MCI (P) 078/03/2019
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
MAY 17, 2019
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Ms Ruby Shekhar (left) and followers of Demure Drapes Facebook page celebrating Singapore’s bicentennial.
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Museum on Mughals, war
memorial to open in Red Fort
A museum displaying the government’s
historical and rare collections of
Mughal antiquities and the Indian War
Memorial will soon add to the array of
British barrack buildings, redeveloped
as museums, in the Red Fort in Delhi. It
could open by 2019 end.
The announcement, coming ahead
of the International Museum Day on
May 18, was made by leading art
gallery DAG, which won the bidding
conducted by the Archaeological
Survey of India.
India to extend ban on LTTE
The Indian government has extended
for another five years its ban on the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE), which assassinated former
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in
1991, it was announced on Tuesday.
“The LTTE’s continued violent and
disruptive activities are prejudicial to
the integrity and sovereignty of India;
and it continues to adopt a strong
anti-India posture and pose a grave
threat to the security of Indian
nationals,” the announcement said.
The LTTE, which was described as a
militant and political organisation, has
been blamed for the May 1991 suicide
bombing at an election rally near
Chennai which killed Rajiv Gandhi and
several others, prompting one of the
biggest crackdowns in India.
Tension in Kolkata as election
violence breaks out
Clashes broke out in Kolkata on
Tuesday evening as the mega rally of
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit
Shah passed through the north Kolkata
According to eye witnesses, the
clashes were triggered after students
presumably from the Trinamool
Congress’ students’ wing of Vidyasagar
College held up “Go back, Amit Shah”
posters when his roadshow passed the
The first floor hall of the college was
ransacked and at least three
motorcycles were set on fire. Several
people, mostly Trinamool Congress
supporters, were injured.
At least 300 Himalayan yaks
starve to death
Indian officials said that at least 300
yaks (a large domesticated wild ox)
starved to death in a remote Himalayan
valley after a bout of unusually harsh
Officials in Sikkim said they received
the first distress call from 50 people in
the remote Mukuthang Valley in
December last year.
Following very heavy snowfall the
residents asked for help providing feed
for their herd of around 1,500 yaks, a
source of local milk, milk products,
transportation and wool.
Local official Raj Kumar Yadav said
several attempts to reach them were
made but it was impossible because of
the weather conditions.
Local families have reported the
deaths of 500 yaks due to starvation,
while 50 yaks are receiving urgent
Glucose, milk poured into Yamuna
Environment activists in Agra
symbolically poured glucose and milk
into the “dying and sick” Yamuna river
in Agra to raise awareness about the
chronic pollution plaguing the river.
Several members of the River
Connect Campaign gathered by the
Yamuna to express their concern for the
sacred river, considered to be almost
“dead” due to pollutants and effluents.
They offered boxes of glucose and
milk to “Yamuna Maiyya” (mother
Yamuna) on the occasion of Mothers’
It was also aimed at showing their
affinity and bonding with the lifeline of
the historic city.
“Unfortunately, the river has been
reduced to a vast sewage canal,” social
activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.
Grenade blast in Assam
At least 10 people were wounded in a
grenade explosion in Assam on Wednes-
day but no militant group has so far
claimed responsibility for the attack, po-
“It was a grenade blast probably tar-
geted against security personnel con-
ducting routine patrols in the area,”
said Deepak Kumar, police commis-
sioner in Assam’s capital Guwahati.
The blast in a busy street in Guwa-
hati occurred at night and those injured
included two police officers and eight
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‘Art of camouflage
A photograph of a snow leopard clicked by
wildlife photographer Saurabh Desai has
gone viral on social media after many
netizens found it hard to spot the animal on
a rocky mountain with patches of snow.
Mr Desai, who clicked the photograph
during his visit to the Spiti Valley in
Himachal Pradesh, shared the image on his
Instagram account with the caption “Art of
The image soon went viral, garnering
over 14,000 likes. Many netizens found it
difficult to spot the camouflaged leopard and
challenged their friends to do the same.
Mr Desai visited the Kibber village,
believed to be the highest motorable village
in the world, and caught a glimpse of the
snow leopard 8km from the village.
Cheap tools help parties bypass WhatsApp
WhatsApp clones and software tools
that cost as little as Rs1,000 ($19.50)
are helping Indian digital marketers and
political activists bypass anti-spam re-
strictions set up by the world’s most pop-
ular messaging app, Reuters has found.
The activities highlight the chal-
lenges WhatsApp, which is owned by
Facebook, faces in preventing abuse in
India, its biggest market with more than
200 million users.
