Researched by: Rachel John, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
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Researched by: Rachel John, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
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.
The context: For one year, tens of thousands of farmers angrily protested the new farm laws introduced by the government. In November 2021, the government withdrew the laws—perhaps concerned about the state elections in Uttar Pradesh. We did detailed explainers on the laws and Minimum Support Price—which was one of the key triggers for the protests.
What happened now: Farmers are planning to march on Delhi again today—after negotiations with the government collapsed. The original alliance—the Samyukta Kisan Morcha—will not be spearheading the rallies this time. The ‘Dilli Chalo’ protests will be led instead by a splinter group of SKM—plus a new alliance called Kisan Mazdoor Morcha—a total of 250 farm unions.
What they want: The key battle is over the Minimum Support Price. This is the price paid by the government for key crops like wheat and rice—to ensure that farmers make some kind of return on their harvest:
As such, MSPs provide a floor for market prices, and ensure that farmers receive a certain “minimum” remuneration so that their costs of cultivation (and some profit) can be recovered.
Right now, the government only pays MSP for certain crops—and in only certain states. The decision to do so rests entirely with the union government:
The government does not procure all farm produce at MSPs. Actual procurement (at MSP) varies with crop and geography. Also, MSPs have no statutory backing — a farmer cannot demand MSP as a matter of right. The farmer unions who led the yearlong agitation that led to the repeal of the three farm laws, want the government to enact legislation conferring mandatory status to MSP, rather than just being an indicative or desired price.
The farmers want MSP to be guaranteed by law. They also have a long list of other demands—including cancellation of debt—which you can check out here.
What’s next: As the farmers set out for Delhi, security officials will do their best to block the roads—with concrete blocks, concertina wire and iron nails. There is a complete ban on gatherings, processions or rallies and entry of tractor trolleys carrying people—in anticipation of widespread tension and “social unrest.” The Hindu has more on what to expect. The Telegraph captures the mood among the farmers. You can see the barricading below:
The Israeli troops rescued two hostages. The extraction was accompanied by airstrikes that killed 74 Palestinians during the operation:
Hassouna, displaced from northern Gaza, said his relatives were killed at least 4 km (2 miles) from the military operation. "We have nothing to do with anything. Why did you bomb us?" he asked. People in Rafah said two mosques and several residential buildings were hit in more than an hour of strikes, which also ripped through tents where people had taken shelter.
New York TImes and Reuters have more on a “night full of horror” in Rafah. Reminder: Israel is intent on launching a ground assault on the last remaining refuge for Gazans—despite being warned that it would result in a “bloodbath.”
The Opposition alliance continues to haemorrhage leaders and parties. A key ally in Uttar Pradesh—Rashtriya Lok Dal—announced its plan to join the BJP. In 2019, the RLD was key in keeping the party out of western Uttar Pradesh. This time, the NDA can aim to sweep all 26 seats in the region. FYI: This is also the reason why Rahul Gandhi’s yatra decided to skip this region—to avoid the inevitable embarrassment. The Quint has more on the RLD defection.
Also out the door: Veteran Congress leader in Maharashtra—Ashok Chavan. He is the ninth former chief minister to leave the party in the past 10 years. As usual, there was very little effort to retain his loyalties—despite repeated warnings from local party leaders. Why this matters:
But, behind the scenes, the party is bracing for more trouble, with apprehension rife that some MLAs close to the ex-CM (sources put their number at half-a-dozen) could quit and potentially spoil the Congress’s chances of winning a Rajya Sabha seat from the state in elections later this month.
Two other senior leaders from Maharashtra—Baba Siddiqui and Milind Deora—recently defected, as well.
Who is to blame? Once again, party leaders are blaming Rahul Gandhi’s ill-advised yatra:
More and more Congress leaders now are raising questions about the timing of the Rahul Yatra. “It was ill-advised strategically. Had the party consulted the veterans… we would have said no. Just sit on the laurels of the earlier Yatra, focus on coordination with INDIA parties, organise big joint rallies in state capitals… at least one a week… that would have had far more impact,” a leader said.
Indian Express looks at why Congress remains the weak link in any Opposition alliance.
The two parties favoured by the military—Nawaz Sharif-led PMLN and Bilawal Bhutto’s PPP—are working on a power-sharing agreement for the next five years: “It has been proposed that a PMLN candidate will serve as Prime Minister for three years and PPP’s leader for two years.” FYI: This is exactly the kind of formula that brings down governments closer to home. Meanwhile, Imran Khan’s PTI has decided to stay in the Opposition—despite winning the greatest number of seats. The reason: It doesn’t want to enter into an alliance with its rivals. (The Hindu)
In 2022, the company launched ‘Intercity Legends’—which promises to deliver food from iconic restaurants anywhere in the country. According to a lawsuit filed by a Gurgaon resident, the food is actually prepared in a cloud kitchen instead:
Upon tracking the delivery, Mall discovered that the delivery partner picked up the order from an undisclosed third-party location within the vicinity, not from the original restaurant as displayed during the order placement… The packaging… was not consistent with the original restaurant's branding.
