MAY 3, Friday

Delhi Edition

* Front Page

Decide on Modi, Amit Shah ‘hate speeches’ by May 6, SC tells EC





Decide on Modi, Amit Shah ‘hate speeches’ by May 6, SC tells EC

Congress has alleged that the poll body was not applying rules uniformly

Krishnadas Rajagopal
New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave the Election Commission of India (EC) time till May 6 to take a final call on the complaints filed by the Congress against the alleged hate speeches and misuse of the armed forces as political propaganda by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.

The Commission repeatedly protested, saying it would need time to call for the entire transcript of the speeches and decide the context of the allegedly offending words in them. This would take time, it said.

“So, you have today, then Friday and even Sunday… You can do it,” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi told the Commission, represented by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi.

Mr. Dwivedi submitted that there were a total of 11 complaints against the two leaders. “Of this, four have been effectively decided. We need time till at least next Wednesday to decide on the rest,” he said.

But the court put its foot down. “You come on Monday,” CJI Gogoi responded.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi began the hearing by submitting that the EC had not decided on the complaints for the past three weeks. “What was spoken by them [Modi and Shah] cannot be taken back… the damage caused is irreversible. But the EC has to take a decision by tomorrow [Friday],” he submitted.

Direct attack

In one of the most direct attacks on the EC, a 146-page petition filed by Congress lawmaker Sushmita Dev, represented by advocate Sunil Fernandes, alleged that there was one set of rules for Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah and another for the rest of the candidates.

The Congress said several representations of “violation” of the model code of conduct were made to the EC, but no action had been forthcoming from the poll body, which should be devoted to the concept of free and fair elections in a democracy.

Since March 10, when the general election was notified, Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah had “specifically in sensitive areas and States, ex facie violated the provisions of the Representation of the People Act and the election rules and the process,” the petition said.




Odisha evacuates over 11 lakh





Odisha evacuates over 11 lakh

Extremely severe Fani to hit coast with 180 km wind speed

Staff Reporter

Before the storm: Locals and visitors taking snaps of the sea from the beach in Konark, Odisha, just hours before Cyclone Fani made landfall. Biswaranjan Rout

Bhubaneswar/Kolkata

With the extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani expected to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, south of Puri town, on Friday morning, the State government on Thursday evacuated over 11 lakh people from low-lying areas in 15 districts.

Heavy rainfall had started at many places in the coastal districts by Thursday evening under the influence of the storm. Fani is expected to make landfall between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and continue to rage up to noon, officials said. The cyclone will hit the coast with a maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph, gusting to 200 kmph. Storm surge of about 1.5 metre height may flood low-lying areas.


* Nation

Still reeling under Titli impact, coastal villages fear for worse





Still reeling under Titli impact, coastal villages fear for worse

Landslides and floods in 2018 had killed at least 58 in Ganjam, Gajapati

Staff Reporter

Fani fear: Podampeta village in Ganjam district bears a deserted look on Thursday after all residents were moved to safer places. Lingaraj Panda

BERHAMPUR

Odisha’s Ganjam and Gajapati districts, which have faced three major cyclones since 2013, are bracing for possible floods and landslides due to heavy rains accompanied by wind surge of Fani cyclone that is expected to make landfall south of Puri on Friday morning.

In 2018, Titli cyclone had killed at least 39 people in Gajapati district and 19 in adjoining Ganjam. Most of these deaths were due to landslides and floods. This time, based on the experience during Titli, around 30,000 people have been evacuated to safer places in Gajapati. Largest evacuation has been taken up in Ganjam where around 2,81,000 people have been moved to 1,069 safe shelters.

Seventy-six families of Baraghara village on a hilltop in Gangabada panchayat under Rayagada block in Gajapati have been shifted to safe places downhill, said a former sarpanch, Haribandhu Karji. Sixteen people of this village had died in the landslides that followed Titli cyclone. Santanu Bhuyan of Baraghara said Fani is a major worry for them as they had started rebuilding their houses at the same place where the old ones were destroyed by landslides last year. They are yet to build houses downhill, where they were to be rehabilitated after Titli cyclone.

Changed water flow

“After Titli, danger has increased in our area as landslides have stopped several natural water paths and created new ones. No one knows what will be the path of water flow from the hills if heavy rains occur during Fani cyclone,” Mr. Karji said. The locals said during Titli cyclone, a mountain stream had changed path to flow through Talamunda village under Gandahati panchayat of Rayagada block. As summer arrived, the water flow stopped in this new path. But after the recent rains, water has started to flow through the village again. All families of this village have been shifted to safer places.

Apart from cyclone-prone coastal areas in Chikiti, Rangeilunda, Chhatrapur, Ganjam, Khallikote blocks, people living in flood and landslide-prone areas of Patrapur, Aska, Dharakote, Sorada have also been evacuated.

National Disaster Response Force teams have been deployed in Aska and Sorada blocks which are most prone to floods caused by cyclonic storms. Teams of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force are present at Chhatrapur and Chikiti. Around 40,000 sandbags have been kept ready at riverbank areas to stop breaches.



Indian Air Force hones preparedness in NE





Indian Air Force hones preparedness in NE

With an eye on ‘eastern neighbour’

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

The IAF drill under way at the civilian airport near Guwahati. Rahul Karmakar

GUWAHATI

The Indian Air Force has focussed on air defence preparedness in the eastern and north-eastern sector with an eye on the country’s ‘eastern neighbour’.

On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the IAF carried out a drill of its Sukhoi Su-30 jets from the civilian airport on the outskirts of Guwahati. It was the first-of-its-kind operation, also conducted in Kolkata and Durgapur in West Bengal, from civilian airports in the area of operation of the IAF’s Eastern Air Command.

“This is the first time that the Sukhoi SU-30 class jets are conducting drills from any civil airfield in the Northeast. From the western front earlier, we are now increasing our focus in the east since our eastern neighbour is increasing its capabilities,” Air Commodore Shashank Mishra, the head of the IAF station adjoining the airport, said. ‘Eastern neighbour’ is believed to be a reference to China which has reportedly increased its air assets in Tibet.

IAF officials said the first drill involving SU-30s in Guwahati was conducted at 9.30 p.m. on Wednesday. On Thursday, the jets flew out to the IAF’s base in central Assam’s Tezpur.

Flexible coordination

Officials said the drill was expected to give the IAF more flexibility for coordination with civil air traffic during an emergency. The idea is to let the fighter jet pilots familiarise with the operating procedure at the civilian airfields and get exposure to a different environment besides adapting to other factors that come into play.



BJP mismanaged water resources to win Pune, Baramati: Congress





BJP mismanaged water resources to win Pune, Baramati: Congress

Accuses Minister of diverting potable water from Pune

Shoumojit Banerjee

Drying up: Soaring mercury levels over the past weeks have caused water reserves in dams to plummet dangerously, triggering fears of imminent water cuts.Yogesh LondheYogesh Londhe

Pune

As stares at a water crisis, the opposition Congress on Thursday alleged that the leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) deliberately ‘mismanaged’ the situation for political gains in the and Baramati Lok Sabha constituencies.

Soaring mercury levels in the past weeks have caused water reserves in Pune’s dams to plummet dangerously, triggering fears of imminent water cuts. Against this backdrop, senior leaders like Mohan Joshi, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)’s candidate for the Pune Lok Sabha seat, and Arvind Shinde, leader of the Congress in Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), have alleged that Pune’s Guardian Minister Girish Bapat deliberately diverted potable water from the city’s share to outlying areas in Daund and Indapur to enable the BJP to win the all-important Pune and Baramati constituencies.

Both Daund and Indapur are important segments of the Baramati LS seat, where NCP MP Supriya Sule faced BJP’s Kanchan Kul in the elections on April 23.

“Mr. Bapat was careful not to introduce water cuts when the electoral contest was in full swing for the Pune Lok Sabha seat. Further, the potable water sorely needed for Pune city has been diverted to the outlying areas Indapur and Daund [part of the Baramati Lok Sabha seat] to ensure Kanchan Kul’s victory,” said Mr. Joshi. He also accused Mr. Bapat of diverting potable water meant for Pune for irrigation and running sugar mills in the district’s outlying areas.

Mr. Shinde too said while there protests over the acute water scarcity in several parts of urban Pune, rural areas in Pune district were not complaining.

“It is interesting to note that not a single factory in Bhigwan or Patas [in Daund] or other sugar factories there have been affected while Pune thirsts for potable water,” Mr. Shinde alleged.

