Is Fareed Zakaria Souring on India?

CNN GPS host Fareed Zakaria is known to be among the loudest cheerleaders for India and a sharp critic of Pakistan. While he still refuses to say anything that could even remotely be considered positive about Pakistan, it seems that he is souring on his native India.

Fareed Zakaria

Speaking with Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta on The Print YouTube channel, Fareed Zakaria called the Indian state an “inefficient state”.“Indian government functions very poorly, even in comparison to other developing countries. Coronavirus has highlighted that reality, " he added. He did not clearly speak about the lynchings of Indian Muslims by people affiliated with the ruling BJP and the brutality of Indian military against Kashmiri Muslims, but he did ask: “What I wonder about (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is, is he really bringing all of India along with him? He noted sadly:”India seems like roadkill for China".

Has New Delhi's abject failure in containing the coronavirus pandemic finally done what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's extreme brutality and open hatred against Zakaria's fellow Indian Muslims could not do? Has he really had it with Hindu Nationalist government? While he has not used his perch on CNN to do it, it appears that he has started expressing his disapproval of the performance on other platforms.

 Here are a few of the key points Fareed Zakaria made while speaking with Shekhar Gupta:

1. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Indian government, and by that I mean the Delhi government, has handled this crisis (COVID19) very poorly.

2. Indian government functions very poorly, even in comparison to other developing countries. Coronavirus has highlighted that reality.

3. In a way, India seems like roadkill for China’s obsession with absolute control over their borders. I do think there is an opportunity here for diplomacy. I don’t think India needs to be confrontational about it (the LAC issue), but of course it should push back.

4. It is now a bipolar world. US and China are way ahead of the rest of the world. For the long term, India needs to decide it’s position with China.

4. Turkey under Erdogan has become more confident and independent. It is culturally proud. It is telling Americans to buzz off.

5. Popularity of political leaders around the  world is linked to their performance on the coronavirus pandemic. In India, however, the issues of religion and caste are still dominating.

6.  What I wonder about (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is, is he really bringing all of India along with him? How many Muslims in Indian government? Or South Indians in BJP? It is much less diverse than Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's cabinet.

7. I have been very sad to see how Indian democracy has developed over the last few years. It has become an illiberal democracy.

8. The India media is slavishly pro-government. Self-censorship is widespread in India.

9. The Indian courts fold in cases where government takes serious interest.

It has become increasingly clear that India's loudest cheerleaders like Fareed Zakaria are now starting to see the stark reality of Modi's India as a big failure on multiple fronts. Indian state has failed to contain the deadly COVID19 pandemic. India's economy is in serious trouble. The country's democracy is in decline. India seems like a roadkill for China. This turn of events has created serious problems for Pakistani "liberals" who have long seen and often cited India as a successful example of "secular democracy" at work in South Asia.

Here's a video clip from CNN GPS Show:

https://youtu.be/KpAMVLwBJkM





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Comments

Riaz Haq said…
#India, #Brazil, and #SouthAfrica will face the 'harshest' #economic impact from the #coronavirus as they're corrupt and badly run. These 3 economies lie at the very bottom of risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft's "Recovery Capacity Index" on #COVID19. http://markets.businessinsider.com/news/1029525418

The G-20's "least-resilient" nations are set to face far worse economic consequences than wealthier ones in the aftermath of the pandemic, according to a report by global political risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.
India, South Africa, and Brazil will experience the "harshest repercussions" as they attempt to recuperate economic losses this year, analysts David Wille and Joshua Cartwright wrote.
G-20 countries in Western Europe and East Asia have the capacity to recover more rapidly than emerging market members, the report said.

More affluent countries adopted strict lockdowns and managed to support citizens when their economies entered a "self-induced coma," the report found, while poorer G-20 members could not launch such widespread programmes, it added.
The clear outlier was found to be the US with the "least effective pandemic response of any developed market" due to a politicized re-opening of state level eceonomies, which allowed the virus to keep spreading, the report said.
However, it added, as soon as a vaccine is developed, the high fiscal power of the US will lessen the impact of the downturn.
The G-20, which is made up of the EU and 19 of the world's most powerful economies, can expect its members to see a two-track recovery through Verisk Maplecroft's "Recovery Capacity Index."

The index measures a nation's ability to recover from a crisis.

India, South Africa, and Brazil lie at the very bottom of this index.
The three economies contribute to 20% of the world's population, 10% of the world's GDP, 3.7% of total trade, and 3.2% of foreign direct investment flows.
Riaz Haq said…
#India #coronavirus cases cross 3 million with the 5th straight day of more than 60,000 new cases. Federal health ministry data showed, behind only the #UnitedStates and #Brazil. Deaths in India from #COVID-19 rose by 912 to 56,706. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva https://reut.rs/3j4lM2z

The number of coronavirus infections in India crossed the 3 million mark with 69,239 new cases reported on Sunday even as the country opened up various sectors from a lockdown that ground businesses to a halt and hurt economic growth.

With the fifth straight day of more than 60,000 new cases, India’s tally stands at 3.04 million, federal health ministry data showed, behind only the United States and Brazil. Deaths in India from COVID-19 rose by 912 to 56,706.

India on Sunday issued guidelines to open up its media production industry with norms for social distancing, crowd management and sanitisation.

“The general principles behind the SOP will help create a safe working environment for cast and crew in the industry,” Prakash Javadekar, India’s union minister for information and broadcasting said in a tweet.

Top producers, distributors and actors from Bollywood, the movie industry in India’s financial capital of Mumbai, had said in May it would take at least two years for them to recover financially from the pandemic, putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs.

Film production and theatres had been shut nationwide after Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a more than two month long lockdown in March to curb spread of the virus.

While India has been slowly opening up some industries with specific regulations, containment zones - areas identified as most affected by the virus - still remain under lockdown.
Riaz Haq said…
Has China Won by Kishore Mahbubani

Financial Times Book Review by John Thornhill

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8278279504304651957&postID=6231840832100514419


In Mahbubani’s telling, written before coronavirus struck, the US ruling classes think their rivalry with China is a rerun of the cold war with the Soviet Union — and they know how that movie ended. It is surely only a matter of time and political gravity before the liberty-loving, free-market superpower sees off the latest uppity communist dictatorship.

Mahbubani picks up on that cold war analogy. But this time, he argues, the roles are reversed: the US is the inflexible, ideological, systemically challenged superpower, while China is the adaptable, pragmatic and strategically smart rival. “America is behaving like the Soviet Union, and China is behaving like America,” he writes.

