Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Survey of the day

A pre-election survey conducted by CSDS-Lokniti shows that the BJP is likely to return to power but in diminished numbers—falling from 283 to between 222-232 seats. Falling short of a majority, the party will need its allies to retain the gaddi. The Congress will improve its performance, rising from 44 to between 74-84 seats. The other interesting nugget in this poll: South India is the only region that thinks that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Detailed analysis here.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The Big-Spending BJP Manifesto

The ruling party’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ included a lot of big-ticket items for its core constituencies—farmers, the “aspirational” middle class—but also underlined its tough stance on key ideological issues. These are the key highlights.

The massive infra spend: The manifesto allocates a whopping Rs 100 lakh crore over four years to improving infrastructure (the current spend is Rs 6 lakh crore). The biggest promises include the doubling of national highways and pucca houses and piped water for everyone.


The economy: Policy details aside, the BJP’s grand vision is best summed up in these lines: “We aspire to make India the third largest economy of the world by 2030. This implies that we commit to make India a US $5 trillion economy by 2025 and a US $10 trillion economy by 2032.”


The farmers: Keen to appease rural discontent, the manifesto promises to: double farmer income by 2022 even as it guarantees a minimum income of Rs 6000/year; invest Rs 25 lakh crore over the next five years in rural India; and provide interest-free loans for up to Rs 1 lakh.


Entrepreneurs: The government will create a Rs 20,000 crore ‘Seed Start-Up Fund’, facilitate 50,000 new startups by 2024, and create 500 Innovation Zones. Also in the works: collateral-free credit up to Rs 50 lakh. The government will guarantee 50% of the loan amount for women entrepreneurs, and 25% for men.


Women: The BJP also endorses the Women’s Reservation Bill which will reserve 33% of parliamentary and assembly seats—but unlike the Congress, its manifesto makes no mention of a similar quota for government jobs. But other than that—and talking up its pet Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and Ujjwala cooking gas schemes—there are no specific policies or allocation of funds. But the manifesto did contain one very glaring and amusing typo.


The toughest lines: are reserved for national security, minorities, immigrants and Kashmir.


  • Where Congress pledged to balance human rights with national security, the BJP swung the other extreme, promising to take a “zero tolerance approach to terrorism,” and give a free hand to military forces.

  • Most notable: the commitment to annul Article 35A of the Constitution of India which restricts rights of residency to native-born Kashmiris (see explainer here). The party also restated its plan to junk Article 370 which secures J&K ‘special status’, making it exempt from a number of Indian laws.

  • BJP also commits to implementing the controversial National Register of Citizens in Assam and of extending it “in a phased manner” to “other parts of the country.” The NRC—intended to crack down on illegal immigrants—has been under fire for excluding vast numbers of citizens from its rolls.

  • It pledges itself anew to the Citizenship Amendment Bill which is hugely unpopular in the Northeast (see explainer here)

  • The promise to build the Ram Mandir—as Huffington Post notes—uses the exact language as its 2014 manifesto. The commitment to instituting a Uniform Civil Code also remains the same.


The bottomline: If the “inclusive” Congress manifesto marked a departure from its past (in terms of individual and human rights), the BJP document is more of the same. It emphasises the party’s vision of an India driven by accelerated economic growth and a muscular national security policy. ‘Outsiders’—whether within or without the country—are not welcome.


Learn more: Hindustan Times rounds up the top 15 promises. Indian Express compares the Congress and BJP manifestos, while Huffington Post specifically looks at their promises to women. Times of India takes a closer look at the Kashmir-related bits. Inc42 sums up the pledges to startups and entrepreneurs.

