MEA to Lecture IR Departments on Vishwaguru Diplomacy; Ideologically on the Right Side? The Law Doesn’t Apply
Big five corporates may be driving inflation, India ‘partly free’ for third year and world’s biggest arms importer for fifth, Netaji's grand-niece apologises for his silence over Nazi atrocities
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Snapshot of the day
March 14, 2023
A clarification from “people familiar with the matter” in Delhi has followed a controversial training invite for Taliban diplomats, leaked from Afghanistan’s Institute of Diplomacy under the Taliban foreign ministry. The course conducted by IIM-Kozhikode will be online, and no one will be flying in from Afghanistan. India has been under fire for silently allowing ‘normal’ ties with the Taliban despite a security citation which squeezes India’s interests in Afghanistan and the region.
The Supreme Court has dismissed the Union government’s curative petition seeking to reopen the settlement with Union Carbide Corporation, which was responsible for the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984.
India has asked banks and traders to avoid using Chinese yuan to pay for Russian imports, reports Reuters. India, which has emerged as a top buyer of Russian oil as well as discounted coal, would prefer the use of UAE dirhams to settle trades. Last year, UltraTech Cement used Chinese yuan for a cargo of Russian coal, which raised some concerns among officials as the relationship between India and China has deteriorated after deadly border clashes in 2020.
Contrary to general belief, the Adani Group does not own Ambuja Cements and ACC, The Morning Context reports. The cement giants are owned by entities controlled by Vinod Adani, the shadowy elder brother of the group’s founder Gautam Adani. The group last year acquired Swiss-based Holcim’s cement businesses in India – Ambuja Cements and ACC Ltd – for $10.5 billion (around Rs 85,000 crore), the group’s largest-ever acquisition. But, says the report, Adanis used a special purpose vehicle (SPV) called Endeavour Trade and Investment Ltd to buy the two cement companies from Holcim. Based in Mauritius, it is owned by Vinod Adani, The Morning Context reports, citing the final offer letter issued by Ambuja Cements.
A sharp rise in industrial concentration led by five major private sector firms has allowed these companies to charge much higher product prices than competitors, in turn possibly leading to persistent core inflation, former RBI deputy governor Viral Acharya said on Monday. “The Big 5 are able to charge product prices that are substantially higher than other competitors in the market. In contrast this is not true, on an average, of the top 5 (in various sectors). The implication is basically that the top 5, which are not (always) the Big 5, are not actually charging mark-ups that are systematically higher than others,” Acharya said at a conference on Indian financial Markets. The ‘Big 5’ are the Reliance Group, the Tatas, Aditya Birla Group, Adani Group and Bharti Telecom. “...what we are finding is that perhaps this is a component that’s actually driving some of the core inflation. We find that when input prices rise, if market power in an industry is high, the wholesale price inflation in that sector actually rises a lot more and then of course that eventually will feed into the CPI,” he said.
Last year, 683 Indians were reported to have landed on British shores via small boats, a spike in Indians illegally crossing the English Channel, according to the most recent UK Home Office ‘Irregular Migration to the UK’ statistics for 2022. It’s a sharp increase from the 67 Indian nationals recorded to have crossed over in small boats in 2021. Sixty-four Indians crossed over in 2020, and none in 2019 and 2018.
India has been ranked a “partly free” country for the third year in a row in the annual report of US government-funded nonprofit Freedom House, which finds that India’s democracy is “losing ground”. “More and more countries are remaining partly free instead of continuing their march to free status,” notes the think tank in ‘Freedom of the World 2023’, which was released last week. “Worryingly, some free countries are losing ground, including India, which was downgraded to partly free two years ago.” India was rated a “free” country in 2018, 2019 and 2020, after which its scores dipped. The 2023 report also warns that it’s hard to recover from a slide into the “partly free” category.
In this year’s global freedom rankings, India scored 66 out of 100 — the same as last year. It also retained an ‘internet freedom’ score of 51. Freedom House notes that the democratic rights of minority groups in India, including Muslims, remain under pressure. “Residents of several countries, including India and Australia, enjoyed greater freedom of movement following the rollback of Covid-19 restrictions. However, democratic rights in India remain under pressure, particularly for marginalised groups,” states its report.
The Washington Post reports from Assam on how the police crackdown on underage marriage is leaving families in despair.
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UP CM Adityanath claims there were no farmer suicides in the last six years in UP, but there were 398 cases. Debt burden, crop loss and harassment by moneylenders trigger farmer suicides, experts tell Factchecker.in.
While hearing an appeal filed by the Telangana Police against a High Court order, the Supreme Court yesterday said the CBI should halt its investigation into the alleged criminal conspiracy behind an attempt by the BJP to poach BRS MLAs. Justices Sanjiv Khanna and MM Sundresh listing it to be heard in July, and orally observed that the CBI should not proceed. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the Telangana Police, vehemently opposed the transfer of the probe to the CBI. Case materials have not been handed over to the central agency yet. The bench made it very clear that the CBI should lay off while the matter is sub judice.
Putting safety first, the Japan International Cooperation Agency is refusing to confirm when the bullet train project would be completed. Its president, Akihiko Tanaka met PM Modi on Saturday, reports the Economic Times. Well, bite on the bullet.
Is disinvestment of profitable public sector enterprises justifiable, a Parliamentary panel has asked about the Modi government’s disinvestment strategy. The query was in a report tabled in Parliament on Monday after a parliamentary committee examined the sale of Air India to Tata Sons, in which the government “received only a cash component of Rs 2,700 crore”, besides the buyer taking over a debt of Rs 15,300 crore. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture noted that the government had provided financial assistance of Rs 64,026.40 crore in the form of equity to AIAHL, the government’s SPV for the sale. “However, subsequent to the disinvestment, the government received only a cash component of Rs 2,700 crore and also retained a debt of Rs 15,300 crore," the report said while asking the Ministry to provide “details of the actual revenue” the government has generated by disinvesting a “massive company” like Air India. Highlighting that the financial assistance to AIAHL was “nothing but public money”, the panel also asked the committee to provide details of the enterprise valuation method adopted for the disinvestment of Air India.
A community-led warning system at the Nepal-India border is saving lives during floods. NGOs say the system annually helps around 64,000 people who live along the Ratu River.
Sixty-six accused were killed and 158 others injured in police custody after Himanta Biswa Sarma became CM of Assam in May 2021, the Assembly was told on Monday. In a written reply to a query by AIUDF MLA Ashraful Hussain, Sarma said 35 accused were killed and 12 others were injured in gunfights with the police between May 10, 2021 and February 28, 2023. Further, 26 people were killed and 146 others injured in police firing. “In addition to these, five accused were killed in an accident when they tried to flee from police custody,” said Sarma, who also holds the Home portfolio.
The grandniece of Subhas Chandra Bose, Sarmila Bose, has written an apology to the victims of the Holocaust for his silence. Her letter to Jewish organisations draws attention to Bose’s controversial alliance with the Axis powers during World War II.