Supreme Court Pulls Up Union Govt & TV For Allowing Hate Speech; Communal Virus Injected Into Diaspora And The Culture Is Growing
India’s poverty reduction slowing, Gangotri glacier retreating faster, Ratan Tata & Sudha Murthy in PM-CARES, Gujarat withdraws stray cattle Bill, Narendra Modi’s brother won’t explain the crocodile
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
September 22, 2022
A new global poverty line has been adopted, effective from September 15, 2022, with the World Bank updating its data in the Poverty and Inequality Platform. This update includes an element missing for a decade: India’s poverty data. Using the new poverty line of $2.15 per day, 10% of Indians were poor in 2019, down from 22.5% in 2011. Some 11.9% are poor in rural areas and 6.4% in urban areas. The new poverty estimate for India, by Sutirtha Sinha Roy and Roy van der Weide of the World Bank’s Policy Research Working Paper, shows that “poverty in India had declined over the last decade but not as much as previously thought.” In 2004-2011, poverty fell 2.5 percentage points annually. After this, the rate dropped to 1.3 percentage points until 2018.
“Extreme poverty is 12.3 percentage points lower in 2019 than in 2011, with greater poverty reductions in rural areas,” said the estimation published on the World Bank website. Poverty was “considerably higher” than projections based on consumption figures in India’s national accounts. India has not declared poverty data since 2011, measured on the basis of consumption expenditure surveys by the National Sample Survey organisation (NSSO). The government stopped the publication of the 2017-18 survey, which showed that poverty had increased.
Gautam Adani made over Rs 1,600 crore per day in the past year to double his wealth to Rs 10.94 lakh crore, according to the IIFL Wealth Hurun India Rich List 2022. Adani’s net worth is now Rs 3 lakh crore more than that of Mukesh Ambani (Rs 7.94 lakh crore), who added Rs 210 crore every day last year. “In 2012, Adani’s wealth was hardly one-sixth of Ambani’s and no one could imagine that he would overtake Ambani to become the richest man in India in 10 years,” said Anas Rahman Junaid, MD and chief researcher at Hurun India.
The rupee hit another historic low today, opening 42 paise down at Rs 80.38 to the dollar. The RBI has been spending billions in its defence and at one point said it was ready to spend “$100 billion” to hold the line. RBI has lost its cushion of excess liquidity in the battle.
The US is in “deep” talks with India over its reliance on Russian arms and energy, CNN reports, as Washington tries to further isolate Moscow. A US State Department official told reporters in New York that Russia “is no longer a reliable weapons supplier” and that the US has “been in deep conversation with India about the fact that we want to help them have options to diversify here… India is heavily, heavily dependent on Russia, and that’s something that they did to themselves over some 40 years: first their military and then their energy dependence.”
Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar has expressed his gratitude to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for abstaining from voting in the vice presidential election in August. The Vice President said that while he was governor of West Bengal, he did not utter a single word against Mamata’s dignity, “irrespective of whatever she said”, adding that he did everything “in the open and in writing”.
The Election Commission of India has gone after Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress ordered it to publicly deny reports of Jagan being elected ‘president for life’: “The Commission categorically rejects any attempt or even a hint of any organisational post being of permanent nature, being inherently anti-democracy. Any action which denies the periodicity of elections is in complete violation of the extant instructions of the Commission.” The YSR Congress had recently made Jagan Reddy permanent party president.
Four major noncommunicable diseases – cancer, diabetes, respiratory and heart diseases, will result in premature deaths of 22% of young people in India, a WHO report has revealed. Noncommunicable diseases contribute to 66% of all deaths in India.
India’s rice production is likely to decline 6% to 104.99 million tonnes due to a fall in paddy acreage amidst rainfall deficit in key producing states, including Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. The Agriculture Ministry has released the first advance estimates for the kharif season of 2022-23 crop year (July-June). Rice production was 111.76 million tonnes in the kharif season of 2021-22. Foodgrain production is estimated to drop to 149.92 million tonnes in the kharif season for 2022-23 from 156.04 million tonnes. Sowing of paddy, the main kharif crop, has declined by nearly 19 lakh hectares, down to 399.03 lakh hectares from 417.93 lakh hectares. Oilseeds will also decline.
