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Setting up hub to monitor social media will create surveillance state: SC

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Acer confirms data breach in India

The Supreme Court on Friday, July 13, said that Modi government’s decision to set up a social media hub for monitoring online data is “like creating a surveillance state”.

The remarks came when a Supreme Court bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud was hearing a PIL moved by a Trinamool Congress MLA Mahua Moitra against the Central government’s proposed move to set up a ‘Social Media Communication Hub’.

Under the proposed move, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B Ministry) is to set up a mechanism at the district-level for collecting and analysing digital and social media content.

Appearing for TMC MLA Mahua Moitra, senior advocate AM Singhvi said the government has issued a request for proposal and the tender will be opened on August 20. “They want to monitor social media content with the help of this social media hub,” PTI quoted Singhvi as saying.

Singhvi said this would give government access all data on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and emails and the move was completely violative of the right to privacy and would be invasive of the fundamental rights.

Justice DY Chandrachud then observed: “Tracking and regulating social media content will transform us into a surveillance state.”

Subsequently, the bench agreed to examine the matter and sought assistance of Attorney General KK Venugopal. It also issued a notice, calling for a formal reply from the Ministry concerned.

The Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the I&B ministry, had floated a tender to supply a software for the creation of a Social Media Communication Hub. “A technology platform is needed to collect digital media chatter from all core social media platforms as well as digital platforms such as news, blogs… In a single system providing real-time insights, metrics and other valuable data,” the tender document said

Under the project, media persons would be employed on contractual basis in each district to be the “eyes and ears” of the government and provide real-time updates from the ground. According to the tender document, the platform is expected to provide automated reports, tactical insights and comprehensive work-flows to initiate engagement across digital channels.

“The platform maybe used to disseminate content and hence, should support publishing features,” the document says, adding the platform needs to power a real-time New Media Command Room,” the tender document said

It said it will enable the ministry “to grasp the effect of various social media campaigns conducted on various schemes run by the Government of India” to “improve the scope” of such campaigns and “to make a specific theme trending”.

It is to be noted that the issuing diktats against the media has become a regular affair at the I&B Ministry. Not very long ago, the ministry had to pull out a notification mandating punishment to journalists on the basis of mere allegations of “fake news” through withdrawal of their accreditation – a government-issued badge that allows them access to government ministries and other offices.

A separate matter relating to WhatsApp licensing policy is also pending in the Court where the moot contention is again about letting the service provider read the content before passing it on to the recipient.

In that batch of matters, the Court had observed that the 2017 ruling on the right to privacy will have a huge impact on any attempt to regulate social media.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on August 3.

Book reviews

The Hill Of Enchantment Review: Ruskin Bond revisits his life as writer

The book not only delineates Ruskin Bond’s journey as a writer but also depicts the changing literary landscape from the 1950s to recent times.

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The Hill Of Enchantment Review: Ruskin Bond revisits his life as writer

India’s most loved and prolific writer from the hill, who wrote his first book when he was around 17, Ruskin Bond, turned 90 this year. In his seven decade literary journey, the author has written more than 500 novels, short stories, and poems set mostly in the hills and mountains of India. 

The Hill Of Enchantment published by Aleph Book Company, is a memoir of his writing journey, with the subtitle, the story of my life as a writer. Bond revisits the people, mountains, railway stations, rooms, and markets that shaped him as an author. He says, characters in his novels and short stories are mostly inspired by the people he met in his life. The author confesses that some characters also portray his adopted family, friends and colleagues. 

Expressing that if a writer wishes to create a little magic with his pen he must find a little magic in his life, Ruskin Bond shares that he only has to open his window to see a magical world – clouds racing across the sky. In the book, the author mentioned how Pari Tibba, Fairy Hill, which he could see from his window, and solitude has influenced his books.

In The Hill of Enchantment, Ruskin Bond pens about how his need for privacy and solitude have inspired his first work, The Room on the Roof, published in 1956. He also portrayed how his frequent visits to a railway station led to the story, Time Stops At Shamli and others. Sharing an anecdote, Bond wrote that his frequent visits to railway stations made him so popular, just like a coolie, he did not have to buy a platform ticket to sit at the railway station.

