India May Sharply Increase Crude Imports From Brazil; Forthcoming Scholz-Modi Meet A Dialogue Of Those Deaf To Democracy
Sophie Zhang deposition off, Jignesh bail plea nixed, controversy over Japan’s relief flight via India, Dornier lie nailed, EVs withdrawn after explosion and BoJo’s JCB joyride earns bad press in UK
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
April 22, 2022
India denied permission for a Japanese military transport plane to collect aid supplies for Ukrainian refugees, dertailing Tokyo’s plan, a Japanese lawmaker said yesterday. Under the original schedule, a C-2 transport plane of the Air Self-Defence Force was supposed to pick up relief items such as blankets stockpiled by a UN agency in India and the UAE, and transport them to Poland and Romania, which harbour Ukrainian refugees. A Japanese government official explained at a ruling Liberal Democratic Party meeting that India had agreed at a working level to allow the transport to land, but it suddenly withdrew consent on Wednesday. Today, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet was to formally approve the plan to send the aircraft, possibly in late April, but the flight will now be put off. India has clarified that it gave permission for a commercial aircraft. Incidentally, Hillary Clinton said that the US is less concerned about India than about Europe with respect to imports of Russian energy.
China has given the green light for some students in Sri Lanka to return to the country to resume their studies after a two-year gap, but Indian students have not been told when they can return. China has begun to allow small groups of students from other countries, including South Korea and Pakistan, to return. More than 20,000 Indians are enrolled in Chinese universities, mostly in medical colleges.
Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang cannot depose before the Standing Committee on Communication and Information & Technology, after the stalling tactics of Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s office, which has neither granted nor denied permission for her deposition. On Wednesday, the committee held its last meeting on ‘safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women’s security in the digital space’. It has met six times on the issue, speaking to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Facebook and other stakeholders, reports The Hindu.
An early summer and acute coal shortages are triggering blackouts across parts of India, raising fears of a new power crisis that could hamper Asia’s third-biggest economy. In response to high demand, states including Punjab, UP and Andhra Pradesh cut off supply, reports Bloomberg. Supply has been disrupted for up to eight hours in some places.
Anganwadi workers, who have been agitating for a better deal, were served a historic injustice by the highest court. In 2006, the Supreme Court refused to recognise them as government employees, though they are crucial for the delivery of health services.
The CBI has registered two FIRs in connection with corruption allegations levelled by former Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik in the awarding of contracts for a group medical insurance scheme for government employees and civil work worth Rs 2,200 crore at the Kiru hydroelectric power project in the former state. Malik, who was governor from August 23, 2018 to October 30, 2019, had claimed that he was offered a Rs 300 crore bribe for clearing two files. “After going to Kashmir, two files came to me (for clearance), one belonging to Ambani and another to an RSS-affiliated man who was a minister in the previous Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government, and claimed to be very close to the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi),” he had said.
The Modi government tirelessly claims achievements which are apparently without precedent in the last 70 years. With solid, old-fashioned reporting and archival work, BBC’s Jugal Purohit had downed the Dornier lie which soared for a few days, powered by government propaganda.
The Future Group’s three largest creditors, SBI, Bank of India and Union Bank of India have not approved a scheme that would have allowed it to sell its retail and logistics businesses to Reliance Retail, Bloomberg Quint reports. The lenders could not gauge the haircut they would have to take against their exposure to the Future Group.
Electric vehicle manufacturer Pure EV yesterday announced a voluntary recall of 2,000 units of its ETrance and EPluto 7G models after an incident involving one of its scooters claimed the life of an 80-year-old man on Wednesday. Four members of the deceased’s family in Telangana’s Nizamabad district were also injured when the battery of the Pure EV scooter that the deceased’s son had been using for a year exploded while being charged at home.
“Ten years ago, things seemed very different there. Now, watching videos and scenes about what is going on, I feel saddened. It is something we have gone through here, so we worry much more. It is easy to take the route of violence towards your own countrymen, but very difficult to change hearts, minds and societies back after that. Hum nahi chaahte ki hamara hum-saaya ab us daur se guzre. Hum us daur ko khatm karte karte ghis chuke hain (We don’t want our neighbour to go through that phase. We are exhausted just trying to overcome that phase),” Ali Kazim tells Seema Chishti (a contributor to The India Cable). The 43-year-old Associate Professor at the National College of Arts in Lahore is the first South Asian artist in residence at Oxford University. His solo exhibition at the Ashmolean, Suspended in Time, has generated much interest.
Continuing its ‘hilsa diplomacy’, Bangladesh is likely to export the prized silver fish to India during this year’s Durga Puja as well. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had made a special exemption for India in the last couple of years from the blanket export ban on the sale of hilsa, which helps in conserving the fish and keeps domestic prices in control.
Meanwhile, joyrides in JCBs and spinning the wheel aren’t helping besieged UK PM Boris Johnson distract his colleagues and the public in the UK. The coverage of the bulldozer gaffe over there is anything but complimentary. And the photos from India are proving to be riveting companions to news about Partygate.
