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As FPO Opens, Adani Companies Crash and Burn on Hindenburg Effect; Censorship Begins at Home: Cops’ Conference Papers Pulled Down
Hindenburg Research welcomes Adani’s legal threats, one-fourth of older salaried workers fear layoffs, Rahul ‘stalked by disinformation’, ‘Pathaan’ shows news of Bollywood’s death was exaggeration
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
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Snapshot of the day
January 27, 2023
As the Hindenburg effect takes hold, Adani Group companies’ stocks crashed 20% on average today. The flagship Adani Enterprises, whose Rs 20,000 crore FPO (earmarked for debt financing and capital expenses) opened today, shed 10% to reach Rs 3047.55. Since yesterday, investors have lost Rs 1 lakh crore. Adani Ports and the energy-focused Adani Green, Adani Transmission and Adani Total Gas lost a fifth of their value, and cement acquisitions ACC and Ambuja Cements lost 15% and 25% respectively.
Hindenburg Research, which had predicted in a scathing report that the House of Adani is overextended and heading for a zeppelin-like disaster, has pooh-poohed the group’s allegation of poor and motivated research, and welcomed its threat of legal action, seeing it as an opportunity to reveal its evidence. “At the conclusion of our report, we asked 88 straightforward questions that we believe give the company a chance to be transparent. Thus far, Adani has answered none of these questions. Instead, as expected, Adani has resorted to bluster and threats. In a statement to the media today, Adani referred to our 106 page, 32,000 word report, with over 720 citations and prepared over the course of two years, as ‘unresearched’.” Adani said that Hindenburg would benefit from a fall in Adani shares.
Who’s behind Hindenburg? In 2021, Financial Times reported that Nathan Andersen is a “37-year-old, who has built a small team at Hindenburg with five full-time employees and a handful of contractors, has staked his livelihood on critical research he says serves an important role in today’s markets. ‘Not every stock is deserving of going up to the moon,’ he says.”
Shah Rukh Khan’s action thriller Pathaan has grossed Rs 100 crore on its opening day, a first for a Hindi film, say people who track the film trade. Priya Ramani reflects the mood: “We loved you from the moment we saw you on a big screen, Shah Rukh Khan. Thank you for loving us back. Thank you for not losing hope. And thank you for reclaiming ‘Jai Hind’. As Ashutosh Rana, who plays a RAW bigwig, says: “Saving the country has to be done together.” And then there’s dancing in the aisles. (See Watch Out)
One in four Indians is concerned about the threat of layoffs. Three out of four are worried about rising inflation but half of them believe that the economy will grow in 2023, according to a survey by marketing data and analytics firm Kantar. In its second edition of India Union Budget Survey, Kantar found that the threat of layoffs is higher among affluent (32%), older 36-55 year-olds (30%) and salaried classes (30%).
Opium production has increased sharply in Myanmar, rising to a nine-year high, according to the UN. It touched nearly 795 metric tonnes in 2022, nearly double the figure of 423 metric tonnes during the military coup of 2021. The UN believes this is driven by economic hardship and insecurity, along with higher global prices for the opium resin that is used to make heroin. The coup has pulled Myanmar into a bloody civil war.
China has “exploited” the sense of alienation and insecurity among tribal communities along the India-Myanmar border ― who have been protesting against fencing of the border ― in order to “cause insurgency and instability” in the Northeast, according to a research paper written by a police officer and submitted at a conference last week. It added that insurgents sourced their arms from China and brought them into India via Myanmar, reports The Hindu. India shares a 1,643 km border with Myanmar in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.
AFP reports that Rahul Gandhi has been “stalked by disinformation” generated by the BJP’s “well-oiled social media army” as he walked in his cross-country Bharat Jodo Yatra. The Yatra resumed today after a break due to bad weather in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir but security concerns meant Gandhi had to abandon his walk and switch to a car.
The Pakistani rupee hit a historic low of Rs 255 to the dollar yesterday as the cash-strapped country moved to unlock $1.1 bn (which was due in November) of a $6 bn bailout secured from the IMF in 2019. The payout is stalled because Pakistan has not done enough on reforms and fiscal consolidation. IMF officials will visit Islamabad on Jan 31. AFP reports that Pakistan has only enough forex to pay for three weeks of imports.
