MAY 12, Sunday

Delhi Edition

* Front Page

Held as ‘Bangladeshi’, Assam villager returns as ‘Indian’ after 3 years





Held as ‘Bangladeshi’, Assam villager returns as ‘Indian’ after 3 years

‘Discrepancy’ in age led a tribunal to doubt his citizenship

RAHUL KARMAKAR, KHOPANIKUCHI

Rehat Ali and his son Lukman Ali. Rahul Karmakar The Hindu

Moments before he left the Goalpara Central Jail in western Assam on May 7, Rehat Ali had promised the jail superintendent he would not say anything bad about his “home” of more than three years.

The jail doubles as a detention centre — one of six in Assam — for people declared foreigners by a quasi-judicial Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT). The State has 100 such tribunals that adjudicate the Foreigners’ Act of 1946 to decide the fate of people suspected to be Bangladeshi by the Assam Police’s border wing, formed in 1962 to initially prevent infiltration of Pakistani nationals.

“I gave him my word,” said Mr. Ali. “But it is better to be dead than live there like a laash [corpse],” he added.

Having dropped out of primary school almost 60 years ago, Mr. Ali had such a poor knowledge of numbers that he never noticed that his voter ID showed him to be a 55-year-old, which was at odds with the “66” that he orally submitted as his age to the tribunal in 2015. The “discrepancy” in age was a key reason that led the FT at the nearest town Hajo, about 35 km west of Guwahati, to doubt his citizenship.

He could also not recall the date when his father Muniruddin had shifted from Bagnapota, 20 km away in Nalbari district, because the village was facing erosion by the Brahmaputra. And his name was recorded variously as ‘Rehat Ali’ and ‘Rehaja Ali’ in different documents.

But life in captivity taught him to count his days unlike four other inmates, who died of depression during his stay. “How can I forget the number of days I was deemed a Bangladeshi? They killed the Indian in me every day for 1,197 days before I walked to freedom,” he said.

What kept him going was his conviction that he would come out of dozakh (hell) because his sister, Mannbahar Bibi, whose case as a suspected ‘foreigner’ had been examined by the FT around the same time, had been promptly declared an ‘Indian’ based on the same set of documents that he had provided.

The documents, the Gauhati High Court found in ordering Mr. Ali’s release on May 3, showed his grandfather Goni Sheikh possessed a land deed at Bagnapota, dating back to 1947.

More sad than happy

Almost everyone in Khopanikuchi turned up to welcome Mr. Ali back home. But for the man who had just won back his freedom, the overwhelming feeling was one of sadness rather than happiness.

His wife, who went into delirium after he was taken away and has been unstable since, barely recognised him. “My sons never told me they had to mortgage our land, sell eight cows and a commercial vehicle to spend ₹7 lakh for my case,” he said, his voice tinged with grief.

More painful for him is the haplessness of the detention camp inmates he left behind. “They come in my dreams, begging me to pray for their death. Zehirul Islam, Noor Mohammed, Satya Sadhu, Abdul Samad… in detention for seven, eight years and too poor to get out,” he said.



10.17 cr. electors to vote in 59 seats





10.17 cr. electors to vote in 59 seats

Lok Sabha election enters the penultimate phase across six States and Delhi

Special Correspondent
New Delhi

As many as 10.17 crore voters will decide the fate of 979 candidates on Sunday in the sixth phase of polling in 59 Lok Sabha seats across six States and the Union Territory of Delhi.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP had won 45 of these seats. Voting will be held for 14 seats in Uttar Pradesh, eight seats each in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, four seats in Jharkhand, all seven seats in Delhi and all 10 seats in Haryana. The BJP would not only seek to retain its seats but also expand in newer territories like West Bengal where the Trinamool had won all the eight seats in the last election.

In Uttar Pradesh, however, the BJP will face a tough challenge from the grand alliance of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) that will seek to consolidate the anti-BJP votes in the State.




‘We will vote only to keep our names on the rolls’





‘We will vote only to keep our names on the rolls’

Elections are no game changer for the Sahariya tribals of Gwalior

Damini Nath

GHATIGAON

“We have electricity, but we also have to pay for water tankers as the handpump is broken and the water level in the well has gone down. Nothing has really changed here since my grandfather’s time,” said Narayan Singh as he stood outside his hut in Nayapura village in Gwalior district’s Ghatigaon area.

Like him, the village is home to members of the Sahariya tribe, one among the 75 tribes declared Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Over the years, the tribe has faced issues of malnutrition and stunting among children in Madhya Pradesh.

On the eve of polling for the sixth phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, which includes the Gwalior constituency, residents of Nayapura on Saturday said they will cast their votes but without harbouring any hope.

“We only go to vote so that our names don’t get cut [from the electoral rolls] so that if the government comes out with any scheme, we can apply,” said Prakash, a resident of Nayapura who works as a labourer.

The village handpump has been broken for about three months now, forcing residents to buy water from private tankers for ₹30 to ₹50 per “drum” every other day or scrounge for whatever is left in the well a little distance away, said Rekha, who works in the Anganwadi centre in Nayapura.

“Paani hi samasya hai (Water is the only problem),” said Budh Bai.

All around the village are symbols of the Narendra Modi government’s flagship schemes — toilets built under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, gas cylinders given through the Ujjwala Yojana and a handful of homes built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.

Scattered throughout the hamlet are the locked-up and unused toilets. With no running water and limited supply through a government tanker every two-three days, the residents who have built toilets don’t use them.

In Gwalior, the BJP’s Vivek Shejwalkar is up against Congress candidate Ashok Singh.


* Nation

CM sends legal notice to Gambhir over tweets





CM sends legal notice to Gambhir over tweets

Threatens legal proceedings; demands written apology

Staff Reporter

Arvind Kejriwal

New Delhi

Aam Aadmi Party convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday sent a legal notice to BJP’s East Delhi candidate Gautam Gambhir threatening “legal proceedings” for allegedly making defamatory comments against him on Twitter.

