Government Sought No Consensus on Electoral Bond Scheme Amendment; Congress Can't Jodo Bharat By Supping With the Devil
No Supreme Court judges have disclosed assets, Census impossible before polls, BJP buckles to Jains protests, TOI top misinformer, Chennai best city for women, ‘Santro’ Ravi embarrasses Karnataka BJP
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
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Snapshot of the day
January 6, 2022
The Union government never sought concurrence on the Electoral Bond Scheme amendment. It merely informed the Election Commission about it. The EC also brought it to the notice of the Union government that it received the press communique on the sale of bonds while it was being “released almost simultaneously” on a government website and by the Press Information Bureau. An RTI has revealed that in November 2022, the Union government amended the Electoral Bond Scheme to allow electoral bonds to be sold for additional days while elections to the Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh were on. The Supreme Court had also listed pleas seeking a stay on the scheme.
Delhi’s municipal corporation will have to wait awhile before it gets a new mayor. A meeting of corporators on Friday saw Aam Aadmi Party and Bharatiya Janata Party corporators clashing in the house.
The number of sitting Supreme Court judges who have disclosed their assets is zero. This includes the Chief Justice of India. The Union government, accused of sitting on the appointment of new judges to high courts, has promised to clear the names of more than 40 candidates recommended by the Collegium by the weekend.
The decennial Census exercise has been postponed till September, at least, as the government informed states that the date of freezing of administrative boundaries has been extended till June 30. The norm is to conduct the Census at least three months after freezing boundaries of districts, sub-districts, tehsils, talukas and police stations. The general elections are expected in March-April 2024 and the completion of the Census would take at least 11 months, making it currently impossible.
“Though the country’s population matches China’s, India’s ‘true market’ is only about 15% to 20% as large. India represents only 1.5-5% of the global market. The Pew Research Center estimates that only 66 million Indians — less than 5% of the population — have a middle-class daily income of $10.01-20 in purchasing-power terms. In China, that number is 493 million, or 34.9% of the population. The vaunted Indian middle class wields much slimmer wallets than its Chinese counterpart,” reminds Sadanand Dhume in the Wall Street Journal. He adds that the Chinese bought seven times as many cars as Indians in 2021. The Chinese market for luxury cars is 100 times the size of India’s. A tiny proportion of Indians patronise Netflix, Apple and Starbucks. Less than 3% of Netflix’s 223 million users are in India — at half the rates Americans pay.
Retail sales of vehicles in India could take a hit in the final quarter of the current fiscal year, an auto dealers association said, while reporting a 5% year on year fall in sales for December. Sales of two wheelers, which account for 60-70% of total vehicle sales, dropped 11.2%.
China is strengthening its military positions by building additional infrastructure to house men and equipment, less than 80 km northeast of Yangtse in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang sector, latest satellite imagery shows. The “massive scale” of construction is close to a new airport that China built, which also has a SAM site.
A meeting between PM Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron in March may lead to the signing of an agreement for procuring 26 Rafale M jets from Dassault Aviation for India’s indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. Macron’s diplomatic advisor Emmanual Bonne called on Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar yesterday, and co-chaired the 36th India-France strategic dialogue with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. India controversially procured 36 Rafale fighters for the Indian Air Force from Dassault for nearly Rs 60,000 crore in 2016, and allegations of corruption are being investigated in France.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is likely to visit India in February. As part of its rotational presidency, India is expected to host a meeting of the foreign ministers of G20 countries in the first week of March in Delhi while finance ministers will meet in February in Bangalore.
Muslim families in Kashmir have alleged discrimination in compensation payments and job offers after their relatives were killed by militants. An association representing Dalits and other persecuted sections had earlier alleged caste bias. The families of many Kashmiri Muslims killed by militants while defending the country or democratic institutions said discrimination started after the special status of J&K was scrapped. In several cases, even association with the BJP has not helped.
Attacks continued on churches and Christians in Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and elsewhere post-Christmas and in the New Year. These organised vigilante attacks are justified by fictitious claims that Hindus are being forcibly converted through allurements. According to the United Christian Forum (UCF), the most hate crimes against Christians in 2022 took place in UP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. UP led with 121 hate crimes, followed by Chhattisgarh (85) and Jharkhand (39). Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were next, with 27 and 26 hate crimes, respectively. Attacks have increased after several states passed anti-conversion laws.
The Times Group topped AltNews’s list of media outlets that ran misinformation in 2022, followed by Zee Media, the India Today Group, Hindutva site OpIndia and NDTV. Based on metadata from 105 AltNews fact-checks in January 1 to December 4 last year, AltNews documented 45 instances across Times Group properties, 32 on Zee Media, 23 on the India Today Group, 18 in OpIndia and 14 on NDTV. Among political parties, the BJP “shared the maximum amount of misinformation in 2022” – 48.1% of 124 AltNews fact-checks from last year. The Congress was responsible for 33.8% of misinformation, according to the analysis.
