PLA Foregrounds LAC on National Day; EC to Police 'Freebies'; When Caste Turns Oppressors into Victims
RJD MP denied ‘political clearance’ to visit Pakistan, CNG price hike ahead, more kids die of cancer in India, Mahasabha generates visibility in Bengal, and endless family food fight in Mahabalipuram
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Snapshot of the day
October 4, 2022
In a sign that the Modi government is looking at elections in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister Amit Shah today announced reservations in jobs and education for Gujjars, Bakarwals and Paharis under the Scheduled Tribes category. Gujjars and Bakarwals already have ST status but the Paharis – a linguistic rather than a caste or tribe – do not.
The Modi government wants a stop to political “freebies” (by the Opposition) and the Election Commission has now leapt into fray, proposing that “political parties should declare what the promises made in their manifestos would cost the exchequer and how they intended on paying for them, if elected to power.”
But not all freebies need policing, apparently. The government has told the Supreme Court it is satisfied with current rules governing the relationship between pharma companies and doctors – and that there is no need to make new rules to curb the harmful practice of doctors prescribing drugs in exchange for gifts from manufacturers.
Svante Pääbo’s Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology is mostly for his work on the Neanderthal genome – which accounts for 1-4% of ours, and may explain some immune responses – but the application of his decontamination techniques to the Denisovans of the Altai Mountains, a hominin then represented by a single finger bone, is even more interesting for the South Asian region. Modern Tibetans and other Himalayan people have the Denisovan version of the EPAS1 gene, which is active in adapting to changing oxygen levels by promoting vessel formation and the creation of red blood corpuscles. People with the Denisovan version are less susceptible to mountain sickness. A few billion people in our neighbourhood have Denisovan DNA. The Nobel prize is a “bitter pill for Indian revisionists” – who vehemently dispute palaeogenomic as well as archaeological evidence that the Vedic people migrated to India – says Vasudevan Mukunth,
Sarath Guttikunda has won the International Award of the American Geophysical Union for his work on air pollution in India. He is only the second person from India to receive it. Omair Ahmad interviewed him.
It’s unprecedented: Chief Justice of India UU Lalit initiated a proposal to appoint four judges to the Supreme Court by seeking the written consent of the collegium. He recommended Punjab & Haryana High Court Chief Justice Ravi Shankar Jha, Patna High Court Chief Justice Sanjay Karol, Manipur High Court Chief Justice PV Sanjay Kumar and senior advocate KV Viswanathan. By convention, the collegium signs recommendations to the Union government after finalising the list over a meeting. CJI Lalit requested the collegium to consent to the four names since its last meeting, scheduled for September 30, could not take place because one judge was unavailable. This is a story involving entrenched ideas about rights and authority of judges, when it starts to erode, how many days before their term as the top judge in the apex court ends. In further drama, Bar & Bench reports that two members of the Collegium have objected to this letter sent by the Chief Justice of India UU Lalit seeking their consent to appoint four judges to the apex court. “Sources clarified to Bar & Bench that the two judges took objection only to the unprecedented nature of this "letter by circulation," and not to the candidates who have been recommended.”
Oddly, a 2018 judgment by Justice DY Chandrachud – “A married woman can make her own sexual choices. By marrying she has not consented to refrain from sexual relations outside marriage without permission of her husband” – has been resurrected on Twitter and used to target him, and the pathbreaking ruling he just delivered on reproductive rights.
Five years ago, BJP leaders in Karnataka went to town claiming ‘jihadis’ had tortured a young Hindu man with boiling oil and murdered him. The CBI – which reports to the Union government – investigated the matter and concluded he died of an accidental drowning.
India’s GDP growth may decline to 5.7% in 2022 and 4.7% in 2023, according to UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Report 2022, due to higher financing costs and weaker public expenditure. The government has blamed it on Covid, but the numbers were flagging two years before the pandemic. Complaining about data quality, the government junked the private consumption expenditure report, which showed an alarming decline for 2017-18. UNCTAD anticipates that government deficits range from 4.5% (4.2%) of GDP in Mexico to 12.8% (11.3%) of GDP in India. Factory growth too has fallen in September from August ― S&P’s Purchasing Managers Index is down to 55.1 from 56.2 a month ago.
