March 23, 2023

3. Govt asks YouTube to block two news websites and 20 channels


3. Govt asks YouTube to block two news websites and 20 channels
3. Govt asks YouTube to block two news websites and 20 channels
  • In the first ever application of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the Union ministry of information and broadcasting on Monday directed the Department of Telecom and YouTube to block two news websites and 20 YouTube channels that were found to be “purveyors of pernicious, fake and anti-India” content.
  • The content in question ranges from “blasphemous” to that which “blatantly impinges on India’s security and sovereignty”, and appears to have its origins in Pakistan and could have links to the Pakistan ISI.
  • Which? These include the ‘Naya Pakistan Group’, which runs over 15 channels on YouTube and has a following of more than a million subscribers. Sources said the videos and photographic content disseminated on its platforms includes claims such as: ‘PM Modi concedes defeat in Kashmir; Article 370 restored’, ‘Taliban Army leaves Kabul for India’, ‘Taiyyap Erdogan sends 35,000 mercenaries for Kashmir’, and the ‘Turk Army enters Ayodhya Ram Mandir to take revenge’, all of which were seen by the ministry as a “concerted effort to sow unrest in India”.
  • The orders for the immediate takedown were taken by invoking Section 16 of the IT Rules, the emergency clause which permits the I&B ministry to block content that is considered “necessary or expedient and justifiable to block”.
  • The orders, sources said, were conveyed to YouTube’s India and global offices. The social media platform is also learnt to have confirmed compliance and is likely to block the channels within 24 to 48 hours.

Counting of votes of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Gujarat and Rajasthan panchayat polls; Anti-conversion Bill to be tabled in Karnataka Assembly; PM Modi in Prayagraj to participate in women empowerment event; Gupkar Alliance to hold meeting in Jammu; India vs Japan, semi-final, Asian Champions Trophy Hockey

1. LS passes electoral reforms Bill amid din
1. LS passes electoral reforms Bill amid din
  • The Lok Sabha on Monday passed The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 — seeking to link electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem — by a voice vote.
  • The Bill: It is intended to allow electoral registration officers to seek the Aadhaar number of those who wish to register as voters “for the purpose of establishing the identity”.
  • It also seeks to allow the electoral registration officers to get Aadhaar numbers from “persons already included in the electoral roll for the purposes of authentication of entries in the electoral roll, and to identify registration of the name of the same person in the electoral roll of more than one constituency or more than once in the same constituency”.
  • The furore: Opposition parties led by Congress protested the Bill, saying it will infringe the fundamental rights of citizens. They also alleged that the bill will violate the Supreme Court judgment (Justice Puttaswamy judgment) on Aadhaar and demanded the Bill be sent to a Standing Committee.
  • “Aadhaar was meant to be proof of residence, not proof of citizenship. If you are asking for an Aadhaar card for the voter, all you get is a document that reflects residence. You are potentially giving voting rights to non-citizens,” pointed out Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
  • However: Introducing the Bill, Union law minister Kiren Rijiju said the legislation will end bogus voting in the country and make the electoral process more credible. Read cleanse the election system.
  • Also: The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021. (The Bill had been passed by the Lok Sabha on December 13.)
  • Moving the Bill in the Upper House for its consideration and passage, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said it replaces the ordinance which was promulgated in September this year as Parliament was not in session then. The House passed the Bill by a voice vote.
2. Delimitation: Proposal for 6 additional seats in Jammu, 1 in Kashmir
2. Delimitation: Proposal for 6 additional seats in Jammu, 1 in Kashmir
The Delimitation Commission headed by former SC judge Ranjana Prakash Desai has suggested six additional assembly seats in Jammu and one in Kashmir.

  • The three-member commission was formed in 2020 to redraw the assembly constituency in J&K, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. It was later postponed in the other states.
  • The commission Monday held a meeting with the MPs from J&K and union minister Jitendra Singh in New Delhi. National Conference (NC) leader Farooq Abdullah also attended the meeting.
  • Mainstream political parties from the Valley has called the recommendation “unacceptable”. The distribution “is not justified by the data of the 2011 census,” tweeted NC leader Omar Abdullah, adding, “the commission appears to have allowed the political agenda of the BJP to dictate its recommendations”.
  • The commission has not just gone by population criteria but taken into account physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facility of communication and public convenience, as required by Section 9(1)(a) of the Delimitation Act, 2002, TOI reports.

Meanwhile, a power crisis…

  • The Indian Army troops were deployed at the power stations in Jammu and Kashmir after a prolonged power outage due to an employees’ strike. The union territory had requested the army’s help on Sunday.
  • Over 20,000 employees at the union territory’s power grid and distribution companies are on strike protesting against the proposed merger of the J&K Power Development Department into the Power Grid Corporation of India, privatisation of the assets, and salary.
4. Karnataka cabinet clears anti-conversion bill
4. Karnataka cabinet clears anti-conversion bill
The Karnataka Cabinet cleared a contentious anti-conversion bill amidst reports of harassment of Christian faith groups in the state. The bill could be tabled before the assembly as early as this week.

