Daily Briefing: Govt trying to turn country into a surveillance state, says Mamata; After three-month thaw, an uptick in militancy in Kashmir

Militancy-related violence has witnessed a spike in the Valley over the last six weeks, along with an increase in the participation of foreign terrorists in attacks on security forces.

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The Pegasus Project

Urging all Opposition parties to form a united front and start planning to defeat the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the government of making attempts to turn the country into a “surveillance state”. Calling the spyware “dangerous” and “ferocious”, she said: “Pegasus is dangerous. Phones of ministers, judges are being tapped. They have finished the democratic structure.”

Ruling out a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into alleged surveillance using the Pegasus spyware, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, said that the committee will “do its duty” and that the subject is “already on the mandate of my committee”. 

Barely a fortnight before the global expose on the alleged misuse of its flagship spyware, Israel’s NSO Group, in a policy document, acknowledged that “the customers for Pegasus are states and state agencies” who may be “tempted to limit fundamental freedoms”. Prepared on June 30, the policy document said NSO Group has 60 customers — states and state agencies — in 40 countries.

Only in the Express 

With anxiety levels high after two athletes — a Dutch surfboarder and a Chilean taekwondo player — had tested positive, this year’s Olympics is like no other. The five Olympic rings have ended up being a metaphor for all the hurdles they’ve had to hop and jump through simply to reach Tokyo. 

From the Front Page

After a semblance of tranquility along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir, militancy-related violence has witnessed a spike in the Valley over the last six weeks. In 2021, 86 militants were killed across J&K. In June and July alone, 36 militants or 45 per cent were killed in 16 encounters.

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After 11 people died from falling into a well in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district earlier this week, the administration immediately swung into action to quell the outrage that followed. Within 72 hours, the village got two hand pumps, while work is set to begin on three others. Overnight, three other defunct hand pumps in the village were also fixed. For the villagers, however, this rare attention from the administration has come at a great human cost.

Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has laid the blame for his government not officially reporting any deaths due to lack of oxygen during the second wave squarely on the Centre. He said that the Delhi government has no records of such deaths because the Centre did not allow it to form a committee to look into claims by patients’ families and doctors.

Meanwhile, a moving apology was made in the Rajya Sabha to all the citizens who lost their lives during the second wave of the pandemic, leaving behind a “living document” of the government’s “failure”. But it did not come from the Centre. The impassioned apology came from RJD MP Professor Manoj Jha, who urged the government to work on the right to health and right to work, and “leave demography to the demographers”.

A UK-based company, Kenrin Pvt Lt, which had purchased the pornographic app ‘Hotshots’ in 2019, was transferring money to 13 bank accounts belonging to businessman Raj Kundra’s Viaan Industries, according to the Mumbai Crime Branch. The latest twist comes after Kundra was arrested earlier this week for his involvement in the pornographic scam. The money was allegedly being transferred on the pretext of ‘software maintenance’. 

And Finally 

From pulling a hamstring right before the 2018 Asian Games, to crippling financial struggles, Judoka Shushila Devi’s journey to the Tokyo Olympics has been far from easy. But now that she has made it, the 26-year-old fondly looks back at some of the happier memories that led up to this moment. She recalls pillion-riding on her brother’s bicycle early every morning to reach the judo academy in their village in Manipur.

Delhi Confidential: With several Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) patients seeking financial assistance to get the expensive Zolgensma drug, Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden approached Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya for tax exemption for the drug. The ministers promised that the Centre can give exemption to particular cases. 

In today’s episode of ‘3 Things’, we look at the results of ICMR’s fourth serosurvey, why two BJP workers were held for fake militant attack in Kupwara, and the latest updates about the Pegasus spyware row in India. 

Until tomorrow, 

Rahel Philipose and Rounak Bagchi

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