It was the first day of the Shaheen Bagh mediation and it really went nowhere. But there’s palpable excitement ahead of US President Trump’s visit even if all the headlines say ‘no deal’ to trade deal. Ayodhya’s Ram temple makes a brief appearance with appointments to the temple construction board. Telcos woes on pending dues continue to dominate the financial papers — and like Shaheen Bagh, here too, no light is in sight.
The Times of India leads with Trump’s statement just days ahead of his visit, “We can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on”. This, says TOI, “virtually confirmed that there will be at best a modest outcome of deliverables…’’
An accompanying report details the “high powered team” with Trump led by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. “He (Trump) will be visiting Ahmedabad, Agra and Delhi in a visit that will last under 36 hours but will be packed with spectacle.”
The Shaheen Bagh mediation, “resulted in an exchange of views on Wednesday.” Alas, There was no “breakthrough’’, notes TOI.
The report on the Ram temple says the appointment of PM’s former principal secretary Nripendra Misra as chairman of the construction committee is in keeping with Modi’s desire that the project be completed in a “time bound manner and with strict adherence to quality”.
And some joy: “Striking out on a less-trodden path, a Lingayat math in Gadag district of north Karnataka is set to make a Muslim youth its pontiff.”
Move over state-owned banks, people bank more on private ones, states The Indian Express in an interesting analysis that found “deposits of top eight private banks” increased by Rs 2.68 lakh crore during July-December 2019 while public banks saw an increase of only 2.58 lakh crore.
And it’s India-China ‘bhai-bhai’ in the lead story as China is seen “joining” India and US to “send a stern message to Pakistan to complete its commitments on action against terror financing and money laundering” ahead of the Financial Action Task Force plenary session in June. This “marks a major shift in China’s position,” concludes the report.
On the Ayodhya temple, Express notes that the appointment of Nritya Ramjanambhoomi Nyas president Gopal Das, and VHP’s Champat Rai as president and vice-president, respectively, of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust ignores that “Das and Rai are among those named by the CBI as accused in the criminal conspiracy relating to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992”.
Trouble brews in Delhi law circles after Justice Muralidhar’s transfer from the Delhi High Court. He was known “for his bold pronouncements on communal violence…”.
Interesting anchor about two young couples from Kerala and three three others, joined hands with the government and built the Digital Arts Academy for the Deaf (DAAD) which will “develop course videos in sign language to teach basic IT skills to the hearing impaired”.
By the way, no Trump on Express page 1.
But Trump leads out in Hindustan Times. The paper reflects the government’s take on the no-show trade deal: India is in no rush to finalise a trade deal… that compromises national interest…’’ it writes. It adds, “..some big ticket defence purchases, including a $2.6-billion deal for Seahawk helicopters, are expected…”
On Shaheen Bagh, the paper is almost disappointed: “the first round of talks” between the mediators and protesters “ended at the same point where the protest began 66 days ago…”
HT notes, on the transfer of Justice Muralidhar, “Usually, senior high court judges are transferred from their parent high court only to take over as chief justice of another high court. Transfer of a high court judge to another high court as a puisne judge is many times viewed as a punishment transfer.” Ouch.
And children continue to get a raw deal in India. A report commissioned by WHO, UNICEF and the science journal Lancet states, “Among 180 countries surveyed, India ranks 131, mainly because of high infant mortality and poor child health.”
The Hindu’s Trump report also gives the Indian government’s version, saying, “Expectations on trade would not overshadow the larger context of the visit, which will be a massive roadshow for Mr. Trump and his wife Melania from the Ahmedabad airport to Motera as well as a joint rally with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath makes headlines with his insensitive comments on the anti-CAA protest deaths in the state. He claimed, the paper notes, that “those who died were killed by the ‘bullets of rioters’” not by the police. Adityanath further added, “Agar koi marne ke liye aa hi raha hai toh woh zinda kahan se jaega? (If someone is coming with an intention to die, how can he remain alive?)”
