Despite Repo Rate Hike, Rupee Slides to New Low Against Dollar; Hindus Have Had to 'Go to Pakistan'
Prof suspended for question on fascism/Nazism, school principal faces FIR for asking students to dress for Eid, Tamil Nadu pioneers free school breakfasts and postcards from beyond the edge
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
May 9, 2022
Despite the Reserve Bank of India’s sudden raising of the repo rate partly to defend the rupee, it fell to Rs 77.46 to the dollar – an all-time low – and is expected to fall further. How long can forex reserves be expended in a losing battle?
Tesla is effectively abandoning its plans for India and has redesignated staff to other markets ― the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The stumbling blocks it faced in India, where it sought tax cuts, included a requirement to assemble in India and source $500 million worth of parts locally, and a refusal to consider a standard tariff of 40% for electric cars.
In an exclusive, Anisha Dutta of the Indian Express reveals that the Modi government had hoped a perception management exercise would help counter “negative commentary” (criticism, in plainspeak) overseas about India’s bungled response to the pandemic and thereby improve India’s financial ratings too. The plan was conceived by Sanjeev Sanyal, now on the PM’s Economic Advisory Council, when he was Principal Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance. Sanyal authored, for internal circulation, the presentation ‘Subjective Factors that impact India’s Sovereign Ratings: What can we do about it?’ Not much, as it turns out.
A Twitter thread lists the global rankings that the Modi government loves, and the ones it doesn’t. The latter now preponderate, as the reality of the government’s ‘achievements’ becomes clearer to the world.
Bulldozers came to Shaheen Bagh and returned in the face of public protest as local saw the attempted ‘demolition drive’ in the largely Muslim neighbourhood by the BJP run South Delhi Municipal Corporation as an attempt to intimidate the community. On cue, BJP leaders sought to whip up hysteria about the presence of Bangladeshis in the area – though one video circulated by them became the butt of jokes when it turned out some of ‘infiltrators’ were in India because they have applied for visas to go to Malta.
An assistant professor at Noida’s Sharda University was suspended on Friday for posing an “objectionable” question in a mid-term political science paper for undergraduate students. Of eight questions in the paper worth 50 marks, the sixth, worth seven marks, was: “Do you find any similarities between Fascism/Nazism and Hindu right wing (Hindutva)? Elaborate with arguments.” The teacher was suspended after some students complained, and the university formed a three-member investigation committee after the question set off a furore on Twitter, a fine example of QED.
Confirmatory test: Bihar BJP MLA Haribhushan Thakur Bachaul has said that Muslims should be set ablaze like Ravana effigies are on Dussehra. In February, he had also said that Indian Muslims should be stripped of voting rights and treated as second class citizens. Several members of the Opposition, mainly of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, had demanded his suspension from the Assembly.
Another confirmatory test: in UP’s Prayagraj district, an FIR was registered against a school principal who asked students to dress up for Eid and make a short video. A case has been registered under IPC sections 153A, 295A, 67 IT act based on the complaint of a VHP functionary.
Sushant Singh (a contributor to The India Cable) analyses the Hindutva ideologues’ expansionist idea of Akhand Bharat and its implications for the world (dis)order in Foreign Policy, India has slumped to rank 85 in the Henley Passport Index and is now at par with Mauritania and Tajikistan. It was ranked 83 last year.
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Hindus have had to ‘go to Pakistan’, says a report by Vijaita Singh about 800 Pakistani Hindus who failed to secure Indian citizenship and have returned. Home Minister Amit Shah has again said that the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 will be implemented, and groups in the Northeast have threatened to resume their agitation.
BJP leader Rajneesh Singh has approached the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, seeking directives to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to open 20 rooms inside the Taj Mahal in Agra to ascertain whether Hindu idols and inscriptions are hidden therein. The matter is not listed for hearing but nothing can be ruled out, given how many rightwing nuts believe the Mughal mausoleum is a Hindu temple originally called Tejo Mahalaya. All such court cases, which are generally thrown out, can be traced back to the speculations of history rewriter PN Oak. But the outcome could be a scene in the OTT show Leila. Here is the authentic story of how the Taj Mahal was built, and the mythology.
