Pawan Hans Privatisation Put On Hold ― Dubious Buyers Yet Again; Covid Compensation Deadline Running Out, But There’s A Better Way To Honour Claims
Bargain LIC IPO bombs on day one, OIC ‘deeply concerned’ about J&K demarcation, NFHS debunks vegetarian India myth, PIB takes aditional charge of scolding press, and the myopia of ‘animal nationalism’
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
May 17, 2022
Originally located in Shimla, where the prospect is elevating and the view expansive, the Press Information Bureau was established to inform the press about the policies, initiatives and putative achievements of the government. After performing this role diligently for a century, the PIB, now located in hot and dusty Delhi, has taken on the additional responsibility of scolding the press. Its target is the ‘Speak Out’ feature of Deccan Herald, a textual cartoon which juxtaposes the sayings of the great and the awful to highlight stupidity and worse in Indian politics. ‘Speak Out’ does stuff that the day’s news reports can’t.
The PIB yesterday also disputed reports that the Finance Ministry had claimed that inflation hurts the rich more than the poor. Its fact-check handle posted: “A tweet with the picture of Union Finance Minister @nsitharaman is being circulated claiming that the Finance Ministry has stated ― ‘Inflation will affect the rich more than the poor in 2022.’ The claim is fake. @FinMinIndia has not given such a statement.” Business Standard reminds that the ministry’s monthly economic review for April said: “Evidence on consumption patterns further suggests that inflation in India has a lesser impact on low-income strata than on high-income groups.”
Data from the recently released NFHS-5, which was conducted in 2019-21, shows that the proportion of men aged 15-49 who have never eaten non-vegetarian food — listed as ‘fish, chicken or meat’ in the survey — stood at 16.6% in 2019-21. An overwhelming 83.4% of men and 70.6% of women in the 15-49 age group eat non-vegetarian food daily, weekly or occasionally. That figure stood at 78.4% for men and 70% for women in NHFS-4, putting paid to the myth of a predominantly vegetarian India.
The National Green Tribunal has sought data from the UP and Bihar governments on whether the Covid-19 protocol is followed for the disposal of coronavirus-affected corpses, including details of bodies buried on the Ganga riverbed from before the outbreak of the pandemic till March 31 this year. They have asked if any “criminal case” was registered or any action taken about the violation of Covid protocols by those who set the dead afloat or buried them. India has been in complete denial of the horrifying scenes the country witnessed last year.
Following concerns about the credentials of the consortium to which the government is selling Pawan Hans, the deal has been put on hold and the letter of award has not been issued. In April, the Kolkata Bench of the National Company Law Tribunal had accused lead partner Almas Global of taking the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code “for a ride”. The offence carries a penalty of up to five years in jail and a fine of Rs 1 crore. This is the second privatisation plan being reviewed, after bidders for Central Electronics Ltd were found to be dodgy.
LIC was listed today at a 9% discount to the IPO price though the Sensex opened higher. LIC’s market value had been already reduced by two-thirds, due to choppiness caused by the Ukraine conflict. The government went ahead regardless with a cut-price IPO, but it hasn’t attracted capital. Ironically, LIC rescued most other PSU divestments in recent years, but there was no one to help one of Asia’s top insurers.
About 1.8 million tonnes of grain are stalled at ports. Traders would face heavy losses if they sold in the weaker domestic market, reports Reuters. New Delhi banned wheat exports on Saturday, just days after saying it was targeting record shipments of 10 million tonnes this year, as the heat wave slashed output and domestic prices soared. Only exports backed by letters of credit or payment guarantees issued before May 13 can proceed. But of the 2.2 million tonnes of wheat currently at ports or in transit, traders have LCs for only 400,000 tonnes, a Mumbai dealer with a global trading firm said.
India’s centrally-held wheat stocks in 2022-23 will dip to a 13-year low, barring 2016-17, and the government’s purchases will be the lowest in 15 years. The staple’s offtake, which refers to withdrawal for subsidised distribution and open market sales, on the other hand, has risen 38% over the last two years. Of the 37.5 million tonnes of state-held stocks, the government needs to set aside 7.5 million tonnes due to emergency reserve norms as on March 31, and make do with 30 million tonnes. The public distribution system needs about 26 million tonnes. The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) needs 10 million tonnes more. The government will also have to intervene in open markets by releasing stocks to tame prices if food inflation rises further. Last year, the Union sold 7.1 million tonnes in the open market.
The price of CNG in the national capital has been hiked by Rs 2 per kg, the 12th increase in rates in just over two months. CNG in the national capital territory now costs Rs 73.61 per kg, up from Rs 71.61 per kg. In the last year, prices have risen by Rs 30.21 per kg or 60%, according to data compiled by PTI.
Jet fuel prices were hiked by a steep 5.3% — the 10th increase this year — to an all-time high, in line with a surge in global energy prices. The price of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) was hiked by Rs 6,188.25 per kilolitre, or 5.29%, to Rs 123,039.71 per kl (Rs 123 per litre) in the national capital. The steepest ever hike of 18.3% (Rs 17,135.63 per kl) was effected on March 16, and a 2% increase on April 1.
Yesterday, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in a series of tweets said it is deeply concerned about “India’s attempts to redraw the electoral boundaries” of Jammu and Kashmir, altering the demographic structure of the territory and violating the “rights of the Kashmiri people”. It said the ‘delimitation’ exercise is in “direct contravention of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention”. It also urged the international community, particularly the UN Security Council, to take immediate cognizance of the “grave implications of such ‘delimitation’ exercises”. “As in the past, the Government of India categorically rejects the assertions made by the OIC secretariat on the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral and inalienable part of India,” the MEA spokesperson said.
China’s premier Li Keqiang yesterday during a phone call with his Pakistani counterpart Shahbaz Sharif said ties with Pakistan were “a priority” in China’s diplomacy. A handout released by the Pakistani Prime Minister’s Office said Shehbaz expressed the government's resolve to fast track ongoing and new CPEC projects which had “immensely contributed to the socio-economic development of Pakistan”. Indian bravado on Pakistan is perilous when the China border crisis is on, as Sushant Singh (a contributor to The India Cable) writes.
India may reopening its embassy in Afghanistan soon, but without top-level diplomatic representation, reports The Indian Express. The embassy will likely function only with liaison personnel, whose work may extend to consular services, without recognising the Taliban regime.
Days after IndiGo denied boarding to a passenger with special needs on a flight from Ranchi, the civil aviation regulator’s fact-finding committee said: “The findings… prima facie indicate inappropriate handling of passengers by the IndiGo staff thereby resulting in certain non-conformances with applicable regulations.”
Ola e-scooters have buyers hurting physically and emotionally, says restofworld.org. “Delays, dangerous scooters, and bad customer service are pushing former fans to light scooters on fire and protest against the much-vaunted company.”
In a major victory, the Supreme Court has upheld the judgement of the Delhi High Court, giving pension relief to all categories of employees.