The book also highlights the ordeal of Indian writers in the days dating back to 1950s to get published as compared to modern writers. It pointed out the change in the literary scene in the twenty-first century, which brought literary festivals along with online forums for writers and publishers. The author says, “writers were becoming faces and mini celebrities”. 

Ruskin Bond’s book not only delineates his journey as a writer but also stresses on the changing literary landscape from 1950s to recent times. The book is an utter testament for the aspiring writers. 

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Amit Shah claims NDA has already got 310 seats after 5 phases of Lok Sabha elections

Shah was addressing 2 election rallies in Sambalpur where the BJP has fielded Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

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Amit Shah claims NDA has already got 310 seats after 5 phases of Lok Sabha elections

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday claimed that the NDA has already bagged 310 seats after the completion of 5 phases of the Lok Sabha polls. He urged the people of Odisha to free the state from babu-raj and allow the BJP to form government at the Centre and also in the state.  Shah was addressing 2 election rallies in Sambalpur where the BJP has fielded Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

Shah claimed after the 5th phase of elections, the NDA has already got 310 seats and they will secure 400 plus seats after the 6th and 7th rounds of elections. The union home minister added that Odisha has been ruled by a handful of officers and this election will end the ongoing babu raj in the state.

He said that the tribals of Keonjhar get no benefit even though most of the mines and mineral reserves of the country are located in Keonjhar district. Shah enlisted Modi government’s achievements and said that the prime minister has ensured that there is no terrorism across the country. He added that PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) was with India and it would remain with India.

Shah criticized Congress of being frightened over Pakistan possessing an atom bomb and said PM Modi has given a befitting reply to Pakistan’s terror activities and he does not fear such threat of nuclear bombs. He attacked the previous Congress government for doing nothing for tribals. Shah pointed out that former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had formed a separate ministry for tribal affairs while Narendra Modi as the PM has worked to eliminate Naxalism in Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The Union Home Minister said PM Modi has constituted District Mineral Foundation and given crores of rupees for the development of the tribal region. Shah said the budgetary allocation for tribal affairs has been increased to Rs 1.25 lakh crore during Modi government from Rs 25,000 crore given during the previous UPA regime.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Congress accuses PM Modi of communal campaigning, questions his silence on key issues like caste census, reservations

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh’s attack came over Modi’s remarks in an interview to the media in which he had said that he has never uttered a word against minorities, and the BJP has not just today but never acted against them.

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Congress accuses PM Modi of communal campaigning, questions his silence on key issues like caste census, reservations

The Congress on Tuesday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been indulging in polarisation throughout the election and has prepared a communal pitch, but Congress refused to play on that and pursued its paach nyay agenda. Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh’s attack came over Modi’s remarks in an interview to the media in which he had said that he has never uttered a word against minorities, and the BJP has not just today but never acted against them.

Jairam Ramesh said that PM Modi’s entire campaign from April 19 has been based on communalisation with the Hindu-Muslim rhetoric throughout and has not talked about Viksit Bharat, issues of the farmers, Modi ki guarantee, women, youth workers, SCs, STs and OBCs.

Speaking about the remarks made by PM Modi on minorities, Ramesh said what nonsense was he talking about?  He further added the prime minister is fast losing his memory and he has never had any adherence to truth. Ramesh called PM Modi a jhoothjeevi and said PM Modi does not remember what he said the day before and then claims that he never said it.

Ramesh said the prime minister had raised the issue of Muslim League imprint on the Congress manifesto, the mangalsutra remarks and the allegation that the Congress will give reservations on the basis of religion, which are all bogus statements.

He said this is the prime minister who, when asked some years ago whether he had any remorse at the killings during the Gujarat riots, said even when a small puppy comes under a car, one feels bad. This is the language that he had been using. Ramesh claimed that when Atal Bihari Vajapayee became the prime minister, L K Advani and company wanted a committee to review the basic structure of the Constitution. Ramesh said Congress boycotted that commission and this has always been the objective of the BJP and the RSS.

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