India-China Military Talks Fail; Adityanath Loses 3 Ministers, More Ninepins Expected to Fall
How doubting Advani lost right and midfield to Modi, govt speaks in many tongues on Omicron, fake issue over temple funds in Karnataka, Gaganyaan engine tests OK, UN says Sulli Deals is hate speech
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
January 13, 2021
The 14th round of India-China military dialogue on Ladakh, which lasted till 10:30 pm yesterday, reportedly failed after China refused to accede to an Indian proposal for disengagement from Hot Springs. These talks were held after repeated Indian requests and the Indian side had hoped for a breakthrough, as stated by the Army Chief Gen MM Naravane in his press conference yesterday.
Beijing has also taken exception to the Indian army chief’s recent references to Chinese aggression. “We hope individual personnel from India will refrain from making unconstructive remarks,” China’s foreign minister said.
The continued legality of marital rape is being argued before the Delhi high court and today, amicus curiae Rajshekhar Rao pointed out the obvious: "... a woman is better off, as a matter of law, when she is assaulted by a stranger. But when her loved one assaults her, the law says, she is not entitled to call that act rape”.
News on the economy remains dismal, or shall we say infinitesimal. Industrial production in November has grown by only 1.4%. Inflation spiked to a five-month high of 5.59% in December. The Consumer Food Price Index also spiked month-on-month to 4.05%, up from 1.87% in November, hitting lower income groups the hardest. Low industrial production and high inflation together constitute an ominous sign. ICRA has warned that India’s fiscal deficit is likely to widen to Rs 16.6 trillion or 7.1% of GDP, overshooting the government’s target.
Prices of petrol and diesel have held steady for 68 days since November 4. This is the longest duration of price stability since daily price revision was introduced in June 2017.
Indian airlines are expected to report a combined net loss of Rs 25,000-26,000 crore in FY22, and would need additional funding of Rs 45,000-47,000 crore in FY22-24 to sustain operations, as per ICRA. SpiceJet will require $400 million, while IndiGo may need to raise funds through qualified institutional placement, according to Capa India.
Sulli Deals is a form of hate speech, the UN special rapporteur on minority issues has said, asking that harassment of Muslim women in India through such social media apps be condemned and prosecuted.
India’s first and only approved bullet train, which will connect Gujarat’s capital with India’s financial capital, Mumbai, is running late — only 50 km may be operational by 2026, reports Mint. Land acquisition has been the major challenge. There are also engineering challenges, particularly in the final leg, which will enter Mumbai from under the sea. But the government remains optimistic and many more bullet trains are being proposed, despite apprehensions about their financial viability. The Union budget may announce high-speed rail corridors for New Delhi-Varanasi and Mumbai-Nagpur.
Uttar Pradesh is in political ferment weeks before the seven-phase Assembly elections. Reportedly, Yogi Adityanath will stand from Ayodhya. Another minister, Dara Singh Chauhan, jumped ship yesterday, citing the same reasons as Swami Prasad Maurya, who resigned earlier ― of ‘backwards’ being neglected and Dalits, farmers and unemployed youth remaining deprived. The BJP ensured that an arrest warrant against Maurya, concerning an old case, is put out. Maurya told NDTV that it was the last nail in BJP’s coffin. “Kahan aane waale hain, kahan jaane waale hain, (where I am coming and where I am going) … everything will be clear on January 14,” Maurya said. He is expected to take at least four MLAs with him to Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party.
Welcoming the resignation of Maurya and Chauhan, OBC leader Om Prakash Rajbhar claimed that one or two ministers would quit the Yogi Adityanath cabinet every day and there would be 18 exits by January 20. As if on cue, this afternoon, Dharam Singh Saini stood down, and the doom-laden reverberation of falling ninepins is now very audible. Sumit Pande explains why Swami and friends have exited the BJP. Akhilesh Yadav chaired a meeting with allies in Lucknow, to discuss “UP’s development and future.” Sabko Samman aur Sabko Sthaan, respect for everyone and a position for everyone, is his catchphrase.
In West Bengal, too, the BJP faces trouble with Dalits. Wooed energetically by Modi, the Matuas are disenchanted with the RSS. In Bihar, the BJP has turned down ally JDU’s 50-50 formula for legislative council seats. State chief Sanjay Jaiswal said 13 of the 24 vacant seats in the council were with the BJP, an oblique counter to the demand of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JDU that the parties should contest 12 seats each.
Conflicting signals from the government on the pandemic continue. Omicron could cripple the health system, the government’s top Covid adviser VK Paul said yesterday, just a day after the top epidemiologist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, Jayaprakash Muliyil, argued that rules must be recast because Omicron is a far milder variant than Delta.
Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer of Covaxin, and ICMR, are reticent about data, but when they do part with some, it can be shocking. The latest ‘study’ quoted to establish that the Covaxin booster neutralises both Omicron and Delta is based on only 13 persons. The study was conducted at the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta.
Controversial TV ratings by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the basis of news channels’ ad revenues, are to resume. The ratings were suspended after the Mumbai Police busted a racket in which Republic TV was accused of rigging data. A recent TRAI report shows a drop of almost 1 million active paying DTH subscribers in the September quarter of 2021. Cable TV also lost nearly half a million subscribers.
“Voting and wedding are not the same,” said Jaya Jaitly on criticism by activists of raising the minimum age of marriage for women. According to the new recommendation of the committee she headed, women can no longer marry at 18 despite having the vote.
Indians accounted for 11.6% of all mobile games and app downloads in 2021, only behind China, but was not among the top 20 countries in app purchases, despite spending an estimated $170 million on games, according to App Annie’s ‘State of Mobile 2022’ report. Indians were the fifth-highest smartphone users in terms of average hours spent per day ― four hours and 42 minutes ― behind Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, and Mexico, but ahead of Singapore, the US, and China.
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