05 March 2021
A) Group of Ministers spells out steps to ‘neutralise’ narratives critical of Modi regime.
In an effort to neutralise narratives critical of the Narendra Modi government, a Group of Ministers (GoM), formed to fine-tune government communication, has come out with various suggestions, including tracking 50 negative and 50 positive influencers on the social media and to neutralise the people who are writing against the Government without facts and set false narratives/spread fake news. It emerges that the decisions to cap FDI (foreign direct investment) at 26% for the digital media and the new IT rules that have a separate section dealing with a code of ethics for Over The Top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime were the result of the GoM’s deliberations. The FDI cap was essential, the GoM felt, to constrict foreign influence on the Indian media. As a result of this capping, Huffington Post, which had been publishing reports critical of the Modi regime, shut its operations in India. Information Technology (IT) Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani, Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Prakash Javadekar, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (MoS) for Finance Anurag Thakur and MoS for the Environment Ministry Babul Supriyo were part of the GoM, which met six times between June 14 and July 9 last year. The GoM’s report was first reported by Caravan magazine. The Hindu also has a copy of it. There is so far no official word on its contents. The GoM report quotes suggestions made by the Ministers. For instance, Prasad suggested, a list of media personnel and prominent persons, who are pro our line of thought – both nationally and globally, should be prepared. Few eminent academicians, Vice Chancellors, retired Indian Foreign Service officers etc should be identified who can write our achievements and project our viewpoint. Among other action points recommended by the GoM include enlarging the Prasar Bharati News Service into a main line news agency. Among the long- term agreed strategies include coordination with schools of journalism as present students are the future journalists. Puri told the GoM that the journalists who are supportive of the government, even if they are now unemployed, should be roped in. As per the report, this suggestion would also be acted upon. Thakur wanted the BJP and the Modi government to reach out to right-wing parties across the world to arrive at a common ground.
B) Bengaluru, Shimla ‘most liveable’ cities in govt’s Ease of Living Index.
Bengaluru was adjudged the most liveable among 111 cities in India in the government’s ‘Ease of Living Index’ on Thursday, followed by Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Surat, Navi Mumbai, Coimbatore, Vadodra, Indore and Greater Mumbai. Of the 49 cities ranked on the livability index in the ‘million-plus population’ category, Delhi figures in the 13th spot and Srinagar at the bottom. According to the index released by Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Shimla topped the category of cities with ‘population less than million’. In this category, Bhubaneshwar was ranked second, Silvassa came third, and they were followed by Kakinada, Salem, Vellore, Gandhinagar, Gurgaon, Davangere and Tiruchirapalli. Muzaffarpur figured at the bottom of the livability index for 62 cities in the ‘less than million population’ category. New Delhi Municipal Council topped the ‘Municipal Performance Index’ in the ‘less than million’ population category. Indore topped the ‘Municipal Performance Index’ in the million-plus population category.
C) Supreme Court favours regulation of OTT platforms.
The Supreme Court on Thursday made it amply clear to OTT (over-the-top) platforms like Netflix and Amazon that it is in favour of screening content shown by them. It said some of the films hosted by the platform were pornographic. Traditional film viewing has become extinct. Now films and web series are viewed by the public on these platforms. Should there not be some screening? We feel there should be some screening. There is pornography in some films, Justice Ashok Bhushan, leading a Bench, also comprising Justice R. Subhash Reddy, observed. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Amazon producer Aparna Purohit’s bail, said this was not about pornography but the right to freedom of expression. But a balance has to be struck, Justice Bhushan retorted. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the content included filthy abuses. The hearing was based on a plea by Purohit, Amazon Prime’s commercial head, against the Allahabad High Court decision to deny her pre-arrest bail in connection with the probe into Tandav, a web series hosted by the platform. The FIR said the series ridiculed Hindu gods and the country’s political power corridors. Justice Bhushan said the court wanted to consider Purohit’s case in the light of the new guidelines notified by the government to hold social media and OTT platforms accountable for their content. The Bench asked the guidelines to be placed on record and scheduled a hearing for March 5. The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021 requires streaming platforms to comply with a new three-tier self-regulatory complaint redressal system. It also includes an independent self-regulatory body headed by a retired high court or Supreme Court judge, which will decide on matters related to content. Meanwhile, the Information & Broadcasting Ministry today clarified that none of the OTT platforms will have to register with the government and no government nominee will be present in the self-regulatory body. The statement was issued after I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar had an interaction with representatives of OTT platforms.
D) Labour rights activist Shiv Kumar granted bail.
Labour rights activist Shiv Kumar was on Thursday granted bail by the Sessions court in Haryana’s Sonipat in an attempt to murder case leading to his release from the jail. He was earlier granted bail in two more cases on Wednesday. Kumar, the district president of Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, a workers’ rights group, was arrested by the Haryana Police on February 2 in connection with three cases registered against him over the past two months. His fellow activist and co-accused in the three cases, Nodeep Kaur, was granted bail this past week and released from the jail. Kumar’s lawyer Jatinder told that the bail was granted by the District and Sessions Judge Y.S. Rathore. The medical report of Kumar submitted at the Punjab and Haryana High Court had revealed multiple injuries to him.
