Friday, August 2, 2019

Number of the day: 81

That’s the highest rank achieved by an Indian city in the Best Student City Ranking 2019 report, and it was earned by Bangalore. The other three Indian cities in a list of 120 were Mumbai (#83), New Delhi (#113) and Chennai (#115). The report looks at six parameters: “the number of top-ranked universities, the proportion of student population in a city, quality of life, job opportunities available after graduation, cost of living, and student feedback.” The top-ranked education hub: London, followed by Tokyo and Melbourne. The only good news here is for Bangalore which made its debut on the list, and at a higher rank than the other three.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The Supreme Court judgement on Unnao

The nation’s highest court finally stepped in to offer some measure of justice in the Unnao rape case. It may not be too little, but it is certainly too late. (Broadsheet explained the details of the case here)


What did the Court say? A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi ordered the following:

  • All five cases related to the survivor and her family will be transferred to Delhi. These include: three ongoing CBI investigations into the rape case against BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar; the subsequent gang rape of the survivor; her father’s death in custody; the alleged framing of her uncle on trumped-up charges; and now, the truck accident which killed her aunts. 

  • A special court in Delhi will hear these cases, and the judge has been ordered to complete the trial within 45 days from its commencement.

  • The UP government has to pay the survivor Rs 25 lakhs in compensation ASAP—and it was handed over within hours of issuing the order. 

  • The survivor, her family and the lawyer will now be guarded by the CRPF.

  • The CBI has to conclude its investigation into the truck ‘accident’ within a week—with a leeway of another week, if needed. 

  • The Court also asked the families of the survivor and the lawyer to decide whether they want to move the two to a more specialised hospital in Delhi. 


So why is this in the Supreme Court? Because the victim had written a letter to Justice Gogoi on July 12 but it never reached him. The Court took notice when the media reported on it. The bench also ordered an internal investigation to look into why the letter got lost in the system.


Ok, but how is she doing? According to doctors, she is stable but still on a ventilator. It isn’t clear as yet whether she will be shifted from Lucknow to Delhi.


What about Sengar? He has finally been expelled from the BJP party—14 months after the rape charges were recorded against him. 


The bottomline: The ugly truth is that Sengar and his goons have long terrorised the residents of Unnao—and under the aegis of at least three different parties. As one villager told Quint, "Voh MLA hain, unke paas apne aadmi hain. Hum unke baare mein kuch bole toh maare jayengein” (He is an MLA and has his henchmen. If we speak against him, we will be killed). More telling is this most recent example: A young student in UP challenged the police visiting her school on the Unnao rape case. The clip went viral, and she won great praise but… now the parents are afraid to send her to school! There will be many Unnaos until we change this culture of fear—and the absolute power which creates it.


Learn more: Indian Express and The Telegraph have details on the Supreme Court directives. Quint has two ground reports: One on how fear made villagers ostracise the survivor’s family; the second on how Sengar built and held on to his power.

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giving thanks for Cafe Coffee Day restrooms

Unsafe driving just got super expensive: The amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act have dramatically upped the penalties for bad behaviour. Drunk driving fines will rise from Rs 2000 to Rs 10,000. Reckless drivers will now pay Rs 5000. The most dramatic increase: the penalty for driving without a license has skyrocketed from Rs 500 to Rs 10,000.  Our favourite bit: Any driver who does not give way to an ambulance, fire engine, or other emergency vehicle will face a fine of Rs 10,000 and a maximum prison term of six months, or both. (Quartz)


Al Qaeda is having a ‘Congress Party’ moment: Osama bin Laden’s son and heir to his terror crown is dead. Here’s the weird thing: Hamza apparently died sometime in the past two years, but no one can or will say exactly when. Hamza was being groomed to take over from the current head Ayman al-Zawahiri who is reported to be in “poor health.” Over recent years, the rise of ISIS has entirely sidelined the once formidable Al Qaeda. And this “leadership crisis” may well spell the beginning of the end. (Daily Mail)


Reflecting on Siddhartha’s suicide: There have been a number of op-eds and stories on the significance of the death of the Cafe Coffee Day owner. This Bloomberg op-ed (via The Print) frames his death as a cautionary tale about the fate of entrepreneurship in India. What we found more illuminating: IndiaPlaza founder K Vaitheeswaran in Times of India on that fateful moment in 2013 when he seriously contemplated taking his own life. 


A lesson in paani-economics: Will water shortage become a significant barrier in economic growth? James Crabtree writes: “Put simply, water scarcity may soon be as important as supplies of cheap labor in shaping the direction of Asia's next stage of globalization—and it will do so in ways that damage both India's prospects and those of other, poorer nations around the region.” (Nikkei Asian Review)


In related economic news: Mint reports that there is no recovery in sight for the Indian economy, and that automobile sales had the worst July in two decades!