BBC finds that south India, with scintillating social indicators driven up by social reform, churn and change, is way ahead of the north and the west. But its success in population control will disadvantage it politically after the delimitation set for 2026.
A Counter Wildlife Trafficking Programme report, ‘Illegal Trade of Marine Species in India: 2015-2021’, provides a comprehensive overview of the illicit trade in India from 2015 to 2021. A total of 187 incidents of illegal trade of marine species were reported between January 2015 and December 2021.
Following intense agitation by cattle-rearers, the Gujarat Assembly unanimously withdrew a bill prohibiting stray cattle on roads and public places in urban areas, passed in March on the last day of the Budget session after a six-hour discussion. Governor Acharya Devvrat had returned the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) In Urban Areas Bill to the BJP state government for reconsideration.
The Gangotri glacier in the Uttarakhand Himalayas, the origin of the Ganga, retreated by 1,700 metres between 1935 and 2022, the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, has found, due to reduced snowfall and more rain, apart from rising temperature in the upper Himalayas. The rate of retreat is increasing, up from 20 metres per year in 1935-1996 to 38 metres per year after that. Gangotri retreated 300 metres in the past decade.
The Enforcement Directorate has given a clean chit to Republic TV and R Bharat in the cash for TRPs scam. Investigations into New Nation and India Today continue. However, the agency admits that there is a wider conspiracy to grow TV viewership by illegal gratification.
Supreme Court for legal framework to contain hate speech
The Supreme Court yesterday asked the Union government why it is a “mute spectator” to hate speech and regards it as trivial. It was also displeased with mainstream TV channels for running hate content. “Hate speech poisons the very fabric of our country, it can’t be permitted,” a bench of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy said. “[Media] should foster constitutional values, everybody is part of this republic. Everybody belongs to this one nation.”
Without naming particular channels, the court said they “should know where to draw the line… All this is going in the name of freedom of speech. It is sad if nobody is making them accountable.” The bench said free speech included the rights of viewers. “Until institutional mechanisms are put in place, people will continue like this. We should have a proper legal framework.”
Ratan Tata in PM-CARES board
Ratan Tata, former chairman of Tata Sons, is among the three new trustees of Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES). PM Modi yesterday chaired a meeting of the PM-CARES Board of Trustees, consisting of the Union Home Minister and the Union Finance Minister, along with newly nominated members KT Thomas, former Supreme Court judge, Kariya Munda, former Lok Sabha deputy speaker, and Tata. The trust also constituted an advisory board composed of Rajiv Mehrishi, former CAG of India, Sudha Murthy, former chairperson, Infosys Foundation and Anand Shah, co-founder of Teach for India and Former CEO of Indicorps and Piramal Foundation.
Very little is known about PM-CARES. The government and the PMO argued in court last year that it can neither be brought under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act as a “public authority”, nor can it be listed as a wing of the “State”.
Manipur reversing prohibition in select areas
The Manipur government will partially lift prohibition from all the district headquarters, tourist destinations and camps of security forces, as part of a new policy to generate Rs 600 crore in annual revenue. Liquor transporters would still require a permit. The decision was also taken in view of health hazards caused by the consumption of illicit liquor.
A massive public movement had led the state government to enact prohibition through the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991, which was amended in 2002. Sale, brewing and consumption of liquor was banned for all, barring people from the SC and ST communities, who are traditional brewers.
Two stand surety for Kappan
On Tuesday Roop Rekha Verma, former vice chancellor of Lucknow University, stood surety for Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, who was granted bail by the Supreme Court in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case. Kappan got bail on September 9 and was produced before the trial court in Lucknow on September 12, where he was informed of the bail conditions.
They included producing two individual sureties, residents of UP worth at least Rs 1 lakh. Kappan’s lawyer Mohammed Dhanish said it was very difficult, given how sensitive the case is. But a second ― unnamed ― person has also agreed to stand surety. A Lucknow court on Monday had rejected Kappan’s bail petition in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case. It will be heard again on September 23.
