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BJP roots for NRC in Bengal, opponents & analysts say it’s impractical



Dilip Ghosh

Amid a political storm over the publication of the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is rooting for a similar exercise in Bengal and vowing to drive out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants once the party is voted to power in the state. However, its political opponents see no merit in the saffron outfit’s claims.

The ruling Trinamool Congress, Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front have dismissed the BJP’s stand as a mere ploy to communally polarise the people ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Several BJP leaders, including state party president Dilip Ghosh, national secretary Rahul Sinha and state observer Kailash Vijayvargiya have fiercely backed the Assam NRC and repeatedly stressed that it was required in Bengal to drive out all the “illegal settlers” from Bangladesh.

During his high-voltage rally in Kolkata last month, BJP president Amit Shah launched a scathing attack on Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool government, accusing it of allowing in illegal infiltrators to use them as vote banks and termed it a threat to national security.

“We’ll implement NRC in Bengal once we come to power. All those who have entered illegally will be pushed back. The current government in Bengal is too concerned about the rights of infiltrators, but what about the rights and safety of your own people? That’s our first priority,” Ghosh maintained.

Left Front legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty termed the BJP “anti-poor and anti-Bengali”.

“There is no chance of BJP coming to power here, let alone publishing the NRC list. It is impossible. The BJP has often tried to disturb the people of Bengal by creating communal tension. They may attempt to do so again, but the people of Bengal will not accept it,” Chakraborty, a senior CPI-M leader, told IANS.

Trinamool leader and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim also accused the BJP of dividing communities in the name of the NRC in Assam and warned that given a chance, the saffron outfit would do the same in Bengal.

“We don’t want the national security of our country to be compromised at any cost. But the way bona fide Indians are being harassed in the name of the NRC in Assam, the way BJP is trying to create a divide between the Hindus-Muslims and Bengali-Assamese there, is condemnable. We fear they would take up the same divide and rule policy here in the name of NRC,” Hakim told IANS.

“If there are any anti-national elements here, the central agencies are competent enough to pick them up and deport them. We don’t need to push so many people into uncertainty by bringing the NRC,” he said.

Leader of Opposition and Congress veteran Abdul Mannan exuded confidence that the BJP will not succeed in its plans to divide the people of Bengal. According to him, the draft NRC in Assam clearly showed that the exercise was actually aimed at ousting a certain community from the country.

“In the name of the NRC, they are undertaking a political activity in Assam. They are trying to turn 40 lakh people into refugees. Even if all those people are accused of being non-Indians they have no responsibility to prove their credentials. It is the government’s job. It is evident what they are trying to achieve in the name of the NRC,” he added.

According to political analyst Udayan Bandyopadhyay, the state BJP’s “tall claims” of publishing the much-debated citizen’s list in Bengal on the lines of Assam is actually aimed at gaining political mileage among Hindu voters ahead of the 2019 general elections.

“They are repeatedly claiming they will deport the doubtful voters to Bangladesh because it would create an impression that most of the infiltrators here are Bengali Muslims. If they can establish this perception, they’d be able to create communal polarisation in Bengal,” Bandyopadhyay told IANS.

Pointing out that the demand to publish an NRC from Bengal will have more wind in its sail if the BJP returns to power at the Centre after 2019, the analyst claimed it would be “almost impossible” to run such an exercise here as there is no background like the historic Assam accord, which got the ball rolling there.

He also claimed that the Centre won’t be able to deport the 40 lakh people, whose names have been left out of the Assam NRC, as governments of other countries would never accept them.

“Even if they are proved as infiltrators, it is impossible to deport them or isolate them to a certain area. At most, the voting rights of these people will be revoked,” Bandyopadhyay added.

(Milinda Ghosh Roy can be contacted at [email protected])


The US presidential elections and future of India-US relations




Donald Trump Joe Biden

As the coronavirus pandemic dominates global news in the United States, progress toward the next presidential election scheduled to be held on November 3 moves slowly forward. President Donald Trump had no real opposition in the Republican party and is running for re-election. And it has now become apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden will be his opponent as the Democratic candidate for president.

What would a Trump victory bode for the future of US-India relations? What would a Biden victory bode? Let me answer each of those questions in turn.

Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for US-India relations is a splendid one. This would be an incorrect assumption.

Both of these events were more symbolic than substantive. Trump’s participation in them undoubtedly helped to persuade some — perhaps many — Indian American Modi supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to cast their ballots for Trump in 2020. Trump’s campaign team took steps to ensure this by holding an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in which a group of prominent Indian Americans announced their plans to work for his re-election and to mobilize Indian Americans on his behalf.

To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the US. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style.

In a word, the best way to characterize the current relations between the US and India is “functional”. The relationship was relatively good for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. In fact, near the end of 2018, Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was quoted in the media s saying: “This has been a landmark year for US-India ties as we build out stronger relationships across the board.”