The notice demanded that Mr. Gambhir should tender a written apology to Mr. Kejriwal in person and Mr. Gambhir should also print it along with “true and correct facts” on his social media account within 24 hours of the receipt of this notice, failing which “appropriate legal proceedings shall be initiated”.

Filed by advocate Mohammad Irsad, from the legal cell of the AAP, the notice termed comments made by Mr. Gambhir as “offending tweets”.

The notice was served in connection with Mr. Gambhir’s tweets in which he said, “I feel ashamed to have a CM like Arvind Kejriwal” and “You are filth CM and someone needs your own jhadu [broom] to clean your dirty mind”. Mr. Gambhir tweeted this after his AAP rival Atishi alleged that derogatory pamphlets about her were circulated by Mr. Gambhir.

‘Poll violation’

The notice says the tweets were “not merely defamatory and motivated, but also false, baseless, incorrect, unverified and misleading”. The notice also said that the tweets were a violation of the model code of conduct.

On Friday, Ms. Atishi had filed a defamation case against Mr. Gambhir and the BJP for allegedly circulating the derogatory pamphlets.



Man who triggered a scare at Bengaluru metro station traced





Man who triggered a scare at Bengaluru metro station traced

The labourer from Rajasthan has been detained by police

Special Correspondent

CCTV grabs showing Sajid Khan at Majestic metro station’s security check (top) and then walking away.

Bengaluru

The city police tracked down the man whose demeanour at the Majestic metro station sparked a terror scare in the city on Monday last after CCTV footage showed him refusing a security check when the metal detector beeped as he passed through the gate. The man, identified as Sajid Khan, is a labourer from a village in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan who had come with his family to collect zakat (charity money given at mosques during Ramzan), according to the police. It was his first time at a metro station.

The police tracked him down after an alert from an autorickshaw driver who was near the metro station at the time of the incident and had ferried Sajid to a lodge in Cottonpet.

Sajid was unaware of the scare the incident had caused and that several news channels and WhatsApp groups had branded him a terrorist. “We detained him and took him to the police station for questioning. He told us he had come to the city a few days ago with his family to collect alms.”

First visit

According to the police, this was Sajid’s first visit to a metro station. “He had never travelled in a metro, and decided to take a ride. When he went for the security check, the door-frame metal detector began to beep as he was wearing a metal charm. He also had a handful of coins collected as alms from a nearby mosque,” said a police officer.

The security guard stopped him and questioned him in Kannada about the contents of his pocket. Sajid started getting worried as he did not know Kannada and saw the guard calling out to a colleague for assistance. “He said he was scared and left the station in a hurry. Once outside, he asked an autorickshaw driver to take him to the lodge,” the officer added.

“We found nothing incriminating on Sajid. However, we have detained him to cross-check with our counterparts in Jhunjhunu about his claims and to ascertain his background,” Police Commissioner T. Suneel Kumar said.



An almanac gaining in size and content





An almanac gaining in size and content

Ready reckoner on Palakkad Tamil Brahmin settlements records 106 agraharams

Abdul Latheef Naha

L.N. Puram Single Street Agraharam in Palakkad is among the 106 Tamil Brahmin settlements featured in Vikari almanac.

PALAKKAD

For the past 22 years, P.R. Rajagopalan aka Krishnamani from Perinkulam, near Alathur, has been religiously bringing out an almanac on the agraharams or Tamil Brahmin settlements of Palakkad.

Started as a leaflet, the almanac has gained in its size, shape and content over the last two decades. The latest edition, named Vikari, has 140 glossy pages, and claims to be a “handy ready reckoner [for] 2019-20”.

Free of cost

Distributed free of cost among Tamil Brahmins and for those interested in agraharam communities, Mr. Rajagopalan claims exceptional international acceptance for his book. “In the digital age, printing has become old-fashioned. But this reference guide will be a great help for the elderly,” he said.

He said the guide has been named Vikari after the current year. The almanac was named Vilambi in 2018, Hevilambi in 2017, Dhurmukha in 2016, and Manmatha in 2015. Accordingly, 2020 will be called Saarvari, 2021 Plava, 2022 Subhakrith, 2023 Sobhakrith, 2024 Krodhi, and 2025 Viswavasu.

Although it does not excel in design and language, the almanac includes a lot of information on the religious rites and customs followed by Tamil Brahmins in Palakkad. Giving a brief history of the settlements, the author has given their names and special qualities, with photographs of 106 agraharams, disputing popular claims that there are only 96 in the district.

Nochur’s claim

Mr. Rajagopalan claims that no other Brahmin settlement could enjoy the “monopoly in Sanskrit” that his ancestral village Nochur does. His relative and Sanskrit scholar Nochur Ganesha Sharma has supplemented the almanac by giving brief descriptions on four dozen well-known villages, including Kunissery, Koduvayur, Nochur, Thathamangalam, Chittur, Kollengode, Pallavur, Nemmara, Melarcode, Kuzhalmannam, Kavassery, Kodunthirapully, Noorni, Kalpathy and Perinkulam.



Passerines set to go home from Wayanad





Passerines set to go home from Wayanad

Study finds 88 species of Western Ghats’ avian population are migrating birds

E.M. MANOJ

Content guests: Blue-throated flycatcher and Blue-headed rock thrush, two migratory passerines in the Western Ghats.

KALPETTA

It’s mid-May with monsoon just around the corner, and migrant wildlife at the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is preparing to go back home.

Bigger mammals like elephants and gaur will soon be returning to their home turfs in the forests of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, whereas the migratory passerines will bid adieu to the Western Ghats and fly back to their far-away homelands in the Himalayas, South China, northeast Europe and Siberia.