India’s exports have contracted for the first time since February 2021 and the trade deficit has grown 19% in a year. Goods exports dropped 3.5% in September to $32.62 billion, while imports slid below $60 billion for the first time in seven months to $59.35 billion, 5.44% higher than a year ago. The trade deficit was $26.73 billion for the month.
Tax collections have declined. In August, they fell 7.7%, down to Rs 1.5 trillion from Rs 1.6 trillion last year. Corporation tax yielded half of the August figure last year, according to the Controller General of Accounts (CGA). Personal income tax declined 37.6%.
The average crude oil import price fell by 22% to $90.71 a barrel in September, compared to the June peak of $116.01. Petrol prices fell 37% from $148.82 a barrel in June to $93.78 in September, and diesel prices by 28% to $123.36 per barrel in September compared to $170.92 a barrel in June. But state owned oil marketing companies have no plans of cutting retail prices.
Russia is now India’s second largest oil supplier. Its share of Indian imports is now 21%. It was 1% before the Ukraine invasion.
“While the improvement in labour conditions in India in September is truly worth celebrating, it is equally important to note that the employment rate at 36.79% is still low compared to the 37.1% recorded in April and May 2022, or the 39.5% of 2019-20 and the over-40% levels before that,” warns Mahesh Vyas of CMIE.
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi says it will protect its business interests after India froze US$682 million in assets. Over 84% of Rs 55.51 billion seized in India was a royalty payment to US chipmaker Qualcomm, the company said.
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CNG prices are likely to be hiked by Rs 8-12 per kg and that of gas piped to household kitchens by over Rs 6 per unit after the government raised feedstock prices to a record high.
Canadian authorities have denied Indian diplomats’ claim of vandalism at the recently unveiled Shri Bhagavad Gita park in Brampton. The Canadians said that the signboard defaced was temporary. “There was no evidence of vandalism to the permanent sign or any park structure,” tweeted Peel regional police. “Permanent sign is still waiting for the lettering to be applied and it was a temporary park sign used in the park naming ceremony.” Boom Live has the full story of now a fake news item went viral.
The Union government has denied “political clearance” to RJD MP Manoj Jha’s proposed visit to Pakistan to address an event in memory of noted human rights activist Asma Jahangir. Jha called it “unfortunate” because he would have highlighted the great tradition of Indian political parties fighting for people’s democratic rights. Asma Jahangir, who died in 2018, fought for minority rights in Pakistan and human rights in South Asia. Jha had received Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act clearance from the Home Ministry (legislators need permission to avail of foreign hospitality) but was denied political clearance by the Ministry of External Affairs. He was to speak on the “role of political parties in protecting democratic rights” in Lahore on October 23.
With a little help from the scandalised press, the Hindu Mahasabha, which did not exist in the political consciousness of West Bengal, has shot into the limelight with a Durga image in which the asura briefly bore the face of Mahatma Gandhi. It has now scaled up its attack on the Father of the Nation and placed a rifle at the feet of the goddess. The working president of its West Bengal unit Chandrachur Goswami said, “We want Gandhi-mukt India. We don’t consider him the father of the nation. He did immense harm to the country.” Meanwhile, the CPI(M) claimed that their Sarodiya book stall at Rashbehari was attacked by the TMC on Sunday. Police and the TMC tried to prevent them from reopening the stall yesterday. Bikashranjan Bhattacharyya, MP, was threatened with arrest and Kamaleshwar Mukhopadhyay, well known film director and Kallol Majumder, among others, were arrested, and only released later in the evening.
The tragedy of refugees from Myanmar in Mizoram, is grim. Mizoram bears the burden through donations, and there is some central funding on the sly. Chief Minister Zoramthanga says it isn’t enough.
Arunachal Pradesh MLA Ninong Ering, formerly an MP, has raised the alarm about missing mountaineers Tapi Mra and Niku Dao ― the former was the first climber from Arunachal to scale Mount Everest. Last month, Army personnel and local mountaineers had mounted a rescue mission for the men who went missing on a climb of Mount Chiumo (Kyariksatam) on the McMahon Line on August 17. Ering has urged the PM to contact the Chinese, because the expedition may have veered to their side of the border. There’s no response from the PM yet.
On Sunday, Hinaben Khalifa became the second woman wrestler from Gujarat to win a National Games medal, finishing third in the 53 kg category. She has an inspiring backstory ― as a child, she used to accompany her mother and sisters to do household work in Vadagam, Gujarat.
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