File photo Sourav Ganguly
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Jammu and Kashmir is back on the front page “in the first US Congressional hearing on India’s removal of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370” (The Indian Express). The Hindu, oddly, chooses not to carry this report on Page 1.

Former finance minister P. Chidambaram’s bail is the other big news of the day although Times of India is more interested in `SC ends CoA era in BCCI as Team Sourav takes over today’’.

US Congressional hearings: These hearings on two key aspects – J&K and India-Pakistan relations. The Indian Express’ headline encompasses both: “Humanitarian crisis in J&K… Pak has to act on terror: DC’s Delhi tightrope”; TOI focuses on Pakistan and reports “Pak must dump terror for talks with India: US”; Hindustan Times agrees with TOI: “US ‘concerned’ over J&K, says Pak must stop terror”.

Express says the “Trump administration walked the diplomatic tightrope, telling the US Congress that there is a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in J&K” but also added that its relationship with “India is not of ‘diction’ but of ‘partnership’”.

HT says “the US supports the Indian government’s stated objectives” for scrapping J&K’s special status. TOI mentions a “key administration official” saying that “the foundation of any successful dialogue between Indian and Pakistan is based on Pakistan taking… steps against militants”.

P. Chidambaram’s bail: There’s some “relief at last” for Chidambaram who was granted bail by the Supreme Court in the INX Media case, reports Hindu. “There is, however, no chance of his walking free” because the ED has already taken him into custody in the money laundering case related to the INX Media scam, it adds. Express highlights SC’s scathing attack on CBI: “Apex court tears into CBI claims..” it writes. SC said “there is not even a ‘whisper’…he has tried to influence witnesses”. TOI and HT report the news but the SC’s comments are left to inside pages.

Abhijit Banerjee meets PM Modi: TOI reports on Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee’s interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday. It quotes Modi saying that it was a “healthy and extensive interaction on various subjects”. HT and Express carry just a photograph of the meet –nothing on Hindu’s page 1.

Others: It’s a day of SC decisions – TOI’s cricket lead says “The Supreme Court… signaled the end of its six-year-long monitoring” of the BCCI, “clearing the way for elected office bearers to once again run the affairs” it writes.

Hindu’s second lead reports that the apex court has decided to “examine whether social media intermediaries, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, should facilitate the state to access encrypted and private conversations of citizens”.

TOI also carries a report on press freedom, on its flap, in the light of Australian newspapers blacking out their front pages Monday. The media often “have to function on restrictive laws and policies, spoken and unspoken, that serve to strictly dictate what can or cannot be reported”, it writes

Opinion

The Indian Express: Express writes on how the proportion of young workers, in the 18-30 age group, who are enrolled in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or MGNREGA scheme has increased post the 2016 demonetisation and GST-hit economy. This is “disturbing” since the MNREGA scheme is targeted to provide 100 days of work to rural households. The report reflects “little or limited opportunities” for rural youth to seek out opportunities in cities due to slump in construction, real estate and manufacturing, as well as service sectors. The “warning signs were evident much earlier,” writes Express. Despite the PM calling the scheme a “living monument of the UPA’s failure”, the demand for work under the scheme rose almost 10 per cent compared to the previous year. Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee recently pointed out that the fall in average consumption expenditure in rural areas is a “worrying factor”, suggesting raising wages under MGNREGA and farm support prices. “Hopefully”, the government and policymakers will take heed to some of these suggestions.

Prime Time

News channels debated everything from the exit polls in Haryana and Maharashtra (India TV, Zee News), to the impending guidelines on social media use (NDTV India, Times Now). Kashmir – a prime time favourite – was also discussed (ABP), and also how Abhijit Banerjee #ExposedPseudos (Republic TV).

ABP News: #PakKaAtomRag was trending on ‘Sidha Sawal’ with Rubika Liyaquat, after Pakistan’s Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid threatened India with nuclear war.

Qamar Cheema, Pakistani defense expert, defended the minister, saying he was responding to a statement by India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. “This nuclear signalling was initiated by India…Why did Rajnath Singh first talk about disintegrating Pakistan?”

Kashmiri Activist Lalit Ambardar mocked Rashid, and called his statement Pakistan’s “periodically comedy performance”. “The main character of this comic performance is Shaikh Rashid who never gets tired of making such statements.”

BJP’s Sudhanshu Trivedi stressed on the need for Pakistan to introspect: “Even China and the US do not take Pakistan seriously… United Arab Emirates which was supposedly a good ally of Pakistan awarded ‘Order of Zayed’ to PM Modi. They (Pakistan) should understand that they are isolated.”

NDTV 24X7: The two-year delay in releasing the 2017 NCRB crime data – that too leaving out information on lynchings – led anchor Sreenivasan Jain to discuss it on ‘Reality Check.’

“The reason why the NDA government is hiding the farmer suicide data is because they say that we are doing so many schemes for farmers, implying that the suicide rate has gone down,” said lawyer Colin Gonsalves.

Vikram Singh, former Uttar Pradesh DGP, said the delay in releasing the data was “counterproductive”. “This is the basic job of the NCRB and if they have not been able to put their act together for the past 2-3 years, I really don’t know what the problem is…this delay has done irreparable damage to policy formulation.”

Times Now: On `The NewsHour’, anchor Padmaja Joshi debated the proposed government guidelines for social media. Joshi questioned one of the panellists supportive of this move and said: “Aren’t there already laws, covering social media and national security crimes? Now, basically what you want to do is snoop on what two adults are talking about.”

BJP Spokesperson Tuhin A. Sinha said, “Times have changed significantly. And today whether it is organising anarchy or waging a war, the internet today is a far more potent and lethal medium than public mobilisation of forces.”

Ashutosh, former AAP spokesperson, said, “There are people who are openly spreading poison and harming communal harmony. And no action is taken against them, which is what is creating problems.”

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