  • The bill criminalises mass conversions and conversion for marriage or under “undue influence, coercion, allurement”.
  • It makes it mandatory for a person seeking a change of faith to apply to the district magistrate and deputy commissioner at least two months in advance. The said officers are to decide if the application is “valid”.
  • Violators could be imprisoned anywhere between 3 to 10 years.
  • The bill is modelled under a similar law Uttar Pradesh enacted last year. The UP law is being challenged in court. Gujarat, too, has passed a law on conversions, though some of its provisions were later stayed by the High Court. All these states have a BJP government.

This, even as the state has reported attacks on Christian faith groups in recent months.

  • A report by People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) recorded 39 instances of attacks on members of the Christian community this year. The report said all recent attacks were perpetrated by Hindutva groups.
  • The report said in most such incidents, the police arrived at the scene just minutes after the mobs attacked the prayer halls alleging forced conversions.
  • State deputy CM has rejected the allegations and has said the videos of the incidents “might be fabricated”.

A deal? Karnataka has a bicameral legislature. The BJP has a majority in the lower house but in the upper house, it is short on numbers. The Times of India reports BJP is urging the opposition JD(S) to help pass the bill by staging a walkout.

6. Omicron triggers Rs 9 lakh crore sell off on stock markets
6. Omicron triggers Rs 9 lakh crore sell off on stock markets
  • Blood bath: Omicron fears coupled with the possibility of lockdown in Europe as another wave of Covid-19 spreads along with indications from central banks across the globe that days of injecting liquidity are over as the focus shifts to controlling rising inflation saw Indian stock exchanges go into a free-fall mode on Monday. Cumulatively, investors lost over Rs 9 lakh crore in intra-day sell-off, before markets recovered partially with a net loss of Rs 6.81 lakh crore in investor wealth.
  • Senseless Sensex: The BSE Sensex, which had closed slightly above the 57,000 mark on Friday, ended below the 56,000 mark and saw the biggest intraday fall of 1,879 points since April this year before recovering towards the end of the day and closing at 55,822.01 points, resulting in a decline of 1,189.73 points. The NSE Nifty closed 371 points down, at 16,614.20. Both indices have corrected by more than 11% since their historical highs on October 19 — 62,245.43 and 18604.45 for BSE and NSE respectively.
  • Wiped out: Since the lifetime highs of October, investors have cumulatively lost Rs 25 lakh crore. The fall has been exacerbated by continuous selling by foreign institutional investors (FII), who have offloaded Rs 80,000 crore worth of stock in this year and while domestic institutional investors (DII) have stepped in, they haven’t been able to buy a similar amount of stocks. Indian markets however, weren’t alone in their misery as both Asian and European markets saw sustained selling due to rising Omicron cases.
7. ED summons & questions Aishwarya Rai over Panama Papers
7. ED summons & questions Aishwarya Rai over Panama Papers
Bollywood actor and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, who’s also the daughter-in-law of Amitabh Bachchan, appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday for questioning in the Panama Papers case.

The investigation

  • Rai, who was summoned twice earlier but had sought more time, was questioned for five hours by the ED about alleged foreign exchange violations under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) in connection with an offshore company set up by Bachchans in the British Virgin Islands in 2005, according to the Panama Papers expose in 2016.
  • The expose alleged that Rai, her in-laws and her parents along with her brother, were directors or shareholders in the now defunct company — wound up in 2008 — ostensibly set up to hide undeclared assets. The ED, which has been probing the case since the expose, had asked the Bachchans to explain their foreign remittances since 2004 under the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS).

What’s the Panama Papers expose

  • The expose was a multi-country investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which revealed that several well known names in India had floated companies in tax havens with the assistance of a Panamanian firm, Mossack Fonseca in order to stash away their money, said to be over Rs 20,000 crore.
8. Dubai woos cryptocurrency businesses
8. Dubai woos cryptocurrency businesses
  • The Dubai World Trade Centre will become a crypto zone and regulator for cryptocurrencies and other virtual assets, the Dubai Media Office said on Monday. The specialised zone will be for all digital assets, products, operators and exchanges.
  • The move is part of a drive to create new economic sectors. “Rigorous standards for investor protection, anti-money laundering, combating the financing of terrorism, compliance and cross border deal flow tracing,” will be developed, the statement said.
  • Earlier in October, the regulator for DIFC, Dubai’s state-owned financial free zone, had released the first part of a regulatory framework for digital tokens. The framework initially covers security and derivative tokens it refers to as investment tokens. It expects to issue another consultation this year for tokens not yet covered by the regulation, including exchange tokens, utility tokens and stable coins.
9. World Economic Forum deferred…again
9. World Economic Forum deferred…again
  • The annual jamboree of world leaders, billionaires and executives in the Swiss town of Davos under the aegis of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which was scheduled to be held from January 17-21 next year, has been deferred owing to rising Covid-19 cases. In a statement on Monday, the WEF said that it “will defer its Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in the light of continued uncertainty over the Omicron outbreak.”
  • This will be the second consecutive year when the WEF has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic since it was last held in January 2020. This year’s event was initially rescheduled to be held in August in Singapore before eventually being cancelled though a virtual summit was held in January.
  • Saying that it was “extremely difficult” to organise an in-person summit due to the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, the WEF added that the meeting “is now planned for early summer.” The WEF however, will be organising an online series of “State of the World” sessions “to focus on shaping solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Goa. In yet another jolt to the Congress ahead of the state Assembly polls, its state working president, Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, resigned as Member of the Legislative Assembly on Monday, reducing the party’s strength to two in the 40-member House.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh Nippun Singh
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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