Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
04 May 2021

Modi wants NGOs to help fight Covid-19. But their hands are tied by rules his government introduced

The law that regulates foreign contributions to the non-profit sector was amended in the middle of the pandemic.

In September, when India was in the midst of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the Centre amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which governs the use of foreign donations received by non-governmental organisations in the country.

At that time, the Voluntary Action Network India, a group of Indian non-profit organisations, said in a statement that the stringent restrictions brought in through the amendments would deliver a death blow to them.

Eight months later, India is going through a more severe second wave of Covid-19, with daily infection numbers touching almost 4 lakh per day and the country registering a record number of daily deaths.

On April 30, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a review meeting with officials discussed how NGO should help maintain lines of communication between patients, their dependents and healthcare personnel.

But those in the NGO sector say the September amendments introduced by the Modi government have crippled them, limiting their ability to access and distribute crucial foreign aid at a time when India is looking for every bit of help to fight the crisis.

There are hundreds of NGOs across the country with health as their primary area of focus. These organisations want the government to put the implementation of the amendments in abeyance to allow them to effectively use their networks in the fight against Covid-19. In particular, the organisations want the government to allow the larger NGOs to distribute funds they receive to the smaller ones, something that has been prohibited by the new changes to the law.

Sub-granting aid

Before the amendments were passed in September, larger NGOs which are registered under the FCRA would receive donations from outside India and redistribute the funds to smaller NGOs with whom they work in the country. To illustrate, an NGO working in Delhi could sub-grant the money to a smaller NGO working in Bihar or Kerala to implement a certain program in the field.

But the amendments put an end to this practice.

According to Biraj Patnaik, executive director of the National Foundation of India, smaller NGOs working in remote areas do not usually get direct access to foreign funding. They depend on the larger NGOs to sub-grant funds for their work. “A small NGO may not even have a functioning website. But they could be doing excellent work on the ground,” he said.

The larger NGOs act as a bridge between the donors and the smaller organisations. “By disallowing sub-granting of funds, the whole stream of funding has dried up,” he added.

This becomes even more important in times like a pandemic.

Patnaik said FCRA covers both money and material donations. Without powers to sub-grant, the reach of the larger NGOs is also restricted. For example, an NGO may receive oxygen concentrators from a donor abroad. “For instance, if my organisation which is based in Delhi gets a large supply of oxygen concentrators from abroad as a donation, we can no longer send it to organisations working in Nagaland or Arunachal Pradesh, or indeed in rural Uttar Pradesh.”

26 April 2021

Twitter Admits To Censoring Criticism Of The Indian Government

On Saturday, Twitter admitted that it is actively working with the Indian government to censor criticism of its handling of the pandemic as the number of cases and deaths continues to skyrocket.

There are widespread reports that the Indian government has misrepresented the number of deaths and the true rate of cases could be as much as 30 times higher than reported.  The country has a shortage of beds, oxygen, and other essentials due to a failure to adequately prepare for a new surge. Not surprisingly, the Indian government has moved to crackdown on criticism. This included a call to Twitter to censor such information and Twitter has, of course, complied.

With the support of many Democratic leaders in the United States, Twitter now regularly censors viewpoints in the United States and India had no trouble in enlisting it to crackdown on those raising the alarm over false government reporting.

Buried in an Associated Press story on the raging pandemic and failures of the Indian government are these two lines:

“On Saturday, Twitter complied with the government’s request and prevented people in India from viewing more than 50 tweets that appeared to criticize the administration’s handling of the pandemic. The targeted posts include tweets from opposition ministers critical of Modi, journalists and ordinary Indians.”

The article quotes Twitter as saying that it had powers to “withhold access to the content in India only” if the company determined the content to be “illegal in a particular jurisdiction.” Thus, criticism of the government in this context is illegal so Twitter has agreed to become an arm of the government in censoring information.

Keep in mind that this information could protect lives. It is not “fake news” but efforts by journalists and others to disclose failures by the government that could cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

This is the face of the new censors.  The future in speech control is not in the classic state media model but the alliance of states with corporate giants like Twitter. Twitter now actively engages in what Democratic leaders approvingly call “robust content modification” to control viewpoints and political dissent.

When Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey came before the Senate to apologize for blocking the Hunter Biden story before the election as a mistake, senators pressed him and other Big Tech executive for more censorship.

In that hearing, members like Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., HI) pressed witnesses like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey for assurance that Trump would remain barred from speaking on their platforms: “What are both of you prepared to do regarding Donald Trump’s use of your platforms after he stops being president, will be still be deemed newsworthy and will he still be able to use your platforms to spread misinformation?”

Rather than addressing the dangers of such censoring of news accounts, Senator Chris Coons pressed Dorsey to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing any views that he considers “climate denialism.” Likewise, Senator Richard Blumenthal seemed to take the opposite meaning from Twitter, admitting that it was wrong to censor the Biden story. Blumenthal said that he was “concerned that both of your companies are, in fact, backsliding or retrenching, that you are failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.” Accordingly, he demanded an answer to this question:

“Will you commit to the same kind of robust content modification playbook in this coming election, including fact checking, labeling, reducing the spread of misinformation, and other steps, even for politicians in the runoff elections ahead?”

“Robust content modification” has a certain appeal, like a type of software upgrade. It is not content modification. It is censorship. If our representatives are going to crackdown on free speech, they should admit to being advocates for censorship.

What is fascinating is how social media companies have privatized censorship. These companies now carry out directives to censor material deemed unlawful or fake or misleading by those in power.  The company also shows no compulsion to protect free speech. When India calls for censorship, it just shrugs and say that the dissenting views are now illegal.