However, the ruling BJP, which controls the PMC, has dubbed the Congress’ allegations as “utterly baseless”. “There is not an iota of truth in the Congress’ allegations against Mr. Bapat that water was diverted for political gains… we promise that the city will not face any water cuts till the start of the monsoon season on July 15,” said Shrinath Bhimale, the BJP’s leader of the House in the PMC.

Other BJP leaders pointed to the weak showers in September 2018, which, compounded by rising mercury levels, had resulted in reduced water stocks in Pune’s major dams.

According to PMC authorities, the cumulative water stocks in the four major dams that constitute the city’s potable water lifeline: Khadakwasla, Panshet, Varasgaon and Temghar, are down to a perilous 6.62 TMCft as opposed to a reserve of 10 TMCft same time last year.



ISRO plans to land a rover on lunar South Pole: Sivan





ISRO plans to land a rover on lunar South Pole: Sivan

‘It is a place where nobody has gone’

T. K. Rohit

K.Sivan

Chennai

India’s second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, will be historic for the scientific community as the country’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), will attempt to land a rover on the lunar South Pole, a region on the moon to which no one has gone till now, ISRO Chairman K.Sivan said.

On Wednesday, ISRO said it had fixed a launch window between July 5 and July 16 to launch the moon mission on board a GSLV-MkIII, with an aim to land on the moon around September 6. If ISRO manages to successfully execute this, India will be the first country to land a rover on the moon’s South Pole.

Deadlines missed

Mr. Sivan, in a short interview to The Hindu, said this was a region where nobody had gone before. “All the [ISRO] missions, whatever we have had till now [to the moon], have all landed near the moon’s equator. This is a place where nobody has gone,” he said.

After missing multiple launch deadlines, Mr. Sivan said the new launch window was almost final, and ISRO would launch the mission in July.

“When nobody has gone near that area, some new science might be there. Some new information, new science, we may get access to,” he said. ISRO will reveal further details of its plans and goals for the Chandrayaan-2 mission in June, he said.

The South Pole has generated a lot of interest in the recent past, with countries aiming to reach the region in what could spark another race to the moon.

China is reportedly aiming to construct a moon research station on the lunar South Pole, while the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working to send astronauts there by 2024.

Asked about China’s reported proposal to build a research station there, he said, “What they [China] are going to do, we don’t know. The main reason [why India is going there] is nobody has gone that side till now.”

Lowest temperatures

According to NASA, some regions of the lunar South Pole have permanently shadowed craters with some of the lowest temperatures in the solar system, where water ice is stable. These craters are believed to have significant ice deposits, “untainted by the Sun’s radiation or geological processes.”

Mr. Sivan said one of the goals of the Chandrayaan-2 mission would also be to find water on the moon.



Only seeking lifting of protection granted to former Kolkata CP: CBI





Only seeking lifting of protection granted to former Kolkata CP: CBI

Solicitor General dismisses charge that Rajeev Kumar is being targeted

Legal Correspondent

Rajeev Kumar

NEW DELHI

The CBI on Thursday clarified that it is seeking lifting of protection granted to former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar by the Supreme Court on February 8 and not permission for his “custodial interrogation” in connection with its probe into the Saradha Ponzi scam.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had in February 2019 granted a stay on any “coercive action” against Mr. Kumar provided he cooperate with the agency during a questioning session scheduled in Shillong.

Appearing for the CBI, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that Mr. Kumar had met the agency’s queries on the alleged suppression of crucial evidence in the case like call data records with evasive or “arrogant” answers.

Mr. Mehta dismissed submissions made by senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Mr. Kumar, that her client was being targeted as “a castle built in the air”. Mr. Kumar claimed that the allegations raised against him in connection with the multi-core Saradha chit fund scam was part of a “larger conspiracy” by two prominent Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, Mukul Roy and Kailash Vijayvargiya.

At the end of the hearing, the Bench reserved the case for orders.

Complete evidence

Mr. Mehta said the CBI has been asking for the complete evidence since August 2014, after the court transferred the case from the West Bengal government-appointed SIT of which Mr. Kumar was the functional head. The CBI has been making consistent efforts for Mr. Kumar to cooperate in the probe for the past five years, and this has not been a recent development as is portrayed by his lawyers.

“The impression created that we have been hounding him has to be removed,” Mr. Mehta urged.

The CJI said the data was collected through multiple agencies, indicating that the delay from the SIT’s side may have been due to the time taken to gather the evidence.

The West Bengal government has told the Supreme Court that the CBI plea against Mr. Kumar is merely a “political game”.

“The whole episode is a political game to keep the pot boiling and to paint people black,” senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, appearing for the West Bengal establishment, had submitted.

The CBI has alleged that both the “big Ponzi” Saradha and Rose Valley companies were “flourishing” when Mr. Kumar was the Commissioner of Police at Bidhan Nagar Police Commisionerate from 2012 to 2015.

While the investigation was being done by the SIT, “crucial original, primary and fundamental evidence” such as laptops, mobile phones, etc. were handed back to the main accused in the Saradha scam case by the I.O. of the West Bengal Police working under his direct supervision, the CBI alleged.



‘Consent letters of miners’ families filed in SC’





‘Consent letters of miners’ families filed in SC’

We are waiting for directions from court, says Meghalaya Deputy Chief Minister

Press trust of india
Shillong

The Meghalaya government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the families of the victims, who were trapped inside a coal mine in December and are untraced till now, have consented to call off search operations, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said on Thursday.

On the morning of December 13, a group of 16 miners went missing after water from the Lytein river gushed into an illegal rat-hole coal mine in Lumthari village of East Jaintia Hills district in the State.

Two bodies retrieved

Only two bodies have been retrieved so far in the five-month-long search operation by teams of various agencies, including the NDRF, the Indian Navy and the Army.

On January 28, the apex court had asked the Centre and the Meghalaya government to continue their multi-agency operations to trace the miners.

“We have filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court informing that the family members of the miners have given their consent to call off the search and rescue operations. We are waiting for directions from the Supreme Court on the matter,” Mr. Tynsong said.

In the affidavit, the government has attached the written consent received from the family members of the miners, he said.

East Jaintia Hills Deputy Commissioner F.M. Dopth had submitted the letters to the State government on April 16, citing that the operation be called off as there had been no tangible result.

Mr. Dopth, on his part, clarified that there was no reduction in the water level in the main shaft, where the miners were trapped, even after discharge of several crore litres of water.

Until Tuesday, submersible pumps were engaged in flushing out water from the 370-foot-deep mine, which is interconnected with eight other abandoned mines, he said.



10,000 Odisha villages face Fani impact





10,000 Odisha villages face Fani impact

Bhubaneswar airport will remain closed

Staff Reporter

Bhubaneswar/Kolkata

After landfall on Friday, Fani is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards, weaken gradually and enter West Bengal as a severe cyclonic storm with the wind speed going up to 115 kmph.

According to Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi, while the evacuation exercise continued on Thursday, the administration made people in coastal areas aware of the risks, through loudspeakers, sirens and messages.

Flight operations from the Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar will remain suspended from Thursday night for 24 hours. Educational institutions in the coastal districts were closed till further orders.

As many as 25 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), along with State fire service personnel, have been deployed in the coastal districts. Defence forces were on high alert to meet any eventuality.

Around 10,000 villages spread over 14 districts, such as Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Khurda, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Keonjhar, Bhadrak, Balasore and Mayurbhanj are likely to be affected.

The West Bengal government on Thursday advanced the summer holidays for all its State-run schools.

Fani’s impact is likely to be felt in the disctricts of Purba and Paschim Medinipur, North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata.

The Kolkata Port Trust said, in a statement, that shipping to the port will remain suspended for now.



200 Maoists held ‘janata darbar’ before Gadchiroli attack





200 Maoists held ‘janata darbar’ before Gadchiroli attack

15 personnel, driver killed in IED blast

Gautam S. Mengle
Mumbai

Nearly 200 Maoists held a ‘janata darbar’ at Dadapur in Gadchiroli before planting the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that claimed 16 lives in the Naxal-affected district on Wednesday, investigating officers said.

On Wednesday, a team of 15 Quick Response Team (QRT) personnel was going as reinforcements to a police team in Dadapur when the vehicle was blown up by an IED planted on the newly inaugurated highway.

All 15 and the civilian driver of the vehicle were killed.

Sequence of events

The sequence of events, as pieced together by the police, indicates that around 11 p.m. on April 30, nearly 200 armed Maoists entered Dadapur village and went to the site of the National Highway being constructed through the village.

