Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Number of the day: 82%

Indian security forces killed 121 militants in the first six months of this year. The statistic to pay attention to: 82% of these were locals, and only 21 were Pakistanis. In other words, terrorism in Kashmir is now almost entirely home-grown. There were also 228 incidents of stone-pelting, 346 civilian protests and 10 bandh calls. These numbers were released amid rumours that the government is poised to abrogate Kashmir’s special status—all of which is keeping the Valley on edge.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The good news about India’s tigers

The latest tiger census indicates that their numbers are increasing at a healthy clip—which is a tremendous achievement given the pressure on forest land. However, the growing population will face fresh hurdles and perils. 


What’s a tiger census? It is touted as the world’s largest wildlife survey. Every four years, forest officials and scientists trek across 193,000 sq miles to count the number of tigers. That count rose from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018—representing a 33% increase since the last census. And that’s a huge achievement. India accounts for over 80% of the global population of 3,159 adult free-ranging tigers.


Why is the number still so low? According to the BBC, between 1875 and 1925, around 80,000 tigers were killed in India—thanks to hunters and poachers. Their numbers continued to dwindle until strict wildlife protection laws were passed in 1972. Since then, the Indian government has made significant moves to protect the animal. The number of tiger reserves have increased from 28 in 2006 to 50 in 2018. A great number of organised poaching rackets have been crushed.


Ok, what does the census tell us? Apart from the overall count, it indicates these significant patterns:

  • There are vast regional disparities. Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh account for nearly half of the increase. Madhya Pradesh chalked up the highest increase (218) to reach an estimated total of 526, followed by Karnataka at 524.

  • The numbers also increased in Uttarakhand (442), Maharashtra (312) and Tamil Nadu (264).

  • OTOH, the count has decreased dramatically from 46 to 19 in Chhattisgarh. In Odisha, the numbers continue to decline and it now has only 28 tigers.

  • Zero tigers were spotted in the following reserves: Buxa (Bengal), Palamau (Jharkhand) and Dampa (Mizoram).


The continuing perils: There are two primary dangers. While poaching has been reduced, it has not been entirely eliminated. Around 24% of tigers die due to poaching. However, the greater danger is human-tiger interaction—which is likely to increase along with their population. As their numbers grow, tigers are moving into unprotected areas (for example, 40 tigers in Maharashtra). As the National Tiger Conservation Authority chief explains, “Even for the tiger reserves which are doing well, there will come a time, when they reach their carrying capacity and tigers will move. Our goal is to ensure connectivity to deficient areas so they become viable for tigers to occupy. But for that, the man-animal conflict will have to be tackled." 


The bottomline: There is plenty to celebrate in the latest tiger census. But the warning signs should not be ignored. Just three recent examples ought to serve as red flags. 

  • One, a tiger was spotted crossing a four-lane highway in Maharashtra. It suggests that we have not done enough to ensure safe passage—even as we continue to build roads and train tracks. 

  • Two, an angry mob of villagers in UP’s Pilibhit district recently trapped and beat a tigress to death. At least 16 tigers and 3 leopards have been killed in the Pilibhit reserve—many of them due to poisoning and snaring.

  • Three, the government recently approved plans for uranium mining in Telangana’s Amrabad Tiger Reserve—the second largest in the country. The field director’s report warns that if “mining activity is permitted, it will cause habitat fragmentation and disturbance to wildlife resulting in wastage of all efforts made over the years to restore wildlife and improve habitat in the core area [of the tiger reserve].”

Learn more: Indian Express has the most comprehensive explainer on the census. Mint looks at the regional discrepancies and why they are a cause for worry. The Telegraph has more on the state of the Sunderbans tiger. BBC reports on the state of available prey for a tiger population that is adding 600 cubs each year.

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vowing never to nick even the sewing kit from your hotel room

Your Unnao rape case update is here: Here’s what has happened since the survivor’s car was hit by a truck on Sunday (Need a refresher? Here’s our explainer):

  • The main accused, BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and 29 others have been charged with murder, attempt to murder and conspiracy. The UP government has indicated its willingness to turn over the case to the CBI if requested by the survivor’s family.

  • According to the FIR, the survivor’s court-ordered security guards kept Sengar informed of her movements. They were conspicuously missing on the day of the accident.

  • The survivor is alive and is now on a ventilator. Her mother standing vigil at the hospital is clear: “Jab tak sab logan ka saza nahi hoi… Tabtak ka hum peeche nahi hateyebe… nahi apan jaan de diya.” (I will not take a step back until all the guilty are punished…I am willing to die for it). Meanwhile, the residents of her village speak of conspiracy and live in fear of Sengar’s thugs. Indian Express has more.

  • Delhi Commission For Women chief Swati Maliwal has demanded that she be airlifted to Delhi to receive better medical care. The UP government has indicated its willingness to bear the costs.

  • The Print talked to lawyers who warn: “In case the victim is unable to survive, the case will not stand in court and will just fall flat. The accused will be discharged.”