In the meantime, liberals now support crackdowns on free speech and corporate power over viewpoint expression.

We have have been discussing how writerseditorscommentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. Even journalists are leading attacks on free speech and the free press.  This includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation.

Liberals now embrace censorship and even declared that “China was right” on Internet controls. Many Democrats have fallen back on the false narrative that the First Amendment does not regulate private companies so this is not an attack on free speech. Free speech is a human right that is not solely based or exclusively defined by the First Amendment.  Censorship by Internet companies is a “Little Brother” threat long discussed by free speech advocates.  Some may willingly embrace corporate speech controls but it is still a denial of free speech.

This is why I recently described myself as an Internet Originalist. Twitter is now unabashedly and unapologetically a corporate censor. The question is whether the public will remain silent or, as some, actually embrace the new Orwellian order of “robust content modification.”

India's richest people are fleeing on private jets as the country hits almost 350,000 COVID-19 infections in another daily global record

 By Sophia Ankel

A demand for private jets boomed as Indians who could afford it scrambled to escape a second coronavirus wave.Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana via Reuters

India's ultra-rich are paying tens and thousands of dollars to escape the country as it set a new global record for daily coronavirus infections - for the fourth day in a row.

In the last week, India has become the new epicenter of the virus, which has completely overwhelmed the country's healthcare system and crematoriums and has led to a dire shortage of oxygen.

On Sunday, public health officials reported 349,691 new COVID-19 cases in the country, according to Sky News. They also reported 2,767 deaths, another daily record, as some nations announced they would implement travel restrictions on visitors from India.

The alarming numbers are prompting wealthy Indians to pay thousands for last-minute flights and private jets as travel restrictions come into place.

One popular destination seems to be the United Arab Emirates, which is only a short distance away from India and usually operates hundreds of flights there. It announced this week that it was barring the entry of travelers from India for 10 days from April 25, according to Gulf News.

A spokesman for charter company Air Charter Service India told AFP that the amount of interest in private jets has been "absolutely crazy."

"We have 12 flights going to Dubai tomorrow and each flight is completely full," the spokesman said Friday, according to The Economic Times. Another private jet provider, Enthral Aviation, said it has been overwhelmed by hundreds of inquiries over the last few days.

"We have requested more aircraft from abroad to meet the demand ... It costs $38,000 to hire a 13-seater jet from Mumbai to Dubai and $31,000 to hire a six-seater aircraft," an Enthral Aviation spokesperson said, according to The Economic Times.

"People are making groups and arranging to share our jets just to get a seat... We've had some queries for Thailand but mostly the demand is for Dubai," they added.

According to the Sunday Times, at least eight private jets were flown to Britain from India in the last 24 hours as the UK implemented its own travel ban on the country. It is reported that the jets may have cost more than $138,000 (£100,000) to charter for the nine-hour flight.

India's richest people are fleeing on private jets as the country hits almost 350,000 COVID-19 infections in another daily global record

A COVID-19 patient gets admitted to a government hospital in Kolkata, India, on April 22, 2021.Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty Images

India has been facing an unexpected and devastating second coronavirus wave. A shocking video from the BBC, published Thursday, showed people dying on stretchers while waiting for help outside a hospital.

In New Delhi, which has been hit particularly hard, one person is said to be dying of COVID-19 every four minutes.

The US government said on Saturday that it was seriously concerned about the worsening situation in the country and that it was in high-level talks to deploy extra help to Indian healthcare workers.

"Our hearts go out to the Indian people in the midst of the horrific COVID-19 outbreak," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter. "We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India's health care heroes."

Indian journalist who reported rape of minority community girl handcuffed to hospital bed; not allowed to use toilet

Kappan handcuffed to hospital bed; not allowed to use toilet, says wife

Kappan, who is lodged in UP's Mathura prison, is admitted to K.M. Medical College

siddique_kappan (File) Siddique Kappan

Journalist Siddique Kappan, who is lodged in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura prison since October 2020, has been denied the “basic human right to go to a toilet”, his wife Raihana Kappan told THE WEEK today. The Delhi-based journalist from Kerala is currently admitted to K.M. Medical College, Mathura.

Kappan was arrested at Mathura by the Uttar Pradesh Police in October 2020, while on his way to Hathras to report on the gangrape and murder of a Dalit girl, which had triggered nationwide outrage. The journalist was booked under the Draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

On April 20, he collapsed in the Mathura Jail and suffered serious injuries, Raihana said.

“After hospitalising, he was tested positive for COVID-19,” she told THE WEEK. “He called me today from somebody’s phone. He told me that the hospital authorities are not allowing him to go to the toilet. He is handcuffed to the bed and is not allowed to move. He is urinating in a plastic bottle. He is a human being. He has to go to the toilet too, right?”

On April 22, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists had pleaded before the Supreme Court, seeking his transfer from the Mathura hospital to All India Institute of Medical Sciences or Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi, citing his deteriorating health.

“He have had fever for more than 10 days now,” Raihana said. “His chin was injured after collapsing in the bathroom. So, he is having difficulty in having food. But now, he somehow wants to get discharged from the hospital. If he is in the [Mathura] jail, he can at least go to the toilet.”

Wills Mathew, Kappan's advocate, said that the latter is now in a “very bad” condition. He also said that he is preparing a letter to the Chief Justice of India describing his condition.

Kappan is a diabetic, and has had high blood pressure and cholesterol for more than 15 years, his wife said. “If you inquire with the medical superintendent, he would say ‘it is all good’,” Raihana said. “But when my husband called me today, his only request was to get him discharged somehow from the hospital so that he can go to the toilet.”


source: The Week

Saudi Arabia to ship 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India to meet growing demand

Saudi Arabia is shipping 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India as the country is running low on supplies due to an unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases.

India logged a record of 3,49,691 new coronavirus infections in a day on Sunday, taking its total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,69,60,172. The death toll increased to 1,92,311 with a record 2,767 daily new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

The supply shipment is being undertaken in cooperation with the Adani group and Linde company.

"Embassy of India is proud to partner with Adani group and M/s Linde in shipping much-needed 80MT liquid oxygen to India. Our heartfelt thanks to the Ministry of Health Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for all their help, support, and cooperation,” the Indian mission in Riyadh tweeted.

"Thank you @IndianEmbRiyadh Indeed, actions speak louder than words. We are on an urgent mission to secure oxygen supplies from across the world. This first shipment of 4 ISO cryogenic tanks with 80 tons of liquid oxygen is now on its way from Dammam to Mundra,” Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani said in a tweet.

India is struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days, and hospitals in several States are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.

To combat the growing demand for oxygen in the country, India has reached out to various countries to procure containers and oxygen cylinders under operation 'Oxygen Maitri'.

The Indian Air Force on Saturday brought four cryogenic tanks, to be used for transporting oxygen, from Singapore. The containers were airlifted from Singapore by C17 heavy-lift aircraft of the IAF.

The aircraft "with 4 cryogenic containers for storage of liquid O2 from Singapore landed at Panagarh airbase" in West Bengal on Saturday, a home ministry spokesperson tweeted.

The IAF was also transporting essential medicines as well as equipment required by the designated COVID-19 hospitals in various parts of the country.

On Friday, the Union Home Ministry said it was in talks for the import of high-capacity oxygen-carrying tankers from Singapore and the UAE.

Meanwhile, President of the European Council Charles Michel said in a tweet, "The EU stands in solidarity with Indian people amidst resurgent COVID19 pandemic. The fight against the virus is a common fight. We will discuss our support and cooperation at EU-India Leaders' meeting on 8 May with @narendramodi and @antoniocostapm".

French President Emmanuel Macron has also extended support to India.

In a tweet shared by the Indian embassy in France, Mr Macron said, "I want to send a message of solidarity to the Indian people, facing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. France is with you in this struggle, which spares no one. We stand ready to provide our support."

23 March 2021

India looks at armed drones for US-style unmanned bombings

A $3 billion deal for the purchase of 30 armed drones manufactured by US company General Atomics is likely soon. If the deal goes through the army, navy and air force will get 10 such combat drones each.

By Abhishek Bhalla
A General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper drone

Drones are changing the face of modern warfare. Aerial attacks using drones loaded with missiles and laser-guided bombs capable of destroying targets deep inside enemy territory could soon be a reality for the Indian military looking to boost its unmanned warfare tactics.

A $3 billion deal for the purchase of 30 armed drones manufactured by US company General Atomics is likely soon. If the deal goes through the army, navy and air force will get 10 such combat drones each.

Surveillance, reconnaissance for intelligence gathering and even carrying out combat missions behind enemy lines, without risking pilots or soldiers on the ground in tough mountainous terrains, would be the key objectives of these unmanned aerial vehicles. So far, the Indian military has been using drones, which include Heron Surveillance drones and the Harop loitering munition, for surveillance purposes only.

The MQ-9 Reaper, also called Predator drone, can detect targets using its inbuilt sensors and radars. It has an endurance of more than 27 hours and carries payloads up to nearly 1,700 kg with a range of 6,000 nautical miles and a flying capacity of up to 50,000 feet. It can carry deadly hell fire missiles and laser-guided bombs, making it a potent weapon.

The Predator B armed drones have been used by the US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.

These high altitude long endurance (HALE) drones would be critical for the Indian military for operations in higher reaches of Kashmir, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim in wake of the growing threats from China and Pakistan.

China is a big player when it comes to drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), but Pakistan is also looking at using armed drones with Beijing's help. China has invested a lot of effort in developing civilian drones and the same has been translated into them developing combat drones. China is also one of the leading countries when it comes to R&D concerning drone technology.

Officials said the features of these drones can vary based on the requirements of the navy, air force, and army.

While the plan is to have 30 of these drones—10 each for the army, navy, and air force, the orders can be split and purchases made in batches to have some of these available to the forces at the earliest.

Discussions in the security establishment on the purchase of these drones have taken place ahead of the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin next week.

Defence deals worth $18 billion were signed with the US in 2007.

Indigenous options being explored

Unmanned vehicles are considered the future of warfare, and India is also exploring indigenous options. It is important to note that drones have helped win numerous wars in recent times; the latest being the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict where they proved immensely effective against armour and artillery.

Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane while speaking at a webinar recently also asserted how the use of disruptive technologies like drones is the future of warfare. Underlining the use of drones by Azerbaijan recently in Idlib and Armenia, he said the offensive technology has challenged the traditional prima donnas: the tanks, artillery, and the dug-in infantry.

Private Indian companies and public sector units are working on such platforms that will be the key in military combat in years to come. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) unveiled a blueprint of their plans recently to bring in such platforms during the ongoing Aero India show in Bengaluru.

Modeled on US project Skyborg, HAL has started work on an ambitious project that will allow teaming up of unmanned aircraft and vehicles with manned jets.

Combined Air Teaming System or CATS will have a mother vehicle -- a fighter jet operating 700km away and strike enemy targets through unmanned warriors. The fighter jets guiding the unmanned drones can remain 150km behind and control and give directions to four unmanned vehicles called the CATS Warriors.

The drones are expected to be integrated on Tejas and Jaguar fighter jets. The first prototypes are expected to fly in the next three to four years. Capable of evading radar detection, its stealth capacities will make it even more potent.

