A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has spearheaded moves to loosen campaign finance laws in India, generating criticism that businesses—and foreigners—could potentially wield unprecedented influence over the election starting next month.

The new rules let corporations, including those partly owned by foreign entities, fund elections anonymously. They also permit businesses to bankroll political parties through opaque instruments called electoral bonds and enable shell companies to be conduits for election funding.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

The changes, which Modi’s party has said were designed to at least partially account for undocumented cash long used during India’s elections, may actually make it easier—and legal—for anonymous donors to support political parties. Spending on the election ending May 23 is set to rise 40 percent to 500 billion rupees ($7 billion), according to the New Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies.

“It won’t be an exaggeration to say our elections will never be the same again,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, the group’s chairman, who has advised previous Indian governments. “What is this if not the auctioning of our democracy to the highest-paying corporation?”

Modi swept to power in 2014 promising a business-friendly administration that would transform India’s image on the world stage. He remains the favorite for many investors, despite more recently introducing populist policies to boost support in rural India and tightening rules against corporate defaulters.

The biggest innovation in India’s campaign finance laws is the anonymous electoral bond. Despite the name, they bear little resemblance to the promissory notes investors are familiar with: Buyers aren’t paid any interest.

Anyone can buy an electoral bond at the government-owned State Bank of India in denominations ranging from 1,000 rupees to 10 million rupees ($14 to $140,000). Afterward they are delivered to a political party, which can exchange them for cash. They don’t carry the name of the donor and are exempt from tax.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

“Electoral bonds have made political parties completely beholden to unaccounted money, which could even be foreign money or money from dubious sources,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, the former head of India’s top business school and the founder of the Association for Democratic Reforms, a group that researches elections. “Corporate agendas can run the show.”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who first announced plans for the electoral bonds in 2017, argued last year that they actually help improve transparency because they are banking instruments and every political party has to disclose how much it received. If full transparency is required, donors would go back to cash, he wrote in a January 2018 Facebook post.

For those in India worried about anonymous money in politics, the process for changing the laws has offered little reassurance that the new measures are an improvement.

System Overhaul

India’s campaign finance overhaul began in 2017, when parliament approved an amendment that made it easier for companies to donate to campaigns, including removing a cap on corporate donations (the maximum used to be 7.5 percent of a company’s average net profits over three years). Now new firms can also donate to political parties, opening the door for shell companies to be set up expressly for the purpose.

Also eliminated were requirements for companies to disclose how much they donated and to which party.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

The changes were introduced in parliament via a money bill, a measure that only needs to be passed by the lower house controlled by Modi’s ruling coalition and not the opposition-led upper house.

A similar tactic was used to pass with little debate rules that changed the definition of a foreign company. Previously, all subsidiaries of international entities were treated as overseas donors and not allowed to make political contributions. Now if a foreign firm has a stake of less than 50 percent in a company operating in India, that unit can fund Indian elections.

While several lawmakers protested the moves, analysts said the amendments will benefit both Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the main opposition Congress party.

“Nobody from the opposition spoke up,” Rao said. “Maybe everybody realizes they stand to gain if they come to power?”

In 2014, the Delhi High Court found both major parties guilty of violating foreign-exchange laws when they accepted a donation from London-based commodities giant Vedanta Resources Plc.

(The suit, filed by a former top bureaucrat and the Association for Democratic Reforms, was against the political entities and Vedanta wasn’t a party. The company didn’t respond to request for comment. The BJP and Congress argued the donations weren’t foreign because the Vedanta units that channelled the money were registered under Indian law.)

The law passed last year changed the definition of a foreign company all the way back to 1976, effectively nullifying the court’s verdict because Vedanta’s overseas parent owned less than 50 percent of the Indian unit.

The government has defended the revisions, saying they were intended to align the definition of “foreign source” with the nation’s foreign direct investment policies, and other laws bar political funding from abroad. GVL Narasimha Rao and Nalin Kohli, representatives of Modi’s BJP, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The latest official data show that Modi’s ruling party won the bulk of financing in the year ended March 2018, both through corporate donations and electoral bonds.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

In 2018, electoral bonds worth about 10.6 billion rupees ($150 million) were purchased, according to data obtained under India’s Right to Information Act by Factly, a data journalism portal in India. About 90 percent were of the highest denomination available, which is out of reach for the average citizen.

India’s rules governing political contributions are looser than other major democracies. In the U.K., companies aren’t directly allowed to make donations to political parties. The U.S. allows unlimited funding through political action committees called super PACs on federal election campaigns, but requires them to disclose the names of donors. Milan Vaishnav, Washington-based senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who’s edited a book on Indian political funding, said he hasn’t seen an instrument like electoral bonds in any other country.

“In most advanced democracies, transparency is a core principle,” Vaishnav said. “Few advanced democracies legitimize opacity in the way India has done.”

[“source=bloombergquint”]

Police warn parents of 14 apps that could be dangerous for kids

LAS VEGAS (KSNV) – Law enforcement agencies across the country are warning parents of 14 popular apps that could put kids in danger of predators.

Police are urging parents to check their children’s phones and the apps on their devices as this is the best way to defend against possible predators.

