Putin Shoots for Gold, Disturbs Universe; DMK's Delhi Office Becomes Show of Opposition Unity
After Rishi Sunak episode Infosys shuts shop in Moscow, fake halal issue after fake hijab brouhaha, consumers buying smaller packs as inflation bites, masterstroke: UP teachers to chase stray cattle
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
April 4, 2022
RTI documents obtained by the Reporters’ Collective reveal that shortly after Narendra Modi took office in 2014, Union finance secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, who reported to Arun Jaitley, accused the Reserve Bank of India of setting interest rates to benefit developed economies, and called for a probe into the functioning of the central bank during the tenure of Congress appointee Raghuram Rajan.
The WHO on Saturday said that it has suspended the supply of Covaxin through UN procurement agencies to allow its manufacturer Bharat Biotech to address unspecified shortcomings in good manufacturing practices identified during an inspection on March 14-22. It has said that there is “the need to conduct process and facility upgrade to address recently identified GMP deficiencies.” It has not said that Covaxin is unsafe or ineffective. Bharat Biotech has said it is fully committed to meeting global regulatory requirements.
‘Fast-moving’ fails to capture the speed of developments in the neighbourhood. Sri Lanka was brought under a general Emergency as protests intensified, calling for the ouster of the hitherto invincible Gotabaya Rajapakse for “failing” the country. Late last night, all cabinet ministers resigned. In Pakistan, Imran Khan is no longer PM. The deputy speaker refused to table the no-confidence motion, Khan dissolved the National Assembly and the president played along. The Supreme Court in Islamabad has taken suo motu oversight of all actions of the National Assembly, PM Imran Khan and the president. Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa calls for talks with India: “Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward on this front if India agrees to do so,” he said. He also spoke of the need for talks between India, Pakistan and China on the border crisis between India and China.
A controversy over halal procedures, strangely projected as ‘anti-Hindu’, was created about Himalaya Wellness. Several right-wing politicians and trolls trended #BoycottHimalaya and shared the company’s halal certificate. “Just because Himalaya is owned by a Muslim. BTW 9 out of 10 in Himalaya leadership team of Himalaya are Hindus,” said AltNews’ Zubair Ahmed. He produced the halal certificates of Adani, Reliance and Tatas and others. Indeed, anyone who wishes to sell edible products in Islamic countries needs one. Also, Himalaya was quick to respond to the hate campaign. Deccan Herald in a lead editorial calls it another cooked-up controversy, like the hijab issue, only to stir “the communal cauldron in Karnataka, aimed at Hindu-Muslim polarisation, thanks to the BJP’s desire to win the upcoming Assembly elections in the state — at any cost to the state and the nation.” Before this controversy, last week, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon had warned that polarisation could damage the international image of the state.
Delhi witnessed the homecoming of Hindutva extremist Yati Narsinghanand, who had starred in the Dharm Sansad hate speeches in the run-up to Assembly polls in five states. The so-called Mahapanchayat in Delhi he spoke at on Sunday did not have police permission. Journalists, many of whom were Muslim, were singled out for attack. Five journalists, four of them Muslim, were taken by police to the Mukherjee Nagar Police Station in Delhi after a mob at the Hindu Mahapanchayat discovered their religion, attacked them and deleted their videos, said editors of news portals (More on the event organised by the Save India Foundation). Newslaundry’s Shivangi Saxena’s experience shows that women reporters were also manhandled. Reportedly, Narsinghanand was eventually booked by Delhi Police along with other speakers, for hate speeches, including the statement that “50% of Hindus will convert” in 20 years if a Muslim becomes PM.
Infosys is shutting its Moscow office, days after Rishi Sunak, UK chancellor of the exchequer and son-in-law of company founder NR Narayana Murthy, faced attacks in the British media. They related to charges that Sunak’s wife, Narayana Murthy’s daughter, is benefiting from Infosys’ business in Russia, while the UK is coming down hard on anyone with Russian connections.
India will continue buying cheap Russian oil in the nation’s interest, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, as pressure mounts to isolate the Kremlin. “We have started buying, we have received quite a number of barrels — I would think three-four days’ supply ― and this will continue,” Sitharaman told CNBC-TV18.
Russia will increase its use of non-Western currencies for trade with countries like India, its foreign minister said. Lavrov hailed New Delhi as a friend that was not taking a “one-sided view” on the Ukraine war. Gideon Rachman in the FT Weekend essay elaborates on the ‘strongman syndrome’, and the possibility that Putin is fueling its consolidation ― including in the case of PM Modi. He sees the Ukraine war as a waypoint in the journey of strongmen, globally.
The official Indian response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “has been so cold and tight-lipped that it has left everyone wondering where the world’s largest democracy stands,” writes The Economist. It adds a note of “caution”: “Although India may be right in thinking that it is too big and too important a player for Western powers to forsake, Delhi’s narrow focus on “realpolitik” is not without costs. China’s “historic” claims on bits of Indian territory are not so different from Russia’s in Ukraine.”
Price-sensitive Indian consumers are buying smaller packs as inflation begins to pinch. Cheaper packs of beverages, personal care items and commodities increased by 2%, 4% and 10.5% of overall sales between January and the first week of March in rural India, according to retail technology platform Bizom.
The rates of petrol and diesel in Delhi were increased by 80 paise a litre yesterday and by 40 paise today. Yesterday’s rise was the eleventh in fuel rates in 13 days. The cumulative hike now amounts to Rs 8.40. Transporters will be forced to pass the burden on to consumers, making almost all daily consumables dearer, affecting consumption and slowing economic growth, says the Business Standard.
The inauguration of the DMK’s office in the capital on Saturday became a now-rare coming-out party for the Opposition. National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, Congress’ P Chidambaram, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav were present. Congress President Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the Perasiriyar Library in the Anna-Kalaignar Arivalayam. The grand inauguration ceremony in New Delhi is also being seen as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin’s attempt to assert the DMK’s multifaceted significance in national politics. In a letter to party cadre, Stalin said that the new DMK office in Delhi is a “compelling symbol of the indispensable role that the DMK and the Dravidian model plays in national politics.”
A fascinating profile of India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her “rise as spin doctor for Modi’s broken economy” is a must-read.
Mahanaryaman Scindia, son of Union minister and BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, was appointed vice president of Gwalior Division Cricket Association. Incidentally, the son of Narendra Singh Tomar, Scindia’s colleague and Agriculture Minister, is the VP of Hockey India. It’s not just cricket, it appears.
India’s ‘living bridges’ – the roots of trees coaxed and stretched into a suspension bridge over a river – have been submitted to Unesco for world heritage site status, reports The Guardian. Meghalaya has 100 such bridges in 70 villages.