Adani Meltdown an Opportunity to Make Family-Owned Entities Financially Transparent; Justice Gowri Appointment Suffers Rashomon Effect
FinMin & Niti Aayog objected to giving flock of airports to Adani, PSU banks hit hardest by NPAs, SGPC opposes veterans on helmets for Sikh soldiers, journalists spoon fed Modi jacket hype
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
February 8, 2022
Yesterday, opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Mahua Moitra tore into the BJP-led government, alleging a nexus with the Adani group. Today, PM Narendra Modi hit back, accusing the Congress of running a corrupt and weak government till 2014, when he took over.
The Union government has put Census 2021 on hold “until further orders”. In the meantime, India is believed to have overtaken China as the most populous country. In the absence of Census data, this must remain in the realm of belief.
Over the years, LIC has invested Rs 30,127 crore in Adani group companies. Amid public concerns about LIC’s exposure to the group, the government yesterday said the insurer has said that it works within the statutory framework and regulations. Last week, state-owned LIC said it has investments of Rs 35,917.31 crore in Adani group’s debt and equity securities. The amount is 0.975% of the insurer’s total assets under management, which is more than Rs 41.66 lakh crore and comprises mostly government-linked assets.
Hedge funds and distressed debt specialists are inhaling bonds related to Gautam Adani’s business empire, buying low after a scathing short-seller report. Oaktree Capital Management, one of the world’s largest opportunistic debt firms, and Davidson Kempner Capital Management, were among those buying the debt in recent weeks, reports Bloomberg. Executives at Goldman Sachs said Adani securities had drawn interest from opportunistic investors amid an equity rout and a debt slump that pushed some bonds to distressed levels.
Bangladesh seeks a discount on electricity purchased from Adani, according to a stock exchange filing, in the latest sign of mounting scrutiny of the Indian billionaire’s dealings. In a February 3 letter sent to the Securities and Exchange Board of India and published by stock exchanges on Tuesday, Adani Power told SEBI that Bangladesh was “requesting us to consider a discount” on the lucrative power deal signed in 2017 following a 2015 state visit by PM Modi, which remained shrouded in secrecy for years. Under the terms of the confidential power purchase agreement, which was reported on by The Washington Post in December, highly indebted Bangladesh would pay high prices for electricity from a new coal-fired power plant built by Adani that exceeded prices paid to comparable power plants by a factor of 1.6. The unusual terms included the absence of a price ceiling on coal, meaning that Adani could charge more for coal from his Carmichael mines in Australia, handled by his own ships and ports. PM Modi had urged Sheikh Hasina to facilitate the entry of Indian businesses into Bangladesh.
Indian Express reminds readers that the Union Finance Ministry and Niti Aayog had objected to the airport bidding process in 2019, in which Adani bagged six airports and graduated in 24 months from the operator of a private airstrip in Mundra to a leader in the sector. Earlier, in discussions in 2018, the Department of Economic Affairs had recommended restricting the number of airports awarded to two per bidder, on account of the high risk in such enterprises. This was the norm earlier and despite being the only qualifying bidder, GMR was not given both Delhi and Mumbai airports.
The world’s ‘most heard podcast’, The Joe Rogan Experience, has focused on the Adani saga, its context and why it should worry India and the world, since he is not just an oligarch. Here is the full show.
“Using customs data from India, Sergey Vakulenko [an energy scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace] showed that local importers of Russian crude paid almost the same price as Brent crude, despite the widening price gap. The New York Times analysis of the same data produced similar results. The explanation, Vakulenko suggested, is that at least part of the large discount on the quoted Urals price had been pocketed by Russian exporters and intermediaries, who then charged a higher price to the buyers in India,” reports NYT.
The Army says it is prepared to respond to any aggressive designs of China in the Ladakh sector, maintaining that the integrity of the country was being ensured through physical patrolling and technical means. “On the LAC, our response to Chinese attempts to unilaterally change the status quo was a swift, undaunted and synergised action by the Indian armed forces,” General Officer Commanding in Chief of Army’s Northern Command Lt General Upendra Dwivedi said at an investiture ceremony at Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar. “Any adverse aggressive designs or attempts will definitely be met with appropriate posturing of forces and a strong intent with complete synergy among the three services,” he said.
With Indian diplomacy justifying egregious actions as those of a ‘civilisational state’, Congress MP and former senior UN official Shashi Tharoor writes that civilizational states “are profoundly illiberal.” The notion that they can follow their own standards overlooks the need for universally accepted norms to sustain the world order.
How regionally representative is the Supreme Court? Delhi and UP lead the list, finds LiveLaw. Several regions are unrepresented, like the Northeastern states, with the exception of Assam.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday assured Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped and lost seven of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, that her plea against the remission of the sentence of 11 convicts will be heard soon after the constitution of a new bench. Bano had moved the apex court on November 30, 2022 challenging the “premature” release of 11 lifers by the state government, which has “shaken the conscience of society’.
In Assam, an RSS affiliate has demanded the removal of Christians from the ST List. The Janajati Dharma-Sanskriti Suraksha Manch is demanding that the Union and state governments amend Article 342A of the Constitution.
The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) met Sikh leaders and retired defence personnel to discuss the issue of protective headgear for Sikhs of the Indian armed forces. While former officers backed the proposal for safety gear, and NCM chairman Iqbal Singh Lalpura said lives would be saved, members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) rejected it. According to the NCM’s press statement yesterday, retired officers unanimously said that combat headgear “is an essential piece of equipment for soldiers in the line of their duty”.
A Supreme Court-constituted panel has asked the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to amend or withdraw guidelines for zoos and safaris within tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries to discourage non-site specific tourism activities in wildlife habitats. In its report submitted to the court last month, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) also said that approvals given should be withdrawn. It said tiger safaris, being “non-site specific”, should also be discouraged within forest areas since the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022 discourage diversion of forest land for non-site specific activities under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
Pakistan yesterday lifted its ban on Wikipedia two days after its media regulator suspended access for hurting Muslim sentiments. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had blocked Wikipedia because a 48-hour deadline to remove purportedly blasphemous content was ignored.
The New York Times has an obituary of Mukarram Jah, former nizam of Hyderabad. “The dispersal of the wealth of the Nizam” was “one of the 20th century’s most dramatic reversals of fortune.”
The India Cable is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The India Cable to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.