The economic slowdown in the country finally makes it to the headlines Wednesday.
Economic Times writes, “The Sensex ended down 6,23,75 points at 36,958.16 while the Nifty fell 183.6 points to 10,925.85.” Business Standard notes, “If not for a 10 per cent jump in shares of Reliance Industries, the Sensex would have dropped nearly 1,000 points.”
Auto industry slump
“Auto sales dip at fastest pace in nearly 2 decades,” headlines Hindustan Times. Passenger vehicles sales in India have declined by “30.98% in July,” logging the “steepest fall in 19 years as the industry continued a nine-month long streak of falling sales that now threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs,” writes HT.
It also mentions the data released by Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), which “triggered a slump in the stock market.”
HT also lists the reasons triggering this slump — “drawn out US-China trade war, protests in Hong Kong and a crash in Argentina’s peso currency that drove investors to safe harbours.”
The Indian Express mentions that the “downturn in the automobile sector” has led to “286 dealership outlets downing their shutters in the last 18 months and at least 15,000 job losses estimated over the last quarter.” Express in ‘Explained’ says that “automakers expect a respite this festival season.”
Kashmir still continues to dominate headlines on page 1 albeit for different reasons.
“SC gives govt more time to lift J&K curbs, says sensitive issue,” writes Express. On Tuesday, Supreme Court “declined to pass any order on a plea, seeking relaxation of the shutdown of communication facilities” as part of the “lockdown” in J&K, it writes. The paper also quotes statements by the Bench, “it is a sensitive issue and some reasonable time must be given.”
“Pak plays Afghanistan card to get US support on Kashmir,” headlines HT. “Pakistan’s envoy to the US has threatened that his country might redeploy troops from the Afghanistan border to the Indian frontier,” it writes. It notes that this comes at a time when “peace talks worth the Taliban” can get complicated.
“Centre sets the ball rolling for J&K polls,” headlines The Hindu. Officials in the Home Ministry indicated that “the earliest possible date for the Assembly election” in the “new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is around March next year.” Hindu also brings to light that under the Reorganisation Act, the new Assembly will have “114 seats of which 24 seats have been kept aside for areas under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir”.
TOI features an exclusive interview with J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik. Malik “criticised” Congress’s Rahul Gandhi for “being ill-informed and was talking on the basis of propaganda across the border”.
On easing restrictions, Malik said, “Curbs on movement of people would be eased after 15th August.” It also notes Malik’s comment on the curbing of internet services: “We don’t want to give that instrument to the enemy until things settle down.”
Unnao rape case
A “Delhi court framed charges against expelled BJP legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar, his brother Atul and eight others, including three policemen, for the alleged murder of the Unnao rape survivor’s father in judicial custody, under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code,” writes HT.
Ahead of Independence Day, TOI, HT and Express feature advertisements covering half of the their front pages. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal puts out advertisements on the Constitution @70 while Boeing, bathes itself in the Indian tricolor for Independence Day (Express)
HT: In ‘Kashmir: Play cards right’, HT writes how the situation in Kashmir has garnered minimal attention from the international community, which clearly has “other priorities”. They have taken Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s word that statehood and development would be restored in the Valley, thereby countering Pakistan’s attempts to make a “global storm” of the issue. But this has only held up because, other than the “odd” protests, Kashmir has been quiet so far. Before there is a change in the international community’s passivity, the Modi government must remove restrictions in Kashmir and pave the way for democratic state elections as soon as possible, writes HT.
TOI: The newspaper discusses the BJP’s rise in Sikkim and its growing stronghold in the northeast, in ‘The kitty swells’. With just 32 seats in Sikkim’s state assembly, 10 out of 13 members from the opposition party Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) joined the BJP, tilting the scales in its favour. The move comes amid the “splintering of SDF” after its shocking loss to rival Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) in the last assembly elections.
Inciting rebellion within already weakening regional parties is a BJP strategy that has proved successful even in states like Assam, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Odisha. However, it comes at the cost of “political morality or the ethics of splitting its NDA partners”, explains TOI.
Governor Malik’s invitation to Rahul Gandhi to review the situation in Kashmir, Priyanka Gandhi’s remark that the moves in J&K were “unconstitutional” made news all of Tuesday. And, once again prime time was dominated by Kashmir.
NDTV India: The channel digressed as anchor Akhilesh Sharma interviewed Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla. The 17th session witnessed 37 sittings during which 35 Bills were passed and has been hailed as the most productive Parliament session.
A forever smiling Birla said, “Parliament can only function with the help of everyone. Unanimity is essential…I believe that maximum time should be given to the Members of Parliament to express themselves. They all represent different factions of our society.”
Sharma pointed out that most Lok Sabha Speakers had been MPs for six-seven terms, but “you became a member of Lok Sabha as recently as 2014.”
“You are right,” replied Birla, “…but this was written in my destiny.”
“What steps will you take…. so that the opposition gets a fair chance to speak?” asked Sharma.
Birla ducked that and said: “It is important to have a strong opposition in a democracy. Everyone has an opinion to put forth their perspective.”
Aaj Tak: With the Centre rubbishing BBC footage of protests in the Valley, anchor Anjana Om Kashyap asked if the government was trying to hide “what is really happening in the Valley?”
Dodging the question, BJP’s Sudhanshu Trivedi attacked the Congress. “Opposing the government is one thing but what the Congress has been saying is (identical) to the statement Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan made,” he said.
Political analyst Tehseen Poonawalla asked a counter question: “Rahul Gandhi was invited by (J&K) governor to the Valley…then why was (Congress leader) Ghulam Nabi Azad asked to go back?”
Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi felt there would be a reaction in the Valley to the “historic step”. She agreed the public was inconvenienced, “but this will ensure their safety…”
Times Now: On The NewsHour, anchor Navika Kumar spoke to Satyapal Malik on his invitation to Rahul Gandhi.
Malik said: “He was talking (about unrest) on the basis of disinformation spread by other foreign agencies. That’s why I invited him. But that doesn’t mean that the offer is unconditional.”
Kumar accused the Congress of communalising events in J&K. She cited former union minister P. Chidambaram’s statement that the BJP wouldn’t have dared to make this move had J&K been a Hindu majority state.
“Most people have gone off balance and have no clear sense of what they want to say. Whatever they say is nonsensical,” said Malik.
India Today: Anchor Preeti Choudhry discussed Supreme Court’s opinion that Kashmir was ‘sensitive’, giving the Centre a fortnight before it considered a petition by Tehseen Poonawalla on immediate withdrawal of the restrictions there.
“The Supreme Court has agreed to review the Kashmir situation in two weeks. Attorney General K.K. Venugopal promised that normalcy would return to the Valley in a few days. All in all, this is a positive situation,” observed Poonawalla.
BJP spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said 15 August is around the corner, “which is a very sensitive date…we all hope that the situation will water down. We don’t want to hold Kashmir to ransom”.
Monika Kohli, J&K High Court advocate, insisted there had been no human rights violations in Kashmir. “The government has only taken precautionary measures,” she said.
And, two popular anchors have been missing from prime time, recently — Nidhi Razdan of NDTV 24×7 and Faye D’Souza of Mirror Now.