The Enforcement Directorate has opposed the move to decriminalise provisions in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, warning that this would curtail the agency’s powers and impede its working. Its conviction rate is under 0.5% anyway so it is not clear how much worse its working can get. The ED has asked the Finance Ministry to exclude PMLA provisions from the broader effort to decriminalise offences for improving the ease of doing business. In 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had spoken of the government’s intent to decriminalise the PMLA.
Google has announced changes to its Android system in India, including allowing users to choose their default search engine. The Supreme Court had upheld a ruling of the Competition Commission of India that said the company had abused its market position and fined the company $161m for “unfair” business practices. About 97% of smartphones in India run Android. Antitrust proceedings against Google started in October, when the CCI asked it to make changes to the Android ecosystem.
Israel has become the top buyer of Indian petroleum products, crossing $1 billion in December, followed by the UAE, US and Togo. Russia remains India’s top source of crude, as per official data. From less than 3% of India’s basket in 2021, according to S&P, Russia supplied 1 million barrels per day (b/d) in November. Historically, Israel and Togo have not been significant buyers of Indian petroleum products but in December, Israel was the top buyer and Togo the fourth largest. Exports of India’s petroleum products in April-December in the current financial year jumped 35% to $67.64 bn, compared to $44.28 bn in 2021.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Minister of Science and Technology Jitendra Singh launched India’s first intranasal Covid vaccine iNCOVACC, manufactured in Hyderabad by Bharat Biotech International Ltd. The booster will be rolled out in private hospitals which placed advance orders. It is priced at Rs 800 per dose in private healthcare. For large volume procurement by governments, it’s Rs 325 per dose.
British Home Secretary Suella Braverman is on a collision course with the UK education department over plans to cut the period that overseas students can stay under a post-study visa route. The new Graduate Visa route – which allows foreign graduates to stay on to seek jobs and gain work experience for up to two years without requiring a specific job offer – is expected to be targeted. According to The Times, the Indian-origin home secretary plans a “reform” requiring students to obtain a work visa by getting a skilled job, or leave the UK after six months. Citing leaked advice, the newspapers say that the UK Department for Education is attempting to block the move, which would make the UK unattractive to international students.
Kerala’s Mission Start-Up has become one of the world’s top five public/private business incubators, according to the 2021-22 World Benchmark Study. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has termed it “a great achievement for Kerala, thanks to our successful incubation programme and support for #startups.”
In Salman Rushdie’s new novel Victory City, a gifted storyteller and poet creates a new civilization by the power of her imagination, reports the New York Times. Blessed by a goddess, she lives nearly 240 years, long enough to witness the rise and fall of her empire in southern India, but her lasting legacy is an epic poem. Rushdie draws in part on the Vijayanagar Empire, founded in the 14th century by two brothers from a cow-herding tribe, a detail that he includes. He acknowledges more than a dozen books as source material, including scholarly texts about the Vijayanagar empire, and works about mediaeval Indian culture, politics and civilization.
“Vinesh, Sakshi, Bajrang have disrupted the culture of subservience entrenched in Indian sport.” The onus is on the probe committee not to be impacted by the structures of power, athlete rights activist Payoshni Mitra told Smitha Nair about the serious charges levelled against the head of the Wrestling Federation of India, BJP MP Brij Bhushan Singh. No one can ask him to step down, though.
Spirited viewings of the banned BBC documentary on Modi, especially by students, continue to make global headlines. Foreign Policy said: “India banned a documentary. Students are watching anyway. Twitter may comply with India’s rules, but university students in New Delhi won’t.” For other global commentaries, read here.
Mohsin Shaikh was the first Muslim victim of communal lynch-mobs of the Modi era. He was murdered in Pune on June 2, 2014. Today, the trial court acquitted the prime accused, the head of the ‘Hindu Rashtra Sena’, and his associates of the crime, citing insufficient evidence.
Baghel launches unemployment benefit in Chhattisgarh
In a major announcement ahead of the Chhattisgarh Assembly polls due this year-end, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has said unemployed youth will be given a monthly allowance from the next financial year. It was one of the key Congress promises ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls, which returned the party to power in the state after 15 years. Construction workers registered with the Chhattisgarh Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board for three years will get a grant of Rs 50,000 for building their homes, Baghel said. Besides, a new scheme will encourage women’s groups, women entrepreneurs and businesswomen to launch startups and industries, he said.
