Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath, Smriti Arora & Anannya Parekh
A big raid on Byju’s
The Enforcement Directorate raided two offices of India’s largest edtech startup—and the residence of its founder Byju Raveendran. The company is accused of violating foreign exchange regulations—but the details are extremely vague. Every media report parrots the figures below—offered by officials:
The search revealed that the company received Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of Rs 280 billion (28,000 crore) from 2011 to 2023. Further, the company has remitted Rs 97.54 billion (9,754 crore) to various foreign jurisdictions during the same period, in the name of overseas direct investment. The company has booked around Rs 9.44 billion (944 crore) as advertisement and marketing expenses, which included amounts remitted to foreign jurisdictions.
But none of these figures indicate a ‘crime’ per se. All we have is a hint of wrongdoing in this bit:
The company has not prepared its financial statements since the financial year 2020-21 and has not got the accounts audited, which is mandatory. Hence, the genuineness of the figures provided by the company are being cross-examined from the banks.
The ED was apparently acting on “various complaints” received by “private” individuals. Byju’s has denied all wrongdoing, of course.
Point to note: Byju’s filed its audited financial statements for financial year 2020-21 after an 18-month delay—with major changes made to how the company documents its revenue. And it has not yet announced the numbers of the fiscal year that ended in March. (The Hindu)
Wrestling’s #MeToo controversy: The latest update
The context: Top Indian wrestlers such as Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik have alleged there is widespread sexual abuse in the sport. And it starts at the top—with wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh—who is also a BJP MP. They have refused to call off their protest until action is taken against him. See our Big Story for more details.
What happened now: After six days of protest at Jantar Mantar, Delhi Police filed two FIRs on Friday—charging both Brij Bhushan Sharan and the federation’s assistant secretary, Vinod Tomar—who is his close aide. Both have been booked under IPC Sections 354A (making sexually coloured remarks) and 354D (stalking). Brij Bhushan has denied all allegations and vowed to clear his name. (Indian Express)
A flurry of Twitter-related stories
One: Late last week, the twitter handles of ANI and NDTV were briefly blocked—for unknown reasons. Amusingly, in its message to ANI, the company said: “In order to create a Twitter account, you must be at least 13 years old. Twitter has determined that you don't meet these age requirements, so your account has been locked and will be removed from Twitter." In any case, both have now been restored—without explanation. (Reuters)
Two: CEO Elon Musk has a new plan to help news outlets monetise their stories on Twitter. The platform will roll out a pay-per-view model—where users who don’t have a subscription (say, to the New York Times or splainer) can pay to read a single article. After the first 12 months, Twitter will take a 10% cut of the revenue. This is similar to what he will offer creators who create paid content on the platform. This ‘one click’ service will be available starting this month—but no one knows how this micro-transaction offer will work. (The Verge)
Three: The bromance between Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and its new owner appears to be over. Dorsey—who just launched his Twitter rival Bluesky—has suddenly lost faith in Musk’s leadership. And of course, he signalled this U-turn on Bluesky:
Users of Bluesky, a buzzy new social media platform that is being touted as a potential alternative to Twitter, prompted the discussion. They asked Dorsey if he believed Musk was the right leader for Twitter, to which Dorsey replied, “No… Nor do I think he acted right after realising his timing was bad. Nor do I think the board should have forced the sale. It all went south,” Dorsey wrote.
This is the same guy who said when Musk bought Twitter: “Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness.” How things change when you have a competing product to sell. (Washington Post)
Bad news about extreme heat in India
A new Cambridge study brings bad news about heat waves. It found that extreme heat left 90% of India at risk for heatstroke, food shortages, and even death last year. The findings are far more dire than the government’s own climate change vulnerability assessment. Example: “[R]esearchers found that all of Delhi—home to 32 million people—is endangered by severe heat waves, but the government says just two of the city’s 11 districts face high climate risk.”
The most chilling quote from the study: “Long-term projections indicate that Indian heat waves could cross the survivability limit for a healthy human resting in the shade by 2050.” Also this:
As the nation’s heat-caused death count rises, its economy will slow, the researchers project. By 2030, intense heat will cut the capacity for outdoor work by 15% — in a country where, by one estimate, “heat-exposed work” employs 75% of the labour force. Heat waves could cost India 8.7% of its GDP by the end of the century.
Grist has lots more details.
In other bad news: Nepal has issued a record number of permits—463—that allow mountaineers to climb Mount Everest. The move has sparked fears of “traffic jams” at the “death zone”—which is the final and most dangerous part of the ascent. The worry is that climbers will run out of oxygen supplies as they wait to climb to the top. But the government insists all will be well thanks to good weather—which allows plenty of ‘windows’ for climbers to ascend the peak.
Why this matters: 11 people died on Everest in May, 2019—“more than twice the number of climbers who had perished the previous year—a figure widely attributed to the crowded conditions and the extra physical stresses caused by waiting in temperatures of -30°C, at an altitude where oxygen levels are not sufficient to sustain human life.” This 2020 Guardian piece is a must-read report on those deaths—based on eyewitness accounts. (Reuters)
A shortage of anti-rabies vaccines
A severe shortage of these vaccines is threatening lives—with at least four people dying of dog bites in March. The real tragedy is that the ‘shortage’ is entirely a result of shoddy administration. Both the union and state governments fail to properly assess demand—and do not submit orders in time. The result is a potentially fatal shortfall. For example, in September, Delhi had only 5,000 doses in stock. But the capital witnessed nearly 13,000 dog bites registered in Delhi alone from January to December. Damning data point to note:
A senior official from Bharat Biotech says that the company has the capacity to manufacture 4 to 5 million vaccine vials a month. Even if the manufacturing plant is functioning at 80% of its full capacity, the company can churn out 3.2 million to 4.2 million vials each month. In an ideal situation, States should forecast demand and stockpile rabies vaccine over a period of two years.
FYI: There are on an average 6 to 7 million dog bites every year in India. And each dog bite requires five doses of vaccine. (The Hindu, paywall)
A Dutch sperm donor scandal
A court in the Netherlands has ordered 41-year-old Jonathan Meijer to stop donating his sperm. The reason: he is suspected of fathering more than 550 kids worldwide. The ruling was issued in a case filed by the donor children and their parents—who used Meijer’s semen:
They argued that Meijer's continued donations violated the right to a private life of his donor children, whose ability to form romantic relationships are hampered by fears of accidental incest and inbreeding.
Meijer has also been ordered to write to clinics abroad asking them to destroy any of his semen they have in stock. (Reuters)
Two things to see
One: If Priyanka Gandhi is showing off her culinary skills, then it must be election time somewhere. The Congress leader staged a photo-op to display her dosa-making skills in Karnataka—which goes to the polls on May 10. Okay, not bad—and certainly better than ours. See the longer one-minute clip—or the abbreviated version below. (NDTV)
Two: Preparations for Charles’ coronation are heating up—and each day, the Palace reveals a quirky ritual involved. The latest is something called an ‘anointing screen’—used to shield the monarch at the most sacred moment of the coronation. Where his mum used a golden canopy, Charles’ updated version features a hand-embroidered tree, which includes the names of the 56 Commonwealth nations—including India. You can see it below. (The Guardian)