Network for intel agencies to share info will go live next year NATGRID will help organisations to access database from a common platform
The ambitious National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) project will be operational by December 31, 2020, the Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday. More than half the sanctioned positions are vacant, the government said.
The NATGRID will enable multiple security and intelligence agencies to access a database related to immigration entry and exit, banking and telephone details, among others, from a common platform.
The project, initially started in 2009 with a budget of ₹2,800 crore, is an online database for collating scattered pieces of information and putting them together on one platform.At least 10 Central government agencies, such as the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing and others, will have access to the data on a secured platform.
On Tuesday, Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy informed the Lok Sabha that “NATGRID has developed application software for proof of technology (POT), which is yet to be fully rolled out. NATGRID solution is planned to go live by 31.12.2020.” He said the progress was reviewed from time to time, and during the current financial year, ₹84.80 crore had been allocated to the project.
The National Intelligence Grid or NATGRID is the integrated intelligence grid connecting databases of core security agencies of the Government of India to collect comprehensive patterns of intelligence that can be readily accessed by intelligence agencies.
It was first proposed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008.
The government of India in July 2016 appointed Ashok Patnaik as the Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of the National Intelligence Grid(NATGRID). The appointment is being seen as the government's effort to revive the project.
RS passes Jallianwala Trust Bill
The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust will no longer have the Congress president as a member, and the Central government will have the power to end any member’s five-year term before its expiry, according to an amendment passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Act, 2019, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on August 2, replaced the Congress president as a member of the Trust with the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, or the leader of the single largest Opposition party in case there is no Leader of Opposition.
The Trust was first set up by then Congress president Motilal Nehru in 1920.
Electoral bonds: CEC objected to 1% vote share norm Finance Ministry brushed aside objections, including those of Law Ministry, documents obtained via RTI application show
In the process of vetting the electoral bonds scheme in December 2017, the Law Ministry repeatedly objected to the Finance Ministry’s stipulation that political parties must have a 1% vote share in the Lok Sabha or State Assembly elections in order to be eligible for the scheme, documents obtained through an RTI query by activist Anjali Bhardwaj show.
The documents, which were viewed by The Hindu on Tuesday, show that the Law Ministry recommended the imposition of a 6% vote share requirement (similar to the requirement for recognised State, national parties) or the removal of the vote share requirement entirely. The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) also objected to the vote share requirement as discriminatory, while political parties themselves were not consulted.
However, the Finance Ministry chose to ignore these concerns and insisted that only registered political parties which had “secured not less than one percent of votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly, as the case may be, shall be eligible to receive the bond.”
According to the latest data from the Election Commission of India, there are eight recognised national political parties, 52 recognised State parties and 2,487 unrecognised parties registered with the Commission. A 6% vote share is one condition for recognised parties. It is not clear how many of the unrecognised parties have a 1% vote share.
In May 2017, the Finance Ministry wrote to all State and national parties asking for their comments on the electoral bond scheme. Only four parties — the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Communist Party of India and the Shiromani Akali Dal — responded, with most asking for a draft of the scheme.
The documents obtained through Ms. Bhardwaj’s RTI application show that in June, some early drafts of the scheme only referenced “registered political parties” as eligible to receive the bond, while another said the party would need to be a national/State political party.
WHAT ARE ELECTORAL BONDS?
On January 2, 2018, the government had notified the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018. It was touted as an alternative to cash donations and to ensure transparency in political funding.
As per the provisions of the scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by an Indian citizen or a company incorporated or established in India.
Only political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 and has secured no less than one per cent votes in the last Lok Sabha elections are eligible to receive electoral bonds.
The electoral accounts are issued by the State Bank of India (SBI). The electoral bonds can be purchased in the months of January, April, July and October.
Political parties are allotted a verified account by the Election Commission and all the electoral bond transactions are done through this account only.
The donors can buy these electoral bonds and transfer them into the accounts of the political parties as a donation. The electoral bonds are available in denominations from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 crore.
The bonds remain valid for 15 days and can be encashed by an eligible political party only through a bank account with the authorized bank within that period only.
No public comment
On August 5, a draft incorporated the 1% vote share stipulation for the first time.
On August 21, the draft was presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After that meeting, a proposal to circulate the draft to all national and State parties or to open it for public comment was scrapped.
On September 22, in a meeting with the Economic Affairs Secretary, CEC A.K. Joti raised concerns that individual candidates and new political parties would not be able to receive donations under the scheme and cautioned that the “somewhat discriminatory” provision might be challenged in the courts.