Then, in 2019, the relations went off the track in the first half of the year after the US and India got into a tit-for-tat tariff war after the US terminated India’s Generalized System of Preferences which allowed India to send certain goods to the US duty-free. There have been continuing efforts to structure a “modest” trade deal since then. It was thought there might be some type of deal done in September of 2019 while Modi was in the US by year’s end, and then during Trump’s India visit. But, as of today, there is still no deal.

This inability to get any meaningful trade agreement in place speaks volumes about India’s potential future relations with India with Trump as president. So, too does Trump’s style.

Trump’s campaign slogans this time around are “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” Trump is not a policy wonk and most of his effort will go toward “America First”. This involves making the US more isolated by withdrawing from international agreements, restructuring trade agreements, emphasizing building walls to stop immigrants at the border, using tariffs to block trade with countries who are taking away American jobs, and confronting businesses who are allegedlly stealing American trade secrets.

This perspective suggests what India can expect for its relations with the US if it has to deal with Trump for a second term as president. The relations will stay functional at best. As I have said before, that’s because the words partnership, cooperation and collaboration are not in Trump’s vocabulary. Nationalism, isolationism and protectionism are.

Joe Biden stands in stark contrast to President Trump both professionally and personally. Biden is a strategic thinker and doer with a solid eight-year track record of leadership experience as Vice-President in forging alliances that have made a difference around the world and he has also been a long-standing friend of India.

He was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the Congressional passage of the Indo-US civic nuclear deal in 2005. At a dinner convened 10 years later in 2015 by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Vice President Biden discussed the tremendous joint progress that had been made by the two countries in the past and declared “We are on the cusp of a sea change decade.”

Early in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in July of 2019, in laying out his foreign policy vision, Biden stated that the US had to reach out to India and other Asian partners to strengthen ties with them. The items on Biden’s foreign policy agenda for strengthening which are of importance for India include climate change, nuclear proliferation and cyberwarfare.

During his vice presidency, Biden worked side by side with President Barack Obama to do things that would contribute to achieving Obama’s vision stated in 2010 of India and America being “indispensable partners in meeting the challenges of our time.” In 2020, those challenges are even greater than they were a decade ago.

That is why it is so essential that India and the US develop a strategic relationship that enables them to become those indispensable partners. That can happen if Biden assumes the presidency on January 20, 2021. It cannot happen if Donald Trump remains as president for a second term.

The results of this upcoming election in the US matter greatly for the future of the United States. They matter greatly for the future of India-US relations as well. Time and the American electorate will tell what that future will be.

(Frank F. Islam is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal)

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Covid-19 toll across world crosses 35,000

The COVID-19 is affecting 132 countries and territories around the world.



Patients infected with the novel coronavirus

New Delhi, March 30 : The death toll around the world due to coronavirus crossed 35,000 on Monday evening, with Italy heading the list of 35,097 deaths with 10,779, while the number of cumulative cases rose to 737,929, with US leading with 143,055 of them, as per data from the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Spain was second with 7,340 deaths, followed by China with 3,308 (3,186 of them in Hubei where the outbreak was first recorded), Iran with 2,757 deaths, France with 2,606 deaths, the US with 2,513 (776 of them in New York) and the UK with1,228 deaths.

In number of cases, Italy was second with 97,689, followed by Spain with 85,195, China with 82,198, Germany with 62,435, Iran with 41,495 and France with 40,747.

Meanwhile, 156,652 people around the world had recovered, with nearly half of them (75,923) in China, followed by 16,780 in Spain, 13,911 in Iran and 13,030 in Italy.

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45% of Indians do not back up their data, files: Survey

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.




Data Privacy

New Delhi, March 30 : Nearly half of Indians do not back up because they think their data or files are not important enough and most of those who back up their data, do it once a month, a survey said on Monday.

Other reasons cited by the respondents for not backing up their data included not knowing how to do it, not having time and forgetting about it, according to the survey by cybersecurity company Avast.

“It could be that many aren’t aware they are backing up, as it could be happening automatically, in the background, however, others really might not be backing up at all, thinking it is not worth it,” Luis Corrons, Security Evangelist at Avast, said in a statement.

“Losing personal documents, photos and videos can be a painful experience and it’s not until this happens that they realize how valuable it actually is,” Corrons added.

Of those who do back up their data, nearly 42 per cent Indians back up to a cloud storage, 36 42 per cent back up their data to an external hard drive, 23 42 per cent back up to a USB or flash disk, 18 42 per cent back up their phone to their PC, and 10 42 per cent back up to a network storage drive, the results showed.

Corrons recommended to back up data to two different locations, like the cloud, and a physical storage, like an external hard drive.

When it comes to iPhone and Android phone owners, the percentage that backs up is nearly the same, 69 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

The percentage of smartphone owners that don’t know how to back up their data does not vary much between iPhone and Android owners, with 13 per cent and 17 per cent claiming not knowing how to, respectively, the study revealed.

Data loss can be caused by users accidentally deleting their data themselves, hardware damage and failure, as well as malware, causing valuable data such as photos, videos, documents, and messages to be lost forever.

Ransomware and other malware, such as wipers, can either encrypt or completely destroy files, and there is no guarantee that files can be decrypted if a ransom is paid.

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.

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COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization.