Monday, April 1, 2019
Number of the day: 20

A woman in Kerala was starved to death by her inlaws over dowry demands. Locked in a room and only given sugar water and soaked rice to eat, she weighed an appalling 20 kg when her dead body was discovered. One police official said, “She looked like a bag of a skeleton with hardly any flesh on her body.” Local authorities did not investigate despite 27 previous complaints filed by neighbours.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Rahul’s rumble in Kerala jungle

The Congress party chief announced that he will be contesting the 2019 elections from two seats: his home turf, Amethi, and Wayanad, Kerala. The result: hurt feelings, silly allegations, and general confusion.


All about Wayanad: The constituency sits on the border of three southern states: Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Rest of India mostly knows it as the home of its famous jungle sanctuary. From an electoral point of view, it is notable for these reasons:

  • Its population is highly diverse: Hindus constitute 49.7%, while Christians are around 21.5% and Muslims 28.8%.

  • It has the highest tribal population in the state: 18.5%

  • It’s overwhelmingly agrarian: only 3.86% of the population live in urban areas. Peppers and coffee are the primary crops grown in the area.


Ok, why two seats? Party leaders will often pick a second seat for strategic and symbolic reasons. For example, Narendra Modi ran from both Vadodara in Gujarat (his home state) and Varanasi in 2014. The latter chosen to burnish his saffron credentials and give him a foothold in the critical swing state of Uttar Pradesh. However, once the election is over, the candidate has to give up one of the two seats if s/he wins both elections (since one can’t have two seats in the Lok Sabha).


Fine, but why Wayanad? The speculation centres on the following selling points:

  • One, its diverse demographic profile allows Gandhi to underline his secular image.

  • Two, it reasserts Congress’ strength in a state where the party has lost a lot of ground recently. While Wayanad is considered a safe seat for Congress (its MP won the last two Lok Sabha contests), Kerala’s ruling Left front did exceedingly well in the last Assembly elections.

  • Three, the Gandhis have often contested seats from the South to emphasize the ‘national’ footprint of the Congress party. See: Sonia Gandhi who ran from Bellary and Indira Gandhi from Chikmagalur. It also offers a handy contrast to the BJP which has never done well in the South—the exception being its past victory under Yeddyurappa in Karnataka.


So this is a smart decision? Well, not if you ask the ruling CPI(M) party. CM Pinarayi Vijayan immediately said it was a mistake to pick a constituency where Congress’ main rival is not the BJP but the Left—supposedly its ally in the mahagathbandhan against Modi. Gandhi’s primary challenger is the communist candidate PP Suneer. Then again, Gandhi has good reasons for picking this seat and fight (see above).


The bottomline: The BJP’s immediate reaction was to accuse Gandhi of running scared from Amethi—where he is being challenged once again by Smriti Irani. Ravi Shankar Prasad declared, “Rahul Gandhi is feeling uncomfortable, insecure and helpless in Amethi. So he chose to contest Wayanad seat considering it as safe because of its ethnic profile." Now, no one seriously expects Gandhi to lose to Irani. Also: whatever the downside of picking Wayanad, the claim that a national leader is a coward for picking a diverse constituency is clearly a losing argument.

Learn more: The News Minute has a longer list as to why Gandhi picked Wayanad. Indian Express reports on the constituency and its voters’ main concerns. Firstpost analyses the impact of Gandhi’s decision on Kerala politics.

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plotting your April Fools day pranks

Another Kashmir car bomb targets CRPF: A explosive-laden Hyundai rammed into a CRPF bus on the highway in an attempt to replicate the Pulwama attack. The car burst into flames, but no one was hurt. The driver—reportedly a Hizbul Mujahideen member—“dropped” a two-page suicide note in his haste to escape. (The Quint)


Brexit catastrophe ahoy! Here’s a quick rundown of the awful things that happened, and the many more that will happen very soon.

  • Theresa May put her Brexit deal for a third vote and was rejected. She now plans to plans to put it to a fourth vote this week… we have no comment, not any more.

  • In a new Daily Mail poll, Labour leads Tories by five points as the party of choice. Voters are far more unanimous on two points: 41% want May to go; 45% oppose a no-deal Brexit. Voters, however, are confused about what they’d prefer instead… kinda like their MPs.