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thanking the comedy gods for Hema Malini's 'farm girl' antics

Superseded Navy admiral sues Modi government: Andaman and Nicobar Command chief Vice Admiral Bimal Verma is the most senior officer in line for the job of Navy chief. But the government decided to pick someone who joined the forces six months after him. This isn’t the first time the government has skipped over the senior-most officer, however. Army chief Bipin Rawat was appointed over the heads of two other generals who didn’t protest. Verma’s lawsuit is notable because this is the first instance of such a legal action in the Indian military’s recent history. (Times of India)


Kashmiris have an education crisis: When terrorism threatened college education of their children, many Kashmiris sent their kids to other parts of the country. Now the anti-Kashmiri sentiment threatens that rare instance of integration. (Ozy)


Put a ring on it: Facebook is planning to put an underwater cable that encircles Africa. It even has a cute name: Simba after ‘Lion King’. The aim is to drive down data costs. (MarketWatch)


Dream Girl or Drama Girl? That is the big question about Hema Malini who has been setting Twitter on fire with her farm adventures in her constituency. Scroll has rounded up her greatest hits, but this one is our super-duper favourite. We almost love her for it… almost.


You kill some, you get killed some: Karma is a bitch elephant. Revenge of the herd. Pick your caption. We are not big death penalty boosters, but there is something very fitting about a story of a rhino poacher who was trampled by elephants and eaten by lions. Think we’re being cruel? This is what rhinos look like after poachers have had their way with them. (CNN)


This is how scary Dubai is: A British woman is facing jail in Dubai because she called her ex's wife a 'horse' on Facebook three years ago. (Time)


This is what scary people look like: Remember the story about sword-wielding Hindutva activists shutting down meat shops in Gurgaon for Navratri? Well, now there’s a video of that. Yeah, easier read than seen.


Making the NaMo app look good: is Study the Great Nation, a Chinese app devoted to promoting President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party. Think of it as Xi homework—users earn points by reading up on news about him. It is the most downloaded app on Apple but for all the wrong reasons: “Schools are shaming students with low app scores. Government offices are holding study sessions and forcing workers who fall behind to write reports criticizing themselves. Private companies, hoping to curry favour with party officials, are ranking employees based on their use of the app and awarding top performers the title of “star learner.” (New York Times)


You’re the company I want: As we already established, most Indians lurve the security of a big, fat company. Well, these are 15 big fat tech companies they love best. Spoiler alert: serious lack of imagination ahead! (Gadgets Now)


The land of 30-year old virgins: is Japan. One in ten Japanese adults in their 30s have never had sex, according to a new study. What we found most interesting about this story is the study’s lead author’s attitude: “[S[exual inactivity or inexperience, whether voluntary or not, should not be exoticised, ridiculed or necessarily considered a concern for everyone.” Yes! (Daily Mail)


Yogi Adityanath went to Telangana: to make a speech and nobody understood a word he said. So they all just upped and left. We bad ‘madrassis’ can’t stop laughing. (Times of India)


‘Avengers: Endgame’ rains on own parade: by releasing a one-minute clip that reveals its entire plot—or so Twitter seems to think.


Your daily ‘news of the weird’ quota includes: Nutella biryani. Proof of its sacrilegious existence is right here. Also: Bird discovers golf balls… hilarity ensues (clip here). Plus: This bizarre video of Rami Malek talking about stuff he likes… set to scary music from ‘Us’. And finally, these jaw-dropping photos and video of a sandstorm in Rajasthan.

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The 'Bad Parent' Edition

People with children are under constant pressure to be ‘good parents’ (though on most days we’ll settle for being ‘good enough’ parents). But maybe it’s time to question the oversized burden of modern parenting and its attendant guilt.

Love you, hate you, my baby!

“[T]here’s nothing revelatory about the thought of parents secretly wishing they were anywhere else but the local playground, perhaps envying their childless friends; even wondering, during the sleepless nights, or in the aftermath of a fight with a recalcitrant teenager, why they had children at all. What is distinctive of our times is how few parents—still, even in our post-Freudian age—will openly admit to feelings of ambivalence towards their children. In an age where very little—from sex to money—is left a mystery, parental ambivalence remains one of the last taboos.” This is a necessary read for every loving parent.


Read: When a bough breaks | Aeon

Sex, Love etc 2

Don’t say what I say… 

Linguist Benjamin Bergen is “a self-purported lover of profanity and adorer of the f-bomb.” This naturally posed problems once he had a child. So he decided—as any responsible parent would—to study just how much damage his foul mouth could wreak. The answer: Surprisingly, not very much. 

Read: A linguist’s love letter to profanity | Quartz

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