India Slides Further in World Press Freedom Index, Ranks 161st among 180 Countries; Sexual Abuse-Accused WFI Chief’s Fatherly-Hug Remark ‘Sick and Disgusting’
US to remain publicly quiet about India’s democratic backsliding, Adani’s auditor resigns, Bilkis Bano judge anguished by delaying tactics, why the people of Sikkim are protesting
A newsletter from The Wire | Founded by MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sushant Singh, Sidharth Bhatia, Tanweer Alam and Pratik Kanjilal | With inputs from Kalrav Joshi | Editor: Vinay Pandey
Snapshot of the day
May 3, 2023
In the latest edition of the World Press Freedom Index, released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday, India has slipped to an even more abysmal 161st rank among the 180 countries ranked – 11 ranks lower than in 2022, when it stood at 150. India thus finds itself among the 31 countries where the RSF believes the situation for journalists is “very serious”.
In its opening remarks about why India has been classified this way, the RSF says: “The violence against journalists, the politically partisan media and the concentration of media ownership all demonstrate that press freedom is in crisis in ‘the world’s largest democracy’, the country ruled since 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the embodiment of the Hindu nationalist right.”
“Sick and disgusting” – that’s what Priyanka Chaturvedi, MP, says of Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's remark to a TV channel that he had only hugged a female wrestler as a father figure. “After talking, I hugged her. When she felt uncomfortable, I told her that I am hugging her like a father,” Singh, who has been accused of sexual abuse of female wrestlers, can be heard saying in a video clip tweeted by Chaturvedi. The MP says in her tweet: “Sick and disgusting. Taking advantage of the powerful position he is in to exploit a wrestler who came to seek his help. No you don’t give any woman a hug without her consent and then justify it as a fatherly hug. Shame on BJP for continuing to defend this person. Bigger shame that the WCD minister [who] is still shamelessly silent.”
Vinesh Phogat – the face of the wrestlers’ protest – alleged on Tuesday that complaints related to sexual harassment were hushed up in the past by the WFI and that sports minister Anurag Thakur did the same by forming an oversight panel instead of taking concrete action. The world champion also alleged that she and other female wrestlers were being pushed to a stage where they could have done anything with their lives. On Wednesday, IOA president PT Usha visited Jantar Mantar to meet the protesting wrestlers almost a week after she said that sportspersons “protesting on the streets” amounted to indiscipline.
The Biden administration has decided to remain publicly quiet on India’s democratic backsliding as Washington intensifies efforts to keep New Delhi on its side in the rivalry with Beijing, reports Bloomberg, quoting unidentified senior US officials. Narendra Modi’s pressure on religious minorities and the media is troubling, as is his party’s targeting of opposition lawmakers, said the officials, but the decision to largely refrain from criticising Modi comes as growing concerns about China make India increasingly crucial to US geopolitical and economic goals in the Indo-Pacific.
The tiny chartered-accountancy firm whose appointment as the statutory auditor of Adani Total Gas and Adani Enterprises was questioned by the Hindenburg report has resigned as statutory auditor of Adani Total Gas. The decision was announced after a meeting of the company’s board of directors on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if Shah Dhandharia & Co, run by a bunch of rookie auditors, would also step down from the flagship Adani Enterprises, whose board is due to meet on Thursday to consider its financial results.
Justice KM Joseph of the Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it was “more than obvious” that the men released early from life imprisonment for gang-raping Bilkis Bano and murdering her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots were raising a maze of procedural objections in successive court hearings to avoid his bench. Noting that time was running out for him, with his retirement now just days away, an anguished Justice Joseph said, addressing the lawyers for the respondents: “It’s clear what is being attempted here. I will retire on June 19. Since that is during the vacation, my last working day is Friday, May 19. It is obvious you don’t want this bench to hear the matter.” Justice Joseph was accompanied on the bench by Justice BV Nagarathna. The bench finally adjourned the hearing to July. Earlier during the hearing, the central and Gujarat governments did a U-turn and told the court that they would not claim privilege over the convicts’ remission files.
Top executives across four countries – India, the UK, the US and South Africa – received a 9% pay hike in 2022, while workers’ wages fell 3.19% during the same period, reveals a new analysis from Oxfam. The figures, adjusted for inflation, are based on the latest data from the International Labor Organisation and government statistics agencies.
Support for former chief minister Siddaramaiah is strong in his south Karnataka village and its surroundings. The Congress leader is not spending much time canvassing in Varuna, but his family is keeping the campaign going, reports Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta.
Behind the ongoing protests in Sikkim are worries over who gets to be “Sikkimese”.
Sonam Gyatso Sherpa of the Joint Action Committee in Sikkim talks to Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty about why people believe protections of their local identity, protected under Article 371F of the Constitution, are under threat.
The CBI has registered a case against a former CMD of Wapcos, Rajinder Kumar Gupta, and his family members, for alleged possession of disproportionate assets. On Tuesday, the agency conducted searches at 19 locations across Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Sonepat and Ghaziabad at the premises of the accused which led to the recovery of approximately ₹20 crore in cash, a large quantity of jewellery, some valuable items and other incriminating documents. Wapcos, formerly Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited, is a central government undertaking, under the Jal Shakti ministry.
India’s unemployment rate climbed to a fourth-month high in April, even though rural jobs ticked up slightly, according to the latest data from the Centre for Monitoring India Economy. The nationwide joblessness rate rose to 8.11% in April from 7.8% in March. Urban unemployment climbed to 9.81% from 8.51% in the same period and rural unemployment fell marginally to 7.34% in April from 7.47% a month ago.
India has decided to temporarily relocate its embassy from Khartoum, the violence-hit capital city of Sudan, to Port Sudan, citing security reasons in the country.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The India Cable to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.