Newsletter, Uncategorized

Newsletter July 29 2018





India on Saturday said it desires a prosperous and progressive Pakistan at peace with its neighbours.  “We welcome that the people of Pakistan have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections,” a Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said.

“We hope the new Government of Pakistan will work constructively to build a safe, stable, secure and developed South Asia free of terror and violence,” the spokesperson said.

The response comes after PTI chief Imran Khan, widely tipped to head the new government in Islamabad, said Pakistan will take two steps if New Delhi takes one to improve bilateral relations.

“We want to improve relations with India, if their leadership also wants it… If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but we at least need a start,” Khan said.





After Ram Vilas Paswan, another Union Minister has demanded the removal of Justice (retd) A K Goel from the post of National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson.

In a statement on Saturday, Ramdas Athawale, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment and president of the Republican Party of India, said there was resentment among Dalits regarding Justice Goel’s appointment and he should be “immediately removed”.

Justice Goel was one of two judges on a Supreme Court bench — the other being Justice U U Lalit — which, on March 20, laid down stringent safeguards, including provisions for anticipatory bail and a “preliminary enquiry” before registration of a case under the SC/ ST Act. He was appointed NGT chairperson earlier this month, immediately after his retirement from the Supreme Court.

“The appointment of Justice A K Goel is completely wrong and he should be immediately removed from the post of NGT chairman. Various Dalit MPs have already opposed the appointment,” said Athawale. The Dalit leader from Maharashtra said he would raise the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.




Executives of firms found to have engaged— knowingly or “recklessly”—in data theft and illegal processing of ‘sensitive personal’ information may face criminal proceedings and jail up to five years.

This is one of the proposals of the draft bill on data protection submitted by the B N Srikrishna committee to the Centre.

The panel has proposed that violations of the data protection law should be treated as a cognisable and non-bailable offence, and the probe should be conducted by an officer not below the rank of an inspector. “Where an offence under this (proposed) Act has been committed by a company and it is proved that the offence has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to neglect on the part of any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company, such persons shall also be deemed to be guilty and shall be liable to be punished,” it says.

Social media and internet giants such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc access and process large amounts of user data.

The bill covers offences by governments. It says “where the offence of the Act has been committed by any government department, the head shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be punished”. The panel also recommended civil penalties for companies that are found to have breached data . This may extend up to Rs 15 crore, or 4% of global turnover of the preceding year, whichever is higher.




Bit by bit, India is working towards making its national capital more impregnable against military or 9/ 11-like terror attacks from aircraft, missiles and drones. The measures under way include getting a new missile shield to replace older air defence systems, reconfiguring the VIP “no-fly zone” and refining the protocol to shoot down rogue planes.

Sources say the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has approved the “acceptance of necessity” for acquisition of the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II) worth around $1 billion from the US.

Simultaneously, as part of the overall Delhi Area Air Defence Plan, work is on to further realign the “VIP-89 area” over New Delhi, which includes Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament and North and South Blocks, as well as shorten the decision-making loop to shoot down planes that may have been hijacked or commandeered for use as “missiles against strategic targets”, say sources.

The NASAMS—armed with three-dimensional Sentinel radar, short and medium range missiles, launchers, fire-distribution centres and command-and-control units to quickly detect, track and shoot down multiple airborne threats—is part of the air defence network guarding Washington. It is also deployed in several Nato countries. Besides the US national capital region, Israeli cities and Moscow have missile defence systems.

India’s move to acquire NASAMS comes even as DRDO is in the final stages of developing its two-tier ballistic missile defence shield.









In a major reprieve for Pakistan’s premier-in-waiting Imran Khan, the country’s main Opposition parties have finally decided not to launch any street agitation against alleged rigging in favour of PTI in the July 25 elections, and take oath at the National Assembly in early August.

The development comes on the heels of a decision by Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto’s PPP not to rock the boat, fearing a protest movement at this juncture would endanger the country’s democratic order.

The religious right wing alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), stands cornered after PPP, PML-N and MQM-P’s decision to stay away from an agitation. Also, in a major dent to the joint Opposition, MQM-P, trounced by Imran Khan Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in elections, is soon entering into talks with its rival to join the next government. In the final results declared by the Election Commission, PTI emerged as the single largest party, winning 116 of the 270 contested seats.

On Thursday, the All Parties Conference  jointly called by MMA and PML-N could not agree on a proposal to boycott the oath-taking. PPP had conspicuously stayed away as PPP de-facto leader Asif Zardari calmed down agitated party leaders, asking them to be content with the provincial Sindh government after securing a simple majority.

In Punjab, ruled by PML-N led by Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister for 10 years, PTI is in stiff competition to form the crucial provincial government. Observers feel the Independents are inclined to join PTI in the province as it is a dominant force in the Centre and KP province.

The PTI is in a comfortable position to form government in KP province. Balochistan is expecting a coalition multi-party government led by military establishment-backed BAP.





State-sponsored Russian hackers appear far more interested this year in demonstrating that they can disrupt the American electric utility grid than the midterm elections, according to US intelligence officials and technology company executives.

Despite attempts to infiltrate the online accounts of two Senate Democrats up for re-election, intelligence officials said they have seen little activity by Russian military hackers aimed at either major American political figures or state voter registration systems.

By comparison, according to intelligence officials and executives of the companies that oversee the world’s computer networks, there is surprisingly far more effort directed at implanting malware in the electrical grid.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings, but their conclusions were confirmed by several executives of technology and technology security firms.

This week, the department of homeland security reported that over the last year, Russia’s military intelligence agency had infiltrated the control rooms of power plants across the US. In theory, that could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control.




The UK government should increase oversight of social media like Facebook and election campaigns to protect democracy in the digital age, a parliamentary committee has recommended in a scathing report on fake news, data misuse and interference by Russia.

The interim report by the House of Commons’ media committee says that democracy is facing a crisis because the combination of data analysis and social media allows campaigns to target voters with messages of hate without their consent.

Tech giants like Facebook, which operate in a largely unregulated environment, are complicit because they haven’t done enough to protect personal information and remove harmful content, the committee said. “The light of transparency must be allowed to shine on their operations and they must be made responsible, and liable, for the way in which harmful and misleading content is shared on their sites,” committee Chairman Damian Collins said in a statement.








Citing procedural norms, St Stephen’s college on Friday cancelled an address by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee to students of the institute scheduled for August 1. The event was being organised by the college’s Bengali literary society. Permission for the event was cancelled citing procedural norms. “It (the decision to invite Mamata) was not taken officially by the college and was done at the level of the student society. If a CM is coming, there are procedures to be followed and we need planning. Hence, we postponed the event till the time we can provide due courtesy to the CM,” a college spokesperson told TOI.

But Trinamool Congress saw a larger plot. “First, the Vivekananda event in Chicago, then her China visit and now St Stephen’s. Mamata is giving BJP-RSS sleepless nights. Let them keep trying, she can’t be silenced. Her trip to Delhi is on schedule. She will be chief guest at an event organised by Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), on July 31,” said party spokesperson Derek O’Brien.

Mamata had called off her plan to visit China at the last minute as she felt, it was believed, that junior-level functionaries were being deputed to meet her.




Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R S Sharma on Saturday tweeted his Aadhaar number, with the “challenge” to show how the knowledge of the 12-digit number could be misused to “harm” him.

Responding to his challenge, Twitter users posted his cellphone number, residential address and other personal details. However, Sharma said these details do not cause him any harm and were already available in the public domain.

Sharma was replying to a tweet which asked him to “publish your Aadhaar details to the public if you have so much trust in this 13ft wall secured system”.

Sharma’s challenge came a day after the Srikrishna Committee submitted its report on data protection, including amendments in the Aadhaar Act and new safeguards to protect information of Aadhaar holders. The panel recommended that the Aadhaar Act be amended “significantly” to bolster privacy safeguards, and mooted that only public authorities discharging public functions, approved by the UIDAI or entities mandated by law, be given the right to request for identity authentication.

It pointed out that the current Aadhaar Act is silent on the powers of the UIDAI to take enforcement action against errant companies. “This includes companies wrongly insisting on Aadhaar numbers, those using Aadhaar numbers for unauthorised purposes and those leaking Aadhaar numbers, all of which have seen several instances in the recent past. Each of these can affect informational privacy and requires urgent redressal,” said the panel.




An UP police officer has posted a series of photographs on the social media in which he is seen taking the blessings of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is also the head priest of Gorakhnath temple of the Nath monastic order, on Guru Purnima on Friday.

Posted as a circle officer in Gorakhpur, Praveen Kumar Singh is seen kneeling before Yogi Adityanath in uniform with a handkerchief covering his head. The second photograph shows the police officer applying “tilak” to Yogi Adityanath and in the third he is seen garlanding him.

The policeman in uniform kneeling before the CM with folded hands has led to sharp reactions among a section of the police, with some officers saying Singh had lowered the dignity of the police force.

