Diplomatic Setback Over Ukraine Ahead At G20 Meet; With His ‘Amrit Kaal’ Budget, Adityanath Picks Up Fantastical Modi Playscript
Storm brewing for overleveraged companies, India remains Internet shutdown capital of the world for fifth year running, Shinde’s tea bill is Rs 2.68 crore, UN gives ear to Kailasa
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
February 28, 2023
After picking up in 2021 from pandemic lows in the preceding year, the number of subscribers under the new pension scheme (NPS) of both the central and state governments, including public sector enterprises, declined 8.8% to 565,500 in 2022. Since the Centre and states have mandated NPS for all government jobs, analysts treat NPS as a proxy for public sector employment generation. Used thus, it says that fresh public sector employment declined 8.8% in 2022. Moreover, the share of young women getting these jobs declined to 35.4% in 2022, from 37.1% in 2021.
India remains the internet shutdown capital of the world for the fifth year. Since 2016, India has accounted for approximately 58% of all shutdowns documented in the Shutdown Tracker Optimization Project (STOP database). India has also beaten Ukraine, which is at number 2 this year. India is the only G20 country that has imposed an internet shutdown more than twice. Russia and Brazil are the other two criesount that enforced two and one internet shutdowns respectively in 2022.
Andy Mukherjee writes that while Gautam Adani’s relentless rise and spectacular fall hog headlines, a smaller storm may be brewing for other highly leveraged groups, like Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Resources.
The Modi government’s PR campaign on G20 appears to have run into the wall of global geopolitics. It is hard not to see this as a diplomatic setback, given the ‘vishwaguru’ hype which has accompanied India’s rotational stewardship. It is unclear whether India ― currently the G20 president, which the Union government has been advertising for months ― will agree to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba addressing the gathering via a video link. The G20 foreign ministers meeting starts tomorrow. The Quad meeting due in Delhi immediately after the G20 is unlikely to win any favours with China or Russia either.
Heightened tensions with China, a leader in surveillance technology, is forcing the Indian government to prioritise cybersecurity, at least in cameras. The Ministry of Railways has asked NITI Aayog to consider mandatory cybersecurity testing for all CCTV equipment by the Directorate of Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification. It said that not a single OEM provider had been cleared so far. The railways are one of the biggest buyers of CCTV equipment, covering 983 stations.
In a survey released this month by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, 11.3% of respondents from the 10 ASEAN countries said they would choose India in hedging against the uncertainties of US-China strategic rivalry. India, which ranked last in 2022, doubled its approval from 5.1% to take the third spot out of six, behind the EU and Japan. Australia, the UK and South Korea trail after India.
The Supreme Court yesterday reacted sharply that it is not concerned with politics, when the government claimed that members of political parties are trying to subvert ongoing investigations against their leaders by protesting against “piecemeal” tenure extensions granted to Enforcement Directorate Director SK Mishra. Amicus curiae, senior advocate KV Vishwanathan, said that this case did not concern just one officer. He said the larger issue was to “protect or insulate the institution from the executive”. “The Union claims there is an amendment to the CVC Act, and there is an extension given on November 17, 2021. My submission is keeping in line the long line of judgments in Vineet Narain, Common Cause cases. The extensions are illegal,” he submitted. The Court listed the case for detailed hearing on March 21.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has been remanded to five days’ CBI custody. The Aam Aadmi Party says that the arrest is a diversion to distract attention from the meltdown of the Adani Group, and its connections with the BJP.
Clearly annoyed by a petition which sought directions to restore the names of places changed by “foreign barbaric invaders”, the Supreme Court yesterday dismissed it saying “a country cannot remain a prisoner of the past” and the “court should not be an instrument to create havoc.” Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna told advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, the plaintiff, that one cannot revisit history selectively and that there is no space for bigotry in Hinduism.
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In the matter of sexual harassment by women wrestlers, Vinesh Phogat, who is among those demanding the removal of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh as the head of the federation, has alleged that a member of the probe committee leaked “sensitive information” to the press. Phogat tweeted that a “sportsperson member of the Oversight Committee has been allegedly leaking contents of the complaint of sexual harassment”. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been accused of sexual harassment of women wrestlers, sponsorship fund embezzlement, and athletes' mismanagement.
The Washington Post reports that in India, phasing down coal actually means rapid expansion of mining, and a tripling of size is planned at India’s fastest-growing coal mine. The Indian government has been extending mining contracts, while non-fossil fuels don’t even account for a fifth of power generation.
An exclusive report on Al Jazeera shows how India allowed RP-Sanjiv Goenka firms “to beat coal auctions”. The reports say that the Narendra Modi government enabled private firms to continue to bypass competitive processes to corner large coal reserves.
The Congress will conduct door-to-door and online donation drives, and make its lawmakers contribute one month’s salary to the party every year. Every taxpaying member will also have to contribute Rs 1,000 every year, while sarpanches, gram panchayat heads and block and district panchayat presidents will have to contribute one of their honorariums every year. The party has made these mandatory through amendments to the Constitution at the just concluded plenary session. Leaders say that taking into account the size of the organisation, its coffers are almost empty. Earlier, a Congress member with a net monthly income of Rs 500 paid Rs 1 per month, while those with a higher income paid 1%.
In 2013, the US House of Representatives had a single Indian American member. Fewer than 10 Indian Americans were serving in state legislatures. None had been elected to the Senate. None had run for president. Despite being one of the largest immigrant groups in the US, Americans of Indian descent were barely represented in politics. The New York Times reports that 10 years later, the Congress sworn in last month includes five Indian Americans. Nearly 50 are in state legislatures. The US vice president is Indian American. Nikki Haley’s campaign announcement this month makes 2024 the third consecutive cycle in which an Indian American will run for president, and Vivek Ramaswamy’s newly announced candidacy makes it the first cycle with two.
Air India CEO and MD Campbell Wilson has said that after Vistara merges with it, the full-service carrier will still be known as Air India, which is a recognised global brand.
Thirty tigers have died in two months, the maximum, nine, in Madhya Pradesh. The government isn’t worried.
On Sunday, Chennai Central became India’s first silent station, powering down the PA system that has guided passengers for decades.
The fourth and final Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will see grand celebrations of 75 years of Indian Independence and India-Australia cricket relations. PMs of both countries ― Narendra Modi of India and Anthony Albanese of Australia ― will be part of the celebrations on March 9, the first day of the Test at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad.