Researched by: Rachel John, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
North-South jhagda ahoy!
The context: The 15th Finance Commission—which sets fiscal policy for the union government—adopted a new criteria for determining how tax revenues will be distributed among the states. For the very first time, the government gave weight to the 2011 census when slicing the pie—which means states with a higher population (mostly in the North) get more than others with a more successful population control policy (mostly in the South). South Indian states also earn more in tax revenue—per capita—which adds to the sore feelings.
What happened now: The Chief minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah and leaders from five Southern states staged a protest against the tax distribution policy:
Karnataka is number two as far as tax collection is concerned, Maharashtra is number one. As a matter of fact, this year Karnataka is contributing more than Rs 4.30 trillion [4.30 lakh crores] as tax. Karnataka gives Rs 100 (in terms of revenue) to the Centre but gets back only Rs 13. Karnataka has lost Rs 620 billion [62,098 crore] in devolution of taxes in 2025-26 because of the (shift from) 14th Finance Commission to 15th Finance Commission. That is why we are agitating.
Meanwhile, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan has also jumped into the fray. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says the claims are “patently wrong and mischievous.” Even the PM waded into the controversy—accusing Congress of dividing north and south India.
Speaking of North vs South: Our latest video explainer unpacks the big question of the day: will the Ram Mandir help BJP win a staggering 400-seat majority in the 2024 elections? Or will that pesky ‘North/South divide’ come in the way?
Check it out below. Stay tuned for more such explainers on the big fat election coming soon, and be sure to hit the notification button.
War on Gaza: Israel rejects ceasefire plan
Hamas proposed a 135-day ceasefire plan to end the war on Gaza:
According to a draft document seen by Reuters, the Hamas counterproposal envisions three phases lasting 45 days each. The proposal would see militants exchange remaining Israeli hostages they captured on October 7 for Palestinian prisoners. The reconstruction of Gaza would begin, Israeli forces would withdraw completely, and bodies and remains would be exchanged.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has already rejected it, saying: “There is no solution besides total victory”—which he claims is within reach. Also this:
Mr. Netanyahu said he had told Mr. Blinken that after Israel toppled Hamas, Israel would “ensure that Gaza will be demilitarized forever.” Israel would continue to operate in Gaza “everywhere and anytime” in order to protect its security, so as “to ensure that terrorism will not raise its head again,” he added.
Point to note: Saudi Arabia has flatly refused to establish diplomatic relations with Israel “unless an independent Palestinian state is recognised.”
A second point to note: The rejection of the plan spells even greater catastrophe for Palestinians. Israel is planning an assault on the border town of Rafah—their last refuge on the Egyptian border. Netanyahu says the military will target refugee camps in what he describes as “Hamas’s last remaining strongholds.” (New York Times)
Wall Street's growing love affair with India
According to a Bloomberg News analysis, Wall Street is pivoting towards India as the next prime destination for investment—shifting away from China. As giants like Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley plough in billions of dollars, it has triggered a “gold rush” of sorts:
While the bullish sentiment about India isn’t new, investors are more likely now to see a market that resembles the China of times past: a vast, dynamic economy that’s opening up to global money in novel ways. Nobody expects a smooth ride. The country’s population is still largely poor, stock markets are expensive and bond markets insular. But most are making the crossover anyway, calculating that the risks of betting against India are greater.
What’s working for India: Last week, the IMF projected a growth rate of 6.5% for India in the upcoming fiscal year, while China is expected to slow to 4.6%. Also this: in the latest interim budget, the government raised the capital expenditure target for next year by 11.1% to Rs 11.11 trillion (11.11 lakh crore). And the BJP’s assured victory offers stability in terms of policy. (Bloomberg News via Economic Times)
A good related read: This Wall Street Journal (splainer gift link) piece disagrees with the premise—arguing India is not the next China.
In not so great news for India: Amnesty International called out the “bulldozer politics” of the government. Between just April and June 2022, 128 structures were bulldozed by government authorities in five states—and most of them belonged to Muslims. Of these states, Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of “punitive demolitions” at 56—followed by Gujarat (36), Delhi (25), Assam (8) and Uttar Pradesh (3). Four of these are BJP-ruled states. You can read the full report here. (Scroll)
Needed: A new category for hurricanes
According to researchers, hurricanes are becoming so intense due to rising temperatures that we need a new Category 6 to capture their strength. Right now, the scale divides wind speeds into five categories—the lowest is Category 1 at 74 mph or more—and the strongest is Category 5 with a speed of over 157 mph. A Category 5 hurricane typically results in “catastrophic” damage. A Category 6 would capture any hurricane above 192 mph. We’ve already experienced five of these over the past decade—and they’re likely to get more frequent due to climate change. (The Guardian)
In other unhappy climate news: A new study of sea sponges claims temperatures on the planet have already breached 1.7°C—a full half degree higher than the present consensus of 1.2°C. Other scientists strongly disagree. New York Times, paywall, and The Guardian have more nerdy details.
Not helping the planet: Taylor Swift—who is mad at a college student Jack Sweeney for tracking her private jet use. Her lawyers have now threatened to sue him—accusing him of stalking. The real reason: Swift was named the ‘biggest celebrity CO2 polluter’ after an analysis of data published by Sweeney. In 2022, she reportedly flew 170 times between January 1 and July 19—generating 8,293.54 tonnes of carbon dioxide—which is 1,200X an average American person’s emissions in a year. Sweeney’s defence: He’s only using information available in the public domain. (Washington Post)
Cheer up! We have tortoises!
The Aldabra giant—the second-largest land tortoise in the world—has staged a comeback. Around 600 years ago, they were wiped out from Madagascar by hunters. Thanks to a six-year project, they have been reintroduced to the island country. The project started with 12 tortoises in 2018. We now have 152 tortoises thanks to natural breeding. The Conversation has lots more. As you can see, they are excellent-looking tortoises!
Two things to see
One: Roman emperor Constantine famously commissioned a massive 13-metre statue of himself in 312 AD. Thanks to 3D modelling technology, the statue has now been recreated from the surviving nine fragments. You can admire the glory of the ‘Colossus of Constantine’ below. (Associated Press)
Two: We finally have the first look of Francis Ford Coppola’s passion project ‘Megalopolis’. The movie—which has been in the works since the 1980s—stars Adam Driver and Forest Whitaker in lead roles. Coppola self-financed a large part of the movie, which is set in dystopian New York and follows an architect trying to rebuild the city. While there has been no official announcement, Coppola has earlier stated that he wanted to release ‘Megalopolis’ in 2024. The poster suggests a good old-fashioned dystopian flick. (Collider)