Modi’s on the road again, and this could be the end for Sterlite Copper in TN

Front Page

On the road again: PM Narendra Modi begins his three-day visit today to Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia to boost India’s Act East policy and strengthen ties with ASEAN member countries. He plans to discuss regional security, as well as economic and business partnerships. The Times of India reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 1 June keynote address at Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security meet, will be the first for an Indian head of government.

Tamil Nadu has finally ordered the permanent shutdown of the Sterlite copper plant in Tuticorin and “sealed” the premises “permanently”. The Times of India reports that the order came hours after deputy chief minister O. Panneerselvam, along with other ministers, visited injured protesters at the Tuticorin government hospital. As many as 13 people were killed in last week’s police firing during a fresh wave of protests against the plant’s proposed extension. The plant has been at the centre of protests for decades.

With the assembly session in Tamil Nadu slated to begin today, the government’s move is clearly intended to take the teeth out of the opposition’s determination to bring nationwide focus on the Sterlite deaths. The DMK-led opposition has been agitating for the removal of chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami for some time.

Not everyone will be celebrating the closure of the Vedanta Limited plant, though. The Indian Express informs us that the copper smelter accounts for 40 per cent of India’s annual copper production, and its shutdown will impact at least 800 small and medium sector enterprises in the electrical sector.

Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit
File photo of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit in Tuticorin | PTI

The polls in western UP’s Kairana parliamentary constituency, in which the BJP is in a straight fight with the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, were marred by the fact that several electronic voting machines (EVMs) stopped working, Hindustan Times reports. The malfunctioning of the EVMs and VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail)  machines resulted in long queues. The Election Commission blamed the heatwave, but added that reports were “exaggerated” and that it would take a call today on re-polling, as demanded by opposition parties, The Times of India adds. 

The by-election in Maharashtra, Manasi Phadke reports for ThePrint, was equally chaotic. The voter turnout in both Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia constituencies was low, at 46.5 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively.

NCERT books for students of classes VI to X will carry new or additional information on ancient Indian philosophy, ayurveda, yoga, teachings of Upanishads and smritis, and the scientific achievements of ancient India. The Indian Express quotes HRD minister Prakash Javadekar as saying that the NCERT will work on giving students a better understanding of Bharat and its “glorious past”. 

The time of death will decide bills in Delhi hospitals, according to the Aam Aadmi Party government’s new draft policy issued Monday. Hindustan Times says that, according to the policy, “if a patient dies within six hours of being taken to a hospital emergency, 50 per cent of the cost of treatment will be waived. If the death occurs within 24 hours, 20 per cent of the total bill amount will be waived”. The Delhi government also proposed that private hospitals in the capital should only be allowed up to a 50 per cent profit margin over the procurement price of medicines and other consumables, The Hindu adds

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj doesn’t want to talk to Pakistan as long as people keep dying on the border. “Terror and talks can never go together,” The Indian Express quotes her as saying. She said that while the comprehensive bilateral dialogue was on hold, talks at other levels, including NSA-level discussions, would go on. 

Delhi Metro’s newest and most ambitious expansion, the Magenta Line, has been launched. It connects Kalkaji Mandir to Janakpuri West section, thereby directly linking west Delhi to Noida via IGI airport’s Terminal 1D. Business Today says the line will reduce commute time from Noida to Gurugram significantly. 

Media Watch

Eight months after the tragic murder of fearless journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, her Washington DC-based ex-husband and Times of India senior editor Chidanand Rajghatta has chosen to tell the story in his book, Illiberal India: Gauri Lankesh and the Age of Unreason. A few hours after her death in 2017, Rajghatta wrote a moving obituary for Lankesh on his Facebook page. That essay, which recollects their early days of friendship and romance and divorce, as well as the revival of their bond, has became the basis of this full-fledged memoir.

A group of Nepali women journalists have successfully scaled Mount Everest. Rosha Basnet (Rastriya Samachar Samiti), Kalpana Maharjan (Mega TV), Rojita Buddhacharya (NTV) and Deuralee Chamling, a freelancer, were part of the First Women Journalists Everest Expedition-2018 (FWJEE18) team that scaled the world’s highest peak at 6 am on 23 May. 

Pushp Sharma, the man behind the Cobra Post sting that allegedly exposed the willingness of several media owners and proprietors to use deliberately slanted stories for a price, has two criminal cases registered against him. The first accuses him of carrying out fake sting operations, while the second has been registered “on charges of cheating, forgery and promoting enmity between different groups”, Ananya Bhardwaj reports for ThePrint in a comprehensive story.

Cobrapost journalist Pushp Sharma
Pushp Sharma, the journalist behind the Cobrapost expose | YouTube/Newslaundry

Business Class

After the takeover by American retail giant Walmart, online retailer Flipkart is gearing up to take the battle to Amazon’s door. Flipkart is looking for top executives to strengthen its leadership, reports The Economic Times.

Despite huge efforts from Venezuela, India has refused to deal in its local cryptocurrency ‘petro’ for oil trade, reports The Economic Times. Venezuela, which has the world’s largest reservoir of crude oil, is unable to trade its oil because of US sanctions and hence offering discount to countries that agree to trade in ‘petro’.

News it’s just kinda cool to know

Mamoudou Gassama, a Malian migrant in Paris, scaled a building with his bare hands to save a four-year-old child hanging from a fourth-floor balcony. French President Emmanuel Macron offered him citizenship Monday as a sign of honour. His “Spiderman-style rescue”, as The Financial Express is calling it, was viewed millions of times online.