Delhi Police in a two year old case, where Alt News’ Mohammed Zubair was accused, bizarrely, of an offence under the child protection law, has told the Delhi High Court that there was no criminality in his tweet and so he has not been named in the chargesheet.
There’s a glaring lack of representation of Muslim writers in the 86th Kannada Sahitya Sammelana at Haveri today and on Sunday. There are a significant number of Muslim writers and scholars in Karnataka, but they have not been included on any of the panels. In response, a group of scholars are organising an alternate literary festival in Bengaluru on Sunday, January 8, as a protest. At the Jana Sahitya Sammelana, topics like attacks on minorities and the role of the literary world, the contribution of Christian missionaries to Kannada, Kannadigas and harmony, as well as the politics and abuse of food, will be discussed by eminent writers and scholars such as Professor S Jafar, Janagere Venkataramaiah, Rajendra Chenni, Munner Katipalla, Chand Pasha, Teena Shashank and Kumaraswamy Bejjihalli.
Addressing a public rally in poll-bound Tripura, Union Home Minister Amit Shah yesterday announced that the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will be ready by January 1 next year. PM Modi today also prayed at the under construction temple, yet another indication that mandir politics will play a big role in the BJP’s election strategy for 2024.
In a town hall meeting days after the Adani takeover of NDTV, the network’s new leadership on Wednesday addressed questions by staff about the news organisation’s editorial freedom, salaries, expansion and BJP spokespersons on shows. An employee said that the discussion was “positive” even though Sanjay Pugalia and the others did not give a straight response to any of the concerns. The new management was also asked about NDTV’s business reporting; they responded that they wanted to restart NDTV Profit – a channel that went off the air in 2018. There was no mention of Prannoy Roy or Radhika Roy.
Following the bizarre case of a man peeing on a woman co-passenger on an Air India flight, another case has surfaced, which occurred on December 6 on Air India flight 142 from Paris to New Delhi. Reports suggest that the man had given a written apology, following which no penal action was taken against him. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has pulled up Air India in the case of Shankar Mishra, who allegedly urinated on an elderly woman in business class on a New York to Delhi flight. Shockingly, after landing, Mishra was allowed to leave. Strongly disapproving of Air India’s handling, the aviation regulator today said the airline’s conduct was “unprofessional” and led to “systemic failure”. The DGCA has issued notice to some officials of the Tata Group-owned airline, the pilot and the crew, asking them to reply within two weeks. Indian TV news continues to flow deeper into the pot.
The Asia Cup 2023 will be held in September, according to Jay Shah, but Pakistan has objected to the unilateral announcement. It is scheduled to be held in Pakistan, who finished runners-up last year. India, Pakistan, defending champions Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will be joined by a qualifier for the tournament, which will be played in an ODI format this time. There’s still uncertainty about the venue because last year, BCCI refused the possibility of sending its men’s team to Pakistan, raising speculation that the tournament could be moved out of the country.
India warms up to Russian Arctic oil
Russia is sending more Arctic crude to China and India, and at steeper discounts, after Europe slammed the door on Russian supplies last month, reports Reuters. Arctic grades Arco, Arco/Novy Port and Varandey are venturing east after the EU, G7 and Australia introduced a price cap on Russian oil in December, on top of an EU embargo on Russian crude by sea. Sellers are offering bigger discounts as they absorb higher shipping costs. Arctic crude exports to India have steadily increased since May, with a record 6.67 million barrels loaded in November and 4.1 million barrels in December, Refinitiv data showed.
Most of the supplies were produced at fields operated by Gazprom Neft. Last week, India imported its first Varandey crude cargo that loaded in Murmansk in late November. Gross margins from processing these grades bought on a delivered basis are more than $10 a barrel higher than for similar quality US crudes such as Mars and West Texas Intermediate. Varandey crude is easy for Indian refiners to process although future purchases would depend on price levels.
BJP buckles to Jains
In view of the ongoing massive protests by the Jain community against the Modi government, the Centre backtracked yesterday on the decision to turn the Jain religious site of Shri Sammed Shikharji into a tourist hotspot. The Union government has also formed a committee to look at promoting tourism in the Parasnath Hills, Giridih. This is a big win for Jains, who have been protesting on the streets of Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Surat.
Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren wrote to Union Cabinet Minister Bhupendra Yadav regarding maintaining the sanctity of Sammed Shikharji Teerth Kshetra. In August 2019, the Union Environment Ministry had notified an eco-sensitive zone around the Parasnath Sanctuary and approved eco-tourism activities proposed by the then BJP state government.
