Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
BBC charged with foreign exchange violations
The context: First, the BBC aired a two-part documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots—which seemed to imply that then Chief Minister Modi deliberately chose not to intervene. The government swiftly moved to have the video taken down from YouTube—and scrub any links on Twitter. Weeks after, the Income Tax department conducted a three-day survey of BBC India’s offices—accusing it of tax evasion (see our explainer here).
What happened now: The Enforcement Directorate has unexpectedly entered the picture—and filed a case charging BBC India of foreign exchange violations. The probe is supposedly looking at foreign direct investment (FDI) violations—but there are no details on the specific charges. What’s also interesting: the two PMs—Modi and Sunak—spoke to each other on the phone yesterday. While Modi raised the issue of security provided to the Indian embassy, Sunak doesn’t seem to have said anything about protecting the Beeb. (Indian Express)
Good news about exports
In the midst of a weakening global economy, India exported a record $447 billion worth of goods in FY23—up about 6% from last year. But our trade deficit also set new records—touching $122 billion during the year. The reason: our imports grew even faster—jumping by 17.38% to a record $892 billion. (Mint)
Speaking of booming exports: China shocked experts by revealing a sudden spike in exports. They rose by 14.8% compared to last year—and broke a five-month streak of declining exports. Economists had predicted a 7% fall in March—and warn against reading too much into the surge:
The wave of COVID outbreaks in December and January likely depleted factories' inventories. Now that factories are running at full capacity, they caught up the cumulated orders from the past. The strong export growth is unlikely to sustain given the weak global macro outlook.
Abortion pill ban: The latest update
A US appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling that blocked all access to mifepristone—one of two drugs used to terminate a pregnancy at home (we have all the details in this Big Story). But the conservative bench also imposed far stricter rules—the drug can only be dispensed up to seven weeks of gestation—not ten. And a person can no longer order it by mail—which is a disaster for women in states where abortion is now virtually illegal. And to be clear: there is no legal or scientific basis for these arbitrary restrictions. The Justice Department is now seeking the intervention of the Supreme Court—the same court that erased the constitutional right to an abortion. (CNBC)
Comcast’s big bet on India
The world’s second-largest broadcasting and cable television company will invest Rs 1,600 crore ($200 million) in Bodhi Tree Systems. The investment fund is led by former Star and Disney India chairman Uday Shankar and Rupert’s estranged son James Murdoch. This will give Comcast a small indirect stake in Ambani-controlled Viacom18—which will get the lion's share of this infusion of funds. Mint has all the convoluted details of this biz deal. What we got out of this: in India, all roads lead to Mukesh-bhai.
The great Pentagon leak: The latest update
Last week, over a hundred confidential documents were shared on Discord—leaking sensitive US intelligence—especially on Russia and even some allies like Israel (explained here). Washington Post has now identified the man behind the leak as “a young, charismatic gun enthusiast”—who clearly had top level access to military information.
He shared highly classified documents with his online buddies—who shared his love for guns and God—in an invitation-only Discord clubhouse. What’s striking is that this person—who is identified only as OG by his fellow members—shared top secret info just to show off to the boys: “If you had classified documents, you’d want to flex at least a little bit, like hey, I’m the big guy. There is a little bit of showing off to friends, but as well as wanting to keep us informed.” And yeah, he appears to be racist as is this bizarre boy’s club. You can use the splainer gift link to read the WaPo investigation.
The mysterious deaths in Bhatinda
On Wednesday, four army soldiers were killed in their sleep at the military station. Oddly enough, they may have been shot with a service rifle stolen from the station—along with 28 ammunition rounds. Police say it is not a terrorist attack but an “inside job”—and are questioning the eyewitness account provided by Army personnel.
To make things even more weird, another soldier died of a gunshot wound early Thursday morning—in what is said to be a case of suicide the Army hasn’t said very much other than urging the media to “refrain from speculation” considering “the sensitivities involved.” Why this is worrying: Bathinda Military Station is one of the largest army bases in India—which serves units in Punjab and parts of Rajasthan. (Indian Express)
NPR cancels Twitter
National Public Radio will stop tweeting on its 52 official Twitter handles—but isn’t shutting down any of the accounts. The reason: Twitter first labelled its handles as “state-affiliated media” and then changed it to “government-funded media.” FYI: NPR only receives 1% of its budget from the US government—which has no oversight over its content. Also this: Twitter defines government-funded media as "outlets where the government provides some or all of the outlet's funding and may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content.” Public TV broadcaster PBS has stopped tweeting since Saturday but said it is open to returning to Twitter. (Washington Post)
Say hello to New York City’s 'rat czar'
The Big Apple’s mayor Eric Adams has appointed a Director of Rodent Mitigation: Kathleen Corradi—a former education department employee who battled rats in public schools. No one knows how many rats there are in New York City—but sightings have increased in recent years. And Adams is especially obsessed with destroying them:
Adams, who has often expressed a deep hatred for rats, posted the job last year, seeking someone "somewhat bloodthirsty" with a "general aura of badassery" and offering an annual salary between $120,000 and $170,000.
Reuters has more details (because you really wanna know more).
Also cracking down: Bangalore—which has announced new rules for the iconic Cubbon Park. Visitors can no longer eat food, cuddle, take photos or vids, play sports or climb trees. From here on out, security guards armed with megaphones will patrol the gardens of the 300-acre park and “inform people to maintain the decorum.” Moral policing of couples—many of whom have nowhere else to meet—is hardly new. But now that every fun activity has been deemed illegal, residents have to limit themselves to vigorous exercise like adarsh healthy citizens. (Times of India)
South Korea woos its shut-in youth
Like Japan, loneliness is a big problem in South Korea—especially among the youth. Three percent of Koreans between the ages of 19 and 39 are isolated. Many of these young people are from poor families.The government will now give everyone between the ages of nine and 24 a monthly living allowance of 650,000 won ($490)—to lure them out of their homes.
This is a welfare measure to deal with a much bigger problem: a high rate of youth unemployment and a rapidly declining birthrate. Recluses are not economically productive and don’t have babies. FYI: South Korea is set to become one of the world’s most aged countries or territories by 2044, outpaced only by Hong Kong for the largest share of people over the age of 65. (The Guardian)
Two things to see
One: The Kolkata Metro did an underground test run under the riverbed of the Hooghly river. It is the very first metro to travel underwater—a la the Chunnel. This tunnel is 32 metres below the ground. The train will travel the 520-metre stretch under the river in 45 seconds. You can see the test run in this Deccan Herald video. (Indian Express)
Two: ‘Bloody Daddy’—starring Shahid Kapoor—is the official adaptation of the 2011 French film Nuit Blanche. But a lot of fans think the teaser has John Wick vibes. All we can say is that it is indeed bloody.