India Last in Environmental Performance Index; Electoral Bonds Helped 19 Parties But BJP Got Most
Another rate hike won’t help rupee, Atmanirbhar IT hardware scheme flops, cow carcasses being dumped near Lucknow, Godse Road appears and disappears, and Motherjane’s third album is out
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
June 7, 2022
Now, even India’s close friend and neighbour, Maldives, has spoken. More countries have joined Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, the GCC and OIC in condemning the statements of BJP spokespersons a few days ago. They include Iraq, Indonesia, Oman, Jordan, Libya, the UAE and the Taliban regime. New Delhi has responded to Iraq, Qatar and Kuwait, rejected criticism by OIC and Pakistan, and avoided reacting to the rest. It’s claim that the offensive remarks were made by a ‘fringe’ does not sit well with the record. The Delhi Police have registered a case against persons unknown on the complaint of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who said she was receiving death threats for her remarks about the Prophet Muhammad on a TV show. Police protection has been extended to her. The Mumbra Police have summoned Sharma to record a statement in response to a criminal complaint filed against her.
Meanwhile, the UP police have filed an FIR against Shams Tabrez, editor of Millat Times, for reporting the news. He put out a tweet showing protesting citizens in Kanpur, who were then charged by the state administration. A section of Muslims was enraged at comments on the Prophet and Islam by national spokespersons of the ruling BJP. Journalists’ organisations are outraged and want the FIR scrapped.
An investigation conducted by the Reporters’ Collective has found that only 19 political parties have received funds via electoral bonds, introduced in 2018 for making anonymous political donations. The Supreme Court, through the Election Commission, had asked all political parties receiving donations through these opaque bonds to submit details in April 2019. As many as 105 parties submitted the information in a sealed cover in May 2019, while the apex court was hearing petitions challenging the legality of the bonds. Though this suggested the controversial scheme had benefited dozens of parties, including smaller ones, in reality only 19 of them actually received funds through the scheme, of whom 17 are named in the Election Commission’s list. Between 2017-18 and 2019-20, these parties received Rs 6,201 crore. And a whopping 68% of this unaccounted money was cornered by one party ― the BJP. The Congress, trailing far behind the BJP, raised Rs 706.12 crore or 11.3%.
The recent transfers of a senior bureaucrat couple from Delhi to Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, for emptying a sports stadium to walk their dog, has reignited the demand for separate IAS and IPS cadres in Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Stating that posting IAS and IPS officers for short tenures hurts the interest of states, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have for years requested the Centre to create separate cadres for them. Arunachal Pradesh has a sanctioned strength of 37 IAS officers, while Mizoram has 29. “Our party has been making that request to the Centre since the time Vajpayee was PM,” said Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana. In the past three years, Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu has made several requests to the Centre for a separate cadre as officers are posted only for two years per tenure. By the time they return to a state, loss of institutional memory affects development.
The government’s Atmanirbhar plan for IT hardware through its Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme ― intended to give a big push to local production and reduce imports — has hit a logjam. Four of the 14 companies eligible for the scheme have failed to meet production targets in the first year and will not receive incentives. At least one global manufacturer plans to quit the scheme after the second year.
The government’s measures to cool prices are a mixed bag. Fuel prices have dropped significantly but food prices are stubbornly higher than a month ago, a Mint analysis shows. While wheat prices softened in the past few days, they are still about 3% higher than a month ago, Consumer Affairs Department data showed. According to Barclays, a 10% rise in domestic wheat prices adds 27 basis points to retail inflation. Sugar, soya and sunflower oil prices have eased as export curbs and duty cuts took effect. However, their prices remain higher than a month ago. A drop in fuel prices may offer relief, but oil marketing companies may soon be forced to hike them as the long freeze of 137 days ahead of state elections held in March and again for two months since April has cost them. On June 2, oil marketing companies were losing Rs 17.1 a litre on petrol and Rs 20.4 on diesel.
India’s palm oil imports in May were at the highest in seven months and up 15% in April as the country sourced more of the commodity from Malaysia, Thailand and Papua New Guinea in the face of Indonesian export curbs.
Retail sales of passenger vehicles grew last month but sales of two-wheelers and commercial vehicles remained low compared to the pre-Covid month of May 2019, according to automobile dealers' body FADA. Overall auto retail stood at 16,46,773 units in May, down from 18,22,900 units in May 2019.
In Saharanpur , UP, the district administration has auctioned 5,400 bicycles of migrant workers for Rs 21 lakh, without informing them. Saharanpur is the gateway to Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. During the lockdown in early 2020, more than 25,000 migrant workers reached Saharanpur on bicycles, en route to their villages and towns in UP and Bihar from their workplaces in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and their cycles were confiscated. Sadar Tehsildar Nitin Rajput said that “14,000 migrants took their bicycles back while more than 5,400 vehicles were gathering rust”. After waiting two years, these cycles were “auctioned for Rs 21,20,000”. Mavid Ali, a contractor who bought them, said they could only be sold as scrap.
The notorious Gupta brothers ― formerly of Saharanpur and now of South Africa ― have been arrested in Dubai pending extradition to South Africa where they face multiple corruption charges. It was a bad day for Indian-origin businessmen. In Sri Lanka, an Indian businessman was arrested with foreign currency worth over Rs 40 million.
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Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has appealed to a special CBI Court for release of his passport in order to renew it, as he may need to travel abroad for a kidney transplant. On April 22, the 73-year-old leader was granted bail by the Jharkhand High Court in the Doranda Treasury Case involving embezzlement of over Rs 139 crore in which a CBI special court had sentenced him to five years in prison.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has asserted that the state government’s caste-based survey will be foolproof and beneficial for all sections. “I am saying this with full confidence… We will do a proper headcount so that no one is missed,” he said, indicating that it would be a model for other states.
A new biography of the legendary CPI(ML) leader Charu Majumdar, The Dreamer Rebel, by Ashok Mukhopadhyay imagines his interrogation by the police.
Overall television viewership, a composite measure of reach and time spent on average, is down 10-12%, and Hindi general entertainment channels have lost 20-30%. The decline in viewership in May 2022 is apparent when compared to viewership in the pre-Covid period in early 2020. During the 2020 lockdown, there was a surge in TV consumption as people were homebound. Hindi GECs are falling due to the convenience of streaming platforms. OTT platforms like Voot , SonyLIV and Disney+Hotstar, owned by broadcast companies, also stream their TV channels online.
An Indian journalist’s work is being prominently displayed at a four-month-long exhibition underway at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. ‘Crafting Subversion: DIY and Decolonial Print’ is on at its Brunei Gallery. During the Emergency, Ram Dutt Tripathi, then 22, was managing editor of the Allahabad fortnightly Nagar Swarajya, whose archives are being digitised by the University of Göttingen’s ‘Long Emergency’ project. Focusing on the Gestetner stencil duplicator, he showed how simple duplication technology could be used by journalists without commercial backing to disseminate news. This collection also contains legal documents from his arrest, trial and imprisonment.