17 March 2021

Influencer Hitesha Chandranee Booked For Assaulting Zomato Worker Kamaraj

Model and makeup artist Hitesha Chandranee, who accused a Zomato delivery man of attacking her over alleged delayed service, was booked by the Bengaluru police on Monday.

Bengaluru: Influencer Hitesha Chandranee booked for assaulting Zomato worker Kamaraj

Kamaraj has alleged that Hitesha had hit him with a slipper and hurled abuses at him. (Photo: Instagram)

The Bengaluru police have booked model and influencer Hitesha Chandranee, who had accused a Zomato delivery person of hitting her, for assault.

An FIR has been filed against Hitesha Chandranee based on a complaint by the Zomato employee Kamaraj.

She has been accused of wrongful restraint, assault, intentional insult and criminal intimidation.

A video of Hitesha alleging that she had been assaulted by a Zomato employee over delayed delivery had gone viral on social media on March 9.

In the video, Hitesha Chandranee showed people her bleeding nose, claiming that Zomato delivery person Kamaraj had forcibly entered her home and hit her.

According to her, Kamaraj had gotten violent after he had delayed her food delivery and she had complained about it to Zomato customer care and asked him to take the order back.

An FIR was filed against Kamaraj for assaulting the Instagram model.

A day later, the delivery person Kamaraj, who was suspended by Zomato, shared his version of events. According to him, Hitesha had hit him with a slipper, hurled abuses at him and tried to punch him when she accidentally hurt herself.

Zomato, which had initially assured Hitesha Chandranee that it would help her with the police investigation along with assistance on the medical care required, later clarified it was also with Kamaraj extending all possible support.

"As per protocol, we have temporarily suspended Kamaraj from active deliveries, but are covering his earnings in the interim while there's an active police investigation," Zomato founder Deepinder Goyal said in a statement posted on Twitter.

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New Delhi is World's Most Polluted Capital

New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital for the third straight year in 2020, according to IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on the concentration of lung-damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5.

India was home to 35 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities, according to IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality Report, which gathered data for 106 countries.

The findings were based on the country’s annual average of particulate matter PM2.5, airborne particles with less than 2.5 microns in diameter. Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 can lead to deadly diseases, including cancer and cardiac problems.

In 2020, New Delhi’s average annual concentration of PM2.5 in a cubic meter of air was 84.1, the study said, more than double the level of Beijing, which averaged 37.5 during the year, making it the 14th most polluted city in the world.

Air pollution caused an estimated 54,000 premature deaths in New Delhi in 2020, according to a recent study by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Analysis and IQAir.

Despite an 11% reduction in the annual average of PM2.5 levels due to nationwide coronavirus lockdown curbs imposed last year, India emerged as the world’s third most polluted country after Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“Air pollution in India is still dangerously high,” the report said.

In 2020, South Asia endured some of the world’s worst air quality on record, it said.

Last year, Delhi’s 20 million residents, who breathed some of the cleanest air on record in summer months due to the lockdown curbs, battled toxic air in winter, following a sharp increase in farm fire incidents in the neighbouring state of Punjab.

As the burning of crop stubble peaked, Delhi’s PM2.5 levels averaged 144 micrograms per cubic metre in November and 157 micrograms per cubic metre in December, exceeding the World Health Organisation’s annual exposure guideline by more than 14 times, it said.

16 March 2021

Centre admits to earning Rs 33 per litre from petrol, Rs 32 from diesel; says no plan to bring fuel under GST

The central government on Monday informed Parliament that it earns almost Rs 33 from the sale of every litre of petrol and Rs 32 from per litre of diesel.

Centre earns around Rs 33 on the sale of each litre of petrol, the govt has told Lok Sabha | Picture Credits: PTI

Even as the petrol and diesel prices continued to stay at the all-time high for the 16th straight day on Monday, the Centre told Parliament that it earns a huge amount of revenue from fuel via excise duty, cess and surcharge.

The central government admitted that, since May 6, 2020, it has been earning Rs 33 per litre of petrol and Rs 32 on a litre of diesel in form of central excise duty, including basic excise duty, cess and surcharge.

In comparison, between March and May 5, 2020, the central government’s per litre earning on petrol and diesel was almost Rs 23 and Rs 19, respectively on one litre of diesel (SEE TABLE).

Table: Details of total central excise duty, including basic excise duty, cess and surcharge.

Between January 1, 2020, and March 13, 2020, only Rs 20 on a litre of petrol and Rs 16 on a litre of diesel were going to the Centre.

This means, compared to January 1, 2020, the government earning were up by Rs 13 on each litre of petrol and Rs 16 on diesel.


The government has been facing political flak for both a high levy on fuels and for putting a freeze on fuel prices as five state assemblies head towards polls.

The opposition has been questioning the “politically fixed freeze” in fuel prices as rates of petroleum products in the country are benchmarked to international product prices.

In reply to a query in Lok Sabha, MoS Finance Anurag Thakur informed that “generally, the prices of petroleum products in the country are higher/lower than other countries due to a variety of factors, including prevailing tax regime and subsidy compensations by the respective governments, the details of which are not maintained by the government”.

Justifying the high levies on fuel, he said, “The excise duty rates have been calibrated to generate resources for infrastructure and other developmental items of expenditure keeping in view the present fiscal position.”

“Consumer Price Index-Combined (CPI-C) inflation has declined from 7.59 per cent in January 2020 to 4.06 per cent in January 2021. CPI—‘Petrol for vehicle’ inflation has increased from 7.38 per cent in January 2020 to 12.53 per cent in January 2021. CPI—‘Diesel for vehicle’ inflation has increased from 6.44 per cent in January 2020 to 12.79 per cent in January 2021,” he said.

