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Congress to Purge BJP Laws, RSS Syllabus in Karnataka; BRICS Expansion: Strengthen the Core First
Manipur home of Union minister attacked, Nepal traders stop importing Indian produce, alternative energy will affect food security, remembering Caribbean indentured labour, Avtar Singh Khanda dies
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Snapshot of the day
June 16, 2023
The good news is that Biparjoy is running out of steam. The weather system that threatened to make landfall as a very severe cyclonic storm, and caused one lakh people to be evacuated in India and Pakistan, is likely to weaken into a depression by this evening. However, trees and electricity poles have been uprooted along the path of its landfall in Gujarat, where it first crossed the shore near Jakhau port. As the wind system turns northeast, heavy rain is expected in Rajasthan today. It’s facilitating free showers in a Vande Bharat train, right in the compartment.
One TV news channel played safe and flew above the weather:
Others were blown away by the storm, with a little help from method acting. But Bollywood remains ahead of the curve. The clip is from Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000).
The Manipur government extended the internet shutdown for another five days. Manipur was pulled off the internet on May 3, one and a half months ago. Southern Manipur has been inaccessible to security personnel for the past two weeks because at least six key highways in Manipur have been blocked by women-led vigilante groups. A defence source told The Hindu that the obstruction of important routes in several areas, from the valley to the hill regions in the south, has become a new problem for the security forces in violence-plagued Manipur.
Following an arson attack on the home of a state minister, mobs with petrol bombs set on fire Union Minister of State for External Affairs RK Ranjan Singh’s home in Imphal. Nine security escort personnel, five security guards and eight additional guards were on duty at the time, but were overwhelmed by the mob.
Despite the violence in Manipur, the state’s boxing squad is present at the Youth Men’s National Boxing Championships in Gangtok, Sikkim. They missed coaching and trained in relief camps in a high-tension atmosphere. One, whose village was badly affected by violence and his home was burned down, arrived with only the clothes on his back, reports the New Indian Express. The state’s players are also at the Hockey India Junior Men National Championship in Rourkela, Odisha, while mourning a former state team captain who was shot dead in Imphal East.
The protesting wrestlers have forced the government to have a chargesheet filed naming the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik is concerned about the withdrawal of a POCSO case filed by a minor wrestler. She says that there was “a lot of pressure” on her family. Scroll investigates the legal weight that the wrestlers’ testimonies carry.
While the Biden administration sought (and bagged) a defence sale from PM Modi’s state visit to the US, a former Nasa official hopes that space will be big on the agenda of talks. Mike Gold, former associate administrator for Space Policy and Partnerships at Nasa, said that an alliance in space is crucial, since India is already a world leader and now plans manned missions.
And as PM Modi prepares to make another speech at the US Capitol, two influential US senators have raised concerns that India “took a pass” and did not directly criticise Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. At the annual India Ideas summit organised by the US-India Business Council on Tuesday, the two co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus expressed unease that India did not take a stronger position against Russia. According to IANS, Republican senator John Cornyn said, “It was a little bit disappointing that when Russia invaded Ukraine, India took a pass.”
Meanwhile, the Russian oil for Pakistan is refined in a Russian oil refinery located in India, the Tribune India reports. The first shipment of Russian oil that reached Karachi on Sunday occurred in a Gujarat-based Indian refinery. However, it was sent via the United Arab Emirates in consideration of Islamabad's delicate circumstances.
India’s trade deficit rose to a five-month high in May at $22.12 billion, according to government data. Merchandise exports fell 10.3% to $34.98 billion from a year earlier in May, while imports declined 6.6% annually to $57.10 billion, Mint reports, citing government data.
Climate scientist Roxy Koll says that early in the monsoon, there seems to be a 51% deficit in rainfall.
The Economist says ,”Mr Modi has promised growth of a sort that would turn India into a pillar of the world economy, on a par with America, China and EU.” However, “Even by 2075 its output per person will be 45% lower than China’s and about 75% below America’s,” it concludes.
On Tuesday, traders in Nepal said that they had stopped importing vegetables from India, including onions, potatoes, and other root crops, after the government levied a heavy value-added tax of 13% on them last month. “Before the government introduced VAT, Kathmandu valley would see anywhere between 700 to 1,000 tonnes of onions being imported from India on a daily basis,” Keshav Upreti, a wholesaler at Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market, told PTI. “In the last 10 days, onions have stopped coming from India.”
The News Minute reports on how anti-caste groups in IITs under the larger aegis of Ambedkar Study Circles fight caste-based discrimination.
JP Morgan has downgraded four Indian IT stocks, including the reliable performer TCS, from ‘neutral’ to ‘underweight’, seeing their performance on Nifty.
The UN is calling on India to immediately release Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez, according to a joint press release from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Forum Asia and Civicus. Parvez is a key figure in human rights advocacy in Kashmir who was arrested in 2021 under anti-terrorism laws. He is detained in Delhi’s Rohini Jail.