“When we talk about migratory birds, quite often, the focus is on the large congregation of water fowls, including shorebirds, as they are easy to spot and arrive in large numbers. But there are thousands of passerines that arrive from far-off places to the Western Ghats,” C.K. Vishnudas, ornithologist, said. Kerala hosts one of the largest tracts of pristine forests of the Western Ghats, and is home to a large number of forest birds, Mr. Vishnudas adds.

A study led by ornithologist C. Sasikumar recently found that 88 species of the avian population in the Western Ghats are annual migrating birds. Passerines form 48 species of these migratory birds — black birds, Orioles, Drongos, Flycatchers and Thrushes. There are also nearly 40 species of waterfowls and waders such as Pipers, Clovers and shanks.

The migration to the Western Ghats occurs usually in August when the monsoon recedes from southwest India. The birds come in hordes and fill the forests.

Tiny birds

The study also revealed that a few among the species add to the density of avian population in the State’s forests during this phase. The density of Greenish leaf warblers in south Kerala forests is 44 birds per square kilometre. For migratory bird Blyth’s reed warbler, it is 25 birds per square kilometre. These birds are so tiny that their average body weight is 8-10 grams. Yet, the most densely found bird in south Kerala is a native species — the Hill myna that has a count of 50 birds per sq km. Most of the migratory forest birds are insectivores and thus play a major role in keeping the insect population in balance.



Cyclone survivors brave searing heat





Cyclone survivors brave searing heat

Only a third of the beneficiaries have polythene sheets

Satyasundar Barik

Difficult times: A family sleeping in a tent at Talbania village in Puri. Biswaranjan Rout

Bhubaneswar

Rabindra Mallick and his family members in the Bhagbatpatna village of Puri district have been spending most of their time under the open sky for more than seven days. During the day, the temperature hovers around 40°C, but they have nowhere to go — trees have been uprooted and roofs blown away by Cyclone Fani.

The majority of the families in the predominantly Dalit village have been left with no roof over their heads. The two-room primary school is able to accommodate barely 20% of the local population.

As many as 12 towns of Odisha recorded maximum temperatures of above 40°C on Saturday; Puri’s temperature could not be gauged.

‘Completely ravaged’

“A day before the cyclone hit our district, we were herded to the Goruala Multipurpose Cyclone Shelter, 3 km away from our village. When we returned, we found our houses completely ravaged. Except a few, who had houses with concrete roofs, all the villagers have been rendered shelterless,” said Mr. Mallick.

“Although the community kitchen began functioning three days after the cyclone hit this village, taking care of our food needs, polythene sheets have not been provided. Polythene sheets would have helped cover the roof. Now, we are spending much of our time outside and our household articles are also lying under the sun,” he said.

A similar situation prevails in almost all the villages in Puri district, and parts of Khordha district.

“In Puri, Khordha and Bhubaneswar, as many as 2,69,711 beneficiaries have been provided either polythene, or cash in lieu of polythene. The coverage is 36%. The Special Relief Commissioner is making additional requisitions for polythene,” said Sanjay Singh, Odisha Secretary of Information and Public Relations, at a press conference on Saturday.

Mr. Mallick said, “The role of polythene carries equal importance as that of food for us during disasters. As my home does not have a roof, I cannot go out for work. The situation would turn worse if kalbaisakhi [a period of thunderstorms in the region] rain takes place.”

Meanwhile, due to the heavy demand for asbestos sheets, prices of the product have gone up, with unscrupulous traders trying to create artificial scarcity. With a month left for Southwest monsoon to hit Odisha, cyclone survivors are trying to cover their houses with asbestos sheets.

The State government said that 9 lakh trees worth ₹270 crore have been lost inside forests and sanctuaries, and there has been a loss of 5 lakh trees worth ₹150 crore outside forests.

Environmentalists, however, said the official estimate on loss of trees was actually a lot lower than the actual loss.



Gadchiroli attack probe indicates SOP lapses





Gadchiroli attack probe indicates SOP lapses

Maharashtra DGP’s report says an officer rushed the Quick Response Team into the Naxal ambush

Sharad Vyas

Grim reminder: A file photo of machines and vehicles set afire by Naxals at a road construction site at Kurkheda.ANIANI

Mumbai

A preliminary probe into the Naxal attack that killed 15 personnel of the Gadchiroli police earlier this month, has found lapses in adherence to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the red zones of the State.

The report of Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) S.K. Jaiswal was forwarded to the State Home Department this week.

Sans recce

Fixing responsibility for the incident of May 1, the probe has found a sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) guilty of rushing the unit into an ambush, without following the procedures or sending a road patrol party to do a recce.

The said SDPO and another senior unit in-charge have been asked to proceed on forced leave, officials confirmed to The Hindu.

In one of the worst retaliatory attacks, Maoist insurgents blew up an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), killing men of the Quick Response Team (QRT) of the Gadchiroli police. The unit was proceeding from the police station in Kurkheda taluka, nearly 60 km north of Gadchiroli, when the blast was triggered. The Naxals had torched 36 vehicles meant to assist road work the previous night.

Fixing accountability

Among other preventive measures, the report also suggests changes to the existing SOP, and has fixed responsibility for its violation on the senior unit in-charge.

“The inquiry has found the SDPO in-charge made two calls asking the men to leave as early as possible to the spot where the Maoists had burnt vehicles just the previous night. Before pushing the unit out of Kurkheda, (SDPO) did not wait for the SOP to unfold,” said a senior official of the Home Department.

The report, which followed the DGP’s two-day visit to the attack site, suggests changes to the existing SOP to avoid future incidents, officials said.

“The report has suggested postponing the filing of a panchnama soon after any incident has taken place to avoid ambushes in the future. The panchanama — as per the new changes — will now wait until anti-landmine vehicles or patrol parties have scanned the area. This is one of the many changes we have suggested to the existing SOPs for the red zone,” said an official.

Centre’s guidelines

Earlier this month, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, while sharing details of the movements of the various Naxal units or dalams with the State government, urged the forces to follow the SOP on all possible occasions. The letter had stated the SOPs to be observed during long patrols and during the protection duty for burnt vehicles.