Brazil may supply more oil
Energy-hungry India may increase imports of Brazilian crude ― currently at a low level ― several times over, Oil Minister Hardeep Puri said following a meeting with Brazilian Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque. The Indian energy sector already has links with Brazilian oil and gas exploration and ethanol. Brazil has increased crude production 10% and is in a position to feed the Indian demand.
Alerted by Ukraine, Rajnath tells Army to prepare for all challenges
In the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday asked top Army commanders to prepare for every possible security challenge, including unconventional and asymmetric warfare. Singh made the remarks at the biannual Army Commanders’ Conference, which ends today.
Dainik Bhaskar yesterday reported that a study of the ongoing Ukraine conflict is being conducted by the Department of Strategic Planning and the Army’s training command. Four fallacies have emerged about war in modern times: that there is no place for conventional war anymore, that modern wars will be short and swift, that air power is crucial for victory and that war will be hybrid. The full study report will be presented at the conclusion of the conflict.
Jignesh Mevani’s bail plea rejected
The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Kokrajhar, Assam, yesterday rejected the bail petition of arrested Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and sent him to three day’s police custody. The police had sought 14 days’ custody. The court directed that the MLA cannot be taken anywhere outside Kokrajhar during the period. The Congress had sent a team of lawyers to secure bail for him.
The Dalit activist and MLA was arrested by Kokrajhar Police from Palanpur in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district on Wednesday midnight and brought to Assam on Thursday after a case against him was registered under various sections of the IPC and IT Act for not very complimentary tweets referencing PM Narendra Modi and the RSS. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed ignorance of the arrest, stating that the police had not briefed him about it.
SC accuses Home Secretary of ‘lecturing’ it
The Supreme Court yesterday took strong exception to an affidavit filed by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla on a plea by gangster Abu Salem, challenging his life imprisonment in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, and said it is an “attempt to lecture the judiciary”. The top court said that it is not taking the affidavit “very kindly” and does not appreciate the “tenor” of it. A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh said the court appreciates that these are not easy decisions but the authorities in the central government should have “broad shoulders” to take a call on an issue and come up with a clear stand on solemn sovereign assurances given to a foreign country.
“Sorry, it does not reflect well on the part of authorities in the central government. They are not able to put up a clear stand… We don't require the union home secretary to lecture us… It is an attempt to lecture the judiciary,” it said. The bench was irked by certain paragraphs where it was said that it is legally untenable for Salem to club the assurance with the merits of the case and he should argue the case on merit.
The Long Cable
Scholz-Modi meet a dialogue of those deaf to democracy
One of the most important meetings for the future of democracy will be held in early May, and it will be a failure. The new German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, will be meeting Narendra Modi for the first time, as the countries host their intergovernmental consultations, which occur every two years. Because it is due to be held in Germany ― and because Germany is also the host of the G7 meeting in end-June, where India hopes to be a guest ― much of the focus will be on Ukraine. India has carefully avoided taking a position on the issue, and while it has expressed concerns about violations ― such as possible war crimes in Bucha ― it has resolutely avoided naming Russia as an aggressor.
This will be hard for Scholz to deal with, particularly because his Social Democratic Party (SDP) carries the burden of its past. The most embarrassing being former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who has been chairman of Rosneft, the Russian state-owned energy company.
And yet the problem is deeper than Schröder or the SDP, and has a great deal to do with Germany’s post-Cold War approach to global politics, in which its engagement with Russia, China, and India deserve special attention. Writing in 2019, Thomas Bagger, then foreign policy adviser to the German president, explained Germany’s shock at both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, and why these had come as such a great surprise to Germans.
The essay, worth reading in detail, explained why Germany had taken to heart Francis Fukuyama’s thesis that liberal democracy had won the day. For a country so scarred by leadership that the very word “leader” or Führer had become unusable, the idea that managing things would ‘naturally’ lead to democracy and liberalism was deeply attractive. The 16 years of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship embraced this logic. For Germany, dealing with authoritarian regimes meant managing relations in the sure belief that they would democratise.
Then came Brexit. Whatever its reasons, it was a retreat from the best-managed democratic grouping in the world. And then the US elected Donald Trump, China violently suppressed the autonomous status of Hong Kong, and now there’s Putin’s war on Ukraine. It seems very clear that ignoring the steady decline of freedom within authoritarian regimes while engaging in burgeoning trade only encouraged human rights abuses, and gave the impression that a rich, democratic country like Germany cared more about selling cars than the repression of people.
In this, the relationship with India, especially after the election of the Narendra Modi government, is possibly the most challenging. States such as Russia and China ― which were authoritarian to begin with ― becoming more dictatorial was easier to accept than a country that was supposed to be both a democratic partner and a market. India was supposed to be the next China ― but a democratic one. Instead, it has consistently slipped down the rankings as a democracy while also undermining its economy. To deal with China avoiding blaming and, in effect, supporting Russian aggression is hard enough. How does one deal with India doing so?
