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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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Ravishankar Prasad

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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Modi’s BJP suffers defeat in Hindi heartland states

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Rahul Modi

Dec 11 :With good performance in assembly elections in three Hindi heartland states (Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh), Rahul Gandhi, who took over the Congress reins as party President on December 16 last year, has proved the opponent BJP’s Modi that he has the power to defeat the political force of BJP- RSS that seek to divide the nation on communal lines.

But BJP suffered its worst defeat in these elections and Narendra Modi with 56-inch chest, who changed the very nature of politics and campaigning style after coming into power four years ago by making tall economic promises and showcasing Hindu nationalist views, failed to impress voters this time. He promised to give Rs 15 Lakh to very Indian ,including creating one million jobs a month.

The Assembly results of five states is an indication that Modi’s brand is losing its luster.

Modi used every medium of technology from social networking sites, campaigning and even right wing organisations to scrutinize each and every speech and action of Congress president Rahul Gandhi and trying to build a fake propaganda of rejection but the fifth generation of Gandhi family leading the grand old party has successfully snatched two states – Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan – from the Modi-led BJP,while Congress is locked in a close fight in Madhya Pradesh in the semi-final test before the 2019 national election.

Rahul Gandhi hit the right chord by targeting Modi government on social and governance issues of farmers plight, youth unemployment,insecurity among minorities,corruption in Rafale deal, destruction and misuse of constitutional institutions like RBI, investigative agencies and educational institutions.This is quite evident from the latest development by the sudden resignation of the RBI Governor Urjit Patel.

This election has reflected the mood of the nation thus rejecting the element of fundamentalism, policy of divide and rule, giving importance to cow slaughter more than human lives and thus encouraging lynching by giving a free hand to his cabinet ministers to honour the culprits.

Rahul Gandhi addressed a press conference said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “failed to listen to the heartbeat of the nation.” Gandhi also said that “I was telling my mother that the absolute best thing for me was the 2014 election. I learnt a lot from that election. I learnt that the most important thing is humility,” said the 48-year-old Congress chief, who took a lot of the blame for the party’s non-stop election disasters. “Frankly Narendra Modi taught me the lesson- what not to do,” he added.

Congress makes an impressive comeback in the Chhattisgarh Assembly Election Result 2018 and is all set to end the 15-years rule of Raman Singh. Congress emerged as the winner in Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot are leading the talks for government formation in the state.

Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath and party’s campaign committee chief Jyotiraditya Scindia are personally leading the effort to gather support from BSP and SP. In fact, Kamal Nath was believed to be in touch with BSP supremo Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.

Although he has been successful in extraditing Michel but Modi government failed to prevent economic offenders escaping from India with the taxpayers’money under their watch.

Rahul, who aggressively campaigned in the states by implementing his strategy of asking his party workers to engage in door to door campaigning and highlighting the failures of the current government and he himself addressed 82 rallies in poll bound states and religiously targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP on the Rafale deal, the Nirav Modi scam and other such topics that many said had no mass connect. He tore into PM Modi and controversially said, in rally after rally, “Chowkidar chor hain”.His speeches apparently found resonance with
the voters but he also focused on optics.

BJP used every opportunity to mock the Congress president since the party was reduced to 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Now the time for the BJP is to introspect but the Saffron party hurriedly blamed the state chief ministers for the party’s defeat and said that “Modi is still popular among the masses and the election results do not reflect Central government policies led by Modi.”

Modi’s popularity is declining steadily and it all started with demonetisation which led to the closure of small and medium businesses and the collapse of small traders industry; faulty implementation of GST that jolted people’s confidence in him, steady steep hike in fuel prices,rampant corruption and high inflation.

Modi’s allies are concerned after seeing the results in cow belt, where the BJP’s domination has ended .Modi failed to deliver on the commitments he made during 2014 campaigning which backfired in these election results.

Blog : By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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Universities should consult industry on designing courses to make students employable

Such initiatives hold the key to driving India’s innovative capacity forward and making the country more competitive.

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Enhancing employability

Even though the idea of globalisation has come under fire in the last few years, with increasing levels of discontentment over inequity in the distribution of gains, the benefits that the world economies have derived from it are often overlooked.

One unmistakable benefit has been the transfer of productivity-enhancing technology between nations and diffusion of innovation worldwide. The International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook released in April this year also pointed out that globalisation has given a significant boost to the diffusion of knowledge and technology across the world through free trade, higher foreign direct investment and the international use of patents and copyrights.

Innovation has become the key to gaining greater market share and more and more countries are shifting their policy focus on building their innovative capacities to strengthen the competitiveness of their economies. Competitiveness is defined as “the ability of firms to compete, grow and be profitable in the long run”. Studies find an unequivocal link between innovative capacity and competitiveness of nations and regions. In fact, it is almost next to impossible for businesses to become competitive without innovating in its products and operations.

With the world innovating at breakneck speed, no country wants to be left in the lurch. Most significantly, China has laid out a plan to become an “innovative nation” by 2020 and an “international innovation leader” by 2030 in its current Five-Year Plan. Even countries like Saudi Arabia that have historically been heavily resource-dependent are making a conscious move towards higher innovation. These countries are beginning to recognise the fact that building a competitive advantage based on factor endowments (cheap labour in case of China and oil reserves for Saudi Arabia) cannot be sustained over the long run. A transition to a knowledge-based economy is imperative.

India can ill-afford to find itself lagging on the curve. The country had missed out on the first industrial revolution on account of being at the receiving end of colonial history. No other phase of innovation in history has transformed industry to such an extent. Only the digital revolution at the end of the 20th century came close. It is, therefore, a rare and opportune time for India to accelerate its development process and move into the next stage of growth by focusing on strategies to foster innovative capacity.

