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Social media reason behind shifting of War into release of IAF pilot

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The hysteria unleashed on social media platforms after Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman’s plane crashed in Pakistani territory on February 27 is partly responsible for the sudden shift in focus from fighting cross-border terrorism to bringing the pilot back home, experts believe.

The country erupted into joyous celebration following Varthaman’s release after spending over 60 hours in Pakistani captivity.

“Social media did help to build pressure on Pakistan to quickly release the pilot which is excellent. But the hectic activity on social media contributed to derailing the counter-terror measures that the government had initiated after the Pulwama attack on February 14 that killed 40 CRPF troopers,” Pavan Duggal, one of the nation’s top cyber law experts, told IANS.
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In a video circulated on social media, the IAF pilot was shown as demonstrating great courage in withholding sensitive information, including his whereabouts in India. However, social media users wasted no time in giving away that information, without realising that whatever they posted were available for a global audience.

“Indian social media users did not exercise the restraint that they were supposed to have in times like these. They were posting without understanding their ramifications. The way they were circulating information, most of which were fake, demonstrated that they became victims of psychological warfare controlled by foreign powers,” Duggal said.
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“Abhinandan was part of a broader strategy, but that broader strategy receded into the background partly due to the hectic activity on social media,” he said, adding, that a lot of what the mainstream media showed was somehow linked to content on social media.

Leading tech policy and media consultant Prasanto K. Roy agreed with Duggal when he said that much of the information that was moving fast in social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook was neither genuine nor true.

“We have seen a flurry of fake information and edited videos being circulated on social media from both sides of the border,” Roy told IANS, adding that some of those information circulated in social media might have been very painful to the family of the Indian pilot who was captured in Pakistan.

“The impact of social media has been overwhelmingly negative during the period following India’s an air strike targeting terror camps in Pakistan on February 26,” he added.

So what happens when people do not exercise self-restraint in a situation like the one India faced over the past 10 days?
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“In such a case when self-regulation becomes ineffective, it will be a good idea to come up with specific guidelines which should govern the behaviour and the acts done on social media during important moments of our national interest,” Duggal said.

“We have in place something called Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011 which often asks service providers to inform people not to do certain activities on their platform.

“But the IT Rules 2011 don’t have teeth. I think there should be now a dedicated provision for legal consequences should you violate these provisions,” Duggal noted.

Overall, he said, this episode can be seen as a learning experience for social media users as this is the first time they were confronted with a situation of this magnitude and importance.

“Social media users should become warriors for the country rather than impacting India’s sovereign interest. At the same time, the government should also not be influenced by the change in the course of social media discourses,” Duggal said.

National

2020 will be known as year of internal discovery: Modi

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The year just ending may be called by some as one of external disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic but for India, it will be known as a year of internal discovery, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, affirming that “reforms and resolve, resilience and responsibility will power our journey in the coming year”.

“Some may call the year 2020 as a year of external disruptions due to the pandemic. But I firmly believe that 2020 will be known, not as a year of external disruption, but as a year of internal discovery, for our citizens, for our society and for our nation,” Modi writes in a special article in the “Manorama Yearbook 2021”.

Noting that adversity not only builds strength “but also brings out our true innate character”, he writes that the pandemic “has brought to the fore India’s national character for the entire world to behold, as a resilient and united nation. Across the world, people have expressed wonder at the way in which Indians, whether poor or rich, young or old, rural or urban, have shown the ability to be responsible, disciplined, focused, law-abiding, patient and composed during a crisis of unprecedented proportions”.

“We have not only stayed firm in the face of trying circumstances but have also helped the world – India emerged as a pharmacy to the world, sending life-saving drugs and medicines far and wide, at the same time ensuring no shortage to our own people,” Modi writes.

Even as the country and the people were battling a once-in a-century health pandemic, various parts of the country faced devastating cyclones and other such hardships. “However, the central government, various state governments, and people from across the country came together to face these challenges.” “Our nation’s resilient spirit was complemented by our robust systems and institutions. Our physical infrastructure held together by the fabric of our society formed the foundation of our determined response. Our healthcare infrastructure was tested but never bested. Even as systems were crumbling in many other countries, our infrastructure scaled rapidly and immensely to help crores of people in various ways,” Modi writes.

Speaking about the future, he says India “is ready for an ambitious marathon” on the road to development in the coming decade.

“A slew of reforms across various sectors are strengthening our development trajectory. Earlier, reforms used to be hostage to political expediencies. However, political calculations matter only when a nation is aiming low. For an aspirational nation that wants to surge towards its destiny, no bar is high enough for us to leap over.

“Today, India is progressing rapidly towards the goal of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. An Aatamanirbhar Bharat means an India which is more competitive, an India which is more productive and an India which celebrates local talent. An Aatmanirbhar Bharat will increase India’s role in global supply chains by attracting more global businesses to India to take full advantage of India’s policy stability, low taxes and skilled human resources,” the Prime Minister writes.

A trinity of reforms in the fields of education, agriculture and labour laws will immensely help our students, farmers and youth and empower them with more choices and unlock their full potential while maintaining adequate safeguards for the vulnerable.

“We are also undertaking deregulation and de-criminalisation of offences under the Companies Act to increase the Ease of Doing Business. We are welcoming private enterprises in all sectors to improve competition and choice for the consumers. India is also one of the most open countries today when it comes to FDI, which is resulting in record inflows of FDI from across the world,” the Prime Minister writes.

The COVID-19 pandemic, Modi says, has reinforced the ability of technology to be a valuable bridge. From multi-nation summits to multi-national companies, everyone’s work had to go online. Despite the pandemic-induced disruption, it was the technological platform laid assiduously in the form of JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile) Trinity that helped the government reach the poorest of the poor with direct financial assistance worth lakhs of crores of rupees when even developed nations were struggling with archaic I.T. systems.

“In the coming year, there will be an even greater focus on self-reliance and resilience in technology. In the movement for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, technology-both as a domain and as an enabler-plays an important role. There is a buzz about India’s young and vibrant tech circles. Both the government and the tech ecosystem will continue working closely on strengthening the homegrown start-up and mobile app ecosystem.” The democratization of access will be a force multiplier to the power of technology. “It was India’s state-of-theart digital payments framework which ensured that commerce still connected small businesses with consumers in times of social distancing. To further power India’s tech revolution, we have already committed to taking broadband connectivity to over 1 lakh villages, and within the next 1,000 days, it will reach all 6 lakh villages of India,” the Prime Minister writes.

 

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