Before India Icebreaker, China Supports Pak ‘No Matter What’; Why A Real Bhagat Singh Photo Is Too Hot To Handle
Inflation protests in Pak & Lanka, strike next week in India, Imran’s rating dips, lakhs of posts vacant in Railways & Army, Umar Khalid denied bail and Hindu USAF staffer allowed to wear tilak
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
March 24, 2022
A spectacular montage ― Indian Youth Congress chief BV Srinivas, who was a saviour delivering cylinders during the oxygen crisis, when the government was in rout, yesterday ran towards Parliament with a gas cylinder held aloft in protest against fuel price hikes. The former Karnataka wicketkeeper-batsman at U-16 and U-19 level is one of the few politicians who could carry this off.
A Delhi court has denied bail to Umar Khalid in a UAPA case concerning the Delhi riots of 2020.
BBC’s disinformation unit head Jugal Purohit fact-checks the Finance Minister’s assertion in Parliament that 2004-2014 was a lost decade for defence procurement.
Following news of a two-year hiring holiday in the Army, the government has admitted in Parliament that 1.49 lakh entry-level posts are lying vacant in the Indian Railways. These are India’s biggest employers. Unemployment rates have been very high in the last two years.
Many Indians are cutting down on fried food and even vegetables as the Ukraine war inflates prices across the board and slows recovery. Companies are passing on a surge in input costs from the invasion, the first fuel price hikes in months, and expensive vegetable oils. Private consumption contributes the largest share of gross domestic output, almost 60%. Since the Ukraine crisis, Indian firms have raised prices of milk, instant noodles, chicken and other key items by 5-20%. The Hindu has an important leader today on the Union government’s arbitrary fuel price decisions, timed with polling dates. It says the Election Commission must take note as “routinely freezing fuel prices is an unfair and distortionary poll ploy.” Price hikes stopped – and are back after a 137-day break – without any financial logic.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have seen impressive public protests against inflation. The Financial Times says that for the first time, Imran Khan’s popularity rating is lower than Nawaz Sharif’s and Shahbaz Sharif’s, and only marginally above Bilawal Bhutto’s. In India, at least 50% of fuel costs have been taxes ― since 2014, long before the Ukraine crisis and the pandemic. Here is a state-wise break-up. Expect cement prices to soar next.
The muted response from Quad members Japan, Australia and the US to India buying discounted Russian oil – in contrast to sharp responses to China buying Russian wheat – is more than just a double standard, reports the South China Morning Post. It reflects a desire among the US and its allies to preserve India’s position in the Quad regional security framework and prevent Moscow from getting even closer to Beijing.
The Indian and Chinese foreign ministries are pussyfooting around confirming the visit to Delhi this week by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Ukraine, on which they have taken similar positions, will be on the agenda, along with the Ladakh border crisis.
Yesterday, addressing the OIC foreign ministers’ meeting in Islamabad, Wang said, “On the Kashmir issue, we have heard the voices of many Islamic friends again today, and China has the same desire for this.” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “We reject the uncalled-for reference to India by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his speech at the opening ceremony … Matters related to the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir are entirely the internal affairs of India. Other countries including China have no locus standi to comment. They should note that India refrains from public judgement of their internal issues,” he added.
A day earlier, after a bilateral meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Wang assured Pakistan of Beijing’s “firm” support in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity “no matter what changes” internationally or within the two countries. That doesn’t sound conciliatory before an ice-breaking trip to India.
India’s demand for coal would increase by 63% in the next eight years, the Coal Ministry told Parliament yesterday, reaching 1.3-1.5 billion tonnes by 2030. A transition away from coal was not expected in “the foreseeable future”, the reply added.
To bolster India’s capital markets, Delhi has frozen plans to allow local firms to list overseas, reports Reuters. It’s a blow to foreign funds and stock exchanges seeking to tap India’s tech boom. New rules for overseas listings were to be announced in February, before the sudden reversal.
Merchandise imports jumped to a record $589 billion, while exports stood at $400.9 billion. The government boasted about the export figures, which were driven by high commodity prices, but maintained total silence on the record negative balance of trade.
Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written up guidelines about imposing Covid-related restrictions: “A test positivity rate of 10% or more in the last week or bed occupancy of more than 40% on either oxygen supported or ICU-beds are grounds.”
The Karnataka High Court yesterday refused to drop rape charges against a man for sexual assault on his wife. It ruled that marriage doesn’t confer any special male privilege or licence for unleashing a “brutal beast” on the wife. Justice M Nagaprasanna declined to accept the husband’s plea that he cannot be tried for rape under the Indian Penal Code.
A Hindu airman in the US Air Force has been allowed to wear a tilak chandlo while in uniform, marking a new distinction in religious accommodation for followers of all religions, including Muslims and Sikhs. Darshan Shah, who has been seeking approval since 2020, said, “We live in a country where we’re allowed to practice and have faith in what we want. That’s what makes this such a great country. We’re not persecuted for what we follow or believe.” What would the Karnataka High Court say to that?
Karnataka Law Minister JC Madhuswamy told the Assembly yesterday that the government cannot interfere in the ban on Muslim traders from setting up stalls on the premises of Hindu shrines. But his party’s government in Madhya Pradesh will issue a notice to IAS officer Niyaz Khan for his tweets. Khan, deputy secretary with the MP Public Works Department, had last week urged makers of The Kashmir Files to also make a film on the “killings of a large number of Muslims across several states”, who are “not insects, but citizens”. Khan plans to write a book highlighting the “massacre of Muslims” so that a movie could be made to bring the “pain and suffering of minorities” before Indians. State Home Minister Narottam Mishra yesterday said: “This is a serious issue… he is crossing and violating the lakshman rekha set for officials… the state government will issue a show-cause notice to him.”
Without saying why, the Lok Sabha Secretariat reportedly disallowed Congress MP and Kerala unit chief K Sudhakaran’s question to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the “threat to national unity” from rising communalism, especially in view of the hijab controversy. According to Sudhakaran, this is the second time that his question on communalism was disallowed in the ongoing Budget session.
Former Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman Colin Graves has