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SC Gives Delhi Pollution Ultimatum; 76% Unorganised Workers Unregistered: No Aadhaar
Bhopal anniversary today, Subramanian Swamy to head for McMahon Line, Newton’s Third Law in Assam, facial scans as boarding passes from March, and Hitler thought Indians racially inferior
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
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Snapshot of the day
December 3, 2021
Harvard University is the latest US school to adopt measures protecting caste-oppressed students. Since March, South Asian graduate student organisers have tried to sensitise the university’s administration to the peculiarly South Asian problem across US campuses. This move has great significance as certain groups have been resisting official acknowledgement of caste oppression outside India’s boundaries, though ample evidence exists.
Out of the two cases of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus that have been detected in India, one is a South African national who left the country after testing negative, and the other is a local doctor with no travel history, the Karnataka government said.
The Opposition yesterday hit out at the Modi government over Covid-19 mismanagement, accusing it of mishandling the deadly second wave. Initiating the debate, Shiv Sena leader Vinayak Raut lamented that Parliament was still discussing the issue 21 months after the outbreak of the disease.
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy happened on this day 37 years ago. Newsclick looks back at what happened at the time, the causes leading to the incident, and the survivors of the man-made disaster.
The border with China is again in the news. External affairs minister S Jaishankar said at the HT Summit that India and China cannot simultaneously have a “tense, high-friction border” and great relations in all other spheres. Rajya Sabha BJP MP Subramanian Swamy had more explosive things to say. He had met Tapir Gao, his party colleague from Arunachal Pradesh in the Lok Sabha, who told him that China’s PLA “has already crossed the McMahon Line in three parallel columns halfway down south of the state.” Swamy declared he would go to Arunachal Pradesh early next year.
Fast moving consumer goods sales growth in November was down 14.4% compared to October, largely due to a drop in active kirana outlets and post-Diwali stock liquidation, according to data from retail intelligence platform Bizom.
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana yesterday asked the government, as a ‘layman’, why pollution continues to smother Delhi despite Supreme Court orders, government action and argumentative lawyers. The court gave the government 24 hours to find a solution, or make way for the court to act.
Dodgy, even fake news has staying power in 2021 India. Especially when it is about the so-called migration of Hindus from Kairana in UP. Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured Hindus, who were “forced” to “migrate” from some western Uttar Pradesh districts, that those who ousted them would themselves face the same fate under BJP rule.
BJP senses trouble in UP: with less than 90 days to go before Assembly polls, the election agenda threatens to turn to the performance of the Adityanath government. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has accused the chief minister of lying about creating jobs during the BJP’s tenure.
“Stark discrepancies in fertility rates between states also carry dangers. In future, more Indians from the crowded north will seek jobs in the richer and less fecund south. Politicians will also face the hot issue of how to allot parliamentary constituencies,” warns The Economist on the uneven and sharp decline in population growth.
Ankit Lal, the Aam Aadmi Party’s former social media head, has been hired by the Congress for its campaign strategy team for the Uttarakhand Assembly elections scheduled early next year. Lal handled social media for AAP in 2012-2020, and dropped out of his role after the 2020 assembly elections to start his own venture in political consultancy.
From March, passengers can use facial scans as boarding passes at four airports. Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata and Vijayawada will be the first to roll out the biometric boarding system based on facial recognition. Its privacy implications remain a matter of concern.
The Army will introduce a light and more climate-friendly combat uniform next year. The new camouflage uniform, based on a “digital disruptive” pattern, will be showcased at the Army Day parade on January 15. The military also plans to showcase its old uniforms, which will be worn by marching contingents on Republic Day. A fine tamasha, while the Indian military struggles with a serious challenge on the China border.
A senior diplomat from the High Commission of India was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan. Pakistan has rejected India’s charges concerning a model at a gurdwara and termed it “mischief” and “an isolated incident”.
Of the 38 crore unorganised workers in India, just 24% have registered in the e-Shram registration portal in the first three months. The obstacle: Aadhaar.