“We have included contents of Union Government’s letter into suggested SOP changes,” a State government official said.



IAF receives first Apache attack copter from Boeing





IAF receives first Apache attack copter from Boeing

Deal for 22 choppers was signed in 2015

Special Correspondent

Adding teeth: Air Marshal A.S. Butola addressing the gathering after accepting the first Apache helicopter on Friday. PTI

New Delhi

The first AH-64E Apache attack helicopter built for India was formally handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona in the U.S. on Saturday.

The first batch of these helicopters is scheduled to be shipped to India by July.

“Selected aircrew and ground crew have undergone training at the training facilities at U.S. Army base Fort Rucker in Alabama. These personnel will lead the operationalisation of the Apache fleet in the IAF,” the IAF said in a statement.

The Air Force had contracted 22 Apache helicopters from the U.S. govt and Boeing in September 2015.

The helicopter has been customised to suit IAF’s future requirements and would have significant capability in mountainous terrain.

“The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground,” the IAF said.

It said the ability of the helicopters to transmit and receive the battlefield picture to and from the weapon systems makes them a lethal acquisition.

(With PTI inputs)



‘Give Pakistan time and space to act on terror’






INTERVIEW | Simon McDonald

‘Give Pakistan time and space to act on terror’

British diplomat says anything that comes out of UN is a negotiation and one has to make concessions

Suhasini Haidar

NEW DELHI

The U.K. is consistently engaged in speaking to India and Pakistan about de-escalating tensions following February’s Pulwama terror attack and the subsequent Balakot strikes, says U.K.’s Permanent Under Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Simon McDonald, who was in Delhi this week for Foreign Office Consultations.

How much of a part did the U.K. play in the designation of Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council 1267 committee?

A central part. I know that is not necessarily the story around the world. I can tell you this was a collective effort, but the U.K. played a central part in the designation. It was the right thing to do and we were proud to play that central part.

In India, there has been a controversy over the wording of the designation. The original proposal from the U.S., the U.K. and France included a reference to the Pulwama attacks and to terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir carried out by Masood Azhar as leader of the JeM, but the final listing did not mention them.

I would focus on the fact of [Azhar’s] designation. The detailed rubric is secondary to the fact that he has been designated. That was an Indian priority, and it has been achieved. So focus on the prize rather than the rubric.

Was the reference dropped as a concession to a country like China, which opposed it?

Anything that comes out of the UN is a negotiation and in a negotiation, a side has to make concessions in order to achieve the prize. It is our very clear view that we achieved the prize, and that we think the prize is what India was most focused on. The detail of the negotiation is now historical, and I don’t think it is where your focus needs to be.

The U.K. played a role in bringing down tensions between India and Pakistan after the Indian Air Force carried out strikes in Balakot. How close to an open conflict were the two countries?

I don’t want to dwell on the counter factual of how things might have got even worse, but it is correct that the U.K. — with very good links and lines to Delhi and Islamabad — was able to play a role. Only the U.S. and U.K. have the strength of relationship in Pakistan to get the access at the time of the tensions and the attention of the senior leadership that is necessary, and we did that, and I am sure that we helped.

In your assessment, has Pakistan taken the action it needed to take against groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad in these past two months?

I think this government in Pakistan, and this leadership, Prime Minister [Imran Khan] and Chief of Staff [General Qamar Bajwa], gets it, knows this is something Pakistan has to tackle. This kind of issue, terrorism issue takes time… India may judge that action is not being taken quickly enough, but the journey has been started. There are a series of actions the Pakistanis need to take. They know they need to take them, and we are talking to them about the detail. But here I would urge that they be given some space. The fact that it doesn’t happen on the turn of a dime is not a surprise, but what this government is saying, is worth working with.

Because the fear would be, in the time it takes for this action, there could be another attack, and India may feel it needs to carry out more strikes like the ones on Balakot….

We are in touch with both sides. This is potentially very dangerous. The escalation ladder has the ultimate end and so we don’t want to see incidents that lead to an escalation, which is our message to both sides. We know Pakistan has to take action and we are talking to Pakistan about that action.

The Indian government has officially complained about the presence of Khalistani separatist groups in the U.K. What kind of cooperation are India and the U.K. proposing on this issue?

The U.K. is a country of law, and one of those laws is around freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. But there are laws around incitement, and we are talking to India and have some good exchanges about this issue. Our understanding has improved, and this was a constructive part of our foreign office [consultations]…My opposite number [Vijay Gokhale] made it absolutely clear [what Indian expects] and in a confidential exchange of views, I heard and took note.

(Full interview at http://bit.ly/SimonMcDonald )


* FAQs

Should Big Tech’s dominance be checked?





Should Big Tech’s dominance be checked?

How should we read an American presidential hopeful’s forceful plea to break up technology companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple?

Sriram Srinivasan

Elizabeth WarrenAPMichael Wyke/AP

The story so far: The debate over how to control the world’s powerful tech companies is growing. On March 8, Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator and Democrat presidential contender for 2020, shared her plan to break up the big technology companies, which dominate the world from their base in the U.S. “Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” she wrote in a post on online publishing platform Medium. While the idea of forced breakups in corporate America might sound radical, given that there have been only a few such instances in its history, she has given political weight to a proposal which until then has resonated largely in the academic world. By doing so, Ms. Warren has also brought the issue of antitrust action, or action that promotes competition, into the mainstream at a time when the 2020 presidential race is set to pick up pace. Within days, Verge reported that “a majority of the other presidential candidates have agreed with at least the premise of her proposal.” The plan has put the Big Tech, as the big technology companies are referred to, on the backfoot. In a television interview a few days ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he disagreed with Ms. Warren’s plan and mentioned that he is “frustrated that tech is painted as monolithic” What is at stake? What lies ahead?

What is the criticism against Big Tech?

