Weeks After Modi Documentary, Taxman ‘Surveys’ BBC Offices in Delhi, Mumbai; When ‘National Champions’ Humiliate the Nation
Inflation above 6%, CJI ‘annoyed’ by Luddite CJs, China rail project near LAC, 1.12 lakh daily wagers killed themselves in pandemic period, Railways almost moved against Hanuman, Modi cult soars
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Snapshot of the day
February 14, 2023
Happy Valentine’s Day. Today, the income tax authorities ‘surveyed’ ― a neologism for ‘raided’ ― the Delhi and Mumbai premises of the BBC. Staffers’ phones were apparently confiscated. Weeks ago, the UK public broadcaster aired a documentary focusing on PM Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots of 2002, when he was chief minister. The Indian government had blocked the documentary on YouTube. The Congress has called the raids a symptom of an “undeclared Emergency”. A BJP national spokesperson called the BBC “Bhrasht Bakwaas Corporation (corrupt, rubbish corporation)”. India is now among the world’s 30 worst nations in terms of press freedoms, and raids on the BBC will heighten perceptions of the erosion of democracy as India holds a meeting of G20 foreign ministers a fortnight from now.
The Editors Guild of India says the income tax department’s action is part of “the trend of using government agencies to intimidate and harass press organisations that are critical of government policies or the ruling establishment”. BBC’s former deputy chief of bureau in India, Satish Jacob, had this to say about the tax raids:
“What I find most worrying is that the Modi government no longer cares about the optics of such an action. I don’t think anyone believes the official line of this being a mere survey. It is nothing but petty politics and an attempt to muzzle an international news channel, when all the Indian channels have been browbeaten into submission.”
Price rise data for January, unveiled by the Union government yesterday, shows that retail inflation crossed the 6% mark, the highest level in three months, according to the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI). It increased to 6.52% in January from 5.72% in December and 5.88% in November. Rural inflation in January is or 6.85%, creeping up on 7%. Food inflation is at 6.19%, with cereals and products at 16.12%. Fuel and power is at 10.84%. It is higher than in peers like Brazil and South Korea, while India had the lowest inflation rates among peer economies earlier. South Korea’s inflation was 5.2% and Brazil’s, 5.77%.
Yesterday in Parliament, the Modi government tried to discredit the World Inequality Report 2022 by saying it has “questionable methodology”, and refused to comment on its finding that in India, the top 1% hold 40% of national income. Instead, it cited an increase in GDP per capita!
The Supreme Court yesterday said nobody except the accused, victims’ representatives and their lawyers shall be present in court in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence cases in which Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra’s son Ashish faces prosecution. The order came after the victims’ lawyer claimed that Ashish’s supporters were creating an “intimidatory atmosphere” in court. But the defence lawyer claimed that more of the victims’ people were present and suggested in camera proceedings. The apex court passed the order for smooth conduct of the trial.
FactChecker.in has shown that Amit Shah is wrong: crimes against women haven’t declined 50% in Tripura under the BJP. The Union home minister also uttered several half-truths in Tripura ahead of the Assembly election.
Another Dalit student died by suicide in IIT Bombay on Sunday: Darshan Solanki allegedly leapt off a hostel building. The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), IIT Bombay, alleged that it is a case of “institutional murder”. “We have been raising the issue of having a Dalit counsellor for years now, someone who is more caste-aware, but the institution has failed its students time and time again,” said cell member Pranav Jeevan, adding that a Dalit counsellor has been sought for years. “The institute is not supporting its students and is enabling discrimination. When counsellors themselves are against reservation, how can you expect a Dalit student to turn to them for help?”
Reinforcing its core demands of the Naga flag and constitution, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isaak Muivah (NSCN-IM) has released a 2023 calendar replete with pictures of its activities last year. The January and February pages open with the picture of the Naga national flag captioned ‘Naga National Flag & Constitution (Yehzabo) not negotiable’. “Naga Flag is a symbol of national pride and identity, a symbol of our history — one people and one nation. It provides us spiritual guidance and reminds us of the courage and sacrifices of Naga martyrs. It reflects national sentiment and honour,” the description reads.
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India remains Russia’s main buyer of defence equipment with procurement of about $13 billion (Rs 1 lakh crore) of military hardware in five years, plus over $10 billion in orders, said Interfax and TASS, quoting Dmitry Shugayev, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation. India accounts for 20% of Rosoboronexport’s order book. It exports arms worth $15 billion and the order book has remained steady at around $50 billion, reports Interfax.