Like an overzealous proctologist, Mahbubani probes America’s most sensitive parts. In spite of the increasingly bellicose noises coming out of Washington, the US has failed to develop any coherent strategy to deal with a resurgent China, he argues. That is in glaring contrast with the patient strategy of containment articulated by the US diplomat George Kennan in 1946 at the start of the cold war. Mahbubani gives short shrift to America’s marginalised modern-day diplomats: there are, as the former defence secretary Robert Gates observed, more members of military marching bands than US foreign service personnel.


The former Singaporean diplomat adds that US politics has been captured by a short-sighted plutocracy that would not survive long if the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, criminalising bribery of officials abroad, applied at home.


Lacking any strategic brain, the US has become over-reliant on military muscle and entangled in perpetual wars in the Middle East. The US may account for half of global defence spending, but how much use is its military hardware in a software age? US aircraft carriers, which can cost up to $13bn to build, can be easily sunk by one of China’s DF-26 missiles, costing a few hundred thousand dollars.

Most tellingly, the US’s social and economic model has stopped delivering for most of its people. “America is the only developed society where the average income of the bottom 50 per cent of the population has gone down over the past 30 years. In the same period, the Chinese people have experienced the greatest improvement in their standard of living ever seen in Chinese history,” he writes.




It is in the nature of a polemic to maximise all evidence supporting an argument and minimise everything that contradicts it. So it is with Mahbubani: unsparing on the US’s failings, he glosses over China’s manifest flaws. The Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, in which tens of millions died, merit one sentence. The current unrest in Hong Kong is dismissed as a struggle between the homeless and real estate tycoons.

Mahbubani is as effusive in his praise of China’s leaders as he is damning of their US counterparts. President Xi Jinping’s removal of term limits was necessary to counter factionalism and corruption. His rule delivers three public goods to the world: restraining Chinese nationalism; responding to climate change; and ensuring that China is a status quo power, not a revolutionary one. “There is a very strong potential that Xi Jinping could provide to China the beneficent kind of rule provided by a philosopher king,” he gushes.

In the end, Mahbubani ducks the question his book’s title poses. Despite his criticisms of the US, he recognises its many strengths: an individualistic culture; the best universities in the world; a magnetic attraction for the world’s best and brightest (including 351,000 Chinese students); and its strong institutions — although Donald Trump is working on that.

He concludes that a “geopolitical contest between America and China is both inevitable and avoidable”. Read this book to be provoked, if not convinced.
Riaz Haq said…
HOW AMERICA’S EXPERIENCE WITH PAKISTAN CAN HELP IT DEAL WITH TURKEY
AARON STEIN AND ROBERT HAMILTON

https://warontherocks.com/2020/08/how-americas-experience-with-pakistan-can-help-it-deal-with-turkey/


Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air and missile defense system is a perfect example of Washington’s dilemma. In December 2017, Ankara finalized an agreement with the Russian Federation for the purchase of the S-400. In response, the United States removed Turkey from participation in the F-35 fighter aircraft program, because the S-400 can collect valuable electronic intelligence on the West’s newest jet. This outcome upended decades of Turkish planning for the future of its air force. While Ankara has plans to develop an indigenous fighter, any such program will likely be extremely expensive, face serious delays, and may not deliver enough fighter aircraft to replace its current inventory of F-16s. The problem now is to protect the F-35 from Russian exploitation — even after Turkey has taken ownership of the S-400 — while developing a mechanism to ensure Turkey can purchase new fighter aircraft.

America’s experience with another troublesome ally — Pakistan — might have valuable lessons for U.S. defense officials in dealing with Turkey. The United States has sold and upgraded F-16s to Pakistan since the 1980s despite Islamabad’s support for the Taliban and Haqqani Network, growing nuclear arsenal, and use of terrorist groups to attack India. In order to buy F-16s after 9/11, Pakistan agreed to a program that allows U.S. technical security teams to monitor the end-use of the aircraft. A similar program could serve as a model to keep tabs on any future Turkish use of the F-35 and ensure a highly circumscribed S-400 deployment. The application of this strategy to Turkey faces a number of challenges, particularly given the state of Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with the United States and other Western countries. However, it may be the only realistic approach to protect the F-35 program and America’s interest in a capable Turkish Air Force.

Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 ran afoul of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a bipartisan sanctions package passed in August 2017 to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to unilaterally lift sanctions imposed on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. The legislation requires the president to impose secondary sanctions on countries or individuals that engage in a “significant transaction” with any entity linked to Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

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Pakistan was once described as “the ally from hell.” Even as Washington provided it more than $30 billion in aid after 9/11, Pakistan gave sanctuary to the Taliban and supported the Haqqani Network. Nevertheless, the United States was able to sell the Pakistan Air Force F-16s under strict end-use conditions. Washington should take a similar approach to Turkey — a problematic, but key NATO ally with whom it shares a number of interests.

Turkey and the United States have significant political differences over events in the region, but the health of NATO collective defense matters more than bilateral spats between two longtime allies. Ankara risked the security of the F-35 program with its S-400 purchase. There is a pathway to try and overcome this issue, but it will require creative thinking to verify the non-deployment and highly circumscribed use of the S-400. The Pakistan F-16 model is a realistic option and could provide a way to overcome a problem that can be solved with a mixture of technical cooperation and an onsite presence.
Riaz Haq said…
WHO signals slowing of #COVID infections but #India cases still soaring, up by 1.5 million since start of August. India reported the highest number of new #coronavirus cases globally for 18th straight day climbing by 60,975 in the latest 24-hour period. https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2020/aug/26/coronavirus-live-news-who-signals-slowing-of-infections-but-india-cases-still-soaring

India reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases globally for the 18th straight day. Infections rocketed by another 1.5 million since the start of August, taking India’s total to around 3.1 million, more than in the US and Brazil. The rate of new cases in the country is increasing rapidly, climbing by 60,975 in the latest 24-hour period, according to the federal health ministry.

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#India Is in Denial about the #COVIDー19 Crisis. The country is headed for disaster as the #pandemic devastates health services and #livelihoods. #economy #jobs #health #Modi #BJP - Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/india-is-in-denial-about-the-covid-19-crisis/

The Indian monsoon season is in full swing, drenching the streets of Mumbai and flooding the plains of Bihar. But dark clouds of another kind—disease, hunger and death—are also gathering fast.