“The Maoists were mostly in the age group of 20 to 25, and a majority of them were women. They rounded up all the labourers at the site, woke up a local small time grocer, took biscuits and water bottles from him and then took the labourers to the temporary structure that acts as a site office, where they held a janata darbar.

Subsequently, they set 26 vehicles on fire, including a 50-litre diesel tanker, which caused a large explosion,” an officer, who is part of the investigating team, said.

A team from the Purkheda police station, about 3 km away, left for Dadapur, while also seeking reinforcements.

The QRT team that was killed in the attack had responded to the Purkheda police’s call and was on its way when it was targeted.

Locking in targets

“We found out that two men on a bike were driving directly in front of the QRT vehicle for quite some time, which might very well explain how the Maoists knew which vehicle to target, despite the personnel being in a civilian vehicle,” the officer added.



Did China abandon its ‘all-weather friend’?





Did China abandon its ‘all-weather friend’?

Absence of reference to Jaish chief’s role in Kashmir violence clinched the issue for Beijing

Stanly Johny

Masood Azhar

After years of resistance to listing Masood Azhar, founder of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, as a global terrorist, China has finally changed its position. Earlier attempts to add Azhar to the UN blacklist, under the 1267 Committee, failed as China had put a hold, calling for a solution through consultations. After the February 14 Pulwama attack, France, the U.K. and the U.S. co-sponsored a new listing application, which was also blocked by China. However, when its hold expired, China raised no fresh opposition.

The main reason for China’s opposition to Azhar’s terror designation was the Pakistan factor. Pakistan has robust economic and strategic ties with China, which is also investing billions of dollars in that country to build an ambitious economic corridor. So why did China change its position now?

First, both India and China have manifested their desire to deepen bilateral ties despite the structural problems they face. Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Wuhan in April 2018 for an informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping even when bilateral ties were not at their best. The shadows of the Doklam stand-off between the Indian and Chinese Armies and Beijing’s repeated hold on Azhar and its opposition to India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership continued to impinge on bilateral ties. Still India preferred to stay engaged with China as the Wuhan summit suggested. China had shown in recent past that it was ready to do business with India even overlooking Pakistan’s sensitivities. Last year, China dropped its opposition to adding Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force grey list, which allowed the listing to go through smoothly.

The U.S. factor

Second, the Azhar issue has cast a shadow on China’s commitment to fighting terrorism. Jaish has been an internationally designated terrorist outfit. And its role in multiple terrorist attacks in India has been well established. China’s continued hold on Azhar’s listing has weakened internationally its position against terror. The “de-radicalisation” camps it is running in Xinjiang has triggered international criticism, particularly from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who slammed China’s “shameful hypocrisy”, saying it is abusing over a million Muslims at home while protecting “violent Islamic terrorist groups from sanctions at the UN”. After it used its hold on Azhar following the Pulwama attack, the U.S. distributed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council (outside the 1267 Committee) to ban Azhar. Had the resolution been put to vote, China would have been left with an awkward choice — either to back it or use its veto by further isolating itself among global peers.

No Pulwama reference

Third, in allowing the listing to go on, China could save its face and remove a thorny issue from India-China ties. But it didn’t want to abandon Pakistan, its “all-weather friend”. The original listing application which France, the U.K. and the U.S. had moved had a reference to the Pulwama attack. But it was removed from the application that went through on Wednesday, at China’s insistence. This is in line with Pakistan’s narrative that terror activities in the Valley are an indigenous uprising.

Responding to the listing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry batted for international community’s support for Pakistan, re-emphasising its view on Islamabad.



SC directive to EC on poll timing





SC directive to EC on poll timing

Plea by two advocates cites heat wave and onset of Ramzan for early voting

Legal Correspondent

Braving the heat: People waiting to cast their vote at a polling station in Bihar’s Begusarai on April 29.PTI

NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Election Commission of India to pass directions on a plea to advance the timing of polls from 7 a.m. to 4.30 a.m. or 5 a.m. in the next three phases of the general election, considering the heat wave and the Ramzan month. The fifth, sixth and seventh phases are due on May 6, 12 and 19, respectively.

The petition filed by two advocates said their sole object in public interest was to “increase voter participation in the electoral process” and to ensure “a convenient and fair opportunity to persons of all communities, particularly the Muslim community, to cast their vote”. This sentiment, they said, was to ensure their equal participation in the democratic process, consistent with the principles of Article 14.

The petition said the India Meteorological Department has issued a temperature warning indicating severe heat wave conditions over the next few days in large parts of the country, with temperatures being up to five degrees Celsius above normal in Madhya Pradesh, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi, Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

Several constituencies in each of these States are going to the polls in the coming phases.

“In this intense heat, it will be very difficult for Muslim voters to queue up at polling booths during the day to exercise their franchise… During Ramzan, most practising Muslims stay up/wake up for an early morning meal called ‘Sehri’ and sleep after the morning ‘Fajr’ prayer. Thereafter, they avoid going out in the heat to the extent possible to avoid thirst, dehydration and the possibility of a heatstroke,” the petition said.



Bahraich reveals communal and political faultlines of U.P.





Bahraich reveals communal and political faultlines of U.P.

Muslims feel threatened after the arrest of more than 45 members of the community under the SC/ST Act in Nanpara

Aslam and Noor Hasan were recently set free after more than 14 months behind bars. They were among the five Muslims slapped with the stringent National Security Act by the Yogi Adityanath government for alleged involvement in a clash between two communities over the change of route of the Barawafat procession taken out to mark the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed.

The incident took place in the Nanpara area of this backward district, which borders Nepal, in December 2017. Both men, who had a hand-to-mouth existence and were the main breadwinners of their families, claim they were falsely implicated, and accuse the BJP government of communal vendetta.

While Aslam sells bangles, Noor used to sell fish but after the incident is struggling to make ends meet at a brick kiln.

However, they also resent the incumbent MP Savitri Bai Phule for failing to protect Dalits and allegedly siding with the majoritarian side. She is herself a Dalit.

“I was at my store when the incident happened. We were falsely implicated but not once she came to visit us or seek our welfare. She visited the other side, and even distributed saris and ration to their women but always drove past our area like we didn’t exist,” said Noor Hasan seated on a cot in his simple brick-house in Ghurgutta village.

Ms. Phule strategically picked December 6 (2018) to quit the BJP — the day marking the Babri Masjid demolition and the death anniversary of Bhimrao Ambedkar — in a bid to connect with Dalits and Muslims, and pitched her fight as one to save the Constitution.

She has been fielded by the Congress this time. However, her past with the BJP could hurt her image among the Muslims, who are in large numbers in Bahraich.

More than 45 Muslims were arrested in the Nanpara incident, and many of them were booked under the stringent SC/ST Act, creating communal fissures.

Controversial comments

But that is not the only grievance Muslims have against Ms. Phule. In the main market of Nanpara, they also recall controversial comments made by her to provoke the minority.

Mohammad Nassirudin, who sells iron products, says Ms. Phule claimed to turn “Bahraich into Gujarat” and threatened to damage the shrine of Salar Ghazi, revered by both Hindus and Muslims. Even Mohammad Rais Khan, a Congress supporter, is put off by her candidature and prefers the SP. “If we vote her, it’s like voting the BJP,” he said.

In Bahraich, locked in a three-way contest, there is another factor pushing the Muslims towards the SP, apart from the winnability of the SP-BSP alliance and the backing of the Jatavs and Yadavs. It is SP candidate Shabbir Ahmed Valmiki, who despite being a Dalit Hindu, flaunts an identifiable Muslim first name.

A four-time MLA and runner-up in 2014, Mr. Valmiki is considered accessible and amiable by both Hindus and Muslims.

But his political career has been marked by controversies over his identity, which acts as a double-edged sword in a communally polarised environment.

Mr. Valmiki’s father married thrice to have a child and when he was born, gave him away to a Muslim family as a ritual to ward off evil spirits. The couple named him Shabbir Ahmed, a name that stuck on but due to which he later had to endure a legal battle, successfully though, after he won his first local body election in 1989. He was challenged for contesting on a reserved seat with a Muslim name. So which identity does be want to flaunt today? Hindu or Muslim? None but his caste.

“I am from the Valmiki (Dalit) community. Everybody knows that,” he said in the middle of a hectic door-to-door campaign in a Muslim pocket. “Every caste and community is with us. Hindu Muslim Sikh Christian…”

Sources said the SP was trying to cash in on the alleged persecution of Muslims in the district under the Adityanath rule — not just Ghurgutta, the State police had also controversially booked 200 Muslim men in Khair village under the UAPA — by attaching equal blame on Ms. Phule.