RSS tweaks Banjara festival to ‘Hinduise’ community
Since the early 17th century, Banjaras from across India have gathered every year at the Pohra Devi shrine in Washim district, Maharashtra. But this year, attempts are being made to replace the Pohra Devi pilgrimage ― a vital part of the community’s belief system ― with a Kumbh Mela at Godhri village in Jalgaon, to run January 25-30. Community members allege that the intention behind the Banjara Kumbh Mela, under the patronage of the RSS, is to “Hinduise” the nomadic community and absorb them into the Hindu fold.
RSS chief, Panchjanya, Organiser accused of outraging Hindu sentiments
YouTuber and right-wing author Sandeep Deo has filed a criminal complaint against RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Panchjanya editor Praful Ketkar and Organiser editor Hitesh Shankar for allegedly outraging Hindu sentiments. According to the complaint, Bhagwat’s recent interview with the two RSS mouthpieces endorsed and associated homosexuality with Hindu religious figures. Bhagwat is also accused of making inflammatory remarks against Lord Krishna. On his blog, Deo said that he had asked the editors to express regret and publish a rebuttal, but got no response. He had also tagged the Sangh chief on Twitter and requested that he take back the statements. M Nageshwar Rao, former interim director of the CBI, also shared a copy of the complaint on his Twitter handle.
The Long Cable
Censorship begins at home, cops’ conference papers pulled down
We are used to seeing governments trying to censor the media. But the Modi Sarkar has done better ― it is censoring thoughtful academic papers written by its own police officers. According to a report in the Indian Express, PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah recently attended an important annual conference of directors general and inspectors general of police, where papers were presented by young police officers on increasing Islamist, Hindu and left wing radicalisation in society. Some of them said Sangh Parivar organisations like the VHP and Bajrang Dal are radical outfits which have promoted majoritarianism via ghar wapasi and beef ban campaigns, which radicalise the youth. In reaction, there is greater Islamist radicalisation. One paper also mentions the case of Nupur Sharma’s comments on the prophet, and its fallout.
Some of these papers were put on the conference website, but were pulled down later, evidently to avoid media attention. But Indian Express managed to get copies of the papers. Such things, like the BBC documentaries, can’t be brushed under the carpet. Censorship is always a bad idea. It draws more attention to the issue being covered up.
The DGP conference is a major event which brainstorms issues of internal security. Merely pulling down papers will not make them go away. The police officers are merely trying to analyse the causes of growing politico-religious violence. In a parallel, the American police and national agencies like the FBI have officially recognised growing violence and radicalisation among white supremacist groups in the US. For internal security, the FBI says it could be a bigger threat than any other form of extremism.
So, why hesitate to call a spade a spade in India? The BJP government has a problem admitting to youth radicalisation around campaigns like ghar wapasi because RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat himself had given the first clarion call for it, after Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. So one can understand the eagerness to take down such papers from the website.
Oddly, Bhagwat’s exhortation had come right after PM Modi’s first Independence Day speech at the Red Fort, where he gave a general call for observing a 10 year moratorium on all divisive issues. What went on between Modi and Bhagwat then is still a mystery.
Sangh Parivar outfits like the VHP and Bajrang Dal have acted with impunity all these years. The police establishment has to constantly firefight violence flowing from radical extremism from all quarters. In fact, one paper argues that this is a deeper problem which cannot be solved by policing alone. Other social and psychological interventions are needed urgently. But the hate factories must be shut down first.
Some belated corrective measures seem to be materialising in recent months. The I&B Ministry, for instance, has sent dozens of notices to news TV channels threatening to cancel their licences if incendiary and polarising content is not taken down. This might seem too little too late because media, especially TV channels, have played a big role in radicalising people through toxic debates. That such polarising debates have also helped the BJP electorally is an open secret.
The papers presented in the conference also spoke of left wing radicalisation. An interesting aspect of ultra left wing movements, like the Maoists, is that the mainstream parliamentary Left has a history of active hostility towards them. In turn, Maoists regard the parliamentary left as collaborators of the bourgeois State. However, that is not the case with a right wing parliamentary party like the BJP, which has never openly condemned actions of the VHP and Bajrang Dal, and vice versa. They seem to act in tandem. The researchers in the police department would do well to study these aspects, too.