The killer bit of evidence: “The delivery person's admission that the orders were picked up from a warehouse in Gurgaon, raising questions about whether the food was reheated before delivery.” The case will be heard at the end of March. (NDTV)
The Ukraine Defence Ministry claims that Russians are using Starlink satellites—in parts of Ukraine occupied by its forces. And it said the use of Starlink terminals “is growing” and “starting to become systemic.” That’s pretty damning for CEO Elon Musk who owns SpaceX—the company that makes Starlink. However, both Moscow and Musk have strenuously denied the accusation. Quartz has more on the story.
The context: The Overseas Citizen of India card is supposed to function the same way as a green card. You get most of the privileges of being a citizen—but with certain restrictions. In 2021, the government decided to restrict an OCI card holder’s ability to work in the country. They would now be required to get special permission to undertake “research activities, journalistic activities, internship or employment with foreign diplomatic missions or foreign government organisations in India.” In 2019, the government famously cancelled the OCI of Aatish Taseer—son of Tavleen Singh—for writing a piece critical of PM Modi in TIME. The new rules followed soon after.
What happened now: According to an investigation by Article 14, the Modi government has cancelled over 100 OCI cards in its tenure between 2014 and 2023. These were people with a history of either criticising PM Modi or government policies. Other than Taseer, they included academics and journalists. Example: Ashok Swain, a professor of peace and conflict studies at Uppsala University in Sweden, writer and activist Amrit Wilson, researcher Christine Mehta and more recently, journalist Vanessa Dougnac.
Here’s what happened with Wilson:
The letter, sent by the high commission of India in London, accused the 82-year-old of involvement in “multiple anti-India activities” and engaged in “detrimental propaganda” against the Indian government, which were “inimical to the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India”. The notice did not provide instances or supply proof of such involvement to support the allegations, only giving Wilson 15 days to explain why her overseas citizen of India (OCI) status, granted to her in 2017, should not be cancelled.
Yet any response to these allegations were ignored. Article 14 has more on the invisible campaign against NRI critics.
The beleaguered airline will lay off 1,400 employees—which is 15% of their workforce as part of a “turnaround and cost-cutting strategy.” According to sources, the airline is paying up to Rs 600 million (60 crore) in salaries—and was struggling to pay its staff. The payments to several of its staffers have reportedly been delayed for months. The airline is also trying to raise Rs 22 billion (2,200 crore) to revive its brand—and the cost-cutting was essential to reassure investors who had developed “cold feet.” (Economic Times)
Despite a global ban, Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) is still used to combat malaria in parts of Africa. Now a decade-long study shows that prolonged exposure alters sperm in men—affecting fertility and development of embryos. This is causing birth defects in their children. Why this matters:
"It's long been accepted that the environment is critical to child health and the well-being of the mother because she carries the baby and she lactates, et cetera," said study co-author, Janice Bailey, who worked for Université Laval at the time of the study. "But fathers have been excluded from that equation. We tend to think all they have to do is fertilize."
Bloomberg News via News 24 has more.
One: Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl—but all eyes were inevitably on Taylor Swift who was there to cheer her boyfriend Travis Kelce. You can see the couple share a big kiss that went instantly viral (colour us surprised). More entertaining: Tennis champion Andy Murray’s tweet: “Congrats to @taylorswift13 on winning Super Bowl 58 👏 a stunning performance.” (Hollywood Reporter)
Two: A rare copy of a classic textbook on human anatomy—published in 1555—fetched $2.2 million in an online sale at Christie’s. Written by Renaissance anatomist Andreas Vesalius, it is titled ‘De humani corporis fabrica libri septem’. We include this primarily for the cool vid of the illustrations below. (Artnet)
Three: The much awaited trailer for ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ dropped during the Super Bowl. The plot is still unclear but we are super excited to see our fave potty-mouthed superhero teaming up with the OG Hugh Jackman. The movie is slated to release on July 26. (Deadline)
Four: Another Super Bowl trailer making waves: ‘Wicked’—starring Cynthia Erivo, Ariana Grande, Michelle Yeoh and Jonathan Bailey. The movie release is slated for October 31. (Variety)
The govt’s notion of surrogacy is rooted in marriage and discriminates against single mothers, queer couples.Read More
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