Morning Brief: Cambridge Analytica Worked For Congress: Whistleblower; India Threatened Action Against China During Maldives Crisis: Report; GST Collections Falls

by Swarajya Staff - Mar 28, 2018 08:03 AM +05:30 IST
Morning Brief: Cambridge Analytica Worked For Congress: Whistleblower; India Threatened Action Against China During Maldives Crisis: Report; GST Collections Falls  Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi with Congress President Sonia Gandhi (Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.

Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower Says Congress Was A Client

India’s Congress party had availed the services of Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm at the centre of the Facebook data breach scandal, whistleblower Christopher Wylie has said before a British parliamentary committee. The company, accused of using Facebook user data for political campaigns, had done "all kind of projects" in India, Wylie told the committee. According to Wylie, who has worked with Cambridge Analytica in the past, the firm used personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook users to influence elections.

"I believe their client was Congress. But I know that they have done all kind of projects. I don't remember any national project, but regionally... India is so big that one state can be the size of Britain. I believe I have some documentation on India which I can provide if you're interested," he said in his testimony.

India Threatened Action Against China During Maldives Crisis: Report

A report has revealed that China had sent several vessels, including missile destroyers, near the Maldives, soon after the visit of a special envoy to Beijing from Male following the declaration of emergency in the Indian Ocean nation. However, the Indian Navy deterred Chinese vessels from coming close to the territorial waters of the Maldives. The report says that the Indian Navy, on 22 February, “threatened action - a warning shot and war drill". After India’s warning, the Chinese fleet stopped 276 nautical miles from the Maldivian capital of Male and retreated to the southeast. The report also hints at coordination between Quad countries, noting that Australian vessels were also stationed around 380 nautical miles from Male.

GST Collections Fall For Second Straight Month

Goods and Services Tax collection fell for the second straight month in February. The total revenue received under GST for the month of February (received up to March 26) has been Rs 85,174 crore, the Finance Ministry has said in a statement. Of this, Rs 14,945 crore has been garnered as Central GST and Rs 20,456 crore as State GST. Additionally, Rs 42,456 crore has been collected as Integrated GST and Rs 7,317 crore as compensation cess. Till 25 March, only 59.51 lakh GSTR 3B returns were filed. This accounts for 69 per cent of the total taxpayer base required to file monthly returns. The collection in January stood at Rs 86,318 crore. In November and December, the collection was Rs 83,716 crore and Rs 88,929 crore respectively.

PAN-Aadhaar Linking Deadline Extended

The deadline to link Permanent Account Number (PAN) with Aadhaar was on Tuesday extended to 30 June from the current last date of 31 March by the Central Board of Direct Taxes. The body’s move comes following the Supreme Court’s direction, issued earlier this month, asking government agencies to extend the 31 March deadline for linking Aadhaar with various schemes and services. This is a fourth extension given by the government. The date is likely to be extended till the SC delivers its judgment on petitions challenging the validity of Aadhaar and the enabling law.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Put Through Security Check In US

During his recent trip to the United States, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had to undergo a security check at a US airport like a normal passenger. Footage aired on Pakistani channels shows Abbasi picking up his bag and coat and walking out from a security check at an airport. Abbasi was in the US last week on a private trip to visit his ailing sister. During the visit, he met US vice-president Mike Pence in an unscheduled engagement and was bluntly told that Pakistan has to do more to address concerns. This comes amid reports that the Trump administration is weighing “visa bans or other sanctions on individuals in the Pakistani government deemed responsible for providing support to the militants”.

Government To Use Fraud Analytics To Check Tax Evasion

Worried about revenue losses with the increase in cases of tax evasion, the government will introduce fraud analytics to analyse Goods and Services Tax (GST) data. The GST Network will soon invite bids from companies specializing in fraud analytics. Once a company is selected, it will be responsible for mapping specific patterns of taxpayers looking to defraud the exchequer.

“We are issuing a request for proposal very soon for providers who will study patterns (from GST data collected) and look at whether there is tax evasion. We were thinking of doing it after one year but the government has asked us to advance the process,” said GST Network Chief Executive Officer Prakash Kumar. “Trained investigators will be able to look for both known and unknown patterns of fraud,” he noted.

ASI Inspects Outer Parts Of Ratna Bhandara At Jagannath Temple

A team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) inspected the condition of the Ratna Bhandara at Puri’s Jagannath Temple from the outside on Monday following a row over their proposal to enter the sealed room believed to contain ancient wealth. The ASI had been asked to check whether the Ratna Bhandara, one of the original twin structures of the temple, is structurally safe. Scholars associated with the temple had raised concerns after reports that the ASI team would enter Ratna Bhandara had emerged, triggering a row. Two sealed rooms in the temple complex are believed to contain treasures of kings brought from conquests of rival kingdoms.

China’s Out-Of-Control Space Station May Fall To Earth On April Fools’ Day

China’s Tiangong-1, an eight-tonne space station launched in 2011, is expected to come crashing down to Earth on April Fool’s day. China had reportedly lost control of the spacecraft in 2016, five years after it blasted into orbit making China the third nation to operate a space station. The European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office, based in Germany’s Darmstadt, has said in its latest report published on 27 March that the space lab would fall back to Earth between 31 March and 2 April.

The spacecraft’s re-entry will take place between 43° north to 43° south. Vast stretches of North and South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, parts of Europe, and great swaths of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans fall in this zone.

MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS

The Hidden Pitfalls Of Digital Regulation: Regulation that hampers product innovation or user experience will help Facebook, which already benefits from network externalities.

India Takes The First Step To Building An AI Vision: A recent task force report highlights the government’s readiness to tackle the policy issues and opportunities thrown up by emerging technologies.

India, Nepal Must Turn The Page To A New Chapter: As the red carpet is being laid out for Oli’s visit, India trusts Nepal will be mindful of its legitimate security interests, including honouring its traditional red lines.

SWARAJYA SPECIAL

Minorityism At Work: How A Delhi Church Tried Religion Card To Get Away With Encroachment: A church in New Delhi has levelled grave charges of religious discrimination on the civic body, alleging that it was singularly targeted in an encroachment demolition drive while an adjoining temple was spared.

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