India to Face Tough Questions Tomorrow at Human Rights Council in Geneva; Why Musk’s Twitter Takeover Spells Digital Demonetisation
Nirav Modi loses extradition appeal, Airtel wants govt to split phone-tap bill, Great Nicobar project to cost 8.5 lakh trees, BJP lotus in India's G20 logo, 11,833 startup employees sacked in 2022
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
November 9, 2022
The treatment of journalists and human rights defenders, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and custodial torture “are expected to dominate” the Universal Periodic Review of India at the Human Rights Council in Geneva tomorrow. In ‘Advance Questions’ submitted to the Council, Belgium has called the CAA “anti-minority” and asked India if the law would be repealed. The US has highlighted “hate speech”, “internet shutdowns” and the hijab issue in Karnataka. The US also asks how the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the National Security Act, Public Safety Act and Sections 124A, 499, and 500 of the Indian Penal Code comply with India’s international human rights obligations. Panama too has raised a query. In the national report submitted in August, India had informed the Council that laws were fully and consistently enforced to ensure the protection of minorities.
Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi has lost his appeal in the UK high court against extradition from Britain. His fate is now in the hands of Suella Braverman, Britain’s home secretary, who may see his quick handover as an easy way of mending fences with the Indian government.
The DMK will file a review petition against the majority judgment in the Supreme Court which upheld reservation for economically weaker sections of society, defined by statute as excluding citizens belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
India’s balance of payments is likely to slip into a $45-50 billion deficit in the current fiscal year, according to the Finance Ministry’s internal assessment. In FY22, it was $47.5 billion in the black, but now the trade imbalance in goods may not be bridged by the invisibles surplus ― software exports and inward remittances ― and capital inflows, which are also expected to be muted. Forex outflow may keep the rupee under pressure but the Centre believes the deficit can be managed with forex reserves of $531 billion.
Retail wheat prices have gone up 11%, atta is costlier by 16% since January and there will be no relief until the next harvest in March-April. Millers seek release from the official stock, the government had said it would do so “whenever needed”, but it is yet to decide, leading to speculation that it is not serious about taming grain prices. According to Consumer Affairs Ministry data, the national average retail price of wheat was Rs 31.13/kg in the first week of this month — up from Rs 28 in January. Atta has risen to Rs 36.36/kg from Rs 31.30 in January.
India-Russia bilateral trade jumped over four times in April-September to $22.6 billion compared to $5.7 billion in the same period last year, according to the Commerce & Industry Ministry. It owes completely to a 410% rise in Russian exports to India to $21.3 billion in the six month period, mainly crude and petroleum products worth $15.5 billion, making Moscow a top energy supplier to the country. India’s exports to Russia declined 18% to $1.3 billion. In Moscow, India’s foreign minister strongly has defended the purchase of Russian oil.
The US dollar remains the mainstay of India’s payment for Russian oil, as New Delhi isn’t inclined to switch to the euro or the UAE’s dirham, Moscow’s preferred alternatives to the greenback. Russia is reluctant to shift to the rupee due to the burgeoning trade imbalance between the two countries.
The G7 nations plan to cap prices of sea-borne oil shipments from Russia from December 5, with a second cap from February 5. “If they (India) want to use Western financial services like insurance, the price cap would apply to their purchases,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said about India not following the price cap on its Russian imports, ahead of her trip to New Delhi.
A report by Refinitiv’s Commodity Research said Indian refiners had increased diesel exports to Europe after the Ukraine war, averaging at 730,000 million tonne per month post-invasion, up from 570,000 mt/month. Only private refiners Reliance and Nayara Energy can produce EU winter-specification diesel. Reliance has been India’s largest importer of Russian crudes and its largest diesel exporter.
State-owned oil marketing companies IOC, BPCL and HPCL posted a second consecutive quarterly loss totalling Rs 2,748.66 crore in July-September as a one-time LPG payout by the government could not mask losses from petrol and diesel prices freeze. These numbers have emerged from company filings.
According to official data, 2,272 fake Rs 2,000 notes were seized in India in 2016. The count increased to 74,898 in 2017 before falling to 54,776 in 2018. The figure in 2019 was 90,566 pieces, and in 2020 it soared to 2,44,834 pieces. An RTI application filed by IANS revealed that Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran (P) Ltd printed 3,542.991 million Rs 2,000 notes in FY2016-17, followed by a precipitous fall to 111.507 million notes in 2017-18, and then to 46.690 million notes in 2018-19. In its RTI reply, this minting division of RBI revealed that no Rs 2,000 denomination currency notes were printed in 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Of India’s existing coal-fired power capacity, 21.18% was added after the 2015 Paris Climate Accords. India’s enhanced climate targets for 2030, submitted to the UN in August, include reducing carbon intensity of GDP by 45% (from 2005 levels) and 50% electric power capacity from non-fossil sources. But India will remain heavily reliant on coal. It is the world’s second-largest coal producer (770 million tonnes per annum) and 50% of its 407.79 GW electricity generation is coal-fired. India has the least coal-fired power capacity retirements (0.22 GW) planned until 2040 ― only 0.1% of its operating capacity. And 99 new coal projects are planned with a production of 427 mtpa.
In a video report on BBC Hindi, border residents in eastern Ladakh say their grazing land has been reduced by restrictions imposed by the Indian Army, and that China continuously expands its infrastructure on the border, creating difficulties for the locals ― nomads on ground zero.
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Algeria wants to add another alphabet in BRICS. It wants in, officially, says the Middle East Monitor.
The Centre has alluded to “foreign origins” in its affidavit on Dalit Christians and Muslims, reports The Hindu. Filed before the Supreme Court bench hearing the case for the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the list of Scheduled Castes, the government’s submission “contradicts itself at several junctures, leading to a lack of clarity on its arguments defending the current criteria for determining which communities can be classified as Scheduled Castes. It justifies the ‘intelligible differentia’ between Scheduled Castes practising Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism and those practising other religions.”
Former Union economic affairs secretary EAS Sarma has asked the Election Commission of India to prevent the fresh sale of electoral bonds via an amendment notified by the Centre on Monday that he described as “ill-timed, improper” and a bid by the ruling party to take “undue advantage”. The amendment permits the sale of bonds for an additional 15 days per year. The CPI(M) and the Association for Democratic Reforms have also opposed the extension.
The Environment Ministry has okayed the clearing of 130 sq km of land for the controversial Great Nicobar project. That means hacking about 8.5 lakh trees, nearly a quarter of all forests cut in three years across India.
A day after a local court in Bengaluru ordered the Twitter accounts of the Congress and Bharat Jodo Yatra to be temporarily blocked, the Karnataka High Court yesterday set aside the order for alleged copyright violation of music from the film KGF-2, provided the offending tweets are taken down.
Magnificent cutouts of three football greats, Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar spring from a river in Kozhikode. FIFA acknowledged the football frenzy in Kerala and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan too found a moment off from tackling Governor Khan to thank FIFA for taking note.
Sir David Butler has died at 98. The world’s best-known psephologist, who introduced concepts such as ‘swing’ and innovated the ‘swingometer’, influenced how psephology came to India too. With him, Prannoy Roy and Ashok Lahiri put together India Decides, a compendium of elections in India from the 1950s to the 1990s.