Donald Trump wouldn’t be pleased reading The Telegraph: it reduces the US President to a single column photograph.
Instead, the paper leads with Shaheen Bagh, noting, “The interlocutors sent by the Supreme Court were welcomed at Shaheen Bagh on Wednesday with a standing ovation.” The bad news? Protesters “suggested little room for negotiations”.
Odd second lead on a poem, the report notes, the “poem (which) makes no reference to the Prime Minister. But the title and a recurring line — ‘when will you show your papers?’— carry echoes of a question that was asked when the protests against the new citizenship matrix had broken out.”
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh is given his due here — with his statement on the economic slowdown being quoted: “If you do not recognise the problems that you face, you are not likely to find credible answers to take corrective action.”
The New Indian Express leads with a shocking accident on the sets of director Shankar’s Indian 2, which left three dead and nine injured. Actor Kamal Hasan was also “on the spot”, says the report.
Like the Express, NIE emphasises the “VHP leaders’’ on the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust board but its mention of the the Babri demolition cases against them is almost a footnote.
Donald Trump’s visit also makes it to page 1 as the paper notes that “bilateral issues will dominate the talks”, however, India does not expect Kashmir to “be a major factor.
Mumbai Mirror reports on a strange case of robbery of sanitary fixtures on trains — “While rail passengers rightly clamour for better facilities on trains and at stations, there’s also an urgent need to crack down on vandals who steal/damage railway property.”
On Trump, the newspaper notes the US President “may be left disappointed as the city civic chief expects not more than 1 lakh people at the roadshow”. Trump, by his own admission, expects seven million people.
The Tribune says Justice Muralidhar’s transfer will see protests by Delhi HC Bar Association today. The Association had also requested the Supreme Court collegium to “revisit and recall” the transfer, the paper notes.
Also all those seeking UK visas, now read this: there’s a new point-based visa system “to attract the ‘best and the brightest’ from the world”. The system will apply “equally to the EU and non-EU countries”.
Another focus is a Delhi court rapping the CBI for not conducting a lie-detector test on its former Special Director Rakesh Asthana “in a bribery case”. The report quotes the colorful remarks by the court which said the co-accused in the Sunil Mittal case “seems like a fictional character from ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘James Bond’ movies”.
The Economic Times is into delinking the trade deal from Trump’s visit, citing statements from both countries — “more deliberations were needed”, it declares.
No respite for telecom companies Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea as their statutory dues might rise by as much as 40 per cent with the “Department of Telecommunications (DoT) now in the process of calculating dues for FY18 and FY19” says an alarming report which also highlights that “Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal and Vodafone Idea chairman KM Birla met FM Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday”.
On Airtel and Vodafone’s crisis, Mint emphasises the meeting between Sunil Bharti Mittal and Kumar Mangalam Birla and the Finance Minister. After the meeting, “Mittal told reporters he did not discuss the dues demanded by the telecom ministry following a court order, but pointed to the stress in the sector”. That’s odd.
If not a trade deal, there’s always a defense deal: an important defence deal is expected to be the “highlight” of President Donald Trump’s visit as India is expected to purchase 24 Seahawk helicopters from American defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp for $ 2.6 billion.
In some good news, markets showed signs of recovery with stocks gaining more than 1 per cent “as investors pinned hopes on likely government measures to counter the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy”.
Business Standard lead is another no deal: the one between Dish TV and Airtel fell through. The report notes that this will cost Bharti Airtel as the deal would have “catapulted” the company “into the position of the largest player in the DTH market”.
On the telecom crisis, the paper highlights the repeated efforts by Vodafone Idea Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla to “seek relief” including the Tuesday meeting with top officials of the Department of Telecommunications.
Also, China’s loss is South Korea’s gain: as Samsung seems to have gained from the coronavirus outbreak in China. The Korean mobile phone maker has taken the lead and has even lined “up nine new handset models for launch” this year while Redmi and LG have lined up only two models.