Sending Yasin Malik Away Will Not Solve the Kashmir Problem; Geetanjali Shree Wins Booker With ‘Tomb Of Sand’
Last Q4 GDP growth maybe 2.5%, school closures to cost India highest fall in GDP, Bhima Koregaon detenus struggle for basics, drugs seized again in Gujarat, and what Chinchpokli and Kurla’s names mean
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
May 27, 2022
Indian author Geetanjali Shree has won the Booker Prize for her Hindi novel Tomb of Sand, Daisy Rockwell’s translation of Ret Samadhi, from British nonprofit South Asia publisher Tilted Axis Press.
A mini-reading by Anjana Vasan:
India, which is among the countries with the longest school closures during the pandemic, will see the highest decline in GDP in South Asia due to learning losses among the young, a new working paper published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has reckoned. It could suffer a $10.5 billion fall next year and a slide of nearly $99 billion by 2030 ― a 3.19% reduction in GDP, according to ‘Potential Economic Impact of Covid-19 related School Closures’. Learning and earning losses are signiﬁcant because a large part of the impacted population will join the unskilled labour force of 408.4 million. There are 72.65 million skilled workers.
The National Achievement Survey of the Ministry of Education finds that 48% of students go to school on foot, 18% by bicycle and only 9% can use school transport or public buses. One out of four schools say that parents don’t or can’t support childrens’ learning. Punjab has outperformed Delhi in learning outcomes for Classes III, V, VIII and X, though CM Bhagwant Mann had taken his education minister and teachers to Delhi to see a “better teaching environment”. Were Punjab schools really lagging, as claimed by the AAP, which swept to power in the state in March, promising a complete overhaul of the education and health system?
India’s Q4 GDP growth in 2021-22 could be as low as 2.5%, State Bank of India economists estimate, almost half the 4.8% projection of the National Statistical Office. The NSO will release official GDP estimates on Tuesday. Moodys has cut its GDP growth forecast for India to 8.8% for calendar year 2022 from its March estimate of 9.1%, accounting for rising inflation and interest rates.
Days after the Union budget, the government extended the deadline for building houses under the PMAY (Rural) scheme by two years since it was woefully behind target. A Business Standard analysis shows that the same may be needed for PMAY (Urban), since only 48.7% of houses were ready on May 17. The government’s target was to build 12.1 million houses by March 31, but it has delivered only 5.9 million. In the last seven years, not more than 2 million units were built per year. At this pace, the government would need another five years to meet its target.
Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin urged PM Narendra Modi to make Tamil an official language on par with Hindi, when the two shared the stage in Chennai to launch infrastructure projects. He also sought the exemption of Tamil Nadu from the national medical entrance test NEET after a bill was passed recently in the Assembly. Stalin’s 15-minute speech in Tamil and English also made political points about the Dravidian model, and he said that this was the first government programme Modi participated in, after he took office.
The Naga peace process again appears precarious as the NSCN-IM said categorically that it would not accept the “Naga National Flag” as a cultural flag, as hinted by the Government of India. “Naga National Flag that symbolises Naga political identity is not negotiable,” said the editorial of its latest news bulletin in Nagalim Voice. “Such was the depravity on the part of Government of India that every good thing gained during the 25 years of the Indo-Naga political talks is facing the risk of going down the drain,” it stated.
The post-mortem report of Bhanwarlal Jain, who was allegedly beaten to death by BJP worker Dinesh Kushwah in Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch on May 19 over “suspicions of being a Muslim”, has confirmed death due to the assault.
After its knee-jerk wheat policy, India may impose temporary restrictions on exports of non-basmati rice and cotton, whose prices are at a historic high, to control runaway inflation of nearly 8%, a source told Deccan Herald. “Any decision will be taken only after watching the monsoon behaviour. A good rice harvest is necessary this year because there is too much pressure on rice in the free food distribution scheme after tweaking the proportion of wheat and rice.”
