After Series of Setbacks, Adani’s Options Shrinking; For Stronger Federalism, Governor’s Discretionary Powers Have to Go
India still ‘flawed democracy’, advocates oppose elevation of Gowri for hate speech, more layoffs at Byju’s, ISRO to relaunch SSLV which misplaced satellites, and in Telangana, a yatra challenge
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 3, 2022
The Opposition has united to launch a coordinated attack on the Modi government about the effect of theAdani crisis on State Bank of India and the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), which have traditionally been crucial resources for small savers and retail insurance buyers. Opposition leaders will protest at the Gandhi statue in the Parliament complex today, demanding that allegations of fraud against the Adani Group be investigated.
Late to the story? Here’s a Twitter thread which explains in plainspeak what the Adani Group is accused of having done to improve its position. This morning, the flagship Adani Enterprises was removed from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index on “allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud”.
Gautam Adani’s sprawling empire has lost over $100bn of market value after a short-seller made accusations of fraud. In this Viewsroom podcast, Reuters Breakingviews columnists explain why the situation will narrow Adani’s financing options, limiting his ambitions in infrastructure.
According to the latest edition of the Democracy Index from the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Economist, India remained a ‘flawed democracy’ in 2022, at the 46th position globally with a score of 7.04 ― lower than Malaysia and East Timor in the region. The annual survey rates the state of democracy across 167 countries on the basis of five measures with a maximum score of 10 — electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties.
Located near the Ladakh-Tibet frontier, Demchok is at the heart of a growing confrontation between India and China in Ladakh. Recent reports indicate increased hostility from China’s border guards towards Indian patrolling units, but this explainer provides details on how the Chinese are denying Indians access to Ninglung Valley, too ― not just the Charding Valley, in a strategically important region.
FMCG sales continued to decline in the December quarter, but at a slower pace. In the quarter, volumes shrank 0.3% year-on-year compared to 0.7% contraction in July-September. Price growth during the quarter was 7.9%, lower than 9.9% in the previous quarter. FMCG firms were consistently increasing prices due to rising raw material costs. In 2022, the sector grew 8.4% in value terms, while volumes shrunk 1.5%.
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According to official figures, daily retail whole wheat flour (atta) prices as on February 1 were 22% higher year on year, while wholesale prices were a staggering 31% higher. Consumer wheat prices have been inching up through 2022 after a heat wave cut production and exports were banned in May. Overall, retail food inflation has softened dipping to 4.2% in December from a high of 8.6% in September. But cereal inflation at 13.8% remains high. The size of the 2023 harvest, which will hit markets in April-May, may bring prices down. In early January, the Food Corporation of India held 17.1 million tonnes of wheat — the lowest stock in six years — but higher than the operational and strategic buffer norm of 14 million tonnes. End-January, the government announced open market sales of 3 million tonnes to cool market prices, which means the Centre does not have any excess stocks currently.
Byju’s has fired about 1,500 staff, including senior executives, in the second layoff exercise by India’s most valuable startup in four months.
India yesterday questioned the World Bank’s decision to appoint a court of arbitration and a neutral expert under two separate processes to resolve differences between New Delhi and Islamabad over the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir. Last week, India issued notice to Pakistan seeking a review and modification of the 62-year-old Indus Waters Treaty for management of cross-border rivers but India said Pakistan is yet to respond.
The Centre has drastically slashed the budgetary allocation under two agricultural schemes, meant for MSP-based procurement. The outlay for the Market Intervention Scheme and Price Support Scheme (MIS-PSS) has been slashed from Rs 1,500 crore in 2022-23 to a meagre Rs 1 lakh in 2023-24. Notably, the MIS-PSS was launched to safeguard the interest of horticulture growers hold off distress sales when prices plummet owing to a bumper crop. Budgetary allocation under the Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) also saw a decline from Rs 1 crore in 2022-23 to merely Rs 1 lakh in 2023-24 budget estimates. The PM-AASHA, which was launched in September 2018, ensures that farmers who grow pulses, oilseeds and copra, get the MSP. Besides, the scheme’s main feature is a price support scheme whereby central agencies procure pulses and oilseeds directly from farmers.
A group of Chennai lawyers has written to President Droupadi Murmu and the Supreme Court Collegium expressing their opposition to the recommendation to appoint Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri as a judge of the Madras High Court. Their letter cites instances where Gowri used hate speech against Christians and Muslims. On January 17, the Supreme Court Collegium, headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, had recommended the appointment of Gowri and four others.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has undertaken 21 trips abroad since 2019, which cost over Rs 22.76 crore, the government said on Thursday. The President undertook eight trips abroad, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha ― eight by Ram Nath Kovind and one to the UK by present incumbent Droupadi Murmu.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will make a fresh attempt to accurately launch the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) on February 10, the agency’s Chairman S Somanath said on Thursday, around five months after the maiden launch placed payloads in the wrong orbit. “We are looking at a few dates but February 10 will be the first preference,” Somanath said. ISRO first launched SSLV — India’s smallest launch vehicle, at 34 metres — last August. But the mission failed after the rocket inserted two satellites in an elliptical orbit instead of a circular one. ISRO said the mission failed after the upper stage of the SSLV injected the satellites into a “highly elliptical unstable orbit” due to a velocity shortfall, which decayed immediately and made the satellites useless.
Newsminute profiles Commodore Lokesh Batra, the former Navy officer on “a mission to expose electoral bonds”. The portal writes that at a time when high-ranking officials settle for cushy post-retirement jobs, Commodore Lokesh Batra is running a lone crusade to ensure transparency in the Electoral Bonds scheme.
The Union government yesterday said domestic airlines reported 546 technical snags during the operation of planes last year. IndiGo, the country’s biggest carrier, faced 215 snags while SpiceJet had 143 snags and Vistara had 97 snags. Air India faced 64 snags.
Restofworld.org reports that Myntra is slapping extra fees, denying cash on delivery and suspending accounts of frequent returners, alienating some loyal users. It says “we are entering a more frugal era in e-commerce where companies don’t want users returning their orders.”