Jaishankar Raps Father's Removal By Indira But Himself Became FS After Modi Ousted Incumbent; India’s Problem With Foreigners Returns
More Indians buying residency in West, BoB retains appetite for lending to Adani, inflation sharper for millions of poor, the dismal truth about IIT placements, Sri Ram Sene’s reverse ‘love jihad’
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Snapshot of the day
February 21, 2023
ChatGPT, says a US politician, finds Narendra Modi ‘controversial.’ Isaac Latterell shared a list of “controversial public figures” generated by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which featured one of OpenAI’s co-founders, billionaire Elon Musk. Apart from him and Narendra Modi, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Jair Bolsonaro, Boris Johnson, Ellen DeGeneres, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were also deemed to be controversial by the AI tool, and to be handled with special care.
It is unclear if his interview to ANI’s Smita Prakash is external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s way of responding to unflattering comparisons being made on social media with his illustrious father yesterday or just a coincidental reference made in a chat recorded earlier. Everyone in the bureaucracy knows K. Subrahmanyam never rose to the top because of his unwillingness to curry favour with ministers and prime ministers. Jaishankar today correctly attacked Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi for stymieing his father’s career four decades ago. “In 1980, he was Secretary, Defence Production. In 1980 when Indira Gandhi was re-elected, he was the first Secretary that she removed… He was superseded during the Rajiv Gandhi period for somebody junior to him who became Cabinet Secretary,” he said.
The irony is that Jaishankar himself became Foreign Secretary in January 2015 after Narendra Modi removed the well-regarded but presumably ‘uncommitted’ incumbent, Sujata Singh, several months before her two-year tenure was to end. Jaishankar was, unusually, granted a one year extension, which robbed several talented IFS officers of the chance of becoming FS.
Last month, the Nanded district court rejected a former RSS member’s request to be made a witness in an ongoing trial pertaining to the 2006 Nanded bomb blast. Yashwant Shinde had said that he had “personal knowledge of the conspiracy” that led to the blast, which was “hatched by the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal”. Shinde also accused Milind Parande, general secretary of the VHP, of masterminding the blast and requested that he be added as an accused in the case. Since August 29, Shinde has appeared before the court on five hearings. The dismissal of his application weakens the investigation into the larger conspiracy behind several blasts.
Although the two countries charted a very ambitious roadmap for the future during National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s visit to Washington (January 30-February 1), translation to bilateral goals on the ground is more important. The national security establishment worries whether the US will live up to the commitments signed during Doval’s visit to add muscle to the bilateral relationship, amidst Chinese belligerence on the northern borders and the Indo-Pacific, says an analysis in the Hindustan Times by Shishir Gupta, a reporter known to be close to Doval (and whose number was also on the list of those believed to have selected as a target for Pegasus spyware).
Former DG of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of the Pakistan military, Major General (retd) Athar Abbas, said on Sunday that dialogue with India on levels other than the security establishment is “a need of Pakistan”. He made the remarks during a panel discussion, ‘Search for Peace and Security Among Neighbours’, on the final day of the 14th Karachi Literature Festival. Abbas said, “Dialogue is, at present, a need of our country […]. The way forward is not just the state apparatus, because if you leave it [solely] to the security establishment, there will be no move forward. It will be like taking one step forward and two steps backwards. “There has to be an initiative […] like Track II diplomacy, like media, like business and trade organisations, like academia … and they can interact and create their space within Indian society, etc. That builds pressure on the [Indian] government [and] state authorities that they must look into what the people are saying. This is a requirement of time that dialogue is a need of Pakistan.” If met with resistance, he said, Pakistan could also involve “external actors” like the US and the EU.
Real inflation felt by India’s poor is 40 basis points higher than the official number in the current fiscal year, slashing the purchasing power of millions, according to Fitch Ratings’ India Ratings & Research. “The effective inflation faced by the bottom 50% of the population stood at 7.2% during April-December,” analyst Paras Jasrai reported. The top 50% of the population faced inflation of 6.9%, marginally higher than the official average of 6.8%. “As we move up the expenditure strata, the share of food and beverages in the consumption basket keeps declining and hence the intensity of inflation being faced by them also keeps declining,” Jasrai said.
Gautam Adani won’t bid for a stake in state-backed electricity trader PTC India, reports Bloomberg, as his business empire tries to preserve cash. NTPC, NHPC, Power Grid Corporation of India and Power Finance Corporation have been working with an adviser to weigh selling their stakes of 4% each in PTC India, worth around $52 million. Adani Power has also called off the acquisition of a coal plant in central India that could have been valued at $848 million.
Adani stocks continued to slip in the share market yesterday and the group’s market capitalisation slipped below $100 billion. This, according to Livemint, means a fall of over $135 billion, since the Hindenburg Research report, which accused the group of stock manipulation and accounting fraud, was released on January 24.
The beleaguered group is likely to buy back part of its commercial paper borrowings from domestic mutual funds ahead of maturity, reports The Morning Context ― short-term debt instruments it issued to raise working capital, in which mutual funds are a key investor. This is apart from the scheduled repayment of Rs 993.53 crore due to SBI Mutual Fund and Rs 496.77 crore due to Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC yesterday. When Hindenburg Research accused the conglomerate of accounting fraud and stock manipulation, mutual funds had debt exposure of Rs 3,700 crore to Adani. Of this, Rs 3,500 crore was due in commercial papers, and the rest as debentures.
State-backed Bank of Baroda will consider lending more to Adani, including for the Dharavi slum project. CEO and MD Sanjiv Chadha said that he’s not concerned about volatility in Adani stocks. That’s some support for Gautam Adani after banks baulked at refinancing a $500 million bridge loan due next month.
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EPFO’s trustees, representing employers as well as workers, have raised the issue of non-credit of interest on employees’ provident fund for 2021-22 even after its ratification last June. The Central Board of Trustees, headed by the Union Labour Minister, in March 2022 approved an 8.1% rate of interest, the lowest in over four decades, for FY2021-22.
A record number of Indians have gone West, taking up ‘residence by investment’. More than 2.25 lakh Indians renounced Indian citizenship in 2022. Vijaita Singh reports for The Hindu on the many reasons people pick to leave India. They are mostly “moving westward with new passports, in search of better opportunities, healthcare, quality of life and education, among several other factors.”
Pramod Muthalik, the controversial president of Sri Ram Sene in Karnataka, on Sunday called upon Hindu men in the state to trap Muslim girls to counter ‘love jihad’, and assured them protection. Addressing a public meeting in Bagalkot, Muthalik said, “We clearly know what is happening in Karnataka and I have a solution. If we lose one Hindu girl to ‘love jihad’, we must trap and lure 10 Muslim women in retaliation. If this happens, Sri Rama Sene will be behind you and give you complete protection and even employment. We must protect our religion from external forces.”
Top Indian wrestlers continue to opt out of big events. Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and others are giving a miss to the upcoming 2nd Ranking Series Ibrahim-Moustafa tournament. It is the second time this month that Vinesh, Bajrang, Ravi Dahiya, Deepak Punia, Anshu Malik, Sangeeta Phogat and Sangita Mor have decided to sit out an important tournament, to be held in Alexandria, Egypt, on February 23-26.
The Supreme Court of India is using AI and Natural Language Processing for live transcription of hearings. Live transcription was launched today on an experimental basis in the courtroom of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, where a case about the power struggle in Maharashtra was being heard.
With 125.42 lakh passengers carried, India’s domestic air traffic in January remained lower than its pre-pandemic levels of 127.83 lakh in January 2020. It was 1.5% less than December 2022’s figure of 127.35 lakh passengers.
The Washington Post writes on north India’s “missing spring” as February brings a sharp increase in temperatures. The first heatwave alert in India has already been sounded. “Climate change keeps shifting boundaries, severities and timelines.”