Vote split

But Sabir Ali Khan, a prominent farmer, argues that due to the communal divide, Ms. Phule is more likely to get the Hindu votes and defeat BJP. “Shabbir won’t get Hindu votes,” said Mr. Khan, revealing that he preferred a national party like the Congress in general elections.

In 2014, Ms. Phule, the saffron-clad Pasi leader, who has now taken a big turn to vocally criticise the BJP government for being anti-Dalit, received 4.32 lakh votes, while Mr. Valmiki got 3.36 lakh. The Congress’s sitting MP (2009) Kamal Kishore “Commando” only managed 24,000 votes.

This time, this reserved seat is witnessing a tight three-way contest. The BJP’s Akshayvar Lal Gond, a five-time MLA and present Balha legislator, is also in the fray.

Across the constituency, the OBCs and non-Jatav OBCs were largely behind Mr. Modi. Be it the Nishad who sold fish near Chittora lake praising Mr. Modi for providing toilets and new pucca homes to the poor or Bhura Biswakarma who argues that the two instalments of ₹2,000 (PM-KISAN) and power connection he received had won Mr. Modi his vote.

“No other government gave us anything. Mr. Modi has promised if elected again he will do more,” said Mr. Bhura, returning from Mr. Modi’s rally in Nanpara on Tuesday. The BJP is also banking on the division of Muslim votes.

In his speech, Mr. Modi played up the caste discrimination card, accusing the previous SP and BSP governments of depriving others than their “vote bank” of power supply.

He also sought to appease the Dalit identity by declaring he was inspired by Maharaja Suheldev and would replicate his model of governance and security of nation.

Suheldev is a medieval-era Bhar-Pasi chieftain whom the BJP-RSS have over the years aggressively tried to portray as a Hindutva warrior who stopped the march of Muslim invader Ghazi Mian and halted Islamisation of the region.

“Only we are doing Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas,” Mr. Modi said, arguing that people of all castes received toilets cooking gas and bank accounts without discrimination.




New pieces on the chessboard of caste






IN FOCUS: EASTERN UTTAR PRADESH

New pieces on the chessboard of caste

Floating vote of non-Yadav OBCs and MBCs will decide the results in this region, which has 17 of the 80 seats in the State

Nistula Hebbar, GHAZIPUR/AZAMGARH/LALGANJ/MIRZAPUR

In the 2017 Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP bet big on non-Yadav OBCs, giving over 35% of the seats to such communities to shore up its support base.

In 2019, the importance of these communities in the caste chessboard of eastern Uttar Pradesh (almost 17 seats) is again enhanced, with even the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress announcing tie-ups with community-specific parties and even handing out ticket to some of them.

In a polarised electoral scenario with party lines and their support bases clearly drawn, this floating vote of non-Yadav OBCs and most backward classes (MBCs), who form nearly 25% of the 40% OBC vote in the State, will decide who wins in this area.

In the run-up to the 2019 election therefore, the area saw the crossing over of Pravin Nishad (who won the Gorakhpur byelection last year on SP ticket) of the Nishad Party, to the BJP and is now the party’s candidate in Sant Kabir Nagar. Not to be outdone, the Congress has announced tie-ups with the Krishna Patel faction of the Apna Dal and the Babu Singh Kushwaha-led Jan Adhikar Party (JAP). The SP has allied with the Janwadi Socialist Party (JSP) of Sanjay Chauhan which claims to command the support of the Nonia Chauhans in the area.

In fact, Chandauli has emerged as the laboratory for testing where this intense wooing of non-Yadav communities will go, with the SP fielding Mr. Chauhan and the Congress fielding Sukanya Kushwaha, wife of Babu Singh Kushwaha to take on the BJP’s State unit chief Mahendranath Pandey.

In other seats too, strategic placements are being done making the contests a playbook of post-Mandal politics, where OBC groups are breaking away from a larger block to strike out on their own.

“Most of these castes are too small to matter in a macro situation, but are significant add-ons in individual seats,” a senior BJP office-bearer said.

On the ground

At Kotwa Farm in Azamgarh, where SP chief Akhilesh Yadav is contesting against Bhojpuri star and BJP candidate Dinesh Lal Yadav “Nirauwa”, there is a palpable angst against the Yogi Adityanath government among members of the Yadav community.

“What have we got under the Yogi government? The moment we mention we are Yadavs, our work is stalled. Baba jaatiwaad badhaatey hain aur kehtey hain ki Sapaa (SP) ek Jaati vishesh ki party hai (Yogi Adityanath is propagating casteism when he says the SP is a party of a particular caste only),” says Umesh Yadav. He, however, admits, that the BJP might wean away non-Yadav OBC votes, though “not in Azamgarh, here Akhilesh will win.”

Professor Satish Kumar Rai, who taught politics at Kashi Vidyapeeth and is a member of the Rajiv Gandhi Study Circle, says the phenomenon is reflective of the change in heartland politics after the great churn of Mandal Commission recommendations.

“Earlier, caste was based on a more socially enforced roti-beti kya vyavahaar (marriage and inter-dining prohibitions), but now it is a modern political system, deepening its scope,” he says.

“The mobilisation of intermediate castes that began with Charan Singh in 1967, and the empowerment of OBCs under Mandal politics of the 1990s has led to this further differentiation,” he adds.

Binding factor

In many seats across eastern Uttar Pradesh, this floating vote will be decisive, with parties such as the BJP hoping that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would emerge as a binding factor on questions of national security and social welfare programmes.

While the contest in Uttar Pradesh as a whole is being compared to classroom subjects such as arithmetic (the grand alliance) and chemistry (Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma), in eastern Uttar Pradesh, physics makes an entry.

“Here, neither arithmetic nor chemistry will work, it will be physics, and momentum on the side of one party that will decide the contest,” says Niraj Chauhan, a shopkeeper in Mirzapur.



* Editorial 1

Don’t give in to polarisation





Don’t give in to polarisation

In Sri Lanka, the challenge is to turn national mourning into a call for coexistence and democracy

APManish Swarup/AP

Ahilan Kadirgamar

As reports about those behind the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka emerge, many questions remain about the motives of the extremists. The full picture of the formation of this extremist force and the objectives behind their heinous crimes may take time. However, they have succeeded in creating a spectacle of death, mayhem and fear.

I focus here on the historical backdrop and the broader consequences of these attacks. In the months ahead, the climate of fear is going to drastically shape the workings of the state, the political character of future regimes and relations between communities.

The political leadership in the country has descended into a blame game with this being an election year. The progressive forces committed to a plural and democratic society have a historical challenge before them, as Sri Lanka is on the verge of falling into the abyss of polarisation.

Historical turn

The Easter attacks have implanted horrendous images in the minds of Sri Lankans. The fallout can tear apart the body politic of Sri Lanka with political shifts similar to the U.S. after September 11, 2001 and the July 1983 pogrom in Sri Lanka.

The “war on terror” in the U.S. after 2001 led to the draconian USA PATRIOT Act, the detention and surveillance of Muslims and the institution of Homeland Security, undermining the democratic and liberal structures within the U.S. With many other countries sucked into the “war on terror” coupled with the Bush regime’s military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, great social and political turmoil was created in West and South Asia, and fuelled extremist Islamist forces.

In Sri Lanka, the “war on terror” manoeuvred an internationalised peace process between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), by pushing for a deal between a so-called “failed state” and a “terrorist organisation”. Eventually, as the peace process failed with heightened international engagement, Sri Lanka’s version of a brutal “war on terror” cataclysmically ended the civil war with tens of thousands of lives lost in May 2009.

On the other hand, the armed conflict itself escalated following the government-orchestrated July 1983 pogroms where over 2,000 Tamil civilians were massacred. That pogrom over-determined the political economy of the country with an ethnic conflict over the next two and a half decades. Indeed, the Easter massacre leading to hundreds of casualties is loaded with dangers of religious forces entering the mix of a country historically fraught with ethno-nationalist tensions and conflicts.

Polarised politics

Some actors are drawing parallels between the perpetrators of the Easter attacks and the LTTE. However, the similarities are limited to the LTTE’s use of suicide bombings and targeting of civilians. The LTTE had a clear agenda of creating a separate state and worked to build a base within the Tamil community through a combination of separatist nationalist mobilisations, totalitarian control and ruthless elimination of dissent.

