There are at least 10 hot issues in India that the government has no data for

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There are at least 10 hot issues in India that the government has no data for
BCCL
  • The monsoon session of the Indian parliament began on July 19 and is almost half way through.
  • Several pressing matters have been raised during this session regarding the COVID-19 situation, farmers' protest and more.
  • However, when faced with questions, the government has cited lack of data on at least four issues listed below.
  • The session is scheduled to close on August 13 and several other matters like Pegasus spyware are yet to be discussed.
It has already been more than 10 days since the Indian parliament kicked off its monsoon session on July 19, 2021. Lot of important questions have been raised over several long hours of discussions and brawl, however, not all have been answered.

From death due to oxygen shortage during the pandemic to cryptocurrency investments, these are the pressing issues for which the Indian government has simply slid past saying it has no data in hand.

‘No one died due to oxygen shortage’

If the first wave of COVID-19 brought Indian healthcare system to its knees, the second one was a blade on the neck. The South Asian country witnessed the worst healthcare crisis in its history, with people looking for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and concentrators, COVID-19 medicines and other necessary equipment over Twitter. Many lost their lives in this struggle.
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However, Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pravin Pawar in the Rajya Sabha, a day after the monsoon session began, said, “no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by states/union territories’ during the second wave of COVID-19. This led to a nationwide outrage.

‘Farmers death, what?’

The farmers of India took to streets in September 2020, after the government passed three farm acts. On 30 November 2020, an estimated crowd of 200,000 to 300,000 farmers were walking to the national capital of Delhi to make their voices heard.

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The protest went on for close to ten months, however the government has no data on how many people have lost their lives during this course. As per a press release issued by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (Joint Farmers’ Force), a coalition of over 40 farmers’ unions, 537 farmers have died in the agitation till date.

SKM has also updated the list of farmers who have died during the protest since November 24 last year. However, the Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar, in the parliament, said that the government has no record of farmers having died or fallen ill during the protests.

‘Black money is white money painted in a different colour’

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech of 8 November 2016, while announcing the demonetisation of some currency notes, was a historical moment against black money in India.
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“To break the grip of corruption and black money, we have decided that the five hundred rupee and thousand rupee currency notes presently in use will no longer be legal tender from midnight tonight, that is 8th November 2016. This means that these notes will not be acceptable for transactions from midnight onwards. The five hundred and thousand rupee notes hoarded by anti-national and anti-social elements will become just worthless pieces of paper.”

— Narendra Modi, demonetisation speech of 2016.

He also highlighted the government passed a law 'The Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015', soon after taking over the office, for disclosure of foreign black money. The country had signed agreements with many countries, including the USA, to add provision for sharing banking information.

Cut to 2021, there is no data available. The Minister of State for Finance, Pankaj Chaudhary, has informed that there is no official estimate of the amount of black money deposited in Swiss banks in the decade.

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According to data shared by Switzerland's central bank, Indian individuals and firms have deposited over CHF 2,554.7 million or ₹20,700 crore in Swiss Banks in 2020. All of this may not be black money, but it’s a good data point to begin with. The Indian government, in 2019, said that it has an information sharing agreement with the Swiss authorities. Yet they have no data to show in 2021.

‘Cryptocurrency bill on the way, but no data yet’

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) on July 27 that the government does not collect any information on the number of cryptocurrency exchanges and investors in India.

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It does sound fair, but not when the government of India has been pushing to regulate cryptocurrency in India since 2019.

As per the data shared by crypto exchanges, there are about 15 million Indian cryptocurrency investors, with holdings worth ₹15,000 crore ($2 billion) cumulatively. There are 350 startups that operate in the blockchain and crypto space, as per the crypto currency exchanges.

Besides this, Sitharaman also mentioned that the government of India has no information on drug trafficking and money laundering that is being carried out through crypto exchanges.

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‘No one dies due to manual scavenging’

No deaths have been reported due to manual scavenging in India over the last five years, the minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale said in the Rajya Sabha on July 29. If only, the ministry had thought of going through this year’s budget session thoroughly.

Athawale, during his own speech during the budget session, highlighted 340 people died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the last five years till December 31, 2020. He also noted that 66,692 manual scavengers have been identified across the country.

‘Information on witnesses killed, turned hostile not maintained centrally’

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The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai, has informed the parliament that the government has no data of the cases where key witnesses were killed or turned hostile. “The Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 provides that the witness protection measures ordered shall be proportionate to the threat and shall be for a specific duration not exceeding three months at a time," Rai added.

However, these cases are fairly common in India. In March 2021, the family and lawyers of the 19-year-old Dalit girl who was allegedly gang raped and murdered in Hathras in 2020, were threatened before the special court where the case was pending.

‘Hospital beds data not available’

The Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Bharati Pravin Pawar, informed that the government of India does not centrally maintain the data of hospital beds. This is majorly because health is a state subject, meaning it's up to the governments in states and union territories (UT) to increase the bed strength in their hospital.
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Despite this, Pawar shared that India has an isolation and ICU bed capacity of 18.21 lakh and 1.22 lakh, respectively. If the government had data on isolation and ICU beds, then the question remains why doesn’t it have information on hospital beds.

‘No data available for MSMEs that went under’

When the member of parliaments (MPs) asked the government for details on the number of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which shut down during the pandemic. Instead of the data, the government listed the steps taken by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for extension and restructuring of credit. It even cited two surveys, which stated 88% of MSMEs were affected by the pandemic.

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‘No data on deaths due to air pollution’

Minister of State for Environment, Forest And Climate Change Ashwini Kumar Choubey informed the parliament that they do not have any conclusive data to establish a direct correlation of death/disease exclusively due to air pollution.

According to ‘States of India: The Global Burden of Disease Study 2019’ report, nearly 1.7 million deaths in India were attributed to air pollution in 2019. This was 18% of the total deaths in the country.

‘No updates on how many lost jobs during second wave of COVID-19’
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A few MPs asked the government for details on the number of casual or contractual employees who lost their jobs during the second wave of COVID-19. However, the government did not share any such details. Instead, it listed out several initiatives undertaken by the government to boost hiring.

[This is a developing story. The article will be updated as the government shares more details about the lack of data in their repository.]

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