The government has, however, been silent on why the oil companies have not changed prices for over two weeks when the prices of fuels are linked to global crude prices and calibrated daily.

The last time prices were calibrated was on February 27, 2021, when the petrol price was hiked by 24 paise per litre and diesel raised by 15 paise.

Meanwhile, consumers continue to pay high prices for fuels despite the freeze all over the country. On Monday, unbranded petrol was retailing in Delhi at Rs 91.17 per litre while diesel was Rs 81.47. In Mumbai, petrol was retailing at Rs 97.57, while diesel cost Rs 88.60.


In February, the price of petrol had crashed past the Rs 100-mark in two places in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. These two states levy the highest VAT on fuel in the country.

The central and state levies make up for 60 per cent of the retail selling price of petrol and over 54 per cent of diesel price. If a consumer is paying Rs 100 for a litre of petrol, almost Rs 33 goes to the Centre, while it’s Rs 32 on a litre of diesel.

The states cannot complain as not only they charge their own levies but also get 42 per cent of the central collections, excluding the cess and surcharge component, as their share, as per the finance commission recommendation.


While experts have said that the only way to provide relief to the consumer is to add fuels to the GST list, the states and Centre are reluctant to do so, given the revenue the fuels bring in to them.

Replying to question on inclusion of fuels in the GST regime, Anurag Thakur told Lok Sabha: “Article 366 of the Constitution provides “Goods and Services Tax” means any tax on supply of goods, or services or both except taxes on the supply of the alcoholic liquor for human consumption. Thus, the supply of above petroleum products is not excluded from the purview of GST.”

However, he added, “Article 279 A (5) of the Constitution prescribes that the Goods and Service Tax Council shall recommend the date on which the goods and services tax be levied on petroleum crude, high-speed diesel, motor spirit (commonly known as petrol), natural gas and aviation turbine fuel (ATF), also as per the Section 9(2) of the CGST.”

Through the finance minister, the government informed the House that inclusion of these products in the GST list will require the recommendation of the GST Council.

In a signal that the government is staying non-committal on the issue, Anurag Thakur told Lok Sabha: “So far, the GST Council, in which the states are also represented, has not made any recommendation for inclusion of these goods under GST. The Council may consider the issue of inclusion of these five petroleum products at a time it considers appropriate keeping in view all the relevant factors including revenue implication.

“At present, there is no proposal to bring crude petroleum, petrol, diesel, ATF and natural gas under GST. As regards other by-products the same are already under GST,” he said.

08 March 2021

I Want to Be a Symbol of Resistance, Not Fear for Young People in India - Safoora Zargar

Percentage of Forest Cover by Indian State/UT

Percentage of Forest Cover by Indian state/UT (2019)

05 March 2021

How Much Money Do You Need To Join The Top 1%

04 March 2021

Expressing Views Different From Government's Not Sedition

The petitioner, said the Supreme Court, failed to substantiate his allegation that Farooq Abdullah had sought the help of China and Pakistan against India on Article 370

The Supreme Court dismissed the petition against Farooq Abdullah

New Delhi:
Expressing views that are different from government opinion cannot be termed "sedition", the Supreme Court said today, dismissing a petition against Jammu and Kashmir MP Farooq Abdullah.

"Expression of views which are dissent and different from government opinion cannot be termed as seditious," said the top court.

The petitioner, said the Supreme Court, failed to substantiate his allegation that Farooq Abdullah had sought the help of China and Pakistan against India on Article 370 on special status for Jammu and Kashmir, which was scrapped in August 2019.

The petitioners were fined ₹ 50,000.

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Petitioners Rajat Sharma and Neh Srivastava had objected to the National Conference leader's comments protesting against the centre's move to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. Their petition said Farooq Abdullah "is anti-national" and if he was allowed to continue as MP, "it would amount to approval of anti-national activities by anyone in India, which would be against the unity of the country."

Mr Abdullah, 83, is a National Conference MP from Srinagar. The former Chief Minister and his son Omar Abdullah were among scores of leaders detained to preempt any protests after the historic move to abrogate Article 370 and convert Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

India is now only 'partly free' under Modi, says report

Members of 'Women of Kashmir' a civil society group hold placards as they protest against the revocation of Article 370 in Srinagar,Kashmir on October 15, 2019.
Image caption The report says that the freedom of expression is under threat in India

India's status as a free country has changed to "partly free", according to an annual report on global political rights and liberties.

Civil liberties in India have been in decline since PM Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, said Freedom House in its report Democracy under Siege .

It said the change in India's status is part of a global shift in the balance between democracy and authoritarianism.

There was no immediate response from the Indian government to the report.

US-based Freedom House, a non-profit organisation which conducts research on political freedom and human rights, added that the number of countries designated as "not free" was at its highest level since 2006.

It added that India's "fall from the upper ranks of free nations" could have a more damaging effect on the world's democratic standards.

Since 2014, it says, increased pressure on human rights organisations, intimidation of journalists and activists, and a spate of attacks, especially those against Muslims, had led to a deterioration of political and civil liberties in the country.

Image copyright Getty Images Activists belonging to various human and civil rights organisations hold placards during a demonstration condemning the decision of various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led state governments in the country for the proposed passing of laws against "Love Jihad" in Bangalore on December 1, 2020.
Image caption Several minority groups have complained of discrimination in recent years

And this decline only "accelerated" after 2019, it added.

In 2014, India's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a landslide general election victory. Mr Modi returned to power with an even greater majority five years later.

"Under Modi, India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all," the report said.