E) E Sreedharan will be Kerala CM candidate, says Union Minister.
E Sreedharan, the ‘metro man’ of India will be the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for next month’s Kerala Assembly election, Union Minister V Muraleedharan tweeted Thursday evening. Kerala BJP will fight Kerala polls with E Sreedharanji as its chief ministerial candidate. They will defeat both CPM and Congress to provide a corruption-free, development-oriented governance for the people of Kerala, Muraleedharan said.
F) EPFO keeps interest rates unchanged.
The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) on Thursday decided to keep the interest rate on provident funds unchanged at 8.5% for the financial year 2020-’21, the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment said in a release. The decision was taken at a meeting of the central board of trustees of the EPFO on Thursday and was headed by Union Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar. The interest rate would be officially notified in the government gazette following which EPFO would credit the rate of interest into the subscribers’ accounts, the labour ministry release stated. The notification for the interest rate will be done following approval from the Union finance ministry.The rate of 8.5% remains the lowest since 2012-2013. However, the EPFO said it was higher compared to other investments.
A) Blinken calls China the ‘biggest geopolitical test’ for U.S.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the United States was ready to confront China where need be, calling the Asian power the biggest geopolitical test of the century. In his first major speech, Mr. Blinken vowed that President Joe Biden’s administration will emphasise diplomacy over military action and build cooperation with the world on global challenges such as climate change and COVID-19. They will manage the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century: their relationship with China, Mr. Blinken said at the State Department. He promised to champion the rights of Hong Kong and the ethnic Uighurs, saying that if not, China will act with even greater impunity. China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system all the rules, values and relationships that make the world work the way they want it to, he said. Their relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be. And they will engage China from a position of strength. Mr. Blinken indicated that Mr. Biden would be sparing in military action despite ordering an air strike last week in Syria against Iranian linked Iraqi Shiite paramilitaries. In future cases when we must take military action, we will do so only when the objectives and mission are clear and achievable, consistent with our values and laws and with the informed consent of the American people, he said.
B) UN tells Myanmar military to stop ‘murdering’ protesters.
At least 54 people have been killed and over 1,700 detained since Myanmar’s February 1 coup, the United Nations rights chief said on Thursday. The comments come after the deadliest day of protests in Myanmar, with at least 38 dead on Wednesday in rallies where security forces were seen firing at crowds. UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet urged security forces to halt their vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters. Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protesters, she said in a statement. It is utterly abhorrent that security forces are firing live ammunition against peaceful protesters across the country, she added. Ms. Bachelet said she was appalled at the documented attacks against emergency medical staff and ambulances attempting to provide care to those who have been injured. The UN rights office said it had corroborated information that at least 54 people had been killed since February 1. The actual death toll, however, could be much higher as these are the figures the office has been able to verify, it said. Protesters rally again Meanwhile, defiant protesters returned to the streets on Thursday after Wednesday’s violence. At Yangon’s San Chaung township, known for its hip cafes, restaurants and bars, the streets were transformed with barricades built out of sandbags, tyres, bricks and barbed wire. Passersby walked on images of junta leader Min Aung Ellaing, which protesters plastered on the ground to slow down security forces who will avoid stepping on them. Yesterday was horrific it was devastating to learn the military has never changed since 1962 but resistance is now our duty, said activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi.
C) Ahead of Floyd murder trial, U.S. House clears police reforms.
A sweeping police reform package was cleared by the U,S, House of Representatives on Wednesday, five days before the trial of a white officer charged with murdering African-American George Floyd. The Bill is named after Floyd, who died last May when then-Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on the vie tim’s neck for over eight minutes. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act cleared the House last year but was blocked in the Republicanled Senate. With President Joe Biden in office since January, and the Senate narrowly controlled by Democrats, the Bill was reintroduced last week and it was passed on Wednesday largely along party lines, 220 to 212. Before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the legislation will not erase centuries of systemic racism and excessive policing in America, but it takes a tremendous step towards stopping the violence and improving relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The Bill now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain as the chamber is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The measure bans choke holds and no-knock warrants, combats racial profiling, limits the transfer of military equipment to local police forces, expands police training, and establishes a database to track officer misconduct. Its most controversial provision is likely the restriction of officer immunity, which shielded police from civil lawsuits. Republicans have argued that the measure would strip police forces of funding, tie the hands of officers and make communities less safe. House Republican Debbie Lesko warned that the Bill leaves police unequipped to deal with dangerous or life-threatening situations and limits the tools that police can use in the field. Floyd’s family heralded the Bill’s House passage in a statement from their lawyers on Wednesday evening.