With fervent campaigning in India’s
staggered general election, which con-
cludes on Sunday, the demand for such
tools has surged, according to digital
companies and sources in the ruling
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its
main rival, the Congress.
After false messages on WhatsApp
last year sparked mob lynchings in In-
dia, the company restricted forwarding
of a message to only five users.
The software tools appear to over-
come those restrictions, allowing users
to reach thousands of people at once.
Ms Divya Spandana, the social me-
dia chief of the Congress, and the BJP’s
IT head Amit Malviya did not respond
to requests for comment.
Mr Rohitash Repswal, who owns a
digital marketing business in a
cramped, residential neighbourhood of
New Delhi, said he ran a Rs1,000 piece
of software round-the-clock in recent
months to send up to 100,000 What-
sApp messages a day for two BJP mem-
“Whatever WhatsApp does, there’s
a workaround,” Mr Repswal said.
Reuters found WhatsApp was mis-
used in at least three ways in India for
political campaigning: Free clone apps
available online were used by some BJP
and Congress workers to manually for-
ward messages on a mass basis; soft-
ware tools which allow users to auto-
mate delivery of WhatsApp messages;
and some firms offering political work-
ers the chance to go onto a website and
send bulk WhatsApp messages from
At least three software tools were
available on Amazon.com’s India web-
When purchased by a Reuters re-
porter, they arrived as compact discs
tucked inside thin cardboard casings,
with no company branding.
WhatsApp declined a Reuters re-
quest to allow testing such tools for re-
porting this story.
“We are continuing to step up our en-
forcement against imposter WhatsApp
services and take legal action by send-
ing cease and desist letters to hundreds
of bulk messaging service providers to
help curb abuse,” a spokeswoman said.
“We do not want them to operate on
our platform and we work to ban
Modified versions of popular apps
have become common as technically-
savvy hobbyists have long reverse-engi-
Tools purporting to bypass What-
sApp restrictions are advertised in
videos and online forums aimed at
users in Indonesia and Nigeria, both of
which held major elections this year.
For Indian politicians, WhatsApp,
Facebook and Twitter are key campaign-
ing tools to target the country’s near
900 million voters.
Two Congress sources and one BJP
source told Reuters that their workers
used clone apps such as “GBWhat-
sApp” and “JTWhatsApp”, which al-
lowed them to cut through WhatsApp’s
Both apps have a green-colour inter-
face that closely resembles WhatsApp
and can be downloaded for free from
dozens of technology blogs.
They are not available on Google’s of-
ficial app store but work on Android
WhatsApp describes such apps as
“unofficial” and says its users can face
bans, which means the company can
block the account associated with a par-
ticular mobile number if it detects un-
Some Congress workers said they
did not care.
“WhatsApp occasionally bans some
of these numbers, but the volunteers
will use new (mobile) sim cards to sign
up,” said a Congress member.
In Mumbai, a person in the social me-
dia team of a senior BJP candidate said
no restrictions on JTWhatsApp meant
his team could easily send forwards to
up to 6,000 people a day, as well as
video files containing political content
which would be far bigger in size than
allowed on the official WhatsApp ser-
Reuters was not able to ascertain the
overall scale of such activities and
found no evidence that BJP and Con-
gress leaders officially ordered workers
to campaign this way.
Mr Repswal said he would typically
charge Rs150,000 for a month’s service
for creating digital content, providing a
database of mobile numbers and then
sending 300,000 WhatsApp messages.
He uses a piece of software named
“Business Sender” which he said he
also sells for Rs1,000. A person can add
many mobile numbers in a field and
compose messages with pictures.
Using a so-called “Group Contacts
Grabber” feature, the user can also ex-
tract a list of mobile numbers from a par-
ticular WhatsApp group with a click of
Mr Repswal didn’t name the two
BJP members he worked for, but in a
demonstration for Reuters, added
dozens of mobile numbers in the soft-
ware, typed a test message saying “your
vote is your right” and hit “send”.
Then, his WhatsApp web version
started delivering the messages almost
robotically, one after the other.
Business Sender was “not supported
or endorsed” by WhatsApp and was de-
veloped by “Tiger Vikram Mysore IN-
DIA”, its system properties said.
A member of the software support
team at Business Sender, Mr Rajesh K.,
declined to identify the developer by
his real name, but said the tool was de-
signed in Lebanon about four months
ago and takes advantage of what he
called a “loophole” in WhatsApp’s sys-
“This is not rocket science or fabri-
cated software,” said Mr Rajesh.
