India Jamming Release Of WHO’s Huge Pandemic Toll Estimate; The Russians Have Tanked In Ukraine, And It Matters For Indian Armour
SC cancels Ashish Mishra’s bail, ‘The Kashmir Files’ endangering Pandits, agencies play cat and mouse with Kashmir journalists, Afghan war hardware reaches J&K militants, BJP scores a duck in bypolls
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
April 18, 2022
Today, the Supreme Court cancelled the bail of Ashish Mishra, son of a Union minister and the main accused for mowing down farmers at Lakhimpur Kheri, observing that the Allahabad High Court had been in an “unwarranted hurry” to grant him relief. Chief Justice of India NV Ramana directed it to examine the matter afresh, after hearing the victims’ families properly. Mishra must surrender within a week.
Days after the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Delhi, India has agreed to attend a virtual BRICS summit at the end of June, reports The Hindu ― June 23-24 is suggested. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will share the platform with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and leaders of Brazil and South Africa for the ﬁrst time since the Ukraine war began. Significantly, G7 leaders will meet in the Bavarian Alps on June 26-28, a couple of days later. It is not clear if Modi has been invited as a guest, or will attend. Modi is also likely to travel to Tokyo next month for the second in-person Quad summit on May 24. Rough weather is expected everywhere.
The Financial Times reports that in India, Boris Johnson will push it to censure Russia and show its allegiance to the Western camp. “As we face threats to our peace and prosperity from autocratic states, it is vital that democracies and friends stick together,” Johnson has said. He is expected to meet Gautam Adani in Gujarat. At home, anger against him is building again. The Observer, London, said yesterday, in an editorial: “Unless Conservative MPs use their power to sack Johnson, this is what the country is consigned to until the next general election: a prime minister who has flouted the law and misled parliament trying to distract from his own lack of probity by pushing out ever-worse policies that will temporarily grab headlines, regardless of the human cost.”
WHO finds the global death toll of the pandemic to be much higher than previously believed — about 15 million by the end of 2021, more than double the official total of 6 million. But the release of the staggering estimate has been delayed because of objections from India, which disputes the calculus. More than a third of the additional 9 million deaths are attributed to India, reports the New York Times, and India has refused to share mortality data with WHO for two years. The Indian government has issued an official response echoing its stand in Parliament: “India’s basic objection has not been with the result (whatever they might have been) but rather the methodology adopted…” Today, this was transparently rebutted by Jon Wakefield, professor of biostatistics at the School of Public Health, University of Washington.
India’s drug regulator has ignored red alerts about Covaxin, imperilling millions, says Dinesh Thakur. WHO has warned UN agencies against procuring the vaccine after Bharat Biotech’s production facility was found to be deficient.
In an unusual move, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee or SGPC has asked Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to apologise to the community for allegedly violating the Sikh maryada (code of conduct) by not showing reverence to the Guru’s house, Takht Damdama Sahib in Bathinda, and visiting it while under the influence.
India’s offer to supply grains to the world if the WTO relaxes rules could violate its commitments of 2013 and 2015, and risk a drawdown in its wheat inventories if state procurement falters due to high prices (Wholesale price-based inflation rose to 14.55% in March). Production in 2022-23 (FY23) could be lower than the estimate of over 111 million tonnes due to unseasonably high temperatures in North India. India has seldom exported grains from central pool stocks, except for humanitarian needs.
After 11 successive weeks of decline, India’s weekly Covid cases are up 35%, the first rise since January. India has no grounds for complacency. India’s time-varying R has increased from 0.59 (March 20) to 0.89 (April 15).
Opposition leaders from 13 political parties issued a joint statement on Saturday condemning PM Narendra Modi: “We are shocked at the silence of the prime minister, who has failed to speak against the words and actions of those who propagate bigotry and those who, by their words and actions, incite and provoke our society,” they noted. They alleged that Modi’s silence demonstrates that “private armed mobs enjoy the luxury of official patronage”.
The Indian Air Force will cancel an order for 48 Mi-17 choppers from Russia. The plea is indigenisation, but the timing suggests otherwise.
The Assam BJP is in a bind after Amit Shah’s proposal to make Hindi compulsory till Class 10, trying to assuage regional anxieties while following the central leadership’s line.
In Delhi, the police have arrested 14 Muslims for throwing stones at a Hanuman Shobha Yatra on the weekend. People in the ‘religious’ procession wielded weapons including guns as it made its way through the streets of Delhi. Expectedly, Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has denied a rise in bigotry or anti-minority feeling in India. Do read this explainer from Citizens for Justice and Peace on the “legal definition of weapons, and how right-wing groups find ways to subvert the law.”
The New York Times finds a pattern ― Kashmiri journalists are arrested, bailed out and then re-arrested: “The practice, employed against at least three journalists in the restive region, is being used to limit free speech and chill news reporting, activists say.” State Investigation Agency (SIA) sleuths and Kashmir Police yesterday simultaneously raided the office of The Kashmir Walla and its jailed editor-in-chief Fahad Shah’s residence in Srinagar. The raids lasted for more than three hours, after the arrest of a PhD scholar of the University of Kashmir for a “seditious” article he wrote in 2011. Abdul Aala Fazili, 38, was arrested for the article titled ‘Shackles of Slavery Will Break’, in The Kashmir Walla.
As suspected by security forces, gadgets used by the US-led allied forces during the Afghan conflict have reached militants in J&K. Officials said over a dozen signatures of Iridium satellite phones used by the US-led forces and WiFi-enabled thermal imaging devices had been detected in the Kashmir valley. Militants have been using them to escape security cordons, especially at night.
In an audio clip of former Karnataka minister Ramesh Jarkiholi’s purported talk with deceased contractor Santosh Patil’s relatives, he claims to have advised Patil, the contractor who accused former minister KS Eshwarappa of corruption, not to go public. Santosh was found dead days after he did so. The voices of the contractor’s wife, mother, brothers, and cousins are audible.
With most states on board to raise revenue so that they do not have to fight with the Centre for due compensation, the GST Council at its meeting next month is likely to consider a proposal to do away with the 5% slab by moving some goods of mass consumption to 3% and the remaining to 8%. Currently, GST is a four-tier structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28%.
The Delhi government has spent Rs 363 crore on publicity in the last financial year (till February 22) compared to Rs 293 crore in the year before. IPL viewership is sliding. TV ratings for the second week of the tournament, April 2-8, points to an even sharper drop in viewership than the first week, as well as last year’s figures.
Like India, Pakistan and Central Asia are reeling under unprecedented heatwaves. The Third Pole has this analysis.
A special CBI court in New Delhi on Saturday upheld the order of the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate directing the CBI to withdraw a lookout circular against former Amnesty International India chair Aakar Patel. However, Special Judge Santosh Snehi Mann said that it is subject to Patel appearing before the trial court within a week. He cannot leave the country without its permission.