Thursday, June 20, 2019

Number of the day: 56

Fifty-six women who work as housekeeping staff at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Hyderabad have been fired. The reason: they have accused a NIFT employee of sexual harassment. The women have also filed a police complaint and staged a protest demanding his resignation—all to no avail. 56:1—that pretty much sums up the odds of #MeToo justice in India.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The H-1B bomb headed in India's direction

An exclusive Reuters report reveals imminent plans to dramatically cut the number of H-1B visas given to Indians. It’s the latest offensive in the ongoing India-US trade war.


What happened here? The US grants 85,000 H-1B work visas each year, and around 70% go to Indians. There has never been a country-specific quota. The Trump White House, however, plans to limit the number of visas given to Indians to 10-15%—which would amount to a serious cut.


Why are they doing this? It’s yet another example of Trump’s infamous ‘negotiating’ style. He’s upset at India’s new data localisation rules which have affected US companies like Mastercard, Visa, Amazon etc.


What’s this data thing about? Last year, the Reserve Bank of India set out new rules which require all companies to localise their data storage for Indian users. So every time you swipe your card, all the details of that transaction should now be stored in India—not on a global Mastercard or Visa server.


Why keep it local? One, It protects the privacy of Indian citizens’ data. But more importantly, the RBI rule gives the government “unfettered supervisory access” to all user data. So it’s about keeping our private data safe from foreign control, and making it more accessible to our government.


What about the other companies? Mastercard and Visa are already localising their data storage but have asked for more time. WhatsApp seems to have buckled as well. But it remains a sore point—hence, Trump’s H-1B threat.


So what’s next? The External Affairs ministry has sought an “urgent response” from bureaucrats on possible implications of the quota. No doubt, it will be a hot topic of conversation when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comes to town on June 24. Meanwhile, RBI is already making noises about reviewing its data localisation rules.


So who will back down? H1-B visas don’t exactly affect national employment numbers. But they are critical to Indian technology companies like Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys which rely on them to service clients in Silicon Valley. Also: they are important to Indian techies in (or headed to) the US, who tend to be BJP loyalists. So it won’t be easy for New Delhi to simply shrug off the threat. Or maybe this will turn out to be one of Trump’s wild ideas that falls by the wayside.


The bottomline: This is all about building ‘beautiful’ walls. India wants to wall off its citizens’ data. The US is threatening to build a virtual wall that keeps out Indian techie migrants.

Read more: Reuters has the exclusive report. Economic Times has more on the RBI’s softening stance on data localisation. Hindu Business Line offers a supportive explainer on data localisation. Mint argues that it is a terrible protectionist idea. This Telegraph editorial sets out why India has to stand up to Trump’s trade bullying.

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hoping that he may have to go on the pill instead!

This is TV news journalism: India Today anchor Anjana Om Kashyap was a woman on a mission. She barged into an ICU at a Muzaffarpur hospital. Then she loudly confronted doctors and nurses who were trying to treat children dying of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. Because that’s real useful. The clip went viral. Twitter heckled etc. A better use of your time: this Huffington Post interview with Dr Kafeel Khan who explains why AES is a poor person’s disease.


Shikhar Dhawan is out: It’s official. The opening batsman is dropping out of the World Cup thanks to his injured thumb. And yes, Rishabh Pant will be taking his place. No doubt, the team will march relentlessly on, but without the comfort of the Rohit-Shikhar jodi. (Indian Express)


Congress has a new leader in Parliament: and he is not Rahul Gandhi. Newly appointed Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was off to an excellent start with this poetic speech. This profile explains why the ‘Robinhood of Murshidabad’—which has 70% Muslim and backward community voters—may become a formidable face for the Opposition. (Quint)


Ajay Devgn’s other gig: The Bollywood star’s company plans to bring all the amenities of big-city theatres to Tier 2 and 3 towns. Here he talks about how he wants to create a different kind of movie-going experience. Also: it’s so refreshing to hear a Bollywood star talk about something other than Bollywood. (Quartz)


Oh look, a pill for men: It won’t be on the market any time soon, but the good news is that the Gates Foundation is funding a serious effort to develop a male contraceptive pill—long neglected by pharmaceutical companies. How will it potentially work? Here’s the lead researcher’s amusing answer: "Sperm move very quickly in humans… It's the speed of Usain Bolt if you want to get an analogy. And what we're trying to do is get chemicals to stop that type of movement. So stop them in the starting blocks, rather than letting them get to the 100m line." Yes, gentlemen, your semen is a world-class athlete. (BBC)


Proud, hairy and on Weibo: A selfie challenge titled GirlsBodyhairCompetition# has taken China by storm. Its organiser says, “Women's armpit hair can be adorable, interesting, humorous, sexy, serious, connotative and ever-changing.” In other words, our body fuzz has more personality than your moustache, bro! (Daily Mail)


Have you been ‘cookie jarred’? Don’t know what that is? Here’s the answer: "'Cookie jarring' happens when an individual pursues a relationship to have as a back-up plan or security blanket—with no real intention of a long-term relationship." Already known as: Plan B. (NBC News)


Jai Sri Donald: A farmer in Telangana unveiled a six-foot statue of Trump, applied 'tilak' and garlanded it. He then performed abhishekam and aarti while chanting "Jai, jai Trump.” Yes, there is a video clip. (Times of India)


21 cities, zero tap water: Magsaysay Award winner and water activist Rajendra Singh warns that 21 cities will run entirely dry very soon. The worst affected: Delhi, Gurgaon, Meerut and Faridabad. The interview is worth a read if only because Singh has a great knack of explaining the water crisis—be it in Maharashtra or the role of privatisation—in clear and concise terms. (Rediff)


A Kardashian-Jenner wish come true: C’mon, admit it! You really wanna see Deepika posing with Kendall. No? Ah well, no harm in checking. (Times of India)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Architecture as Art’ Edition

Here’s the unvarnished truth: most of modern architecture in India is ugly as sin. What is with all those Harpic-blue all-glass buildings?! Here then is some rest for our exhausted eyes.

Which is way prettier than Phoneix Marketcity?

Indian malls may be lots of fun, but they are nowhere as gorgeous as these beauties. Behold the 42,000 stainless steel spheres which decorate the façade of Hanjie Wanda Square in Wuhan City, China, or the three-story figure eight with a rooftop park in Sweden. (Prefer houses to malls? How about ‘13 Extraordinary Homes Designed by Famous Architects’ over at Artsy instead?)

Check out: 9 of the World's Most Beautifully Designed Malls | Architectural Digest

Sex, Love etc 2

Which is the fairest image of them all?

Think of this as the art of capturing art—the best photos of architectural spaces. These are the winning entries of the Siena International Photo Awards 2018. And they are stunning—be they images of a football field in Norway or the Harbin Opera House in China.

Check out: Siena International Photo Awards |

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