Monday, December 16, 2019
Number of the day: 4.3 trillion

The government has a new data problem. It claimed to have distributed Rs 4.91 trillion in loans over the past two months through its ‘loan melas’—a key measure aimed at reviving demand, and therefore the economy. But Reserve Bank data on disbursed loans for roughly the same period shows a number that’s, um, significantly smaller. Smaller by how much? A staggering Rs 4.3 trillion.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Angry protests against the new citizenship law

Tens of thousands of citizens flooded the streets across the country, united in their opposition to the recently passed Citizenship (Amendment) Act. But the reasons for their opposition were not always the same. We explain who protested, where and why.

Recap of the law: The new law offers citizenship to undocumented migrants of all religions—except Islam—from three neighbouring countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan (All the details are in our explainer here). And it has sparked fierce resistance across the country, but the reasons vary from one region to another.

Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia university was ground zero of a violent confrontation between the police and protesters. Both sides offer very different accounts of the pitched battle.

  • In the morning, students led a mobilisation march to raise awareness of the new law. However, as they moved through the Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods, their numbers began to swell. 

  • A section of the protesters decided to move towards the Parliament—when they were stopped by the police near New Friends Colony. And this is when things became ugly.

  • The police claims that the students started pelting them with stones and setting DTC buses on fire. The  Delhi police then resorted to a lathi charge and tear gas.

  • Next, the police stormed the Jamia campus, entering the library and mosque—where they allegedly used tear gas, stun grenades and lathis on the students and staff—including the resident imam and security guards.

  • At 7 pm, around 100 students were brought out of the campus in a line with their hands in the air. According to The Telegraph, the police also rounded up Kashmiri students. 

  • In all, an estimated 1,000 protesters clashed with the police and at least six buses and over 50 vehicles were torched across the city. The police used 50 rounds of tear gas shells. And at least 100 were injured and 50 detained by the end of the day. All of them have been released.

  • Jamia student leaders have distanced themselves from the violence, and blamed outsiders for deliberately inciting violence.

  • Watch: this clip of tear gas being used inside the library. More shocking: this shot of a student lying unconscious in a bathroom. 

  • Reuters has photos of the violence on the streets. 

  • This Indian Express story has the most striking image of women students facing off against the police—or see the full clip here.. You can see another clip of the lathi charge here.

  • Quint filed a video report from the campus after the police withdrew.

Ghaziabad: Around 8:30 pm, students at the Aligarh Muslim University led a march to express solidarity with the Jamia students. However, this too turned nasty, and again, both sides differ on who initiated the violence. What we do know: The UP police entered the campus and 60 students were injured—including a student leader who sustained rubber bullet injuries. The campus has now been officially shut down. And internet services have been suspended in the district. Watch: this clip of the siege at AMU.

Other student protests: Students of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), in Hyderabad, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi and Kolkata’s Jadavpur University also held demonstrations in support of Jamia students. There were other citizen protests led by activists in cities around the country. See this thread that has images from the various rallies. 


Point to note: These protesters view the law as discriminatory, unconstitutional and anti-Muslim.

Bengal: Over the past three days, there has been sporadic violence across the state—even though CM Mamata Banerjee has promised not to implement the new law. Banerjee has appealed for peace, and intends to address multiple protest rallies over the coming days. Meanwhile, the state BJP accused her of protecting “Bangladeshi infiltrators”—and raised the spectre of imposing President’s rule if the violence continues.

Assam: 100 people have been arrested and 2,000 detained for arson and other acts of violence. The violence has left six dead. One person died of bullet wounds. Three others have died due to police firing and lathi charges. And two were burnt alive by mobs. Internet services have been suspended, and a dusk-to-dawn curfew remains in place.

Important point to note: The trigger for unrest in the Northeast is very different from other parts of the country. The Citizenship Act does not apply to northeastern regions protected by two legal measures: The inner line permit and the Sixth Schedule (explained in greater length here). The Sixth Schedule offers autonomy to tribal areas, and exempts them from many laws of the land. The inner line permit is like a visa, as in Indian citizens need to have one in order to visit regions covered by them. However, Assam is not covered by the ILP, and very few parts of the state are protected by the Sixth Schedule. It is therefore the only Northeastern state where lakhs of Bangladeshi Hindu migrants could become citizens.