At the intergovernmental consultations, the largest country in Europe will not just be faced with India giving space to a Chinese vision of the world, but also in its own complicity in allowing it to become that.
The real question is why India – the country, not the government – should care about Ukraine. If nobody cares about Indians enjoying democracy, why should Indians care about the undermining of democracy in Europe?
The answer really lies in the fact that democracy movements are not just government-led. The many anti-colonial movements, especially India’s, were transnational movements. The Congress Party of the pre-Independence era was not a government, and even post-Independence the drive to be independent in reality and not just in name, is what drove things like the Non-Aligned Movement. As the scholar Swapna Kona Nayadu argues, non-alignment was not merely “a curse on both your houses”, but an active policy that would allow the post-colonial states to chart out a path free of subjugation of various blocs. The heart of non-alignment was not strategic vision, but an internationalist approach that valued the freedom of the people of the post-colonial world.
The aggression against Ukraine matters because the Ukrainian people are being denied freedom. This is something that Indians, whose freedoms are being chipped away, can both understand and respond to. For Germany, and Europe, to be able to find a partner in India, it has to engage at the people-to-people level. Merely managing relationships at the governmental level has failed, disappointing both Europeans and Indians, and will continue to do so.
(Omair Ahmad is a journalist and writer. He was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2009 and won the Vodafone Crossword Book Award in 2010)
Retired babus are having a ball in BJP-ruled Haryana. The Khattar government has re-employed more than a dozen IAS and IPS officers in important posts after their retirement. Most recently, two former IAS officers Vijai Vardhan and SS Phulia were appointed as chief information commissioner and information commissioner. Vardhan retired as chief secretary in November last year. He has replaced former IPS officer Yashpal Singhal, a former DGP in the state. This January, former IAS officer Jyoti Arora, wife of Home Secretary Rajiv Arora, was made an information commissioner after she retired. Former chief secretary Keshni Anand Arora was similarly made chairperson of the Haryana Water Resources Authority. The sinecures will not end, for those loyal to the Hindutva regime.
Prime Number: 1/5
Despite a marked drop in the number of data breaches in the world, India remains among the five worst-hit nations. It has witnessed leaks of user IDs, credit card information, telephone numbers, email addresses and passwords.
What is the legal position on Delhi’s Jahangirpuri demolitions? Some more facts and data.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
India can be the fulcrum of the new global order post-Ukraine, as a peaceful democracy with economic prosperity. But this requires India to stem the raging communal divisions within, writes Dr Manmohan Singh.
Sushant Singh (a contributor to The India Cable) writes on the dangers of a proposal for short-term contractual military recruitment where “up to 50,000 young men in their early twenties, trained in inflicting organised violence and with combat experience, could be demobilised every year” into the Hindutva cauldron of violence.
“When a society doesn’t acknowledge its shared nightmares, does it teach its citizens to bury their private memories?” asks Sohini Chattopadhyay.
The UIDAI’s approach to Aadhaar betrays hubris, endangering our rights, comfort and dignity, write Reetika Khera and Ria Singh Sawhney.
The Indian government is letting the crypto issue hang in limbo, hurting citizens, writes Seema Chishti, a contributor to The India Cable.
If Modi still needs to cite Gujarat as an example of what he can do by inviting foreign leaders to his home state, that betrays a lack of confidence at best — and an admission of failure at worst, writes Charu Sudan Kasturi.
Ashok Kumar Pandey writes that India may face a brutal period marred with violence and anarchy in the near future. The bulldozer symbolises mindless destruction, and a Bulldozer Republic is marked by a regime that spreads devastation.
The demolition drive in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri is the use of state machinery to harass Muslims, says The Hindu editorial. A Deccan Herald editorial says that bulldozer politics, which represents targeted punishment and wrongly conceived instant justice, violates the idea of a humane state that is at the heart of the Constitution.
Persistent inflation looks likely to threaten Indian food security, writes Himanshu.
The republic of diversity, pluralism and freedom that Nehru dreamt of will be destroyed by those who would much rather create a republic of lies, writes Vir Sanghvi.
Vaishnavi Patel writes for Tor.com: ‘Living Religions, Living Myths: On Retelling the Ramayana’.
“This isn’t about encroachments – it’s about humiliating and economically harming a community”. Of the wide range of civil remedies available, demolition isn’t the first resort to deal with encroachments, say lawyers Nikita Sonavane and Mrinalini Ravindranath.
“While using software [to run food apps], they have begun to treat us as software too,” a food delivery driver says. A short film on the lives of people who make Zomato and Swiggy happen:
Over and out
Read up on the Bohra Sisters, “A sisterly upholding of the good old days through art.”
Now, kangaroos are turning up in India. The animals are the latest exotic fauna to be smuggled into the country, possibly to be used as pets. Draft legislation would close loopholes in the roaring wildlife trade.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.