Net Censors Met 53 Times In 2022, Blocked Hundreds Of URLs Every Month; Opposition Unites On Adani Crisis, But Will It Bring In Votes?
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Snapshot of the day
February 9, 2023
“I would like to see the Prime Minister nationalise all the assets of Adani Group and then auction it for sale and out of that money, help people who have lost this way,” said former Union minister and senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. “The general public opinion is that Modi has something to hide and now it is the job of the government to punish it.”
Gautam Adani faced a margin call of more than $500mn on a $1.1bn share-backed loan, prompting the Indian tycoon to repay the whole debt, reports the Financial Times. The repayment was to avoid further damage to investor confidence, shaken by fraud allegations raised by US short-seller Hindenburg Research. The lenders, including Barclays, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, requested last week that the billionaire top up the stock pledged against the loan after their value fell sharply. But as they continued to slide, Barclays informed Adani of a margin call equivalent to 50% of the loan, in cash. Rather than post cash against the loan, which did not mature until September 2024, the Adani Group’s founder and his family opted to repay it completely. Adani has not disclosed the source of the funds used to repay the loan.
Total Energies of France has put on hold its $4 billion participation in the Adani Group’s $50 billion hydrogen project, pending results of an audit launched following allegations by Hindenburg. The government’s plan to privatise Container Corporation of India will falter with the strongest contender ― Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd ― turning conservative after questions about the group’s financial health and corporate governance.
Adani Power’s consolidated net profit for the third quarter fell on lower operating margins and higher tax expenses. It fell 96% year-on-year to Rs 8.77 crore, according to its exchange filing, as these costs rose.
It is the RBI’s turn to be defensive about the Adani Group ― without naming it. “The strength, size and resilience of the Indian banking system now are much stronger and larger to be affected by a case like this,” RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said yesterday.
“Now the Adanis have spent over $11 billion in the last six months on just acquiring two cement companies and redeeming a pledge last week. That’s a seriously large amount of money. Except for the $2 billion that the family received from France’s TotalEnergies when it picked up a 20% stake in Adani Green Energy in January 2021, the source of the rest of the funds isn’t very clear. In documents filed with SEBI, the Adanis only said that a Mauritius-registered company was making the open offer to buy shares of ACC and Ambuja Cements from public shareholders,” reports The Morning Context. “How did the group manage to raise so much money overseas? Is there a trail that shows how the company routed the money it earned as profits from its various businesses abroad? Back of the envelope calculations show that the Adani group’s business, all of which were in India until last year when the Australian coal mines began operating, did not throw up much cash till some time ago.” The fingers point to Vinod Adani, who “is a citizen of Cyprus and last heard, operating out of Dubai and Singapore. Since he does not hold a position in any of the group’s listed companies or their subsidiaries or invests in them directly, it isn’t easy for Indian authorities to get information on his dealings.”
The Lok Sabha was adjourned for lack of quorum as Treasury bench MPs left after PM Modi finished speaking. The issue was flagged by DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran. The Speaker pressed the quorum bell but floor managers were unable to gather 55 MPs to fulfil it. The PM had thundered about the Congress but skirted the Adani issue, for which the Opposition has demanded a JPC or a Supreme Court-led enquiry into allegations of fraud and crony capitalism.
Reliance Industries, Bharat Petroleum Corp and Nayara Energy are among Indian refiners using UAE dirhams to pay for some shipments of Russian crude to avoid Western sanctions, reports Bloomberg. The EU’s recent ban on imports of refined oil products from Russia has positioned India as an increasingly important customer for the shipments. Russia has been India’s top crude supplier since June as cargoes previously bound for Europe were diverted to Asia — and often sold at well below the $60 per barrel cap. India is the UAE’s second-largest trade partner and officials are working on a mechanism to boost trade in dirhams and rupees. A move away from the US dollar could risk the ire of Washington. Last week, the US Treasury Department’s top sanctions official Brian Nelson travelled to Abu Dhabi, voicing concerns about the UAE’s close financial ties to Russia.
There are no plans for more financial support to oil marketing companies as diesel under-recoveries will stop if crude prices remain stable, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri has said. On government instructions, public sector OMCs did not revise fuel prices from November 2021 to March 2022 despite a steep rise in crude prices putting their margins under pressure. In the first half of FY 2022-23, Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) reported a loss of Rs 27,276 crore.
A committee to consider blocking requests under the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information for Public) Rules, 2009, met 53 times in 2022, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) told Parliament. The government issued orders directing the “blocking [of] a total of 2,799, 3,635, 9,849, 6,096 and 6,775 URLs during the year 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively,” the IT Ministry said. An RTI response obtained by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) reveals that of the 6,775 posts and websites, almost half were posts on Twitter. “If the Twitter and non-Twitter URLs are taken together, the average for blocking orders recommended by the Review Committee under Rule 7 in 2021 is hundreds per month,” CHRI director Venkatesh Nayak wrote in an analysis. “How much time they have actually devoted to such matters is anybody’s guess.”
A court has issued an arrest warrant against news anchor Deepak Chaurasia, dismissing his plea that he should be exempted from appearing because he had to interview UP Chief Minister Adityanath. His channel is accused of using “morphed, edited and obscene” footage of a 10-year-old girl and her family in connection with a sexual assault case against Asaram Bapu. Issuing a non-bailable warrant against Chaurasia, the POCSO court judge said that this application for personal exemption was not “supported by any affidavit” and had “no cogent documentary proof”. An email that Chaurasia had placed on the record an email which was not addressed to him.
“ICC should step in and do something…” is what ex-Australian cricketers said as they blasted India’s ‘doctored’ Nagpur pitch before the first Test which got underway today. Pitch curators rolled only the centre of the wicket after watering it throughout, according to Hindustan Times. Extra watering was done outside the left-hander’s leg stump. It puzzled the Australian team and drew sharp criticism from their former cricketers. Australia’s noted sports journalist Robert Craddock said the pitch was “doctored”.
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