The bottomline: The violence should not obscure the broader significance of the protests. They mark the first time that ordinary citizens have taken to the streets to defy the government since the heady days of Anna Hazare.


Learn more: The Telegraph has the most detailed report on Jamia Millia. Mint has more on the various Supreme Court petitions challenging the law. The Print takes a look at the political u-turn made by BJP ally Asom Gana Parishad—which too plans to challenge the law. Plus: Broadsheet’s detailed explainer on the new law. Alt News debunks fake videos of the student protests. Watch: Director Mahesh Bhatt take a pledge to oppose the Citizenship Act.

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vowing to limit your selfie quota over the holidays

UN climate talks end in disappointment: Given the many global warming reports warning of a climate emergency, the hope was that world leaders would take urgent action at the forum. Unfortunately, the summit was derailed by a bitter stalemate. On one side was a 'high ambition coalition' of island nations, least developed states and the EU pushing to do more. But India and China put the burden of setting higher targets on developed nations like Australia and the United States—who in turn wouldn’t budge. (Reuters)

Your UK election update is here: and it includes the following:

  • This response penned by Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn. TLDR: our left-leaning agenda was on point, but Brexit ruined everything.

  • Also, Scottish National Party chief Nicola Sturgeon is talking independence, insisting that Scotland cannot be “imprisoned in the UK against its will”

  • The Telegraph reports on how Corbyn polarised the Hindu-Muslim divide among Brits of Indian origin.

  • This chart that shows a stunning age divide: 57% of 18-24-year olds voted Labour, only 18% of over-65s did the same.

  • A scathing must-read on how Corbyn killed the Labour party.

  • Also: Boris Johnson doesn't know how to carry a dog

That U2 concert in Mumbai: We Indians truly believe old is gold. The aging Irish rockstars in Mumbai generated far more excitement than Katy Perry and Dua Lipa at the recent One Plus concert. Twitter was abuzz with news of helicopter shuttles and clips of folks singing U2 tunes in the Mumbai local. Also: this hilariously incorrect warning about alcohol outside the stadium. Plus: the concert also honoured women heroes of all stripes, ranging from Smriti Irani to Rana Ayyub. The Indian Express live blog has tons of photos from the concert. 

The New Zealand volcano death toll: is now 16. (BBC News)

Delhi schoolboys promise to behave: CM Kejriwal announced a new program that will require male students to take a pledge to behave properly with women. He also hinted at adding gender sensitisation to the curriculum: “We should also see what has been done to the mentality of men, boys. The Delhi schools should do something to make young boys sensitive. Only police and government cannot do this. The society should change.” (Quint)

Mixed news on vaping: A new three-year study shows that vapers are 1.3 times more likely to develop lung diseases like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. But scientists published an op-ed in Science warning against an ‘alarmist’ approach to vaping—which they argue remains far safer than smoking traditional cigarettes.

The first great ocean cleanup is a success: After months of research, failures, and reconfigurations, a 2,000-foot long floating tube has successfully retrieved 60 bags of plastic trash from the Pacific Ocean—and it includes everything from fishing nets to plastic bags to microplastics. The next step: to turn that plastic into sustainable products that can be sold to fund future missions. In related enviro news: Going vegan for two-thirds of your meals could cut food-related carbon emissions by 60%. The Economist story is behind a paywall, but the infographic charting the environmental impact of different kinds of food is worth your time. (Fast Company)

Bangkok may lose its street food: City planners have been steadily cracking down on street vendors “to clear the city’s sidewalks of clutter.” Over the past three years, the number of designated areas for street food has decreased from 683 to 175. What they want instead: “An air-conditioned Bangkok, with malls, ice-skating rinks and Instagrammable dessert cafes.” The impact of getting rid of them: people who rely on street food “would have to work an extra day each month at minimum wage to afford the increased prices” at stores. And what happens to a city’s cultural soul when it is stripped of its biggest selling point? (New York Times)

‘Selfie wrist’ is a thing: at least according to one medical expert, who claims that 18-35 year-olds are increasingly developing a form of carpal tunnel syndrome thanks to selfies. The reason: repeatedly contorting their hands to snap that perfect pose causes a sharp pain and tingling sensation in their wrist and fingers. Our camera-averse ass is feeling duly smug! (Daily Mail)

Weekend reads that you may have missed: include the following:

  • This elegy to a San Francisco past from an Indian immigrant who found freedom in this former city of misfits. 

