Government Effectively Takes Control Of All Social Media Content; Telangana Ninth State To Withdraw General Consent To CBI
Gujarat bridge collapse recalls Modi’s hubris in Bengal, sugar export ban extended for a year, Bihar’s poorest MLA becomes emotional as he gets new flat, the very short history of Bhagyalakshmi temple
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
October 31, 2022
Following the collapse of a suspension bridge of colonial vintage in Morbi, Gujarat, about 350 people fell into the Machchhu river and at least 142 are dead. Among them are 12 relatives of MP and former minister of state for agriculture Mohan Kundariya. The bridge was reopened a few days ago ― without a fitness certificate ― after renovation and repairs by a private party, as state elections draw near.
On its front page, The Telegraph notes, “On Sunday night, a video of an April 2016 speech by Modi was circulating on social media. Campaigning for the Bengal Assembly election days after the Vivekananda Flyover collapsed in Calcutta, killing 21 people, Modi said the crash was a message from God to the people to save Bengal (from the Mamata Banerjee government) or the state would be destroyed like the bridge.”
Since March this year, Narendra Modi has focused on Gujarat, where Assembly elections are due. Listing the projects he announced during his numerous visits, Deccan Herald observes that Modi “also attended party events and addressed party workers, blurring the line between being a PM and a BJP leader”. He has used this strategy earlier in Opposition-ruled states like West Bengal.
Special Director of CBI Praveen Sinha, IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, has been given another extension of six months beyond October 31. He was to retire in April, following a six-month extension. Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, Telangana became the ninth state to withdraw general consent to the CBI.
The Supreme Court verdict determining the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment which introduced 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in education and public employment is expected this week. The matter was heard over seven days by a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi and JB Pardiwala. CJI Lalit is to retire on November 8.
On the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the Modi government has told the Supreme Court that it is a “benign legislation” fast-tracking citizenship by naturalisation for “illegal migrants” from six religious communities, other than Muslims, who have fled persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. “The CAA does not seek to recognise or seek to provide answers to all or any kind of purported persecution that may be taking place across the world or that may have taken place previously anywhere in the world,” the Home Ministry has said. The Supreme Court had fixed the hearing of 220 petitions challenging the CAA of 2019 today, but it will now be heard on December 6.
The Union government has extended the blanket ban on sugar exports for one more year, starting October 31. Industry insiders read it as an end to exports under open general licence, in favour of a quota fixed by the government. North Indian mills sought exports under OGL, but the south and west of the country objected. The government’s objective is to retain 6 million tonnes of sugar in stock and prevent shortfalls that could raise prices. According to the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), around 4.5 million tonnes of sugar was diverted to ethanol production in 2022-23, as against 3.4 million tonnes in 2021-22.
State-owned Indian Oil Corporation has reported a net loss of Rs 272.35 crore for Q2FY23 despite booking over Rs 10,800 crore of LPG subsidy. A loss of Rs 1,992.53 crore was incurred in the April-June quarter. For the first time, IOC has booked losses for two quarters running, because it sold fuels at below cost.
The border dispute between Himachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Ladakh has again taken centre stage ahead of the November 12 Assembly elections. Sarchu, the midway point on the Manali-Leh highway at 14,000 feet, is the point of contention. Lahaul youth say they are deprived of their livelihood as “intruders” from Leh set up eateries and camping sites at Sarchu every summer. The boundary dispute broke out in July 2014 when the J&K Police set up their post at Sarchu for the Dalai Lama’s Kaalchakra initiation in Ladakh. Himachal had claimed that the post was set up in its territory, and that Leh residents had “intruded” 17 km into Himachal.
India’s foreign exchange reserves fell to $524.52 billion in the week through October 21, the lowest since July 2020, the RBI’s weekly statistical supplement showed on Friday. The rupee hit a record low of 83.29 per dollar, though RBI intervened in the spot and forward markets. Current reserves cover imports for close to nine months. In September last year, it was 15 months.
Ten trade unions, barring the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, wrote to Union Labour Minister Bhupender Yadav on Friday, urged the Centre to scrap the four labour codes, which curtail rights conferred by existing statutes. “The Labour Codes impose more derogatory working conditions on the workers and almost open-endedly empower governments and employers to further curtail labour rights and benefits arbitrarily… Suspension of labour laws by certain state governments has not shown any economic gains either,” the letter said.
India needs to spend 6.2% of GDP each year to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030, but less favourable debt dynamics presents a challenge, finds the IMF. Overcoming long-term policy challenges would create new spending pressures, and preserving fiscal buffers requires mobilising additional resources, the IMF said in a report.
RJD MLA Ram Briksha Sada became emotional upon being handed the key to a newly flat, one of those built for Bihar legislators in Patna. When CM Nitish Kumar handed him the key, Sada, who represents Alouli in the Assembly, said he had never stayed in such a well-furnished flat. In politics for three decades, he owns property worth Rs 70,000, making him the lawmaker with the least assets in Bihar.
For over 16 years, Colonel Leena Gurav has been waging a lonely courtroom battle to break through the glass ceiling in the Indian Army. She has gone to court 13 times to secure permanent commissions and promotions for women officers, and has won 12 times. Her thirteenth battle concerns her promotion to the rank of brigadier, which would put her in the reckoning to head the Army’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch, which deals with legal and disciplinary matters, including courts martial. On October 18, the Supreme Court noted that “ambiguity in the policy” of the Army regarding vacancies for the post had led to the litigation.
Over the weekend, Delhi Police filed an FIR against four editors of The Wire on the basis of a complaint by BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya for allegedly fabricating documents to damage his reputation. The Wire also filed a complaint against its former researcher Devesh Kumar, who allegedly provided and validated the forged material which was the basis of a story involving Malviya.
Several Hindi cinema producers are expanding into regional movies, which are lower cost effectiveness and less risky. Boney Kapoor has made three films with Tamil star Ajith and Saregama’s boutique studio Yoodlee Films is venturing into Punjabi, Marathi and Malayalam cinema. Production, marketing and star costs have shot up in Bollywood, advantaging regional films, which also sell better overseas.
Ian Jack, former editor of Granta and the Independent on Sunday, who also served as a foreign correspondent in India and married in Kolkata, has died aged 77. His understanding of the legacy of colonialism focused on matters of everyday life, far removed from the corridors of power.
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