Modi Faced ‘No Threat’, Probes Stalled By SC; Immunisation Programme Took Huge Hit In 2020
Election spending limits raised, China shifting goalposts in talks, probe ordered into false Coronil claims, former J&K CMs to lose SSG cover, and an AI will chat up young people about sexual health
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
January 7, 2022
Banks have written off Rs 9.54 lakh crore worth of bad loans in the last five years, more than double the sum recovered in the period, reports Business Standard. Only Rs 4.14 lakh crore was recovered through lok adalats, debt recovery tribunals, the SARFAESI Act and the IBC. Ministers often argue that write-offs do not mean that the banks don’t have the option to recover. However, as the data shows, recoveries by banks, which are not only from written-off accounts, are half of what was written off. Write-offs allow banks to show lower bad loans.
Unicef data shows that the immunisation programme suffered its worst hit in 2020, as coverage declined across all major vaccination programmes. Under India’s Universal Immunisation Programme operationalised in the late 1980s, vaccines are administered to infants and children to prevent diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, childhood tuberculosis and hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type B and diarrhoea. Administration of the third polio dose for children aged 12-23 months declined 5% in 2020, compared to 2019 — the worst drop since 1991. Overall coverage was 85%, the level in 2014. For DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus), the first dose for children aged 12-23 months fell by 7% — the worst fall since 1991.
Last year saw the highest number of applications filed to clear forests in a decade; the highest number of environment clearances granted in four years; and the highest number of wildlife clearances (issued to projects in protected areas) in six years, reports The Morning Context. Regulations under which clearances are given are themselves relaxed. The environment is the biggest silent disaster under the current regime.
After the New York Times, the Washington Post casts a critical eye on India prioritising election rallies over public health, refusing to learn from the self-inflicted wounds of the second wave. It says: “As public debate has mounted in recent days about political activities, Indian officials have deferred to other agencies to make a call,” referring to timid top health officials like VK Paul of Niti Aayog saying it was the purview of the Election Commission to make decisions on whether to restrict political activities. Over 1,000 doctors tested positive across India. Hospitals could be facing a workforce crisis.
“In UP, India’s most populous state and a crucial one for Mr Modi to hold in advance of the next national elections in 2024, barely 30% of adults are fully vaccinated. Campaigning has nevertheless proceeded uninterrupted, with the prime minister himself repeatedly appearing in crowds without a mask,” reports The Economist.
Deutsche Welle’s Asian news was centred on online attacks on Muslim women in India and on the crackdown on press freedom in Kashmir.
Protesters stopped Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s car during an interview with India Today and he got out to speak to them, killing several birds with one stone. “There was absolutely no threat to the PM’s life yesterday,” he told the news channel. Punjab has set up a judicial commission to look into allegations of a ‘security lapse’. The PM had claimed he was “lucky to be alive” after his convoy was stuck on a flyover for 15 minutes. The Union Home Ministry has set up an enquiry committee headed by Sudhir Kumar Saxena, secretary (security), Cabinet Secretariat. Meanwhile, the farmers said though they were informed of the convoy by the police after they set up their roadblock, but did not believe it. Modi, they said, should have just “sent someone and asked us to move”. Today, the Supreme Court stalled probes by the Centre and state until Monday. This despite the solicitor general being at his bombastic best, calling the alleged security lapse ‘rarest of rare’.
The PM’s establishment’s talk of a security lapse has brought the farmers’ stir back into the spotlight. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha has tough advice for the PM: “It is a matter of great regret that to cover up the failure of his rally, the Prime Minister has tried to malign both the state of Punjab and the farmers’ movement by using the pretext of ‘somehow his life was saved’. The whole country knows that if there is a threat to life, then it is to the farmers’, from criminals like Ajay Mishra Teni becoming ministers and roaming freely. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha expects the PM of the country to not make such irresponsible statements, keeping in mind the dignity of his post.”
A National Investigation Agency special court in Mumbai has allowed Sudha Bharadwaj, released on bail in the Elgar Parishad case, to live in Thane district instead of Mumbai. Bharadwaj was granted bail by the Bombay High Court in December 2021, three years after her arrest. She had filed an application seeking permission to live in a friend’s house in Thane, since accommodation in Mumbai is expensive.
A Pune court has ordered an investigation of Patanjali’s Ramdev and his deputy Balkrishna for projecting Coronil as a cure for Covid-19. A group of ex-diplomats, led by former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal says the public alarm over calls for genocide in Haridwar is unwarranted and is nothing but an attempt by a “cabal” to “smear” the Modi government.
Our cities are designed for men, by men. Listen to what women from Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Delhi say about gender, urban design and nature in the city.
And Mumbai institution, theatre personality and veteran adman Gerson da Cunha died today.