Darwinism Indian Style: Survival of the Richest; Lost Decade for Indian Manufacturing?
Law minister wants govt in collegium, gagged ISRO retracts Joshimath data, caste limiting diversity in science, India C-sections way above WHO norms, Southern cinema grows at Hindi's expense
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Snapshot of the day
January 16, 2022
Highlighting that the the richest 21 Indian billionaires have more wealth than 700 million Indians, a new report by Oxfam India states that from the beginning of the pandemic until November last year, the wealth of Indian billionaires has surged 121%, or Rs 3,608 crore per day in real terms. While just 5% Indians owned over 62% of national wealth in 2021, the bottom 50% of the population had merely 3%, according to Oxfam India’s latest report ‘Survival of the Richest: The India Story’.
The petition filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Upadhyay before the Supreme Court against ‘forceful religious conversions’ was heard by a bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and the petitioner found himself in choppy waters. The PIL was earlier being heard by a bench led by Justice MR Shah, which had refused to examine the maintainability of the pleas or expunge remarks against minorities. The petition, which was scheduled to be heard next in February, was heard today by the CJI and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala. The CJI asked Upadhyay’s counsel whether it was true that he had filed a similar petition last year only to withdraw it. ‘You cannot keep on withdrawing and filing new petitions’, the CJI said. The court is hearing pleas challenging laws against religious conversions passed in in different states, with which the present matter has now been tagged.
After slinging charges of opacity at the existing mechanism of selecting judges, the Centre has written to CJI DY Chandrachud suggesting inclusion of government representatives in the 25 year old Supreme Court collegiums leading the selection process of constitutional court judges. Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s letter to the CJI also suggests inclusion of state government representatives in the HC collegium, to dispel the impression of opaqueness.
A report has highlighted how global firms are helping Myanmar’s military make weapons. The BBC reports that former UN officials say that Myanmar’s military is producing a vast range of weapons to use against its own people, with the aid of companies in at least 13 countries, despite Western-led sanctions intended to isolate Myanmar. The US, France, India and Japan are among them.
In Mizoram, more voices are speaking up against the Centre’s silence on the “bombing” of Indian territory. Influential civil society groups have urged the Union government to respond to the violation of Indian airspace and to “safeguard the sovereignty of India”. Officially, India is absolutely mum, giving rise to unease about our unwillingness to defend borders and speak up about violations, be it by China or now, Myanmar.
Reacting cautiously, the Mizoram government said on Saturday that there was no evidence to suggest the Myanmar military had hit Indian territory during an aerial strike on ‘Camp Victoria’, HQ of the Chin National Front (CNF), an ethnic insurgent group in Myanmar. James Lalrinchhana, the district magistrate of Champhai in Mizoram, said that only shrapnel was recovered from the riverbed of the Tiau, which marks the international border ― which is insufficient evidence to connect the incident to the junta.
The Washington Post takes a detailed look at the abominable and dangerous air quality across large swathes of north India, particularly Delhi, and reports: “Socked in by smog, Indian officials invest heavily ― in public relations.” Officials are touting new pollution-fighting efforts with highly visible marketing campaigns and barely visible results.
Twenty-one batches of Albendazole tablets of Maiden Pharmaceuticals, Sonepat, failed the quality test two months ago, but the Haryana Medical Services Corporation Limited (HMSCL) is yet to blacklist the firm. After the tablets failed the “dissolution test parameter of IP (Indian Pharmacopoeia) 2018” at a private empanelled laboratory, the HMSCL is waiting for the test results of the Haryana government lab in Chandigarh.
There’s an alarming boom in Caesarean or C-section deliveries, to which public and private health facilities are contributing. Over 15% of deliveries in public hospitals were Caesarean in 2021-22, but almost 38% in private facilities, according to Health Ministry data released recently. This contradicts the WHO mandate, which says that no nation should have more than 10% of such deliveries. Many states saw a 5-10% rise in C-sections in these two years in private facilities. The report said, “Unnecessary Caesarean sections also pull resources away from other services in an overloaded health system.”
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The Guardian reports that the ‘world’s longest river cruise’ on the luxury liner Ganga Vilas from Varanasi, promoted by PM Modi, could threaten the endangered Gangetic dolphin, according to experts. The cruise has been hailed as the beginning of a new age of Indian tourism. But conservationists fear the impact of increased river traffic and pollution.
With RBI’s rupee settlement mechanism still in its early days, Russian buyers are offering payments to Indian exporters in Chinese yuan. Indian exporters have flagged the issue with the Commerce Ministry, stating that this would further strengthen the Chinese currency, running counter to the government’s objective of internationalising the Indian rupee.
India’s imports of crude oil from Russia increased further in December 2022, topping 1 million barrels per day for the first time ever, as Moscow remained its top oil supplier for the third month in a row, according to data from energy cargo tracker Vortexa. India is breaking all records for buying Russian oil, but who is its surprise buyer? Despite sanctions, it is the US, which is snapping up Indian refined petroleum products made from Russian crude.
But a US official has said that Washington is keen to see India diversifying away “from its reliance” on Russian military supplies. The Indian Army chief, meanwhile, said in an interview that “the need of the hour is for us to become self-reliant.” And over the weekend, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said India’s “counter-response” to China was “strong and firm.”
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who was conferred the Bharat Ratna in 1999 by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, has told Karan Thapar: “The Modi government is one of the most appalling in the world.” Prof Sen explained that he has come to this view because “it [the government] treats its own people in such a nasty way … the Indian government’s record has been really rather terrible.” He also said the Modi government’s treatment of Muslims, and the fact that it has no Muslim MP in either House of Parliament, is “unacceptably barbaric”. The word ‘barbaric’ “comes to my tongue because it’s not just unjust and wrong but it makes people’s lives totally precarious and makes India’s culture limited,” he said.
Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna is considering a Senate bid in California, sparking speculation among Democrats in several key US states that he may run for the White House in the future. People close to Khanna, 46, say he is keeping his options open ahead of a potential presidential run in 2028 or beyond. But others say he’ll go for it sooner.
Hundreds of NRIs, mostly from UP, and people from the UAE will gather to hear the poetry of some of India’s most popular Hindi and Urdu poets. The Indian Republic Day Kavi Sammelan and Mushaira, will be held on January 28 in Dubai, at the Sheikh Rashid auditorium of the Indian High School. It will be inaugurated by Pramod Tiwari, MP.
In Maharashtra, dancing with a portrait of Aurangzeb can get you into trouble with the police.
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