Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Quote of the day

"I have been hit on my private parts by cops with boots. One of the woman cops took off my burqa and hit me on my private parts with a lathi,” said one of the Jamia students who participated in an anti-CAA march in Delhi. And she isn’t the only one. Resident doctors at Jamia Health Centre say over 10 women protesters have blunt force injuries aimed at that part of their body. Two men say they too were attacked with lathis in a similar fashion.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The third-time victory of Kejriwal

The Assembly election results are out, and the Aam Aadmi has raced to a comfortable third-time victory. But is this really a ‘victory against hate’?


First, the results: AAP scored 62 of the 70 seats, while the BJP scored 8. Congress: a big fat anda (Kejriwal style, of course).  


Wow, Delhi really likes Kejri! Despite his far too many eccentricities, the scarf-toting Arvind Kejriwal has long been a darling of the masses ever since he first took office in 2013. And he’s had the smarts to slowly dial down on the crazy over the years. The end result: a Delhi government that focused single-mindedly on the basics, including:


  • Free paani and bijli for households consuming below 20,000 litres and 200 units, respectively
  • Cracking down on arbitrary increases in school fees—a big deal in the capital where sky-rocketing ‘extra’ charges had become a nightmare.
  • Averagely, 25% of the AAP budgets have gone into education—aimed at improvements in infrastructure, teacher training, and an addition of 20,000 new classrooms across 200 schools. 
  • Student loans of up to Rs 10 lakh, and 100% fee waivers for poor students
  • 300-plus Mohalla clinics that offer basic medical care. Yeah, that’s short of the 1,000 promised, but no one’s complaining.
  • The AAP government also hiked the minimum wage from Rs 9,500 to Rs 14,500


And the BJP was wiped out! The saffron party actually improved its seat tally from 3 to 8 and its vote share by 6%—an improvement gained primarily at the expense of Congress—which it attributes to its pro-CAA stance. But yes, this isn’t exactly a stellar performance. Point to note: the BJP secured 65 of the same 70 seats in the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi nine months ago.


Because its Shaheen Bagh strategy didn’t work? Well, yes, in that it didn’t move the needle with Delhi voters—70% of whom actually support the citizenship law. And this despite the BJP doubling down on attacking AAP as ‘anti-national’. Kapil Mishra—who lost by over 11,000 votes—described the election as an “India-Pakistan match.” Tajinder Bagga warned of a “surgical strike” against Shaheen Bagh—and was soundly defeated despite the Hindutva rhetoric. As the results trickled in, a senior AAP leader gloated: “Your son was called a terrorist. Arvind Kejriwal was pained by the slur. It was said this (election) was an India-Pakistan match. Hindustan jeet gaya.”


Important point to note: AAP did not take a strong stance supporting Shaheen Bagh—though it has opposed the CAA. Asked about the sit-in, Kejriwal said: “[E]veryone has the right to protest but not to inconvenience other people. If you will block a road and cause pain to so many people, it will not be acceptable in any democracy, any society. Gandhiji would not have accepted this either.” And he was also criticised for reciting the Hanuman Chalisa on TV in an attempt to appeal to the BJP's base. Yesterday, in his victory speech, Kejriwal declared: "This is the day of Lord Hanuman who has blessed the people of Delhi. We pray that Hanuman Ji keeps showing the right path to us so that we continue to serve people for the next five years." 


The bottomline: AAP has secured a big victory primarily by providing basic public services to citizens. But its strategy doesn’t come cheap. While it has kept the deficit down, that task will prove far more challenging in its third term. And simply side-stepping thorny issues such as Shaheen Bagh—which voted resoundingly for AAP—may not remain an option in the long run. 

Learn more: Indian Express looks at the diminishing returns of BJP’s ideological agenda. Times of India explains how Kejriwal won by refusing to be pitted against PM Modi. Mint lays out the results in four charts. Also in Indian Express, Kejriwal’s looming budget woes. Caravan takes aim at Kejriwal’s “cynical stance” on CAA. The Print explains why AAP’s 2020 victory is more significant than the 2015 sweep. Times of India decodes the Muslim vote and its decisive swing toward AAP.

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giving fist-bumps to total strangers

Your viral outbreak update is here: Here’s the latest on the coronavirus that is sweeping around the world:


  • The first vaccine is 18 months away: says the World Health Organization, which has warned: “Wake up and consider this virus as public enemy number one.” Also, the virus now has a deliberately neutral name: COVID-19.
  • China Inc in debt? Inside China, more than 300 companies including smartphone maker Xiaomi are asking for loans totalling $8.2 billion to help cope with the fallout.
  • Beware of doorknobs: According to a new study, the virus can survive on doorknobs and train handrails for up to nine days if they are not disinfected with alcohol or bleach. Also a good safety measure: fist bumps instead of hand shakes.  
  • Apple’s ongoing woes: Its main iPhone manufacturer Foxconn reopened its two major plants in China, but only 10% of the workforce has returned to work so far. The two factories together account for the bulk of iPhone production, and analysts warn of “a shock to the system.”
  • Pakistan v India evacuation: Pakistan is refusing to evacuate 800 students stranded in Wuhan. The reason: it lacks the resources to treat the infected and prevent the spread of the disease. OTOH, India did evacuate its citizens but—according to Mint—it proved to be a “logistical nightmare.”


