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Wednesday, February 19, 2020
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Winner of the Day

V Unbeatablean awesome dance posse out of Mumbaicame in fourth in the last season of  ‘America's Got Talent’. But they have taken the trophy in the Champions Season of the same showbeating 40 other AGT winners. Check out the winning moment, and the winning performance.

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EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT...

The biggest news story today, explained.

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The propspect of living in a Jio-only world

The Supreme Court recently delivered what may well be a death blow to Vodafoneand a punch in the head to the Indian economy and consumer. 

 

A brief and dukhi history: of India’s telecommunications industry is as follows:

  • As per law, telecom companies have to pay a part of their revenues to the government in exchange for spectrum licenses. (Spectrum being bands of airwaves a company needs to transmit—be it for radio, mobile or wifi.) 
  • Now, the companies assumed this rule only applied to revenues from their actual telecom operations. But the government—in a moment of accounting inspiration—decided to demand a cut of all their revenues, including rent etc.
  • Cue maha-lawsuit that kicked off in 2005 and finally ended last year in a devastating loss for the companies. The Supreme Court in its inexplicable wisdom ordered them to shell out not just the unpaid dues but also interest plus penalties—accrued over the past 14 years!
  • The result: The companies owe a whopping 1.47 lakh crore to the government. That’s Rs 1,47,00,00000000—the kind of number that needs to be written out to be fully appreciated. 
  • Vodafone owes Rs 53,000 crore of this overdue bill, while Airtel’s share is Rs 35,500 crore. And to date, Vodafone and Airtel have coughed up Rs 2,500 crore and Rs 10,000 crore, respectively. 
  • What about Jio? As the fashionably late entrant to the telecom party, Reliance only owes a piddly Rs 13 crore.
  • The silver lining: In November, the government offered the companies a moratorium: No need to pay overdue bills until 2021-22. And they all breathed a little easy until last week.

 

A supreme hissy fit: In an emo outburst that would make a goth teenager proud, the Supreme Court lambasted the Department of Telecom for not squeezing the companies dry. The trigger: A DoT order issued in January to desist from taking any coercive action against the defaulting companies. The Court’s super OTT response: “Let us wind up the Supreme Court then... There is no law left in the country. We are anguished. I feel I should not work in this system. Who is behind all this nonsense? How can a mere desk officer in your department defy a Supreme Court judgment... Does he think he is the Supreme Court?” Etc. Etc. Etc.

 

A death sentence?  If claimed asap by the DoT as ordered, the owed amount is likely to spell the "end of the story for Vodafone Idea"—as its chairman Aditya Birla has warned. Vodafone Idea was always on shaky ground, even when it was formed back in 2018. The merger resembled two skydivers with failed parachutes, each desperately hoping the other could fly. But in recent years, the company has been steadily nosediving instead. At the end of the December quarter, VIL reported a staggering loss of Rs 6,438 crore.

 

Up next on death row: may be Airtel, which is barely holding on—and is now at the mercy of Reliance’s super-deep, oil-soaked pockets. The company posted a loss of Rs 1,035 crore in the last quarter. Jio, OTOH, reported a surprising profit of Rs 1,350 crore—though that number may be more a result of nifty accounting magic than business wizardry. Come soon: future spectrum auctions, including the 5G auction this summer. Guess who won’t have the moolah to outbid Mukesh Ambani? 

 

That exit triple punch: With 13,000 employees, Vodafone’s exit will put a huge hole in the telecom industry.  Apart from its unpaid telecom bill, the company will also default on Rs 27,000 crore ($3.8 billion) in loans—which is hardly good news for Indian banks drowning in unpaid loans. In all, Vodafone’s demise will result in a revenue loss of about Rs 1 trillion ($14.01 billion) for the government. And that’s very bad news for an economy crawling at the speed of your dongle.

 

The bottomline: If Reliance wins at this game of telecom monopoly, it will make losers of us all. (Good luck calling Jio’s customer service) But Mukesh-bhai will be cheerily humming dhan-dhana-dhan all the way to the bank.

 

Learn more: Reuters via NDTV explains why India will pay a trillion-rupee bill for Vodafone’s exit. BBC News on how Jio gave Indians the world’s cheapest data—and possibly destroyed the industry. Bloomberg reports on the damage a Vodafone exit will wreak on banks. Economic Times reports on the risks involved in a two-player  telecom industry. NDTV has the government’s last-minute efforts to stave off a telecom meltdown. And if you need a lot more detail on how we got to this sorry state, check out our previous explainer.

 

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

rehearsing your welcome song for Trump 

Government kills key consumer report: Every five years, the National Statistics Office releases data on consumer expenditure based on a massive, one-of-its-kind survey. 