Gita Gopinath is the only Indian to make it to Financial Times’ annual list of the most influential women. The IMF chief economist coined the phrase “the Great Lockdown”, describing the worst global recession since the Great Depression, due to the pandemic. “She played a key role in shaping the fund’s response, doing “whatever it takes”. “This was translated into emergency financing for 88 countries provided at great speed”. The IMF selected her yesterday to become its second-ranking official, replacing First Deputy Managing Director Geoffrey Okamoto, who steps down in early 2022. Gopinath was scheduled to return to Harvard University in January, but has decided to stay on under IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.
Finally, for Hitler fans, who populate India’s rightwing: “The passage about India in Hitler’s autobiography is completely anti-India… He goes to the extent of saying that India does not deserve freedom… and I was taken aback,” says Vaibhav Purandare, author of Hitler and India. In the German archives, he discovered, much to his surprise, surprisingly, that Hitler not only idolised the British Raj but aimed to emulate it with the Nazi party.
According to Purandare, Hitler, who derived his ideas about India from British political philosopher Houston Chamberlain, considered Indians to be racially inferior, and had repeatedly warned party members against associating with them. This became a bone of contention with Otto and Gregor Strasser, who led the party’s left wing. When the Strasser brothers supported Indian independence in a Nazi newspaper, in a meeting with Otto Strasser, Hitler insisted that the Nazi party refrain from associating themselves with the freedom struggle.
Pakistan rejects aid transit request
Pakistan has turned down India’s proposal to transport 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat as humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan in Indian or Afghan trucks through the Wagah border crossing. Pakistan insists that consignments of wheat and medicines for Afghanistan must be transported on Pakistani trucks under the banner of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) from Wagah, while India favoured using its own transport. India is keen on ensuring that aid is not diverted, and wants distribution through a credible international agency.
In October, India committed 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat for Afghanistan as humanitarian assistance and sought Pakistan’s permission for transit through its territory. Last week, Pakistan agreed to allow transit on an “exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes”.
Facebook Protect by year-end
Meta (formerly Facebook) will expand to India by the end of the year, its Facebook Protect security program for users like journalists and government officials, who are more likely to be targeted by hackers. Tested in the US in 2018 and expanded during the 2020 US elections, is now being rolled out to nearly 50 countries, including India. Designed to protect accounts against cyberattacks, the program mandates the use of two-factor authentication.
Collegium proposals held up
The total number of high court collegium proposals at various stages of consideration as on November 29 is 164, with 72.5% of them pending with the government. Of these, 75 are pending with the Department of Justice to be sent to the Supreme Court Collegium, while another 31 have been recommended by the Collegium and are pending with the department. Three proposals are with the PMO and 13 with the Ministry of Law and Justice.
In Assam, Newton’s Third Law in force
The main accused in the lynching of a student leader of AASU in Assam, Niraj Das alias ‘Kola Lora’, was killed on Tuesday night in a road accident, while supposedly trying to flee police custody.
The circumstances are chilling and bring the role of the Assam Police, custodial deaths and the role of the chief minister into sharp relief. The state’s Special Director General of Police (Law and Order) GP Singh tweeted: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction ― Newton’s third law.” Singh’s tweet was shared by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma: “Assam will be free of crime and criminal, come what may”. Jorhat police superintendent Ankur Jain tweeted: “Niraj Das @ Kola Lora, you can’t escape every time.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere in India, life continued
From Guwahati we moved to Patna, the capital of Bihar and a hotbed of caste politics. In the backdrop of the new quota system, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who belonged to the most powerful of the OBC communities, had become the central figure in Bihar politics. He was marshalling resources to fight the midterm polls after the fall of VP Singh, the man he had sided with while ditching his own leader, Chandra Shekhar.
The discord and divisions were visible even on our train journey from Guwahati to Patna, where passengers talked of nothing but the vicious caste divide and how the new reservations policy would affect the election results. VP Singh was derided and ridiculed by most of the passengers, who evidently belonged to the upper classes. I still remember two elderly people discussing the rise of the lower classes, saying, “Why blame others, when our own man has betrayed us?” They perhaps belonged to the Thakur caste like VP Singh and believed that they had been stabbed in the back by one whom they had trusted as their own.
