The good: The Indian economy regained its ranking as the world’s fifth largest, pushing down the UK to the 6th spot, according to a Bloomberg report. Citing data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the report said that in the final quarter of FY22, the size of the Indian economy, in dollar terms, was $854.7 billion vis-a-vis the UK’s which stood at $816 billion. The Indian economy, which had first broken into the world’s largest five economies club in 2019, slipped below that rank following Covid-19 shutdowns in 2020 and 2021.
The okay: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das said in an interview to TV channel Zee Business that inflation has peaked in India and is likely to come down to 5% by the first quarter of FY24. While August’s retail inflation numbers are yet to come in, the consumer price index (CPI) inflation in July came in at 6.71%, which is still above the RBI’s comfort zone of 2% to 6%. Das’ observations are significant as the RBI’s next monetary policy meeting is scheduled for the end of this month and there are expectations that if the inflation comes closer to 6%, the central bank may slow down the pace of interest rate hikes.
The not-so-good: A report by the Institute of Competitiveness says that “while poverty has fallen, inequality has significantly increased, especially since 2000”, which, it adds, is in sharp contrast with other emerging economies. According to the report, poverty has fallen from over 45% at the beginning of the economic reforms in 1991 to 20% now. However, the share of the top 10% of the country’s population in total wealth has been above the global average since 2000 whereas other countries, such as Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia have reduced the share of the top 10% of the population in their total wealth.
Today: Home Minister Amit Shah to chair Southern Zonal Council meet in Kerala; NASA to retry launch of Artemis 1; Funeral of the last leader of Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Tomorrow: Indian Army chief Gen Manoj Pande on 5-day official visit to Nepal; Asia Cup – TBD – India Vs Pakistan
The defining moment: Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned on Friday India’s first home-built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, at Cochin Shipyard. At a cost of Rs 20,000 core, this 45,000-tonne warship was designed in 2003. PM Modi said, “Today, India has entered the list of countries that can build such large warships indigenously. Vikrant has infused new confidence.”
Namesake: Named after India’s first commissioned warship, INS Vikrant — purchased from the UK in 1957, and decommissioned in 1997 — the new VIkrant carries the motto of the old: “Jayema sam yudhi sprudhah [We conquer those who fight us in war]”. The original Vikrant led the naval blockade of Pakistan in the 1971 war.
How big: It is a mini township — 262 metres long and 62 metres wide — and can hold 30 fighter aircraft and a crew of about 1,600. It has a 16-bed hospital and a kitchen to make 3,000 chapatis in an hour.
Atmanirbhar benefits: With over 75% indigenous content, around 80-85% of its cost has been ploughed back into the Indian economy, also providing 2,000 direct and 13,000 indirect employment.
New ensign: On the occasion, PM Modi also unveiled the Indian Navy’s new ensign — a blue octagonal shape, with twin golden borders and the national emblem sitting atop an anchor, superimposed on a shield with the navy’s motto. It also has the national flag on the upper canton. The octagonal shape and golden borders draw inspiration from legendary Maratha ruler Shivaji’s seal.
‘Free from slavery’: PM Modi said, “Today is a historic day. India dropped the burden of slavery from its chest. Until now, the Indian Navy’s flag carried the identity of slavery. But today onwards, the Chhatrapati Shivaji-inspired flag will fly in the sea and in the sky.” More here
The Supreme Court granted interim bail to activist Teesta Setalvad, two months after she was arrested for alleged “forgery and fabricating evidence” to frame “innocent people” in the 2002-Gujarat riots case. She is likely to walk out of jail today after formalities are completed.
Quote: A day after excoriating the Gujarat HC over delayed listing of her bail prayer, SC said, “The appellant has been in custody for more than two months and at this stage is certainly entitled the relief of interim bail during the pendency of consideration of her substantive application which is pending before HC.”
‘Surrender passport’: CJI UU Lalit’s bench, however, asked Setalvad to surrender her passport with trial court until the Gujarat HC decides her regular bail plea. The bench also asked Setalvad to cooperate with the probe agency in the case against her.
Setalvad was arrested on June 25, two days after SC gave a clean chit to PM Modi in the 2002-riots case, blaming petitioner Zakia Jafri for “keeping the pot boiling” and making observation that those who abused the process of law “need to be in the dock”.
The 2002-Gujarat riots were triggered by the torching of a coach of Sabarmati Express by a mob near Godhra station on February 27 that year. Fifty-nine passengers, mostly Hindu Karsevaks returning from Ayodhya, were charred to death in the incident. In the subsequent riots, more than 1,000 people died, most of them Muslims.
Charge and counter-charge: Setalvad was among activists who blamed Modi, then Gujarat CM, for the riots, accusing him of complicity. On the other hand, Setalvad was named accused in seven cases since 2003 — related to forgery, foreign exchange rules, fund embezzlement and coaching of witnesses during the trials. More here
The number of people committing suicide due to drug and alcohol addiction reached a new high last year, with 10,560 deaths due to suicide — the first time since 1995, when such records started being kept, that the suicides due to drugs and alcohol additcion have crossed the 10,000 mark.
A sobering thought
The number of suicides due to drugs and alcohol addiction last year were 15% higher than what was recorded in 2020, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report — when India saw 9,169 deaths.
In fact, just five states — Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala — account for more than 78%, or almost four out of every five cases. Maharashtra has the dubious distinction of being the table topper in drug and alcohol related suicides for the last few years while Karnataka, which till 2015 used to see around 100 such deaths every year, has witnessed a sharp spike in recent years, even though last year it recorded fewer such suicides than the year before.
