Archives  >  2019  >  December  >  6th

The Continuing Horrors of Unnao

1. What’s the story?

It reads like the script of bad Bollywood movie, but horrifyingly enough — it isn’t. On Thursday afternoon, the rape survivor from UP’s Unnao was set on fire by unidentified men. This, after (as 6 Things had earlier covered) she had already been grievously injured, and her relatives killed in a truck accident in July — allegedly orchestrated by her attacker. Preparations are now underway to airlift her to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital in a “very serious” condition with 90% burns. 

Tell me more.

The Government seems to have swung into action — though now it may just be too late

“Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has directed senior police and state administration officials to visit the spot and submit a report by the evening. He also directed officials that the woman be given the best possible treatment.

The woman, who was raped in December last year, was on her way to a court in Rae Bareli when she was attacked. The victim has said that she was going to Baiswara Bihar railway station. “The condition of the girl who was set on fire and bought here at 10 am is very serious. She has 90 percent burn injuries and we are taking utmost care. A team of doctors are observing her,” Dr Ashutosh Dubey, medical superintendent of the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Hospital in Lucknow, told PTI.

All the five men who allegedly set her on fire have been arrested. In her statement to the police, the rape survivor said the men first hit her on the head and attacked with a knife on the neck. As she slumped, they poured petrol and set her on fire, Hindustan Times reported.

Reportedly, after being set ablaze, she ran for a while before eyewitnesses saw her and informed police, which sent her to the Community Health Centre. From there, she was sent to the district hospital before being referred to Lucknow, police said.”

Even though the five alleged perpetrators of the crime have been arrested, and the case was also brought up in Thursday’s Rajya Sabha session (where Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu claimed that mere arrest was not enough punishment for the attackers), the woman in question might not live long enough to see them being brought to justice.

So, what now?

Even if the woman survives this attempt on her life, her attackers are clearly not one to give up. And there is no guarantee that there won’t be further attacks on her life. The situation is grim, and the Government’s actions seem to be too little, too late. 

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated. 

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

The Parliament, that’s where. The much-debated Citizenship Bill that was passed by the Cabinet earlier this week is all set to be tabled in the Parliament this Monday. [Quick recap: The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to provide Indian nationality to six communities — Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, and Buddhists fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The bill amends the Citizenship Act 1955 to make illegal migrants in the select categories eligible for citizenship.]

The proposed legislation has met with aggressive resistance from the Opposition — especially because it conspicuously leaves out Muslims from this faith-based list. TMC, Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD, and the Left are among the parties that have expressed their reservation. Various groups from the North Eastern states are also not quite on board yet.

“Starting November 29, Shah, aided by Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, held a series of meetings with civil society groups and politicians from the region. The last of these meetings, with representatives from Manipur, ended well past Tuesday midnight.

In the meetings, Shah is supposed to have floated a number of ideas that he said would cushion the North Eastern states against the proposed amendment, which seeks to make undocumented non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan eligible for citizenship. North Eastern groups fear that once the Bill is passed, local populations defined as indigenous to the region will be culturally and physically swamped by migrants.

For weeks now, protests against the Bill have raged across the state of the North East.”

3. What more?

India’s rural poverty seems to have shot up over the past few years — a first in several decades. “30 million people fell below India’s official poverty line and joined the ranks of the poor over the past six years.” And the situation shows no signs of improving.

“Ever since India moved to a high growth trajectory in the 1980s, poverty rates have consistently declined over time. Until now.

Among large states, Bihar saw the greatest rise in poverty between 2011-12 and 2017-18, with poverty rate rising by a whopping 17 percentage points to 50.47 percent. Jharkhand (8.6 percentage points or ppts increase) and Odisha (8.1 ppts increase) are the other large states which saw big increases in the poverty rate. The poverty rate refers to the (percentage) share of the population that lies below the poverty line. More than 40 percent of both Jharkhand and Odisha fall below the poverty line.

West Bengal (6 ppts fall), Gujarat (5 ppts fall), and Tamil Nadu (5 ppts fall) saw the biggest declines in poverty among the large states in the period between 2011-12 and 2017-18. Among prosperous states, Maharashtra saw the biggest increase in poverty (roughly 5 ppts) over the same period.

Given the centrality of the consumption figures in the estimation of poverty, the government’s decision also has serious implications for state finances and welfare. If allocation of centrally sponsored schemes and Finance Commission grants continue to be based on outdated poverty rates (of 2011-12), states that have witnessed spikes in poverty rates will end up getting less than they need. And these are precisely the states that need help most.”

4. Anything else?

After many an obstacle, the Government of India is finally ready with its Personal Data Protection Bill 2019. It is set to be introduced in the Parliament soon. The Bill, if it comes to pass, may drastically change an average Indian’s relationship with the Internet. Here are some important things you should know about this piece of legislature.

“1. PTI tweeted that the Personal Data Protection Bill proposes penalty of up to Rs 15 cr or 4% of global turnover; and critical data must be stored in India, say sources.

2. Reports stated that the bill has categorised data into three categories—critical, sensitive and general. Sensitive data—financial, health, sexual orientation, biometrics, transgender status, religious or political beliefs and affiliation—can be stored only in India. However, data can be processed outside India with explicit consent…”

The Internet Freedom Foundation (an NGO working on digital rights and freedom) has “issued a short statement and has urged the government to look at the substance and contents of the Bill rather than just be focussed on the process and act in haste.

“Due to the large amount of concern and need for further study we recommend references to the Parliamentary Committee on IT”, tweeted the IFF.”

5. Is that all?

After many months of hesitation, the United States House Democrats have finally announced that they’re ready to draft articles of impeachment against President Trump on Thursday. (Quick recap: Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body levels charges against a government official. )

“The impeachment train is moving full steam ahead — and the next step for House Democrats is to actually write up what they’re impeaching President Trump for, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday morning.

“The president’s actions are a profound violation of the public trust,” Pelosi said. “His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution.” So, she concluded, “Today, I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment.”

These articles will be, essentially, the “charges” against the president that the House of Representatives will draw up, and then vote on, deciding whether to send them to the Senate for a trial.”

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at how the investigation into the murder of a journalist in the tiny island of Malta has exposed Europe’s failures and done more than plunge the country into deep and imminent crisis

“On a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea, on the fringes of the European Union, something incredible is unfolding. A political crisis and a social uprising, spurred by investigative journalism, are revealing the failures of Europe.

The case is complex: Malta’s best-known journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was assassinated by a car bomb in October 2017. The murder has not yet been solved. A businessman charged last weekend with complicity in her death has reportedly told police that the prime minister’s chief of staff was involved in ordering the hit.

Yet the bottom line is simple: If the Maltese government doesn’t step aside to allow independent investigations to proceed, Europe—as a set of institutions, values, and protections—will have failed.

Europe is being weakened from every direction—by Brexit, by the Polish government’s watering-down of the judiciary, by the Hungarian government’s incursions into freedom of the press, by the crisis triggered by the thousands of asylum seekers stranded in Greece. But what is happening in Malta is the most glaring example of the failures of rule of law and separation of powers in Western Europe.”

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