Joint Opposition Meeting in Bengaluru Underway; Indian Nationalist Chicken Soup Vs Chinese Patriotic Dumpling Soup
Bombay HC says govt no arbiter of truth, Pronab Sen panel to clean up India’s statistical mess, trapped in reproductive economy most women can’t access property, Bengal offers sweet way to eat ballots
A newsletter from The Wire | Founded by MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sushant Singh, Sidharth Bhatia and Tanweer Alam | With inputs from Kalrav Joshi | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
July 17, 2023
Over two dozen opposition political parties are attending a joint meeting in Bengaluru to discuss mounting a united challenge to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha election. “Didn’t we face Modi?”, said Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge. “Aren’t we strong in Karnataka? Congress won at all the places wherever Modi went for campaigning (during the Assembly election). The BJP’s downfall has started from Karnataka,” he added.
The BJP is not taking the challenge lying down. Having spurned allies for most of its time in power, the party is seeking to woo new allies or rekindling passions with older ones.
The Standing Committee on Economic Statistics (SCES) will be replaced by a spanking new Standing Committee on Statistics, after the last round of household surveys on consumption expenditure and employment were trashed due to poor data. Pronab Sen, India’s first chief statistician and the former chairman of the National Statistical Commission (NSC), has been named the chair of the new committee, which will inspect all NSO data. India’s data standards have declined sharply under the Modi administration, which has indefinitely suspended important exercises like the census, or has withheld problematic data, like on unemployment. The problem is now at the tipping point, when policymaking and welfare delivery are suffering.
Equally significantly, foreign investment may be harmed because while the numbers in India are always big, they are not necessarily right. Planning is based on data from 2012, from long before mobile networks changed how stuff is done, from how biryani is bought to how poor workers mark their attendance in MGNREGA jobs. Statisticians still collect data on obsolete technology like audio cassettes, but significant market data is missing, reports Bloomberg. This has been a problem for welfare delivery, but now that PM Modi is pitching India as the next big investment destination, lack of data could spook foreign capital.
Final arguments in the Supreme Court on Bilkis Bano’s appeal against the remission given to the rapists and murderers who decimated her family in Gujarat in 2002 will begin on August 7.
The Indian Express has learnt that the devil is in the details. Since “details” on “timelines” and “confidential specifications” could not be settled in time for the joint statement on PM Modi’s visit, the deal on three Scorpene submarines and joint development of a combat aircraft engine, are missing from the text. There was some confusion because a draft text was uploaded ‘by mistake’ on the website of the Ministry of External Affairs.
Ahead of Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to Delhi, the Sunday Times points to “double standards” of the Indian government, which demands devolution in north and east Sri Lanka while “stripping Kashmir’s autonomy”, and shows concern for Sri Lankan Tamils while ignoring their fishermen’s issues.
India does not usually stir sentiments in France, perhaps because the diaspora there is quite small. But Modi’s visit on Bastille Day has elicited a response, because his profile is opposed to the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity on which the republic was founded.
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The sticking point of the G20 meet in India in September is two paragraphs of the joint statement which refer to the conflict in Ukraine and its economic consequences. Member states’ finance ministers and central bank governors are also expected to release a statement on July 18. In both cases, the G-7 nations and the Russia-China grouping are at odds over the language in which the war in Europe should be described.
The Centre for Policy Research has slashed all but a quarter of its staff strength. The pay of faculty and fellows has been cut by various degrees, ranging from 50% to 100%, and the duration of contracts has been shortened. This is the result of the suspension of the research organisation’s Foreign Contribution Registration Act (FCRA) licence in February. Last month, it also lost its tax exemption status as a charitable institute. The centrist think tank was accused of financial irregularities. The process is the punishment, as always ― the accusation alone has put one of India’s most influential organisations on life support.
Illegal migration from Gujarat to the United States continues unabated, says The Hindu. Gujarat is a significant source of illegal migrants attempting to enter the US through various means, including human trafficking networks and fake documents. The lure of better economic opportunities and a desire for a better life are cited as the primary motivations behind this trend.
In Bengaluru, a bus passenger demanded that a Muslim conductor take off his skull cap. There is no official rule or regulation prohibiting the wearing of religious attire by public transport staff. The passenger’s demand seemed to be based on personal bias rather than any legal requirement, reports The News Minute. After the video of a woman passenger questioning a Muslim bus conductor for wearing a green skull cap went viral, the KSRTC clarified that there are no fixed rules about religious identifiers.
Rahul da Cunha tells the Washington Post that while in the hands of his father Sylvester da Cunha, the Amul Girl could speak freely on all matters, she has to be much more careful in our time.
On the Malayalam screen, it’s Jailer vs Jailer. A Rajini blockbuster backed by Kalanithi Maran is due for global release on August 10. So is a small-budget Malayalam movie by the same name, directed by Sakkir Madathil, who had registered the name much earlier with the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce. The publicity can’t hurt it.