  • European leaders are now openly trash-talking Brit politicians, calling Brexit “a big shitshow.”

  • There’s talk of May announcing a snap general election, being replaced by someone on this unappetising list of party rivals. Leading newspapers are warning of a "total collapse" of the government.

  • But hey, Goldman Sachs now thinks there is a 40% chance of Brexit being scrapped entirely.


Indian military self goal? In the midst of the post-Balakot face-off with Pakistani jets in Kashmir, a military helicopter crashed, killing six members of the Air Force and a civilian. The chopper may have been brought down by one of our own missiles. The Air Force has launched an investigation to determine the cause for the tragic error. (Economic Times)


Guess who hacked Jeff Bezos phone? The Saudis, or so claims the security consultant Gavin De Becker hired by Bezos to investigate the hacking—which resulted in his sexts being published in the National Enquirer. (Daily Beast has De Becker’s first-person account, Reuters has the summary)


Did the Supreme Court set cheating Indians free? In recent months, the Court has decriminalised both homosexuality and marital adultery. According to an extramarital dating site, Gleeden, its recent data shows that people now “feel freer to express their sexual preference and to pursue homosexual or bisexual encounters outside the wedlock.” (Quartz)


The latest travesty in women’s underwear: is a pair of denim panties that cost $315. Yes, they’re seriously fugly. (Harper’s Bazaar)


Meet Amit Shah, doting grandpa: The much-feared BJP party chief tried to get his granddaughter to wear a BJP cap... and failed (clip here). Unfortunately, a charming ‘kids will be kids’ moment turned political as BJP critics seized on it as fodder for derision, and India Today deleted every trace of the ‘incriminating’ video.


Weekend content you might have missed: include the following:


  • Scroll’s eye-opening report from Western UP on voters’ response to Rahul Gandhi’s Nyay scheme and the ASAT test.

  • The Print draws an illuminating comparison between the celebration of the valour of Indian colonial soldiers in ‘Kesari’, and hostility toward a similar battle which involved Dalit soldiers.

  • The New York Times received more than 2000 photos from an anonymous source documenting life within a US prison. They are appalling—so much so that the newspaper could not publish most of them.

  • Quartz offers an intriguing deep dive into ‘kludge’—the Western equivalent of jugaad—and ties it to the recent Boeing 737 jet tragedies.

  • Manu Pillai in Mint writes of a Namboodiri Brahmin woman in Kerala called Savitri who created an unparalleled scandal by publicly naming her 65 lovers.

  • The Telegraph profiles a women-only, app-based cab service in Calcutta which is changing the lives of its drivers.

  • The News Minute reports on Bigo Live, a live streaming app supposedly appropriate for a 12+ audience— which is highly popular in India and inundated with pornographic content.


Your Monday morning pick-me-ups: include the following:


  • If there was a Tik Tok world cup, this clip recreating a well-known SRK-Madhuri song would surely be it. Instant chuckle guaranteed.

  • Cyrus Broacha faux-interviews Vivek Oberoi on his role as PM Modi.

  • Ola’s April Fool prank offers false hope to all Indians who desperately need ‘to go’.

  • Ranveer Singh and Lily Singh unveiled their best rap moves at the GQ India awards bash. Ranveer also unleashed his very own rap number… which was maybe not so best.

  • Jennifer Lopez wandered the streets of New York in a bathrobe and looked awesome.

  • Mumbai police, parrots and sexual consent. Yes, this clip has it all.

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The best place for the best advice

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How to negotiate your salary

Indian women earn about 20% less than men. But here’s the real kicker: the gender gap actually widens with work experience. The more senior your position, the less you will be paid compared to a male colleague. Since job-hopping is the single most common way to raise your salary, here’s what you can do to get a fairer shake at the workplace.



First, the homework: Every guide says you need to research a job offer before you even step into the interview room, but what exactly are you supposed to investigate?


  • Your fair market value. Know the salary range for the specific position and someone of your experience. Best sources of information: past colleagues, managers and mentors. Tap multiple sources as salary estimates can be frustratingly vague in some industries (see: media, advertising etc).