  • News Laundry’s deep dive into the illegal factories of Anaj Mandi which stitch bags for everyone from Vodafone to Zomato.

  • New York Times’s excellent reporting on the slut-shaming of a Chinese student in the US who accused a tech billionaire of rape.

  • Mint looks at Bangalore’s increasingly silent nightlife.

  • Also in Mint: this wonderful Manu Pillai column on the Ethiopian former slave who inspired terror in the heart of Mughals.

  • The Telegraph reports on renewed hopes within Congress as Rahul shows signs of new life.

  • This must-read Reuters feature on women who are working at the passport office to punish runaway husbands.

  • ESPN reports on the new frontier of medical research into athletic performance: poop. 

  • Big Think on new research that shows psychopaths can in fact feel empathy—but it is something they can literally ‘switch’ on and off.

  • An excellent read in Believer that looks at the mental health crisis triggered by climate change.

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • This brilliant story about a man who fed abandoned US lab chimps in Liberia.

  • Odd couples are the best, especially this pooch that can’t stop hugging his BFF horse. 

  • Clouds, gorgeous clouds, and the best of 2019, courtesy the Cloud Appreciation Society.

  • This lovely story about the man who bought Olivia Newton John’s famous leather jacket from ‘Grease’. It has an unexpected ending, and a video that captures it.

  • A brilliant thread featuring ancient Mesopotamian dogs. 

  • A very funny send-up of Veer Sarvarkar’s mercy petition that makes excellent use of Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’.

  • A Dutch spy (and very incorrect) map of India circa 1597.

  • A list of India’s top 50 restaurants in one screenshot. Permit Room? Really?

  • Elon Musk’s sentimental tribute to Baby Yoda.

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The best place for the best advice

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How to ace the holiday office party

It’s that work party time of the year. Time to hang out in a corner with your work buddies, maybe drink a wee too much, and then head home—right? Nope, that’s wrong. This year, do better.

One: The slippery slope to disaster can be summed up in one sentence: don’t drink too much, flirt, and/or hook up. Break one rule, and you are likely to break the next one on that list.


Two: Make new friends. This is one of the few opportunities to network within your company. Building relationships with other teams, managers, or departments will prove hugely helpful in the future, whether you want to move to a new project, work for a less insane boss, or need a little extra attention from Tech.


Three: Don’t talk shop. Treat the party as an opportunity to discover your colleagues as actual human beings, not just fellow work drones. So go ahead, make that human connection with Sanjay in HR—he will be more likely to help you figure out how to cash in your LTA before tax time next year.


Four: Don’t kiss ass. Flagrant displays of brown-nosing won’t impress the target of your avid attention. Worse, it will make you unpopular with your colleagues. Feel free to chat up the boss, but stick to friendly banter about the sheer awesomeness of, say, Rajinikanth, as opposed to the sheer awesomeness that is her.

Five: This is more about how to execute tips #3 and #4. The easiest way to talk to people you don’t know—or perhaps are intimidated by—is to get them to talk about themselves. People don’t need to be impressed by your dazzling wit and knowledge. What they need instead is to feel both that they’re interesting, and that you are interested in them.


Six: Don’t gossip or complain. You never know who is listening, or how much they’ve been drinking. Loose drunk lips will sink your ship.


Seven: Practice discretion and compassion. Ok, so sober-and-smart-you caught Ranjita from Biz Dev throwing up in the loo, or those kids from Sales making out in an empty office. Don’t go sharing the exciting news. It isn’t kind or productive. Make an early New Year’s resolution to play nice.

Learn More: Here’s some additional advice, with some fun stuff thrown in, just because.

  • Business Insider has nine things you should never say at an office holiday party.

  • Huffington Post offers the introvert’s guide to party survival.

  • Muse offers 48 questions that will help you make small talk.

  • Eric Barker’s excellent guide on how to be charming will help you ace any social occasion.

  • Promised fun stuff includes these tongue-in-cheek tips from Gawker.

  • Cracked has a brilliant infographic that “maps” your holiday party.

  • Saving the best for last: BBC Brit’s hilarious ‘How to Small Talk’ video.

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