Researched by: Rachel John, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
North vs South India: A Youtube explainer
We recently launched exclusive video explainers on YouTube, hosted by our editor Lakshmi Chaudhry. Our latest looks at the so-called North-South divide in voting behaviour—and how it may play out for the BJP.
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. PS: This is also a great way to share splainer with your friends and family—especially anyone who is kinda text-averse :)
The war on Gaza: A secret plan for postwar Gaza
Arab officials held a secret meeting to discuss plans for a postwar Gaza. Most significantly, the summit included the Palestinian Authority—which is being groomed to take over Gaza. What’s interesting: The Saudis apparently declared they are still open to normalising relations with Israel—but only if there are “practical and irrevocable steps by Israel that would create a path towards a Palestinian state, even if such a state won't be established immediately.” A demand that Netanyahu has already rejected. He has also dismissed any possible role for the Palestinian Authority. (Axios)
The increasingly useless Aadhaar card
New versions of the Aadhar card will come with a clear disclaimer that they are “a proof of identity, not of citizenship or date of birth.” All that it can effectively prove is that a certain set of biometrics belong to a particular person—and nothing beyond that. Why this matters: Various government departments now accept Aadhaar as proof of ID or birth date. For example: the Election Commission of India. That is going to change—confusing Indians even more. Two weeks ago, the Employees' Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) announced that the Aadhaar will no longer be accepted as proof of date of birth. The real question: Why do we have the Aadhaar card? (The Hindu)
The great Indian migration to the US
We now have two pieces of fresh data that indicate the expanding numbers of Indian immigrants in the US. The US embassy in New Delhi revealed that one out ten visa seekers in the world are Indian. And that consulates in India processed a “record-smashing” 1.4 million visas during 2023. Most of these are work visas (380,000).
Also this: Indians received 140,000 student visas—more than in any other country in the world: “Taken individually, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai now stand as the top four student visa processing posts in the world.” Indian students have also become the largest group of international graduate students in the US. (The Hindu)
Meanwhile, in Japan: The nation now has 2 million foreign workers—the highest ever in its history. Most of them are Vietnamese (25.3%). FYI: Japan is projected to face a shortage of about 11 million workers by 2040. (Bloomberg News via South China Morning Post)
Ads are coming to Amazon Prime
Amazon is getting stingy with its US subscribers. The streaming platform subscription—which comes bundled with a Prime sub—will include ads, as well. That’s the default mode. The ad-free experience will cost $2.99 extra per month. More than monetising its entertainment arm, this is a move to up Amazon’s advertising game:
Amazon has the potential to upend the status quo because it’s the world’s largest online retailer, with detailed shopping profiles on Prime Video viewers. The company has an unrivaled delivery network that can ship millions of products to much of the US population in a day or less. That combination could make the living room TV screen more than a place to spotlight brands. It could compel people to make purchases via smartphones, remote controls or voice-activated devices.
FYI: There is no clarity on whether the same model will be rolled out in India. We already have a Rs 799 ‘Lite membership’ tier that has limited benefits—and includes ads. (Bloomberg News, paywall, The Verge)
Rise of shark meat on Indian menus
Shark meat is traditionally eaten by low-income and tribal communities on the coast—primarily because it's cheap. But it is now becoming trendy—popular with upscale restaurants—especially those catering to foreign tourists. A new study found that close to 251.6 tonnes of shark meat are sold every year in restaurants—the highest number were in Goa (35.8%), followed by Tamil Nadu (34.6%) and Maharashtra (4.6%).
Why this matters:
Worldwide, shark and ray populations have declined by more than 70% over the last 50 years. In India, despite a decline in shark fin trade, demand for meat trade and consumption remains high. India is home to around 170 species of sharks, but 11% of shark and ray species are at risk of extinction.
Point to note: Researchers say middle- and upper-class consumers can choose not to eat shark meat at restaurants—unlike local communities for whom it is a staple meat. Mongabay has lots more on this worrying new trend.
A key African bloc falls apart
The context: Set up in 1975, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States was aimed at promoting “economic integration.” In recent years, three of its founding states witnessed military coups—Niger in 2023, Burkina Faso in 2022 and Mali in 2020. ECOWAS suspended these countries and imposed heavy sanctions—in an effort to pressure the military to cede power.
What happened now: The military leaders of all three countries—which have formed their own alliance—announced their withdrawal from ECOWAS:
ECOWAS “under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to its member states and its population”, read the statement. The three countries accused the regional body of failing to support their fight against “terrorism and insecurity”, while imposing “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions”.
Why this matters: The stretch of land covering the border areas of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger has become a base for powerful affiliates of Al Qaeda and Islamic State. The jihadists have found fertile ground in a region wracked by civil war and total absence of governance. Millions of people in six Sahel countries—Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria—are also in the midst of a severe humanitarian crisis.
This mass withdrawal from ECOWAS heightens the risk of political instability—and of the Sahel region becoming the next hub of terrorism. There are also geopolitics involved—as in, worries about the rising influence of Russia in the region. See our Big Stories on Niger and Burkina Faso for lots more context. (Al Jazeera)
Spotted: Amelia Earhart’s long-lost plane!
The context: Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan vanished in 1937—while attempting to circumnavigate the globe. The feat would have made Earhart the first female pilot to fly around the world. Neither of their bodies nor their plane were recovered—making their fate one of the great mysteries in aviation.
What happened now: A deep sea exploration company says it has sonar images of Earhart’s aircraft:
The team spotted the plane-shaped object between Australia and Hawaii, about 100 miles off Howland Island, which is where Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were supposed to refuel but never arrived. The shape of the object in the sonar images closely resembles Earhart's aircraft, a Lockheed Electra, both in size and tail.
If true, this confirms a popular theory that Earhart simply ran out of gas—and ended up crashing into the ocean. Other hypotheses included being taken hostage by Japanese troops—or starving to death on a remote island. (NPR)
Have we hit ‘peak MBA’?
That’s what the vice-dean of London Business School Julian Birkinshaw declared—while announcing a new one-year version of its flagship 15-21-month MBA degree. The reasons the program is falling out of fashion include rising tuition costs and the cost of an extended workplace absence. FYI: Applications for MBA courses worldwide declined for the second year in a row in 2023-24—falling by about 5% year on year.
But some things will never change, as Birkinshaw acknowledged: “The MBA still has its allure, but it’s a particular allure to people from emerging economies that are trying to get into European and American employment opportunities.” (Financial Times)
Two things to see
One: Lawmakers in Maldives literally came to blows in the Parliament. Things got so bad that one of the MPs had to be taken to the hospital. Watch the video of the altercation below—which puts our neta dramas to shame. (The Telegraph)
Two: Fans of ‘Despicable Me’ rejoice! The trailer of the fourth film in the series just dropped–seven years after the last instalment. Our fave villain Gru—voiced by actor Steve Carell—and his minions are back. We now have Gru Jr—which may be adorable or just plain annoying. The movie hits theatres on July 3. (Collider)