Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Survey of the day

Indians are unhappy with how things have changed over the past five years under the NDA government: 67% think job opportunities have gotten worse; 65% say both corruption and prices are higher; 54% see a bigger gap between the rich and poor; and 59% view terrorism as a bigger problem (pre-Pulwama).  That’s according to a new survey released by the Pew Research Centre. Now, a majority (55%) are still happy with the overall state of affairs, but that’s still a significant drop from 70% who felt the same way in 2017 under Modi.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Rahul’s big promise to the poor

The Congress party president made waves when he announced a: “historic scheme that has no match in the world”—an election promise to implement a social safety net targeting the poorest 20% of Indians.


The promise: Gandhi announced that his party, if voted to power, will offer a minimum income guarantee of Rs 72,000 a year to families who are the poorest 20% in the country. He insists that the plan is “fiscally prudent” and “doable,” and was devised after consulting leading economists around the world. The program is called ‘Nyay’, an acronym for Nyuntam Aay Yojana (Minimum Income Plan).


How much will it cost? Rs 3.6 lakh crores per year. If implemented, 24.95 crore households will qualify for the scheme. To put it in perspective, it will be: the second-biggest category of government expenditure; six times the annual spending on India’s biggest rural subsidy program, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS)—also introduced by Congress during the UPA years.


How will it work? The idea is that every Indian will at least earn a minimum amount each month. As Gandhi clarified, "The minimum income line is Rs 12,000 per month. Whatever the difference—say the income is Rs 6,000—we will top it up. Those who earn less than Rs 12,000, we will take their earnings to Rs 12,000." But that’s where his math gets very fuzzy…


The ‘fuzzy math’: It’s not clear whether this 12K number includes the many subsidies that the poor already receive. The government currently spends about 5% of the GDP on these schemes—most of which goes toward food, urea and NREGS benefits. If the plan is an extra spend on top of existing schemes, it will add a staggering 1.9 percent of GDP to our deficit. However, if the aim is to bring the total amount—current subsidies included—to 12k per month, economists say Gandhi’s plan could work. The government could then also eliminate a number of schemes that have proved ineffective.


Why is this a big thing now? Demonetisation and GST have seriously hurt the most vulnerable sections of society—many of whom are significant voting blocs. And each party is scrambling to own the populist plank. Gandhi’s promise is a response to a recent government plan to offer a guaranteed monthly income (Rs 6000) to desperate farmers. It’s also why Arun Jaitley immediately held a press conference attacking Gandhi’s plan as a “bluff.”


The bottomline: There have been plenty of government schemes to help the poor under both the UPA and the NDA. But these are inevitably poorly executed, and instead become lucrative avenues of corruption for the powerful. If Rahul Gandhi is serious about his “final assault on poverty,” he has to do better than a vaguely worded election promise.

Learn more: Indian Express offers the most in-depth analysis of the Nyay plan. Dipanshu Mohan in Fortune offers an interesting variation on guaranteed income: Negative Income Tax. Nayanika Mathur in The Wire offers a strong defence of the idea of minimum income, and looks at the pitfalls of Nyay. India Today compares Nyay to the government’s new income plan for farmers.

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telling everyone just how young you are

Apple made a big announcement:  At its much-touted live event, the company unveiled a new credit card (Apple Card) only for Americans. All that original streaming video content will now be bundled into a premium Apple TV Plus offering. Yes, there were a lot of Hollywood big names on stage—Steven Speilberg, Oprah Winfrey etc.—but no trailers. And since everyone is into the gaming business, we also get Apple Arcade. Finally: Free Apple News has a subscription avatar called (what else) Apple News Plus. Consider us underwhelmed. (Verge)


Naresh Goyal has left the building: After months of speculation and criticism, Jet Airways founder stepped down as chairman of the company he founded in 1992. And it offers much-needed hope for a near-bankrupt airline that has been unable to fly its planes or pay its staff. Over the past six months, negotiations with potential buyers—Tata Sons, Etihad etc.—fell apart over the same sticking point: Goyal’s refusal to step away. His departure secured an immediate cash infusion of Rs 1500 crores from its lenders, i.e. state-owned banks like the State Bank of India who now own a majority stake. But finding a new owner to take this elephant off their backs will not be easy. Background reading: Mint has the big picture on Goyal’s departure; Quartz on why Jet can turn into a Kingfisher-sized nightmare for the banks; a scathing and detailed take on the causes of Jet’s woes from industry experts in the Economic Times.