It said that the crackdown against those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act , a bill which offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries had contributed to India's decline in the ratings.

The government argues that the law will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution. Critics say the bill is part of the BJP's agenda to marginalise Muslims in Hindu majority India.

The report also noted the government's response to the pandemic, saying it had exacerbated the global decline in freedom. Last year, in March, India imposed a sudden lockdown which left millions of migrant workers stranded in cities across India without work and money to get home . Many walked hundreds of miles, while some died because of exhaustion or in accidents along the way.

What did the report say about other countries?

The report mentioned a host of other countries, including China, which it said had spread "global disinformation and a censorship campaign" to counter the negative fallout of the initial attempt by the country to cover up the Covid-19 outbreak. China has always denied allegations of a cover-up.

The US also had a democratic decline during the final years of Donald Trump's presidency, the report noted.

Mass protests, the rise of armed vigilante groups and Mr Trump's "shocking attempts to overturn his election loss" which culminated in the storming of the Capitol Hill by rioters in January "has damaged the United States' credibility abroad", it said.

The global freedom report also added that "the countries with declines in political rights and civil liberties outnumbered those with gains by the largest margin recorded during the 15-year period".

It downgraded the freedom scores of 73 countries, representing 75% of the global population.

"With India's decline to Partly Free, less than 20% of the world's population now lives in a Free country, the smallest proportion since 1995," the report said. 


Source: BBC

"Sena was not a part of the freedom struggle"

 (Shiv) Sena was not a part of the freedom struggle but neither was your parent organisation (RSS). Just chanting 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' doesn't make you (BJP) a patriot: Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray in the Assembly

‘You Are A Dalit, Should Behave Like One’, Cops Shouted As They Tortured Me: Nodeep Kaur

During a protest last month, Haryana police arrested the 24-year-old under charges including murder and extortion among others.

‘You Are A Dalit, Should Behave Like One’, Cops Shouted As They Tortured Me: Nodeep Kaur
Dalit labour rights activist Nodeep Kaur
Mohsin Javed

Days after being granted bail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Dalit labour rights activist Nodeep Kaur spoke to Outlook about the custodial torture and her resolve to fight for the rights of farmers and workers. During a protest last month, Haryana police arrested the 24-year-old under charges including murder and extortion among others.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q) You alleged that you were sexually assaulted and tortured in police custody. 

The police arrested me and took me to Kundli police station on January 12. They pulled my hair and dragged me into the van and I was beaten up inside the van also. They slapped and hit me with shoes and sticks on my private parts. I was bleeding heavily after that.

No lady police officers were present at the station. Four policemen sat on me and tortured me. I couldn’t walk for days because of the assault. Later they took me to a police station at Sonipat at night and confined me in quarantine for two days. The torture continued there also. I suffered multiple injuries while in custody.

My condition was extremely bad. Even my medical report wasn’t made. It was 14 days after my lawyer obtained permission from the court that a medical examination was done.

Q) You also allege that the police used casteist abuses while in custody.

While torturing me, the police kept saying that I am a Dalit and I should behave like one. “Your job is to clean the gutters. Who gave you the right to organize protests against big people?” I was asked.

They used abusive language to intimidate me. The police were miffed that I stood up to the rich and powerful. I believe I had to face the harassment of being a Dalit woman and a trade union worker.

Is it a crime to organize and demand our rights? The police are hand in glove with factory owners.

Q) The police have denied charges of custodial torture.

It will be illusory to think that the police will admit it.  Medical reports don’t lie. I got bail on the basis of medical reports. The court was convinced that I was falsely implicated. The police always dance to the tune of the powerful. That is how the system works.

Q) Your colleague Shiv Kumar is yet to get bail. He has also been allegedly tortured in custody according to medical reports.

Shiv Kumar wasn’t present at Kundli on January 12. But the police took him into custody only because he is the president of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS).  His medical reports reveal that he has been severely tortured and is in depression now. The police haven’t even informed his family about the arrest.

Q) The police arrested you under various charges including extortion and attempt to murder. What led to the arrest?

The government knows that if farmers and workers unite, it will work against their oppressive policies. That’s the reason they slapped extortion and other charges against me. The police picked me up from the Kundli industrial area during a protest against the delay in the payment of wages by the factory owners. I have been working in a glass factory since August and was also a part of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan to fight for labour rights. The workers were even denied basic rights and we have been actively protesting against it. When the farmer's protest began on the Singhu border, we became inspired by it. During our protests, we always faced attacks from thugs in Kundli, and sometimes, they even fired at us. On January 12 also, the goondas came and there were clashes. However, police took their side and arrested me under various charges.

Q) You were in Jail for 46 days. What was the condition of other female inmates in jail?

The condition of female inmates in jail is horrific. When I described my harrowing experience to other jail mates, they weren’t surprised. In fact, they said what I had gone through was nothing. I was shocked to listen to their stories, the violence they had endured. There were more than 200 women in the cell where I was kept. They were put in jail for minor charges, most of them belonged to poor and backward communities.

Q) Aren’t you scared of speaking out? 

I am not scared to speak out. Being a Dalit and poor, our life is never easy. We have always faced discrimination. My mother is a labourer and a trade union activist. I have seen how Dalits and workers get exploited. I was part of my mother’s activism from childhood. I have learned in a hard way that we can’t achieve anything without fighting. If we bow our heads, we will be suppressed more. We have no other way than to organize and question the oppressors.

Q) Your case garnered global attention after Meena Harris tweeted about it. Did you expect such public support?

I had no inkling of the public outcry over my arrest.  It’s because of the public support that I got bail. No woman should be made to suffer the way I did in jail. Even when I was being tortured and fake charges slapped, I didn’t lose hope.

Q) Do you think the voices of young people are being muzzled?

The space for dissent is definitely shrinking under this government. I am not the only one who is raising my voice. There are several young people, farmers, labourers, journalists, and political prisoners who are in jail for the same reason. The draconian UAPA has been slapped on them. Everyone will have to come forward and fight this battle. The government can’t put lakhs in jail. Constitution has given us the right to protest but the right has been taken away from us. To protest is a crime, and the protester is being called anti-national now. All public sector enterprises have been sold off to big corporates. If we don’t speak out now, nothing will be left.

Q) Will you continue participating in ongoing farmers' protests?

I have joined the Singhu border yesterday. I am a trade union activist and I have always stood with the farmers. The impact of the new farm laws will be felt on labourers also. The government is trying to stop the labourers from joining farmers or else they will have to bow down before us. We are also fighting against new labour laws, which are detrimental to labour rights. Now, workers won’t be able to form unions and the working hours have been extended from 8 to 12 hours.

Q) Do you regret not continuing your studies?

I had to discontinue my studies after class 12 owing to financial constraints. I have applied to Delhi’s Khalsa College, but I couldn’t join because I didn’t have money. Now I am happy about the work I am doing. A degree is futile when we don’t enjoy basic rights and freedom.

02 March 2021

Miss India Delhi 2019 Mansi Sehgal Joins AAP

Speaking on the occassion, Sehgal, Miss India Delhi 2019, said she was "inspired by the honest governance of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal" and therefore chose to join the AAP.


Miss India Delhi Mansi sehgal with AAP leader Raghav Chadha. (Photo: ANI)

Former Miss India Delhi Mansi Sehgal joined the Aam Aadmi Party in the presence of party leader Raghav Chadha, the AAP said in a statement on Monday.

Speaking on the occassion, Sehgal, Miss India Delhi 2019, said she was “inspired by the honest governance of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal” and therefore chose to join the AAP.

For any nation to prosper, health and education are the two main pillars and there has been a “tremendous change” in these fields in the last few years under the leadership of Kejriwal, she said.

“Inspired by the honest governance of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and hardwork of MLA Raghav Chadha, I chose to join the Aam Aadmi Party, and I feel that through clean politics, we can bring about a substantial change in the world that we live in,” Sehgal stated.

Chadha inducted Sehgal into the AAP at Naraina Vihar Club in the presence of several residents.

“I am delighted that the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal instill confidence in young people to join politics and serve the people, and the AAP family is growing leaps and bounds with each passing day. I welcome Mansi into the AAP family,” Chadha said.

Sehgal is also a TedX speaker, trained engineer and an entrepreneur with her own startup, the party statement said.

Calling upon youth and women to be an active part of politics and to join the AAP, Sehgal said, “I would urge our youth and particularly our women to come and join us, and bring about the change that we all wish to see.”

Indian Employees Work Longest, Paid Least

 The ILO report states that the working hours in India can extend up to 48 hours a week adding that only Qatar, Mongolia, Gambia, and Maldives have average working hours longer than in India

Indian employees work longest, paid least globally with no leisure hours, claims ILO report
The paper titled, Global Wage Report 2020-21: Wages and Minimum Wages in the Time of COVID-19' positions India on the 5th spot globally among countries with long working hours

Indians are among the most overworked workers across the world and earn the lowest minimum statutory wage in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Bangladesh, according to a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The paper titled, Global Wage Report 2020-21:  Wages and Minimum Wages in the Time of COVID-19' positions India on the 5th spot globally among countries with long working hours.

The study adds that amongst the Indian workforce, it's the well-paid workers, both salaried and self-employed, who work more. It notes that salaried workers in urban areas work more than their rural counterparts.

The report states that the working hours in India can extend up to 48 hours a week adding that only Qatar, Mongolia, Gambia, and Maldives have average working hours longer than in India.

Meanwhile, data from the 2018-19 Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) also shows that better-paid workers in cities work longer than their rural counterparts in India.

Men put in longer hours at work than women in both rural and urban areas, while for both of them, the work hours are longer in urban areas.

In 2019, India carried out its first time-use survey in two decades, which also found similar trends.

Meanwhile, the ILO report further assesses that an average worker in China works 46 hours a week, 37 hours in the US, and 36 hours in the UK and Israel.

The estimates are deduced from 2019 assessments undertaken by national agencies, whilst data for some nations pertains to previous years.

26 February 2021

Indian Govt Opposes same-sex marriage in High Court

The government also said that the marriage in India is not just a matter between two individuals but “a solemn institution” between "a biological man and a biological woman”.

By Sofi Ahsan

Romania parliament against same-sex marriage, votes in favour of man-woman union onlyThe Centre told the Delhi High Court that living together as partners and having sexual relationship by same sex individuals is not comparable with the “Indian family unit concept”. (Representational image/File)

SEEKING DISMISSAL of petitions praying for recognition of same-sex marriages under existing laws, the Centre Thursday told the Delhi High Court that a marriage in India necessarily depends upon “age-old customs, rituals, practices, cultural ethos and societal values”, and that in reading down the provision of Section 377 of the IPC covering homosexuality, the Supreme Court had only decriminalised “a particular human behaviour” but “neither intended to, nor did in fact, legitimise the human conduct in question”.

In response to three petitions seeking legalisation of same-sex marriages, the government said there exists a “legitimate State interest” in limiting the recognition of marriage to persons of opposite sex. The considerations of “societal morality” are relevant in considering the validity of a law and it is for the Legislature to enforce such societal morality and public acceptance based upon Indian ethos, a reply by the Ministry of Law and Justice says.