In related paani news: Yes, there is such a thing as a water sommelier, and India has its first: Ganesh Iyer. We’re not entirely sold on the idea but the very notion of a ‘fine’ mineral water sparked our curiosity. (Quartz)


Brownface in Singapore: This is an excellent essay on racism against Indians in Singapore—where the Chinese often darken their skin and put on a heavy accent in a form of brownface. It’s also a rare and fascinating window into non-white racism in a not-white culture. (NewNaratif)


Zomato delivery person responds: When Amit Shukla became angry at Zomato for assigning Faiyaz as his delivery agent, it became a huge story. Asked how he feels about the controversy, Faiyaz says: "Haan hurt to hue hai. Ab kya bolenge sir, ab log jaisa bolenge..sahi hai is par kya kar sakte hai gareeb log hai...sahna padega sir.” (Yes I feel hurt. What can I say sir, whatever people say...what can I do about it... we are poor, we have to bear it). Shukla remained unrepentant in his TV appearances… we’re guessing that lasted until the overzealous Madhya Pradesh police tracked him down and threatened to file charges for “hurting religious sentiments” (which we don’t approve of either).


Meghan Markle’s baby blanket: is making the wrong kind of news. Baby Archie was all wrapped up in Malabar Baby’s $42 ‘Erawan Cotton Dohar’ when he and Mama went to watch Papa play a polo match. Then Daily Mail visited one of the Malabar Baby factories, and splashed an exclusive revealing that the blankie “is made in Indian factory where dirt poor workers earn just 37p an hour.” (that’s about Rs 6000 a month). Now, the Hong Kong-based founder is making the rounds of Indian media vigorously defending her honour. Indian Express has that story.


Your feel-good Friday instalment: includes the following:

  • These photos of 17-year-old Olga Misik sitting in the middle of the road, reading the Russian Constitution to armed riot cops. People are comparing her to the famous Tank Man in Tiananmen Square. Time has more on the protests in Moscow, and why they matter.

  • This brilliant illustration of the similarity between the military formation used during the Roman Empire and that deployed by protesters wielding umbrellas in Hong Kong.

  • The exquisite voice of a woman who works at a train station in Bengal—singing a heart-melting Lata Mangeshkar song. Hindustan Times has more on this viral story.

  • This gorgeous gallery of nature-themed photos featuring the winners of the annual Glanzlichter photo contest. Who knew praying mantises could be beautiful?!

  • A related photo gallery, this time of the 23 cutest animal babies… because we all need some ‘awww’ moments in our life. 

  • This air stewardess who welcomed passengers on board—while stowed away in the overhead bin!

  • This unbelievable but very real Twitter thread describing what it takes to unsubscribe an email address from the mailing list of a UK bank.

  • And the next time you curse rain-related flooding, just remember this: thank god, you don’t work at this SBI bank in Srinagar.

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

A Good Guide to Chat Fiction Apps
Literature-lovers will hate the idea of a story told in text messages, but the new genre is perfect for time-pass—and more engaging than scrolling through Insta. Here are some of the best on the market.
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When you are in the mood for something a little scary…

Get a taste of Cliffhanger. if you are partial to thrillers, mysteries and/or horror, this one is perfect for you. Its interactive feature even lets you control the plot. You can choose your own adventure kinda like that ‘Bandersnatch’ episode of Black Mirror. (Bonus: If you like your stories with sound effects, the hottest new chat fiction app is Galatea)

Price: Free or Rs. 219/week | Cliffhanger | Google Play | AppStore

The informer 2

When you’re in the mood for mindless fun…

Pick Yarn, the fave of teenagers and twenty-somethings. Yes, the romance stories are cheesy, and the sexting versions are a little sleazy, but it also features imaginary conversations between celebs (Like Amal/George or Taylor/Katy) and TV show characters. It’s just plain, silly fun. Consider it a replacement for your celeb gossip site of choice. (And it’s so popular that Hollywood now uses the app to promote franchises and develop shows.)

Price: Free or Rs. 199/week | Yarn | Google Play | AppStore

The informer 3

When you're in the mood to channel your texting muse…

Opt for Tap by Wattpad. There are plenty of original stories and from a variety of genres. You get plenty bang for the rupee as it is the most immersive in its use of images and video. But it’s unique appeal lies in its excellent self-publishing tools. Start a new chat fiction hobby. Pen your very own sci-fi chat fiction trilogy or romcom drama— with zero stress or performance anxiety. (Verge makes a strong case for it.)

Price: Free or Rs. 219/week | Tap | Google Play | AppStore

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P.S: All chat fiction apps come in free and paid versions. The free variety dole out stories in chapters (with usually a 15-minute wait between each). You also can’t see photos and videos that can sometimes be crucial to the story.

Note: These products are personally picked by the editors. We do not receive any revenue from the brands recommended.

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