India is an important voice in efforts to find a mediated solution to the Ukraine conflict though there is “an acute shortage of Russian willingness” to end the war, Jens Plötner, foreign and security policy advisor to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, told reporters in Delhi. Plötner also said that Germany views the nearly three-year border standoff between China and India with concern and seeks dialogue. He was in Delhi to prepare the grounds for a visit by Scholz later this month.
Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra and Nepal PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ discussed cooperation in energy, trade, connectivity, agriculture, education, and culture in Kathmandu yesterday. Kwatra, who is on a two-day visit to Nepal at the invitation of his counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal, is the first senior Indian official to visit Kathmandu since Prachanda formed the government last December. This is also Kwatra’s first standalone visit to Nepal since he became foreign secretary in May last year. Kwatra invited Prachanda to visit India.
China will soon begin construction on an ambitious new railway line connecting Xinjiang and Tibet running close to the LAC and through disputed Aksai Chin, according to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government. The “medium to long term railway plan” for Tibet, made public last week, envisages expanding the TAR rail network to reach 4,000 km by 2025, up from the current 1,400 km, including new routes that will run up to China’s borders with India and Nepal. The most ambitious route is the Xinjiang-Tibet railway, which will follow the course of the G219 national highway. The construction of the Xinjiang-Tibet highway through Aksai Chin had triggered tensions between India and China in the lead-up to the 1962 war.
TikTok, banned in India since 2020, has laid off 40 remaining workers in the country amid increasing regulatory scrutiny of Chinese tech companies. The dismissed employees, who mostly supported markets outside India such as Dubai and Brazil, have been told that TikTok believed it cannot restart Indian operations “because of the government’s stance on Chinese apps”. Before the ban, India was the app’s largest market by downloads, making up over 18% of the global total in June 2020, compared with the US’ 8.7%, according to market intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
The Supreme Court yesterday asked the Union government to respond to a plea that no elections have been held to the posts of Deputy Speakers in Parliament and five state legislatures. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud issued notice to the Centre and requested the Attorney General of India R Venkataramani to be present for the hearing. The five legislative Assemblies are Rajasthan, UP, MP, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand.
The CJI is “really disturbed” by the attitude of certain High Court Chief Justices who are disbanding technological infrastructure built with public money. He said they cannot just switch off cameras and mics and insist on the physical presence of lawyers and litigants. “The problem lies when you have some Chief Justices who are technologically friendly and others who think the other way… I am going to ensure that everybody is online. There is now no question of ‘I like technology and I don’t’, any more than saying ‘I will use cell phones, and I will not’. Everybody uses cell phones. You better use it too… This infrastructure for virtual courts is provided using public funds. I think all the Chief Justices of High Courts need to learn that they have to be on board,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said in a manner that The Hindu reports as “visibly annoyed.”
Poor engagement by South Asian states with international human rights mechanisms is allowing rights violations against minorities and indigenous peoples, the South Asia Collective finds. From extrajudicial killings to the arrest of activists, enablers of the situation include the states’ failure to sign or ratify essential international standards, and poor implementation of measures already in place.
Women of working age (15-60) spend 7.2 hours on unpaid domestic work, compared to 2.8 hours spent by men. Research conducted by an IIM-A professor finds “time poverty” ― “even wage-earning women spend twice the amount of time on unpaid domestic work in comparison to wage-earning men”. It also says that “men spend nearly 150 minutes more per day on paid employment relative to women.”
As per NSS survey findings, among outpatients seeking treatment, a small proportion of 6.43% adopted AYUSH in 2014, while 90.26% preferred allopathic medicine. What is more alarming is that the adoption rate of AYUSH decreased to 4.54% in 2017-2018. The data also shows that the population combining both systems is negligible.
A research study released by the Indian Institute of Human Brands covering 18 celebrities from southern India with a sample size of over 5,000 respondents shows that Tamil superstar Suriya is No 1, above popular names, scoring 84 in overall rankings, followed by Telugu star Allu Arjun who had 79. Vijay Joseph followed Suriya from Tamil cinema, while from Kannada, Kiccha Sudeep topped, and Fahad Faasil and Dulquer Salmaan shared the spot for male actors in Malayalam cinema. Across Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, the TIARA study (Trust, Identify, Attractive, Respect, Appeal) was conducted for the first time for celebrities only from southern India.
‘Delhi Woman's Body Found In Freezer At Dhaba, Owner Caught, Was Dating Her,’ ANI tells us. None of the media outlets running the story chose to name the accused or his victim in its headline. He is Hindu, unlike Aftab, who killed his Hindu lover last year and instantly became a headline.