When the draft went for vetting in December, the Law Ministry recommended an amendment to a 6% vote share requirement, saying that the scheme should be aligned with the RPI Act.
In response, the Economic Affairs Secretary replied: “we have to retain the formulation of 1% votes”.
Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy (17 September 1879 – 24 December 1973), commonly known as Periyar, also referred to as Thanthai Periyar, was an Indian social activist, and politician who started the Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam. He is known as the 'Father of the Dravidian Movement'. He has done exemplary work against Brahminical dominance, caste prevalence and women oppression in Tamil Nadu.
E.V. Ramasamy joined the Indian National Congress in 1919, but resigned in 1925 when he felt that the party was only serving the interests of Brahmins. He questioned the subjugation of nonBrahmin Dravidians as Brahmins enjoyed gifts and donations from non-Brahmins but opposed and discriminated against non-Brahmins in cultural and religious matters. In 1924, E.V. Ramasamy participated in non-violent agitation (satyagraha) in Vaikom, Kerala. From 1929 to 1932 Ramasamy made a tour of British Malaya, Europe, and Russia which influenced him. In 1939, E.V. Ramasamy became the head of the Justice Party, and in 1944, he changed its name to Dravidar Kazhagam. The party later split with one group led by C. N. Annadurai forming the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1949. While continuing the SelfRespect Movement, he advocated for an independent Dravida Nadu (land of the Dravidians).
E.V. Ramasamy promoted the principles of rationalism, selfrespect, women’s rights and eradication of caste. He opposed the exploitation and marginalisation of the non-Brahmin Dravidian people of South India and the imposition of what he considered IndoAryan India.
House not in order
No Parliament can condone the preventive detention of its members for long periods
More than 1,300 people who were detained around the Centre’s abrupt move on August 5 that downgraded and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continue to be so 15 weeks later. In detention are dozens of elected representatives including a member of the Lok Sabha, Farooq Abdullah, who also happens to be a former Chief Minister. Senior functionaries of the government have repeatedly said the situation is normal in J&K, but indefinite preventive detention of people is difficult to justify under any circumstances. With continuing restrictions on communication, gauging the mood of the people may be tricky, but some signs of normalcy are visible as more businesses open and vehicular traffic increases in the Valley. Now that the first Lieutenant Governor has also taken charge in J&K, immediate steps must be taken to open up political and civil society space. Instead of trying to hard sell an improbable portrait to the outside world, the Centre would do well by engaging with those most affected by its decisions — the people of J&K. The government cannot possibly see merit in undermining mainstream political leaders in J&K.
The paradox of continuing detentions and restrictions in J&K was stark when Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the forthcoming Constitution Day and the role of the Rajya Sabha in sustaining India’s federal structure on the first day of the winter session of Parliament. As the PM rightly indicated, Parliament is for giving meaningful voice to the people, not to make disruptive noise. But those prevented from attending the House are denied the right to speak for the people they are elected to represent. The PM’s call for frank discussions and dialogues in the current session would ring hollow when some of them remain in detention. The government has refused to make any commitment on Mr. Abdullah’s release, while a member of Rajya Sabha, Congress leader P. Chidambaram remains in judicial custody as government agencies and law officers show an alacrity that they reserve exclusively for pursuing Opposition leaders. The PM’s appreciation of the Rajya Sabha’s role in the hollowing out of Article 370 through a hurried resolution in the last session was disingenuous. The non-deliberative manner in which a full-fledged State was reduced into two UTs in one stroke was an unprecedented assault on federalism. Disruption by the Opposition is a marginal challenge to the role of Parliament at present. The real and graver trial of the legislature is the executive’s refusal to be scrutinized by it. By undermining parliamentary committees and brazenly labelling any Bill as a money Bill in order to bypass the Rajya Sabha, the government has shown scant regard for parliamentary precedents and processes. A course correction is in order.
The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) report, brought out recently by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, assumes salience, especially against two important factors. One, the latest Global Hunger Index (GHI), 2019 ranks India at the 102nd position out of 117 countries.
Two, India’s past performance in reducing child undernutrition has been rather mixed: there was a moderate decline in stunting but not in wasting. Between 2005-06 and 2015-16, child stunting and the condition of being underweight declined by 10% and 7% points, respectively. In wasting, the decline was a paltry 1% point. These factors make the CNNS (2016-2018) report timely and important.