Karnataka BJP scandalises again
Two audio clips and a bunch of photographs have landed Karnataka’s BJP government in yet another scandal, even as the party is readying for the Assembly polls. One of the audio clips has a police officer allegedly negotiating a transfer deal with a man named ‘Santro’ Ravi. KS Manjunath, who goes by that name, is a history-sheeter arrested several times in the last two decades for trafficking women and children for sex. In the audio clip involving the police officer, ‘Santro’ Ravi can be heard bragging about his connections with the BJP government and the police. The audio clips have gone viral along with photographs of Ravi with several ministers including Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, Health Minister K Sudhakar and Primary Education Minister BC Nagesh.
In one clip, he is heard telling a police officer that he will get him transferred to Nelamangala taluk’s traffic division. He also says that he has already promised a post in Kumbalgodu Police Station to someone else. Ravi also assures the police officer that he is on “one-to-one terms” with top police officers and names three of them ― an ADGP, an ACP and a DGP. In another clip, purportedly with a DSP, Ravi brags that even the Chief Minister calls him ‘sir’. The NGO Odanadi Seva Samsthe, which was part of the expose, said that the clips and photographs showed the rot in the police and political system.
Doc averts cardiac arrest in midair
Dr Vishwaraj Vemala, 48, a liver specialist at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the UK, was on his way to India with his mother when a fellow passenger went into cardiac arrest. Aided by medical supplies on board and items from passengers, Dr Vemala twice resuscitated the 43-year-old. He said he would remember the experience for the rest of his life. “Obviously during my medical training, it was something I had experience dealing with, but never at 40,000 feet,” he said. “Luckily, they had an emergency kit, which to my utter surprise, included resuscitative medication to enable life support.”
The Long Cable
Congress Can't Jodo Bharat By Supping With the Devil
News about the head priest of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya blessing the Bharat Jodo Yatra is being seen as a morale booster for Rahul Gandhi and the Yatra since Acharya Satyendra Das belongs to the ranks of the BJP and its allied organisations like the VHP. “I wrote a letter to Rahul to send him my blessings for his mission of uniting all people in the country,” Das said. “The country’s prosperity is only possible if different castes and religions come together.”
The BJP has been ridiculing the yatra. The Ram temple is the most crucial element in the Hindutva project, which this yatra is trying to combat. If someone connected to this project comes out in support of the Yatra, it obviously assumes significance.
At first, I did not know how to react. I read more and discovered that the letter inviting prominent people to participate in the yatra was sent by the local unit of the Congress party.
So the local Congress leadership invited the chief priest of the temple – which is being constructed on the land on which the Babri Masjid stood for more than 500 years and was demolished in a criminal act, if we heard the Supreme Court right. The court handed over the land to those who had committed this crime.
Das is the chief priest of a temple which could not have existed without an even older criminal act. On the night of December 22-23, 1949, idols of Hindu gods and goddesses were smuggled into the mosque. The Supreme Court held it to be a crime.
The criminals hid behind the name of Ram. They declared themselves to be friends and guardians of the child Ram, who could not take care of his interests, and his friends and guardians in the VHP usurped the land on which the Babri Masjid stood – all the while claiming to act on his behalf.
The Supreme Court, by some divine logic, even after accepting the existence of a live mosque, even after noting that it was violated by goons in 1949 and destroyed by a mob led by BJP, VHP and RSS members in 1992, gave its land to the very people who had committed the crime.
Ideally, the Babri Masjid should have been rebuilt. The Congress-led government of the day could not save it from the marauding mob, and allowed the demolition to happen. Though it announced its resolve to rebuild the mosque, more resolute were the destroyers who wanted the land at any cost, and turned what was once considered fantasy into reality.
The Babri Masjid is now a memory. The temple is a monument to the crimes committed, the deceit of the communal forces, the cowardice of the secular forces and the utter spinelessness of our state apparatus, including the judiciary.
The Ram Temple is a reality. But is it at all necessary to recognise it as a spiritual abode? What does it remind you of? The power of conceit, lies, opportunism, muscle. It is a monument to the victory of Hindutva, to the defeat of what Gandhi and Nehru stood for.
The Ram Janmabhoomi campaign was the first organised attempt to divide India into two zones of sensibilities. Lal Krishna Advani’s Toyota ‘chariot’ drew a line of blood and tears across India, sundering and transforming it forever. Narendra Modi was his assistant in this campaign.
Many Congress leaders did not agree with Nehru. Otherwise, UP chief minister Govind Vallabh Pant could have taken steps to undo the illegality committed at the Babri Masjid in 1948. But Rajiv Gandhi, Nehru’s grandson, allowed the deadlock to break in a different way, and facilitated the march of the Hindutva juggernaut. This act decimated the common ground which Nehru and others had created against all odds. It is this ground which the Bharat Jodo Yatra is trying to regain.