“The fundamental right under Article 21 is subject to the procedure established by law and the same cannot be expanded to… include the fundamental right for same sex marriage to be recognised under the laws… which in fact mandate the contrary,” the Centre’s reply says.

Living together as partners or in a relationship with a same-sex individual is “not comparable” with the “Indian family unit concept” of a husband, wife and children, the government said, arguing that the institution of marriage has a “sanctity”. “In our country, despite statutory recognition of the relationship of marriage between a biological man and a biological woman, marriage necessarily depends upon age-old customs… societal values.”

The government also argued that while marriage happens between two private individuals, it “cannot be relegated” to merely a concept within the domain of privacy of an individual. On the other hand, the Centre told the Delhi High Court, marriage is recognised as public recognition of a relationship, with which several statutory rights and obligations are attached. It also said that the Supreme Court judgment in the Navtej Singh Johar case “does not extend the right to privacy to include a fundamental right in the nature of a right to marry by two individuals of same gender”.

The government also said that while the court can analyse existing rights for this, it cannot create a new right. It is not “permissible” for the court to override the legislative intent with regard to limiting the legal recognition of marriage to heterosexual couples, the Centre said. Marriage between two individuals of the same gender is “neither recognised nor accepted in any uncodified personal law or any codified statutory law”, the Centre said.

“Any interference with the existing marriage laws would cause complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country,” the government concluded, adding that it may lead to further anomalies with laws governing marriages of persons belonging to the Christian or Muslim faith.

The reply was in response to three petitions filed last year. In one of the petitions, Dr Kavita Arora, a psychiatrist, and Ankita Khanna, a therapist, sought enforcement of fundamental right to choice of partner, after their application for solemnisation of marriage under the Special Marriage Act was rejected by a Marriage Officer in Delhi on the ground that they are a same-sex couple.

The second petition was filed by Parag Vijay Mehta, an Overseas Citizen of India card holder, and Vaibhav Jain, an Indian citizen, who got married in Washington DC in 2017 and whose application for registration of marriage under the Foreign Marriage Act was rejected by the Consulate General of India at New York.

The third PIL, for recognition of same-sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act, was filed by defence analyst Abhijit Iyer Mitra and three others.

On Thursday, a lawyer working with a leading international law firm in the US, an artificial intelligence scientist in California, an economics consultant and a business development manager also approached the High Court seeking “non-discriminatory access” to the Special Marriage Act for LGBTQ+ individuals.

The Division Bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Amit Bansal has listed the cases for next hearing on April 20.

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19 February 2021

Over 50,000 People In Delhi Died Due To Air Pollution Last Year: Study

 PM 2.5 refers to fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Exposure to PM 2.5 is considered the most important environmental risk factor for deaths globally, and was attributed to 4.2 million premature deaths in 2015, the study said.

Over 50,000 People In Delhi Died Due To Air Pollution Last Year: Study

54,000 people died in Delhi due to air pollution caused by hazardous PM2.5 particulate matter

According to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of IQAir data, 1800 deaths per million were estimated due to PM2.5 air pollution in Delhi.

"The PM2.5 air pollution claimed approximately 54,000 lives in India's national capital in 2020," the study said.

PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Exposure to PM2.5 is considered the most important environmental risk factor for deaths globally, and was attributed to 4.2 million premature deaths in 2015, the study said.

The study noted that the damage is equally worrying in other Indian cities.

"An estimated 25,000 avoidable deaths in Mumbai in 2020 have been attributed to air pollution. Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Lucknow estimated an approximate 12000, 11000, 11000, and 6700 avoidable deaths respectively due to polluted air," it said

Noting that the air pollutant levels in Delhi remained almost six times above the prescribed WHO limits of 10 g/m3 annual mean, the study said the estimated air pollution-related economic losses were USD 8.1 billion (Rs 58,895 crore), which amounts to 13 per cent of Delhi's annual GDP.

"Despite a temporary reprieve in air quality owing to the lockdown, the latest figures from the report underscore the need to act immediately. The need of the hour is to rapidly scale up renewable energy, bring an end to fossil fuel emissions and boost sustainable and accessible transport systems," the study said.

Globally, approximate 160,000 deaths have been attributed to PM2.5 air pollution in the five most populous cities of Delhi (30 million), Mexico City (22 million), Sao Paulo (22 million), Shanghai (26 million) and Tokyo (37 million), it said.

Despite recording relatively better air quality this year due to strict lockdown, air pollution continues to be a serious public health issue which also drastically impacts our economy. For the governments of the day, it is crucial that investments are made towards green and sustainable solutions. When we choose fossil fuel over clean energy, our health is put at stake. Polluted air increases the likelihood of deaths due to cancer & stroke, spike in asthma attacks and worsens severity of COVID-19 symptoms, said Avinash Chanchal, Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

"We need to ensure our growth demand is fuelled by sustainable and cleaner sources of energy and cities should promote low cost , active and carbon-neutral transport options that prioritises walking, cycling, and public transport, the increased use of clean energy and clean transport will not only improve the public health but it will also strengthen the economy and public money" added Chanchal.

Commenting on the revelations made by cost estimator CEO of IQAir, Frank Hammes says, Breathing should not be deadly. The fact that poor air quality claimed an estimated 160,000 lives in the five largest cities alone should give us pause, especially in a year when many cities were seeing lower air pollution levels due to less economic activity. Governments, corporations and individuals must do more to eliminate the sources of air pollution and make our cities better places to live.

To show the impact of air pollution related deaths on the economy, Greenpeace said it used the approach called willingness-to-pay which means a lost life year or a year lived with disability is converted to money by the amount that people are willing to pay in order to avoid this negative outcome.