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BJP inadvertently exposes its game of influencing voters

Controversial firm Cambridge Analytica used to conduct psychological war by harvesting millions of Facebook profiles without authorization and then further used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence voters at the ballot box.

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Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has inadvertently exposed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s scandal of influencing voters through Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI)—an Indian affiliate of Cambridge Analytica firm. Mere a tweet by Manish Tewari seeking enquiry by the Election Commission on the claim by Cambridge Analytics about giving services during elections and campaigns in India compelled BJP minister to call a press conference to save and clear themselves of the charges and rather accused that Congress had links with Cambridge Analytica.

Congress media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala Surjewala said, “Desperate times call for desperate press conferences. BJP’s factory of fake news has produced another fake news today. Such baseless allegations show the character of the party, Indian National Congress or the Congress President has never used or never hired the services of a company called Cambridge Analytica.”

British data analytics and election strategy firm Cambridge Analytica (CA), which is under a scanner in the UK and the US for using Facebook to influence voters in the US presidential election and the vote on Brexit in UK, is also involved in a scandal involving the 2010 Bihar Assembly election and claimed its client “achieved a landslide victory.

Controversial firm Cambridge Analytica used to conduct psychological war by harvesting millions of Facebook profiles without authorization and then further used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence voters at the ballot box.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been allegedly accused of compiling user data to target American voters during the presidential election for US President Donald Trump. In the same manner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi allegedly used the same psychological warfare tool in 2010 and in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

After Information Technology and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has alleged that Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party had links with Cambridge Analytica, Congress media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala countered the Minister saying, “Fake Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is presenting fake agenda. The truth is contrary to this. The BJP and JDU used Cambridge Analytica. The BJP hired the Indian business partner of Cambridge Analytica — OBI during Delhi Assembly election and used its services. Apart from this, the firm also involved in the party’s Mission 272+ (BJP’s slogan for 2014 general election) as an additional support in Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Delhi”, Surjewala added.

Surejewala stated that information available on the website of Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI)—an Indian affiliate of CA’s parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) firm also furnished a constituency-wise database to BJP candidates for state and national elections.

The firm used to collect data about people who are on Facebook through an app and target voters with personalised political advertisements, in the same manner as television, radio and print.

Prasad even issued a sharp warning to the social media giant, saying the government would take ‘stringent action”, including “summoning” its CEO Mark Zuckerberg to India, in case of any data theft of Indians.

Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect user data in light of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm. As Cambridge Analytica is accused of improperly using the data on behalf of political clients. He said that Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data and if it fails, “we don’t deserve to serve you.”

As both BJP and the Congress accuse each other of data theft and of having used Cambridge Analytica’s services to swing elections in the country.

Ravi Shankar Prasad made a bizarre statement when he said that Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter followers had risen recently and wondered if  Cambridge Analytica was responsible for this “fake popularity”.

Prasad became so desperate that he made out of the context statement as Cambridge Analytica does not work for Twitter and there is also a report viral on online media about Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having 60% fake twitter followers. So, by making these charges what he is trying to say?

But the most significant aspect in this entire episode is how India is going to fix the loopholes so that no political party is able to covertly or overtly able to influence the electoral process for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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Arti Bali

Sr Journalist

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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Xi-Modi summit:China regional power, India to remain cautious

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There should not be high expectations from the informal summit between PM Modi and President Xi in the Wuhan on the banks of Yangtze as India has already bowed to please regional power China by cancelling the events of Dalai lama in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi jinping are likely to discuss US President Donald Trump’s “protectionist” trade policy, changes in the world order,bilateral issues including China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

India and China have been competing for political ,economic and strategic influence in the region.

Moreover,Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is desperately searching for a new slogan to win the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,is eager to enter into elite club of 48-member NSG Nuclear Suppliers Group and China remains biggest obstacle as it has been opposing India’s bid primarily on the grounds that Delhi is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

China has knitted close ties with countries in India’s neighbourhood and invested billions of dollars in the economies of Pakistan, Bangladesh,Nepal,Sri Lanka and the Maldives.In Addition,Beijing has been pursuing territorial and maritime claims .

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who invited the leaders of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional cooperation) countries and Mauritius to attend his swearing-in ceremony to convey the message that he is the leader of this region and foreign policy remains his top priority.But ,alas,his foreign policy has failed so miserably that China,not only influences this region but also through One Belt,One Road project, China has inarguably increased its global influence, social and cultural cooperation.

Xi Jinping’s ambitious Silk Road Economic Belt has three routes connecting China to Europe (via Central Asia), the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean (through West Asia), and South Asia.

Beijing and New Delhi are rivals and are already engaged in territorial disputes and the India-China border covering the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) is disputed between the two sides and notably, Beijing claims Arunachal Pradesh to be the part of its southern Tibet. The territory, a key focus of a 1962 war fought between the Asian giants.

Another hotly contested territory by both countries is Aksai Chin, which New Delhi considers part of its Jammu and Kashmir state while China believes the zone belongs to its Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Talks to resolve the boundary dispute have been stalled but standoffs between the Indian forces and the Chinese PLA
has emerged as a common phenomena.China has taken the 72-day military confrontation in 2017 on the Doklam plateau at the trijunction of Bhutan, India and China seriously and President  Xi Jinping vowed to protect “every inch” of his country’s territory in a nationalistic speech at the annual National People’s Congress in which he claims that his nation was ready to “fight bloody battles” against its enemies.

On the contrary, the official Chinese media commented, “The Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit could be as significant as the one between former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then leader of China Deng Xiaoping in 1988,the meeting can be as significant as the one in 1988… and will set the course for bilateral ties.”

