On Monday, the Punjab Cabinet decided to recommend the death penalty for drug traffickers. Section 31A of the NDPS Act, in fact, already provides for the death penalty to second-time offenders in certain cases. If the first conviction is under Sections 19, 24, and 27A, which deal with various offences relating to drug trafficking, then Section 31A provides for the death penalty if the offender is subsequently convicted of production, manufacture, possession, transport or transshipment of specified drugs, or financing any of these activities.
In Punjab itself, a special Narcotics Control Bureau court had awarded the death penalty to Amritsar resident Paramjeet Singh in 2012, for a “subsequent offence” of drug trafficking, before the Punjab & Haryana High Court commuted the sentence to 15 years imprisonment the following year. After the latest Cabinet decision, the Punjab government has clarified that it has demanded the death penalty on the first conviction itself.
Among all states and Union Territories, Punjab has the highest incidence rate for cases under the NDPS Act. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records, Punjab registered 5,906 such cases in 2016, which translates into an incidence rate of 20.2 per lakh population. In absolute numbers, Punjab’s count is the fourth highest among the states and UTs, and accounts for nearly 12% (a fraction behind Kerala, also 12%) of all NDPS cases in India. According to countrywide NCRB data for 2016, 22,086 police cases under the NDPS Act remained pending out of a total of 73,561, a pendency rate of 30%. In courts, the pendency rate nationwide was 81% — 1.62 lakh cases out of 1.99 lakh.
Telling Numbers — Hambantota & more: 35 ports funded by China, says report
The map above depicts ports that are partly or fully financed by China, according to The New York Times, from which it has been adapted. It accompanies a report that focuses on Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, which eventually became China’s as Sri Lanka took repeated Chinese loans but failed to sustain the port. Describing Hambantota as a vivid example of China’s ambitious use of loans and aid to gain influence around the world, the NYT points out that it gave China control of territory near India’s shores and a strategic foothold along a critical commercial and military waterway.
Tip for Reading List — How Facebook challenges democracy
“If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine respectable journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook.
Of course, none of that was part of the plan,” writes US-born cultural historian and media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan in his latest book. Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy reflects on the evolution of the social media behemoth from an “innocent site by Harvard students” into a force that “makes democracy a lot more challenging”.
In a post-Cambridge Analytica, post-Donald Trump election world, Vaidhyanathan’s book is a critique of the “Facebook machine” and the ways it operates on users in terms of “pleasure, surveillance, attention, protest, politics, and disinformation”. Although the author does not agree with ideas of online voter-manipulation in the Brexit vote and the US presidential election, he doesn’t deny Facebook’s impact on the Trump campaign.
“By timbre, temperament, and sheer force of personality, Trump is the ideal manifestation of Facebook culture… After a decade of deep and constant engagement with Facebook, Americans have been conditioned to experience the world Trump style. It’s almost as if Trump were designed for Facebook and Facebook were designed for him. Facebook helped make America ready for Trump.” Antisocial Media “is not a hopeful book”, as Nicholas Carr suggests in The Washington Post. The Guardian notes that Vaidhyanathan proposes stringent privacy, data protection, antitrust and competition laws as measures that could begin to tame Facebook.