Wholesale Inflation Highest In 30 Years; SC Opening Pandora’s Box By Not Applying Places Of Worship Law To Gyanvapi
US plan to wean India off Russian arms, BPCL sale being trimmed down like LIC, Hardik Patel quits Congress, Jignesh case bodes ill for freedom of speech and how the gatekeeping taxman is chosen by PMO
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Snapshot of the day
May 18, 2022
Wholesale price-based inflation soared to a record high of 15.08% in April, the highest in over three decades. Retail inflation, which hit an eight-year high of 7.8% in April, has turned fairly broad-based, said Pranjul Bhandari, chief India economist at HSBC. Month-on-month inflation was even higher at close to 9%. The readings for May and June will be closer to 7% because of base effects, he added, and rise thereafter.
The rupee yesterday hit its all-time intraday low of 77.79 to a US dollar. Traders told Reuters that the RBI started selling dollars via state-run banks around Rs 77.75 levels to help the domestic currency regain ground. The RBI sold a net $20.1 billion in the spot forex market in March to support the rupee, compared with a net $771 million in February, while its net outstanding forward dollar purchases rose to $65.79 billion at the end of March, compared with $49.11 billion at the end of February.
The rupee hit a record low for the first time this year on March 9, blowing past the Rs 76.91 per US dollar reached on April 22, 2020 to hit Rs 77.41. The Indian currency has since hit new lows multiple times. Equity investors have withdrawn Rs 1.56 lakh crore (Rs $20 billion) since the start of the calendar year and debt investors have shed Rs 14,402 crore (Rs $1.87 billion). The sales, alongside valuation changes of foreign currency holdings, have led to a drop in India’s foreign exchange reserves from a peak of $641 billion in October 2021 to $595 billion now.
Disappointed by a 7.8% plunge in the world’s second-worst large IPO debut this year, shareholders of state-run Life Insurance Corporation want a bumper dividend to stay invested. Should the stock fail to recover, its poor listing will disappoint millions of small investors who bid enthusiastically because of emotional associations with the insurer. The government raised Rs 20,557 crore by selling a 3.5% stake, barely a third of what it had expected to earn.
Confusion about India’s position on wheat exports will deepen as the G-7 countries are expected to pressure India to reverse the ban on wheat exports during the upcoming G-7 summit (June 26-28) in Germany. PM Modi is likely to attend. G-7’s stance on the ban was evident when India sent Minister of State for External Affairs V Muralidharan to participate in a high-level ministerial meeting in New York on ‘Global Food Security ― Call to Action’. The Hindu reports that as the future G20 chair, India has important responsibilities to ensure food security, especially since the Ukraine crisis has rattled global food supply chains.
In conversation with Sidharth Bhatia (a contributor to The India Cable), Rana Safvi lays out the evidence on the Tejo Mahalaya claims and why they were thrown out of court.
But by not staying the report-making exercise and the bid to change the status of a functioning mosque, could the Supreme Court have opened a Pandora’s box in the matter of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi? The jury is out on whether by seeking “a balance”, it did the right thing by the Places of Worship Act (1991), making a case for the protection of the ‘Shivling’ when even the contentious report-making exercise has not been completed and the head of the examining committee was sacked earlier in the day in Varanasi.
Scroll notes that the judiciary, especially the lower courts, has helped Hindutva by not dismissing petitions against mosques out of hand. The Times of India, The Indian Express and Hindustan Times have all run editorials today urging the apex court to decide on the 1991 Places of Worship Act and put an end to rising tensions on the Gyanvapi-Kashi Vishwanath issue, which are likely to spill over to Mathura and elsewhere. Hear The Quint’s legal editor Vakasha Sachdev’s analysis. Meanwhile, the Hindutva fake news machine is passing off a photo from Vietnam as that of ‘Shivling Found in Gyanvapi Mosque Complex’.
“We are in the midst of a social crisis. If we do not rein in these forces, then it will hurt us” ― Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee spoke up on the dangers of communal politics in India.
The Army has concluded its investigation into the killing of 14 civilians in Nagaland’s Mon district, which led to renewed demands to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. It was a case of mistaken identity and error of judgement, according to the force’s Eastern Command chief.
The Times, London, says that the case of Jignesh Mevani, who was arrested for two tweets, which Twitter obediently took down, bodes ill for the freedom of speech in India. Elon Musk’s acid test (if he buys Twitter) in India will be his ability to resist governmental pressure on social media networks. Almost as if on cue, Twitter India’s communications director has been summoned by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for not submitting an action taken report against comedian Kunal Kamra, who had posted a “doctored” video (a parody) of a boy singing a patriotic song for PM Narendra Modi during his visit to Germany earlier this month. Kamra’s parody showed the child singing Mehangai Maar Gayi.
Many Kashmiri Pandits moved back to the Kashmir Valley after government assurances of security. That rehabilitation scheme may now be unravelling, and they are angry with the BJP, reports Scroll.
For Devasahayam Pillai, recently canonised by Pope Francis, the big battle was caste.
With his canonisation, he will be known as Martyr Saint Devasahayam, and not by his caste honorific, Pillai. “The Vatican conducted an inquiry based on the request submitted by us and decided to drop the caste title,” said Father Kulandai.
A presidential advisory commission has unanimously voted to recommend US President Joe Biden to process applications for Green Cards or permanent residency within six months. The proposal will bring cheer to thousands of Indian-Americans, some of whom have awaited them for decades. The current immigration system imposes a 7% per country quota on allotment of the Green Card or permanent legal residency.
More than 6.6 million people died early due to air pollution in 2019, a new study has estimated, and India contributing the highest share of 1.67 million, or 17.8%. Overall, according to a study in the Lancet Planetary Health, 9 million died from pollution, the same as in the last analysis in 2015. “In 93% of India, the amount of pollution remains well above WHO guidelines of 10 μg/m3,” it said.
The New York Times takes up one of India’s most embarrassing truths: the pittance paid to Asha workers, women on the frontlines who helped provide whatever little support there was during Covid-19, often working 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
Farmers have started a sit-in protest at the Chandigarh-Mohali border against the Punjab government after police prevented them from entering Chandigarh. “Our protest will continue until our 11 demands are fulfilled,” says a farmer. AAP hadn’t exactly signalled that it favoured the year-long farmers’ stir in the capital, where Kejriwal is chief minister.
After wrestler Satender Malik lost his 125 kg final yesterday during the trials for the Commonwealth Games at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, the Haryana athlete is reported to have hurled expletives at senior referee Jagbir Singh and also hit him in the face. Within hours, WFI handed Satender a life ban. Newspapers are blaming it on the heat.