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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Daily briefing: Inside story of PM’s marathon meeting; Aarogya Setu app ‘utterly illegal’

In today's briefing, we bring you news of what transpired in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with chief ministers and why a former Supreme Court judge is upset about the Aarogya Setu app.

Written by Leela Prasad | New Delhi | Updated: May 12, 2020 9:19:43 am

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Dear Readers,

The fifth virtual meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss with chief ministers the broad contours of exiting the nationwide lockdown in a calibrated manner was, as expected, a marathon. The meeting lasted for six hours, much to the chagrin (more on that here) of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who also seemed upset that he wasn’t consulted about partial resumption of passenger train services as he had held the Railways portfolio in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

Here is a glimpse of what the states wanted

# Maharashtra, Punjab, Telangana and West Bengal were among the states who wanted the lockdown extended further.
#  Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Andhra, Bihar and Tamil Nadu had reservations on allowing inter-state movement — be it rail or air.
# States including Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan wanted to have the authority to decide which districts fall under red, orange and green zones.

The common consensus among states, however, was further easing of lockdown restrictions to resume economic activities. As a minister who was present at the meeting has put it, the tone and tenor was akin to a “cat and mouse game” on the issue of lockdown extension and the way forward. There were no concrete suggestions, the minister said.

* And West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was in a combative mood right from the outset as she accused the Centre of playing politics and taking unilateral decisions. In her primary line her of attack were PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. “Don’t do politics, Amit Shah saheb,” she said in the meeting. She also accused Central officials of holding video-conferences with state officials without keeping her government in the loop.

* After uproar over the Aarogya Setu app infringing privacy, the government issued a new set of guidelines to be followed for processing data of the app users. The new rules prohibit the storage of data beyond 180 days and enable individuals to seek deletion of their data from the government’s Aarogya Setu related records within 30 days of raising the request. Previously, the  app was allowed to retain the data for 60 days after a Covid-19 patient is cured, and for other users, the personal information is removed from the server after 45 days.

* Meanwhile, former Supreme Court Judge B N Srikrishna, who chaired the committee that came out with the first draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill, termed the government’s push mandating the use of Aarogya Setu app “utterly illegal”. “Under what law do you mandate it on anyone? So far it is not backed by any law,” the former judge told The Indian Express.

* Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda also has these seven “burning questions” for the government on the transparency of the contact tracing app.

* Even in the scenario of lockdown restrictions being completely lifted, masks and social distancing are here to stay until a time the coronvirus is fully eliminated. If you are among those who don’t feel comfortable wearing them and are sticklers for WHO guidelines on who should wear them, then think again. Multiple studies have pointed out that masks are very useful, including the home-made ones, as they offer a greater degree of protection against the infection. Read about their impact and all the added advantages here.

* “Whatever life throws at you, put it on the bar and press it.” The memory of this poster that adorned the walls of my old gym has stayed with me all these years. As I read about the fitness industry bleeding dry in the current economic crisis, it makes me wonder whether gyms across the country can sweat this one out. Though some chains have begun online coaching, there are just a patch on their actual sales.

Until tomorrow,

Leela Prasad G

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