Maharashtra BJP President Chandrakant Patil faces heat after suggesting that NCP MP Supriya Sule goes home and cooks. Head of the NCP’s women’s wing Vidya Chavan, without naming Patil, said: “We know you believe in Manusmriti, but we will not remain silent anymore… He should learn to make chapatis so that he can help his wife at home,” Patil is knowledgeable about everyone’s daily schedule. In April, he had said that PM Modi sleeps for just two hours each night and was trying to stay awake for the country.
Bhima Koregaon detenus continue to battle for basics. Nothing has been learnt from the denial of a drinking straw to the late Stan Swamy. Balladeer Sagar Gorkhe, who is held in a high-security ward in Navi Mumbai’s Taloja Central Prison as an undertrial in the Elgar Parishad case, has been on hunger strike since May 20, to demand a mosquito net. Gautam Navlakha has moved court for his mosquito net to be returned to him. Granted to him on the recommendation of a prison doctor last year, it was seized on May 20. Mosquitoes are endemic in the area and Abu Salem, among others, had been moved out in the past for fear of malaria.
J&K has witnessed a sharp rise in violence. The number of targeted killings by militants and encounters by security forces have both risen. It is an alarming 80 in 2022 so far, compared to 54 last year.
In Gujarat, seizure of contraband drugs remains high. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has seized 56 kg of cocaine worth over Rs 500 crore from a container near Mundra port in Kutch yesterday. Towards the end of April, in a joint operation with Gujarat’s Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS), DRI had recovered heroin worth Rs 1,300 crore during a search at a container station near Kandla port in the same district. Meanwhile, the Narcotics Control Bureau has absolved Aryan Khan in the trumped-up drugs case on a cruise ship.
Non-medical expenses like travel, food and lodging account for nearly 25% of out-of-pocket expenditure of families of hospital patients, says new research. For outpatients, more than 60% of out-of-pocket expenditure goes to buying medicines and 14.6% is expended for non-medical reasons. But for those admitted in hospitals, medicines cost 29% of the expenses as against 23.6% for non-medical spending. In a detailed analysis involving more than 52,000 samples the researchers, led by a senior scientist at Harvard Centre for Population and Developmental Sciences, broke down expenditures. The impact of out-of-pocket expenditures, according to previous studies, is catastrophic in India, pushing lakhs below the poverty line every year.
Doing a PhD in India is increasingly difficult. Delays in disbursement of stipends have been impacting doctoral scholars for years but the pandemic made it worse, finds a detailed investigation by The Quint. It’s harder for economically and socially underprivileged scholars.
In the UK, women of colour feel forced to change their behaviour, and in many cases their names, because of widespread structural racism in the workplace, new research has found. Three-quarters of women of colour have experienced some form of racism at work, while just over 25% have faced racial slurs, according to a significant report.
A controversy broke out with the Indian Express reporting early closure of the Thyagaraja Stadium in Delhi for sportspeople to accommodate an IAS couple walking their dog. Sanjeev Khirwar and Rinku Dugga have been transferred to Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, and a report has been sought from the chief secretary, Delhi, on the “factual position”. But Omar Abdullah asks: “Why are people calling Ladakh a punishment posting?” People are asking similar questions about the Northeast. But admittedly, there’s more room there to walk dogs.
17 hate complaints against Kannada news channels
Karnataka-based hate watch group Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS) has filed 17 complaints against Kannada news channels this year, but has received no acknowledgement. The latest complaint was against popular Kannada news channel Public TV for their coverage of a crime allegedly concerning personal rivalry in Bengaluru. In a programme aired on May 9 titled, ‘Miscreants who had Planned to Throw Petrol Bombs on Temples Arrested’, Public TV made unverified claims that the arrests were part of a larger conspiracy to target Hindus, the group said.
Daily Food Price Index shows how bad inflation is
The Daily Food Price Index, based on data from the Department of Consumer Affairs, tracks inflation in retail and wholesale food markets in real time. The price index based on the daily DoCA data provides valuable insights into monthly price trends tracked by the CPI and WPI food indices.
CEDA’s Daily Prices Data tool allows access to the food price index in two modes: daily and monthly, while allowing users to download raw data.
