Anxious Govt Capping Sugar Export, May Drop Edible Oil Imports Cess; Why Free Speech Needs Platform Regulator Answerable to Parliament
Sibal dumps Congress for SP, Indians not confident of comfortable retirement, Netflix turns to south for game-changer, Pakistani film at Cannes, Bengaluru school wants to rig Google Maps for Gyanvapi
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
May 25, 2022
Kapil Sibal, former minister and dissenting Congress leader has quit his party. Besides other issues, he had questioned the absence of democratic elections and accountability within the Congress. He will be nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Samajwadi Party, perhaps the only Indian political formation that is even more dynastic than the one he is leaving.
In other shifts, Col (retd) Ajay Kothiyal, who was AAP’s chief ministerial candidate in the Uttarakhand Assembly polls in February, joined the ruling BJP yesterday. And Hardik Patel, once a poster boy for the Congress in Gujarat, is eyeing the BJP but also saying nice things about AAP.
An Andhra Pradesh minister’s house in Amalapuram was set on fire yesterday by people opposing the naming of the newly created Konaseema district as BR Ambedkar Konaseema district.
The National Investigation Agency wants the death penalty for Yasin Malik, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front leader who last week pleaded guilty to charges of terror financing. The NIA said Malik was responsible for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits but the judge reminded the agency that he was before the court on a terror funding matter. Sentencing is awaited Wednesday evening.
“Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb is not a ritual to be observed in conversations, in fact it is a soul force to be harnessed in conduct. Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb culture is not mere toleration of differences, but heartful embracement of diversity,” the Allahabad High Court observed last week, while granting bail in a criminal case ― an altercation between political rivals had suddenly escalated into a violent brawl. “Seekers of different paths would do well to remember the Father of the Nation. The Mahatma by the example of his life and the fact of his death reminds us that the quest of all religions and the essence of an Indian’s Dharma is love for fellow beings. Someone’s hate consumed his body but not his love for humanity. A bullet stilled his mortal frame but could not silence the truth in him.”
Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan delivered a virtual lecture on the second day of the Aligarh Muslim University Literary Festival 2022, India’s largest student-run literary event, at the historic Kennedy Hall Auditorium. He referred to the common opinion that India needs a strong, even authoritarian, leadership if it expects to witness sustained growth, and dismissed it as incorrect and outdated: “If we allow our liberal democracy to crumble into an authoritarian one, it is not only our economic future that is at stake but also our soul as a nation.”
The New York Times says that the Quad leaders sought to play up consensus where they could at the summit in Tokyo. The bloc called for “peace and stability” in Ukraine – India will not even acknowledge there has been a Russian invasion, let alone condemn it – and announced initiatives on cybersecurity, space, vaccine distribution and a data-sharing partnership to monitor shipping routes in the South China Sea.
In the bilateral meeting between US President Joe Biden and PM Modi in Tokyo yesterday, Biden condemned “Russia’s unjustifiable war”. The readout from the White House said the two leaders are committed to providing humanitarian assistance and also discussed “how to cooperate to manage disruptions caused by the war”, especially the rise in energy and food prices. India’s readout, however, contained no reference to Ukraine. Ahead of the meeting, Biden told the media that he intended to discuss the effects of “Russia’s brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine” and its impact on the world order.
It is 16 months since Biden took office as president but there is still no US ambassador in India, the longest gap ever. Eric Garcetti’s confirmation is uncertain and he could be seen as ‘damaged goods’ by those he would supervise. There have already been five charge d’affaires in the US embassy in Delhi since Ambassador Ken Juster left after Trump lost.
India charges higher tariffs than any of the 12 other members who joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) on Monday. It applies a mean tariff of 9.4%, compared with a median of 3.1% for the other countries — including the US, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore — in the economic partnership. India also has the lowest per capita GDP ― $6,998 in 2019, compared with a median of over $40,000 for the rest.
After a lull of over two years during the pandemic, the Karnataka police have launched a fresh drive to identify and extradite undocumented Bangladeshi migrants in the outskirts of Bengaluru. As before, the exercise is muddled because it is hard to distinguish them from Indian Bengalis. Bengali-speaking Muslim migrants rounded up over the weekend complained that the police used unprovoked violence, damaged property and segregated suspects based on religion. These claims were rejected by the police.
In Malali village in Mangalore, the VHP and Bajrang Dal are staking claim to a mosque which looks like a Hindu temple to them. The mosque committee says it’s just the familiar Indo-Saracenic style.
India’s power crisis is self-made and we could face another crunch during the monsoon. In 109 of 165 thermal power plants that are currently operational, the actual coal stock is less than 25% of the normative level.
FIIs have pulled out a whopping $21.3 bn (Rs 1.62 lakh crore) from local shares in this calendar year, the highest-ever net sale, in less than five months. Since October, FIIs have sold shares worth Rs 2 lakh crore. That’s almost four times more than the Rs 52,987 crore they sold during the 2008 financial crisis.
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, while appreciating India’s food security concerns due to the heatwave, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said yesterday: “I would beg India to reconsider as soon as possible because the more countries step into export restrictions, the more others would be tempted to do so and we would end up as a global community less equipped to deal with the crisis.”
Across income groups and geographies, Indians cannot be confident of a comfortable retired life, finds a survey by Sambodhi Research and pinBox Solutions. About 52% expect their children to provide for them when they age, and 28% are yet to start saving for retirement.
Fuel pumps in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh will be shut from 7 pm to 9 pm today to protest against forced losses due the sudden cut in excise duty on petrol and diesel by the Centre. Dealers say they have suffered a loss of nearly Rs 150 crore on old stock and want their commission increased and the difference in duties to be refunded to them.
Bank unions, including the RBI employees’ union, have demanded action against S Gurumurthy, a director on the Central Board of the RBI, for making “indecent and nasty remarks” about public sector bank employees at a function in Chennai. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was present at the event, the 52nd anniversary celebrations of Tamil magazine Thuglak, founded by Cho Ramaswamy. In his speech, Gurumurthy used the Tamil word kazhisadai (translated as (scum/filth) to describe bank employees.
India was ranked at the 54th place in the World Economic Forum’s global travel and tourism development index, down from 46th in 2019. The index assesses 117 economies, identifying key factors in enabling the sustainable and resilient growth of travel and tourism economies.
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