India is now ahead of all other countries in terms of the number of new recorded COVID-19 cases per day—close to 70,000 in mid-August. That’s about one fourth of world-wide new cases. Only two countries are anywhere close: Brazil and the United States; and India has lagged behind those two countries in achieving a reduction in daily cases.

Further, recorded cases in India are likely to be a small fraction of all COVID-19 infections. That could be true in many countries, but the ratio of infections to recorded cases seems particularly large in India—at least 20:1, judging from two recent serological surveys, in Delhi and Mumbai respectively. This would mean that India already had more than 50 million COVID-19 infections, compared with a recorded figure of 2.5 million.
Riaz Haq said…
#Indian #Muslims should form exclusive party, consider moving to Kerala. Zakir Naik says such a Muslim political party should join hands with #Dalits (#untouchables) who are not accepted by #Hindus (who are just 60% of population) as #Hindu. #Modi #BJP https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2020/08/22/indian-muslims-should-form-exclusive-party-consider-moving-to-kerala-zakir-naik.html

Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik continues to reach out to his followers in India and across the world on a near-daily basis despite leaving for Malaysia in 2016. Even though India has demanded his extradition on charges of money laundering and incitement to violence, Zakir Naik continues to propagate his teachings via frequent videos, which are disseminated via social media.

On Friday, Zakir Naik's official Facebook channel uploaded a video of him responding to a follower's question on how Indian Muslims should respond to the "harassment and oppression" of the BJP government in India.


Zakir Naik claimed, "In last four-to-six years, there is an onslaught on Muslim minorities in India. There are lot of lynchings, attacks..." and alleged there was lot of oppression and persecution under the current government.

Zakir Naik categorised his response into two: Muslims as a whole and as individuals. Naik said Indian Muslims as a whole “should be united," noting they are divided on basis of "different sects in Islam, and belonging to different political parties and social organisations".

Zakir Naik declared the different Muslim groups in India "are fighting each other, criticising each other..."

Referring to the splintering of Muslim votes, Zakir Naik repeated a controversial claim about the Muslim population he has made previously. Naik claimed while official estimates put the Muslim population in India around 200 million, he believes there are "actually 250 million to 300 million Muslims", a figure that the “government supresses”. Naik declared India is the country with the world's largest Muslim population.

Zakir Naik then declared, "Muslims should make another party, exclusively, only for Muslims". "This political party should join hands with other political parties that are not Fascist and not communal," he added. Zakir Naik opined that such a Muslim political party should join hands with dalits, adding "dalits are not Hindus".

Zakir Naik claimed "Babasaheb Ambedkar loved Islam, but unfortunately the Muslims didn't welcome him, so he chose the second best... he chose Buddhism". Zakir Naik argued such a political alliance of Muslims and dalits would represent nearly 600 million people and be a major force.

Zakir Naik declared Indian Muslims have lacked political leadership.

Referring to Muslims as individuals, Naik claimed if Indian Muslims could not practice their faith, they should do Hijira (flight to avoid religious persecution).

"If you have the means to go to a Muslim-majority country, that should be the best," Zakir Naik said, adding he did "not expect" all Muslims of India to leave the country.

Zakir Naik said Muslims who could not move out of the country could go to another state, "which is more lenient towards Muslims". Naik added that the "best state I can think of" is Kerala. Zakir Naik claimed that followers of all three major religions—Hindus, Muslims and Christians—each accounted for about one-third of the population of Kerala.

"The people of Kerala are not communal in nature. The people of different religions live harmoniously. There is no friction between different religions,” Zakir Naik argued. He also added "this government (BJP) doesn't have much hold in the state of Kerala". “So, one of the best options if you want to do Hijira to another state, I would say, is Kerala," Zakir Naik said.
Riaz Haq said…
New index says #India is more #corrupt than #Pakistan . Sponsored by Los Angeles-based research organisation Berggruen Institute, the governance index ranked performance on 3 key indices — Quality of #Democracy, Quality of #Government and Quality of #Life. https://theprint.in/india/overachiever-in-democracy-india-trails-pakistan-in-corruption-on-governance-index/368568/


On the “existence and perception” of corruption in a country, China was considered the most corrupt with a score of 39 points and India came next at 28 points. Pakistan was considered the least corrupt with just 13 points.

India ranked poorly on business regulation, public health and civil justice, according to the recently released Berggruen Governance Index 2019.

The report looked at data over 14 years (2004-2018) from 38 countries and covered 95 per cent of the global GDP and 75 per cent of the global population.

Sponsored by the Los Angeles-based research organisation Berggruen Institute, the governance index ranked performance on three key indices — Quality of Democracy, Quality of Government and Quality of Life. Each index was further analysed based on several sub-indices.

The Quality of Democracy index looked at civil society, culture, feedback mechanisms, and political engagement.

The Quality of Government covered analytical capacity, coordination capacity, corruption, impartiality, judicial impartiality, politicised bureaucracy, procedural efficiency, bureaucratic recruitment, business regulation and tax collection capacity.

The Quality of Life index analysed civil justice, crime, business procedures, education, environment, inflation, other public services, price control, public health and the shadow economy of countries.

India ranked in the bottom 10 countries in terms of Quality of Government and Quality of Life, but “significantly overachieved” in terms of Quality of Democracy. India’s democracy score remained steadily in the 40s data point bracket from 2013 to 2018.

In 2008, the index fell to its lowest at 37 data points. In 2009, it shot up a staggering 60 points along with a significant improvement in quality of government and life. From 2009 to 2011, quality of government fell from 35 points to just 16. Manmohan Singh served as Prime Minister in all these years.

There was a significant drop in the Quality of Life data points during the early years of PM Narendra Modi’s first term that began in 2014 — from 21 points in 2015 to just 10 in 2016. Quality of Government declined during the tail end of his term, from 2016 to 2018.

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Based on the sub-index Judicial Impartiality, which refers to “a citizen’s treatment in the course of judicial procedures”, India scored the most with 28 data points, Pakistan scored 14 and China 5.

With regard to Quality of Education, China took the lead at 80 points while India and Pakistan scored 30.

On the “existence and perception” of corruption in a country, China was considered the most corrupt with a score of 39 points and India came next at 28 points. Pakistan was considered the least corrupt with just 13 points.

On ‘politicised bureaucracy’, which is the influence of political connections and ideology in the “hiring and firing practices” of bureaucracy, India ranked highest of the three countries with 59 points, China came next with 23 and then Pakistan at 13.

With regards to Shadow Economy — the ability of the government to prevent economic activity from escaping its reach — China scored the highest (91 points), followed by India (57 points) and Pakistan (14 points).

