Congress to Debate Future But Prashant Kishor Keeps Away; As Army Bends to Hindutva Diktat, What Comes Next?
US commission flags India as country of concern, J&K HC sets limits to free speech, Ukraine escalation endangers 42% Indian firms, Air India loses priority, why ethnic Fabindia riles the Hindutva lot
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
April 26, 2022
For the third consecutive year, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has asked the State Department to put India on a list of “countries of particular concern”. Among the 15 on the list are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, Eritrea and North Korea. The commission’s annual report pointed to “numerous” attacks on religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, in India in 2021 as PM Narendra Modi’s government promoted “its ideological vision of a Hindu state” through policies “hostile to minorities”. “Religious freedom conditions in India significantly worsened,” the report said. It pointed to a “culture of impunity”, and the arrest of journalists and human rights advocates. The Modi government had angrily rejected the commission’s earlier findings. All eyes are now on the US State Department.
In a matter concerning violence against minorities, especially Christians, the Chief Justice of India said that though no date of hearing has been set, “there is no urgency”. But he agreed to list appeals against the Karnataka High Court’s ruling on the hijab issue. Meanwhile, protests have broken out across Gujarat against the cat-and-mouse arrests of Dalit MLA Jignesh Mevani in Assam.
India is not on the invitation list for a high-level military meeting on Ukraine, to be hosted today in the Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, by US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, which includes 14 non-NATO nations ranging from Japan and Israel to Kenya. Including all NATO members, 43 countries were invited. India is the only member of the Quad which won’t be there.
India has bought more than twice as much crude oil from Russia in the two months since its invasion of Ukraine as it did in all of 2021, Reuters reckons, snapping up discounted oil that others shunned. Moody’s have said further escalation of the Russia-Ukraine crisis could expose about 42% of rated Indian firms to huge risks. The oil, gas and automotive sectors are most vulnerable. India may have to reconsider its decision to push wheat exports once 6-7 million tonnes are shipped, reports Business Standard, to prevent a sharp rise in domestic prices, triggered by lower than expected production and procurement. Till April 24, wheat procurement is estimated to be 13.69 million tonnes, a 35% drop.
The government has announced LIC IPO dates: May 4-9. Valuing India’s largest insurer at Rs 6 trillion, the Union government will sell its 3.5% equity in LIC for Rs 21,000 crore.
The RBI will have to raise interest rates to tame inflation and the hikes need not be considered by politicians and bureaucrats as “anti-national”, Raghuram Rajan, the former RBI governor, said on LinkedIn. Earlier this month, the Reporters’ Collective had published reports based on RTI documents stating that in Rajan’s tenure, the government had denounced RBI’s interventions as designed to benefit the “white man”, and later, under Shaktikanta Das, allowed it to evade responsibility for runaway inflation.
Mahesh Vyas writes that in the current financial year “the 7.5% expected growth in real GDP is likely to add 4.9 million” to the ranks of the unemployed. It was 33.3 million in 2021-22 and could rise to 38.2 million, implying an unemployment rate of 8.6% in 2022-23. At 38.2 million, the count of the unemployed and the unemployment rate would be the largest ever, including the pandemic year.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the FCRA registration of the Human Rights NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Apne Aap Women Worldwide India. CHRI’s licence was suspended last June. Now, a day before the Delhi High Court was to hear a review plea against the suspension order, the ministry cancelled the registration.
The Congress yesterday announced that an empowered group will be constituted to address political challenges ahead, days after deliberating on the presentation of poll strategist Prashant Kishor on the party’s plan for the 2024 elections. Congress President Sonia Gandhi will convene a Chintan Shivir, a brainstorming session on May 13-15 in Udaipur, where 400 party leaders from across the country would discuss organisational issues.
Kishor will not be part of the process. “I declined the generous offer of Congress to join the party as part of the EAG & take responsibility for the elections. In my humble opinion, more than me the party needs leadership and collective will to fix the deep rooted structural problems through transformational reforms”, he tweeted.
Seven G-23 leaders are in the crucial committees for the Congress Chintan Shivir with Bhupinder Hooda and Mukul Wasnik heading a panel on farmers and organisation respectively, and Ghulam Nabi Azad and Shashi Tharoor in the political committee led by Mallikarjun Kharge. Six coordination panels – Political, Social Justice and Empowerment, Economy, Organisation, Farmers and Agriculture, and Youth and Empowerment – have been set up by Sonia Gandhi to prepare papers and lead the discussion at the three-day brainstorming session.
Two months after Tata Sons took control of Air India, India’s former national carrier will cease to enjoy priority in the allocation of international traffic rights, according to revised guidelines issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
Canadian Anti-Muslim troublemaker Ron Banerjee, totally obscure in India, was arrested yesterday at the Toronto Nagar Kirtan by local police. He faces charges of uttering violent threats against Sikhs, assault and disturbing the peace.
The crowds are back in old Delhi for the first public Ramzan celebration since the pandemic began, but sales are still down.
Newslaundry reports that former Indian wicket keeper Wriddhiman Saha is caught between two warring factions of the BCCI, and he can’t afford to lose the support of either. One faction is headed by Amit Shah’s son and the other by former Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly.
J&K HC sets limits to free speech
In a significant ruling, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh last week held that statements that Kashmir is occupied by the military or that people of the region have been reduced to slaves