Can this yatra then seek the company of those who were party to the campaign to humiliate Muslims and show them their place? We know that after the announcement of the construction of this Ram Temple, many Congress leaders tried to take credit for it. Some of them even complained that they were not invited to the foundation laying ceremony. Some flaunted their donations to the temple. They rubbed salt into the wound of the Muslims. But the Congress leaders did not care.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra is or should be an exercise of atonement for the Congress. A cleansing act. It has to get its secular soul back. But that cannot happen if it is not uncompromising on certain issues.
What is the rupture that this yatra is trying to undo? Many people juxtapose this yatra against the Advani Rath Yatra. While Advani rode that Adharma Rath, Rahul is walking on the path of righteousness. But what does that mean? What is the principle on which the Congress will rebuild unity? Courting the Hindutva forces betrays the lack of confidence in its own project of secularism.
Can you invite everyone to your party? When you invite someone, you accord him respect. What does this act of invitation signify to a man who presides over a place which is a constant reminder to Muslims of their powerlessness, their insignificance? Can you ask Muslims to walk with you while their tormentors shower blessing on you? Is there no non-negotiable principle left for the Congress? Have we lost our sense of justice? Should I befriend criminals if I lose in my battle for justice?
Unless the Congress makes the idea of unity clear, Rahul Gandhi’s journey is bound to end in a haze from where no new direction is visible.
(The author teaches Hindi at Delhi University)
The appointment of a new chairperson of the Competition Commission of India is delayed. Only last month, there were reports that the selection process had entered the last leg, with Smita Jingran, Yogender Choudhry and Injeti Srinivas, all babus, emerging as front-runners among 57 aspirants interviewed in October and November. Now it appears that the selection interview has been scrapped and the process is starting from scratch. Do the powers that be have a particular candidate on their priority list?
The chairperson’s slot has been vacant since former IAS officer Ashok Kumar Gupta retired in October, and Sangeeta Verma is acting chairperson. The decision has obviously dampened the hopes of over 100 applicants, including senior IAS officers, economists, judges and even some members of the CCI. How long are we to wait for another institutional capture by the executive?
Prime Number: How many trillions, by when?
Teresita C Schaffer appraises five recent books on South Asia.
Op-Eds you don’t want to miss
Narendra Modi gives Indian citizens stage-managed shock and awe. In contrast, the sight of Rahul Gandhi, with his unkempt beard and trainers, walking among ordinary people, makes for a compelling political image, writes Mukulika Banerjee.
Madhav Gadgil writes that government decisions on coal quarrying manifest crony capitalism, an economic system in which businesses thrive not as a result of risk but rather as a return on money amassed through a nexus between a business class and the political class. The government is taking power away from the people to support the enterprises of India’s super-rich.
It is not about territory ― our national will, sovereignty and autonomy are under attack by China. There is an urgent need for a strategic reset, failing which we are only emboldening China and the worst will be yet to come, writes Lt Gen HS Panag (retd).
The story of Charles Sobhraj is one of a duplicitous criminal who understood the psychology of the people around him, including jail inmates and authorities, the courts and lawyers, and, above all, the Indian police officer, far better than experts and practitioners. His eventual release offers us lessons on what to fix and how to go about it, writes Amod K Kanth.
Vir Sanghvi writes that Indians are the world’s worst airline passengers. We shove, we push, we treat staff badly, we refuse to obey rules and we disrespect our fellow passengers.
With the government removing exemptions from data protection obligations for journalistic work in the draft privacy bill, for any story containing personal data, journalists may have to prove before the proposed data protection board – and there’s no clarity as to who belongs – that their story was in the public interest, writes Aditi Agrawal.
Malvika Sharma writes that it is time that the “absurd narrative” on Kashmir, about who has killed and who has died, is junked. There must be all-round empathy for violence that is claiming lives across the board.
To pull off something on the scale of China’s transformation, the Indian government will have to take criticisms of PLI schemes seriously and work to make them more effective, writes Siddhant Bajpai.
Neelima Menon writes that the overwhelming success of the Drishyam franchise is a testimony to the universality of narratives that rally around mankind’s greatest strength and weakness — family.
Former India Test cricketer Kenia Jayantilal talks about the emergence of Sunil Gavaskar as a star in 1971 and how Dilip Sardesai infused the much-needed belief to beat the West Indies team in the Caribbean that year.
Michael Johnson is showcasing ace javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s athleticism.
Over and Out
SS Rajamouli, best director at the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) Awards for RRR, has thanked the organisation for appreciating his “small film from the south of India”. The filmmaker was named the recipient of the honour last month and received the trophy in person on Wednesday evening at a gala held at TAO Downtown Restaurant in New York.
A report analysing Indian cities on several parameters of diversity and inclusion finds the safest and most comfortable cities for women are all in south India. Chennai is on top.
When Audrey Hepburn dreamt of romancing Nehru:
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