The report covers dimensions of nutrition, some of which are new and important, and thereby heralds a new beginning in collecting national level nutrition data. It reveals that India has sustained its progress made in reducing the number of stunted and underweight children in the last decade. Despite such sustained decline, the present stunting level still belongs to the threshold level of ‘very high’. Hence, what is of urgent requirement is increasing the rate of decline. Though there is no magic policy wand to reduce stunting drastically within a short span of time, the CNNS report draws our attention to an all too familiar factor, which has not received the necessary attention.
Stunting among children under four years came down from 46% to 19%, a whopping 27% points decline, when maternal education went up from illiteracy/no schooling to 12 years of schooling completed. This phenomenal decline was also true for the number of underweight children. The difference was close to the gap between the poorest and richest wealth groups. It is next to impossible to transform poorest households into richest so soon. However, increasing the educational attainment of women significantly is certainly feasible. Women’s education, besides being of instrumental significance, has an intrinsic worth of its own. Possibly, as studies suggest, women’s secondary education might be capturing the cumulative effects of household wealth, women’s empowerment and knowledge and health-seeking behaviour.
Ending open defecation and enhancing access to safe water and sanitation are indeed appropriate policy goals, which need to be sustained. However, ending open defecation alone will not reduce stunting phenomenally, as is evident from the experience of Bangladesh. Also, the so-called Muslim advantage in child mortality in India — relatively lower child mortality among Muslims compared to Hindus — which occurs ostensibly due to the former’s better sanitation and hygiene practices, does not translate into a similar stunting advantage among Muslims. Unlike child mortality, child stunting levels remain almost the same between Muslims and Hindus.
More efforts, besides ending open defecation, are required, if we are to accelerate the decline in child stunting. One related aspect, which is yet to be firmly embedded into nutrition policy, is dietary diversity. It is important to move away from the present focus on rice and wheat, which studies denounce as ‘staple grain fundamentalism,’ of Public Distribution System (PDS), to a more diversified food basket, with an emphasis on coarse grains. It would be worth including millets in the PDS on a pilot basis, in States where stunting levels are high. Evidence suggests that dietary diversity is indeed good for reducing iron deficiency anaemia, levels of which also remain high in India. It may be useful learning from the virtues, in terms of food habits, of the marginalised than from the vices of the privileged groups. The rising obesity among the latter is a cause for concern, and is an emerging public health problem in India which demands equal attention.
Decline in wasting
What about child wasting, in which India’s past performance has been rather poor? Here, the report reveals an interesting, rather surprising, turnaround. The extent of decline in wasting is larger than that of stunting: about 4% points within 22 months. This is indeed a remarkable achievement, especially against a measly decline in wasting in the last ten years: 21% in 2015- 2016 from 19.8% in 2005-2006. A closer look at the performance of States reveals that Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana have reduced wasting by 10% points or more within just 30 months or less, the best performer being Uttarakhand that has reduced wasting by 14% points.
While a fair measure of decline in wasting, consistent with that of stunting, is expected, the magnitude in this case appears rather high. This is especially so, as all these five States had witnessed an increase in wasting during the last decade, between 2005-06 and 2015-16. If the decline has actually happened, then it means that many States have achieved unprecedented decline in wasting, reversing their past poor record, within a short span of time. Surprisingly, these States have not performed equally well in reducing stunting, despite the fact that wasting and stunting share many common causes. Is this ‘empirical reality’ rightly captured by the CNNS? Or, alternatively, do these estimates indicate a possibility of some sort of anomaly in data? An independent validation would not only dispel any doubt regarding data quality but also help identify the drivers of rapid reduction in child wasting in India.
Even though Jawaharlal Nehru University, where I teach, is in turmoil because of an incompetent administration incapable of communicating with the students and teachers, the larger crisis confronting the idea of a public university needs to be understood.
From Jamia Millia Islamia to Jadavpur University, from VisvaBharati University to Aligarh Muslim University, and from the University of Hyderabad to Delhi University, we are witnessing an organised attack on the fundamentals of a creative centre of learning: critical pedagogy with deep politico-ethical sensibilities; epistemological pluralism; and a minimalist and enabling administration nurturing a transparent and democratic milieu for students, researchers and teachers to flourish as active participants in the cultivation and dissemination of foundational knowledge traditions.
With politically appointed vice chancellors, philosophically impoverished techno-managers, new technologies of surveillance, and the militaristic notion of discipline and punishment, it seems some of our finest universities are dying.