The extremist Muslim youth behind the Easter attacks are a fringe group and their nihilist politics without a social base is one of divisiveness and isolation. They have drawn as much on globally circulating contemporary technologies of terror as on the alienation of Muslim youth with rising global Islamophobia, but their politics are eschewed by the Muslim communities in Sri Lanka.

In this context, even though the attacks were mainly against Christian churches, the fallout may take unpredictable forms. Thus far, the Christian communities’ response has been restrained. However, chauvinist Sinhala Buddhist forces see these attacks as targeting state sovereignty and feel vindicated in their distrust of Muslims. Their anti-Muslim campaigns have greatly influenced the Sinhala population’s prejudices against Muslims over the last decade; the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime stoked anti-Muslim violence and the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government hardly addressed its continuation.

Even as reports of the perpetrators behind these harrowing attacks unfold, many international and national actors are projecting narratives to suit their geopolitical and power seeking agendas. The number of international actors now providing assistance to confront “terrorism” does not bode well given the disastrous history of internationalised engagement in Sri Lanka.

There are social and political dangers in projecting hasty solutions either removed from or with limited understanding of problems. While security in the aftermath of the attacks is a real concern, a solution solely focussed on militarised policing and surveillance is worrying. For close to a decade, progressives have called for demilitarisation. However, the current state of Emergency with militarised check points and surveillance are further militarising the country. In weeks before the Easter attacks there was much discussion of repealing the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act enacted in 1979, which in no small measure was linked to torturing and alienating Tamil youth during the war and Sinhala youth during the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna insurrection. We are now looking into the black hole of a far severe legal and surveillance regime, with little discussion of its long-term impact on democratic freedoms.

Political ramifications

In the panic and clamour for a security response, the ideological, economic and political ramifications of the current crisis are missed. Drawing on Islamophobic discourse, Muslims characterised as the “other” are called to explain and take responsibility for the Easter attacks. There are escalating demands to ban madrasas and Muslim women’s attire without extensively consulting the Muslim community. Furthermore, as with the previous riots that targeted Muslim businesses, scapegoating Muslims for future economic problems is a real fear.

The fragile national economy is bound to decline with a major hit on the significant tourist industry. The July 1983 pogrom and the armed conflict brought tremendous disorder and isolated Sri Lanka at a time when its peers such as Malaysia and Thailand gained economically from major foreign investments. In these times of protectionism, an economic shock affecting international investment, capital flows and trade with Sri Lanka can lead to a national economic crisis.

Even more dangerously, an authoritarian anti-terrorist leadership is now the kneejerk call for the upcoming presidential elections. Predictably, the Rajapaksa camp gaining ground over the last year capitalising on mounting economic problems, is seeking further political gain out of this disaster. They claim only a strongman leader can redeem the country. They are projecting their role in decimating the LTTE as the solution for the current crisis. However, the defeat of the LTTE was about taking on a totalitarian organisation with a pyramidal military structure, where the decapitation of the leadership led to its end.

The challenge now beyond the immediate security concerns is mainly of social and political proportions. The attacks by extremist Islamist forces on the Christian churches can shift into conflicts that involve chauvinist Buddhist and for that matter Hindu reactionary forces. Hindutva in India, Buddhist extremism in Myanmar and the circulation of their ideologies and practices are imminent dangers for an already fraught Sri Lankan polity.

The liberal and left forces in the country, and the Sinhala intelligentsia in particular, have to find the courage and discourse to take on the chauvinist anti-Muslim rhetorical barrage. A likely casualty of the Easter attacks is going to be the rights of Muslim youth and the broader freedoms of the citizenry. The challenge before the country is to turn national mourning and grief into a call for coexistence and democracy.

Ahilan Kadirgamar is a Senior Lecturer, University of Jaffna



The gender ladder to socio-economic transformation





The gender ladder to socio-economic transformation

More than a ‘more jobs’ approach, addressing structural issues which keep women away from the workforce is a must

Getty Imagesfairywong/Getty Images

India is in the middle of a historical election which is noteworthy in many respects, one of them being the unprecedented focus on women’s employment. The major national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, have reached out to women, and their respective manifestos talk of measures to create more livelihood opportunities in rural and urban areas, which include incentives to businesses for employing more women.

What data show

Currently, the participation of women in the workforce in India is one of the lowest globally. The female labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India fell from 31.2% in 2011-2012 to 23.3% in 2017-2018. This decline has been sharper in rural areas, where the female LFPR fell by more than 11 percentage points in 2017-2018. Social scientists have long tried to explain this phenomenon, more so in the context of rising levels of education for women.

The answers can be found in a complex set of factors including low social acceptability of women working outside the household, lack of access to safe and secure workspaces, widespread prevalence of poor and unequal wages, and a dearth of decent and suitable jobs. Most women in India are engaged in subsistence-level work in agriculture in rural areas, and in low-paying jobs such as domestic service and petty home-based manufacturing in urban areas. But with better education, women are refusing to do casual wage labour or work in family farms and enterprises.

Education and work

A recent study observed a strong negative relationship between a woman’s education level and her participation in agricultural and non-agricultural wage work and in family farms. Essentially, women with moderately high levels of education do not want to do manual labour outside the household which would be perceived to be below their educational qualifications. The study also showed a preference among women for salaried jobs as their educational attainment increases; but such jobs remain extremely limited for women. It is estimated that among people (25 to 59 years) working as farmers, farm labourers and service workers, nearly a third are women, while the proportion of women among professionals, managers and clerical workers is only about 15% (NSSO, 2011-2012).

However, it is not the case that women are simply retreating from the world of work. On the contrary, time-use surveys have found that they devote a substantial amount of their time to work which is not considered as work, but an extension of their duties, and is largely unpaid. The incidence and drudgery of this unpaid labour is growing. This includes unpaid care work such as childcare, elderly care, and household work such as collecting water. The burden of these activities falls disproportionately on women, especially in the absence of adequately available or accessible public services. It also encompasses significant chunks of women’s contribution to agriculture, animal husbandry, and non-timber forest produce on which most of the household production and consumption is based.

Any government which is serious about ensuring women’s economic empowerment and equal access to livelihoods must address the numerous challenges that exist along this highly gendered continuum of unpaid, underpaid and paid work. A two-pronged approach must entail facilitating women’s access to decent work by providing public services, eliminating discrimination in hiring, ensuring equal and decent wages, and improving women’s security in public spaces. It must also recognise, reduce, redistribute, and remunerate women’s unpaid work.

An ActionAid document, which has compiled a people’s agenda through extensive discussions across States, provides critical recommendations to policymakers on issues of concern to Dalits, tribal people, Muslims and other marginalised communities with a focus on the needs of women. On the question of work, women’s demands include gender-responsive public services such as free and accessible public toilets, household water connections, safe and secure public transport, and adequate lighting and CCTV cameras to prevent violence against women in public spaces and to increase their mobility. Furthermore, they want fair and decent living wages and appropriate social security including maternity benefit, sickness benefit, provident fund, and pension.

Women have also expressed the need for policies which ensure safe and dignified working and living conditions for migrant workers. For example, in cities, governments must set up migration facilitation and crisis centres (temporary shelter facility, helpline, legal aid, and medical and counselling facilities). They must also allocate social housing spaces for women workers, which include rental housing and hostels. They must ensure spaces for women shopkeepers and hawkers in all markets and vending zones.

Recognition as farmers

In addition, women have strongly articulated the need to enumerate and remunerate the unpaid and underpaid work they undertake in sectors such as agriculture and fisheries. Their fundamental demand is that women must be recognised as farmers in accordance with the National Policy for Farmers; this should include cultivators, agricultural labourers, pastoralists, livestock rearers, forest workers, fish-workers, and salt pan workers. Thereafter, their equal rights and entitlements over land and access to inputs, credit, markets, and extension services must be ensured.

Women also reiterate the need to recognise and redistribute their unpaid work in the household. For this, the government must collect sex-disaggregated household level data with suitable parameters. Unless policymakers correctly assess and address the structural issues which keep women from entering and staying in the workforce, promising more jobs — while a welcome step — is unlikely to lead to the socio-economic transformation India needs.

Divita Shandilya works at ActionAid India as Programme Manager- Policy and Research



A global label





A global label

With Masood Azhar listed as a terrorist, India must work to ensure the mandated sanctions

Masood Azhar’s listing as a designated terrorist by the UN Security Council at long last closes an important chapter in India’s quest to bring the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief to justice. He eluded the designation for 20 years, despite his release in 1999 in exchange for hostages after the IC-814 hijack, and his leadership of the JeM as it carried out dozens of deadly attacks in India, including the Parliament attack of 2001, and more recent ones like the Pathankot airbase attack in 2016 and the Pulwama police convoy bombing this year. China’s opposition to the listing has long been a thorn in India’s side, given the toll Azhar and the JeM have exacted, and Beijing’s veto of the listing three times between 2009 and 2017 had driven a wedge in India-China relations. Despite the frustration over China’s last hold on a proposal moved by the U.S., the U.K., and France just weeks after Pulwama, the government has done well to approach Beijing with what the Ministry of External Affairs called “patience and persistence”. There is much disappointment, however, over the final listing released by the Security Council, with no mention of Mr. Azhar’s role in any of the attacks against India, or directing the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. A specific reference to Pulwama, which was in the original proposal, was also dropped, presumably to effect China’s change of mind on the issue. Pakistan’s claims of a victory in this are hardly credible; Masood Azhar is one of about twenty 1267-sanctioned terrorists who have Pakistani nationality, and more are based there, which is hardly a situation that gives it cause for pride. It is necessary to recognise that India’s efforts and those of its partners in the Security Council have been rewarded with a UNSC designation at its 1267 ISIL and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. The focus must now move to ensuring its full implementation in Pakistan.

But this is easier said than done. Pakistan’s actions against others on the 1267 list have been far from effective, and in many cases obstructionist. Hafiz Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind and Lashkar-e-Toiba chief, roams free, addresses rallies, and runs a political party and several NGOs without any government restrictions. LeT’s operations commander Zaki Ur Rahman Lakhvi was granted bail some years ago despite the UNSC sanctions mandating that funds and assets to the sanctioned individuals must be frozen. It will take constant focus from New Delhi, and a push from the global community, to ensure that Masood Azhar is not just starved of funds, arms and ammunition as mandated, but that he is prosecuted in Pakistan for the acts of terror he is responsible for. Azhar and his JeM must lose all capacity to carry out attacks, particularly across the border. Global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force will also be watching Pakistan’s next moves closely, ahead of a decision, that could come as early as in June, on whether to “blacklist” Pakistan or keep it on the “greylist”. Both financial and political pressure should be maintained on Islamabad to bring the hard-fought designation of Masood Azhar to its logical conclusion.



Lost lives





Lost lives

India must meet the Maoist challenge in a holistic manner

The death of 15 security personnel in a landmine attack in Gadchiroli on Wednesday is another grim reminder of the Indian state’s continued failure to crush naxalism. Less than a month ago, a legislator and some security personnel lost their lives in a similar attack in the neighbouring State of Chhattisgarh ahead of polling. That this attack should occur despite the deployment of 30 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force — a company comprises 135 personnel — and 13 companies of the State Reserve Police Force as well as 5,500 personnel of the local police in Gadchiroli and neighbouring Chandrapur district shows not only the audacity of the perpetrators but also the unpreparedness of the security forces. A Quick Response Team was going down the road to Dadpur in Kurkheda where extremists had set fire to three dozen vehicles of a road construction company earlier in the day when the explosion blasted the team to smithereens. The ease with which the extremists were able to torch so many vehicles is alarming, and the manner in which the response team blithely drove into an ambush is a shocking example of poor planning. The naxals set the bait and the security forces blindly took it. In the process, standard operating procedures, including letting a road-opening team lead the way, seem to have been ignored. Yet, the authorities still remain in a state of denial.

It is no coincidence either that the perpetrators chose the Maharashtra Foundation Day, after the polling in the district, to send this violent message. That the naxals should be able to control the narrative, remain on top of the intelligence, stay nimble and several steps ahead of the security planners should be a matter of deep concern. It is some comfort that the polling percentages in both Gadchiroli and neighbouring Chandrapur have risen, compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, from 70.04% to 71.98% and from 63.29% to 64.65%, respectively. But the path of the voter to the polling booth in the naxal-dominated districts is still paved with disincentives. And, the security forces deployed in the region have not been able to instil in them a greater level of confidence. On top of everything else, most of the police personnel who perished in this latest attack seem to have been local citizens. What effect could this have on the larger process of weaning away the populace from the naxalites? Reality beckons. Even in the prevailing circumstances of a hostile external environment, India cannot afford to take the challenges of internal security lightly.


* Editorial 2

Is India doing enough to combat climate change?





Is India doing enough to combat climate change?

The challenges in tackling a problem that requires a global collective effort

In the run-up to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September, in a discussion moderated by G. Ananthakrishnan, T. Jayaraman and Navroz Dubash talk about the fairness of the global climate regime, and what India could do to green its growth. Edited excerpts:

How serious is climate change as an issue today?

T. Jayaraman: Climate change is certainly the most serious global environmental crisis that we face. It is not the only environmental problem, but it is unique in its multi-scalar characteristic, from the global to the local. And in many ways, it is arguably the most immediate. But there is also a substantial section of the world that does not see it in the same terms. That is perhaps one of the most serious aspects of dealing with this problem.

Navroz Dubash: I think climate change has been with us for 25 years at least. At one level, for many people climate change has become an existential problem that risks undermining the conditions for productive life and therefore a problem that does not override but certainly permeates all kinds of other issues. For many others, it is a distant problem that is overwhelmed by more immediate issues. But this ignores the linkage between current issues and climate change. We don’t have the option in India of thinking about anything that is innocent of climate change any more.

Global warming has touched about 1°C above pre-industrial levels. India is not responsible for the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere, but can it afford to wait for developed countries to make their move or should it aggressively pursue its own measures?

TJ: I don’t think there is an either/or about this. We must recognise climate change as a global collective action problem. If one country cuts its emissions to the bone, that is going to be of little use if the others do not follow suit. That country will suffer the consequences of climate change despite the extent of its sacrifice. Equally, waiting for others to do something and not doing something oneself is also not an option, especially in terms of adaptation.

If India does more mitigation, that doesn’t reduce the risk in India. It is not a local exchange. We have to have good intent, show it in action, but on the other hand, we must do far more than we are doing today to call the developed countries to account. They are nowhere near meeting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) targets. And some countries we don’t even have on board, like the U.S. We need to move climate change to the top of our foreign policy agenda. This is a critical move we need to make.

ND: I agree that the performance of the developed world has been very poor compared to their capacities, wealth and promises.

The extent to which we have to turn around globally is dramatic. Rapidly emerging countries are part of the story, but that does not mean countries that have already emitted a lot and have built their infrastructure shouldn’t actually be creating space for countries like India. So where does that leave India? It is a bit of a dilemma. We are also one of the most vulnerable countries.

I view it in the following way. One, there are a number of things that India could do that will bring development gains and also lead to mitigation benefits. For example, how we design our cities: we want more sustainable cities, cities with less congestion and with more public transport because we want cities that are more liveable. Those kinds of cities will also be low carbon cities. Two, more mitigation in India does not mean India gets to keep those benefits. Because at the end of the day, we are only 6% or 7% of global emissions. But what we are recognising is that the global carbon system is an interlocked system. So, what we have to think about is the global transition to low carbon systems and there are spillover effects there, from changes in one economy to changes in another economy, changes in politics in one place to changes in politics in another place.

In its Paris Agreement commitments, India had pledged to reduce its intensity of GDP emissions by 33-35% over 2005 levels by 2030, and at Copenhagen, by 20-25% by 2020. Are we in sync with what is needed from us? With the goal of keeping temperature rise to 2ºC or below 2ºC or 1.5ºC, how does India’s NDC fit in?

TJ: The very form of your question is problematic. You can do whatever you want with your NDC. It doesn’t matter. The question is, as a developing country, in the matrix of all other NDCs, where does India fit and what are other NDCs like? In the scheme of things as they are, what are we doing? I think within that we are doing pretty well. I think the problem for India is hedging its future, not simply what we consume now or what we expect to gain in immediate terms. What is it that we want as our long-term future and how much of it in terms of carbon space do we need to hedge? But I repeat, with our NDC, though our performance is good, we cannot respond with more commitments in our NDC until we see serious action at the international level.

In September, at the UN special session on climate, India should make it clear that we won’t play ball unless it is clear that it is not enough for you to talk the talk, you should also walk the walk.

ND: The Paris Agreement basically said, every country, please tell us what you can feasibly do within your country. It was always therefore going to be a relatively low set of pledges, and in that context India’s doesn’t push the envelope very far, doesn’t do minimal stuff. So, how do we know whether the pledge is ambitious or not? There’s no good way to know.

