Omicron Brings Back Travel Curbs; LAC Officers Learn Tibetology, Negotiating
Tomatoes surge 142%, Bihar’s multidimensional poverty 50%, Kharge says BJP is ‘Beijing Janata Party’, Visa complains about RuPay, crypto may be asset, not currency, ‘banknote’ to mean digital, too
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
November 29, 2021
The Modi government repealed the farm laws today exactly as they were passed ― amidst an uproar and without debate. The Opposition protested, seeking a law providing minimum support price and an acknowledgement of the 700-odd farmers’ deaths in the protests. In the explanatory note to the Repeal Bill, the government has justified the farm laws. It says only “a group of farmers” were protesting but added, “As we celebrate the 75th Year of Independence ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, the need of the hour is to take everyone together on the path of inclusive growth and development.” The PM skipped the all-party meet on Sunday, too, suggesting that consensus was not a goal.
The Finance Ministry informed Parliament today that in October, the RBI proposed to widen the scope of the term ‘banknote’ to include digital currency. Reuters reports that Visa Inc has complained to the US government that India’s “informal and formal” promotion of RuPay hurts the US giant in an important market. PM Modi publicly lobbied for RuPay.
To limit the new Omicron variant of Covid-19, travellers from Europe and 11 other countries at risk will be tested on arrival and must await results at the airport. Others can leave the airport ― after 5% are randomly tested ― and shall self-monitor for 14 days. The government will review the date of resumption of scheduled commercial flights. The Financial Times reminds that “because of the efforts of South African scientists, countries have been warned about the risks posed by Omicron far sooner than they were about Delta, which had already spread widely from India before the world was alerted.”
In May-August 2021, 2,38,369 people in Gujarat had taken loans of Rs 41,96,48,84,307 from nationalised banks for Covid-19 treatment, BBC Gujarati reports. This is 30% of the state’s annual health budget, exposing the total collapse of public health infrastructure in the BJP’s model state. The unemployment crisis continues: uncontrollable crowds gathered in Palanpur, Banaskantha, for 600 jobs in the Gram Raksha Dal.
CRISIL says that the price of tomatoes increased 142% year-on-year as on November 25, and will not fall for 45-50 days, till the harvest from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan reaches markets. “Transplanting of onions was delayed in the key growing regions of Maharashtra because of deficit rains in August. That delayed arrivals in October, leading to a 65% increase in onion prices compared with September,” it said. Potato prices are likely to rise as heavy rains may have affected sowing and yield.
A central government survey has shown that Jammu and Kashmir has the lowest fertility rate, barring tiny Goa and Sikkim, rubbishing the right wing bogey of runaway Muslim birth rates. The National Family Health Survey (2019-21) reveals a sharp fall in the total fertility rate (TFR) ― the average number of children a woman bears ― in J&K from 2.0 to 1.4, far below the national average of 2. The survey does not give religion-wise TFR breakups, but J&K is the only large tract with a Muslim majority.
Meghalaya governor Satyapal Malik, who was governor of Jammu and Kashmir when Article 370 was scrapped in August 2019, has said bifurcation of the state into two Union territories was done to bring the police directly under the Union Home Ministry. It could have been “avoided”.
Malik was equally forthcoming about his stint as governor of Goa, which ended after he pointed to corruption by the BJP state government: “It was unfortunate that the day lockdown happened in Goa, the chief minister (Pramod Sawant) gave a contract to supply essential commodities to one company. No one company can supply milk and vegetables at the home of every Goan. People didn’t get milk for three days… I told the PM… I knew kaun kya le raha tha (whose palms were being greased)… (Shops) opened following the PM’s intervention.”
Illustrating the shrinking space for creativity, humour and criticism, comic Munawar Faruqui, once jailed and now cancelled by thugs, has said: “Hate has won, the Artist has lost”. He said he was “done” after his Bengaluru show was cancelled. TM Krishna has offered to host him at Chennai (significantly, no political leader has offered protection). Fellow stand-up comics said his silencing is a significant break from Indian tradition. The vidushak or jester was an important figure in the past, but has no place in new India.
Why didn’t you celebrate, dance and thank the PM, Haryana’s minister Anil Vij asked BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, live on TV. Tikait answered: “When 700 people are martyred, do people do Bhangra? When people die protecting the border, does the government do Bhangra? These people have no social knowledge… there are deaths at home, and he is asking about Bhangra.”