Election Effect Wears Off, Fuel Prices Hiked; Mother of All Stagflations Could Lie Ahead
No Army recruitment for two years, usual suspects fuelling 'Kashmir Files' hate, Hyderabad heritage destroyed, folk metal hit rocks India, is Modi taking bold steps under severe sleep deprivation?
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Snapshot of the day
March 22, 2022
The pandemic couldn’t stop wars and massive election rallies, but prevented Army recruitment rallies in 2020-22. Never before in 75 years has Army recruitment gone on such a long holiday. The government told Parliament that the Army recruited 53,431 candidates in 2018-19 and 80,572 in 2019-20, but none in the next two years. Earlier, an Army representative had told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence: “As of January 1, 2022, the sanctioned strength was 12,12,000 and we have a shortage of 81,000, which is 6.7%.” People in the know told The India Cable that the idea is to reduce the pension bill by replacing full-fledged recruitment with ‘tour of duty’ soldiering, which the services are resisting tooth and nail.
Many of the men seen aggressively fomenting hatred against Muslims inside and outside cinema halls where The Kashmir Files is being screened are Hindutva activists, a survey of viral videos by The Wire has established.
Petrol and diesel prices were today hiked by 80 paise a litre and domestic cooking gas will cost Rs 50 more per cylinder, ending the election effect of over four-and-half month on rate revision. Petrol in Delhi will now cost Rs 96.21 per litre as against Rs 95.41 previously, while diesel rates have gone up from Rs 86.67 per litre to Rs 87.47.
The price of kerosene, the fuel of the poor, has more than doubled in major cities, costing 104-112% more in Kolkata and Mumbai as of February, compared to prices in April 2020 around the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The price in Chennai is up 10.3% in the same period. Chennai has historically provided a higher state subsidy. The price rise is even higher, compared to a few years ago, as skyrocketing LPG prices have forced the poor to turn again to kerosene.
The well-off are no better off. Airfares have soared following last week’s record hike in jet fuel prices, upsetting last-minute travel plans. Average fares on popular routes like Delhi-Mumbai, Hyderabad-Delhi and Chennai-Delhi are up 50-60% for bookings made within a fortnight before travel compared to fares a year ago.
The parents of Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, killed by the Taliban (before they seized power) in Spin-Boldak while on a reporting assignment, will seek legal action at the International Criminal Court against the Taliban for torture, murder, and mutilation of body, his family says. Prof Akhtar Siddiqui, Shahida Akhtar and lawyers will announce details today. The Indian government was shamefully silent about Siddiqui’s death. He was trolled by Hindutva radicals for his work, and they expressed glee at his passing. Afghanistan signed the Rome Statute of the ICC so there is no procedural obstacle in the filing of a complaint.
Leading Yale scholar of 20th century conflict Prof Odd Arne Westad says that the scenario in which countries other than the US, Russia and China find themselves in is very challenging. The world does not even have the stability of the Cold War. It is much more like the early 20th century and offers serious challenges to countries like India. Listen to him about India, China and their evolving relationship in this podcast conversation with Sushant Singh (a contributor to The India Cable).
Big Indian pharmas soldier on in Russia while Western companies scale down to comply with sanctions against Moscow, reports Mint. The Indian government is said to have directed these firms to continue supplying medicines to Russia and Ukraine. Large firms like Sun Pharma, Dr Reddy’s, Glenmark and Torrent have a significant presence in Russia, a hedge against regulatory uncertainties in the US, which contributes nearly 40% of their overall revenues.
In the Lok Sabha yesterday, the Union government provided data on applications received and accepted for PhDs in IITs. The representation of Dalit students is abysmal, and has fallen since 2017 to just 3.01%, less than for adivasis. The government attributed the “poor representation and acceptance rate” to numerous reasons including family factors and income opportunities after graduation, including from startups.
The situation along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan in Kashmir remains stable after the Directorate General of Military Operations’ (DGMOs’) understanding between the two nations in February 2021, the Defence Ministry informed Parliament yesterday. In a written reply to the Upper House, MoS for Defence Ajay Bhatt said both the armies have exercised restraint.
A Group Captain being tried by a general court martial (GCM) for alleged lapses leading to an Mi-17 helicopter being shot down by friendly fire near Srinagar in February 2019 after the Balakot strike had moved the Armed Forces Tribunal, seeking quashing of his trial.
At least 35 people have been killed in police shootings since the BJP returned to power in Assam in May 2021, under Himanta Biswa Sarma. In December, Scroll examined police records and found that 20 of 30 people killed were from ethnic and religious minorities. The latest killings continue this trend: Biki Ali was a Muslim, and Rajesh Munda an Adivasi. They were accused of rape and killed within a day of their arrest. As police encounters continue, the BJP state government is openly backing such extra-legal measures.
Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav has resigned his Lok Sabha seat, presumably to lead the opposition battle against the re-elected BJP government in the Uttar Pradesh assembly,
In Udupi, 232 women degree students may be left with no academic future after the High Court verdict on the hijab issue, according to information available with the education department. Some 183 more pre-university students are also missing their exams, according to the Udupi district Muslim Okkoota, a coalition of Muslim organisations. This is 12.5% of 1,446 Muslim girls in pre-university colleges in Udupi.
The Union government has assigned over 200 armed CISF personnel to guard the recently opened Jio World Centre, an 18.5-acre business and entertainment facility in the Bandra Kundra Complex, Mumbai, developed by Reliance Industries Ltd. This will be twelfth private establishment to receive such protection. Others include the Bharat Biotech campus in Hyderabad, three Infosys campuses in Bengaluru, Pune and Mysuru, the Tata Steel facility in Kalinganagar, Odisha and the Patanjali food and herbal park in Haridwar.
Households that annually earn over Rs 10 lakh account for a small share of India’s total consumer market. In the first half of 2021-22, they accounted for 0.9% of all households and 5.2% of total household incomes, says Mahesh Vyas of CMIE. Their consumer sentiments fell by 3.9% during the second wave. And recovery since then has been unimpressive at just 1.2%. Consumer sentiments of this group peaked in December 2021 and fell in January-February 2022.
Indian media and entertainment will grow 17% in 2022 to reach the 2019 pre-pandemic level of $25.2 billion, according to FICCI and EY. Digital media is the second-largest segment, growing Rs 6,800 crore in 2021, while traditional media contributed 68% of sectoral revenues of $21.5 billion, up 16.4% year-on-year in 2021. However, TV subscription revenue fell for the second consecutive year, down 6.2%. About 80 million paid video subscriptions in 40 million households generated Rs 5,400 crore, or 50% of broadcasters’ share of TV subscription revenues. Just 3 million consumers took music subscriptions worth Rs 160 crore, preferring free options.
Top development economist Jayati Ghosh (66) has been appointed by UN Secretary General António Guterres to a new high-level advisory board on effective multilateralism.
After years of attrition, Hyderabad’s Khusro Manzil, residence of Khusro Jung Bahadur, commander of the Nizam’s forces, has finally been razed, reports Siasat. The building, dating from the 1920s, was a Grade III heritage structure.
The urban development authority says it never permitted the owners to tear it down. Anuradha Reddy, convener of INTACH, called it a tragedy. William Dalrymple says it’s
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