Modi Says Rights a Waste of Time, Gehlot Reminds Him of Past Achievements; Amar Jawan Jyoti Doused
Rights groups oppose FCRA, parivar issues in Goa, Dharmendra Pradhan makes false claims about UP, Tesla deadlocked on tax breaks, 100-year-old Navy veteran felicitated, and Rishi Sunak’s chances
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 21, 2022
“In the last 75 years, we only kept talking about rights, fighting for rights and wasting time. The talk of rights, to some extent, for some time, may be right in a particular circumstance, but forgetting one’s duties completely has played a huge role in keeping India weak,” PM Narendra Modi said in his keynote address at the Azadi ke Amrit Mahotsav se Swarnim Bharat Ke Ore event. Perhaps he has read the Preamble to the Constitution backwards ― rights come well before duties.
He said that “tapasya” during the next 25 years would be crucial for regaining India’s glory, lost to “hundreds of years of slavery”. He also castigated unnamed people in India and “at the international level as well” for “tarnishing” India’s image.
Despite the rhetoric, no golden bird is about to spread its wings. Instead, the gold of Indian families is under the hammer. Six pages of a business daily filled with auction notices for pledged gold are a bigger comment on the perilous state of the Indian economy than any oped. Gold is the last resort of Indian families in distress. In painful contrast, German sports luxury car manufacturer Porsche reports 62% growth in sales in India at 474 units for 2021, its best performance since 2014.
Narendra Modi has announced that a granite statue of Subhash Chandra Bose will be installed in the empty canopy near India Gate which once housed King George V’s statue. Until it is ready, a hologram, to be inaugurated by Modi, will project a ghoulish likeness of Bose. One wonders what Netaji the socialist would have made of taking the place of a monarch.
In another makeover, Amar Jawan Jyoti, the eternal flame under India Gate honouring those who fell in battle since 1971, was doused and moved to the National War Memorial nearby. Is this a strategy to eliminate competition? History is not only being changed, but moved around, too ― and extinguished. In the long history of erasures and removals, another milestone has been achieved: the Kashmir Press Club board was removed yesterday.
The Financial Times reports on Covid-19 fears in India, recalling the disastrous second wave. It says: “With vaccination coverage uneven and much of the country lacking basic health facilities, officials and experts fear that the polls could turn into superspreader events.” The Economist wrote yesterday that “experts urge continued vigilance. They expect case numbers to reach new highs as the variant spreads to smaller cities. And some believe that the lower numbers recorded recently may have a simple explanation: inadequate testing.” Maharashtra is reopening schools on Monday, while the Delhi administration will decide on easing curbs in a few days.
David Adam writes in Nature that credible estimates suggest about 5 million extra deaths in India, 10 times higher than the country’s official Covid-19 toll of less than 500,000 deaths. “That estimate is sadly plausible — using sample surveys of households and sub-national mortality data, academic groups have separately estimated that as many as 35 million people might have died of Covid-19 in India.” Meanwhile, five laboratories performing genome sequencing for new variants have been closed due to lack of funds, and this has delayed testing results, including the identification of new variants.
The National Human Rights Commission has recommended that a “national law” be enacted to ensure protection and realisation of human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. The timing is intriguing as until now, the Arun Mishra-led NHRC has been making strong statements that undermine the very concept of human rights.
The Reserve Bank of India has approved the appointment of Vinod Rai, former CAG, as Independent Chairman of Unity Small Finance Bank. Used to touting big imaginary numbers like 1,70,000 crore, dealing with small finance might be a problem for the former IA&AS officer who also made crores as BCCI chief, under the Supreme Court’s orders.
Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi believes the credibility and strength of the Election Commission of India has blunted during the Modi government. Inaction on communal speeches by senior politicians in the upcoming Assembly elections in five states raises questions about its impartiality.
A “weird stalemate situation”! Talks between the Union government and Tesla over potential tax benefits are deadlocked. The government is not keen to give the company any breaks without a commitment to manufacture locally, reports Reuters. Tesla is desperate to import its electric vehicles into India and has for nearly a year lobbied New Delhi to reduce tariffs, which Elon Musk says are among the highest in the world.
Nestle India has said it has “already withdrawn” from the market packs of Kitkat which depicted images of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Mata Subhadra on the wrapper, and also expressed regret. According to the company, these were travel packs meant to celebrate beautiful local destinations, and this lot celebrated the culture of Odisha with patachitra designs. While on Nestle, Bobby Ghosh writes that none of the expensive speciality instant coffees, a rage in the Bay area, come “close to the original and undisputed champion: Nescafé Classic. That may not be sexy enough for Silicon Valley, but there are plenty of Indians in the Bay Area — and the wider world — who will agree with me.” (However, why anyone in California (or elsewhere) drinks instant coffee when the real stuff is cheaper and better is a mystery.)
Shepherds in the Himalayas are turning their backs on traditional livelihoods. The Third Pole reports that shrinking pastures and poor returns for their woollen products are forcing members of the indigenous Bhotia group into new work, and migration.
The Lancet reports on how in women with disabilities in India face significant barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health care. “I am disabled, it doesn’t mean I have no dignity.”
The tangle of cities and districts around Delhi is so sprawling that no canonical count of its population exists; estimates range from 30 million to 60 million. The New York Times reports that Delhi is growing far beyond its formal confines, and could become the world’s largest city. Plans to accommodate that growth are incomplete.
Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson and the chronicler of his assassination, has been running a daily recap of the conspiracy behind it, of events as they played out on this day in 1948. A few recent books, which unveil much about the plot and the philosophy that led to Gandhi’s murder, are perhaps responses to the talking-up of Godse. But the daily account is chilling.
Gehlot speaks of atmosphere of violence
It is rare for anyone to get the chance to tell it like it is to Narendra Modi but Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot noted yesterday