Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath, Anannya Parekh, Niveditha Ajay & Rhea Saincher
Killer heatwave in North India
Fifty four people at a single Uttar Pradesh hospital have died over the past three days. Most of them were over the age of 60. A total of 400 patients were admitted to the hospital in this short period. The region experienced a maximum temperature of 43°C on Sunday—which is 5°C above normal. And the relative humidity was at 25%—which intensified the effects of the heat. Eastern Bihar witnessed 42 deaths in two days. What’s notable: the Chief Medical Superintendent of the UP hospital who publicly linked the deaths to the heatwave has been removed—for “giving a careless statement on deaths caused by heatwave without having proper information.” (Associated Press)
CoWIN data leak: The latest government response
The context: Last week, a hacker appeared to have accessed the data of over a billion people who registered for the Covid vaccine. A Telegram bot called Truecaller was spitting out all the details of a person’s personal information including vaccine location—when provided with their phone number or Aadhaar ID. The bot has been shut down and the government has since issued a number of confusing denials. Our Big Story has all the deets.
What happened now: At a conference, the Information Technology minister of state Rajeev Chandrasekhar claimed that the leak was faked:
“It is the simplest thing today to mimic the data breach and then create a corresponding narrative saying [that the data has been breached.] In 24 hours, I can create a bot on Telegram. I enter your number, Rishit,” he added, pointing towards an Indian Express journalist, “because I have your number on my phone, and that throws out some publicly known data about you. Then I can say that the Indian Express payroll database has been breached.”
To review: The government is no longer trying to investigate the leak—but is intent on finding those who ‘faked’ it: “This is a deliberate attempt to mimic a breach, and it is being investigated.” As to why the data looked accurate, the minister blamed it on Aadhaar data that was hacked before 2014—because all hackers retired the moment the BJP came to power? Sigh! (Medianama)
The great ‘Adipurush’ debacle
ICYMI, the glitzy remake of the Ramayana—already infamous for terrible VFX—landed with a resounding crash in theatres on Friday. It managed to piss off devout Hindus—who were mortified by the crass dialogues once reserved for Twitter trolls. Example: Hanuman declaring “Tel tere baap ka, aag bhi tere baap ki, aur jalegi bhi tere baap ki” (The oil is your father’s, the fire is also your father’s, and what will burn is also your father’s).
Others were both amused and appalled by the sheer cheesiness of the production—which cost a whopping Rs 5 billion (500 crores). Example: Saif as Lankesh/Raavan supposedly getting a multi-head massage from snakes. Never mind that one unfortunately placed saanp lol:
Not helping matters: Raghav (Ram) channelling his inner Jesus:
The great flip flop: Under fire for disrespecting the sacred text, writer Manoj Muntashir claimed the movie was not an adaptation of the epic—but “inspired” by it. This in turn lead to some amusing ‘before’ and ‘after’ fact-checks:
Muntashir now says a number of the dialogues will be revised—and “added to the film” this week.
Point to note: The movie has reportedly already earned Rs 2.4 billion (240 crores) over two days—but the damning word-of-mouth may well doom future earnings.
Meanwhile, in Kathmandu: The mayor has ordered all theatres to stop screening Bollywood films. The source of Nepalese rage: the movie refers to Sita as the “daughter of India.” Sita’s home is supposedly in Janakpur, Nepal—where her father King Janak had his kingdom. Hence, she is also known as Janaki, the daughter of Janak. (The Hindu)
Related watch: We found this heartfelt video critique (in Hindi) by Ajeet Bharti interesting. If people can be furious that a flick based on a comic or novel is not reverential of its source, why not at the ‘Adipurush’?
Also flaming out: Meghan & Harry—whose $20 million deal with Spotify has been terminated. This means Meghan’s podcast—’Archetypes’—has been cancelled. The joint statement announcing the split said the Sussexes and Spotify are "proud" of the collab. But one of the company’s top podcast execs called the couple “f**king grifters.” Also: “I gotta get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try and help him with a podcast idea. It’s one of my best stories.” Others are not as harsh but everyone agrees that their brand is in trouble. BBC News has more on that angle.