Patna, whatever I remember of it, was a bit of a shock, especially for someone from the sanitized environment of Chandigarh. I felt that life in Patna must be an ordeal, with its unruly traffic, terrible roads and crowds jostling for space in the heavily congested city. It was here, at the Moin-ul-Haq Stadium, that the Duleep Trophy semi final between Central Zone and North Zone was to be played.
The match became a platform for another young lad to showcase his outstanding talent. It was Praveen Amre, a Maharashtrian representing Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, who scored a hundred that day against the North’s famed pace attack led by Kapil Dev. Amre would go on to play for India and score an exceptional century in his debut Test in 1992, against South Africa in Durban. However, despite his talent and runs, Amre had a limited international career. He was always seen as someone lacking in Test match ‘character’ and ‘class’.
Raj Singh Dungarpur, who was one of the most influential administrators in Indian cricket, had no qualms in declaring that “Amre lacked the class to be part of the Indian team”. Amre’s inclusion in the team had dislodged a player from the influential Bombay team, Sanjay Manjrekar, and this was perhaps not a popular decision. Amre was not bred in the city manners of the middle-class, unlike the majority of players in the team. It is hard to say what made him so unwelcome, though there were definite signs of his being discriminated against.
I remember that on the 1994 tour of New Zealand, where Kapil played his last Test, Amre approached me on the eve of a one-day match. He claimed that he was being left out of the playing XI on the pretext that he was not well. “I have been telling them I am fit to play,” he said, “but they don’t believe me.” This attempt to seek help from a scribe was a cry of desperation and reflected the frustration of a player who knew the threat to his career was serious. I had no means to check the authenticity of his claim, but this incident, combined with other circumstantial evidence, convinced me that Amre was being treated unfairly by the team selectors. There may not have been prejudice of caste here, but there certainly was one of ‘class’.
Even as hatred grew in a society divided on caste and religious lines, the campaign for the 1991 Lok Sabha elections was in full steam. A fortnight after Haryana won its maiden Ranji Trophy in Bombay, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber while campaigning in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.
One and a half years later on December 6, 1992, the eve of a Punjab-Haryana Ranji Trophy encounter in Jalandhar, I heard the news that the Babri Mosque had been demolished by the kar sevaks in Ayodhya.
(Excerpted with permission from Not Just Cricket: A Reporter’s Journey Through Modern India, HarperCollins Publishers, 384 pages, Rs 479, releasing December 11)
Sparks flying between the BJP and Congress in Gujarat will hot up with state elections ahead. The Congress is going back to the basics. The party has named an OBC Kshatriya, Jagdish Thakor, and tribal leader and sitting legislator Sukhram Rathwa, as the new Gujarat president and Leader of the Opposition. It recalls the heyday of the Congress in 1985, when it won a yet-unbroken record of 149 seats out of 182 in the Gujarat Assembly, riding its KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) magic formula.
Prime Number: 5
Adani meets Mamata
Gautam Adani, chairman of the Adani Group, whose wealth has skyrocketed coincidentally with the fortunes of the Modi government, yesterday met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at her office at Nabanna in Kolkata. Following the meeting, Adani posted a tweet with a photo and a comment on the “tremendous potential of West Bengal”. The picture is worth a thousand words.
No question about it
BJP MP Rakesh Sinha’s question was listed, printed and circulated, but then deleted. It concerned gifts and mementos received by the PM being auctioned. The question was listed as No 1 but a “withdrawn” stamp crossed it out.
Why is India witnessing a spike in attacks on Christians and churches? Rights groups have registered more than 300 attacks on Christians and their religious places in the first nine months of 2021. UP topped with 99, Madhya Pradesh had 45, Chhattisgarh recorded 39 and Karnataka 23. Orissa, which had in 2008 witnessed the most vicious pogrom ever against the community, had 15 cases. The capital, Delhi, recorded four.
