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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Daily Briefing: 2 dead as Assam eviction turns violent; SC to set up own expert panel to look into Pegasus charges

Effectively ruling out a caste census in 2021, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that such an exercise “would not be feasible” and that “exclusion of information regarding any other caste”, apart from SCs and STs, “from the purview of census is a conscious policy decision”.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
September 24, 2021 7:47:38 am
A look at the top news today, October 14, 2021.

Good morning,

Express Investigation

Until two years ago, Kanchan Kumari used to stand in a queue outside her neighbour’s borewell every morning, waiting to fill two buckets. It meant getting late often for college. Today, the Economics student has tap water at home. About 90 km away, Ramesh Mishra and his neighbour Kanhai Chandra Mishra point to the rust-tinged taps outside their homes and share a dry laugh. An investigation by The Indian Express has found that the scheme has been blighted by political patronage in awarding several contracts — from the family of BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Tarkishore Prasad to those of senior JD(U) leaders such as ex-state secretary Anil Singh — and shoddy work in some villages.

From the Front Page 

The Supreme Court has said that it is constituting a committee of technical experts to look into allegations of unauthorised surveillance using the Pegasus software developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, and that an order in this regard might be out by next week. The Centre has “unequivocally” denied all allegations regarding illegal surveillance. The controversy had broken following media reports of alleged illegal use of the software to tap the phones of some activists, journalists and politicians.

Clashes broke out in Sipajhar in Assam’s Darrang district as thousands protested against the government’s ongoing eviction drive against “illegal encroachers”, leaving at least two people dead and several injured on both sides. In one video that surfaced on social media, a protester armed with a lathi was shot at from close quarters, and was later beaten up and jumped upon as he lay motionless on the ground. While the Chief Minister has ordered a probe into the matter, cops said they “did what they had to do” in “self-defence”.

A man dressed in a vest runs out towards a police party holding aloft a lathi in Assam’s Darrang district. The policemen in riot gear almost immediately open fire, and as the protester falls to the ground, cops keep raining batons on him. As a stain from a wound to his chest appears on his white vest, a man with a camera slung around his neck and a scarf half covering his face approaches him. Later identified as Bijoy Bania, a photographer by profession, he proceeds to jump on the protester, stomp on him, punch him — and return back to repeat the same — as some policemen try to stop him.

Effectively ruling out a caste census in 2021, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that such an exercise “would not be feasible” and that “exclusion of information regarding any other caste”, apart from SCs and STs, “from the purview of census is a conscious policy decision”. The Centre’s submission in the apex court comes at a time when it is facing demands for a caste census from Opposition parties, and even allies such as JD(U).

Must Read

Covid, trade, defence, clean energy, regional and global developments were on the agenda when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison met in person in Washington DC just a day before the first-in-person Quad leaders’ summit. This comes just a week after Morrison rang Modi to tell him about the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) pact, which was announced recently. 

The Goa government’s Feni Policy 2021 has paved the way to take the state’s ‘heritage drink’ forward and has the potential to “save Goa”, the Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association has said. But its challenge lies in changing perceptions about the drink classified as country liquor. The policy lays down the standards for the production, techniques, quality and hygiene for making of feni. 

Six students from Jharkhand, aged between 21 and 31, have been selected as the first batch of Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Munda Scholars, a government initiative for tribal students to pursue higher studies in universities in England and Ireland. Launched on December 29 last year, the scheme provides full financial support to 10 tribal students from Jharkhand to do a two-year Master’s or a one-year MPhil course in 15 select universities

A Supreme Court-appointed committee questioned relaxations given for the  upgrade of a 4.7-km road in the buffer zone of Rajaji Tiger Reserve and sought replies from the Centre and Uttarakhand government. The length of the elevated road, meant for movement of animals, was reduced to 400 metres from 1,410 metres, the committee observed. The height of the passage was also revised down to 6 metres from 8 metres. 

And Finally

World Rugby (WR) hopes that its new six-point checklist to reduce the amount of contact training done by rugby players will help bring down training-related injuries. This comes after former England and Lions hooker Steve Thompson led a group of retired players in a landmark legal case against WR, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union after being diagnosed with early onset dementia. WR’s new guidelines limit full-blooded contact training to 15 minutes a week.

Delhi Confidential: The Jai Shakti Ministry, eaded by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, has constituted a 34-member Hindi Salahkar Samiti, an advisory panel to promote the use of the language in the ministry’s working. Incidentally, all four non-official members nominated by the ministry are from Shekhawat’s home state Rajasthan.

In today’s episode of the ‘3 Things’ podcast, we look at China’s Evergrande crisis, why the trust behind the PM CARES fund told the Delhi High Court it isn’t a “fund of the GOI”, and the controversy around the death of Mahant Narendra Giri. 

Until tomorrow, 
Rahel Philipose and Rounak Bagchi

Express Cartoon by EP Unny.

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