Making badminton history in Indonesia
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty scored a first when they beat Malaysian world champions Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik—to lift the Indonesian Open trophy. They became the first Indians to ever win a Super 1000 badminton tournament. Also: their record against the Malaysian duo until yesterday was 0-8. They beat the world champions 21-17, 21-18 in just 43 minutes. Scroll has a nice piece on their long road to victory. (Hindustan Times)
The Ariha Shah custody case: The latest update
The context: In 2021, the German child welfare service took custody of a seven-month baby of an Indian couple in Berlin. Two years later, they are still struggling to get her back—despite the intervention of the Indian government. Our Big Story explains what happened—and the child protection system in Europe.
What happened now: A German court issued two judgements—both denying custody to the parents Dhara and Bhavesh Shah. It also rejected their request to move her to a foster home in Ahmedabad. Ariha will instead remain with the child protection service Jugendamt. Here’s the rationale for the ruling:
While denying custody to Ariha’s parents or the Indian Welfare Services, the court relied on two injuries that she had suffered — a head and back injury in April 2021 that happened while she was being bathed and a genital injury in September 2021. The court reasoned that parental care was to be denied so as to “avert the existing danger to the child”. The court noted that it had come to the conviction “that the mother and/or father (had) intentionally caused the serious genital injuries of the child” and that the parents were unable to “explain the events in question in a sufficiently consistent manner.”
As we noted in our Big Story, child protection services in Europe can often be over-zealous—especially in cases involving immigrant parents. But child abuse is real, as well. (Indian Express)
Is there life on Saturn’s moon?
Scientists agree that an environment needs six essential building blocks in order to create and sustain life: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur and phosphorus. Until now, they had detected five of these in the ocean on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Last week, they found the sixth: phosphorus—which is considered an absolute must because it “plays a crucial role in numerous biological processes, including the formation of DNA and energy transfer within cells.”
Also noteworthy: “The concentrations of phosphorus in Enceladus' ocean were found to be at least 100 times higher than those observed in Earth's oceans even though phosphorus is one of the rarest compounds found outside of Earth.” This isn’t proof of life but it makes this moon “the most promising place, the lowest-hanging fruit, in our solar system to search for extraterrestrial life.” (Smithsonian Magazine)
Five things to see
One: Here’s good reason for every Rishi Sunak cheerleader to rethink their choices. Here, he is mocking trans people—for no effing reason except to get a bunch of laughs from his Tory audience. This is exclusive footage captured by Pink News—which has more details.
Two: Here's a good reason for every Democrat to lose sleep. President Joe Biden ended a speech on gun control by declaring, “God save the Queen!” Also: what happens when you leave the destiny of your country in the hands of old men. (BBC News)
Three: The Italian authorities returned a 2,800-year-old stone tablet to Iraq—which ended up in Italy in the 1980s under unknown circumstances:
The tablet — whose text is written in cuneiform, the Babylonian alphabet — bears the insignia of Shalmaneser III, the Assyrian king who ruled the region of Nimrod, in present-day northern Iraq, from 858 to 823 BC.
The Iraqis are diligently working toward recovering antiquities looted from the country—especially during the war with the US. We did a two part series on artefacts stolen from India—looking at the upper class Indian thieves who steal them and why the Western museums buy them. (Agence France-Presse via Barrons)
Four: Check out the trailer of Zoya Akhtar’s reboot of ‘The Archies’—which is ‘Indian’ by the loosest definition possible. It also stars a Bollywood bonanza of nepo babies—including Suhana Khan (Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter), Khushi Kapoor (daughter of Sridevi), and Agastya Nanda (Amitabh Bachchan’s grandson). Its Netflix release date has not been announced.
Five: Sticking with trailers, here’s one for Tom Harper's spy thriller ‘Heart of Stone’—which stars Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan and Alia Bhatt—as the villain, no less. It drops on Netflix on August 11.