In recognition of the urgency to act, a roundtable on “Innovation for Prosperity” was organized by NITI Aayog and the Institute for Competitiveness last week to draw actionable policy recommendations for NITI Aayog to work upon to improve India’s innovation capacity. One of the most pertinent issues raised at the roundtable was the issue of industry-academia linkage in the Indian education system.

Around the world, universities are seen as hubs of innovation where experts from varied fields come together to share their ideas for developing new technologies, systems and processes. Such innovation originating from universities usually attracts huge demand from industry. This results in diversified products and market development, which leads to the nation gaining a competitive edge in the world markets.

Such industry-academia linkages are missing in the Indian economy. Universities are meant to play a dual role of knowledge creation and knowledge transfer. But the latter is found wanting in the Indian context. The problem resides in the abysmal quality of the country’s education system that focuses more on quantity than quality from a very early stage. For instance, the focus is always on the number of hours taught rather than the quality of education imparted in those hours.

At every level of education, students are never encouraged to think. Rote-learning is encouraged through an incessant focus on marks, which leaves no scope for thinking or innovation. Further, higher education is mostly outdated and hardly industry-oriented. Therefore, the human capital in India is barely equipped to innovate for industry. Another factor that hinders any industry-academia linkage is an utter lack of clarity on who owns the IP for collaborative innovation. Until these problems persist, any collaboration between industry and academia will be difficult to achieve.

One way to move away from the status quo is to encourage universities to consult industry while designing course curricula so that the graduates are more employable and innovative. The government can also play an enabling role in facilitating higher collaboration. It can provide tax incentives or subsidise setting up of research infrastructure in universities that can be used for industrial innovation. The government could also push for higher academic exchanges by funding the transaction costs involved in the process, which can particularly help in better understanding of what industry requires from academia.

Such initiatives hold the key to driving India’s innovative capacity forward and making the country more competitive.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, senior researcher, Institute for Competitiveness, has contributed to the article)

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‘Jallianwala Bagh massacre was preceded by reign of terror by the British’

“The massacre on 13 April was part of a policy of oppression unleashed by O’Dwyer against the frequent ‘hartals’ (strikes) or the ‘Satyagraha Movement’ (launched by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)

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Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
Jallianwala Bagh, 1919: The Real Story : (Flickr)

Chandigarh, Dec 11 : As the country gears up to observe the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of innocent, unarmed Indians by ruthless British forces, the events before and after the April 13, 1919, killing of hundreds clearly indicate that the British rulers of that time were unnerved by the unrest in Punjab in general and Amritsar in particular, which led them to do something which could “teach a lesson” to the Indians.

“Though Brigadier General Reginald Dyer (who ordered his troops to fire on people who had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh on the fateful day and killed hundreds) was blamed for the action, there is hardly any documented evidence to show how he landed in Amritsar on that day as he was posted in Jalandhar (earlier Jullundur),” author and columnist Kishwar Desai told IANS in an interview here.

Desai, who has penned a book “Jallianwala Bagh, 1919: The Real Story” recently, said that her extensive research on the happenings around the massacre revealed that the British rulers were quite unnerved by the unrest in Punjab and Amritsar.

“Prior to the killings at Jallianwala Bagh, there had been signs of increasing unrest in Punjab. These signs were being interpreted as sedition, even though causes of the unrest were varied. Indeed, it is impossible to understand what happened on 13 April 1919, without an examination of the barbarism unleashed in Punjab under the regime of the then Lieutenant Governor Sir Michael O’Dwyer to suppress the so-called rebellion,” Desai, who is the chair of The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust that set up the world’s first Partition Museum at Amritsar’s Town Hall, points out in her book.

The author said that the idea to write this book and to bring out “some facets which had not been researched in detail so far” came after she chanced upon a photograph of the burnt-down Town Hall building of Amritsar. This happened in April 1919.

Further investigation and research, according to Desai, led to more evidence of the British atrocities on Indian subjects just before the Jallianwala Bagh incident and the violence that erupted in Amritsar on April 10 in which many people, including five Europeans, were killed. Properties, including the Town Hall, were targeted to protest against the British atrocities.

Disputing the commonly held narrative that the people who had gathered at the Bagh on the fateful day for an anti-Rowlatt Act meeting were outsiders who had come to Amritsar for the Baisakhi festival, Desai points out that the meeting was attended mostly by local residents of Amritsar and no more than 25 per cent of them were from outside.

“And it is very likely that the massacre was a carefully planned one, not spontaneous one as has been often made out. In all likelihood, no women were present,” Desai states in the book, adding that O’Dwyer, who was nearing retirement at that time, and others in power, were upset over the emerging importance of Punjab in the freedom struggle and retaliated with a reign of terror where people were whipped in public, bombed, incarcerated, forced to crawl, starved, beaten, caged and even executed.

“The massacre on 13 April was part of a policy of oppression unleashed by O’Dwyer against the frequent ‘hartals’ (strikes) or the ‘Satyagraha Movement’ (launched by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)… in fact, the civil administration of Punjab had already declared Amritsar a war zone (around April 11) and regarded the residents as their enemies,” Desai points out in the book.

Dyer, who had arrived in Amritsar from Jullundur on the evening of April 11, had ordered his troops to fire on the gathering inside Jallianwala Bagh on the evening of April 13, 1919. The official death figure was put at 379 while nearly 1,200 were injured. The death toll is often disputed, with claims (Indian National Congress Report) that over 1,000 innocent people were killed.

“Not a very well-known entity” when he arrived in Amritsar, Dyer had a “fairly humdrum career” till he “hit immortality as a mass murderer”, the new book says.

(Jaideep Sarin can be reached at [email protected])

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