The idea of the Paris Agreement is to get countries moving towards a low carbon economy, with the idea that each country will see that it is not too costly and not so hard and there are developmental benefits.

The pledges in an ideal world are setting the floor not the ceiling — countries will fulfil and hopefully exceed those pledges. And in India’s case, we will probably exceed the pledges, because for reasons like urban congestion and air pollution, we will want to move in the direction of low carbon anyway, quite apart from climate change.

Now, in terms of what the politics of it are, we can try and arm-twist the rich countries. They have definitely been recalcitrant, they have dropped their responsibilities. But at the end of the day, India is a deeply vulnerable country. What we have learned in the last 20 years is that countries don’t move further because of international pressure. Certainly not the rich and industrial countries. They move further because they found ways, in their enlightened self-interest, to do so.

If you look at the manifestos of the two national parties, climate change ekes in a small mention at the end, but it is really not thought through. In my informal conversations, they are still stuck in the language of saying we still need to have a lot more fossil fuels for more growth, when that is an open question in an era when the price of solar power is coming down and the price of storage is coming down. It is not a settled debate by any means, but we need to engage in that debate much more vigorously.

TJ: With regard to NDCs, I think we are risking a great deal if we take the current numbers in India in terms of consumption, energy as the benchmark for what we need. India still has huge development deficits. Unfortunately, the intersection between erasing development deficits and genuine adaptation has been poorly explored. So, every time there is a drought, some go around chanting ‘climate change’ when indeed it is regular climate variability. And we have always left our farmers at the mercy of the drought.

So, I think in adaptation, our focus should be understanding what our development deficits are. At the same time, a whole new diversionary argument is emerging. There is this recent paper from the U.S. that has appeared saying that India lost 31% of its potential GDP growth due to global warming between the 1960s and 2011. I don’t buy that. Without accounting most importantly for institutions, if you simply examine temperature and GDP, you will get all kinds of correlations. What we really need to invest in is our conceptual agenda. Take electric vehicle mobility. Everybody says electric mobility is a good thing, and cheaper than conventional transport, by factoring in the cost of fossil fuels in terms of health, etc., using the Disability-Adjusted Life Years concept. But what that does is to make the users of public transport pay for the well-being of all the people still driving cars. So, arguing that electric mobility is cheaper really does not fly. Electric mobility is actually more expensive, in immediate terms, in terms of cost per vehicle kilometre.

ND: I agree that the entry point for this conversation should be the development deficits. For example, to say that we need to find a way for cleaner transportation shouldn’t actually lead to a conclusion that it should lead to more electric vehicles – the first priority has to be improved, more accessible public transport.

What could be the feasible climate diplomacy or politics for India under the UN framework or outside?

ND: The climate game has now firmly moved to a series of multiple national conversations. The Paris Agreement process is an iterative process where countries put something on the table, they try to implement it, they see if they could do it more easily than they thought, and they come back to the global level. It is a two-level game but the driving force is at the national level. Countries are not going to be arm-twisted by international pressure. We can try, but what will drive them is enlightened self-interest. Where the global role is going to be important is in technological cooperation, in spill-over effects. One of the big success stories is the fall in renewable energy prices, driven by Germany’s domestic programme that supported global prices for renewables.

India has to play a role diplomatically, but our diplomatic game has to construct a development model that takes into account all our needs, including climate change, thinks a lot about adaptation, and keeps the pressure on the West on issues like finance and technology.

TJ: All that we do domestically should be framed in the context of development deficits. Within that context, whatever we can explore or do, we should. For instance, how do we ensure that we double the productivity of our main food crops? If we do something that is concrete, we will see the nexus between agricultural productivity and climate and climate variability, and learn something for the future.

My great disappointment is with the Indian private sector. They are willing to donate, willing to tell farmers how to be sustainable, invest in such kinds of activities outside their firms. But making their own firms models of sustainability, sustainability within the plant boundary, drivers of innovation, they still have to measure up. I think part of the reason for our not-so-coherent engagement with the international process is perhaps that we are not defining our own local priorities as clearly as we could and should have.



Priyanka’s U-turn in U.P.





Priyanka’s U-turn in U.P.

Keeping her out of the Varanasi contest has sent the message that the only challenger to the BJP is the gathbandhan

Sanjay Kumar

There is no doubt that by declaring that Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will not be contesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress has lost this round of public perception to the BJP. There is hardly any doubt that this has demoralised the party’s local leaders, workers, and supporters. While this decision of the Congress might be viewed as the party fleeing from a “serious” race in Uttar Pradesh, it has nevertheless made the BJP’s task slightly more difficult in the State now. Keeping Ms. Gandhi out of the contest has sent a silent message — that the only challenger to the BJP in U.P. is the gathbandhan (SP-BSP alliance), not the Congress. This might help consolidate the anti-BJP votes behind the gathbandhan candidates.

After it failed to form an alliance with the SP and the BSP, the Congress’s decision to contest elections alone raised speculation on how much it could damage the electoral prospects of the BJP by cutting into its upper caste — mainly Brahmin — support base. There was also speculation on what impact it might have on the prospects of the SP-BSP alliance, especially if there is a shift amongst the Muslim voters towards the Congress.

In many constituencies, Muslims would like to vote for candidates who are best placed to defeat the BJP, but the complexities of making this strategy succeed are sure to result in the split of the Muslim votes between the Congress candidates and gathbandhan candidates. Studies conducted when the campaign had just begun indicated a significant possibility of a split in the Muslim vote, while they also indicated the Congress’ inability to make inroads into the Brahmin vote. The Congress’s announcement has given a clear signal to the Muslim voters: the real contest in U.P. is between the BJP and the gathbandhan. This will help consolidate the Muslim vote in favour of the gathbandhan.

Half of U.P. has already voted, but there are still numerous constituencies that head to the polls in the remaining phases, where Muslim votes matter. In constituencies such as Amethi, Lucknow, Barabanki, Faizabad, Sitapur, Bahraich, Kaiserganj, Shravasti, Gonda, Domariaganj, Sant Kabir Nagar, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Varanasi and Ghosi, Muslims constitute more than 20% of the total voters. Their consolidation behind the gathbandhan candidate could pose considerable challenges to the BJP.

Further, there was no way Ms. Vadra could have defeated Mr. Modi in Varanasi, even if her candidature against him might have enthused the Congress workers. Nevertheless there are enough signals that the weeks of suspense and hype around her candidature may have anyway helped generate an atmosphere favouring the Congress in the constituencies going to polls in the coming phases.

The writer is a Professor and currently the Director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi


* Foreign

Barr stays away from House hearing





Barr stays away from House hearing

Attorney-General was not amenable to its format, specifically the Democrats’ desire to use legal counsel

Sriram Lakshman

Attorney-General William Barr testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on Wednesday.APSusan Walsh

Washington

U.S. Attorney-General Bill Barr did not appear before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee for a hearing that was scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday morning. Mr. Barr had already announced his decision to stay away from the hearing on Wednesday, a day when he was grilled for five hours by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House could now hold Mr. Barr in contempt.

Congressional Democrats are probing whether a four-page letter Mr. Barr sent lawmakers on March 24, days after he had received the Mueller report, misrepresented Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings on whether U.S. President Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential elections.

An empty chair

Mr. Barr was not amenable to the format of the House hearing on Thursday, specifically the Democrats’ desire to use legal counsel (in addition to Representatives) to question him.

The Attorney-General’s chair remained conspicuously empty at the House hearing which started at 9 a.m. as planned and adjourned shortly after opening remarks were made by House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler.

During Wednesday’s Senate hearing, Mr. Barr frequently defended the President’s conduct and attempted to mitigate concerns raised by the Mueller report. He was questioned on the Mueller investigation’s revelations that Mr. Trump had called former White House counsel Don McGahn twice in June 2017 to get Mr. McGahn to interfere in the investigation.

As per the Mueller report, Mr. McGahn recalled the President saying, “Mueller has to go,” and “Call me back when you do it.” Mr. McGahn had said he had planned to resign rather than comply with the President’s requests. Mr. Barr said that the President was just trying to get Mr. McGahn to bring up a conflict of interest issue in the Mueller probe with Deputy-Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing the investigation.

Mr. Trump had also asked Mr. McGahn to write a letter denying the incident. Mr. Barr said it could be that Mr. Trump wanted to correct media accounts of what had transpired.

Mr. Barr also told the Senate during the hearing that the President had the authority to fire Mr. Mueller and that made it difficult to prove that obstruction of justice had occurred. “In this kind of situation, where you have a facially innocent act that’s authorised by the Constitution, it’s hard to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it’s corrupt,” he said.