Airtel’s Sunil Mittal and his family are looking to invest more than $1 billion in a hotel chain founded by his son-in-law in London, Live Mint reports. The money would come from a unit of Mittal’s Bharti Group that handles the founding family’s wealth, and will help Sharan Pasricha’s Ennismore “acquire and convert properties in trendy urban areas in the US and European cities into hotels aimed at appealing to younger travellers”.

Point of View

To ease tension in the Kashmir Valley, home minister Rajnath Singh offered talks with the Hurriyat and Pakistan. The government has also declared ‘cease-ops’ for the holy month of Ramzan. The Hindu, in its editorial, welcomes the move, writing, “A window of opportunity has been created. The need now is to move quickly and seize it.”

File photo of security personnel in Anantnag district of south Kashmir | PTI

Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal its draconian abortion law Saturday. The Indian Express, in its editorial, hails the move, writing that “this vice-grip of patriarchy and religion has loosened in a span of six years, bringing in astonishing change”. It adds, “…It was the tragic death of an Indian woman, Savita Halappanavar, in 2012 that pushed Ireland to the brink — and to its credit, it stared at the abyss and walked back to the light.”

In light of the BJP government’s fourth anniversary at the Centre, the party and the government have been leaving no stone unturned to mark the occasion. Journalist Manini Chatterjee, in her column in The Telegraph, writes, “But outside the small circle hovering around Shah and Modi, there are others in the BJP who are not quite so sanguine, who are a little more aware of the complexities of Indian politics, of the limits of arrogance and the cult of personality.”

As many as 46 children, aged between one month and six years, are languishing in different jails of Odisha because their mothers are imprisoned. Former CBI director R.K. Raghavan, in his column in The Hindu, writes that the government must draw attention to the status of women prisoners and their children. “I do not make a plea for a reprieve for women who transgress the law. What I advocate here is a less harsh response to women overstepping the law and some concessions with regard to detention before trial,” Raghavan says.

News website Cobrapost conducted sting operations to purportedly show how some media houses were ready to promote extremist content in lieu of money. Ashoka University vice-chancellor Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes in his column in The Indian Express that “a number of prominent media institutions have over the years become a toxic amalgam of veniality, fanaticism, irresponsibility and subservience to power. The media has gone from being the saviour to democracy to being one of the principal threats to it”.

The World Bank’s March 2018 version of ‘India Development Update’ has some critical remarks about the goods and services tax (GST). Bibek Debroy, chairperson of the Prime Minister’s economic advisory council, in his column in The Economic Times, argues that the criticism is unfounded. He writes, “In a less-than-perfect world, there will be tax lawyers, chartered accounts and legalese, the last necessary step to reduce litigation. GST, in Australia or in India, doesn’t make the world perfect. Is the world simpler than it was before GST? That is the question.”

Prime Time

Sterlite plant shut down only ‘hollow damage control’: Zakka Jacob of CNN News18 held a discussion on the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to shut down the Sterlite copper plant in Tuticorin in the wake of the police firing that killed 13 people. Accusing AIADMK spokesperson Muralidharan of being stuck in the past, Jacob said the “mere transfer of police officials and personnel won’t suffice, accountability needs to be established”. Manu Sundaram, of opposition DMK, accused the government of having done nothing for the people. “This plant closure has nothing to do with the criminal liability of people getting killed,” Sundaram said.

BJP MLA Rajkumar Thukral vows ‘vigilante vengeance’, on national TV: Uttarakhand sub-inspector Gagandeep Singh’s protection of a young Muslim man from a mob was the subject of Arunima’s primetime show, The Big Debate, on CNN News 18.  The man was reportedly strolling on the premises of a temple with a girl when he was attacked. The BJP MLA for Rudrapur, Rajkumar Thukral, claimed the man had misbehaved with the girl and was trying to convert her, saying it was a classic case of ‘love jihad’. Arunima pointed out that the FIR mentioned no complaints of misbehaviour from either the girl or her parents.

“The girl, who is a Class XII student, was given jeans, pants (sic) and t-shirt by the Muslim youth,” Thukral said, adding that “the administration should take action or the Hindu Sena will have to”. Fellow panelist Maulana Masood Qasmi said though religious spaces were not spots for romance, this particular issue should not be turned into a religious debate.

The Congress-JD(S) ‘khichdi alliance’ in Karnataka: On Republic TV’s 10 o’clock show, Arnab Goswami moderated a debate on Karnataka CM Kumaraswamy’s statement that he was “at the mercy of the Congress” and not the people of Karnataka.  Goswami asked, “Is the khichdi government in Karnataka nearing its functional end?” and proceeded to laugh for the next five minutes of the show.

During the debate, called #CongressMercyGovt, Goswami used phrases like “laughing stock” and “comedy show” for the JD(S)-Congress alliance in Karnataka, while BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma said “it is breaking up before it has even formed”. The latter then said the Congress earlier had a “robo PM” and now it had a “robo CM”. Tanveer Ahmed of the JD(S) held his own, insisting that all was well in Karnataka.

Bajrang Dal — ‘armed and ready’ in Madhya Pradesh: Preeti Choudhary began India Today TV’s To The Point with footage of Bajrang Dal activists undergoing firearms training at Biora, Madhya Pradesh, against which the Congress has filed a police complaint. She pointed out that the state had not taken any action against the organisation. Bajrang Dal leader Devendra Rawat and BJP spokesperson Suresh Makhua insisted the training was aimed at self-defence. There is nothing wrong or illegal with protecting the Hindu community, Rawat said.

Senior journalist Saba Naqvi described the ongoing situation as a manifestation of the culture of majoritarianism. “The law is only as good as the people who choose to implement it,” she said.