“There are hundreds of such soft-
Last month, when a Reuters reporter
responded to a text message with an
“Election Special” offer of sending
100,000“bulk WhatsApp” messages
for Rs7,999, he was invited to an office
in a dusty industrial area of Noida in
northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“How many messages you want to
send, tell us: 10,000, 1 million, 2 mil-
lion,” a representative asked, while
showing a black-coloured, password-
protected website they use for sending
bulk WhatsApp messages.
– A member of
Mr Rajesh K.
Digital marketer Rohitash Repswal checking a message that he sent using a software tool
that automates the process of sending messages to WhatsApp users.
Vijay Shankar’s selection as India’s No.
4 batsman for the World Cup has trig-
gered the biggest debate to engulf In-
dian cricket in recent times.
Many former cricketers and pundits
believe that Ambati Rayudu or Rishabh
Pant would have been a better option.
They may have a point as Shankar’s
performance in the recently-concluded
Indian Premier League was pathetic.
He scored 219 runs in 14 matches
for Sunrisers Hyderabad and took only
one wicket in an under-utilised bowling
On the other hand, Pant scored 488
runs in 16 games for Delhi Capitals,
with an average of 37.53.
The wicketkeeper-batsman also
played a crucial role in propelling Delhi
to the playoffs as his blistering knock of
49 runs off 21 balls helped eliminate
But then India’s selectors clearly feel
that Shankar fits the bill as he is “three-
dimensional”– capable of good batting,
bowling and fielding.
Interestingly, criticism and Shankar
have a history.
Not many cricket fans in India would
have forgotten the all-rounder’s strug-
gle against Bangladesh in the final of
the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka last
He was roundly “hated” on social
media after he struggled with the bat
during India’s chase and ended with a
Even though India won the match,
Shankar was made to relive the horror
of his innings again and again by the me-
dia and fans.
But every dark cloud has a silver lin-
Shankar told IANS that the incident
was a “life lesson” and one that made
him a stronger human being who re-
alised the importance of enjoying the
moment and not putting too much pres-
sure on himself on the cricket field.
He also said that not many realised
that it was his first outing with the bat as
an India player.
“I would definitely say the Nidahas
Trophy was a life-changing experience
as a cricketer. It has been a year and ev-
eryone knows what happened and how
difficult it was,” he said.
“I would have easily attended 50
phone calls from all over India. The
press people kept calling me and asked
me the same question.
“Even the social media and all was a
little difficult for me. I felt a little disap-
pointed and it took me some time to get
out of that zone.
“But it taught me how to come out
of that, I learnt how to handle situa-
tions. That incident showed me that one
bad day isn’t the end of the world. It
hasn’t happened only to me, it has hap-
pened to many top players over the
“The best thing is that it happened in
my first outing with the bat for India. I
had bowled in the series, but that was
the first time I went in to bat.
“I didn’t realise what happened right
then, but that was a life lesson. It taught
me to enjoy every moment as things
like that are temporary and I must focus
on giving my 100 per cent.”
On the much debated batting slot for
the World Cup, which starts in England
and Wales, on May 30, Shankar has
learnt to de-stress and not get bothered
by what is being said bout him.
For him, it is the team management
“I had a decent run when I batted at
No. 3 in the T20 series in New Zealand
(earlier this year). The most important
thing is that the team management has
shown trust in me and believe I can do
the job. That gives you extra motiva-
tion,” he said.
“The need of the team is my priority
and I am always ready to adapt to situa-
tions and conditions.
“I am enjoying myself and don’t put
any pressure on myself. I like to read
the situation and play accordingly. I
give importance to work ethics and
there is no short cut.”
Shankar’s main competitors for the
No. 4 spot are Lokesh Rahul and Di-
nesh Karthik. Both outclassed him in
Shankar has the gift of timing the
ball with precision but lacks the aerial
ability to clear the ball over the stands.
The all-rounder may help to
strengthen India’s bowling attack in
England’s seaming condition. However,
the team’s leading all-rounder Hardik
Pandya is in sensational form.
Shankar said that he has been work-
ing on his bowling.
“I have been working a lot on my
bowling and I am someone who be-
lieves in keeping the process right,” he
“I feel that if the situation arises,
when the skipper hands me the ball, I
should be confident that I can do the
job and only then will that translate
into performance. It is all about gaining
in confidence with every given opportu-
Indo-Asian News Service
Vijay Shankar playing a shot during the Indian Premier League eliminator against Delhi Capitals.
hopes to prove critics wrong
May 17, 2019
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