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QBullet: Govt on Pegasus; Secularism, Farm Loan Waiver in Maha CMP

Catch all the top headlines of the day here.

Published
India
6 min read
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
i

1. Govt Ducks Query on Buying Pegasus, Says Committed to Security

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
(Photo: PTI)

Faced with a barrage of questions on the WhatsApp snooping controversy in Parliament Thursday, Minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said there has been no unauthorised spying to the “best of my knowledge”. And that the government is committed to ensuring safety and security of online platforms such as WhatsApp. The minister asserted India would never compromise on data sovereignty.

Prasad also said the government wants to conduct an audit of WhatsApp’s security systems following revelations of Israeli spyware exploiting its vulnerabilities. The Indian Computer Emergency Team (CERT-In) “has clearly said that we want to audit your (WhatsApp’s) entire system… we have told them that we want to conduct an audit and inspection of WhatsApp’s security systems and processes,” Prasad said.

(Source: The Indian Express)

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2. Maharashtra: Secularism, Immediate Farm Loan Waiver in Joint Document

A day after three parties – Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress –indicated their willingness to form the government in Maharashtra together. 
A day after three parties – Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress –indicated their willingness to form the government in Maharashtra together. 
(Photo: The Quint)

The common minimum programme (CMP) worked out between the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress talks about immediate loan waiver to Maharashtra’s farmers; a new law to ensure 80 percent reservation in jobs for locals; Re 1 heath clinics in all talukas; and a Rs 10 thali to provide affordable food to people.

The preamble to the four-page document, signed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, NCP state president Jayant Patil and Congress state president Balasaheb Thorat, states: “The alliance partners commit to uphold the secular values enshrined in the Constitution. On contentious issue of national importance as well as of state importance especially having repercussions/consequences on the secular fabric of the nation, the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress will take a joint view after holding consultations and arriving at a consensus.”

(Source: The Indian Express)

3. West Bengal Bypolls: Verdict Against NRC, Says Mamata, Even BJP Rivals Agree

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. 
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. 
(Photo: Reuters)

The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Thursday won all the three Assembly bypolls, wresting Kharagpur Sadar and Kaliaganj from the BJP and the Congress respectively and retaining Karimpur. Calling it a mandate against NRC, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it was a vote against the BJP’s “arrogance”.

The BJP emerged second in all the three constituencies, including Kharagpur Sadar which was seen as its stronghold. The seat was earlier held by state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, before he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Medinipur, which includes Kharagpur Sadar Assembly segment.

(Source: The Indian Express)

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4. Government Okays Over Rs 22,000-Crore Military Project Deal

Representational image.
Representational image.
(Photo: iStock)

India on Thursday set the ball rolling for purchasing weapons and systems worth Rs 22,800 crore to enhance the military’s capabilities, a defence ministry spokesperson said.

The Defence Acquisition Council, the defence ministry’s top procurement body, green-lit the indigenous development and manufacturing of thermal imaging night sights for assault rifles to bolster the Make in India initiative. “The sights will be manufactured by the Indian private industry and used by troops deployed on the frontline... would enable troops to undertake long range accurate engagement in dark and all weather conditions thereby enhancing the night fighting capabilities,” a release said.

The council also revalidated the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the procurement of additional Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. The AoN is the first step towards making a military purchase.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

5. Misuse of National Emblems to Be Punished by Jail, Rs 5 Lakh Fine

Representational image.
Representational image.
(Photo: iStock)

The government has proposed increasing the fine for illegal and improper use of national emblems for commercial gains from Rs 500 to Rs one lakh — the suggested change also includes jail time and a fine of Rs 5 lakh for repeat offenders — in an attempt to crack down on their misuse.

The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, restricts the use of the national flag, the coat-of-arms used by a government department, the official seal of the President or Governor, the pictorial representation of Mahatma Gandhi and the Prime Minister, and the Ashoka Chakra.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

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6. Ex-NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela Accused of Graft, FIR Filed

File photo of Prateek Hajela.
File photo of Prateek Hajela.
(Photo: Prateek Hajela)

An Assam-based NGO has filed an FIR with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CB) against former National Register of Citizens (NRC) state coordinator Prateek Hajela for alleged misappropriation of government funds.

The FIR was filed in CBI’s anti-corruption branch in Guwahati by Rajib Deka, on behalf of Assam Public Works (APW), one of the original petitioners in Supreme Court that led to updation of the NRC in Assam.

In his complaint, Deka wanted the CBI to probe how the nearly Rs 1,600 crore released by the Centre for updating NRC was utilised by Hajela, who was executing the entire process, and his aides.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

7. Ajit Pawar to Be Back as Deputy Chief Minister, This Time Uddhav Thackeray's: Sources

 Ajit Pawar.
Ajit Pawar.
(Photo: Facebook/Ajit Pawar)

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)'s Ajit Pawar is set to be Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra once again after his dramatic betrayal and homecoming, sources in the party said on Thursday, hours before the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government's oath ceremony. But not today.

Ajit Pawar did not take oath today but sat on the stage for Uddhav Thackeray's swearing in as chief minister along with six ministers at Mumbai's Shivaji Park.

"I will not be taking oath today. Today six leaders will be taking oath from each party," Ajit Pawar said after a meeting with uncle and NCP chief Sharad Pawar and other party leaders including Jayant Patil and Praful Patel.

On whether he would be Deputy Chief Minister again, he said: "There is no decision yet. The party will decide".

(Source: NDTV)

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8. Onions Worth Rs 22 Lakh Stolen From Transport Truck as Prices Skyrocket

Image used for representational purposes.
Image used for representational purposes.
(Photo: Reuters)

Amid the spiralling onion prices across the country, a trader in Maharashtra's Nashik complained to Uttar Pradesh police that his onion consignment worth up to Rs 22 lakh was stolen.

The incident came to light after a truck carrying the 40-tonne consignment did not arrive at its destination. The truck had left Nashik on 11 November and was supposed to reach Gorakhpur on 22 November, said Prem Chand Shukla, a wholesale trader.

Superintendent of Police Rajesh Singh Chandel said the truck was found parked in the Tendu police station area, but it was empty.

"We will register a case and arrest the culprits," the superintendent of police told reporters.

(Source: NDTV)

9. 500 Indians Alerted About 'Government-Backed' Phishing: Google

Representational image.
Representational image.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Google had warned at least 500 Indians about "government-backed" phishing attacks against them between July and September this year, the technology giant said in a blog. No names were given.

Google said in the blogpost that over 12,000 warnings were sent out to users across 149 countries. The post did not specify whether the users were being targeted by their own governments or others. The Google post also said that over 90 percent of these users were targeted via "credential phishing emails" where attempts are made to obtain the target's password or other account credentials to hijack their account.The company pointed out that the high-risk users were journalists, human rights activists and political campaigns.

(Source: Times of India)

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