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NEW DELHI: The government has no data on how many times it ordered the snapping of internet services in various parts of the country, nor how such bans were beneficial in maintaining law and order, representatives of the ministries of electronics & information technology and home, besides the governments of Delhi and Bihar told the parliamentary standing committee on information technology at its meeting on Friday.

The panel, headed by Congress’s Shashi Tharoor, sought to know from the government the efficacy of internet shutdowns whenever they were implemented. Since the Centre and the two states were both unable to explain the link between internet stoppage and what it sought to achieve, the House panel gave them time until November-end to return with data on internet lockdowns, the methodology involved in imposing such bans, the objectives sought to be achieved and how imposing such restrictions helped.

The lack of data comes at a time when India has been listed among 26 countries with the steepest decline in internet freedom scores in 2020. According to a Freedom House report titled ‘Freedom on the Net 2020: The Pandemic’s Digital Shadow’, internet freedom in India has declined for a third straight year with government authorities increasingly shutting off connectivity to quell protests. The report also said India is home to more government-imposed internet shutdowns than anywhere else in the world, “justified by authorities for reasons including the need to counter disinformation, protests, communal violence and cheating on exams”.

During the panel’s meeting, Bihar said restrictions on internet were imposed based on local intelligence inputs, and on the basis of reports from district administrations about the possibility of violence or disruption of public peace. Delhi said there was no disruption in internet supply in the national capital except for four hours during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests on December 19 last year.

None, however, could answer pointed questions by some members whether there was any direct correlation between internet fuelling riots, nor provide data on whether such instances had increased since internet became available in India.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

Moved to prevent CBI from taking over TRP scam probe: Maharashtra home minister

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MUMBAI: A day after the Maharashtra government issued a notification withdrawing its general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation, state home minister Anil Deshmukh said the decision was taken as the premier agency “was being used to settle political scores and there was suspicion that just like in the past, the TRP scam case which was being probed by the Mumbai police may be handed over to the CBI”, reports Bhavika Jain.

“CBI is a professional agency, but of late it has been used to settle political scores. A complaint in the TRP case has been registered in UP, and it is rumoured that due to political pressure, there could be an attempt to combine all the cases and to give them to CBI. To prevent misuse of the general consent, we decided to revoke it,” Deshmukh said.

He said there have been instances where the SC, in some of its judgments, has taken objection to the CBI’s ways of functioning.

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INDIA

PM Modi hails Amit Shah hand in nation’s progress

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NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi on Thursday praised Union home minister Amit Shah on his birthday, saying he was making important contribution to country’s progress and BJP’s growth.

“Our nation is witnessing the dedication and excellence with which he is contributing towards India’s progress. His efforts to make BJP stronger are noteworthy,” Modi tweeted, his words being seen by many as underscoring Shah’s cruciality in the government and BJP’s organisational affairs.

Shah, who quit as BJP chief after joining government, continues to play a key role in party affairs and is said to have played an important role in seat-sharing negotiations with allies in Bihar contest.

Other important figures in the government also greeted Shah. “Known for his strong willpower and determination, my colleague in the Union cabinet Amit Shah is working relentlessly to strengthen the country’s internal security,” defence minister Rajnath Singh said.

Functionaries from other parties also wished him on his birthday. Shiromani Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal was among several members who extended greetings to the home minister.

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INDIA

Indian missions collecting Sikh data, MEA calls it ‘reach out’ bid

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JALANDHAR: All Indian embassies and consulates across the world are seeking and collecting details of the Sikh diaspora in their areas, particularly in countries where the presence of Sikh community is substantial. This was revealed when an email from the office of the Consul-General of India in Hamburg, Germany, seeking details of the Sikh diaspora in the country became public.

However, MEA has claimed the collection of data was a “reach out effort worldwide” to help the Sikh community as there have been complaints of persecution of the Sikh minorities in some countries. Hamburg vice consul Gulshan Dhingra had on October 19 sent out an email from the official account linked to the CGI office, titled “Data of Sikh Diaspora residing in the 4 North German States.” As per the email, “The ministry is in the process of compiling the data of Sikh diaspora residing in Germany.”

The recipients of the email were urged to “compile a list with the names and addresses of Sikhs living in your area for onward transmission to the ministry” by October 21, 2020. Europe-based lawyer and activist Dr Manuvie made the email from office of Consulate General Of India, Hamburg, public on her Twitter handle on Tuesday. Later, Hamburg Consul General of India Madan Lal Raigar told TOI that the letter had been withdrawn.

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