  • The company. Find answers—via news coverage (if it’s a big enough company) and your personal network—to some basic questions: What are its most critical functions? Where/how are they trying to grow? Which company-need vs. workplace-talent gaps do they face?

  • Company work culture. It determines a great part of what will be expected of you (late nights at the office vs. flex-time, for example) at the new job. You should also figure out the company’s ‘compensation philosophy’. If, for example, salary is your #1 criteria, then a workplace that prefers to reward its employees with in-kind benefits may be a bad fit. Sources of information: online review sites like Glassdoor, present or—even better—past employees, who are likely to be more honest.

  • Employee churn rate. It could reflect either a hire-and-fire company mindset or deeper issues at the workplace. You may not mind going back on the job market in a year or so, but it is always good to know if you’re choosing a fling or a long-term commitment.


Next, the interview: The simple rule for interviews is this: give only what you must, get as much of what you need.


  • Make your case. In initial interviews, the goal is to make yourself as desirable as possible to the company. Underline your experience and talent, yes. But also emphasise—where possible—why you are an excellent fit for projects or responsibilities that are important to the company. The more they want you, the stronger your advantage at the negotiation stage.

  • Avoid answering this question. The most gendered question in an interview is: How much do you make? Companies are overly influenced by current compensation. That’s fine if you are a man. But, if as a woman, you’re likely paid less than your male colleagues at your current job, your offer is also likely to be lower than other men interviewing for the same job. But if you can’t deflect, then fess up, but make it clear that your salary expectations are tied to the position on offer, and not the job you already have. (More on how to do that below)

  • Don’t give your number. The other potential trap is salary expectations. Avoid throwing out a specific number. You can say instead: I’m open to a salary that matches the position; I’d first like a better sense of my role and responsibilities; it depends on the overall compensation package. If pushed, then offer up a fair market range based on your research. This way, you have room to bargain if the offer comes in on the lower end of that range. (Of course, there is whole other school of thought which advocates throwing out a very precise number is the way to go -- set the bar, seize the advantage etc. But it’s very risky: if that number is too high, then you won’t get a callback.)

  • Know the job. Get a clear sense of responsibilities, work culture, your direct supervisor etc. In other words, everything you weren’t able to uncover via personal sleuthing.


Finally, the negotiation: Ok, so they made you an offer. Here’s what you do next.


  • Ask for more. Women tend to accept an offer if it’s close to what they had in mind. And that’s a mistake. HR is incentivised to keep salaries down and get the best talent for the buck. Research shows that women lose out on Rs. two-four lakhs on a base salary of Rs. 10 lakh because they don’t bargain. Always ask for more—but always be reasonable and nice. These may be your future colleagues/bosses, after all.

  • Ask questions. Negotiation requires understanding each item in your compensation package and beyond—travel allowance, reimbursements, expense accounts, paid leave, promotion and raise policies, and other company perks. Each of these points can be part of your future negotiation if the base salary is set in stone.

  • Base salary is key. All your future raises will be a percentage of this number. So be flexible if other benefits are generous, but don’t give too much ground on this number.

  • Be ready to walk. Unless circumstances are dire, don’t settle for far less than you or the position is worth. If you take this job, its salary will in turn determine what you are offered in the future. What you think of as a temporary compromise may turn into a long-term setback.


Learn more: Here’s all you need to become an ace salary negotiator.


  • Mint put together an India-focused guide supposedly for millennials, but a lot of the advice is aimed at women.

  • The invaluable Salary Skill Builder is an online tool just for women. It offers a step-by-step tutorial on salary negotiation, including what to do when faced with the tricky question about your current salary.

  • New York Times offers a great overview that includes dealing with the giant elephant in the interview room: your gender. Yes, men do get to be far more pushy than us. But that doesn’t mean settling for less. As for non-gender specific guides: advocates being more aggressive and playing hard to get. Business Insider seems to have received its tips from chest-thumping gorillas.

  • This one from Balance Careers keeps its advice straightforward and sensible. Like Goldilocks, you can pick whichever best matches your personality.

  • The HR view of salary negotiation is a must-read. There’s no greater power than knowing how the other side thinks.

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