The Mueller report did not conclude that Mr. Trump obstructed justice but at the same time it did not exonerate him, as the President has claimed it did. In fact, the report reads, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”

Mr. Barr called “a bit snitty” a letter Mr. Mueller had written to him in late March complaining that the latter’s four-pager “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the Mueller probe. The letter was made public the day before the Senate hearing. Mr. Barr also suggested that the letter had been written by one of Mr Mueller’s staffers. Democrats have accused Mr. Barr — whose job it is to be the nation’s lawyer — of acting as Mr. Trump’s personal counsel. Senate Republicans questioned the motivation behind the investigation and hearings. Josh Hawley, a Montana Republican, said unelected officials had tried to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Trump ally, chose to open Wednesday’s hearing by focussing on Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal server for her official emails when she was Secretary of State.

The next phase of the Bill Barr post-Mueller saga is expected to unfold in the House, where Mr. Nadler said he would give Mr. Barr another day or two to hand over the full Mueller report along with its underlying evidence to his committee, failing which he would seek a contempt citation against the Attorney-General (Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s Attorney-General, received one from the Republican controlled House in 2012).

Some Democrats have called on Mr. Barr to resign, and others want to start impeachment proceedings.

(With inputs from The New York Times)



A leak that cost the British Defence Secretary his job





A leak that cost the British Defence Secretary his job

Govt. decision to give Huawei 5G contract was leaked out

Vidya Ram

Gavin Williamson.APMatt Dunham

London

In an episode of ‘Yes Minister’, the iconic political comedy, Sir Humphrey Appleby, the infamous civil servant, assures his often-anxious colleague Bernard Wooley, concerned about a potential leak inquiry being threatened by Downing Street, that there was nothing to worry about as they were only ever set up and rarely resulted in anything substantive.

When such an inquiry was announced last month after details of a meeting of the National Security Council were leaked to The Daily Telegraph, many believed it was a route to nowhere. However, critics were quickly proven wrong when just under a week later, Prime Minister Theresa May sacked Gavin Williamson as Britain’s Defence Secretary (Minister), citing “compelling evidence,” that he was involved in the leak.

In a letter to Mr. Williamson, the Prime Minister expressed her disappointment with his conduct. The investigation provided “compelling evidence” of Mr. Williamson’s responsibility, she said. “No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified.”

He was replaced as Defence Secretary by Penny Mordaunt, who has become the first woman to hold that position.

Security meeting

The disclosure centred on an April 23 meeting of the U.K.’s National Security Council to discuss top level intelligence matter. In the meeting, the Prime Minister agreed to let Huawei, the Chinese telecom firm at the heart of a diplomatic storm in the U.S., to be involved in building Britain’s 5G network, with restrictions placed on what it would have access to.

The meeting was meant to be confidential, but on April 24, The Daily Telegraph carried a story reporting both the decision and the objections voiced by Cabinet members during the meeting.

The U.S. has made no bones about expressing its objections to Huawei taking up this role, telling the U.K. that such a move could jeopardise intelligence sharing between the two partners.

Leaks have been pervasive amid the Brexit battles, but the leak from the NSC has been seen as being in a different league — raising concerns about national security and the integrity of the key intelligence-sharing forum. Adding to the concerns is the contest to replace Ms. May as Prime Minister. She has said she will step down for the next stage of Brexit negotiations.

The drama has not stopped there. Mr. Williamson himself has flatly denied being the source of the leak — on his children’s lives — and has accused Downing Street of mounting a witch-hunt against him. “I strenuously deny that I was in any way involved in this leak and I am confident that a thorough and formal inquiry would have vindicated my position,” he wrote in a letter to Ms. May.

The government has attempted to bring an end to the controversy. Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington told the House of Commons on Thursday that the Prime Minister considered the matter closed, and that the Cabinet Secretary (who launched the inquiry) did not consider it necessary to refer the matter to police.

Ministerial code

Mr. Williamson had not been accused of any criminal offence under the Official Secrets Act, but the Prime minister had simply acted in line with the ministerial code, sacking him after losing confidence in him, he insisted. Nevertheless, the government has faced a backlash. The Labour Party has called for a criminal inquiry. “In what world is it acceptable that the Prime Minister should be the arbiter of whether a politician she believes is guilty of criminal conduct in office should face a criminal investigation?,” asked its deputy leader Tom Watson in Parliament on Thursday.

Even some Conservative MPs have rounded on the Prime Minister, with one accusing her of subjecting Mr. Williamson to a “kangaroo court” with no chance to properly defend himself.



I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition: Assange





I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition: Assange

Agence France-Presse
London

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a court on Thursday he would oppose extradition to the U.S. as the legal process began in , a day after he was jailed for breaching his bail conditions in a former case.

He appeared via videolink at Westminster Magistrates Court, where a lawyer for the U.S. authorities briefly set out his alleged involvement in the release of classified documents.

“I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people,” Mr. Assange told the judge, who set the next hearing for May 30.

The Australian was jailed on Wednesday for 50 weeks for breaking his bail conditions in 2012, when he fled to Ecuador’s London Embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was accused of sexual assault and rape but strongly denied the claims.

The U.S. indictment charges him with “conspiracy” for working with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

The charge carries a maximum jail term of five years.

A lawyer for the U.S. government, Ben Brandon, told the court on Thursday that investigators had found chatroom conversations between Mr. Assange and Ms. Manning in March 2010.

He said they “engaged in real-time discussions regarding Chelsea Manning’s dissemination of confidential records to Mr. Assange”.

In a letter read out in court on Wednesday, Mr. Assange apologised for skipping bail seven years ago. “I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done,” he said, adding: “I apologise unreservedly.”



Worries over Pak. debt to China are overstated: Imran’s adviser





Worries over Pak. debt to China are overstated: Imran’s adviser

Of $100 bn in debt, only $11 bn is owed to China: Husain

Raghuvir Srinivasan

Ishrat Husain, adviser to the Prime Minister on institutional austerity.

Nadi, Fiji

The so-called debt overhang for Pakistan from its participation in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of the ambitious Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, is overstated, according to a top official of Pakistan.

“The propaganda is not based on facts but on perception,” said Ishrat Husain, adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan on institutional austerity and a federal Minister. He was addressing a seminar at the 52nd ADB Annual Meeting of Asian Development Bank on the topic: “Is debt sustainability a cause for concern?”

Money brought in as FDI

Reeling out numbers, Mr. Husain said that of the $45 billion total package from China under CPEC in 2015, as much as $35 billion was for financing power projects in the power-deficit country. “The Chinese government got no extra concessions, the money was brought in as FDI and commercial loans were taken by the Chinese companies. There is no loan obligation on Pakistan,” said Mr. Husain. About $6 billion was in the form a government-to-government loan at 2% interest rate, he said.

Of the total national debt of $100 billion, only $11 billion is owed to China, according to him. Pakistan’s annual investment programme, including both public and private, added up to $50 billion and the CPEC was only a small part of it, he pointed out.

“The Chinese have been very understanding and cooperative. CPEC has put us back on track and we’re determined to put our house in order,” Mr. Husain said.

BRI a natural idea

Speaking in the same panel, ADB president and chairperson Takehiko Nakao said that the BRI, of which CPEC is a part, is a very natural idea to expand the connection between East Asia, Central Asia, Europe and Africa.

“There are merits over investment but at the same time we have to be careful… we must find good projects with good returns even if the lending is to the government. Otherwise it will cause concern over repayment,” he said.



‘Xinjiang surveillance app targets lawful behaviour’





‘Xinjiang surveillance app targets lawful behaviour’

Report details 36 categories of activities

Agence France-Presse
Hong Kong

Chinese authorities are using a mobile app designed for mass surveillance to profile, investigate and detain Muslims in Xinjiang by labelling “completely lawful” behaviour as suspicious, a Human Rights Watch report said on Thursday.

Human Rights Watch has previously reported that Xinjiang authorities use a mass surveillance system called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP) to gather information from multiple sources. But the new study, entitled “China’s Algorithms of Repression”, worked with a Berlin-based security company to analyse an app connected to the IJOP, showing specific acts targeted by the system.

Xinjiang authorities closely watch 36 categories of behaviour, including those who do not socialise with neighbours, often avoid using the front door, don’t use a smartphone, donate to mosques “enthusiastically”, and use an “abnormal” amount of electricity, the group found.

The app also instructs officers to investigate those related to someone who got a new phone number, or related to others who left the country and have not returned after 30 days.


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