Women dropping out of MGNREGA for want of smartphones
The Union government has made marking attendance through its National Mobile Monitoring System compulsory at work sites where 20 or more workers are employed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), reports The Hindu. This is despite patchy rural internet and little or no technical support. The Rural Development Ministry had piloted the exercise on May 21, 2021, and it was made mandatory from May 16. The Ministry’s directive claims that the app, which requires two time-stamped and geotagged photographs of the workers in a day, encourages transparency and increases citizen oversight.
Women employees, especially supervisors or “work mates”, have faced the biggest setback from the move. Employees’ families are averse to giving phones to women, especially smartphones. Hence, many women have dropped out.
The Long Cable
Sending Yasin Malik away for life is not going to solve the problem of Kashmir
The conviction and sentencing of Yasin Malik, leader of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, to consecutive life sentences by a special court this week has been hailed by supporters of the Modi government as a great step forward. Malik did not contest the charge of terror financing brought against him by the National Investigation Agency. He also faces trial for the 1990 killing of four Indian Air Force men. An anti-terror court last year framed murder charges against him, though it is not clear why it took 31 years for the matter to reach that stage if the evidence against him is that compelling. In the terror financing case, the prosecutor sought the death penalty, citing also claims that Malik was responsible for the forced exodus of Pandits from the Valley. The judge disagreed, but if and when Malik is found guilty of the 1990 killings, his execution is a foregone conclusion.
Such is the hubris and myopia driving current government policy towards Jammu and Kashmir that those in power have convinced themselves peace, security and stability in the Valley can be found at the end of the rope. Human rights never mattered to successive governments in New Delhi once the insurgency in Kashmir began in 1989-90 but no prime minister was ever foolish enough to believe politics and statecraft were dispensable. Of course, none of them were bold or sincere enough to follow through on sensible domestic and bilateral initiatives. Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed gave New Delhi the alibi it needed to define Jammu and Kashmir as a ‘security’ problem rather than a political one. Nevertheless, there was enough flexibility and acumen on Raisina Hill to take advantage of openings when they presented themselves – and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh were quick to seize upon these.
When the BJP formed a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of the Peoples Democratic Party and even signed on to a forward-looking ‘agenda for alliance’, it seemed as if Narendra Modi too had adopted the same path as his predecessors – of promising a political solution to the state’s problems. But from day one, it became clear that Modi had only bought time. Central rule was imposed in 2018 and on August 5, 2019, J&K itself was bifurcated and stripped of its autonomy and status as a state of the Indian Union.
That decision marked the formal end of politics as we know it in Jammu and Kashmir. Local elections were held in 2020 but the elected officials do not even have the freedom to leave their homes. Mainstream political parties like the National Conference and PDP – which stood by the Indian state all these years – were vilified and their leaders imprisoned. Unprecedented restrictions have been imposed on the media, human rights defenders and civil society organisations like the Bar Association. Terrorism FIRs and arrests under the Public Safety Act have skyrocketed. It is against the backdrop of this criminalisation of politics and political activity that the case against Malik needs to be seen.
The JKLF is a spent force, as is its leader. He commands no divisions. And yet, the aspirations he represents and vocalises will not be stilled by his incarceration or execution. Is he guilty of the charges levelled against him? There is no reason to assume he is not, but states have ways of dealing with such crimes. After all, the Indian government had no qualms about engaging in protracted talks with the NSCN, nor did the blood of Indian soldiers spilt by its leader prevent Modi from signing a landmark agreement with them.
If anything, the fact that the Kashmir insurgency is today becoming more deadly is an argument for the Indian state to engage with those political figures who say they want a political solution. Instead of pursuing a ‘Nagaland’ strategy in Kashmir, however, the Modi government has widened the arc of those politicians whom it considers beyond the pale. Its list of enemies now includes Mehbooba Mufti and other PDP leaders like Waheed Parra, as well as the leaders of the National Conference. The government is pursuing a political strategy built on repression and the gerrymandering of elections, apart from direct central control. There will be no peace or prosperity down this road and perhaps Modi knows this. What matters to him is the optics of his strongman strategy in the rest of India.
