Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
Another big lithium find in India
Back in February, the government announced that it had discovered the first ever reserve of lithium in Kashmir. Now, another reserve has been uncovered in Rajasthan—even bigger than the one in J&K. Lithium is a rare metal that is critical in the manufacture of electric vehicles, phones and laptops—often called ‘white gold’.
Why it matters: “[T]he discovery could aid India's push to increase the number of private electric cars by 30% by 2030, as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions to tackle global warming.”And officials claim that we may now have enough to satisfy 80% of India's total demand. (Mint)
The disappearing ‘The Kerala Story’
Theatres in Tamil Nadu have decided to stop screening ‘The Kerala Story’—after protests by Muslim groups and local parties. There were fears of violence but also this: “The film was screened only in the cities. Since it is a Hindi film and has no recognisable faces, it will not have patronage.” In other words, the likely box office returns weren’t worth the grief.
However, in Bengal, the government has banned the film for “promoting false narratives to defame particular communities.” CM Mamata Banerjee oddly used the occasion to take aim at… the ruling CPI-M party in Kerala (?!):
“Why (make) ‘The Kashmir Files’? to humiliate one section (of people). What’s this ‘Kerala Story’? I am not supporting the CPI-M party, they are working with the BJP. I am talking about the people of Kerala. Instead of me, it was their duty to criticize the movie. I am sorry to say this but I will tell the Kerala CM that it's sad that your party is working with the BJP and it is the BJP which is showing these distorted stories.”
Winners of the crony capitalism index are…
The Economist released its annual rankings for the crony capitalism index. It measures which countries are favourable for filthy rich oligarchs who profit from cosying up to the government—to land fat contracts, special subsidies etc. According to the Economist’s data, the number and wealth of these kinds of capitalists are growing:
- Their net worth has jumped from $315 billion—or 1% of global GDP 25 years ago—to $3 trillion or nearly 3% of global GDP.
- Around 65% of the increase has come from America, China, India and Russia.
- 40% of crony-capitalist wealth derives from autocratic countries and amounts to 9% of their GDP.
- The worst of the lot is Russia—only one-fifth of Russian billionaires’ wealth is derived from non-crony sectors.
- Crony-sector wealth amounts to around 2% of GDP in America.
- In China, crony wealth has actually dropped from 4.4% of GDP in 2018 to 2.5% this year—due to President Xi’s crackdown.
- In India, wealth from crony-capitalist sectors has risen from 5% to nearly 8% of our GDP over the past decade.
The Economist has lots more details and data points.
Pakistan loses out on Asia Cup
The Asian Cricket Council rejected the cricket board’s proposal to split the tournament between venues in Pakistan and the UAE. India has refused to play any matches in Pakistan. So the PCB offered a solution—allowing Indians to play their matches in the UAE. But the other three member countries—Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India—rejected the idea. The stated reason: humid conditions in the Middle East in September pose health risks for players. The tournament will now be hosted by Sri Lanka.
FYI: the president of the ACC board is Jay Shah. OTOH: the Pakistan board decided to host its domestic Super League matches in the UAE due to the high cost of security arrangements. What to watch out for: whether Pakistan shows up for the One Day International World Cup in India in October. (The Telegraph)
Syria re-enters the Arab League club
The organisation of 22 Arabic-speaking nations has invited Syria back into the league. The irony is that Syria was kicked out in 2011 for President Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on Arab Spring protests. Twelve years later, Syria is back—still helmed by Assad—who has committed far greater crimes against his citizens since he wrestled back power in 2021. Why this matters: this is mostly a symbolic ‘screw you’ gesture aimed at the US—which has done its best to isolate Assad on the international stage:
His restoration to the Arab fold reflects a broader political shift unfolding in the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia is increasingly flexing its economic muscle and seeking to cement its role as regional power broker. As well as working to reintegrate Syria, the Gulf kingdom has been trying to bring about a cease-fire in Sudan and, with Chinese mediation, has restored ties with Gulf rival Iran.
FYI: the vote was unanimous. (Bloomberg News, paywall, Reuters)
Starbucks India is going desi
Worried about competition from the likes of Tim Hortons—of Chicken Makhani Ravioli Pasta fame—Starbucks has unveiled a more bharatiya menu. Why settle for a latte when you can grab an overpriced masala chai, elaichi chai or filter coffee? As Mint notes:
India’s coffee market is still evolving, and Starbucks sits at the more premium end of the market with prices that can reach upwards of Rs 300 for a small cup of coffee. However, it inspires aspiration among consumers who are willing to pay a premium price for coffee. The company’s products are significantly more expensive than filter coffee and tea sold at roadside stalls, which are available for as little as Rs 10-20.
The new menu solves this problem by giving you smaller servings for somewhat lower prices. The khana includes the likes of tandoori chicken and paneer sandwiches—which is about as novel as your average IndiGo menu. Where’s the chole kulcha flatbread, Starbucks? (Mint)
Also making big moves: Truecaller—which is rolling out its caller ID service for calls on WhatsApp and other messaging apps. It is very well-timed for Indians—who have been inundated with scam calls from international numbers. Of course, Truecaller has been called out for serious data privacy violations in India—which makes this a bit ironic. FYI: India is the company’s biggest market—accounting for 250 million of its 350 million global users. (The Telegraph)
Tiger Woods sued for sexual harassment
The golfer is being sued by his ex-girlfriend—who was an employee at one of his restaurants when he started dating her. Erica Herman claims that Woods threatened to fire her if she did not sign a non-disclosure agreement about their relationship. Now, this is not a typical #MeToo case—where there is unwanted advances or physical or verbal abuse involved. According to US law: “A boss imposing different work conditions on his employee because of their sexual relationship is sexual harassment.” FYI: Herman is also suing Woods for forcing her out of his Florida residence—claiming it violated an oral agreement. (CNN)
Three things to see
One: Shubman Gill is branching out into voice acting. He will be the voice for the Hindi and Punjabi versions of ‘Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse’. Peter Parker has been reinvented as Pavitr Prabhakar:
Pavitr Prabhakar is a poor Indian boy who moves to Mumbai with his aunt Maya and uncle Bhim after receiving a half scholarship. He is teased and beaten by other boys at school until he encounters an ancient yogi who grants him the power of a spider to fight evil threatening the world.
Check out the promo below. (Mint)
Two: The team that brought you ‘The Family Man’—writer Suparn Verma and actor Manoj Bajpayee—is set to release a new courtroom drama titled ‘Sirf Ek Banda Kaafi Hai’. Bajpayee plays a lawyer prosecuting a godman accused of assaulting a young girl. The movie drops on May 23 on Zee5. (India Today)
Three: Tom Cruise is a manly man of action—be it jumping from cliffs or changing tyres at an F1 pitstop in Miami with the Mercedes team.