Modi government had criticised President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative but how Xi is going to convince Modi for a India-Nepal-China economic corridor .China has proposed a India-Nepal-China economic corridor with multi-dimensional connectivity through the Himalayas after Nepalese Foreign Minister held talks with his Chinese counterpart.

Ahead of Xi-Modi summit on April 27-28, Chinese officials have made enough positive signals : promised to resume the Kailash Mansarovar yatra through the Nathu La route for pilgrims and data sharing on rivers such as Brahmaputra and Sutlej which originate in China and flow into India and to consider India’s major concerns seriously.

Meanwhile,External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during her address at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting also attended by Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif,
raised the issue of global terrorism and protectionism.

Terrorism is an enemy of the basic human rights: of life, peace and prosperity,the criminal terrorist militias are not impeded by borders as they seek to destroy the architecture of international stability and build walls of fear in societies that believe in pluralism,Sushma said.

“We strongly believe that our fight against terrorism should not only seek to eliminate terrorists but should also
identify and take strong measures against States that encourage, support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups without mentioning any country”,Sushma said.

It is pertinent to mention that Delhi has also embraced the Trump Administration’s concept of Indo-Pacific and revived the quadrilateral security dialogue with Washington, Tokyo and Canberra.

While North Korean leader Kim Jong un’s friendly meeting with Xi Jinping in Beijing has brought China into a central position by reinserting into the diplomatic negotiations.

India is trying to reset relations with Beijing but China’srise as Asian great power status  and influence in the region has diminished India’s geographical advantage.

While rolling out its “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy at the US- India-Japan trilateral dialogue,US official Alex Wong said “it is in the US’ interest that India plays a more weighty role in the region.”

US President Donald Trump initiated US-China trade war which has wider implications as  US Department of Commerce banned American companies from selling components to state-owned Chinese phone maker ZTE for a period of seven years.

India, which is an ally of US and after it signed an agreement on sharing military logistics (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement), it will be interesting to watch the outcome of Modi-Xi summit but Prime Minister should be cautious to safeguard national interests as it should not give ammunition to the Opposition that may attack the BJP led NDA government for any wrong decision..

Blog : By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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86% NCR residents cite lack of severe punishment for sexual harassment: Study

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

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New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Lack of severe punishment is considered as the most rampant cause of sexual harassment by 86 per cent respondents in the NCR region, as per as study.

The study, done by Indian Institute for Integrated Women and Child Development (ISI-WCD) and released by the Women and Child Development Ministry, was one of 18 projects the ministry had sponsored, between 2015-17, in areas like economic empowerment of women, skill development, child trafficking, nutrition management and others.

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

According to the survey, 84 per cent of the responsdents think that availability of pornographic materials on mobile phone is also a cause of sexual harassment in NCR region while 83 per cent believes it is because of easy access to social media site Facebook or the internet.

“Revealing dresses of women has been seen as the reason for sexual assault by 53 per cent, 35 per cent and 37 per cent by residents of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida respectively while informal behaviour of women has also been seen as the reason by 49 per cent, 30 per cent and 70 per cent from the three locations respectively,” the study notes.

The study also revealed that 35 per cent of men and 50 per cent women have perceived sexual aggression in men as responsible for sexual harassment of women.

It is also found that 70 per cent of the respondents have said to face sexual abuse from work partners or colleagues, 63 per cent from office seniors, 48 per cent from friends and 38 per cent from teachers.

According to the study, 87 per cent respondents agreed that women suffer from verbal abuse, 88 per cent have suffered from physical abuse and 94 per cent stated that they are being stared at.

On enhancing safety for women in public places, 96 per cent respondents suggested that crowded buses or stations should be under constant camera surveillance, 93 per cent wanted public places well lit, 90 per cent prefers frequent police patrolling, 94 per cent said legal punishments should be made harsher while 92 per cent said judicial disposals should be made quicker.

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Kim’s message: North Korea will not abandon its nuclear weapons

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North Korean Kim Jong un

As North Korea announced that it will cease nuclear weapons and missile testing is considered as a major boost to the upcoming meeting between Supreme leader Kim Jong un and US President Donald Trump.

But Kim’s statement has also made it clear that North Korea is only freezing the testing of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles but shows it clear intentions of not giving up the production of warheads or nuclear program or eliminate its existing arsenal .

while Defense Secretary James N. Mattis met with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera of Japan at the Pentagon and discussed ways to further strengthen the U.S.- Japan Alliance, positively noting the increasing role the Japan Self-Defense Force is playing in regional security, including UNSCR enforcement and mutual asset protection operations.

Recognizing the threat posed by North Korea’s unlawful nuclear and missile programs, Secretary Mattis and Defense Minister Onodera has affirmed the importance of close cooperation among the United States, Japan, Korea and other like-minded nations in providing credible military backing to the maximum pressure campaign.

Additionally, the ministers finally agreed to continue enhancing the alliance capability to deter and respond to any North Korean aggression.

Mattis also discussed the recently released U.S. National Defense Strategy, and welcomed Japan’s determination to similarly review its National Defense Program Guidelines by the end of this year, the statement said.

Both leaders reaffirmed the importance of continued progress on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, including recent efforts to realize the permanent location for a field carrier landing facility, the statement said.

Trump will find it difficult to persuade Kim to dismantle the entire nuclear arsenal of North Korea in exchange
for sanctions relief and compensation as Supreme leader takes the nuclear weapons program as a matter of pride.

Main aim of International community is to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear missile programmes since the early 1990s but in 2017 it tested an H-bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

North Korea is seeking to replace 1953 Korean War armistice with a peace treaty and the most significant issue for Kim is to lift the sanctions which is hurting DPRK’s economy.

Blog : By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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