Of the 38 countries, Sweden was the “overachiever” with the highest score in all three indices. UK achieved “more than expected in light of its GDP” overall, while the US performed “just above expectations” on Quality of Democracy, and just below in the remaining two indices.
Riaz Haq said…
This week, #India saw the highest one-day world record of more than 77,000 since the #COVIDー19 #pandemic began. Model predicts India will shortly overtake #Brazil, putting it 2nd to the #UnitedStates in total cases. It could soon overtake the #US in cases https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-coronavirus-largest-daily-cases/2020/08/28/7cf61f0a-e7c1-11ea-bf44-0d31c85838a5_story.html


India is recording around 1,000 deaths a day from the coronavirus, roughly the same as the United States and Brazil, and given the rising number of cases, that toll appears likely to continue or increase. In terms of deaths per million people, India has fared far better than the United States, Brazil and Italy, but not as well as neighboring countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

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It took more than five months for India to reach the bleak milestone of 1 million cases of the novel coronavirus.

The next million came in just 21 days. The third million was faster still: 16 days.

The increase in cases is unlikely to ebb anytime soon, experts say, as a galloping outbreak spreads to new parts of the country and political leaders continue to reopen the economy. This week, India recorded the highest one-day jump in new cases — more than 77,000 — anywhere in the world since the pandemic began.

Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan who developed a model to predict India’s outbreak, said the country will shortly overtake Brazil, putting it second to the United States in total cases.

“The only question is whether India is going to catch up with the United States,” she said.

The virus has now spread throughout the world’s second-most-populous country, reaching even isolated Indigenous tribes in a far-flung Indian territory. The pandemic has also crippled economic activity — experts believe the economy contracted by 20 percent in the three months to June — with only anemic signs of recovery.

Yet there is little alarm and even less outrage. The coronavirus often slips off the front pages, and national health officials conduct briefings only once a week. Overall approval ratings for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remain sky-high, although a quarter of those polled in the same recent survey said the handling of the pandemic was his biggest failure.

Government officials regularly highlight India’s comparatively low rate of deaths as a percentage of cases to indicate their efforts are working. Testing has increased dramatically but remains far below many other countries on a per capita basis. Some find reassurance in India’s overall fatality figure of about 62,000, which is lower than in Brazil and the United States at similar points in their respective outbreaks.
Riaz Haq said…
#India and #US , the 2 largest democracies in the world, are the sickest now. One major difference is that political opposition to the government’s mishandling of the #COVID19 crisis is much more energised and organised in the US than in India.

https://scroll.in/article/971086/the-two-largest-democracies-in-the-world-are-the-sickest-now

The two largest democracies in the world, India and the United States, are now struggling and flailing in the fight against the coronavirus. India has the world’s largest number of new cases, followed closely by the US. The number of reported cases are almost surely undercounts, as in both countries testing has been delayed and highly inadequate, if not downright chaotic. Death rates per million people are much lower in India, possibly because the Indian population is much younger. As the number of cases mounted, the government in both countries discontinued giving daily briefings on the virus impact.

As is well known, in the US, President Donald Trump and his party had been in denial or claiming imminent victories too often (consistent with their anti-science and anti-expert attitude), fatally wasting several weeks of potential preparation. Simple hygienic precautionary measures have been politicised, with not wearing masks becoming a sign of partisan or libertarian defiance.

The US also lacks a unified public health agency to authoritatively handle and coordinate in a major pandemic. Even in the best of times, the US private medical insurance system is messy, uncoordinated, mired in a bureaucratic system oriented to exclude people, and largely unaffordable for all those, particularly the poor, who do not have a stable job. Among rich countries the system is among the least prepared to face a pandemic of the current proportions.

The current regime in India in its health plans has been trying by and large to copy the American system of subsidised private insurance. Health spending by the Indian government as percentage of GDP has long been one of the lowest for any major country, and the public health system is chronically dismal. This has been a matter of national shame, but this kind of shame does not get the attention of our current crop of ultra-nationalists.

A poorly handled pandemic
Faced with the virus, India, like the US, has been woefully unprepared. India also wasted crucial weeks in February and March, even as the virus was raging in a neighboring country. This was not so much because of anti-science attitudes (though they are not absent in the ruling party and its affiliates – remember the cow urine drinking parties organised by some of them to forestall the virus), but more because of another virus that has been afflicting India’s body politic: the virus of hate and intolerance.

Much of February, particularly around the time of the Delhi state elections, went in majoritarian hate-mongering against the minority Muslim community and all dissenters against a highly discriminatory Citizenship Act. The protesting women of Shaheen Bagh were the enemy, more than the pandemic. On February 24, the regime felicitated Trump in an Ahmedabad cricket stadium packed with 110,000 people, at a time when restrictions were already in place in some countries. After the Delhi elections, some ruling party politicians were busy fomenting riots. The first half of March the central leadership was preoccupied with toppling an Opposition state government.

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There is a danger that by the time the coronavirus crisis is finally over in India, there may be only a largely hollowed-out shell of democracy left. India will then be known as the world’s largest pseudo-democracy. This will give China a much larger ideological victory than their minor military one at India’s borders that the Indian government is currently busy covering up to prop its faltering image of muscular nationalism.

Riaz Haq said…
Indian Newspaper Deccan Herald Opinion: #India obsessed with #Pakistan's #terrorism at a time when an array of issues are crying for urgent attention, and action on the domestic front and at the global level where India could play a role
https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/second-edit/india-obsessed-with-pakistans-terrorism-880267.html @deccanherald


It is unfortunate that at a time when an array of issues are crying for urgent attention, and action on the domestic front and at the international level where India could play a global leadership role, the Narendra Modi government is busy harping o...

It has been going on and on about Pakistan’s support to terror groups at every forum, even if these meetings have nothing to do with counter-terrorism. For instance, TERI is engaged in research and advocacy on issues like climate change. While Jaisha...


Terrorism is not an existential threat to our country anymore and a country of India’s size and capacity cuts a sorry figure when it persists with whining and whimpering at every available forum about its woes with its troublesome neighbour. Does it ...

In recent years, India’s diplomatic energies have been dissipated by its obsession with getting Pakistan reprimanded internationally. In the process, geopolitical issues including the Chinese threat to our border, Beijing’s growing strategic ties wit...

