Wednesday June 19, 2019
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Taming Fake News is Top Concern of WhatsApp India

Small business owners, he said, need to solve multiple problems simultaneously to succeed in a highly competitive market

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

With the Lok Sabha election dates being announced, WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose on Wednesday said the company which has taken several measures to limit the spread of misinformation and fake news on its platform in India is set to take more action to fully secure its platform.

In his first statement after taking over as head of India operations of the Facebook-owned messaging platform early this year, Bose said the company strongly believes that private messaging is fundamental to safety.

“We’re pleased that the recent changes we’ve made to limit viral content and educate users is having an impact. This work is never done — there is more that we can and will do,” noted Bose who is currently hiring the first full country team outside of California which will be based in Gurugram.

“I am going to be listening closely and learning in the months to come, and I look forward to working with stakeholders here in India on our common safety goals,” added Bose.

With over 200 million monthly active users, India is WhatsApp’s biggest market in the world. Globally, the platform has over 1.5 billion users.

Facing flak from the government over dozens of lynching incidents in the country last year which were linked to rumours spread on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service introduced several new measures, including limiting the number of messages that a user can forward to five and appointing a grievance officer for the country.

The government is also concerned about the spread of fake news and political bias on WhatsApp and other social media platforms as the country faces the seven-phase voting from April 11.

“One of the most exciting features we’re building is WhatsApp Payments. Leveraging services from the ‘India Stack’ such as UPI (Unified Payments Interface), we’re making it possible for people to easily transfer money to each other or their favourite merchants,” informed Bose.

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FILE – The WhatsApp icon is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. VOA

WhatsApp Payments, stuck owing to India’s demand to store data locally, has not gone beyond the beta testing it did with nearly one million users last year.

“When opened up to WhatsApp users across India, Payments will accelerate financial inclusion and remove barriers for people who want to actively participate in the new digital economy,” Bose noted.

A recent WhatsApp research has revealed that 70 per cent of small businesses have built their business on the platform and 77 per cent said they have been able to hire more employees due to growth since joining WhatsApp.

According to Bose, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of home-grown tech companies building innovative solutions to improve financial inclusion, health and education.

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“WhatsApp is excited to support these efforts by providing a platform to connect micro-services to people anywhere in the country, helping our start-up ecosystem deliver critical India-first solutions at scale and speed in order to truly move the needle for our country,” he elaborated.

Small business owners, he said, need to solve multiple problems simultaneously to succeed in a highly competitive market.

“I’m excited about what the future holds for India and humbled by the potential WhatsApp has to help hundreds of millions of people and businesses across the country connect and prosper,” said Bose. (IANS)

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India: Sugar Mills, Distilleries under The Scanner of Special Task Force of UP Police for Links with Hooch Syndicates

Industrial alcohol allegedly used in hooch is distilled ethanol

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India, Sugar Mills, Distilleries
A few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Pixabay

As more than a hundred people died in ‘poisonous hooch’ tragedies in Uttar Pradesh during the past one year, a few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Working round the clock to bust ‘killer syndicates’ supplying cheap industrial alcohol to bootleggers and gangs involved in manufacturing of illicit liquor, STF has seized more than 10,000 litres of rectified spirit in raids across the state in the past one month.

Industrial alcohol allegedly used in hooch is distilled ethanol and is usually used in manufacturing of paints, fragrance, printing ink and coating. As it is cheaper, the liquor syndicates get it smuggled from distilled ethanol manufacturing units. On June 16, STF seized 5,750 litres of rectified spirit (high concentration alcohol) from the possession of a big time crime syndicate active in Lucknow and Kanpur.

The STF rounded up the kingpin, Suraj Lal Yadav, along with six other members of the gang. During interrogation it was discovered that Yadav was well-connected with some distilleries in Haryana. Large quantities of industrial alcohol was smuggled out of Haryana and pushed into hooch manufacturing dens in UP.

Concerned about frequents deaths in UP due to consumption of poisonous hooch, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched a statewide crackdown on illicit liquor manufacturing gangs after 21 people died in a hooch tragedy in Barabanki two months ago. The STF, considered the state’s premiere crime busting agency, subsequently geared up to intercept scores of tankers and private vehicles being pushed into UP from Delhi and Haryana.

India, Sugar Mills, Distilleries
A few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Pixabay

“The syndicate involved in smuggling of rectified spirit has spread its tentacles in the state. Even murders have taken place in disputes relating to the smuggling. But our raiding parties are determined to bust the gangs. Innumerable cases have been registered by us in the past one-and-a-half years,” said Amitabh Yash, Inspector General(IG) of STF.

Even though the STF, after rounding up the accused handed over the investigation of the case to the district police, the agency is said to have the most precise data on organised crime in North India.

“We seldom investigate the cases as it involves prolonged court work, so our main aim is focused on cracking heinous crimes, particularly organised by crime syndicates. At the moment, gangs involved in illicit trade of hooch are our target,” said Amitabh Yash, known for his skills in dealing with underworld operations and syndicate crimes. When asked whether a few officials of the excise department and a couple of distilleries could be linked with smugglers of rectified spirit, the IG said a report was given in this connection to the government.

While high excise duty makes liquor expensive, hooch, on the other hand, is available for less than Rs 20 per bottle. At places the rates are less than even Rs 10 per liter. A report, in connection with the Saharanpur hooch tragedy in February 2019 which took the lives of over 50 people, reveals that the quantity of rectified spirit mixed in the drink was so high that it had the effect of poison.

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The report says that rectified spirit was smuggled by criminal gangs which were hand-in-glove with local authorities.

“The gangs have links in distilleries and chemical factories from where industrial alcohol is smuggled out at a very cheap price. It is later re-packed in drums and transported to hideouts of manufacturers (of illicit liquor),” said a source in the police.

With widespread sale of hooch across UP, CM Yogi Adityanath has instructed DGP O.P. Singh to take stringent measures against the culprits and ensure that police secures conviction of those accused who are put on trial in cases of hooch smuggling or hooch-related deaths. (IANS)