Ms. Warren, while specifically referring to Google, Amazon, and Facebook in her post, wrote that American tech companies have built dominance because of two strategies. One involves purchase of potential competitors. As examples, she pointed at Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, and Google’s purchase of mapping service Waze and ad company DoubleClick.

The second strategy is the use of “proprietary marketplaces to limit competition”. In the post, she wrote, “Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version.”

Her point is that Big Tech has “bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation”.

Ms. Warren later clarified that Apple, which doesn’t find a mention in her written proposal, also needs to be broken up. This triggered Mr. Cook’s response, mentioned above.

How big is Big Tech, really?

If you go by market capitalisation (or the value of a company’s outstanding shares), as per data in May, Amazon and Apple were worth well over $900 billion each (see graphic). Google’s owner Alphabet was worth over $800 billion while Facebook had a value of well over $500 billion.

The tech company that’s more valuable than all the above four is Microsoft, which has seen a resurgence in recent years. (Microsoft, interestingly, was sued about two decades ago for antitrust violations and barely escaped being broken into two.) These tech giants are among the world’s top companies by market capitalisation.

Market research company eMarketer estimates Google and Facebook control about 60% of the digital ad spending in the U.S. Ms. Warren wrote that “nearly half of all e-commerce goes through Amazon. More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook”.

Many of Google’s properties — including the video platform YouTube, the Android platform, Play Store, Maps, the Chrome browser, the search site, as also Gmail — each have a billion plus users. Facebook has over 2 billion users and its arms Messenger and WhatsApp have more than a billion users each.

What is the reason for this dominance? What is Ms. Warren’s plan?

Ms. Warren puts weak antitrust enforcement as the reason for the “dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector”.

She wants to take two major steps: one involves legislating to ensure companies don’t end up being both a platform and a player. This pertains to companies with annual global revenues of at least $25 billion.

The second step involves “reversing illegal and anti-competitive mergers”. According to her, acquisitions of Whole Foods and Zappos by Amazon, of WhatsApp and Instagram by Facebook, and of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick by Google come under that category and need to be unwound.

Who is in agreement with this, who is against?

Fellow presidential contenders Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, John Hickenlooper, and Tulsi Gabbard have spoken about stronger antitrust enforcement, much in line with Ms. Warren’s reasoning. Republican Senator Ted Cruz, retweeting Ms. Warren — for the first time ever — who criticised Facebook for taking down posts calling for its breakup, said, “Big Tech has way too much power to silence Free Speech.” Others like Senator Josh Hawley have also spoken about how the dominance of a few in the tech world is threatening competition.

Chris Hughes, who co-founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg and was his roommate once upon a time, wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times recently calling for the social media company to be broken up into three. Mr. Hughes had exited the company many years earlier.

Facebook lost no time in responding to this. Its spokesman Nick Clegg said, “Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the break-up of a successful American company.”

Interestingly, the EU’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, who has successfully taken on the tech giants, imposing record fines on them for abuse of dominant market position in the process, has said that the idea of breaking up tech giants should be used as a last resort, according to a Tech Crunch report. She has been quoted as saying that the idea is to “change the marketplace to make it a fair place where there’s no misuse of dominant position but where smaller competitors can have a fair go”.

Antitrust experts have opined that it won’t be easy to implement Ms. Warren’s proposal not just because it would involve years of litigation. There is also the background of how antitrust violations have been viewed more from the prism of how monopolies can affect pricing. In the tech world, many successful giants have come about on a zero-pricing model.

Haven’t the tech companies been under pressure from policymakers in recent years?

In a way, yes. In the last few years, discontentment with tech companies has increased following incidents such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This has led to many voices calling for regulation of tech companies.

The U.S. historically has taken a much lenient approach, compared to say the European Union, to penalising abuse of a dominant market position. The last big charge on monopolisation was on Microsoft about two decades ago. Microsoft was first ordered to break up into two entities — one that ran an operating system business and the other the rest. It appealed, and was eventually saved from the break-up. The settlement came about finally, after it agreed to make it easier for rivals to integrate their software with its operating system. Some believe the scrutiny itself worked to check excessive market power.

The EU in recent years has imposed antitrust fines to the tune of over $9 billion on Google. The latest one was a result of, as the EU antitrust agency put it, Google’s abuse of its dominance “to stop website using brokers other than the AdSense platform”. The fines amounted, as one report put it, to a small slice of its cash reserves. Spotify has now complained to the EU’s investigators alleging misuse of Apple’s App Store in favour of the latter’s own streaming service.

Regulations on data privacy and copyright standards have also been tightened in the EU. The world seems to be waking up to the possibility of more regulation. Bloomberg has reported that the Japan Fair Trade Commission is looking to examine Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon for possible abuse of market dominance.

What will be the effect of Ms. Warren’s proposal?

It’s tough to say what lies ahead. But what it has surely done is triggered a debate on the regulation of technology companies which seemed to be having an easy ride to burgeoning growth all along. Privacy concerns were there but tech companies convinced lawmakers that they could fix it on their own. Ms. Warren has been seen as a “pace-setter” by many in this regard, given that the U.S. will shortly go into campaign mode in the coming months. Her plan, radical as it is, is on the table, and others may not be able to ignore it.




How is India driving to electric mobility?





How is India driving to electric mobility?

Why the country is targeting smaller vehicles in the quest to have 30% electric transport by 2030

R. Prasad

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The story so far: On Monday, Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. Ltd. said in a statement that Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, had invested an unspecified amount to support its ambitions to scale up electric vehicle deployment in India. Ola Electric is undertaking several pilot programmes including charging solutions, battery swapping stations, and deploying two-and three-wheeler electric vehicles. Will Ola Electric’s initiative provide the spark to meet India’s ambitious goal of having 30% electric vehicles by 2030?

What is India’s policy for electric vehicles?