The Long Cable
Communal virus injected into diaspora, and the culture is growing
For long, Indians living in other countries were called the ‘model minority’, with high levels of education, good median incomes and a professional work ethic. They are law-abiding and work diligently. They teach their children not just culture but also good values and the importance of education, and they go on to win Spelling Bees.
But that stereotype is showing cracks and fissures, and in the most ferocious ways. A side of Indians never seen before has burst into the open, and local administrations and politicians are taken by surprise.
There was violence among Hindus and Muslims in Leicester, Hindu groups attacked Sikhs in Australia, and a New Jersey church had to cancel a talk by Sadhvi Rithambara following an outcry. In the same state, a march conducted by local Indian communities with bulldozers bearing posters of Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi was sharply condemned by local politicians, including two senators.
The Leicester violence has shocked the locals, who say that it was always a peaceful town, where Hindus and Muslims lived side by side. Local MP Claudia Webbe warned that the phenomenon could spread elsewhere, and blamed “fringe elements… inspired by extremism and right wing ideology rearing its head in the UK.”
Indian politics, centred on aggressive Hindutva, has infected the diaspora. Community and religious differences were always present among local NRIs, but not to the extent of causing public violence. Right wing Hindu groups are now present in every country, the outcome of years of ideological brainwashing by organisations from India which are funded locally, in the name of spreading Indian culture. Diasporas often want a connection with India, and are happy to send their kids to dance and music classes, accompanied by some religious preaching, which swiftly becomes ideological.
Add to that social media, which is full of hate messages and fake news — what we get to see at home is what reaches Indian communities far and wide, no doubt tailored to their needs. Webb has mentioned the role of social media and several academics and observers have also pointed it out. Videos show a flag being pulled down outside a Hindu temple, and the local High Commission condemned the “vandalisation of premises and symbols of Hindu religion”.
A new dimension has been added by the official patronage of Hindu groups by Indian diplomatic missions in foreign countries, which now show no compunction in privileging Hindus in NRI communities. Yogis and sadhvis of various kinds are hosted by the missions and select groups of local Indians are invited to meet them.
Stir up the mix and the result is clear — simmering tensions that will boil over. In Australia, the trigger was the farmers’ agitation by mainly Sikhs, in Leicester it was the Asia Cup match which India won against Pakistan. The Leicester police have arrested 18 men, of whom eight came from ‘outside’ the county, but presumably they are also UK residents. A Hindu was deported from Australia after the violence there and received a rousing welcome in India, exactly like the convicted rapists of Bilkis Banu were garlanded by Hindus in Gujarat. Could the message be any clearer?
NRIs and PIOs have long been fertile ground for the Sangh and Narendra Modi is a bonafide star among them. In the first flush of his victory, Modi held public meetings in sports stadiums in the US, UK, Canada and elsewhere. Wherever he went, he received a rousing welcome, with local politicians in attendance, like in New York in 2014. The Indian media sent correspondents to cover the events.
The enthusiasm has tapered off somewhat, but that does not mean that the groundwork has stopped. American activists have long said that many politicians and administrative officials are supported and funded by local Hindutva-oriented groups, and they pursue Hindu agendas.
This newfound aggression is not limited to hostility towards other communities. Academics, especially those who do research on India, are frequently targeted in vile and threatening terms. A conference on Dismantling Global Hindutva in Boston was attacked by Hindu groups and participants were subjected to the vilest abuse. In Australia, 13 academics resigned from the Australia India Institute, protesting against the Indian High Commission’s interference.
Indian diaspora politics is mirroring what is happening back in India. The same polarisation, the same social media campaigns, the same political and official patronage and the same violence. Dissent, even a different point of view, is not tolerated, neither from the local pro-Indian government groups nor by the diplomatic missions.
The violence in Leicester is likely the beginning of more such tensions. There is a new, ugly mood in Hindutva groups overseas. There will be retaliation, and a cycle will begin. The situation needs assertive management, not hand-wringing about multiculturalism. Local governments stand warned. The minority model is no longer the ideal model.
