In what is perhaps the biggest scoop of the day, a Business Standard exclusive reports that for the first time “Consumer spending falls after 4 decades” due to a decline in rural demand, according to an NSO survey. The survey was to be published in June 2019 but was withheld due to “adverse” findings. Experts say the “dip in consumption expenditure” indicated a rise in poverty across the country.
“The average amount of money spent by a person in a month fell by 3.7 per cent” in 2017-18, writes BS. The survey adds that in villages across India, people cut their expenditure on food items, essential cooking items and durable non-food items.
The report adds that the survey period coincided with the implementation of the GST and was just a few months after demonetisation.
The Indian economy’s dire state is also reflected in the other Friday lead in the pink papers— The Economic Times reports that Vodafone and Airtel have raised concerns about their continued existence after unprecedented losses amounting to almost Rs 74,000 crore — “provisioning for adjusted gross revenue-based dues” following a Supreme Court ruling. Business Standard calls Vodafone’s loss the “biggest quarterly loss in India Inc history”.
The mainstream newspapers lead with the SC verdict on Rafale jets and the referral of the Sabarimala case to a larger bench. The Times of India devotes two pages inside to these judgments.
Rafale verdict: The Supreme Court “refused to review its 2018 order that dismissed pleas seeking a court-monitored probe of alleged irregularities in the ₹59,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal”, reports Hindustan Times. All newspapers highlight a concurrent judgment by Justice K.M. Joseph that says that although the review was dismissed “it will not stand in the way of the CBI from taking action on the document after obtaining previous approval”, adds The Indian Express.
The Hindu writes that the bench termed Rahul Gandhi’s phrase “chowkidaar chor hai” while referring to the 2018 verdict as “unfortunate” and that he should be “more careful in the future”.
Sabarimala: TOI dedicates the entire first half of its front page to Sabarimala. The court did not alter its earlier judgment allowing women of all ages to enter the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala but “asked a seven-judge bench evolve guidelines to decide cases involving a clash between the right to equality and the right of denominations to follow their customs”. Express also focuses on the dissenting views of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and R.F. Nariman in “To review or not is only narrow questions, rest later: The 2 in 3-2”.
Others: Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena finalised a “40-point common minimum programme (CMP)… in the first concrete step towards government formation”, reports TOI. Express, in its ‘Explained’ box, adds that the “road ahead is bumpy, especially, for Shiv Sena and its Hindutva core”.
Express’ lead story is its Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture delivered by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar where he “spelt out the government’s approach to foreign policy” and assessed foreign policy choices in the last 70 years. “The purposeful pursuit of national interest in shifting global dynamics may not be easy; but it must be done. And the real obstacle to the rise of India is not anymore barriers of the world but the dogmas of Delhi” he was quoted as saying.
Delhi’s continuing pollution emergency is reflected in HT’s alarming report — “Foul air a slow poison for Delhi lungs round the year”. TOI termed it an “airpocalypse” and reports that forecasts promise little relief in the near future.
Hindu and Express report on a new Facebook finding: “the Indian government’s requests for user data from Facebook increased nearly 37% in the first half of 2019, and at 22,684 queries, was the second highest globally”, writes Hindu
The Hindu: In the Sabarimala case, the SC bench asked a seven-judge bench to draw up a comprehensive judicial policy to deal with matters pertaining to religious freedoms of individuals and denominations citing pending petitions concerning entry of women into a dargah, the practice of female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohras, etc. In “Review and reference”, Hindu calls the reference “problematic” and writes that “it is shocking that the Bench includes the abhorrent practice” of genital mutilation in this category. It adds that keeping the Sabarimala petitions pending “displayed a disquieting inability [of SC] to stand by its previous transformative judgment”. This may also lead to a repeat of the “unsavory” attacks that occurred last year when religious groups attacked women entering the temple.
Prime time news was all over the place, literally.
It went from Times Now on the Supreme Court’s Rafale verdict which quashed all review petitions and chided Rahul Gandhi in #ModiWinsRafaleTest, to India Today’s debate on whether the Sunni Waqf Board should accept the five-acres in Ayodhya as mandated in the Ayodhya SC judgment.
Aaj Tak found tensions rising over the formation of Ayodhya trust, India TV continued with the “maha mess” in Maharashtra, Republic Bharat decried the alleged vandalism of Swami Vivekananda’s statue at Jawarharlal Nehru University, while Zakka Jacob made an alarming discovery: more than 1,000 dead migratory birds in Rajasthan (CNN News18).
NDTV 24×7: “Left, Right and Centre” considered the Rafale verdict.
Congress leader and advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi insisted that the Supreme Court had not given “a clean chit and neither a culpability chit…” but with “the overpowering government we have we cannot expect an independent investigative agency as has been seen with CBI”.
(Justice Joseph, in a separate judgment, had stated that nothing stopped CBI from investigating allegations on Rafale.)
BJP leader Mamata Kale reminded him that, “the Supreme Court said that Rahul Gandhi needs to be careful”.
Republic TV: The trending debate #EnoughJNU saw anchor Arnab Goswami in his element as he wondered if the alleged vandalism of Swami Vivekananda’s statue meant of return of ‘tukde’ gang which had raised “Aazadi’ slogans in JNU in 2016. “Swami Vivekananda is the soul of Indian nationalism. Do you agree?” he asked the panel aggressively.
Columnist Ifra Jan said, “I respect Swami Vivekananda but for me Bhagat Singh is the soul of Indian nationalism.”
Goswami stared at her suspiciously: “Television is a very transparent medium. It reveals a lot,” he declared as though unhappy with Jan’s response.
BJP’s Gaurav Bhatia dwelt on what he saw as the hypocrisy in the students stand: “They (JNU students) said a (fighter) tank cannot be placed in the campus, basically no symbol of unity can be placed but they can raise these slogans?”
Zee News: Anchor Sachin Arora was also scandalised by the alleged desecration of Vivekananda’s statue: “Why does the ‘tukde-tukde’ gang hate Swami Vivekananda?” he asked.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Suneet Chopra denied the allegations on behalf of the Left and accused the BJP student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad: “These people want to spread lies… It has been found out that some people from ABVP were involved in it (the vandalism).”
BJP’s Rohit Chahal said those involved in the incident were those who had “Lenin and Afzal Guru” as their role models not Swami Vivekananda. “What can be expected out of those who condemn our Army also?” he added out of context.
ABP News: Rubika Liyaquat was in the mood for fun: “Rafale = Rahul+ fail” she joked.
There was an annoying distraction to the debate as a CGI Rafale jet would zoom in and out of the screen with a loud noise.
When he could be heard, BJP’s G.V.L. Narasimha Rao challenged Congress on the issue: “If the party tries to raise the issue again, we will expose Rahul Gandhi.”
Lawyer Ishkaran Singh Bhandari said Rahul must issue an unconditional apology. “He (Gandhi) apologised not because he is ‘great’ but because he was asked to,” said Bhandari.
Political analyst Ajay Alok reminded the panelists that the verdict was delivered on Jawaharlal Nehru’s birthday — his soul would be very unhappy today, believed Alok.