Riaz Haq said…
#India presses ahead with reopening as #economy shrinks by 24% last quarter and daily #coronavirus caseload surges to record-breaking high. #COVID19 #Modi #BJP #lockdown https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/31/asia/india-reopening-coronavirus-surge-intl-hnk/index.html

India is entering a new phase of reopening that will see subway trains running for the first time in months, despite skyrocketing daily coronavirus infections that are showing no sign of slowing down.

The country of 1.3 billion people has reported more than 75,000 infections for five consecutive days -- the fastest growing caseload of any country in the world.
It recorded 85,687 new Covid-19 infections last Wednesday, the world's highest single-day spike since the pandemic began, surpassing the previous record of 77,255 cases set by the United States on July 16.
India's infection rate has increased exponentially in recent weeks. It took almost six months for the country to record 1 million cases, another three weeks to hit 2 million, and only 16 more days to hit 3 million.

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India’s #economy shrank by 23.9%, its worst slump since the country started releasing quarterly data in 1996. The #coronavirus #pandemic and a grinding #lockdown caused massive disruptions to economic activity during the quarter. #Modi #BJP
- BBC News

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-53973772


India's economy contracted sharply in the three months to the end of June, official data shows.
It shrank by 23.9%, its worst slump since the country started releasing quarterly data in 1996.
The coronavirus pandemic and a grinding lockdown caused massive disruptions to economic activity during the quarter.
Experts fear that India is staring at a recession - that will happen only if it reports contraction in the next quarter as well, which experts say is likely.
A country is considered to be in recession if it reports contraction for two successive quarters. India was last in recession in 1980, it's fourth one since independence.
Riaz Haq said…
#Indian #Economy Shrinks By 24% As The Country Sees Its Highest #Coronavirus Numbers. Even before the #pandemic hit, #India's economy was already ailing. #Modi #BJP https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/08/31/907877845/indian-economy-shrinks-by-24-as-the-country-sees-highest-ever-coronavirus-number?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social

With the coronavirus spreading faster in India than anywhere in the world, the Indian government on Monday announced the country's biggest economic contraction in 24 years.

India's National Statistical Office said the economy contracted by 23.9% in the first quarter of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which ended in June, compared with the same quarter the previous year. That's its worst performance since the government began publishing quarterly gross domestic product figures in 1996. And it's the worst decline among the world's major economies releasing GDP figures for that same quarter, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

"This year, we are facing an extraordinary situation," India's finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, told a conference last week before the GDP figures were released. "We are facing an act of God."

Even before the pandemic hit, India's economy was already ailing. In 2016, the government took 85% of paper money out of circulation as part of a demonetization policy that aimed to tamp corruption but also hurt small, cash-run businesses. The following year, a new goods and services tax scheme aimed to simplify the tax code but also hurt big manufacturers. Last year, unemployment hit a four-decade high.


In late March, with cases of COVID-19 still low in India, the government announced the biggest lockdown in the world. While white-collar workers adapted to working from home, hundreds of millions of impoverished laborers were stranded in urban centers and industrial zones with little to eat. The government scrambled to open shelters and food distribution centers for them, but not before dozens starved to death on roadsides.

Millions of migrant workers tried to walk back to their home villages, sometimes hundreds of miles away. Their exodus helped spread the virus all over the country.

In May, as his government began to ease lockdown restrictions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a $266 billion COVID-19 stimulus package, with aid earmarked for the poor. But manufacturing and consumer spending have yet to recover.

On Monday, India reported 78,512 new coronavirus infections — more than any other country. A day earlier, it posted the world's biggest single-day tally since the pandemic began.

The United States and Brazil still have more COVID-19 cases overall. India has ramped up testing in recent weeks, but it remains relatively low compared with other countries.

The central government continues to loosen lockdown restrictions to try to alleviate the sudden, widespread unemployment that came with the spring lockdown. Over the weekend, it issued new national guidance, saying that everything is allowed to reopen except schools, movie theaters, swimming pools and international flights.

State and municipal authorities still maintain certain restrictions in areas with the highest concentrations of infections.

India has seen a number of high-profile cases of coronavirus infection in recent weeks. Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan was discharged from the hospital earlier this month. Home Minister Amit Shah was hospitalized twice after testing positive, and was discharged again early Monday.

Also on Monday, the son of former President Pranab Mukherjee announced his father's death on Twitter. Mukherjee, 84, who had been hospitalized for weeks after brain surgery, was also diagnosed with COVID-19. A veteran politician with the opposition Congress party, he held several Cabinet posts and was president, a ceremonial post, from 2012 to 2017.
Riaz Haq said…

#India’s #Economy Shrank Nearly 24% Last Quarter.....likely 40% decline in #GDP after the government takes the unorganized sector into account. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva #COVID19 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/31/world/asia/india-economy-gdp.html?smid=tw-share

In late March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated one of the most severe lockdowns anywhere, ordering all Indians to stay inside, halting transportation and closing most businesses.

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The data released on Monday showed that consumer spending, private investment and exports had all suffered tremendously. The sector including trade, hotel and transport dipped 47 percent. India’s once mighty manufacturing industry shrank 39 percent.

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The only bright spot, though relatively faint, was agriculture. Thanks to strong rains this monsoon season, the sector grew 3.4 percent versus 3 percent in the previous quarter.
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Mr. Modi has said he wants his country to become a $5 trillion economy by 2024 — the next major election, in which he is expected to run for a third term. In 2019, India’s G.D.P. was around $2.9 trillion, making it the world’s fifth-largest economy, behind the United States, China, Japan and Germany. But next year, many economists believe, India’s economy could be 10 percent smaller.

The Indian economy contracted by 23.9 percent in the second quarter, the most drastic fall in decades, as lockdown restrictions meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus wiped out jobs and businesses.

India’s decline was the worst among the world’s top economies, with the U.S. economy shrinking 9.5 percent in the same quarter and Japan’s 7.6 percent.

Data released by the Indian government on Monday showed the extent of the collapse in gross domestic product in the three months ending in June, with the construction, manufacturing and transport industries among the hardest hit. The figures reflect the onset of India’s deepest recession since 1996, when the country first began publishing its G.D.P. numbers.

India’s picture is further complicated by the fact that so many people here are “informally” employed, working in jobs that are not covered by contracts and often fall beyond government reach, such as rickshaw driver, tailor, day laborer and farmhand. Economists say that official numbers are bound to underestimate that part of the economy and that the full damage could be even greater.

“The strict lockdown led to a sharp contraction in activity in Q1 with job or income losses being faced by people,” said Aditi Nayar, an economist at ICRA, an investment and credit rating agency in New Delhi. “Less formal sectors could manifest in a deeper contraction when revised data is released subsequently.”

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Millions of workers who over the years had been drawn to the urban centers for jobs started returning home to rural areas. But as the ailing economy contracted even more, officials desperate to stimulate business lifted some of the lockdown restrictions, allowing more movement, which led the virus to spread wide and far. The country is now recording the world’s highest number of daily new infections.

Just a few years ago, India, with a population of 1.3 billion people, was one of the world’s fastest-growing large economies, clocking growth of 8 percent or more.

But even before the pandemic, the economy had begun to slow down. For example, car sales plunged 32 percent in August last year, the largest drop in two decades.


Riaz Haq said…
#Japan gives emergency loan of 50 billion yen (almost Rs 3,500 crore) to help #India deal with #COVID19 crisis. It is the largest amount of aid announced by any country so far to help India amid widespread impacts on the #economy and #health sector. #Modi https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/japan-announces-emergency-loan-for-india-to-fight-covid-19-pandemic/story-EU1w4uYbMMipMFPdS2KaQP.html

Japan announced on Monday it will extend a emergency support loan of up to 50 billion yen (almost Rs 3,500 crore) to back India’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, including implementation of health and medical policies and development of hospitals equipped with ICUs.

Japanese ambassador Satoshi Suzuki, and CS Mohapatra, additional secretary in India’s department of economic affairs exchanged notes regarding the provision of the yen loan for the response to the Covid-19 emergency.

A statement issued by the Japanese embassy noted that the Indian government has taken several measures, including health sector reforms, in response to the spread of Covid-19. “This loan provides the necessary funds for emergency response in the fight against Covid-19 in India,” it said.

This is the largest amount of financial assistance announced by any country so far to support India’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, which has had widespread impacts on the economy and health sector.


The “Covid-19 crisis response emergency support loan” will back the “implementation of health and medical policy by the government of India, and will lead to the development of hospitals equipped with ICUs and infection prevention and management facilities, which are undersupplied in India”, the statement said.

“It is also expected to lead to the enhancement of telemedicine using digital technology in numerous villages across India. It is expected that these measures, in addition to controlling the spread of infection in the country, will also contribute to the recovery and stability of the country’s society and economy, as well as to sustainable development,” the statement added.

The terms and conditions of the loan include an interest rate of 0.01% per annum and a redemption period of 15 years, including a four-year grace period.


Suzuki and Mohapatra also exchanged notes for the provision of grant aid worth 1 billion yen under Japan’s Official Development Assistance scheme for India’s Economic and Social Development Programme, which is being implemented by the health ministry.

“This programme will provide oxygen generators to government of India. Oxygen generators can be employed for the treatment of Covid-19 patients under critical conditions. This programme will lead to the strengthening of India’s infectious disease countermeasures, as well as her health and medical systems,” the Japanese embassy said.

In a separate development, the Japanese embassy and consulates and Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) updated the list of Japanese businesses in India with the cooperation of Japanese chambers of commerce and industries in India.


As of October 2019, the total number of Japanese companies registered in India is 1,454. The number has increased by 13 (0.9% growth), compared to 1,441 in 2018.

The total number of Japanese business establishments in India, as of October 2019, is 5,022, a decrease by 80 (1.6% decline) as compared to 5,102 in 2018.

West Bengal and Haryana showed the largest increase in the number of Japanese companies. There was a significant increase in the number of companies in such sectors as information and communications as well as services.


The manufacturing sector accounted for half of the total Japanese companies and more than a third of Japanese business establishments in India.

“The total number of establishments decreased while the number of companies increased, because some companies became non-Japanese due to the closure of office, corporate restructuring, change of ownership etc,” said a statement from the Japanese embassy.

Riaz Haq said…
#Coronavirus Crisis Shatters #India’s Big Dreams of middle-class lifestyle for its people, powerful military and global superpower status that could someday rival #China. #Modi's #lockdown-and-scatter policy being blamed for it. #BJP #COVID19 #economy https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/05/world/asia/india-economy-coronavirus.html?smid=tw-share

A sense of malaise is creeping over the nation. Its economic growth was slowing even before the pandemic. Social divisions are widening. Anti-Muslim feelings are on the rise, partly because of a malicious social media campaign that falsely blamed Muslims for spreading the virus. China is increasingly muscling into Indian territory.

Scholars use many of the same words when contemplating India today: Lost. Listless. Wounded. Rudderless. Unjust.

“The engine has been smashed,” said Arundhati Roy, one of India’s pre-eminent writers. “The ability to survive has been smashed. And the pieces are all up in the air. You don’t know where they are going to fall or how they are going to fall.”

In a recent episode of his weekly radio show, Mr. Modi acknowledged that India was “fighting on many fronts.” He urged Indians to maintain social distancing, wear masks and keep “hale and hearty.”

India still has strengths. It has a huge, young work force and oodles of tech geniuses. It represents a possible alternative to China at a time when the United States and much of the rest of the world is realigning itself away from Beijing.

But its stature in the world is slipping. Last quarter the Indian economy shrank by 24 percent, while China’s is growing again. Economists say India risks losing its place as the world’s fifth largest economy, behind the United States, China, Japan and Germany.

“This is probably the worst situation India has been in since independence,” said Jayati Ghosh, a development economist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “People have no money. Investors aren’t going to invest if there is no market. And the costs have gone up for most production.”

Many neighborhoods in the capital of New Delhi where low-paid workers used to live are deserted, shell-like, a hot wind blowing through empty, tin-walled shacks. A few years ago, when the economy was expanding at a 9 percent clip, it was difficult to find a place here to rent.

When Mr. Modi was swept to power in 2014 on a tide of Hindu nationalism, many Indians felt their nation had finally found the forceful leader to match their aspirations.

But Mr. Modi has concentrated his energies on divisive ideological projects, like a new citizenship law that blatantly discriminates against Muslims or tightening the government’s grip over the mostly Muslim region of Kashmir.

Quarter by quarter, India’s economic growth rate has been dropping, from 8 percent in 2016 to 4 percent right before the pandemic. Four percent would be respectable for a developed country like the United States. But in India, that level is no match for the millions of young people streaming into the work force each year, hungry for their first job.

Many of the complaints that investors make about India — the cumbersome land policies, the restrictive labor laws, the red tape — predate Mr. Modi. But his confidence and absolutism, the same qualities that appealed to many voters, may have added to the problems.

Four years ago he suddenly wiped out nearly 90 percent of India’s paper currency to tamp down corruption and encourage digital payments. While economists cheered both goals, they say the way Mr. Modi sprang this move on India did long-lasting damage to the economy.

That impulsiveness emerged again when the coronavirus struck. On March 24, at 8 p.m., after ordering all Indians to stay indoors, Mr. Modi shut down the economy — offices, factories, roads, trains, borders between states, just about everything — with four hours’ notice.

Tens of millions of Indians lost their jobs instantly. Many worked in factories or on construction sites or in urban homes, but they were migrants from rural India.
Riaz Haq said…
Goldman Sachs projects deeper recession for #India in FY21 with #GDP contraction of 14.8% against its earlier estimate of 11.8% dip in #economic activity. India’s #economy shrank 23.9% in June quarter. #Modi #BJP #COVID19 https://www.livemint.com/news/india/goldman-sachs-projects-deeper-recession-for-india-in-fy21-11599565479963.html

Investment bank Goldman Sachs on Tuesday said it expects Indian economy to undergo a deeper recession in FY21 with a contraction of 14.8% against its earlier estimate of 11.8% dip in economic activity.

“In light of the Q2 (June quarter) GDP report, we are making further significant adjustments to our GDP forecasts for India. We now forecast Q3 (September quarter) 2020, and Q4 (December quarter) 2020 at GDP growth of -13.7% yoy and -9.8% yoy, respectively (compared to -10.7% yoy and -6.7% yoy previously). Our estimates imply that real GDP falls by 11.1% in calendar year 2020, and by 14.8% in FY21 (vs growth of -9.6%, and -11.8% in our previous forecasts)," the investment bank said in a research note.

India’s economy contracted 23.9% in June quarter, worst among the G20 countries and significantly below expectation of most economists. The stringent nationwide pandemic-induced lockdown created a double whammy through both a supply and demand shock as businesses shut down operations and consumers were forced to stay home.
Riaz Haq said…
#India in shock over 86-year-old grandmother's #rape. Govt data shows police recorded 33,977 cases of rape in India in 2018 - that works out to a rape every 15 minutes. Activists say most cases are not reported. Actual numbers are much higher.#crime #Modi https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-54085183

"I have met a month-old girl and women in their 60s who've been raped," Ms Bhayana, who works for People Against Rapes in India (Pari), an NGO working with survivors, says.

Tens of thousands of rapes are reported in India every year, but some stand out for being deeply disturbing.
In one particularly shocking case, police in the capital, Delhi, have arrested a man in his 30s for the rape and assault of an 86-year-old grandmother.
"The woman was waiting outside her home on Monday evening for the milkman when she was approached by her attacker," Swati Maliwal, head of the Delhi Commission for Women, told the BBC.
"He told her that her regular milk delivery man wasn't coming and offered to take her to the place where she could get milk."
The octogenarian trustingly accompanied him, said Ms Maliwal, adding that he took her to a nearby farm where he raped her.
"She kept crying and begging him to leave her. She told him that she was like his grandmother. But he ignored her pleas and assaulted her mercilessly when she tried to resist and protect herself," Ms Maliwal said.
Local villagers who were passing by heard her cries and rescued her. They handed over the attacker to the police.
Ms Maliwal, who visited the survivor at her home on Tuesday, described her meeting as "heart-breaking".
"Her hands are totally wrinkled. You get a shock when you hear what she went through. There are bruises on her face and all over her body and she told me that she had vaginal bleeding. She is suffering from extreme trauma."

Ms Maliwal has demanded the death penalty for the attacker, whom she described as "not human".
"I'm writing to the chief justice of Delhi High Court and the lieutenant-governor of the city to fast-track the case and hang him in six months," she said.
Rapes and sexual violence have been in the spotlight in India since December 2012 when a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was gang-raped on a moving bus in Delhi.
She died a few days later from injuries sustained during the assault. Four of the accused were hanged in March.
But despite the increased scrutiny of sexual crimes, their numbers continue to rise.


According to the National Crime Records Bureau, police recorded 33,977 cases of rape in India in 2018 - that works out to a rape every 15 minutes. But campaigners say the actual numbers are much higher as many cases are not even reported.
And not all make news - only the most brutal or shocking get reported in the press.
In the last few days, while India has been struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, there have been reports of an ambulance driver who allegedly raped a Covid-19 patient while ferrying her to hospital.
Last month, a 13-year-old girl was found raped and murdered in a sugarcane field and her father alleged that her eyes were gouged out and her tongue had been cut.
And in July, a six-year-old girl was abducted and raped and her attacker inflicted severe injuries to her eyes apparently so she couldn't identify him.
As women's activist Yogita Bhayana points out, no age group is safe.
Riaz Haq said…
#India is in crisis. Its economy has crashed, with record job losses. Its #healthcare system is buckling under soaring #coronavirus cases. With over 5 million cases, India ranks only behind #US. But unlike #Trump , #Modi seems immune from criticism - CNN

https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/16/asia/india-modi-coronavirus-intl-dst-hnk/index.html


Over the past year, Modi has made steady headway on Hindu nationalist policies, from revoking the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, to backing a controversial citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims.
But his second-term aspirations to revitalize the economy now seem more distant than ever due to the pandemic. As it continues to batter the Indian economy, analysts say it's unclear if the populist leader can emerge politically unscathed.


The facts
Compared with other world leaders, like Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro -- who downplayed the threat of the pandemic and dismissed the coronavirus as a "little flu" only to be infected later himself -- Modi took the coronavirus seriously from the beginning and acted swiftly.
When he ordered a nationwide lockdown on March 24, the country of 1.36 billion had reported just over 500 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths.
"You have seen how the most powerful nations have become helpless in the face of this pandemic," Modi said in a live televised address to the nation, as he announced the lockdown, warning that India could be set back decades if the outbreak was not dealt with properly.
"There is no other way to remain safe from coronavirus ... we have to break the cycle of infection," he said.

By taking drastic action early, Modi reaffirmed his image as a decisive leader who is able to take strict, politically tough measures for the sake of the country, said Ali, the researcher at the Center Policy Research.
He is seen as a "saintly figure who means well and always acts in the larger national interest," said Ali.
Indian public health experts, however, have differed on their support for the timing and effectiveness of the lockdown. Ramanan Laxminarayan, a senior research scholar at Princeton University, said it was essential because infections were increasing rapidly at the time, and that it helped decrease disease transmission.
Others, including virologist T. Jacob John, argue the lockdown was imposed too early and too widely, when cases were still low and concentrated in specific regions. Consequently, more people were impacted by the resultant economic slowdown than needed to be, and not enough resources were available to support slum areas, for example, where lockdown measures including social distancing were impossible.
The unsustainable nature of the nationwide lockdown merely delayed the spread of the outbreak.
"Now, looking back it was clearly a mistake. We should have waited for longer. Because we didn't stop the pandemic," said economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee.
What most experts agree on is that India's lockdown -- the largest and one of the strictest in the world -- was imposed with not enough notice or planning. Coming into effect less than four hours after it was announced, the measures brought the country to a virtual standstill and triggered a migrant crisis.
In the cities, poor day laborers were suddenly jobless. Many had no choice but to return to their home villages, but with trains and public transport suspended, some walked for hundreds of miles.
A laborer rests on the outskirts of Prayagraj en route to his village. With India's rail network temporarily shut, many had no choice but to try walking hundreds of miles home.
Riaz Haq said…
On #India's PM #Modi's 70th Birthday, 'National Unemployment Day' Trends on Social Media. #BJP #Hindutva #Achhedin #राष्ट्रीय_बेरोजगारी_दिवस #NationalUnemploymentDay #NationalUnemploymentDay17Sept https://thewire.in/politics/narendra-modi-birthday-national-unemployment-day-social-media-trend-twitter via @thewire_in

On the occasion of Narendra Modi’s 70th birthday, Twitter users took upon themselves to remind the prime minister of the growing joblessness and acute economic crisis that the country is facing.

Several individuals and political parties simultaneously launched a social media campaign and the day was soon called “National Unemployment Day” on social media. Hashtags like ‘#17Sept17Hrs17Minutes’, ‘#राष्ट्रीयबेरोजगारदिवस’ and ‘#NationalUnemploymentDay’ have been trending on Twitter since morning. These hashtags are part of a protest campaign against the government’s failure to provide employment.

At the time of publishing, the hashtag #राष्ट्रीय_बेरोजगारी_दिवस (or national unemployment day) had over 1.68 million tweets.

The unemployment rate in India has been steadily decelerating and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people losing jobs in the past quarter. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), since the lockdown was imposed in March, there have been significant job losses across the country, with the overall unemployment rate hitting over 23% in the last week of March 2020. There has been a recovery in recent months, but the unemployment remains higher than the pre-lockdown levels.

The organisation’s recent estimate has shown that the employment situation worsened from the beginning of March 2020, before the lockdown was put in place, and then rapidly spiked in the last week of the month and the first week of April 2020. The downward trend has since continued. The National Statistical Office (NSO) report has also indicated that India’s April-June quarter GDP contracted by 23.9%, the first contraction in more than 40 years.


The angst could be sensed in the memes and messaged that began to pour on Twitter since early September 17.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too joined in and hit out at the Centre over the growing rate of unemployment in India amid the economic crisis. “Massive unemployment has pushed the youth of this country to call today #NationalUnemploymentDay. Employment is dignity. For how long will the Govt deny it?” Gandhi tweeted.

In his tweet, Gandhi tagged a Hindi news report on how over 1 crore Indians are seeking jobs while only 1.77 lakh jobs are currently available across states.

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In some places, the celebration took a bizarre turn with party members comparing Modi to the Hindu mythological figures. In Maharashtra, BJP spokesperson Avadhut Wagh compared Modi to Hindu God Vishnu’s 11th incarnation. “Hon PM @narendramodi Ji is the 11th #Avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu (sic),” state BJP Wagh tweeted.

Such comparisons are not new. In the past too, party leaders have compared Modi with Vishnu’s mythological incarnation called Kalki Avatar. Three years ago, the party’s Manipur leader Laishram Jatra Singh had released a book titled Kalki Avatar and Narendra Modi.

Riaz Haq said…
‘Buses are packed, as are shops and markets’: #India’s rising #COVID-19 approaching cases in #US. Life alternates between slender hope & looming despair, with people uncertain of being alive tomorrow, yet thronging fish markets bereft of mask & distancing https://www.marketwatch.com/story/buses-are-packed-as-are-shops-and-markets-indias-rising-covid-19-infections-are-rapidly-catching-up-with-the-us-2020-09-23?reflink=mw_share_twitter

Atul Thakur, referring to major Hindu festivals occurring in October and November, poses that question in the Times of India. He is not talking about primacy in economic growth. Rather, he refers to the number of COVID-19 infections and the pace of their increase, which are likely to catapult India ahead of the U.S. by mid-September, conferring the dubious distinction of being the worst-affected nation on the planet.

With Unlock 4 having commenced and most institutions and services back in full-fledged operation, infections too are going through the roof, having increased by 1.5 million in the first 17 days of September. While permitting the reopening of transport, temples, gyms, businesses, industries, malls and wine shops, the government has run the gamut from total lockdown to near-normalcy.


Of course, government relaxation notifications stipulate “subject to SOP” (use of masks, social distancing, etc.), thereby absolving it of any blame for the rising death toll and knowing full well that adherence cannot be ensured or enforced.

Predictably, buses are packed, as are shops and wholesale vegetable and fish markets, with people shopping as if there is no tomorrow, which is a very real possibility. Many do not wear a mask and the less said about social distancing, the better. The police have mopped up a tidy sum by way of fines for mask-wearing noncompliance, though social distancing is not being enforced.

By now, the coronavirus has become a stark reality, with many people losing one of their family members, neighbors, friends or acquaintances to the infection. Last week, the block of flats both to the left and right of my own bore banners from the Pallavaram Municipality, cautioning of homes under quarantine due to COVID-19. Yet the realization of “It could be me tomorrow” doesn’t seem to have dawned on most.

One wonders whether this is the innate arrogance of man, who considers himself invincible enough to triumph over nature and disease, or just ignorance, plain and simple. India has reported more than 5.6 million cases, just behind 6.9 million confirmed cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday, and more than 90,000 deaths, still less than half the 200,000-plus COVID-related deaths in the U.S.

While malls, gyms and shops are crowded, temples — especially the smaller ones — still find visitors few and far between. “Hardly anyone drops in, though the temple is now open for several hours,” says Sri Jagannatha Bhattachariar, a priest of one of the smaller shrines in Chrompet, Chennai. It makes you wonder whether people have at last found God within themselves, rather than search for Him in shrines.

Rural and indigent pupils find it difficult not only to afford the devices required for online classes, but also to comprehend them fully, and some have died by suicide. And while the lockdown did provide people the opportunity to spend quality time with their families, cases of domestic violence have also been on the rise.

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