March 10, 2021
Debate on foreign land
To: either/view subscribers
Good afternoon. If you tried using any online service that required authentication through SMS & OTP over the past couple of days, chances are high that you did not receive the OTP on time. If you were wondering what went wrong, then you may have to blame the new norms implemented by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in curbing spam messages. The implementation has been temporarily suspended for a week, so that all relevant entities can get their act together.
Feature Story 📰
Debate on Indian Farmers’ Protests in the UK Parliament
On Monday, the British Parliament conducted a 90-minute debate in which several MPs raised concerns about the Indian government’s handling of the farmers’ protests. MPs who raised these concerns belonged to the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party. India has condemned the debate in strong terms.
An online petition urging the UK government to make a public statement on the farmers’ protests in India received over 100,000 signatures. British Parliament has a Petitions Committee which look into e-petitions and the government responds to petitions that cross over 100,000 signatures. The Petitions Committee conducted a hybrid meeting (some MPs attended virtually while others were present physically) on Westminster Hall on Monday to debate on ‘Press Freedoms and Safety of Protestors in India’.
After the debate, the UK government noted that the government will continue to follow the farmers’ protests closely. “Media freedom and the right to protest are essential to robust democracies such as the UK and India. Governments have the power to enforce law and order if a protest crosses the line into illegality,” the statement read.
Debate by UK MPs:
Selected remarks from some of the MPs who either voiced concern or supported Indian actions are reproduced below:
- Martyn Day (Scottish National Party) – “Press freedom and the right to peaceful protest is central to any democracy, so the images emerging from India over the past few months are deeply worrying. Some 67 journalists were arrested and detained last year alone. The escalation in violence and the press crackdown, including over social media accounts, cannot simply be ignored, especially at a time when the UK Government are keen to strengthen ties with the Indian Government.”
- Jeremy Corbyn (Independent) – “When a protest takes place, as the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) pointed out, there are often complaints. However, the nature of the way in which the protesters—the strikers—have been attacked in Delhi is unprecedented, as has been the reaction of the Indian Government to the way in which the media have responded: internet access has been closed down, media access has been prevented, and mobile phone access has been limited. The media have been prevented from getting their message out to the wider world.”
- Theresa Villiers (Conservative) – “I hear the concerns expressed about the response to the protests, but when thousands and thousands of people are involved in demonstrations and encampments lasting months and months, no policing response can altogether avoid controversial episodes. After all, complaints about police officers here in the UK are frequently made after mass protests, but that is not evidence that democratic values are under threat in this country, and nor is it in India.”
The High Commission of India in London released the following statement condemning the UK parliament’s discussion on the farmers’ protests in India:
- The High Commission of India has taken note of a distinctly one-sided discussion among a group of H’ble UK Parliamentarians in a Westmister Committee Room in response to an e-petition campaign on an India-related issue.
- High Commission of India has been, over a period of time, taking care to inform all concerned about the issues raised in the petition. We deeply regret that rather than a balanced debate, false assertions – without substantiation or facts – were made, casting aspersions on the largest functioning democracy in the world and its institutions.
- All issues raised are the remit of well-established independent democratic institutions in India for addressing the same. It is also a matter of concern that, once again, comments were made to mislead the British Indian community, raising doubts about treatment of minorities in India, alleged human rights violations in ‘Kashmir’ etc.
- Foreign media, including the British media, are present in India and have witnessed the events under discussion first-hand. The question of lack of freedom of the media in India does not arise.
- High Commission of India would normally refrain from commenting on an internal discussion involving a small group of H’ble Parliamentarians in a limited quorum. However, when aspersions are cast on India by anyone, irrespective of their claims of friendship and love for India or domestic political compulsions, there is a need to set the record straight.
Beyond Echo Chambers 🕵️
For the Right:
- Adjudicating on the electoral bonds petition in the Supreme Court will help ensure trust in the electoral process.
For the Left:
- Despite several doubters, the friendship between India and the US is deepening.
Election Watch 🗳️
(126 constituencies – 3-phase polls)
- BJP has released a 20-member list of ‘Star Campaigners’ for the state’s upcoming elections. The list includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP President JP Nadda, among others.
(140 constituencies – 1-phase poll)
- The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has announced 83 candidates for the upcoming elections. CPI (M) leads the Left Democratic Front in Kerala, which runs the government now. 33 sitting MLA’s, including 5 Ministers, will not be contesting the upcoming elections, due to the two-term rule (people who contested and won twice consecutively).
(234 constituencies – 1-phase poll)
- Actor Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) walked out of the AIADMK-BJP alliance in the state, after the seat-sharing talks between DMDK and AIADMK failed. While DMDK had initially asked for 40 seats and later climbed down to 18 seats, the AIADMK refused to give more than 12 seats for the upcoming elections.
- Actor Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) has finalized the seat-sharing formula with its alliance partners actor Sarathkumar’s Samathuva Makkal Katchi (SMK) and Indhiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK). While MNM will contest in 154 constituencies, SMK and IJK will contest in 40 constituencies each.
(294 constituencies – 8-phase polls)
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) wrote to the state’s Chief Secretary (CS) to remove the Director General of Police (DGP) Virendra, after receiving adverse report on him from the special observer Ajay V Nayak and special police observer Vivek Dubey. The ECI asked the CS to replace Virendra with P. Nirajnayan, who is an IPS officer of the 1987 batch. While the Trinamool Congress has accused the ECI of working at the behest of BJP, the BJP has welcomed the decision.
State of the States 🏴
- Uttarakhand – BJP-led Uttarakhand’s Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat resigned from his post following a rebellion within the state BJP unit. Many members complained that he was taking unilateral decisions and was a key factor in BJP losing ground among the public. The resignation comes in the wake of Rawat’s decision to announce Gairsain as a new administrative division, which was against the wishes of the people in Kumaon. The BJP today announced Tirath Singh Rawat as the new Chief Minister for the state. So one TS Rawat gives way to another TS Rawat!
- Maharashtra – The state government tabled the budget for the 2021-22 on Monday. One of the major announcements include a 1% concession on stamp duty over prevailing rates exclusively for women who plan to transfer house property or register sale deed in their names. Another key announcement was the proposal to increase taxes on liquor in the state.
- Andhra Pradesh – Municipal elections are underway today in the state in 12 Municipal Corporations and 71 Municipalities and Nagar Panchayats. Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP), ex-CM Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party are involved in a triangular contest in the elections.
Key Number 🔢
139 – This is the new integrated single helpline number for Railway queries and complaints. It is called the ‘Rail Madad Helpline’ and will be available in 12 languages. Most of the previous helpline numbers were discontinued last year.