Waheed Parra stood up for the Indian democratic process in Kashmir even after it was stripped of its special status and the political leadership was detained en masse and won the first poll in the Union Territory from jail. But in the years since, he has been struggling to exercise his legal right to be sworn in.
The purging of Muslims from Uttarakhand is following a 20th century European playbook. Notices were stuck on shops and businesses, then they were ransacked amid shouts of Jai Shri Ram, says Newslaundry in a video report.
Prominent pro-Khalistani activist Avtar Singh Khanda, whom the National Investigation Agency has linked to the attack on the Indian High Commission in London, has died in a Birmingham hospital of a blood cancer. He was 35.
Siddaramaiah to purge BJP laws, RSS syllabus in Karnataka
The Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka will repeal the anti-conversion law passed by the previous BJP government. According to SouthFirst, the APMC Act brought in by the previous government has also been repealed. The government also approved the revision of Social Science and Kannada textbooks for classes 6 to 10 in state schools, leaving out chapters on RSS founder KB Hedgewar and Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar, in what the government described as an effort to rectify the “distortion of history” and “saffronisation of the syllabus” under the previous BJP regime.
Assam flood-affected struggle to survive
According to an official bulletin, Assam’s flood situation worsened yesterday. About 29,000 people are struggling to survive the inundation across three districts following incessant rainfall. More than 28,800 people have been affected by floods in the districts of Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, and Lakhimpur, according to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority’s daily flood report. Lakhimpur is the worst-affected district with over 23,500 flood victims, followed by Dibrugarh with over 3,800 and Dhemaji with almost 1,500. Twenty-five villages are under water and 215.57 hectares of crop land has been damaged across Assam.
Alternative energy goals will affect food security
By 2030, India will need twice as much power as it has now, but due to its commitment to renewable energy, it cannot use non-renewable sources. To combat this, the Indian government announced an ambitious goal to double its renewable energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030, to meet half of its energy requirements. Despite increasing its usage of solar energy, the government is still only using 65% of the 100 GW that it had intended to build by the end of 2022. Additionally, it resulted in the conversion of agricultural land into solar farms.
As the nation will require at least 400,000 hectares of land by 2030 to reach its renewable ambitions, experts are increasingly concerned that this effort might cause food insecurity in the future.
The Long Cable
BRICS expansion can wait, strengthen the core first
Ram Singh, Surendar Singh
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is a relatively young organisation, established in 2009 merely on the economic prospects of constituents in the evolving and shifting global economic order. Its primary focus has been on economic cooperation, development and multilateralism. It is now seen as an alternative to the Bretton Woods model and other emerging economies are interested in joining it. The list of aspirants now stretches to eight ― Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. While some of these countries indeed have significant economic influence and regional importance, it is important to consider various factors before expanding BRICS.
Too early to expand
The BRICS grouping is yet evolving as an organisation and needs time to develop its institutions and governance structure. Its constituents are evolving nationally, establishing robust governance and developmental institutions and exploring associated socioeconomic convergences. BRICS countries differ significantly in terms of economic development. China, with the sheer size of its economy, is challenging existing governance models and institutions while South Africa is still coping with structural economic challenges. India and Brazil remain attractive economically but Russia is cut off, financially and economically.
Recognising this diversity, BRICS members need to engage with each other to build frameworks for cooperation, explore areas of mutual interest and foster collaboration. Accordingly, BRICS countries should prioritise the strengthening of its New Development Bank (NDB) to promote financial and economic inclusion on a global scale. The NDB can play a crucial role in providing funding for infrastructure projects, sustainable development initiatives and other priority areas within BRICS countries and beyond. By enhancing its capacity, expanding its lending capabilities and ensuring efficient governance, BRICS can contribute to reducing the development gap and fostering inclusive growth.
Additionally, the idea of a BRICS currency for trade and internal payment settlements is worth exploring. A shared currency could facilitate trade and investment, reduce transaction costs and enhance economic cooperation within the bloc. However, implementing a common currency would require addressing issues such as exchange rate stability, monetary policy coordination and the establishment of appropriate financial infrastructure. It would also necessitate extensive dialogue and consensus-building among member states, especially on the basis of the intrinsic value of the currency. A currency-commodity basket would be a great idea, reflecting the intrinsic strengths of this currency for global acceptance, beyond internal settlement.
Focus on selective expansion
Given the stage of evolution and social and economic coalescing among BRICS countries at the institutional, governmental and diplomatic level, there is no immediate need for expanding BRICS, and the existing member countries should prioritise economic and social cohesion among themselves. However, selective expansion could be considered for countries that can actively contribute to the BRICS grouping without bringing in political and diplomatic baggage. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia could be potential candidates for inclusion, given their economic significance and potential for cooperation. This approach would allow BRICS to expand its influence while maintaining a focus on economic collaboration and minimising potential challenges from the inclusion of politically complex nations. By carefully selecting new members, BRICS can ensure a smooth integration process and preserve the organisation’s core objectives of economic growth, stability, and alternate governance architecture.