The purpose of education
To begin with, it is important to realise that if public universities with good quality, affordable education begin to crumble, the spirit of egalitarian democracy will be in danger. In times characterised by the market-driven principle, where there is commodification of education and reduction of higher education into market-friendly technical skills; where there are fancy private universities and all sorts of institutes of technology and management; and where teachers are seen as mere ‘service providers’ and students as ‘consumers’, education becomes a mere utilitarian/instrumental transaction. And this sort of education can by no means be emancipatory; it is inherently non-democratic, conservative and status quoist.
If, as a nation, we are really eager to resist the process of asymmetrical distribution of cultural capital, and the resultant reproduction of social inequality, we have to nurture creative, sensitive citizens through an environment of life-affirming teaching and an egalitarian practice of socialisation. And for this, we have to keep the dream of a public university alive. As I look at JNU, I feel that its promise was essentially the fulfilment of this dream — possibly, some sort of a Nehruvian dream of a welfarist state. With an innovative admission policy; heightened sensitivity to heterogeneity; a blend of critically nuanced social sciences, cultural studies and foundational sciences; and a reasonable degree of autonomy regarding teaching, research and evaluation, the university made its presence felt as a liberating site.
It embraced all: a tribal girl from Manipur, a Dalit boy from Maharashtra, a young leftist from Kerala, a radical feminist from Delhi, an Ambedkarite from the hinterland of Uttar Pradesh, and a young wanderer from Germany or Sri Lanka. JNU aroused hope about the possibility of excellence with social justice and equity. It is sad that the present administration is preparing the ground for the death of this grand dream.
Repression of alternative voices
A deeper understanding of the crisis would enable us to see the changing nature of politics — the Machiavellian play of the ruling regime. As the doctrine of hyper-masculine religious nationalism tends to become hegemonic, we see the repression of what I would regard as alternative voices — or a different reading of nation, culture and identity. It is obvious that young minds and researchers who have seen beyond placement and salary packages, and have engaged with Marx and Ambedkar, Gandhi and Tagore, and Foucault and Butler, would interrogate the dominant ideology of nationalism — its patriarchy, its hierarchy, its aggression and its indifference to cultural pluralism. This is why JNU has been castigated as “anti-national”, this is why a bunch of zealots seek to invade Jadavpur University, and this is why the curriculum of Delhi University is under scrutiny.
A new politics of knowledge
Furthermore, because of a mix of technocratic rationality and right-wing nationalism, a new politics of knowledge begins to emerge.
It suspects the criticality of social sciences or reflexivity of liberal arts and quite often, the young minds pursuing research in these disciplines are seen as a ‘burden’ — something that, as noisy television channels propagate, taxpayers cannot afford. For instance, when one sees the enthusiasm of the JNU administration to remove aesthetically and politically enriched posters from the walls of the university, and their urge to introduce schools of engineering and management, the message, I believe, becomes obvious.
Yes, students are angry, restless, and unhappy. However, what is really pathetic is that the administration sees it merely as a ‘law and order’ problem. Instead of reflecting on the roots of the crisis, and engaging meaningfully with students and teachers, the administration relies heavily on all sorts of coercive measures. The JNU administration is known for issuing show-cause notices and charge sheets to its students and teachers. With a nondialogic administration, the presence of police and paramilitary forces, and surveillance, the culture of learning has been severely damaged. Is it the assertion of the profane, and the death of the sacred?
As a teacher with a keen interest in culture and pedagogy, I believe that the larger society has to come forward to save our public universities, particularly at a time when the corporate elite or the market-driven aspiring class refuses to see the significance of any shared, egalitarian public domain, and the dominant political force fears creative and critical ideas. For instance, when JNU students protest against the hostel fee hike, they are essentially reminding us of the need for the state to fund public universities so that higher education becomes accessible to all. The message is that education is our right, not a privilege reserved for the select elite. Or when the students of the University of Hyderabad expressed their concern over the suicide of Rohith Vemula, it was an attempt to remind us of the danger of violence — physical as well as psychic — that stigmatised students from marginalised sections are often subject to.
Students and teachers have to be immensely careful and alert. Never should they allow their struggle and resistance to degenerate into a reactive violent act. And the university should not be seen as a war zone. It is really sad to see the administrators asking the police to give a ‘tough’ lesson to the students. We need a spirit of communion and dialogue. However, what is worrying is that it is not easy to educate our vice chancellors and other academic bureaucrats. Quite often, because of their obsessive indulgence with power and psychic insecurity, they miss what characterises a mentor: the art of listening, the skill of persuasion and the ethics of care.