The metaphorical ‘double engine ki sarkar’ in Maharashtra is also double-headed. It is led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, but his assertive deputy Devendra Fadnavis is the real power centre. It is an uneasy and unequal relationship, which is now reflected in the state administration. The recent decision to appoint Deven Bharti, an IAS officer close to Fadnavis, Mumbai Police’s first-ever special commissioner, while Police Commissioner Vivek Phansalkar is still in office, is a fresh sign of the fierce tussle between Fadnavis and Shinde, political rivals turned allies. Shinde is widely seen as a puppet while Fadnavis calls the shots. The discord has percolated into the secretariat and even the districts, with discontent brewing in the bureaucracy, which bodes ill for the Shinde government.
Prime Number: 25
Some 25 single-screen theatres reopened to screen Pathaan, which was released nationwide on January 25. Many had temporarily shut down after Drishyam 2 released in November, for want of films. Single screens contribute 35% to the Indian box office business, with the rest coming from multiplexes. For big-ticket and star-studded films, the split is 55% from multiplexes and 45% from single screens.
The full text of a paper by a superintendent of police in Leh, Ladakh, states that of the 65 patrolling points from the Karakoram Pass to Chumur, “our presence is lost in 26 PPs (ie, PP no. 5-17, 24-32, 37, 51, 52, 62) due to restrictive or no patrolling” by the Indian security forces. The paper was presented at the 57th annual conference of directors general, inspectors general and heads of central armed police forces and central police organisations on January 20-22 at New Delhi.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
Rajdharma is a moral code that translates into ‘rule of law’, and the institutions designed to protect it are under serious threat today. This is adharma, writes former RAW officer Ravi Joshi.
Vir Sanghvi writes that record advance bookings for Pathaan show that the people of India and Shah Rukh Khan have shown Hindutva bullies how little they care about them and their bogus boycotts.
A fundamentally insecure leadership always converts criticism into conspiracy, doesn’t draw the line on a public discourse of hate and militates against public accountability. It won’t be a custodian of constitutional values, writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta.
India’s foreign policy recalls the ‘calcium pills’ Chinese citizens used to send to their foreign ministry. “Will the MEA sue the BBC? Will it summon the British High Commissioner and say we will cancel talks over the Free Trade Agreement,” asks Omair Ahmad.
About the day-long power outage across Pakistan, TV host and columnist Zarrar Khuhro sardonically writes that the country wasn’t working, so they turned it off and on again, but it still isn’t working.
There has been a gradual and inexorable expansion of IT Rules into the ‘everything law’. Where are free debate and expression in a digital and democratic India, asks Apar Gupta.
Submarines take a long time to build, and it is almost certain that India will have a serious crisis in the coming years because of delays in approving the P75I programme, writes Manvendra Singh.
Justice RS Chauhan (retd) writes that for appointing judges, we should have a commission consisting of the CJI, two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, the Law Minister or a representative of the government, the leader of the Opposition or the leader of the largest Opposition party in Parliament. But only the judges should have veto power.
The wealthy and the rich have helped undermine the fundamental rights guaranteed to all and disenfranchised their fellow Indians, writes Nandita Haksar.
Shiv Visvanathan writes that at a time when electoral democracy is ossifying into majoritarian authoritarianism, minorities are reinventing a direct and dialogic democracy.
The Portuguese introduced the early modern European concept that it was Europe’s destiny to rule and Christianise the world, writes Anirudh Kanisetti.
An excerpt from EP Unny’s book on RK Laxman: “Laxman failed to get into a proper art school and went on to become the country’s best-regarded cartoonist.”
The Hindu podcast has tough questions for the Election Commission, which wants to introduce online voting for migrants.
The box office success of Pathaan says that news of the death of Bombay Hindi cinema was an exaggeration.
Over and out
An engineer who created a hand-cranked washing machine for people in poorer regions has received an award from UK PM Rishi Sunak. Navjot Sawhney devised the machines after seeing a neighbour in India struggling to do the washing. PM Sunak has awarded Sawhney a Points of Light Award, which recognises volunteers, charity leaders and community champions.
The New York Times has written on “jaw-dropping” interest in women’s cricket. Stunning prices for cricket teams are a milestone for women’s sports, it says. “Huge franchise fees and a seven-figure media deal for a new competition in India represent one of the biggest investments ever in a women’s sport.”
Indian pacer Mohammed Siraj has capped off a superb 12 months by claiming the No 1 spot on the ICC men’s ODI player rankings for bowlers. A remarkable rise for Siraj, who only returned to India’s ODI setup in February last year following a three-year hiatus without playing a 50-over match at the international level.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.