Rumours and blind faith can often win over facts and logic, and the past week just proves this again. And technology can take either side, depending on the users and their objectives.
While the list of mob lynching incidents in the country continued to grow, national capital Delhi made big news both for the wrong and the right reasons over the past seven days.
The week began with the news of a mob murdering five people in Maharashtra’s Dhule district over rumours, circulated via WhatsApp and text messages, of child lifting. This takes the total number of mob lynching cases to 15 incidents and 27 deaths over the past year, The Indian Express reported. The government, thus far unable to take any policy measures to stop such incidents, asked WhatsApp instead to prevent the spread of fake news.
Residents of Delhi started the week with the news of a horrific tragedy, in which 11 members of a family allegedly committed mass suicide in their house in the Burari area while following some occult religious practices.
While mass suicides have been known to occur in Japan, the Americas and some European countries in the past, this was perhaps the first reported incident of its kind in India, at least in recent memory.
Police suspect the well-educated and upwardly mobile family was drawn into the act by one of its members who suffered from delusions, once again bringing to fore issues of mental health, which are often taboo in India.
While the Delhi police is still probing this bizarre case, the city-state’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, led by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, had a lot to cheer about this week. The Supreme Court ruled that executive powers wrest with the elected government of Delhi and that the lieutenant governor—appointed by the central government—cannot interfere in every matter of the state, even though Delhi is constitutionally not a full state.
To be sure, the apex court did clarify that the state government of Delhi will have no jurisdiction in matters related to land, policing and law and order, which will continue to be under the central government. This means agencies like the Delhi Police and the Delhi Development Authority still do not come under the state government.
While Kejriwal may have notched up a political victory of sorts over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, the latter is eyeing bigger political gains ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The Modi government is getting ready to roll out an ambitious scheme that aims to provide health insurance to as many as 50 crore poor people, or 40% of the country’s population. A report by news agency Bloomberg says the government is looking to tie up with private insurers to ensure a smooth delivery of the scheme, which is being dubbed ‘Modicare’.
It is perhaps these poll calculations that led the government this week to hike the minimum support price for foodgrains in a range of 4% to 52%. This massive hike could, however, prove inflationary and force the hand of the Reserve Bank of India to raise interest rates in August when it meets for its next bi-monthly review. The central bank had raised its benchmark repo rate by 25 basis points just last month.
While the nitty-gritties of Modi’s big plans on healthcare are yet to take shape, Reliance Industries Ltd’s chief and India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, announced his company’s foray into the home broadband and TV cable segment from August. Although Ambani hasn’t yet announced any tariff plans, if his foray into the mobile telecom space is anything to go by, Reliance Jio’s broadband offerings could significantly undercut those by rival companies like Bhart Airtel Ltd.
But more importantly perhaps, Ambani also announced that he is building an e-commerce platform that will work on a hybrid online-offline model involving both Jio and Reliance Retail, which is already India’s biggest offline retail chain. This, when fully rolled out, will give the likes of Flipkart and Amazon a run for their money.