MHA rejected RTI on surveillance
The Delhi High Court has asked the Central Information Commission (CIC) to decide within eight weeks an appeal against the Ministry of Home Affairs’ refusal to provide information on electronic surveillance. It was hearing a plea by Apar Gupta, Executive Director of the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), challenging the rejection of his RTI applications, which have been pending since 2018.
Defence imports opened up
So much for Aatmanirbhar Bharat! The Defence Ministry will allow the armed forces to import weapons and systems that figure on the government’s list of defence items under an import ban if domestic industry can’t supply it in time and in the required quantity. Artillery is the priority.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
Seema Chishti (a contributor to The India Cable) explores the massive backsliding in democracy in India, as recorded by International IDEA. On some parameters, the country is close to its score in 1975, when it was under a formal Emergency.
India has neither the economic and industrial wherewithal nor the need to compete in a naval arms race with China. But we do need to ensure adequate naval capability to safeguard vital interests, writes Admiral Arun Prakash (retd).
China has emerged as an attractive partner in South Asian countries by attending to their development priorities. For India, it is hard to counter, write Deep Pal and Saheb Singh Chadha.
Mukul Sanwal writes that the problem with air pollution in Delhi NCR is not the peculiar mix of administrative levels. It is their common approach: cosmetic steps, unverified claims, statistical compliance and shifting responsibility, which the powerful Commission for Air Quality Management has failed to override.
From a man of political daring — he objected to Narendra Modi being projected as future prime minister — Nitish Kumar turned into a pusillanimous Modi groupie. Ditching the project of ‘sangh-mukt Bharat’, he turned into a sangh bunny, writes Sankarshan Thakur.
Zoya Hasan writes that the TMC is continuing the BJP’s task — eliminating the Congress. Its frantic expansion activity benefits the BJP because the TMC is entering states where it is challenging the Congress first.
Women are disproportionately impacted by India’s climate crisis, and need to be part of decisionmaking, says Ambika Vishwanath.
Biswajit Dhar writes that the farmers may have won a battle, but they stand to lose in the long run if they do not initiate a dialogue with the government for a comprehensive agricultural policy.
The Indian government and the military need to produce an authentic history of the 1971 War. Real military history is brutal. Halos around personalities have no sanctity. Myths and claims made for self-aggrandisement must be debunked, writes Lt Gen HS Panag (retd).
Shikha Mukerjee writes that dressing up infiltration as an attack on the nation by changing the demographics, as set out by the BSF, is spin that exposes the urgent need to repackage old majoritarian politics.
The real traveler is more than a tourist. To travel is to celebrate the diversity of the world and appreciate the humanity of people, writes Pallavi Aiyar.
What do police statistics hide and reveal about crime in India? An excerpt from Rukmini S’ Whole Numbers and Half Truths: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About Modern India provides the answer.
“I was seeing videos of Muslim men being lynched in India and thought, ‘What can I write in response?’ I had read Claudia Rankine on the killings of Black men. I was thinking about the fiction that fake news is, and also confronting the idea of the infodemic within the pandemic,” says Amitava Kumar.
In this episode of Swindled, learn about the American multinational which poisoned Bhopal on this day 37 years ago, and avoided accountability. The effects of the tragedy have lasted for decades, accounting “for over 20,000 deaths and half a million injured”.
Bhima Koregaon: why didn’t the other eight accused get default bail from Bombay High Court? The NIA has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court challenging the Bombay High Court’s order granting Sudha Bharadwaj default bail.
Over and out
The jokes about nominated Rajya Sabha MP and scandal-ridden former chief justice Ranjan Gogoi’s autobiography just aren’t stopping. Our favourite: a better title for Gogoi’s autobiography would be, “In Re: Matter of Great Public Importance touching upon the Independence of Judiciary”. That was the title of the case of sexual harassment against him, which he presided over himself.
Read a fascinating account of how Rohu fish were exalted in the Mughal court, the Mahi Maratib was equal to the Bharat Ratna.
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