  • The leaked results of 2017-18 survey were published in the Business Standard in Novemberand they showed that consumer spending has fallen for the first time in 40 years! (Our explainer has the details) 
  • At the time, government sources claimed that the survey was still in draft form and had certain “deficiencies” in its data and methodology. 
  • Now, it has decided to go ahead and scrap it entirelywhich is a first in the independent agency’s history. 
  • Next: the government will conduct a fresh set of surveys with an “improved methodology.” 
  • One unexpected problem: people are increasingly paranoid about speaking to government surveyorsworried that they are collecting data related to their citizenship instead. The chairman of India’s top statistics body said: “We are going to have serious problems in conducting the survey from now on. There is a likelihood of a fair amount of non-response, which can actually contaminate the data quite badly.”

 

Jamia CCTV video claims fact checked: Remember the Jamia CCTV footage released by the police earlier this weekthe one used to counter the clip showing police violence in the library? (No? Here’s our explainer.)  Lots of TV channels ran that clip, claiming that it showed at least one man holding a stone. A slo-mo, high resolution version of the clip shows that he is holding a wallet in one hand, and likely a phone in the other. (Full disclosure: we thought it may be a stone at the time, but such is the power of suggestion) (Scroll)

 

Trump’s Bharat yatra update: Around 45 families living in a slum near Ahmedabad’s Motera stadium the site of the planned ‘Khem Cho Trump’ extravaganzahave been served eviction notices. But, hey, everyone else is all excited for the big party (which will cost Gujarat Rs 80-85 crore). For example, the BCCI which shared a bird’s eye view of what will be the world’s largest cricket stadium. Also: Trump’s Indian ‘super fans, including a guy in Telangana who worships his statue, and Hindu Sena types who are rehearsing a welcome song. 

 

An amazing discovery in Cairo: Archaeologists have unearthed two statues submerged in ground water in a Cairo slumand it is being hailed as “one of the most important discoveries ever.” One is a massive 26-foot (8 metre) statue most likely of Pharaoh Ramses II, while the other is smaller: An 80-cm long statue of Ramses II's grandson, Pharaoh Seti II. Made of quartzite, the statues are broken into pieces. But exports hope to put them back together and restore the statues to their original glorious form. Daily Mail has excellent trivia about the very vain Pharaoh plus photos and videos. 

 

Rescue, rehabilitation, but zero compensation: There were 38,503 documented victims of trafficking between 2011 and 2019. And all of them are entitled to compensation as per the law which reads: “Every state government in coordination with the central government shall prepare a scheme for providing to compensate [trafficking] victims who have suffered loss or injury and require rehabilitation.” But here’s the number who applied for compensation: 107. And here’s the number who received it: 77. The Print explains how and why the system has totally failed these survivors.

 

Abhay Deol is doing a rugby film: ‘Jungle Cry’ tells the story of 12 underprivileged children from Orissa who went on to win the prestigious U14 Rugby World Cup in England. The movie will hit theatres around the world next month. Here’s the trailer. Variety has the story. From what we can figure, hamara Dev D has now permanently settled into hot father figure mode. But, hey: still hawt!

 

Most runners hate running: A popular fitness app Strava surveyed 25,000 runners around the world and discovered something a little surprising: half of the runners said they either hate running or barely tolerate it. The number who love to run: a paltry 8%! So why do people torture themselves so? They just wanna get healthy—and doing something they hate is a small price to pay. (Reuters

 

Stuff that made us smarter: includes the following 

 

  • Indian homemakers account for 17% of all suicides. IndiaSpend explains why.
  • The always helpful WhoWhatWear offers a guide to which ‘healthy’ items to avoid on a menu. Yes, we’re addicted to diet porn—which is kinda like food porn, i.e. cooking shows we watch with zero intention of entering the kitchen.
  • We Indians have always been atrocious tippers, but now—according to USA Today—there is a growing ‘do not tip’ movement in America. 
  • Times of India offers a handy guide on the ‘delete for everyone’ feature on WhatsApp.
  • Bloomberg via NDTV has an exclusive behind-the-scenes piece on how SoftBank’s strategy landed its blue-eyed investment Oyo in hot water.
  • The Guardian reports on a new study that shows that repeated and long-term offenders do in fact have a ‘criminal’ mind.
  • Dean Koontz wrote a novel back in 1981 called ‘The Eyes of Darkness’ featuring a lab-created virus called Wuhan-400. South China Morning Post has the story. We dug this one up thanks to a tip from our ambassador Tamanna Mazumder.
  • This eye-opening chart of the largest loss-making Indian companies.

 

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following

 

  • The hottest fashion accessory on the runway: cricket pads!
  • This lovely series of Paperboat ads that recreate nostalgic memories of train rides past.
  • This story (with photos) of Jake the blind Golden Retriever who has his very own guide dog.(Courtesy our ambassador Shilpa Shree)
  • This clip of a little girl being taught how to fight by her father… and then she whoops his ass!
  • This only-in-India story of a Bihari migrant labourer who scored 100/100 on his Malayalam literacy test!
  • The next time you whine about your super-boring job, find solace in this inspiring and musical Ghanaian postal worker.
  • Need more inspiration? Check out the stunning Dr Malvika Iyer, all decked out in her gorgeous red sari. Oh, did we mention she is an award-winning disability rights activist and bomb-blast survivor? We 😍😍😍 these photos.
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