From "shrapit heera" (cursed diamond) to "bachpan ki kahaniyan" or childhood tales, Sumedha Pal documents the making of petitioner Seeta Sahu's claims leading up to the world talking about the Gyanvapi mosque. Aishwarya Iyer reports that the claim to the Gyanvapi site and the 17th century mosque in Varanasi did not start with the five women who sought the right to worship there. Gyanvapi has been on the agenda of Hindutva groups for decades. “Behind the women’s high-profile legal battle is a network of men who either belong to Hindu supremacist groups or have fought cases for Hindutva causes.” Of the five petitioners, four are from Varanasi – Manju Vyas, 40, Rekha Pathak, 47, Sita Sahu, 40 and Laxmi Devi, 66. The fifth petitioner, Rekha Singh from Delhi, has left the group after a tussle over credit, as well as allegations that her organisation is “farzi”, or fake. Laxmi Devi said her husband Sohan Lal Arya, a senior VHP leader, was the animating spirit behind the petition. “He is the reason all this is happening,” she said. In Varanasi, Arya is known for moving similar applications in 1995 that never led to a survey.
Growth in factories crawling
Factories increased by just 1.7% year-on-year to 2.46 lakh units in 2019-20, employing 1.3 crore workers, as per the provisional results of the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Growth was 1.98% in 2018-19 and 1.2% in the post-demonetisation year of 2017-18.
Prime Number: 184 times
Top executives in Indian companies made 184 times their employees’ wages in the last financial year. This is based on a sample of 76 companies from the Nifty 100 index. PTI reports that Infosys CEO Salil Parekh got a mind-boggling 88% jump in annual remuneration to Rs 79.75 crore. He is now one of the highest-paid executives in the country.
Why sharks and beauty are necessary ― and the rest of the environmental news from the region in the past fortnight.
Op-Eds you don’t want to miss
In Madhya Pradesh, the Bajrang Dal works in tandem with the police, says Dhirendra K Jha. Are BJP-ruled states moving towards Nazi-style policing?
Alok Sheel writes that we must note that the destruction of places of worship by conquerors predated the arrival of Muslim invaders. If remnants of temples have been found in mosques, there are remnants of Buddhist viharas in temples (as well as mosques).
One hopes Justice DY Chandrachud will reconsider — in light of the Supreme Court’s views on non-retrogression — his opinion on ascertaining the religious character of the Gyanvapi complex. It could disturb communal harmony across India at a time when it is most needed, writes A Faizur Rehman.
The picture of tabla maestro Zakir Husain as pall-bearer for Pandit Shivkumar Sharma: Radhika Santhanam writes that in this time of grief and mourning, a few images have acquired emblematic status. “They compel us to collectively take stock of loss, and acknowledge the core values that keep us connected.”
Those who criticise Nehru must not forget that they have been in the seat of power since 2014, thanks primarily to the parliamentary democracy that Nehru’s generation had created and strengthened, writes Raj Kanwar.
Andy Mukherjee writes that Modi’s failed farm laws were to give farmers freedom for price discovery. The about-face on wheat shows that in Indian agriculture, primacy of markets remains a pipe dream.
Santosh Mehrotra asks what is falling: poverty or the quality of analysis?
Mounting price pressures have forced India’s policymakers to take a series of emergency and contradictory steps, including restricting exports while freeing up imports, writes Zia Haq.
Read the HS Prannoy interview: “Learning to stay in the moment, team spirit that led to Thomas Cup win.”
Umran Malik, the 22-year-old superfast bowler from J&K, has been making waves in the IPL. He has also received a much anticipated call-up to the Indian national team. Vijay Lokapally speaks on how India can harness and sustain Malik’s talent
It is Nehru’s death anniversary today. Madhavan Palat, who edited his Selected Works for the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, spoke on Nehru and his world.
Over and Out
When India was a ‘land of diamonds’, Russian tsars eagerly tried to build ties with Aurangzeb and two Russian missions were sent to India in the 17th century to initiate relations with the Mughal Empire. The second delegation found favour with Aurangzeb.
Chinchpokli rail station in Mumbai gets its name from the Marathi words for tamarind and betel nut. There was a grove of tamarind trees there once. Kurla gets its name from kurli, the local name for crab, as these were found in plenty in marshes near the village.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.