Between 1995 and 2021, of the 95,342 deaths attributed to drug and alcohol abuse, more than 50,000 have occurred in the last seven years, between 2015 and 2021, according to NCRB data. However, according to a psychiatrist, “in many cases, the intent may not have been to die by suicide, but just to inflict pain on oneself as a relief, but that may have turned fatal.”
Even so, there’s little doubt that the problem has only been exacerbating over the years, with last year’s suicides due to drugs and alcohol addiction accounting for 11% of all such deaths since 1995.
The share of such cases in the country has also been increasing, even as the total number of deaths by suicide has been increasing. In 2021, such deaths accounted for 6.4% of the more than 1.6 lakh suicides in the country, while in 2020 and 2019, such deaths accounted for 6% of the 1.5 lakh suicides and 5.6% of the 1.3 lakh suicides, respectively.
The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre and states to respond to a petition alleging woefully inadequate mental healthcare infrastructure in the overcrowded prisons, which it claimed was the primary cause of suicidal deaths among jail inmates.
The petition was filed by Kush Kalra, who through RTI applications to 56 prisons spread across states found that most of them either do not have or have inadequate mental healthcare infrastructure as mandated under Section 103(6) of the Mental Health Act, 2017.
The petitioner sought a direction from the SC “to provide training and awareness to the prison staff and police…and to comply with all these provisions dealing with mental health of Prisoners in letter and spirit.”
According to the 2020 report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Delhi ranked third in cases of suicides in jails. A total 165 unnatural deaths, including suicides, have been reported from prisons across the country, the PIL said.
In 2019, there were 1,351 prisons in India with a capacity of 4,00,934 inmates but as many as 4,81,387 prisoners were lodged in them, according to Prison Statistics-2020.
In 2020, the number of prisons decreased to 1,306, but their capacity increased to 4,14,033. However, the total prison population was 4,88,511, representing overcrowding by 118%.
First player at last: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has finally got a former player as its first president in its 85-year history. Former Mohun Bagan and East Bengal goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey, 45, beat the legendary Bhaichung Bhutia in the election for the top post.
Chaubey, a BJP politician who lost the last parliamentary election, won 33-1 in the 34-member electorate, made up of the state association representatives. Former India captain Bhutia, also 45, did not have much support.
The ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ could not even get his state association representative as proposer or seconder for filing his nomination papers. But Chaubey, who never played for the India senior team, got the better of Bhutia, who was his teammate at East Bengal.
The elections of the AIFF office bearers on Friday brought to an end a sordid saga. The crisis forced the ouster of Praful Patel as AIFF president for failing to hold polls in December 2020. The Supreme Court intervened, with the formation of the Committee of Administrators (CoA).
AIFA punished: These developments were seen as “undue influence from third parties” by the football governing body, FIFA, which suspended AIFF till elections are held. This put India’s chance of hosting the Women’s U-17 World Cup in jeopardy.
The SC-mandated CoA was slated to oversee the AIFF polls scheduled for August 28. But, following the punitive action by FIFA, SC terminated CoA’s mandate on August 22, disallowed inclusion of the 36 former players in the electoral college and postponed the polls by a week.
Situation salvaged: SC’s modification of its verdict salvaged the Women’s U-17 World Cup’s hosting in India as FIFA lifted the ban on August 26. The decks are now cleared for the showpiece event in October. More here
A Myanmar court on Friday sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to three years’ imprisonment with labour after finding her guilty of election fraud, adding more jail time to the 17 years she is already serving for other offences prosecuted by the military government.
The latest verdict also carries potentially significant political consequences for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party by lending support to the government’s explicit threats to dissolve it before a new election the military has promised for 2023.
Election fraud? Suu Kyi’s party won the the 2020 general election in a landslide victory, but the army seized power the following February and kept her from a second five-year term in office. The army contends it acted because of alleged widespread fraud in the polls though independent election observers did not find any major irregularities.
Civil war: The military’s seizure of power prompted widespread peaceful protests that were quashed with lethal force, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts now characterise as civil war.
Opaque trials: Suu Kyi’s supporters and independent analysts say all the charges against her are politically motivated and an attempt to discredit her and legitimise the military’s seizure of power while keeping her from returning to politics. All her trials have been held in closed courts.
Who else? Ousted President Win Myint and the former minister of the president’s office, Min Thu, both co-defendants in the election fraud case, each received sentences of three years. Lawyers will file appeals in the coming days.
Former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa will return to the country from Thailand in the early hours of Saturday, official sources told PTI, a day after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced a preliminary bailout package for the crisis-hit island nation.
Escape & return
The 73-year-old fled the country under military escort in July after unarmed crowds stormed his official residence, following months of angry demonstrations blaming him for the nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.
He issued his resignation in Singapore before flying onward to Bangkok, from where he has been petitioning his successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, to facilitate his return.
Rights activists said they would press for Rajapaksa’s arrest over a series of crimes, including his alleged role in the 2009 assassination of prominent newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.
Rajapaksa’s resignation ended his presidential immunity, which could see the revival of stalled criminal cases against the former leader.
He also faces charges in a California court over Wickrematunge’s murder and the torture of Tamil prisoners at the end of the island’s traumatic civil war in 2009.
Ravindra Jadeja. The cricketer was ruled out of the remainder of the Asia Cup tournament due to an injury in his right knee, with Axar Patel replacing him. Jadeja, who shares his surname with former Indian cricketer Ajay Jadeja, took 44 matches to haul 200 Test wickets. He was banned by the IPL in 2010 for a year for violating guidelines and trying to negotiate a larger financial contract with other IPL franchises whilst being part of Rajasthan Royals.
Follow news that matters to you in real-time. Join 3 crore news enthusiasts.
Written by: Rakesh Rai, Tejeesh Nippun Singh, Jayanta Kalita, Prabhash K Dutta Research: Rajesh Sharma