News Wrap


A State Government Enterprise, Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd had acquired 3377 acres of land from nearly 1250 farmers, across 12 villages, about two decades ago for the plant. The land had remained in the possession of the farmers, who continued cultivating it, all these years, in rural Bhavnagar. Several times the company tried to take possession of the land, for a proposed lignite plant. More than 100 farmers have been detained since 01 April 2018, when the farmers protested in a march, against the Gujarat state government’s move to take possession of the farming land. A large number of women farmers have been detained by police. Around 75 tear gas shells were fired and local protesters baton charged. The farmers had petitioned the Gujarat High Court demanding the company initiate fresh acquisition proceedings. The 2013 Land Act stipulates that the process of land acquisition must start afresh, if possession has not been taken, more than five years after the original acquisition. Police are baton charging the protesters near Badi village. The Gujarat High Court has completed the hearings.

Secret Maoist Camps
A secret Maoist camp was smashed following an ‘exchange’ of fire between Maoists and Security Forces inside Kukulajhar forest, near Khajuripada in Kandhamal district (Odisha state) on 27 March 2018. Protesting against construction of roads in remote pockets, Maoists torched three tractors, an excavator and a concrete mixer machine at the camp of a firm, near Gumudumaha village, under the Baliguda police station limits in Kandhamal district, on 28 March 2018 night. Around 40 armed Maoists, including women cadres reached the camp site of the road construction firm late on 28 March 2018 night. After threatening the staff and labourers of the firm, they resorted to arson. The road connecting Kurtamgarh and Gumudumaha was under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. The road would provide easy communication for inhabitants of Gumudumaha and Balimaha, to reach Baliguda, 8 to 10 km away. Handwritten Odia posters left at the spot by the uttras of the Kalahandi-Kandhamal-Boudh-Nayagarh (KKBV) division of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) organisation claimed their involvement in the arson. In one poster, the Maoists claimed that the road was being constructed to exploit the area, and loot natural resources. Another poster denounced Narsimha Reddy, alias Jampanna, a central committee member of the CPI (Maoist), who was earlier leading the KKBN division, and had surrendered in Telengana in December 2017.

Facebook and Privacy
The social media giant, Facebook, is stumbling through controversies over the pedding of fake news and enabling Russian manipulation of US voters. A political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica has obtained detailed data about some 50 million Facebook users, and shared the drove of information and analysis with third parties, including US President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Facebook has violated US Federal Trade Commission consent decree of 2011, requiring the social network to notify users about how their data are shared. During March 2018, the firm’s share price fell by 8.5%, erasing $45 billion in market value, but continues to be world’s eighth-most-valuable publicly listed firm. The data on Facebook users were obtained by Aleksanda Kogan, a researcher at Cambridge University, who enticed some 270,000 people to take part in a survey in exchange for a small fee. When those users installed survey app, they shared details about themselves and their friends, around 50 million Facebook users. Kogan provided these data to Cambridge Analytica, which then allegedly shared with customers, including Donald Trump’s campaign. News of Cambridge Analytica’s pedding of Facebook data was first reported in December 2015. Cambridge Analytica pushed ethical and legal barriers to gather data. Facebook has built a mammoth advertising business, with sales of around $40 billion in 2017, by gathering detailed information about users’ identities and behaviour online, and then selling access to them. Facebook tracks users on its services, social network, Instagram and across the web. Political advertising comprises 3% of Facebook’s revenue, but it is a growing and lucrative line. However, chances of a regulatory backlash are growing. Europe is inflicting punishment by a thousand cuts, from digital taxes to anti-trust cases.

India’s ruling BJP and the principal opposition Congress are exchanging charges with hiring the controversial data-mining company Cambridge Analytica for targeting and wooing voters and boosting the profiles of their traders by accessing people’s data from social media unscrupulously. The two leading political parties are charging each other of hiring the CA and depending on ‘‘data theft’’ to woo voters. There are several media reports which claimed that the CA would work for the Congress for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Media reports have also claimed that CA would work for the BJP too, for the 2019 general elections. 200 million Indians are using Facebook. Social Network Facebook offers users the option to ‘‘deactivate’’ an account for users who wish to take a break, and return later, or to ‘‘delete’’ the account and its data entirely. It could take 90 days to fully delete an account, and the data may be inaccessible during that period. Senior figures at CA have boasted that they could entrap politicians and use former spies to gather information to influence foreign elections. The Congress and the BJP are engaged in a war of words over British data firm CA and its Indian arms being engaged during past elections. CA’s Indian arm Overliva Business Intelligence (OBI) is run by JD(U) leader K C Tyagi’s son Amrish Tyagi. Certain union ministers follow CA on Twitter, and the BJP’s former Information Technology cell head Arvind Gupta has lauded the work done by CA on the micro-blogging site. CA has received data harvested in an ‘‘app’’ from Facebook, which was downloaded by around 270,000 people, but scooped up information on up to 50 million people. Questions are being raised about CA’s role in Britain’s vote to leave the EU in 2016.

There are claims made by France-based hacker Elliot Alderson, in a series of tweets, that the personal data including e-mail IDs, photos, gender and names of the users of Modi’s mobile app were being sent to a third party domain, ‘‘’’ without their consent. The French vigilante hacker has purportedly alleged that data was stolen from the Narendra Modi’s official app—‘‘Na Mo App’’ without consent of the users. The BJP has reacted on Twitter saying that the data is used only for analytics using third party service, similar to Google Analytics, 13 lac National Cadet Crops cadets were forced to download the Narendra Modi App (Na Mo App) which secretly records audio, video, contacts of friends and families and even track location via GPS. The Congress party sends data to Singapore Servers which misuses users’ data, with ‘‘With INC’’ app, as well as its membership website. Data firm CA’s parent company, SCL Group was hired to work in India between 2009 and 2010 to ‘‘assess the phenomenon of honour killing’’ in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The client for whom SCL Group worked on this subject in undisclosed.

Free Market in Africa
An ambitious, Africa continent-wide free-trade agreement by African leaders was signed in Kigali on 21 March 2018. 44 African leaders signed the agreement, although all 55 members of the African Union (AU) had been involved in negotiations around the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). Relationships and infrastructure dating back to the colonial era, shape trade in Africa. African countries mostly sell primary commodities to other continents. Only 18% of their exports are traded within Africa, where they often face high tariffs. CFTA will create a ‘‘single continental market for goods and services’’. The UN agency UNCTAD calculates that eliminating import taxes between African countries would increase regional trade by a third, and lift African GDP by 1% over time. Nearly half of this trade is in manufactured goods, currently. Services would also be opened up. Some protectionists feel that importers will slap ‘‘Made in Africa’’ labels on goods from elsewhere. Countries are supposed to eliminate tariffs on a list comprising 90% of products. Standards and licenses are different across Africa.

Vol. 50, No.51, June 24 - 30, 2018