Lawyer Accused of Hate Speech Sworn in as High Court Judge; In the UK, the Name of the Renaming Game is Different
State presses startups and lending apps, Russia suggests opening FI in India, Navy LCA flies from Vikrant, Gurjas Kaur Khalsa wins Grammy, Chinese balloon appeared over Andamans but India did nothing
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
February 7, 2023
In a photo-finish this morning, the Supreme Court declined to hear a petition challenging the appointment of lawyer Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri as a judge of the Madras High Court.
Her elevation was opposed by members of the legal fraternity, who drew attention to hate content in public speeches she had made earlier. The SC’s reasoning will follow, but it seemed to think it would have been bad form to let a Collegium’s recommendation be litigated, especially since two consultee judges from Tamil Nadu were involved in the selection process.
“People want to know about Modi-Adani relationship,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in Parliament today. He was speaking in the discussion on the ‘motion of thanks’ for the President’s speech at the start of the current Budget session. “Rules were overlooked to favour Adani… From Tamil Nadu, Kerala to Himachal Pradesh we have been listening one name everywhere ‘Adani’. Across the entire country, it’s just ‘Adani’, ‘Adani’, ‘Adani’, he said, holding aloft a photograph of Modi relaxing in an Adani jet.
Shares of most Adani Group companies fell on Monday before rallying on Tuesday. “There will be more volatility in India this year; hence the market is prone to a correction,” analyst Venugopal Garre wrote in a Monday note. “The best way to pick up such transactions is to look for arbitrages in implied growth.”
Markets were buoyed somewhat by Gautam Adani and his family paying in advance $1,114 million worth of borrowings raised by pledging shares of listed entities in the group. Payment was due in September 2024, but pledged shares in Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone, Adani Green Energy and Adani Transmission will now be released by lenders. The move is aimed at calming investors with concerns about the group’s “substantial debt”. The group’s debt position has come under question and investors are worried about the impact on their wealth. Mint evaluates their debt, cash on books, revenues and profits.
The Supreme Court of the Netherlands has refused to overturn the $111.3 million arbitral award levied by the District Court of Hague, finding the Indian government liable for improperly terminating the DevasAntrix deal in 2011. A separate challenge lodged by India against the subsequent quantum award is pending in the Netherlands. India also owes $1.3 billion in arbitration in a parallel proceeding with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The victory for Devas shareholders comes after the Supreme Court of Mauritius barred Devas shareholders from pursuing arbitration proceedings against India at the UN Commission on International Trade Law.
After the US shot down a Chinese weather balloon suspected of spying, the Financial Times reports that “in January 2022 one of the white orbs was spotted over India” ― in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Andaman Sheekha reported on it on January 6, 2022, asking: “Now, the question is which agency has placed the object in the sky and why? If this object is not released by any agencies in Andaman then was it sent for spying? But in this age of ultra-advanced satellites, who would use a flying object to spy?” Now we know that it was Chinese, and that balloons offer higher resolution images than satellites. We also know that India did nothing.
The police in Kashmir have been dragging their feet in ‘verifying’ the passport application of Iltija Mufti, daughter of PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, thereby violating her fundamental right to travel, she alleges.
India is exploring at least three options to clear outstanding rouble payments worth around Rs 28,000 crore for Russian weapons, the Indian Express reports. One is rouble payments via the Chinese yuan and UAE dirhams. Reuters reported that Indian refiners have started paying in dirhams instead of US dollars for Russian oil purchased through Dubai-based traders. Rouble payments could also be made through sovereign bonds in which the government will commit to pay a fixed amount later, inclusive of face value and interest. A third option is to offer stakes to Russia in state-owned enterprises, which can be liquidated in the future — that’s a Russian suggestion. The Rs 28,000 crore in rouble payments for defence supplies includes contracts with the forces, the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and defence PSUs. India had to pay Rs 11,500 crore to Russia by the end of FY2021-22.
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“Employment in January 2023, at 409.3 million, is comparable to the pre-pandemic level of 410.5 million in January 2020. It is also among the highest levels of employment in the post- demonetisation period. The three highest monthly employment levels since demonetisation of November 2016 are – 410.5 million in January 2020, 410.2 million in December 2022 and 409.3 million in January 2023,” writes Mahesh Vyas of CMIE. “In spite of the fall in employment in January 2023, employment in the past two months has been higher than any time in the post-pandemic period and higher than most of the post-demonetisation period. Interestingly, the number of unemployed persons declined sharply by 5.7 million in January. This is not because they found jobs. If this were to be the case then, employment would have risen. But, we have already noted above that employment itself declined by 0.95 million. So, what this means is that the labour force shrank in January by 6.6 million — partly because employment fell (by 0.95 million) and largely because the unemployed declined (by 5.7 million). As large numbers of the unemployed left the labour markets in January 2023, the labour participation rate fell from 40.5% in December 2022 to 39.8%.”
Automobile retail sales in India witnessed a 14% year-on-year (YoY) jump in January, the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) reveals, but they were still 8% below the pre-Covid period in January 2020.
News broke yesterday of lending apps like PayU’s LazyPay, Kissht, and others being among the 94 loan apps blocked by the Indian government, and chaos followed among lending startups. Till Sunday, it seemed that only Chinese apps were being banned.
In an about turn that the startup ecosystem didn’t see coming, the government seems to have tightened the noose on foreign funding for the sector, precisely while it grapples with a funding crunch with no end in sight. It has mandated that the so-called angel tax regime will now also apply to money flowing into Indian startups from abroad. It has left everyone from startups to venture capital investors concerned.
The government will not contemplate merging GST tax rates in FY24. An overhaul has been in the air for more than a year. Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra said, “Right now, we are just looking to maintain stability (in tax rates), a stable tax regime. Minor changes will always be there… major taxation changes like the merger of tax rates, we are not contemplating in 2023/24.” Earlier, in 2021, the government considered overhauling GST tax rates, most likely merging two and trimming a host of items.
Over 4,000 teaching positions are vacant in IITs, the Lok Sabha was informed yesterday. While over 6,000 teaching and 15,798 non-teaching positions are vacant in central universities, the number is enormous for Kendriya Vidyalayas ― over 12,000 teaching positions. In a written reply, Minister of State for Education Dr Subhas Sarkar said in the IIMs, 484 teaching positions are vacant, while at the National Institutes of Technology/Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, 2,089 teaching positions are yet to be filled. In Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV), 3,271 teaching positions are vacant.
Ro Khanna, who will be a co-chair of the US Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans says it feels like the culmination of generations of public work. His grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar fought for India’s Independence and was a member of the first Parliament. This has shaped Khanna’s strong beliefs in equality and religious freedom, he said. “Because of my grandfather, I was influenced by Gandhi’s thinking, by Nehru’s beautiful speeches about liberal democracy, about pluralism,” he said. “Those are the values I champion. … I’ve spoken out where I think those values are being challenged.”
Fareed Zakaria on the 75th anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination
Gurjas Kaur Khalsa has won a Grammy for her chants in Mystic Mirror by the Los Angeles group White Sun, featuring shabad from the Granth Sahib. Rolling Stone has an interview.
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