The coronavirus is off the top headlines today, replaced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the three service chiefs, amid tensions at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh between India and China.
Financial papers are grim as usual with Mint noting that Uber has laid off a fourth of its staff, but Economic Times sees a glimmer of hope with State Bank of India’s growth projections.
According to the Express lead, tensions appear to be escalating at the LAC with China. In its lead story ‘No change in Ladakh…’ The Indian Express notes Modi’s top level security meeting Tuesday which officials said was ostensibly held to discuss army reforms, but the “military brass is learnt to have apprised the Prime Minister about the evolving situation in eastern Ladakh”, it adds.
Another lead report (‘After meeting Uddhav, Pawar says no threat to govt…’) suggests there’s trouble in paradise — if paradise is Maharashtra and trouble is the coalition state government. Tension over the handling of the coronavirus led to a 90-minute meeting between CM Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar Tuesday, “just hours after the NCP chief met the Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari”, which had “triggered speculation about the stability” of the coalition government.
Almost two months after the migrant workers’ crisis began in the country, the Supreme Court has finally put the Centre and States in the hot seat via “a suo motu petition”. In ‘Inadequacies, lapses: SC seeks answers…’, the paper notes the top court’s directive to the two to provide transport, food and shelters to migrants free of cost. The apex court asked for responses by both to the lapses in their efforts to aid the migrants.
By the way, note a half page Maruti Suzuki advertisement which, perhaps, is a sign that the beleaguered auto sector is slowly shifting gears.
The lead story on The Times of India highlights the China-India standoff in Ladakh with an assertive headline — ‘India firm won’t step back from areas where Chinese troops have intruded’. TOI writes that India will continue to “defend its interests resolutely” and deploy “appropriate resources” to the border.
For those who don’t know, the North is a really hot these days– in ‘sizzling’ New Delhi “super-hot winds continued to pump into the region from the northwest since cyclone Amphan hit Bengal”. The report ‘City sizzles, N India globe’s…’ also reveals that North India on Tuesday was the warmest region of the world.
Like The TOI, Hindustan Times also focuses on `Delhi ‘sizzles…’ on the hottest day in May in years. In its lead story ‘47.6℃: Delhi sizzles…’, HT writes that “it is likely to stay hot till the latter part of the week when a western disturbance could bring some rain — and respite…”
Back to the coronavirus: ‘Maha Covid battle takes political turn’, HT writes that Maharashtra saw a “political war of words” and a “degree of uncertainty over stability” in the Uddhav Thackeray-led government. It noted that there were several interrelated developments, ranging from BJP “stepping up its attack on state government’s handling of the pandemic” to Rahul Gandhi stating that “Congress was not in decision-making role” in the state Tuesday.
The Hindu provides more information on the PM’s meeting with the security chiefs. In its lead, it mentions that Army chief Gen. Manoj Naravane gave a “detailed presentation” on the LAC standoff. The paper also mentions: “The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) denied reports that Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla had been asked to brief the meeting as well”, suggesting it’s not time to worry yet”.
After the World Health Organization suspended the trials for HCQ or hydroxychloroquine, which was previously touted as a possible miracle Covid drug, WHO has now said that its decision does not mean that India should stop testing the drug’s efficacy as a prophylactic — a preventive drug.
In an exclusive email interview (‘No WHO bar on India…’) with Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief scientist at WHO, the paper said “she stressed that India ought to be doing stricter trials to test the drug’s efficacy” and that WHO’s directive “doesn’t imply that India should pause testing the drug as a preventive”.
Below the report on the Supreme Court taking cognizance of the migrant worker crisis, is a joyful picture of a homeward bound man playing with his child while waiting for a Shramik Special train in Mumbai.
In a six-column lead, The Telegraph focuses on the power outage in Kolkata after the havoc caused by the Cyclone Amphan. In ‘Perils of ‘temporary connection’’, the paper notes that the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) will set up temporary connections to help restore electricity. However, the report notes this kind of connection is only meant for basic power usage for fans or lights, but switching on an AC could overload it.
A short report (‘Covid test price cap removed’) notes the change in price for a Covid test. The Kolkata-daily reports that the previous Rs. 4,500 price cap set by the Centre has been scrapped. Now it will be up to “states and Union Territories to negotiate with the [private] labs to fix mutually agreeable prices”.
The Tribune revealed another development in the China-India standoff in ‘PM meets military brass on LAC crisis’. The report mentioned that during the meeting “troop numbers and risk to infrastructure was discussed”. Moreover, defence sources said that India had decided that “road construction along LAC in Ladakh must continue and Indian fortifications and troop deployment must match those of the Chinese”.
In a six-column teaser above the lead, Mint mentions an article in China’s state-run Global Times that said “border friction between India and China is no accident but ‘a planned move’ by New Delhi to seize territory”. Though there is no official confirmation of the numbers, the paper estimates that there are 1,2000 to 5,000 Chinese soldiers along the LAC.
In its lead, ‘India Shrugs Off Day One Chaos’, the paper brings the conversation back to domestic air-travel which has picked up efficiency after a bumpy start. It reports: “…future demand for air travel and the fortunes of domestic airlines, said analysts, will hinge on the course of the country’s economy, hobbled last year by a downturn and now by a coronavirus-induced grinding down.” Next to the report is a strategically placed infographic on the number of Covid-cases in India surging past the 1,50,000 mark.
A week after Ola let go a third of its workforce, Uber has met the same fate. A short report (‘Uber India lays off a fourth of its staff’), notes that the cab service company has “sacked around 600 employees—a fourth of its Indian workforce” in a move to trim costs.
In other grim news, rating agency Crisil “said the Indian economy may contract by 5% this fiscal, slashing its growth outlook for the year from 1.8% in April”. This has been done for two reasons — first, that the Atma Nirbhar economic package is “unlikely to boost the economy in the short run” and second, the lockdown continues to stifle industrial activity.
Unlike Mint, Economic Times leads with some less grim news on India’s GDP forecasts.
In ‘Economy may Contract by Over 40% in Q1: SBI Research’, it notes the State Bank of India (SBI) Research’s prediction that the “Indian economy faces a ‘humongous’ loss in the June quarter”. It “estimates the economy will contract by 6.8% in FY21 after a ‘smart recovery’ in the second quarter and “much better” growth numbers in the third and fourth quarters”, adds the report.