Covid Agencies Out of Loop on Booster Rollout ― PM Flew Solo; Passing Bills Without Discussion Violates Constitution
Filmmaker arrested for tweet, per capita income below pre-pandemic level, Ladakh talks fail, U-turn SC stays multiple FIRs against Nupur Sharma, Punjabi bloopers mar ‘improved’ Jallianwala Bagh
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
July 19, 2022
The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation were not consulted before Prime Minister Modi announced the rollout of booster doses. In reply to a series of RTI applications by The Wire Science, the PMO and the Health Ministry refused to divulge details of the government’s decision-making. One reply indicated that the government had misled the Supreme Court about the availability of the minutes of an NTAGI meeting in December 2021 to deliberate ‘precautionary’ doses. It also appears that the Drug Controller General of India approved homologous boosting in the absence of data, allegedly because it was legally safer.
The UP government is going to extraordinary lengths to make way for the kanwar yatra this year. Meat shops on the route in Ghaziabad were closed yesterday, as has become the practice. In addition, schools in Meerut, UP, have been closed until July 27.
The Supreme Court’s bench of Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala did a U-turn on Tuesday and protected controversial BJP leader Nupur Sharma from ‘coercive action’ in all FIRs filed against her for her comments on Prophet Mohammad. She will now have to answer only the Delhi Police for the FIR it filed as her counsel claimed that it was the “first FIR filed” in the matter. This is not true as the Delhi FIR was filed on June 8, whereas FIRs had already been registered in Telangana and Maharashtra by then.
Film director Avinash Das, many of whose social media posts are critical of the Modi government, was arrested today by the Gujarat Police. A photo he tweeted showing Amit Shah with a bureaucrat arrested for money laundering has earned him the charge of “tarnishing the image of the Home Minister. The FIR also cites a photo he posted in Instagram of a woman wearing a sari made of the national tricolour. His arrest has invited comparisons with Jafar Panahi, the Iranian film maker sent to jail for six years.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed the Lok Sabha yesterday that foreign portfolio investors withdrew a whopping $14 billion from Indian equity markets in FY 2022-23, that is in just over 15 weeks.
Today, the rupee opened on the back foot, falling 7 paise to Rs 80.04 against the US dollar. Yesterday, it declined to 80 in intraday spot trading before ending the session 16 paise lower at 79.98 to a dollar. In the interbank forex market, the rupee opened at 79.76 and plunged to the psychological barrier of 80, then rose to close at 79.98, 16 paise lower than its previous close. Foreign institutional investors remained net sellers in the capital market on Friday, offloading shares worth Rs 1,649.36 crore, as per exchange data.
Data shared by the government in Parliament shows that per capita income in 2021-22 is less than it was in 2019-20 ― before the pandemic struck.
Retail businesses across India reported sales growth of just 13% in June, compared to pre-pandemic June 2019. The survey released yesterday by the Retailers’ Association of India (RAI) said inflationary pressures remain on consumer spending, and may dampen the festive season.
Russia is seeking payment in UAE dirhams for oil exports to some Indian customers, reports Reuters, as Moscow moves away from the US dollar to insulate itself from Western sanctions. At least two Indian refiners have already settled some payments in dirhams, and said that more would use this payment route. The invoice showed payments to Gazprombank via Mashreq Bank, its correspondent bank in Dubai. Russian oil major Rosneft is pushing crude into India, now its second biggest oil buyer after China, through trading firms including Everest Energy and Coral Energy. In May and June, Russia had displaced Saudi Arabia as the second biggest oil supplier to India, after Iraq. Maintaining neutrality, the UAE has not imposed sanctions on Moscow, and the payments could intensify Western complaints about nations not respecting sanctions.
The Supreme Court yesterday stayed orders passed by Karnataka High Court judge Justice HP Sandesh against the state Anti-Corruption Bureau and its chief, Additional Director General of Police Seemant Kumar Singh, saying that they were unconnected to a bail plea he was hearing in a corruption case. He had sought reports on prosecution/closure of cases probed by the Bureau since 2016 and confidential service records of the ADGP. As part of the judgement, Justice Sandesh had recorded the threat that he would be transferred, under pressure from Delhi. Justice Sandesh had called the ACB a “collection centre” and Singh a “tainted officer”.
The government is rather silent about the ‘namaz’ staged at the LuLu Mall in Lucknow and the hate campaign against it, following which it had to make public the composition of its workforce by faith. But Navdeep Suri, India’s former ambassador to Egypt and UAE said: “The @LuLuGroup_India founded by @Yusuffali_MA in UAE have invested well over ₹10,000 cr in India. They source >₹3000 cr of fresh produce from India for their hyper markets, create 1000s of jobs. And they have to disclose the religious identity of their staff? Tragic!” Remember that ‘ease of doing business’ fad?
Over two lakh small investors exited from LIC within 45 days of its listing, as the stock continued the slide which began with its listing on May 18. It slipped to a low of Rs 650 (on June 20) as against the IPO price of Rs 904 (for retail investors) and Rs 889 (for policyholders). The stock is currently at Rs 696.
Adani Group has convinced the country’s largest public sector bank, the State Bank of India, to underwrite its entire debt of Rs 12,770 crore, thereby achieving the financial viability of the greenfield airport at Navi Mumbai.
Savitri Jindal, who never went to college but has helmed Jindal Steel since her husband’s death in a chopper crash, saw her fortune rise by $12 billion in just two years. Her net worth has tripled in the last two years from $4.8 billion in 2020 to $17.7 billion in 2022. This was after it dipped by 50% in 2019 and 2020. From $8.8 billion in 2018, her net worth dropped to $5.9 billion in 2019 and $4.8 in 2020.
In the startup world, the dirty tricks department is in overdrive. From kickbacks to inflated bills, circular transactions to shell companies, malfeasance has become commonplace. Mint has the gory details. According to data compiled by layoffs.fyi, which tracks job losses in startups around the world, between April 1 and July 12, 2022, 26 startup events happened in India, causing 5,670 people to lose their jobs. For context, in all of FY22, 1,440 startup employees were laid off in India. Funding is also a bleak prospect. While 292 VC deals happened in India in the first quarter, their cumulative value was $7 billion, the lowest since the last quarter of FY21, according to Venture Intelligence.
Kerala Minister Dr R Bindu has written to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, taking strong exception to how girls students were forced to remove their bras before entering a NEET-UG exam centre near Kollam in Kerala.
Tamil Nadu governor RN Ravi is in the thick of political controversy again for making public statements favouring the Centre’s policies, praising Sanatana Dharma and blaming the “racial” division of Aryans and Dravidians on the Brits. The governor decided to hold the 54th convocation ceremony of Madurai Kamaraj University without “consulting the state government”, and state higher education minister K Ponmudi boycotted the event. The governor is accused of undermining the legislature ― 21 Bills passed by the House are pending for months. The ruling DMK government has also accused Raj Bhavan of not performing its constitutional duties. Modi’s “cooperative federalism”?
Following the controversial facelift of Jallianwala Bagh, a team of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has pointed out “improper descriptive text” on wall panels and “misspelt signboards written in Punjabi”. Earlier, the awful aesthetics of the ‘improvements’ had earned brickbats.
The Press Information Bureau reports that researchers have taken a significant leap towards understanding “why a few pockets of glaciers in the Karakoram Range are resisting glacial melt due to global warming, defying the trend of glaciers losing mass across the globe.” They have attributed this phenomenon, called the ‘Karakoram Anomaly’ to the recent revival of the infamous “western disturbances”.