BJP’s Sonia-hating hits a brand new low: This time around, the BJP salvo had unexpected collateral damage. Sapna Chaudhary, Haryana’s fave pop queen and former Bigg Boss contestant was hotly rumoured to be a Congress candidate—rumours that she politely refuted. But that didn’t stop BJP MLA Surendra Singh from saying this (clip here): “Rahul ji ki Mata ji bhi Italy mein isi peshe se thi. Jaise aapke pitaji ne Sonia ji ko apna bana liya tha, aap bhi Sapna ko apna banaye.Sabse acchi baat hai saas aur bahu ek hi peshe aur culture se rahengi” (Rahul's mother was also in the same profession in Italy and his father made her his own. Rahul should also follow his father’s footsteps and make Sapna his own. That way both mother-in-law and daughter-in-law will come from the same profession and culture.) BTW: Chaudhary has 378 million YouTube views, 1.6 million Instagram followers and was googled more often than Priyanka Chopra in 2018.


Nirav Modi ki dukhi kahani: After being denied bail, the jailed jeweller was sent to Wandsworth in southwest London, one of the most overcrowded prisons in the UK with nasty living conditions. The Telegraph takes a closer look—with undisguised glee—at the many indignities Modi must now suffer. (The Telegraph)


Rajat Gupta ki dukhi kahani: The former McKinsey chief and ex-NRI wet dream success story was convicted of insider trading back in 2012. Gupta has since penned a memoir “breaking his silence”—and which he is now promoting. This is what we’ve learned from his PR round. The jurors, i.e. “schoolteachers, beauticians, this and that,” who convicted him are dumb plebes who “don’t know anything about business.” Also: They just didn’t like “wealthy and successful” immigrants from India, but… he wants you to know he’s never, ever experienced racism because he’s not a low-rent desi whiner like that. Also: prison was just time well spent with the Bhagavad Gita. Someone give him a Padma Bhushan already. (Quartz)


AR Rahman has an Avengers gig: He will be composing an anthem for ‘Avengers: Endgame’ in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Yes, Hollywood really, really wants our eyeballs. (Indian Express)


Autos have landed in Liverpool: thanks to Ola which has launched a fleet of Bajaj and Piaggia ricks which are neon green and a whole lot prettier than anything we’ve seen closer to home. (Financial Express)


Adele and Jennifer Lawrence had a bestie girl’s night out: and it looked exactly like the rest of us. Yes, there was dancing, way too much drinking and fun. We totally heart the videos. (Buzzfeed)


Deepika Padukone’s got a brand new look: in her movie where she plays acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal. And here’s a short video that tells you everything you need to know about the Agarwal and Deepika’s role.


A story about a woman, a teenager and a creep: on a flight. This Twitter thread is a brilliant example of how women look out for each other. It’s also why they are more likely than men to notice when a young girl is in jeopardy.


The next hot social trend: is being ‘age proud’, i.e. we will finally stop lying about how, umm, young we are. At the very least, it will be a lot easier on all the folks we’ve been shamelessly lying to—they won’t have to work so very hard to pretend they believe us. (Daily Mail)


YouTube’s ‘I wannabe Netflix’ dream is dead: The platform is cancelling almost all of its original programming on YouTube Premium. Yes, there is still a premium version which is ad-free, but Google is essentially bowing out of the (increasingly crowded!) original streaming content business—a day before Apple announces its version of the same. Sometimes, hitting the reverse gear is the better part of corporate valour. (Mashable)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Our Pets Our Selves’ Edition

Pet owners are the most annoying kind of human beings—matched only by parents and new lovers in their tediously obsessive devotion.  That love, however, can bring both joy and sorrow...and sometimes disappointment.


Letting go is the hardest thing to do

The animals we bring into our homes bring unparalleled joy into our lives. But that joy comes with an enormous price tag attached. Our most beloved dog or cat or ferret will eventually die. And in most cases, we will have to be the ones who decide to end their lives. It is one of the most difficult decisions any of us can make. This is wonderful advice from a vet on how best to do it.

Read: Knowing the Right Time to Say Goodbye to a Pet | New York Times.

Sex, Love etc 2

Does my bunny really, really love me? 

Humans love their pets often with the fierce devotion that most species reserve for their offspring. But do they truly love us back? The answer depends on its species. Some animals are far more capable of true affection than others… and sorry, cat lovers, your feline love-object just got its ass kicked by pigs, parrots and rats!

Read: Ranking Every Kind of Pet by How Capable It is of Loving You | Mel Magazine

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