Pune Police Coy on Pegasus-Bhima Koregaon RTIs; Grim State of Nation Report – Barbarians Aren't at the Gate, They're Emerging Around Us
RBI hikes rate for first time in 4 years, cow lynching reaches tribal India, Biden speaks for targeted Muslims, vets denied pension, wheat procurement down 39%, half of Indian workers out in heatwave
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 4, 2022
In an unscheduled policy meet today, responding to runaway inflation which has embarrassed it, the Reserve Bank of India announced a hike of 40 basis points in the repo rate, i.e. the benchmark rate at which banks can borrow money from the RBI, which now stands at 4.4%. This is the first hike in nearly four years. Governor Shaktikanta Das blamed the crisis in Ukraine for high commodity prices. This will be uneasy-making for PM Modi, who recently handed a raspberry to Jawaharlal Nehru in Parliament for making “excuses” about the Korean War fuelling inflation in India in 1953.
India counted 81.2 lakh deaths in 2020, up 6% or nearly half a million, over the pre-Covid year of 2019, civil registration data from the Union Health Ministry shows. The increase is in line with yearly increases seen earlier. The Indian government had raised suspicions by asking WHO to withhold Covid-19 death figures for 10 years! In 2020, when Covid was first reported in the country, 1.48 lakh people lost their lives due to the pandemic, while the official 2021 figure is 3.32 lakh deaths. Statisticians and the WHO too have come up with modelling-based death toll estimates which are much higher.
Two tribal men were beaten to death on suspicion of cow slaughter in Madhya Pradesh's Seoni district, and one injured by 20 attackers who went to their home, accused them of killing a cow and beat them brutally. Congress MLA Arjun Singh Kakodia sat in protest on the Jabalpur-Nagpur Highway, demanding action against the accused.
“Hindu extremists have been carrying out a campaign of intimidation to stop interfaith marriages between Hindus and Muslims,” says UK’s Channel 4, in a powerful film on what happens when the law succumbs to conspiracy theories like ‘love jihad.’
Muslims are being violently targeted around the world, US President Joe Biden said at a White House Eid ul-Fitr reception. He said he has appointed the first Muslim to serve as Ambassador-at-Large for international religious freedom. “Muslims make our nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia,” he said. The Supreme Leader of one of his Quad partners in South Asia may like to pay some attention.
Senior officials have been told to maintain a dashboard on the PM’s speeches to track their impact and the narrative developed around them for the ‘PM Speech Tracker’. They were trained by the Niti Aayog.
Shivnath Thukral, a public policy director at WhatsApp India since March 2020, had once owned a stake in Opalina Technologies, which has provided software solutions for the PM, his office, the BJP and the Union Ministry of Textiles, reports Newslaundry. Thukral, who remains one of WhatsApp owner Meta’s top lobbyists in India, gave up his stake in Opalina before joining Facebook on October 24, 2017. But his father still holds shares and it continues to work for the BJP and Modi.
The Centre has asked state and private sector utilities to ensure delivery of 19 million tonnes of coal from overseas by end-June, reflecting the urgency to secure supplies and not extend the electricity crisis of April. This is the first such deadline in the world’s second largest coal importer, and can affect global prices. If the target is met, imports over the next five months will exceed annual imports by states and private power utilities in at least six years.
Amid bluster about increasing exports, the procurement shortfall in wheat is widening. There has been 39.4% lower procurement year-on-year as on 28 April (15.7 million tonnes in 2022, compared to 25.9 MT last year). As a buffer, the Centre has apparently curbed wheat distributed for free under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, replacing it with rice. According to Business Standard, the 11 million tonnes of wheat scheduled to be distributed has been lowered to 5.38 million tonnes, and rice raised to 18.53 million tonnes from 13 million tonnes.
India’s job market is tightening and skilled workers are finding it harder to enter the workforce. Government job drives and the informal economy have been unable to make up the difference, reports Deutsche Welle. Santosh Mehrotra reminds us that misinformation does not help when India is deep in the throes of this widening crisis.
An antitrust raid on top sellers on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Walmart-backed Flipkart shows India is putting more pressure on foreign tech companies. They will likely have to grin and bear it. Rising domestic competition from the politically connected and a government crackdown on the sector will intensify.
Quartz investigates what made Adani Wilmar India’s largest FMCG company, dislodging Hindustan Lever. We know already.
SpiceJet is under government scrutiny following an autopilot malfunction which caused severe turbulence and multiple injuries on board. The autopilot on a B737-800 aircraft flaked out for two minutes and the pilots took manual control. Dramatic turbulence followed, which caused overhead bins to open, luggage to spill across the plane and emergency oxygen masks to drop. Twelve passengers and three crew members were hospitalised after the plane landed at Durgapur.
Undark.org reports on the impact of digital snooping on sanitation workers: “Lower-caste cleaners must wear GPS-enabled smartwatches, raising questions about their privacy and data protection.” The Chandigarh Corporation has made it mandatory for them to wear Human Efficiency Tracking Systems with a GPS, SIM, microphone and camera, so that workers can send photos to their supervisors as proof of attendance.
The heatwave in north India is intensifying, and 49% of workers in the Indian economy work in the open, usually without any protection. The government has issued no guidelines for containing heat stress.
Kashmiri MP Hasnain Masoodi, a former jurist, argues that the J&K delimitation exercise is unconstitutional. “These are steps to ultimately disempower people,” he says in an interview with Scroll.
India’s insurance penetration has fallen from 4.4% in 2010 to 3.2% in 2020, reveals the LIC red herring prospectus. This refers to total insurance premiums paid during the year as a percentage of GDP and it reflects poorly on the economy.
The so-called Charaka Shapath for doctors, favoured by Hindutva groups over the Yavani Hippocratic oath, is both unconstitutional and illegal. It is adopted from an Ayurveda text that tells physicians not to treat people hated by the king, “extremely abnormal” people, and women unattended by husbands or guardians.