LIBERATED: The First Information Report (FIR) against Vinod Dua, the Psephologist (predictor of poll results), was squashed by the Supreme Court. The case had been filed against Vinod Dua for his social media video which hit out at Narendra Modi for the condition of migrant labour during last year’s lockdown. The SC also declared that Journalists are entitled to protection in sedition cases

BY RAJAN NARAYAN

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court declared that no journalist can be arrested for merely criticizing the government. For a Saturday following the week when the poor response to the vaccination drive of the Goa Government. For a Saturday following the week when the Covid-19 rate continued to fall with positivity down to 19% and the number of new cases on June 1 being 903. For a Saturday following the week when the Central Board Secondary Exams,(CBSE) decided to cancelled the CBSE exam with Goa likely to follow suit. For a Saturday following the week when Twitter bowed to the Central directives and agreed to appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer.

SC PROTEST MEDIA

AND a few stray thoughts on the Supreme Court declaring that no journalist can be arrested for criticizing the government. The Supreme Court was responding to an appeal from Vinod Dua, former speacilist in predicting outcome of elections, who used to work with Pranoy Roy, of NDTV as a Anchor. Vinod Dua, who had started his own video channel ,had criticized the Narendra Modi government for the miseries of the migrant labour during the almost year long lockdown imposed by the Central Government. When a lockdown takes place, contract labour who form the majority of the employees in industry, loose their jobs because they are on daily wages. In addition they loose the roof over their head as most of them stay on rent. Unlike in the UK and the US there is no law, requiring the landlord to permit them to pay later when they get back their jobs. The Himachal Pradesh Government, which was ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Vinod Dua, for his criticism of the BJP government and the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Unlike in the case of the second wave of covid-19, when states were permitted to take their own decisions on the timing and extent of the lockdown, during, the first lockdown Modi shut up the entire country for more then a year. This led to mass migration of labour from the metropolitan centres like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and other industrial hubs back to their home towns in Bihar or Jharkhand or Uttar Pradesh. Even in Goa at least 40% of the population are migrants from Karnataka, Orissa, Jharkhand and even Nagaland.
The Supreme Court, has not only squashed the FIR against Vinod Dua, but in a landmark judgement, has declared that no journalist can be arrested just for criticizing the government. The Supreme Court has declared that on the basis of the principles laid down in the Kedar Nath Singh case in 1962, the citizen has a right to criticize or comment upon measures undertaken by the government and its functionaries so long as, it does not incite people to violence against the government with the intention of creating public disorder. The Supreme Court has reiterated that “every journalist will be entitled to protection… as every prosecution under section 124A and 505 of the Indian Panel Code must be in strict conformity with the principles laid down in the Kedar Nath case.” The Supreme Court has also provided relief to the media in contempt cases which have been a major irritant. With no rules governing contempt cases, they are filed without adequate justification. The Supreme Court has now made it clear that contempt action can be initiated only in respect of established willful disobedience of the order of a Court. The SC has also added that all journalist are entitle to protection in sedition cases. The verdict of the Supreme Court comes as a great relief, not only to the media fraternity, but particularly to Vinod Dua and his wife who are both under treatment for covid-19.

HUNTING FOR SLOTS

AND a few stray thoughts on the poor response to the vaccination drive of the Goa Government. In the light of the directions from the High Court, the state government had increased the number of vaccination centres. The government has also extended the time of operation of these centres from 9am to 5pm. It has announced special tikka drives to encourage young people in the age group 18-44 to take the vaccination which is being offered free. Unfortunately, there is not being much response from the beneficiaries. In several centres less than ten people have been turning up for vaccination. This leads to wastage of the vaccine vial which contains ten to twelve units. It has to be used within four hours or it gets spoiled. The primary reason for vaccine hesitancy is the requirement that anyone in the age group 18-44 who wants to get vaccinated has to register on the CoWin app and get a slot which means an appointment for the day date, time and place of vaccination. A large number of the young people in the 18-44 age group are migrant labour who do not smart phones. Even if they do they do not know how to download the app and get a slot for themselves. They are not qualified for the game of fastest finger first which is the basis for the ‘kon benega crorepati’ shows of Amitabh Bachchan. In fact people living in upper class residential areas, where there is too much competition for fastest finger seek a slot in a rural area where it is easier to get it. The vaccination crises can only be solved by permitting those entitled to the same to register on the spot on the basis of their aadhar card.

RIGHT TO PROPERTY

AS important as the property issue in marriages performed under the Civil Code, it is also equally important to stress that the wife has equal rights in a contemporary marriage. The fear is that if a BJP government decides to conduct counselling classes it might expect or advise the bride or wife to be adjusting. Advocate Caroline Colaço, who has handled several divorce cases, reveals that most of the problems arise from the mother-in-law expecting the daughter-in-law to be cook, maid and obedient wife.
In most traditional marriages the husband is considered the head of the family and the women has no rights. For instance without the permission of her husband, the wife cannot take up a job to be economically independent. The fear is that the BJP might impose the Hindutuva model of marriage on Goa.
The Minister knows that the Catholics have been holding counselling sessions for several decades and these cover all aspects of marriage, including sexual relations. Expectations are very high when a couple gets married. Unfortunately, when the expectations are not realised and couple do not recognise the responsibilities and hard work required to make the marriage work, it inevitably ends in divorce.
It must be noted that even in the case of divorce Goa’s Civil Code offers you enough economic security. You continue to be entitled to 50% of the ancestral or combined wealth while you were married. In the case of the Catholic community however, divorces are not recognised unless there is an annulment granted by the Church. However, in Goa even Catholic couples can get a civil divorce from the court.