While carmakers in the rest of the world have been focussing on electric cars in the premium segment (costing over ₹10 lakh), India is targeting smaller vehicles. The reason for this is, according to NITI Aayog, 79% of vehicles on Indian roads are two-wheelers, while three-wheelers and cars costing less than ₹10 lakh account for 4% and 12% of the vehicle population, respectively. Concentrating on small electric vehicles will help meet domestic demand and place India in a “position of global leadership”.

While China, the U.S. and a few European countries offer various subsidies up to 40% to encourage uptake of electric cars, India wants to offer non-fiscal incentives. Credits will be offered based on carbon dioxide emissions per km as well as vehicle efficiency. While manufacturers exceeding the emission targets will be required to purchase credits, those meeting them will be rewarded. The price of the credit will be decided by the market. This approach will make electric vehicles and those with low-emissions cheaper and the polluting vehicles expensive. In the next five years, India aims to have at least 15% of electric vehicles on the road. On February 28, India announced the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles (FAME-2) scheme with an outlay of ₹10,000 crore for a period of three years.

To encourage faster adoption, incentives will be provided on purchase of an electric vehicle. The scheme will support 10 lakh two-wheelers, 5 lakh three-wheelers, 55,000 four-wheelers and 7,000 buses. While the focus will be on private vehicles for two-wheelers, incentives will be given for three and four-wheelers used for public transport and commercial purposes.

The aim is to set up charging stations and other infrastructure under ‘Make in India’.

What is the driving range of electric vehicles?

In electric cars using lithium ion battery (the most widely used battery worldwide), it is between 200 and 300 km per charge. The driving range in a city is typically 25-30 km per day. Battery technology to increase driving range and energy density has been, and will continue to be, the focus area in the coming years. The most important determinant will be the lifespan of the battery. As per current battery technology, its lifetime will be shorter than the rest of the vehicle. According to the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, some car manufacturers in developed countries are offering an eight-year or 1,60,000 km warranty on batteries.

How long will it take to charge the battery?

Currently, batteries used in electric cars have capacities of 50 kWh (kilowatt hour) and can be charged overnight using the existing power supply available at home. Like in the case of mobile phones, batteries used in electric vehicles can be fast-charged using 7 and 22 kW supply. Charging stations at service stations have 50 or 120 kW supplies and the battery can be charged in 20-30 minutes. But fast-charging causes overheating and degradation, and if done frequently reduces battery life.

Will electric vehicles reduce carbon emission?

At nearly 55%, electricity generation in India is primarily using coal. Hydroelectric generation is 13% and renewable energy sources including small hydro projects, wind and solar, account for about 21%. So like in the case of the U.S. and China, net reduction in carbon emission will not be much even if there is large-scale adoption of electric vehicles in India.

This is unlike France and the U.K., where non-fossil fuel is a major source of electricity generation. However, cities and town using electric vehicles in large numbers will see a reduction in exhaust-pipe emissions, particularly particulate matter. This will be important in the case of India which is home to 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.

Can used batteries be recycled?

Lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles can be recycled. According to the Financial Times, China and the European Union have rules that make carmakers responsible for recycling their batteries. In July 2016, Elon Musk had tweeted that Tesla’s Gigafactory battery factory in Nevada, U.S., will recycle lithium ion battery. Li-ion batteries use a “variety of chemical processes, making it difficult to develop standardised recycling”. Battery recycling will become an industry by itself by 2025 when used batteries will become plentiful. Eaton, a U.K.-based company, is already selling used electric batteries for reuse as household batteries.

Is there enough cobalt to meet the demand?

In lithium ion batteries, cobalt is a key component of the cathode (positive electrode). Cobalt plays a pivotal role in preventing overheating and provides stability to the battery thus allowing charging and discharging over many years. Cobalt is a by-product of mining nickel and copper. About 60% of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mining of which has been linked to human rights abuse including child labour. As battery technology evolves, the amount of cobalt used may reduce or even stop. Last May, Tesla’s battery cell supplier Panasonic Corp said it has already “substantially cut down” cobalt usage and is already “aiming to achieve close to zero usage of cobalt in the near future”.



Trial in the Assembly





Trial in the Assembly

What is the case for the disqualification move against MLAs in Tamil Nadu? Why does it matter?

T. Ramakrishnan

M. Prabhu

The story so far: On May 6, the Supreme Court stayed the proceedings initiated by Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P. Dhanapal for the disqualification of three MLAs of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) — E. Rathinasabapathy (representing Aranthangi constituency), V.T. Kalaiselvan (Virudhachalam) and A. Prabhu (Kallakurichi) under the anti-defection law. Two of the MLAs had approached the Court. On May 10, Mr Prabhu, who had separately approached the Supreme Court, too got a stay order from the Court.

How did it come about?

The judicial intervention followed a series of events. On April 26, Chief Government Whip S. Rajendran complained that the MLAs had associated themselves with T.T.V. Dhinakaran, general secretary of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). Three days later, the Speaker issued show-cause notices to them. The principal opposition party in the Assembly, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) proposed a no-confidence motion against Mr. Dhanapal.

The rebel MLAs made two arguments in the Supreme Court. One, they accused the Speaker of having “acted in a partisan and biased manner” Two, they contended that Mr. Dhanapal should not act on the disqualification matter while a motion of no-confidence against him was pending.

As on date, the three MLAs do not deny that their sympathies lie with Mr. Dhinakaran or, to be precise, with V.K. Sasikala, confidante of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and now serving a prison term in Bengaluru after being convicted in a disproportionate assets case. Mr. Rathinasabapathy and Mr. Kalaiselvan announced their support to Mr. Dhinakaran in August 2017 while Mr. Prabhu joined them six months later. But the three maintain they are not members of the AMMK. The AMMK, just a few days prior to the Government Whip’s complaint to the Speaker, applied to the Election Commission of India for registration as a political party.

Apparently, the AIADMK’s plan was to establish that by supporting Mr. Dhinakaran, the three MLAs had “voluntarily given up” membership of the party. It was the same ground on which 18 pro-Dhinakaran MLAs were disqualified in September 2017.