Furthermore, it is crucial to avoid regional lobbying within BRICS, where member countries advocate for specific nations based on regional alliances ― China for Pakistan, Russia for Iran and Brazil for Argentina. Inclusion in BRICS should solely be based on the merits of a member state and their ability to contribute to the objectives and future agenda of the grouping. This includes areas such as the establishment of an alternate currency, developing inclusive payment settlement systems, promoting developmental finance and fostering cooperation in various sectors. By focusing on merit, BRICS can ensure that its expansion is driven by shared goals and mutual benefits rather than political considerations.
Foster greater convergence
BRICS should prioritise economic and social convergences among its member states and should focus on institution building, fostering trust, sharing knowledge, promoting trade and development and advancing developmental finance. It is important for BRICS to remain committed to its core objectives.
It is crucial to recognise that these objectives require long-term dedication and sustained efforts. Global institutions need time and resources to become inclusive and relevant in a rapidly changing world order. BRICS should be patient and persistent in its pursuit of building effective institutions that can address the evolving needs of its member states and contribute to the global economic landscape. By maintaining a steadfast focus on its core goals and patiently working towards them, BRICS can strengthen its cooperation, enhance mutual understanding, and foster sustainable development within its member states and beyond.
(Ram Singh is a Professor at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade New Delhi. Surendar Singh is an Associate Professor at FORE School of Management, New Delhi.)
Prime Number: Rs 720 crore
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has spent Rs 720 crore in just six months to prink up the metropolis. Rs 275 crore of the fund was used to illuminate a city that was already illuminated. To illuminate skywalks, many of which are rarely used by residents, a special fund of Rs 51.17 crore was set aside.
In what looks like plain loot, in the last five years, banks have reported 983 frauds above Rs 100 crore, adding up to Rs 3,76,400 crore. Is this the cost of compromising with wilful defaulters? The Centre for Financial Accountability gets into the intricacies.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
“Kashmir, the benchmark for counter-insurgency for most Indians, did not witness such incidents where police armouries are emptied, even during its worst period in the 1990s. Manipur police allowed this loot, as did the state government,” writes Manvendra Singh.
If the Modi government had the slightest respect for what a free media is supposed to do in a democracy, would not the PM make himself available to answer questions directly to the media in these nine years that he has held office, asks Kalpana Sharma.
A judicial inquiry commission is not enough to address the problem in Manipur, writes John Simte, because the Supreme Court has held that the findings of such a body are not binding on a court of law.
While the GDP figures are all very nice, flagging manufacturing and indifferent hiring in the sector for a decade suggest that the economy is being hollowed out, writes Himanshu in Mint.
Technological solutions impose a cost of their own, say Chakradhar Buddha and Venkata Krishna Kagga. The digitisation and centralisation of MGNREGA has cost livelihoods in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which had their own unique system to administer it.
As new generations of the political families which run many regional parties become prominent, PM Modi will try to offset the effects of anti-incumbency, poor performance and the universal lack of jobs by projecting opposition unity as an attempt to save family fortunes.
An excerpt from TN Seshan’s Through the Broken Glass: An Autobiography, recalling the heady days when he began to change the way elections are held in India, and grateful voters called him the real Iron Man of India.
“Understanding the unrestrained state and the global menace of totalitarianism in the present time is not possible without understanding its 20th century manifestations,” says GN Devy. He suggests re-reading Hannah Arendt.
Listen to Arati Kumar-Rao, artist, photographer and the author of Marginlands, which covers a decade of travels to the hostile ecologies of the Indian subcontinent that journalism frequently neglects — the mangroves of the Sundarbans, the Thar desert, the tidal pools of Goa on this podcast on books from The Hindu.
Watch a discussion featuring Nitin Sethi, Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Vijaita Singh, Yashovardhan Azad and Kham Khan Suan Hausing with Smita Sharma to understand Manipur’s complexity, difficulties, security measures and statecraft, and why the ‘double engine’ government has failed to control the ethnic violence.
Over and out
The extent to which Indian museums and their digital infrastructure completely ignore Pakistan is astounding, and yet not surprising at all. For example, the digital record for this Gandhara-based Kushan Buddha whose "Origin Place" is listed as the "NW part of the erstwhile Indian subcontinent."
“Tomorrow when I hang up my boots, the first thing I will regret is having been such a fine batter, I should have never become a bowler.” A deeply introspective R Ashwin opens up in his best interview ever, with The Indian Express.
In Scroll, María del Pilar Kaladeen says that while the role of black workers in the Caribbean has been recognised and the Windrush generation honoured, both Britain and India have been happy to forget the indenture system which transported huge populations out of the eastern Gangetic plain to the Caribbean ― for shame. This Indo-Caribbean heritage must be rediscovered.
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