China growls its disapproval: Holding its first press conference since Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office denounced the protests as “horrendous incidents” The spokesperson added, “The most important task of Hong Kong at present is to resolutely punish violent crimes according to law, restore social stability as soon as possible, and safeguard Hong Kong’s good legal system.” Why does this matter? One, Beijing rarely makes media statements about Hong Kong. Two, it signals a get-tough approach even as Hong Kongese worry that the protests may provoke Chinese intervention. Government officials have already been dropping hints suggesting the possible use of force.


The economic slowdown is officially here: As companies clamp down on costs, recruitment will be limited to replacement hires. Corporate bosses welcome the opportunity to shed flab though job-seekers may view it differently. And they are expecting a turnaround within a year… for reasons no one bothered to share. As Rahul Bajaj explains it, "There is no demand and no private investment, so where will growth come from? It doesn’t fall from the heavens.” In related news: Indian shares are headed for their worst month since October. The reason: foreign investors pulled $2 billion in just the month of July. 


Oh look, our PM is in an election ad: except he is not the candidate and it isn’t for an Indian election. He is prominently featured in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection ad—and also in a gigantic hoarding plastered onto his party headquarters. Here’s the video. And The Print explains why it exists.


Oh look, our PM is on a Discovery channel show: Bear Grylls’ shows follow a standard format. Take a celebrity on a wilderness survival challenge and make them do gross things. For example, Channing Tatum killed and gutted a scorpion and a rattlesnake. Michelle Rodriguez ate a mouse stewed in her own urine. Barack Obama, in comparison, only ate a fish half-eaten by a bear. Modi is surely thanking our many Hindu gods that he is a vegetarian. Here is the teaser for his celeb appearance in an upcoming episode of ‘Man vs Wild’. Also: now we’ll get to see exactly what Modi-ji was doing in Jim Corbett park right after the Pulwama attack. 


Oppo unveils ‘waterfall screen’: Its new screen literally spills over the sides of your phone. It looks very cool but we have a question: How will we hold the phone? (The Verge)


Brando’s ‘Indian’ bride: In 1957, Marlon Brando married Anna Kashfi, an unknown actress touted by her publicist as 'India's answer to Grace Kelly'. But then the press discovered she was a cashier from Cardiff named Joan Mary O'Callaghan. But, but, but… the India connection wasn’t entirely made up. To say more would be to ruin this awesome Hollywood story. (Daily Mail)


Why, oh why won’t the Khans speak? This op-ed takes to task the three big Khans of Bollywood—Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh—for being way too wimpy to speak out against the systematic campaign to terrorise Muslims. Not being taken to task: Any movie star not named Khan for being too wimpy to speak against the systematic campaign to terrorise Muslims. (The Print)


Love test matches? Nine teams will compete in 71 Test matches across 27 series over a period of two-plus years. Everything you need to know about the upcoming international test championship series is right here. (Scroll)


Are these the worst shoes ever? These things are allegedly “thigh-high boots designed to look like human flesh.” The answer upon inspection: Yes. 


Are these the worst parents ever? There are two contestants for this prize today. Contestant #1: This Gurgaon couple who wants to ‘return’ their adopted baby girl because she “doesn’t learn things fast enough.” Contestant #2: The parents of this 16-year old who aced her Class X exams and will likely have a bright future except both her kidneys are failing. But her father as a breadwinner won’t donate his kidney to her, nor is the family willing to find a donor because the surgery costs too much. The problem is illustrated by the data: In Bihar, 77% of kidney donors are women, but only 8% of them are recipients. Serious question: Does Contestant  #2 get a pass for poverty?


Some of you grumbled about an anti-cat bias: in our viral gifs and clips. To which we say: Behold this! But yes, this Tik Tok video does indeed feature a dog whooping a boy’s ass in a noodle-eating contest—but is it our fault that it is so very funny? We also love: goats swaggering to music. And we love: this donkey which went viral because it tried to sing a ‘Lion King’ song. See? So inclusive we are!


Because we Indians really, really need this: Here’s a handy (and funny) guide to what you can and cannot steal from your hotel room, courtesy Ixigo. Irony alert: Times of India then stole the video from Ixigo.


Because overpriced bananas are perfect comedy fodder: A number of brands had a field day soon after Rahul Bose went public about being charged Rs 442.50 for two bananas at the JW Marriott. Our favourite is this cheeky plug from Western Railways. (Quartz)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Made-in-India Music’ Edition'

There was a time when Indian music referred entirely to songs from a movie, irrespective of language. There was a time when the most talented singers just wanted a movie gig. There was a time when non-Bollywood music was just heavy metal. Well, as both these pieces reveal, that has changed… maybe forever.

Has Indipop come of age?

No one can deny the power of Bollywood, but this is a new breed of highly successful Indian artists who do not want to call themselves ‘Bollywood singers’. And none have aspirations to become playback performers. What they do want: to become digital superstars.

Read: Is Indipop Making a Comeback? | The Rolling Stone

Sex, Love etc 2

Ranveer’s gift to India

Timely reminder: there was a rap scene in India long before Ranveer came along with ‘Gully Boy’. We love this video essay because it captures the underground street version of the Indian hip hop scene. More importantly: The artists and their passion will revive your faith in the value of music and our love for it.  

Watch: The Birth of Gully Rap | Vice

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