Why does it matter?

The show-cause notice was issued about 10 days after polling took place for 38 Lok Sabha constituencies and 18 Assembly seats, for which by-elections were held. Four more Assembly constituencies will also see by-polls on May 19. This means the Assembly will be at its full strength of 234 once the results are out. If all the 22 vacancies are filled, the ruling party has to show 118 members on its side.

At present, it has 114 MLAs including the Speaker. Had the court not stayed the disqualification proceedings, the three MLAs could have been disqualified, and the House’s strength brought down to 231. In that case, the AIADMK would need only 116 members, just two more than its present strength.

But, the ruling dispensation dismisses the argument. The Government Whip told reporters, after handing over his complaint to the Speaker, that time was required to collect material against the rebel legislators to substantiate his charge. Law Minister C.Ve. Shanmugam has said his party is confident of facing and winning a floor test “on any day”.

What are the rules on disqualification?

As per Paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution, a Member of Parliament or Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council can be disqualified on two grounds: if the member voluntarily gives up membership of the party on whose ticket he or she got elected; or, if the member votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction of such party. However, disqualification may be avoided if the party leadership condones the vote or abstention within 15 days. The procedure for disqualification is laid down in the Members of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1986. Each State has similar rules.

What lies ahead?

After the Supreme Court’s notice is served on the Assembly Speaker and his office, the normal practice is that the Assembly Secretary will file a response.

The results of the by-elections to 22 Assembly constituencies will also have a bearing on what happens from now on. If the ruling AIADMK wins a comfortable number of seats, it won’t mind if the motion against the Speaker is taken up first. This will have the effect of rendering redundant one of the arguments of the rebel legislators: the Speaker facing a motion for his own removal should not adjudicate disqualification issues. There are at least two more MLAs against whom the party may initiate action for going against the AIADMK leadership.

If the DMK wins in all 22 seats, there can be a regime change, which may be followed by the election of a new Speaker. In that case, the disqualification proceedings may not be pursued at all.


* Foreign

Trump orders tariff hike on remaining Chinese imports





Trump orders tariff hike on remaining Chinese imports

Beijing says talks will continue, but rules out concessions on ‘important principles’

Agence France-Presse

Heating up: A worker assembling an air conditioner’s case at a Haier factory in China’s Shandong in 2017.APMark Schiefelbein

Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump cranked up the heat in a trade battle with China on Friday, ordering a tariff hike on almost all remaining imports from the world’s second-biggest economy, but Beijing said talks would continue to resolve the row.

After tweeting that two days of trade talks in Washington had been “candid and constructive”, Mr. Trump changed tack and followed through on a threat he had been making for months.

“The President… ordered us to begin the process of raising tariffs on essentially all remaining imports from China, which are valued at approximately $300 billion,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

The move came less than 24 hours after Washington increased punitive duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, raising them to 25% from 10%, days after the Trump administration accused Beijing of reneging on its commitments.

Details on the process for public notice and comment will be posted on Monday, ahead of a final decision on the new tariffs, Mr. Lighthizer said. They were not expected to go into effect for several months.

China’s top trade negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He, had warned earlier that Beijing “must respond” to any U.S. tariffs. The developments came as two days of talks to resolve the trade battle ended on Friday with no deal, but no immediate breakdown either, offering a glimmer of hope that Washington and Beijing could find a way to avert damage to the global economy.

“Over the course of the past two days, the U.S. and China have held candid and constructive conversations on the status of the trade relationship between both countries,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “The relationship between President Xi (Jinping) and myself remains a very strong one, and conversations into the future will continue.”

The tariffs on China “may or may not be removed depending on what happens with respect to future negotiations!”

Three disagreements

Mr. Liu told reporters the talks had been “productive” and said the two sides would meet again in Beijing at an unspecified date, but he warned that China would make no concessions on “important principles”.

“Negotiations have not broken down, but rather on the contrary, this is only a normal twist in the negotiations between the two countries, it is inevitable,” Mr. Liu said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mr. Lighthizer met for about two hours with Mr. Liu on Friday and then headed for the White House to brief Mr. Trump, who had said he was in no hurry to reach a deal, arguing the U.S. was negotiating from a position of strength.

“We have a consensus in lots of areas but to speak frankly there are areas we have differences on, and we believe these concern big principles,” Mr. Liu said.

Mr. Liu pointed to three major areas of disagreement: whether to cancel all trade war tariffs when an agreement is reached, the exact size of Chinese purchases of U.S. goods, and a “balanced” agreement text.

“Any country needs its own dignity, so the text must be balanced,” Mr. Liu said.

Mr. Liu and his backer Mr. Xi cannot be seen as giving in too much with trade concessions to the U.S. in fear of triggering comparisons to past “unequal treaties” forced on China in the 19th and 20th centuries. “Every country has important principles, and we will not make concessions on matters of principle,” Mr. Liu said.



Nasheed calls for screening of preachers visiting Maldives





Nasheed calls for screening of preachers visiting Maldives

Island nation is on high alert since the Sri Lanka bombings

Meera Srinivasan

Maldives ex-President Mohamed Nasheed.REUTERSDinuka Liyanawatte

Colombo

Mohameed Nasheed, former President of the Maldives, has called for thorough screening of Islamic priests visiting the island nation.

“While we are not certain if Zahran Hashim came to the Maldives in 2016 as a preacher, we should screen well before allowing people to come here posing as sheikhs and preachers,” he tweeted on Friday, referring to the alleged mastermind of the Sri Lanka Easter attacks.

Following the incident, and subsequent reports of the suspects’ movement in the region, security and intelligence agencies in the neighbourhood have enhanced scrutiny of travellers. Sri Lanka has expelled around 200 clerics for overstating their visas. Clarifying his tweet that was in Dhivehi, the language of Maldivians, Mr. Nasheed told The Hindu: “He [Zahran] might have travelled under another name, but the point is that we should be mindful in allowing preachers.”

