QBullet: RS Polls Today; EC Plans Meet to Review Influence of FB
1. 59 Rajya Sabha Seats up for Grabs, But All Eyes on One in UP
As legislators across 19 states on Friday vote to elect 59 members to the Rajya Sabha, all eyes are fixed on a single seat in Uttar Pradesh.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is assured of winning at least eight out of the 10 Rajya Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh while the Samajwadi Party (SP) is set to win one. But the final seat – for which the BJP takes on a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate backed by the SP and the Congress – is being seen as a key political battle after the recent bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur.
2. EC Plans Meet to Shield Polls From Data Mining
The election commission will hold a meeting on Tuesday, 27 March, to discuss measures to protect Indian elections from the kind of influencing that’s been shown to be possible with recent revelations that political consultant Cambridge Analytica (CA) harvested Facebook data of millions and used it to subvert poll outcomes.
According to a senior official aware of the development at the Election Commission of India, which conducts elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, the body will discuss steps required to ensure that “forces that subvert the electoral process are neutralised”.
3. Aadhaar is Blind to Purpose of Validation: UIDAI CEO
Aadhaar is blind to the purpose of authentication as it only establishes identity and nothing more, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey told the Supreme Court on Thursday, 22 March, countering apprehensions that Aadhaar would result in “virtual surveillance” of citizens.
In the course of a Power-Point presentation, Pandey said Aadhaar was a tool to establish identity and was not an aggregator of data that could be misused by the government to track citizens in the manner of a big brother state.
UIDAI chief Ajay Bhushan Pandey sought to answer petitioners questioning Aadhaar’s constitutional validity on the ground that it violated citizens’ right to privacy.
4. Eye On Possible Bypolls, Education, Health Remain Keywords
Ahead of possible bypolls in the capital, the Aam Aadmi Party government used the Budget to reinforce its pro-poor and pro-middle class image, dedicating the lion’s share to education and health, and stressing on the benefits people would reap from subsidies in power and water sectors. The government also tried to signal its commitment towards anti-pollution initiatives by clubbing a clutch of measures under the ‘Green Budget’ category.
According to an analysis by the PRS legislative research, Delhi’s allocation of 26.3 percent in education was higher than the average expenditure allocated to education by 18 other states. The allocation of 12.7 percent on health was also higher than the average expenditure of 18 other states.
(Source: The Indian Express)
5. Girl's Suicide: Capital at a Standstill as Parents Protest Against School, Police
Days after a Class IX student was found hanging at her home in Noida’s Sector 52, her family and friends protested outside Ahlcon International School and the Akshardham flyover on Thursday, blocking a crucial portion of NH-24.
“It’s been three days and no one has been arrested. This is complete inaction on part of the police, and we protested against that,” said the brother of the 15-year-old girl.
The family alleged that she was sexually harassed by two teachers in school – a charge which was added by police to the FIR on Wednesday. After protesting outside the school in the morning, the group moved towards Akshardham flyover. The girl’s family alleged that “police lathi-charged and detained them even though it was a peaceful protest”.
6. Donald Trump Sets Tariffs on About $60 Billion of Chinese Imports, Says It is First of Many
US President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday that could impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of imports from China, although his action was far removed from threats that could have ignited a global trade war.
Under the terms of the memorandum, Trump will target the Chinese imports only after a consultation period, a measure that will give industry lobbyists and legislators a chance to water down a proposed target list which runs to 1,300 products.
China will also have space to respond to Trump’s actions, reducing the risk of immediate dramatic retaliation from Beijing, and Trump struck an emollient tone as he started speaking, saying “I view them as a friend.”
7. Ola, Uber Cabs Strike Hit Delhi, Cabs May Not Ply Today
Ola and Uber drivers in Mumbai have called off their strike but their counterparts in Delhi-NCR are set a complete shutdown on Friday, 23 March.
Officials of the Sarvodaya Drivers Association, the main cab drivers’ union in the NCR, said that Ola and Uber cabs will not ply in Delhi-NCR on Friday as they plan to carry out a ‘large scale’ protest against the app-based cab aggregators.
The taxi drivers and unions are demanding better compensation, better verification of riders and streamlining of shared duties.
8. Pakistan's Envoy Back in India, But Neighbours Continue to Spar
Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood returned to India late on Thursday night, in the nick of time for the Pakistan National Day celebrations which he will host on Friday.
While junior foreign minister M J Akbar has been invited as chief guest for the event, government sources here did not rule out the possibility of another junior minister attending the event in his place.
While diplomatic sources in Delhi expressed hope Mahmood’s return will help turn down the heat in ties, the two countries continued to accuse each other of bullying diplomats.
9. Taps Could Run Dry in Bengaluru, Pune
Bengaluru is one of the 10 metropolitan cities besides Cape Town that is fast moving towards ‘Day Zero’ – a situation when taps start running dry.
Ahead of World Water Day being observed today, an analysis by Down To Earth, a magazine published by green think-tank Centre for Science and Environment, showed that at least 200 cities globally are facing a serious water crisis.
Sounding the alarm bells, Sunita Narain, director general of CSE, said, “Be it Cape Town, Bengaluru or Chennai, there isn’t much difference between these cities. They are all witnessing a common present. The important question to ask is whether these cities can create and move toward a common future that is water secure because it is water wise.”
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