Some tips to protect children according to police are:

  • Approve every app on your kid’s phone
  • Check their privacy settings
  • Speak with your children about phone use, app use and social media

14 apps that police say could be dangerous for children. (Source:Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office’ Facebook)

Here are the 14 apps police say parents need to be aware of:

SNAPCHAT: allows users to take pictures and videos that disappear with new features like ‘stories’ that allow users to view content for 24 hours and see your location.

KIK: allows anyone to direct message instead of text messaging and gives unlimited access to anyone, anytime.

YELLOW: allows teens to flirt with one other similar to Tinder.

HOLLA: video chat app that allows users to meet through their phones across the world in seconds.

OMEGLE: allows users to chat for free and encourages anonymous chatting with strangers.

BUMBLE: similar to Tinder, a dating app that requires women to make first contact, though kids are known to create fake accounts and falsify their age.

WISHBONE: allows users to compare photos to each other and rate one another on a scale.

CALCULATOR%: secret app that allows users to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.

ASK.FM: notorious for cyberbullying, this app encourages to anonymously message others to ask questions.

WHISPER: anonymous social media app that allows users to share secrets with others and can share users’ locations so they can meet.

BURNBOOK: allows users to post anonymous rumors through text, audio and pictures.

HOT OR NOT: allows users to rate profiles and find people in their area and chat.

LIVE.ME: live streaming app that uses geolocation to share videos so users can see the broadcaster’s location.

INSTAGRAM: one of the most popular apps among children, kids are known to use this app for fake accounts and to text since the conversation is deleted when someone leaves the chat.

These are only examples of potentially dangerous apps, and parents should monitor all apps and note if they offer messaging features.

[“source=katv”]

Out of phone storage? Five Android apps that help you clean up space, make phone snappy

There are a number of apps that can help you do more with the existing storage of your phone

By Zia Askari

Let’s face it, we all hate to wake up and find there is little space in the internal memory of our mobile phone. Whether you have a device that carries 16GB internal storage or 128GB of storage, it becomes a daunting task to optimise the performance of storage in your device, more so for a not-so-tech-savvy person. There are a number of apps that can help you do more with the existing storage of your phone such as organising files in a better manner, compressing files, and managing duplicate content on the device. We take a look at five Android apps that can help you organise storage in an efficient manner.

Astro File Browser
Astro File Browser is one of the oldest file manager apps that have been designed to help manage storage in a simplistic and yet effective manner. Some of the important features of this app include support on cloud storage, SD card support, file compression, app management. This app also provides archive extraction support.

File Manager
As simple as it may sound, File Manager is another good app that can help you manage your storage quite efficiently without adding too much of pressure on your computing resources. This app provides basic file management features along with cloud storage.
You can browse your installed apps, photos, audio, video and downloads, etc., with this app.

Clean Master
Clean Master is a widely used app because of its seamless storage cleaning capabilities. It lets you clean the app cache, residual files, history within the apps and many other junk files which pile up after you start using apps in your device. The most important factor contributing to the success of this app is the fact that this does not cause battery drainage.

Total Commander
Total Commander is one of the most powerful storage management apps on Play Store. It comes with a number of interesting features such as network storage, cloud storage support, book marks, plugin support, and also comes with an included text editor.

X-Plore File Manager
Yet another innovative storage management app, this delivers a unique interface in the form of dual panes—which means that you will be managing two windows at once pretty much all the time. This helps if you need to copy/paste between folders or need to move files quickly between two folders. This app also comes with support for various types of files, network storage, cloud storage, network storage (FTP, DLNA/UPnP), root support, and other features.

Duplicate Media Remover
Most of the time, unknowingly, we all have a lot of duplicate content in the form of pictures, voice files and videos occupying our precious internal memory space. This app can help you scan, find and remove all similar files including audio, videos, images and other files and manage your phone storage quite effectively. It provides options to select folders and to find and remove identical files between them. Using this tool, you can schedule scans on a weekly basis where it will scan device as per your convenience and help you manage your storage in an easy manner.

[“source=financialexpress”]

IPL 2019: No opening ceremony, money to be donated to families of Pulwama martyrs

In light of the recent Pulwama attack, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) chief Vinod Rai on February 22 said that this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) will not have any opening ceremony. The money due to be spent on the ceremony will instead be donated to families of the martyred.

The opening ceremonies of the IPL are usually glitzy affairs with performances from Bollywood stars being the major highlight. However, the CoA has decided to scrap the glamorous event as a sign of solidarity towards the families of the martyrs.

The IPL is set to begin on March 23 with last year’s champions Chennai Super Kings taking on the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Chennai.

The Pulwama attack took place on February 14 and its effects are being strongly felt even in the cricketing world. There have been increasing calls for India to boycott their match against Pakistan at the upcoming Cricket World Cup in England. Former players like Harbhajan Singh and Mohammad Azharuddin have called for a boycott while a few such as Sunil Gavaskar have pointed out that such a move doesn’t benefit India in any way.

The Rai-led CoA is yet to take any stand on India playing Pakistan at the World Cup but have said that they will approach the ICC with an appeal to ban Pakistan due to the country acting as a terrorist hub.

“We are in talks with the government. No decision has been taken on the June 16 match. We are expressing two concerns to the ICC. We will ask for more protection for players during the World Cup and we will tell cricketing nations to sever ties with any nation that is a terrorist hub,” said Rai following a meeting of the CoA.

[“source=moneycontrol”]