Delhi’s Ukraine Hedge Invites Flocks Of Disturbed Dignitaries; A Third of India's Solar Power potential Lost to Air Pollution
China’s defence spend dwarfs region’s, trade routes to Russia opening, Stan Swamy’s death ‘forever a stain’, UP, Bihar migrants outpace Mallus, why new Volleyball League is big deal for Indian sport
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 21, 2022
The World Happiness Report was out late last week. Thinking positive, the Indian media neglected to cover the India story: it has slipped to 136th spot, behind all South Asian countries except Afghanistan.
The price of diesel for bulk industrial buyers has increased by Rs 25 per litre, while retail pump prices held steady. Bulk buyers ― plants, transporters, malls ― buy directly from oil marketing companies. In Delhi, bulk diesel is around Rs 115 per litre, while in Mumbai it’s about Rs 122 a litre. On Sunday, diesel had retailed at Rs 86.67 per litre in Delhi.
FMCG manufacturers are considering another price hike to offset unprecedented inflation in commodity prices of essentials like wheat, palm oil and packaging materials. They expect another shock from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the prices of wheat, edible oil and crude. Dabur and Parle will hike prices in a graduated manner. HUL and Nestle increased the prices of food products last week.
India is in the thick of diplomatic engagements at odds with its ambiguous position on Ukraine. Japan PM Fumio Kishida was in India over the weekend to meet PM Modi, and differences between the two sides on Ukraine were obvious, though not visible in the joint statement. Japanese media reports that Japan is trying to see that India aligns with it, the US, Europe and others in condemning the Russian aggression. Japan retains the hope that India might consider joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) from which it opted out in 2019, a senior Japanese official told The Hindu, indicating that India-Japan collaborations – including the proposed 5 trillion yen of FDI – may be impacted if India stays out. Plans to review the India-Japan FTA signed in 2011 have not progressed, nor has the government given any indications of a review of the 2019 decision to leave RCEP.
Modi and Australian PM Scott Morrison had a virtual summit today, and the foreign ministers of Austria, Greece and Poland are visiting New Delhi. A visit by US State Department Undersecretary Victoria Nuland and UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also in the offing. Former US Ambassador to India Ken Juster has said that “India is going to face an increasingly challenging situation as Russia’s atrocities become more apparent and more widespread.” Israel’s PM Naftali Bennett will visit India on April 2, at Modi’s invitation. Bennett, like the Turkish president, is trying to broker peace between Ukraine and Russia.
Russia exported 360,000 barrels of crude a day to India in March so far, nearly four times the 2021 average. It will hit 203,000 b/d for the whole month, based on current shipment schedules, reports the Financial Times. The reason for this surge: deep discounts, which the government is keen to avail of despite Washington’s disapproval. Radha Kumar looks at the diplomatic fallout.
Indian exporters are readying backup routes to send shipments to Russia, Ukraine and neighbouring countries ― the China route using Qingdao port, the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) route connecting Mumbai to Moscow via Iran and Azerbaijan, and the route between Hamburg in Germany and Poti port in Georgia. Shipping lines to Russia via the Black Sea are suspended and even after the war, may not be immediately resumed, reports Business Standard. Meanwhile, India’s forex reserves plunged by over $9.6 billion, the steepest fall in two years, caused by the Reserve Bank of India’s ongoing defence of a plummeting rupee.
India has refused to confirm or deny speculation about the imminent visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, but there has been no change in Chinese deployment inside hitherto Indian-controlled territory in Ladakh, as per satellite images. CSIS has released an in-depth study using satellite imagery on China’s new airports, heliports and ground infrastructure along its western borders — especially its border with India.
China’s total defence expenditure for 2022 is more than the combined defence expenditures of India, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Taiwan for 2021. The Indian foreign secretary acknowledged on Saturday that the Indian PM had discussed the subject of Chinese transgressions in Ladakh with his Japanese counterpart. That’s more than he has communicated with the Indian people and Parliament.
The experimental move to induct retired Army personnel on contract into the Central Industrial Security Force has not found favour with the paramilitary force. The Tribune reports that it has written to the Home Ministry to halt issuing new contracts. The plan was first mooted two decades ago as a means of saving the Union’s pension bill.
Contrary to popular belief, only 4% of Indians who emigrate to work abroad, mainly in the Middle East, are from Kerala. UP and Bihar together provide 43%.
Thousands of personnel files and health records of the Central Industrial Security Force were exposed in a security lapse. A database was left online for about a week without password protection.
Five persons, allegedly arrested in connection with the August 2015 murder of the rationalist MM Kalburgi, were produced in a Dharwar court on Thursday. While the hearing was on, Umadevi, wife of Kalburgi and Roopadarshi, her daughter, identified the evidence and the suspects. Roopadarshi told the court that Ganesh Miskin had shot her father dead.
The honorific ‘miya’, commonly used among South Asian Muslims, which became a pejorative in Assam, has now been reappropriated by the community to refer to Muslims who migrated to Assam from Bengal during the colonial era, reports Scroll. Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed is asking: If the state’s 1 crore Miya Muslims are not Assamese, what are they?
Vice President Venkaiah Naidu asks what’s wrong if education in India is “being saffronised”. In September 2002, 20 years ago, Atal Behari Vajpayee, the first BJP PM of India, had asked precisely the same question “in a lighter vein”. Now, it’s serious business.
One of the most enduring rivalries in Mandal politics—between Sharad Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav—has come to an end with the former merging his party in the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Yadav said that it is the “first step towards (the formation of) a united Opposition”.
While N. Biren Singh was sworn in today as Manipur chief minister – his second term – the BJP has yet to announce who will be the CMs of Uttarakhand and Goa. A decision is likely by Monday evening.
PM Narendra Modi’s Principal Secretary PK Mishra is apparently hanging up his boots, reports the New Indian Express. Mishra, a 1972 batch Gujarat cadre IAS officer who had worked closely with Modi in his home state, was reemployed after retirement. Mishra had taken over as Principal Secretary from Nripendra Mishra, who had resigned on personal grounds. According to sources, either Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba or