Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
The great textbook shredding spree
The context: Since 2017, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has undertaken three textbook ‘rationalisation’ exercises. The supposed aim is to reduce the burden of learning on school kids. In the last such exercise, the NCERT excised 30% of the syllabus. We explained the ‘rationalisation’ of school textbooks in this Big Story—including all the cuts made last year. It was part two in a three-part series on our new education policy. You can read part one on the National Education Policy and part three on the common entrance exam.
What happened now: New textbooks reflecting last year’s ‘rationalisation’ exercise hit the market—and contained some unexpected changes. According to the Indian Express, any mention of the Hindu Right’s hatred for Gandhi-ji—and their role in his assassination—is out, as is the ban on the RSS that followed. Also gone: all remaining references to the Gujarat violence in 2002. Here’s the description of Gandhi-ji’s killing before the purge:
At his daily prayer meeting on the evening of 30 January, Gandhiji was shot dead by a young man. The assassin who surrendered afterwards, was a Brahmin from Pune named Nathuram Godse, the editor of an extremist Hindu newspaper who had denounced Gandhiji as ‘an appeaser of Muslims’.
This is how it reads after the purge: “At his daily prayer meeting on the evening of 30 January, Gandhiji was shot dead by a young man. The assassin, who surrendered afterwards, was Nathuram Godse.”
Kalakshetra’s #MeToo uproar: The latest update
The foundation’s board stepped in and took charge—sacking all four employees accused of sexual harassment (explained here). It has appointed an independent inquiry committee led by a former high court justice. And as demanded by the students, the board has rehauled the Internal Complaints Committee—in charge of addressing sexual harassment claims—appointed a new student counsellor, and established an independent advisory committee to oversee Kalakshetra’s management. (Indian Express)
A big fat Adani coal scandal
The latest investigation into the Adani Group is not about its share price or investors—but a coal auction held in March. As per Indian law, there have to be a minimum of two qualified bidders for such an auction. FYI: it was reduced from three in 2021 due to lack of interest. In this case, there were two suitors for four coal blocks (Definition: “Large areas containing coal are divided into blocks, which can then be leased to mining companies.”) But Scroll has discovered that the Adani Group’s rival—Cavill Mining—is linked to the Adanis. Specifically:
[T]he owner of Cavill Mining is also the main promoter of Adicorp Enterprises, a small privately held company that American investment firm Hindenburg Research alleged was used to funnel funds between Adani companies to avoid mandatory related party disclosures.
We strongly recommend you read the rest of the investigation over at Scroll. It’s an eye-opening lesson in coal auctions, as well.
Speaking of Adani: Opposition leaders seem to be converging on a common ‘theory’ that links him to Narendra Modi ahead of the national election. Asked if he was exerting “pressure” on the judiciary—in connection to the defamation case—Rahul Gandhi snapped back:
Why do you always say what the BJP is saying? Every time you say what BJP is saying. There is a very simple thing. Who owns the Rs 20,000 crore in Adaniji's shell companies? It is 'benami'. Who owns it?
Interestingly, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has also been floating a far more brazen version of this narrative:
It’s something to watch for as election fever heats up.
As for Adani’s greatest rival: Mukesh Ambani is doing extremely well. While Gautam-bhai is busy repaying his loans to appease investors, banks are falling over themselves to lend money to Ambani. He just raised a total of $5 billion in bank loans in the space of days. It is the largest fundraise via syndicated loans in Indian corporate history. (Mint)
Italy bans ChatGPT
It became the first Western country to take action against AI chatbots. The reason for the temporary ban: OpenAI unlawfully collects and uses personal data: “[T]here appears to be no legal basis underpinning the massive collection and processing of personal data in order to ‘train’ the algorithms on which the platform relies.” But the decision is a bit muddled since Google’s Bard is not covered by this ban. (Quartz)
Also headed for a ban: Wet wipes in the UK. Around 90% of such wipes contain plastic that does not break down over time. When flushed down toilets, wipes “become snagged and stick together” and cause 93% of sewer blockages. (BBC News)
Soaring rents in namma Bengaluru
Rents in the garden city have doubled over the past year—thanks to a massive influx of engineers. It is now the hottest residential market in India—edging out Mumbai. One reason is that landlords are making up for revenue lost to the pandemic. The other: the rate of new construction has been slow in the city. Here’s how bad it is:
Ramyakh Jain, who moved to Bangalore for a new job, found a two-bedroom rental home for 50,000 rupees ($600) per month in February. It’s one-and-a-half times the rent and only half the size of the apartment he had in New Delhi’s Gurgaon district previously. It took him weeks of scouring the market with the help of as many as 25 estate agents. Even so, he considers it an accomplishment. “I’ve found a roof over my head," Jain said. “I’m among the lucky ones."
Also rising fast: Covid cases in India. Maharashtra recorded 711 new Covid cases in 24 hours—marking an almost 200% increase in a single day. The state has witnessed 11 deaths in the last seven days. Things don’t look good in Rajasthan—where both CM Ashok Gehlot and opposition leader Vasundhara Raje tested positive.
Virgin Orbit shuts shop
Despite his best efforts, Virgin founder Richard Branson has not been able to keep up with his billionaire buddies. His satellite launching company has filed for bankruptcy—less than a week after firing 85% of its 800-strong staff. Virgin Orbit’s attempt to launch the first satellite out of the UK in January failed spectacularly—setting the stage for this shutdown. The company failed to raise funds needed to stay in business despite Branson coughing up more than $70 million over the past four months. (The Guardian)
A restful protection from asthma
Until now, we knew that asthma often leads to sleep-related issues. But a new study shows that getting a good night’s sleep also offers significant protection for people at risk of developing asthma: “Analysis of the data showed that people with both a genetic predisposition and poor sleep habits were twice as likely to develop asthma than people in a low-risk group.” The benefits are much higher for people who don’t have a genetic predisposition—for whom a healthy sleep pattern decreased the risk of asthma by 44%.
FYI: “Healthy sleep” is defined not just by the quantity—seven to nine hours—but also the quality:
Signs of poor sleep quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders (such as snoring or gasping for air).
‘Hindu’ student controversy at LSE
A postgraduate student at the London School of Economics alleges that he’s the victim of a “deliberately orchestrated smear campaign”—aimed at defeating him in a student union election. Karan Kataria says the attempt to paint him as “homophobic, Islamophobic, queerphobic, and Hindu Nationalist” is evidence of a “Hinduphobic” conspiracy.” Reminder: this is similar to the case of Rashmi Samant—who had to step down from her post as president of the Oxford University union. She was called out for old tweets that were deemed “racist and ‘insensitive.” Samant expressed her sympathies for Kataria:
When I was attacked, harassed, bullied and humiliated at the University of Oxford for my Hindu Dharma, origins and background, I prayed that it should never happen to another Hindu on Campus.
Yes, cancel culture is unfairly targeted at the Hindus. How did we miss this? (Indian Express)
Two things to see
One: There was a terrible avalanche in Sikkim—on a road connecting Nathu La pass—which is a popular tourist destination. Seven tourists died—including a woman and child—and 23 have been rescued. Around 20 to 30 people are still trapped under the snow. See scenes of the rescue operation below.
Two: Are you ready for the Blue Beetle? The latest DC universe offering has a Kafka-esque flavour. Yes, beetles are not as icky as cockroaches… but not that much. Then again, we’re loving the funny guy energy.