and said that the four convicts were on October 27 reminded that they had exhausted all their legal options and that if they did not file a mercy petition within a week, the department would proceed with the execution process.

Last month, a mercy petition signed by one of the four convicts was first sent to the state government and then to Lieutenant Governor (LG) Anil Baijal. State home minister Satyendar Jain and the LG recommended the petition be dismissed and forwarded the file to the President’s office. The convict, Vinay Sharma, withdrew the petition.

Two officials in the President’s office said there are no petitions from these convicts pending.

In a ruling in 2014, the Supreme Court held that a death row convict must be given a reasonable amount of time to take legal recourse against an execution warrant and to have a final meeting with members of his family. “Convicts need to be given 14 days from the date they have been told that their mercy petition has been rejected. The hanging too needs to be preceded by a notice,” said advocate Rishabh Sancheti, who was part of the legal team involved in the 2014 case and has represented convicts such as Surendra Kohli, whose death sentence was commuted over delays.

All of the preparations, the communications to Buxar prison officials and to Uttar Pradesh state officials (seeking services of hangmen), and the inspection of the gallows, which included a test carried out using a dummy weighing 70-80kg, was done on Monday, multiple officials told HT.

“We received a request letter from the Tihar prison through fax on December 9 (Monday) seeking services of the two hangmen of UP, as they do not have hangman there. The letter makes no mention of the convicts to be hanged but states there may be requirements,” said the director general (DG) of UP prisons administration and reform services, Anand Kumar.

A second Tihar officer confirmed that the department has written to not just UP but several states for the services of a hangman. Tihar does not have a hangman of its own at present. “If we do not get a hangman, it can be done by any jail official. We have to follow the manual and the process. Before Afzal’s hanging, we used the services of a hangman from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh,” this officer said, asking not to be named. Parliament attacks convict Afzal Guru was the last person to be hanged inside Tihar, on February 3, 2013. He was hanged by a jail official, whose name was never revealed by the government.

On Monday, prison officers also opened the gate of the “phasi kotha” in jail number 3, the courtyard where the execution will take place. Officers checked the iron beam, the wooden plank, and the lever. The officers then conducted a mock hanging by using sand bags to test the weight on the beam, plank, and lever.

(With inputs from Rohit Singh in Lucknow)