Tax info you totally need: As you may know, the government has introduced a new income tax option: Give up all your usual exemptions, and you can qualify for a lower tax rate (details in our explainer). The total number of possible exemptions you would have to forego: 70. But here’s the good news. Even if you opt for the lower tax rate, here are the exemptions you can still claim:

  • Interest received on post office savings account balances.
  • Gratuity received from your employer.
  • Amount received on maturity of your life insurance policy.
  • Your employer's contribution to your PF/NPS retirement account up to Rs 7.5 lakh per financial year.
  • Interest received from your provident funds as long as it doesn’t exceed 9.5%.
  • There’s a lot more in the Economic Times.


Guess who’s richer than Gautam Adani? Radhakishan Damani, who is now India's sixth-richest person with a net worth of $11.9 billion—which is significantly higher than the likes of Adani ($10.8 billion) and Sunil Mittal ($9.6 billion). The reason: his company Avenue Supermarts—which owns DMart—has crossed Rs 1.5 lakh crore in market cap, making it the 18th most valuable company in India. Even bigger than Nestle! Business Today decodes how Damani became a retail chain titan. 


Samsung unveils V-Day gift: Its Galaxy Z Flip phone will roll out on February 14. And here are the important deets: “The screen is 6.7 inches, with a hole-punch camera up top. When closed, there isn’t much of a display, beyond a quick bar that offers time, notifications and battery life. Users can also snap selfies with the case closed. The clam shell comes in three colors: black, purple and gold.” (TechCrunch)


Pentagon’s serious headache: "I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it's not very serious." That’s what President Trump said about the injuries suffered by US troops due to the Iranian missile attack on a US base in Iraq. Turns out those headaches are actually traumatic brain injuries—and the number of soldiers suffering from them is now 109. (Reuters)


Bangalore is the ‘infidelity capital’ of India: with the most nagriks looking for love in all the illicit places. That’s according to Gleeden that touts itself as a dating app for, well, cheaters. Of the randy shaadi-shudha types in Bengaluru, 43,200 are women (‘looking for freedom and excitement’ outside their marriage) and 91,800 are men. But the more troubling stat: infidelity has been the second biggest cause of murders that took place between 2001 and 2017 in Karnataka, Delhi and Tamil Nadu. (New Indian Express)


‘Desh bhakt’ driver gets away scot-free: Remember the Uber driver in Mumbai who took his passenger to a police thana after overhearing his phone convo about the anti-CAA protests? Uber first suspended Rohit Gaur for 72 hours, but has now given Gour his job back. Uber’s statement: “Following our internal review and to meet our standards, we enrolled the driver for re-sensitisation of our policies and community guidelines.” (Hindustan Times)


Things that make you go WTF: include the following:


  • A Lamborghini driver crashed into a police kiosk in Bangalore, but was soon caught. He happily posed for photos next to the debris, and posted it on social media. Yes, there are photos of this genius.
  • We heartily support bodies in all shapes and sizes—and every person’s personal fitness goals. But Adele’s insane and seemingly overnight weight loss is now officially in WTF territory. Yes, there are photos.
  • The latest craze on the internet is folks making brooms stand upright by themselves.


Cool stuff we learned on the internet: includes the following:


  • Politico reports on the hottest topic of debate in the US presidential race: each candidate’s skincare regimen. 
  • We all worry about plastic pollution. But Ozy reveals how Europe is turning plastic into an ally to fight climate change. 
  • Washington Post reports on the increasingly popular trend of video dating. The aim: to avoid the horrors of the many pointless IRL first dates.
  • Vice explores a surprising new finding: people who are born blind are immune to schizophrenia. What we found intriguing: the link between vision loss and hallucinations.


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • Lil kid kisses lil birdie. Awww! (Courtesy our ambassador Indrani Chakraverty) 
  • The good news that Greta Thunberg is getting a new BBC TV Series. 
  • This hilarious clip of a big crowd of lads singing ‘I’m a Barbie Girl’ (Courtesy ambassador Ameya Nagarajan)
  • These gorgeous photos that erase cars and people to showcase the beauty of New York City architecture 
  • Ratan Tata’s sweet response to being called ‘chotu’ on Insta.
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