‘PayCM’ posters making Karnataka BJP corruption poll issue
Posters in Bengaluru bearing BJP’s Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s face on a QR code titled ‘PayCM’ were removed by the state police. It looks like a Congress initiative, because the QR code points to www.40percentsarkara.com, which it launched recently, along with the corruption helpline 8447704040. Last week, billboards targeting Bommai were seen in Hyderabad. The ‘40% commission’ tagline is flying, putting the BJP’s “double-engine” government on the back foot. The figure is the sum of all the cuts that the Karnataka State Contractors Association said their members have to pay to officials, elected representatives and ministers. The association wrote to PM Modi about this in July last year. Looks like the Karnataka Assembly elections will be fought online, and the Congress is setting the agenda.
Prime Number: 7%
India’s “GDP growth is revised down from ADO 2022’s forecasts to 7% for FY2022 (ending in March 2023) and 7.2% for FY2023 (ending in March 2024) as price pressures are expected to adversely impact domestic consumption, and sluggish global demand and elevated oil prices will likely be a drag on net exports,” Asian Development Bank said in a supplement to its flagship ADO report.
Tejas Harad strips down the question of why it is wrong to exclude Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims from the reservation pool in the Dalit category.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
Politics that harps on preserving ancient Indian “values” and mores cannot be counted on for economic upliftment. A fundamental break with the social status quo is vital, writes Seema Chishti.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes that Leicester shows that the Indian state is now going to intervene in a partisan manner in these conflicts. A Vishwaguru wearing a robe of Hindutva cannot but export all the divisions that come with it.
In the Karnataka hijab case, the Supreme Court could go beyond the ‘essential religious practices’ test, and engage with the real issue ― the human beings before it, their rights, and how to balance them with state claims in the public sphere, writes Gautam Bhatia.
It is ironic that the government, which is serving completely uncooked food to 800 million Indians, is calling the 1991 reforms half-baked, writes Subhash Chandra Garg.
Pradip Phanjoubam writes that although particular legislation may be silent on certain matters of justice, all human societies uphold unwritten and intuitive senses of rectitude. This civilisational quality seems to be on the wane in the political arenas of the northeast.
While collecting official statistics will always be a purview of state institutions, they must be governed by independent bodies that can ensure scientific integrity and broad oversight, writes Sonalde Desai.
Diptendra Raychaudhuri writes that the BJP could fall short of a majority in the Lok Sabha in 2024. Mamata Banerjee’s new ‘Modi good, Shah bad’ narrative aims to exploit this opportunity and can come to the aid of ‘good’ Modi.
Manmohan Bahadur writes that India’s economy would be on a shaky foundation if it isn’t backed by credible hard power. Leaders should realise that in geopolitics, every nation is on its own, notwithstanding alliances and pacts.
Vedanta-Foxconn’s move to Gujarat from Maharashtra exposes BJP propaganda that a ‘double engine’ government helps progress and development, write Sunil Gatade and Venkatesh Kesari.
Syed Akhtar Mahmood, an economist and former lead private sector specialist in the World Bank Group and Sushant Singh discuss the economic situation in Bangladesh and its dependence on textile manufacturing. Mahmood explains Bangladesh’s journey towards surging social indicators, and shares how India looks like from Dhaka.
AR Rehman’s song ‘Mallipoo’ was a single-shot sequence. Cinematographer Siddhartha Nuni says he was “inspired by the French New Wave Movement and looked at creating a very naturalistic visual grammar for the film.” Choreographer Brindha Gopal and he had to break down what went into staging the song in a single shot.
Watch the trailer of the Rehman musical Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu.
Over and out
Long before India began to invest in aircraft carriers to dominate the Indian Ocean, the Cholas and the Mings were on the job, writes Anirudh Kanisetti in The Print.
In an interview with BBC Hindi, Prahlad Modi says his brother Narendra Modi “left home in 1970 and became a darling of Bharat Mata. He is Heera Ba’s (his mother’s) darling only in name.” He also said that “people say that those who get into politics develop skin like a crocodile’s”. The interviewer reminded him of Modi’s encounter with a crocodile as a child. He brushed it aside. “Ask Modi about it,” he said.
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