A Delhi court has observed that there was “utter failure” on the part of the Delhi Police in stopping the Hanuman Jayanti procession that was taken out without permission and led to violence in Jahangirpuri on April 16. “It appears that local police instead of performing their duty in stopping the said illegal procession… and dispersing the crowd, was accompanying them to the entire route…” the court said.
In another case, after the Supreme Court’s angry observations, Delhi Police have changed their affidavit about hate speech at the Dharam Sansad in Delhi, but are still unable to say that these were calls for genocide. The fresh affidavit said, “It is submitted that all the links given in the complaint and other material available in the public domain were analysed. One video containing audio and video recording of the above said programme was found uploaded on YouTube channel. After further minute verification of the materials, FIR has been registered on May 4 at police station Okhla Industrial Area, South East (Delhi) District for the offences of section 153A, 295A, 298 and 34 of Indian Penal Code.” It further said that investigation will be carried out in accordance with the law. On April 22, the apex court had expressed its displeasure over a Delhi Police affidavit which had said that “no hate speech was made” during the event and directed it to file a “better affidavit”.
The Financial Times reports on India’s two oligarchs: Reliance Industries is increasingly relying on acquisitions to fuel its expansion and take on Gautam Adani, an industrialist with one of the country’s largest renewables portfolios and a favourite of the powers that be. Reliance is also fending off challenges from Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart in retail.
Nearly one in five households in India still practise open defecation, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2019-21, over two years after the Centre had said the count had become “negligible”. The NFHS found that 83% of 636,699 households sampled across India had access to a toilet, but 19% did not access toilets, preferring open defecation. The Modi government had launched the Swachh Bharat Mission in October 2014 with the goal of eliminating the practice. At a public event at the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad on October 2, 2019, five years after the mission’s launch, Modi had told a gathering that the number of people practising open defecation had fallen from 600 million to “negligible”.
The Newsminute reports that farmers in Telangana’s Nizamabad district dumped their turmeric crop in front of BJP MP Dharmapuri Arvind’s residence in Perkit village in Armoor yesterday. Farmers also raised slogans against the MP, alleging that he duped farmers with promises about paddy procurement. This is the second such incident in a month.
The Economist says India faces a massive power crisis which it must address, as “muddling through will no longer be an option”.
Today, the Supreme Court is a full house, with all 34 places for judges filled. Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia, former chief justice of the Gauhati High Court, and Justice Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala, former Gujarat High Court judge, are the latest to join the Supreme Court. Justice Vineet Saran will retire on May 10, though. He had an interesting set of guests that BJP Vice President Rekha Verma was especially excited about. Justice Saran has already been named as the next head of the Ravi Beas Water Tribunal.
Perhaps postcolonial India’s greatest engineer, Mahendra Raj passed away yesterday at the age of 98. His original solutions to structural problems made possible such architectural marvels as Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh High Court and Secretariat, and Raj Rewal’s Hall of Nations (demolished in 2017 to ‘improve’ Delhi’s Pragati Maidan).
How hard is it to get married under the Special Marriage Act, even when families consent and religion is not an issue? It is as if the state is actively working to dissuade Indians from getting married under a secular act that recognises them as Indians. This 2020 thread from a Harvard scholar’s personal experience captures the prevailing problem well.
This is a bit rich: a “celebrated poor man’s meal” sold at a huge premium in a restaurant. But perhaps the value proposition is the “celebrated” tag ― panta bhat, a riff on the theme of fermented rice gruel from another part of South Asia, hit the high notes on MasterChef Australia last year.
You don’t get to see this every day: a leopard being forcefully urged to change its spots.
Russian diamonds aren’t forever
US sanctions on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine have hit the diamond polishing industry in Surat. American merchants