UP Congress Committee media coordinator Rajiv Bakshi wanted to know if “puja” was part of Yogi’s official duties. He said the Information Department had recently claimed that CM had not taken a single day off since he assumed office. “Are his weekly visits to Gorakhpur where he doubles up as a priest part of his official work?” Bakshi questioned.




Eight persons — seven engineers and a contractor— have been arrested in connection with the Varanasi flyover collapse in May, which left 15 persons dead, Uttar Pradesh DGP OP Singh said on Sunday.

He said action was taken after collecting “technical evidence” with the help of scientists of Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee. “It was found that there were many shortcomings on which the investigating officer quizzed the engineers before arresting them,” the DGP said.

A probe into the incident found that the failure to cast cross beams for locking the girders led to the collapse of a portion of a railway overbridge as the structure was left exposed to external forces. The report of a technical committee, set up by the state government to ascertain the cause of incident, also said uninterrupted traffic flow on the road was the main reason for generating vibrations that may have led to the collapse.





Government scientists have proposed two time zones in India with a demarcation line along the Bengal-Assam border that they say will meet long-standing demands of residents of the Northeast and address concerns that have stalled similar proposals earlier.

The proposal means the scientific basis for any change in the future has been put on the table. But the change will be implemented only if the government decides to do so.

The scientists at the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi have proposed 89° 52′ east longitude near Alipurduar in Bengal as the line separating the two Indian Standard Time (IST) zones: IST-I, 5.30 hours ahead of GMT, and IST-II, 6.30 hours ahead.

The creation of two time zones, specifically IST-II, will help people in the Northeast and on the Andaman and Nicobar islands synchronise their biological clocks to the day-night cycle as well as save significant energy, the NPL researchers said.

The NPL scientists have acknowledged concerns that two time zones might increase the risk of railways accidents, particularly because signals along the railway networks have not been fully automated yet.

But, they said, their choice of 89.52 east longitude as the demarcation line has been guided by both daylight hours available at sites in each of the two time zones and railway stations near the line. The line between the two time zones should have a narrow spatial width with few railway stations close by so that train timings while crossing the line can be managed manually, the scientists said.

For the demarcation line they have proposed, only two railways stations at Alipurduar and New Cooch Behar need to be managed for time adjustment, they said.




The government is considering selling its stake in state-owned hydel power firm NHPC Ltd to thermal power entity NTPC Ltd as part of its strategy to create integrated energy firms.

Official sources said discussions between the finance and the power ministries are at an initial stage and the stake sale, if agreed upon, is unlikely to be concluded this fiscal.

The government holds a 73.67 per cent stake in NHPC and, according to some estimates, it is worth over Rs 18,000 crore at current prices.

The sale will boost NTPC’s green portfolio as the predominantly thermal power generator makes a gradual shift from fossil fuel.




Kerala police are interrogating a man for allegedly tormenting a college student who sold fish to support her family and has now landed a role in a film.

Police said Sheikh was the first to accuse Hanan, a 19-year-old BSc third-year student who had earlier trended on social media for selling fish after classes, of bluffing, in a Facebook post he put out a few days ago.

With an ailing mother and a school-going brother to look after, Hanan would take up a variety of part-time jobs, including dubbing in films. But since these did not provide a steady income, she sold fish in Ernakulam after attending classes. Her story first trended on social media as people shared pictures of Hanan selling fish in Ernakulam. But things abruptly turned against her after film director Arun Gopy offered her a role in his next venture.

Sheikh, who had earlier posted favourable posts on Hanan’s struggle, accused her of being part of a publicity stunt for the movie. This led to thousands of abusive messages against Hanan on social media.

But the girl’s college, the landlord of her rented home and a doctor who treated her for an ear-imbalance came out to confirm Hanan’s story of penury.

Police said more people were likely to be picked up as the cyber cell has procured details of all those who abused Hanan.

Kerala Women’s Commission chairperson M.C. Josephine urged women to hit the streets to end such cyber-bullying. “I want all women including Hanan to come out and let their voices be heard. Let them not be cowed down by these bullies,” she said.

The state has been in the throes of several such incidents with men and women in all spheres coming under sustained attacks by cyber-bullies who hunt them in numbers.




Every fool knows you can’t touch the stars, but it doesn’t stop a wise man from trying. – Harry Anderson



An old man was sitting on a bench at the mall. A young man walked up to the bench and sat down. He had spiked hair in all different colors; green, red, orange, blue, and yellow. The old man just stared and stared. Every time the young man looked, the old man was staring. The young man finally said sarcastically, “What’s the matter uncle, never done anything wild in your life?”

Without batting an eye, the old man replied, “In fact I got drunk once and made love with a peacock. I was wondering if you were my son.”

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