Earlier, some reports indicated to Hashim’s likely travel to the Maldives. However, the Maldives Immigration authorities refuted the claim. An April 24 tweet from their official handle said: “Maldives Immigration can confirm that, based on our records, the Sri Lankan national known as Moulvi Zahran Hashim, involved in the Easter Sunday terrorist attack in Sri Lanka. has not travelled to Maldives in the past five years or even beyond that.”

The Maldives has remained on high alert since the terror attacks shook Sri Lanka and is working on a coordinated response mechanism, involving the military and police, to face any contingency. The National Counter Terrorism Centre in identified 69 individuals who joined foreign wars.

In addition to developing a rehabilitation programme for radicalised individuals, the government is closely monitoring potential links that radicalised individuals might have with Islamist militant groups abroad, according to Male-based official sources. Security forces and Immigration have heightened scrutiny, though authorities have said no imminent threat that has been detected.



U.S. positions Patriot missile off Iran





U.S. positions Patriot missile off Iran

Missiles, B-52 bombers also arrive

Agence France-Presse

The USS Arlington, which has been sent to the Gulf region.AFPMC3 CHRIS ROYS

Washington

The United States is deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to bolster an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers already sent to the Gulf, ratcheting up pressure on Saturday on arch-foe Iran.

In response to alleged threats from Iran, the USS Arlington, which transports marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and rotary aircraft, and the Patriot air defence system will join the Abraham Lincoln carrier group, the Pentagon announced on Friday. The carrier and a B-52 bomber task force were ordered towards the Gulf, as Washington reiterated that intelligence reports suggested Iran was planning some sort of attack in the region.

B-52 bombers arrive

CENTCOM, the U.S. forces for West Asia and Afghanistan, said Friday on Twitter that the B-52 bombers arrived at the area of operations on May 8, without saying where they had landed.

National Security Advisor John Bolton has said that the deployment aimed to send a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran about any attack against the U.S. or its partners in the region. Washington has not elaborated on the alleged threat, drawing criticism that it is overreacting and unnecessarily driving up tensions in the region.

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran, but earlier in the week it shrugged off the carrier deployment. “Bolton’s statement is a clumsy use of an out-of-date event for psychological warfare,” Iran’s Supreme National Security Council spokesman Keyvan Khosravi said.


* Magaazine

Letter from a concerned reader






Letter from a concerned reader

Mrs. M strikes back

getty images/istock

Dear Madam,

Since long time it has been my one and only ambition to write to you but my husband is not at all liking the idea. In fact, he is being very secretive about this letter to Hindu and all, throwing himself bodily over the computer whenever I am coming with coffee and bajji.

Now excellent news madam. Mr. Mathrubootham has gone off to America for visiting our elder son there who is a software engineer. Brilliant boy is well settled with wife and one bonny boy and one large bungalow type house with own garden and one back garden also for doing the barbecue. He is casually buying me gold bangles and chains whenever he is visiting. He is handful earning thank god.

Mr. Mathrubootham is going alone to U.S. and I am acting sad but I am acting only because Guruvayurappa and one and all in housing society knows what a big nachchu he has become sitting in home and ringing doorbell non-stop in other people homes and fighting nonstop with milkman, paperman, ironman, what not. Madam, retirement is not a bed of roses for retiree wife, I can say strongly.

Excellent time pass

Looking back fondly to working days in bank, it was very peaceful. Once I gave him send-off with tiffin box in hand and I packed off sons, there was peace in home. One serial here, one coffee there, one visit to Visalam or Meenakshi in B Block Bank Officers Quarters, weekly Ladies Club meeting, it was excellent I tell you excellent. Full time pass. In Ladies Club, always we are doing new-new things like Bournvita Mysore Pak and Pineapple Rasa-Vada. Of course now also I am happy to be bringing all these talents to ladies in Housing Society here who are really appreciating.

Madam, you must be thinking why this old woman is writing just because husband not there. Too much competition you must be thinking. I am like that from first only. Always first in class and getting sabash in music class also. Getting centum in Mathematics is not easy in those days, Madam, but I got centum. Even during my marriage seeing days, my father has mentioned this to all the boys coming to see me. When my father found out that Mr. Mathrubootham is also getting centum he is approving fully. Then only marriage.

Anyway, everyone is writing about women’s liberation in your Hindu. Always telling that ladies must come out and talk openly. So only I am thinking why not take this chance when old man is missing? And let me tell you I scored more in English prose and poetry than Mr. Mathrubootham. Once I even got centum. So why not I can write?

Best trick

You will be noticing already how advanced I am. I am only putting ‘madam’, no ‘sir’. Because fully I am believing that ladies only must be editors and all. No chance men. So whenever I am writing to bank manager or Anna Nagar Times I always put ‘Dear Madam’. We must not give any option only. That is best trick.

It has been tiring one week, Madam. Mr. Mathrubootham has been sitting in chair reading Alistair McLean and I have been packing podis for son in America. Paruppu podi, sambhar podi, milagai podi, ellu podi, karuvepilai podi each and every podi I have made 250g packs painstakingly, let me tell you. Then with much huffing-puffing that man will come with me to Mylapore and we are going to professional packer and sealing it all in plastic packets and removing air.

Then from Ganga Sweets we are buying Mysore Pak because I have no time left to make my world-famous Bournvita Mysore Pak, so ordinary one we are buying. Whether that man will come home straight? No, no he will eat ras malai and drink rose milk and only then budge. I am eating only one medu vadai myself because TV health shows are telling to avoid sugar.

All in all, very tiring, Madam. Now after seeing off at airport I am getting some relaxation. Now one month no non-stop complaint from yoga teacher and Sankaramenon and woman on top floor. Big relief. It is giving me daring and so only I came to computer room to write off one letter to paper. We must tell our side no?

Yours happily for one month,

Mrs. Mathrubootham


Close Menu