RUMOR MONGERING

AND a few stray thoughts on Covid-19 cases coming down in Goa but not to the extent they have come down in the UK. In sharp contrast to Goa, UK has not had a single covid case after a long and strict lockdown since March 2021. In Goa the positivity rate has come down to 19% from the peak of 50% though it is still close to the national average of 20%. The number of death was down to 22 on June 2 from the high of 75 in May.
What is satisfying is that the average number of deaths is below 25 in the last one week. Though the Dean of the GMC claims there are no fresh black fungus cases, the daily Health Department’s Covid Bulletin reported two deaths from black fungus on June 1. In what is being called a case of rumour mongering by the Goa Chapter of the Paediatric Society, Dr Shivanad Bandekar insists that the third wave could hit Goa by July.
But this will happen only if Goa goes back to its irresponsible behaviour of lifting the curbs on entry of tourist into the state. As it is it would appear that Goa has not understood the implications of lifting the curfew. Suddenly, the CM who extended ongoing curfew till June 7, asked all the government servants to report to duty. This time around it is not been limited to 50% of the employees but 100% of the employees. Since Goa has over 60,000 government employees there is a very major risk of a revival of the epidemic.
Just the photographs of the sudden increase in traffic after the re-opening of offices show that Covid-19 protocol such as maintaining a physical distance has gone for a toss. Ideally, Goa should have waited till at least 60% of its small population of 15-18 lakh gets vaccinated. But as of now only four lakh residents of Goa have received both their tikka. On an average less than 25,000 people are availing of the facility of free vaccination for the 18-44 group. This could be because most migrants who are almost 40% of the population do not know how to get a slot in the CoWin app. There is no provision for walk-in registration with Adhaar card.
There is also an acute shortage of the Covishield vaccine. Which is the only vaccine recognised for travel. The state government is only providing Covaxin to the 18-44 age group. In view of the shortage of Covishield there are many senior citizens like me who are not been able to take the second dose. Even on a national basis India, has the worst vaccination record, having succeeded in vaccinated less than 10% of the population. This is in contrast to countries like the UK, US and Europe where all citizens have been vaccinated.
Ironically, the Minister and MLA of Candolim Michael Lobo, who was primarily responsible for the delay in imposing curbs on the entry of tourists without a negative certificate, is now demanding an extension of the curfew. Michael Lobo, the Calangute MLA, is demanding that the curfew should continue till there are zero positive cases and deaths in Goa.

CBSE EXAM CANCELLED

AND a few stray thoughts on the Central government having decided to cancel the Central Board of Secondary Education exams for the 12th standard in view of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. In his Maan ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that the decision has been taken in the interests of the students and the anxiety among parents and teachers. The CBSE is the exams conducted by the schools managed by the Central government, primarily for its own staff and for the defence forces who are subject to transfers from time to time. They, however, also permit local students to enrol in their schools.
Besides CBSE there is the Indian Cambridge Secondary Exams (ICSE) conducted for what are considered the most elite schools in the country, such as the Sharada Mandir in Goa. There are also the secondary schools which are affiliated to the State Educational Department. The State government has already decided to cancel the secondary school exams for 10th standard students.
In fact it has announced that the SSE exam results would be declared on July 13. It has directed that every school must form a SSC result panel chaired by the principal or the headmaster and comprising six teachers. In addition a minimum of one teacher from some other school must be part of the panel for a group of 50 students. This panels have been ask to finalise the results of the SCC students based on their past record and internal assessment by June 26. After these are examined by a special committee, the results will be declared on July 13. The CM Pramod Sawant has cancelled the higher secondary exams in Goa followining the example of CBSE.

TWITTER BOWS DOWN

AND a last stray thoughts on the defiant Twitter which had taken the Central government to court bowing down and agreeing to appointing a Grievance Redressal Officer. The job of the officer will be to examine complaints from the government about offensive posts on Twitter.
While there is lot of tamasha on Facebook being manipulated by parties and individuals, few realise that what appears on social media depends on how much money has been paid. All the social media organisations including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are money making organisations.
We keep getting messages from so called digital marketing experts offering to place our website or the data on our website on the first page of the Google search engine. The obvious implication is that the party which pays the most appears on the first page or even the first, when you Google for any information. For instance, if you Google on who is the most favourite politician in India, the answer will probably be Narendra Modi, as the Social Media Wing of the BJP is the most active in boosting the image. Similarly, the number of people who visit your post on Facebook can be boosted for a price.
Indeed, Facebook openly informs you how much you will have to pay depending on to what extent you want to boost your post. Similarly, the claims of various politicians and film stars that they have millions of followers, may be in proportion to how much advertising they do. The main source of income of all the social media organisations is advertising. There is a huge on-going controversy on the privacy of postings on WhatsApp after it was bought over by Facebook and it has started discussing a change in the privacy policy.
What this means is that all your personal information, which will include not only your name and address but also your likes and dislikes, will be passed on to big consumer companies. This will enable the consumer companies to save on market research. To give an example, the most popular sanitizer need not necessarily be the best sanitizer. Everything depends on whether it is Dettol or Savlon or Himalaya or any of the other companies and how much they spend on advertising and gathering data on consumers from the social media companies.

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