The Latest: Top stories of the day
1. Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Adani have been named as global Panama Papers investigative project reveals hidden assets of the powerful.
2. If not for law, I would have cut off heads of those refusing to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, says Baba Ramdev.
3. Polling begins for the Assam, West Bengal Assembly elections on Monday.
4. World Twenty20: West Indies hit four sixes in the thrilling final over to win the title.
5. The goods and services tax act is about to be enacted, Narendra Modi tells business leaders in Saudi Arabia.
6. A teacher has been arrested after a 17-year-old Dalit college student, Delta Meghwal, was found dead under suspicious circumstances in Rajasthan.
The Big Story: Jingoism as a sleight-of-hand
Another day, another flashpoint over identity politics. Speaking in Nashik, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis suddenly made up a new criterion for Indian citizenship: everyone must salute the country as a mother deity. “There is still a dispute over saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and those opposing to say it, should not have any right to stay in India,” Fadnavis said. "Those living here should say ‘Bharat Mata ki jai.'"
Fadnavis isn’t saying something his party hasn’t stated already. The Bharatiya Janata Party, it seems, has decided that the identity politics of nationalism is going to save it where more prosaic factors such as the economy or governance have failed. The fracas over Jawaharlal Nehru University was a prime example. A person as senior as home minister Rajnath Singh went on the warpath over slogans being shouted by students – with doctored videos as proof.
But even by those standards, Fadnavis plunging into this debate is a new low. The state of whose chief minister he is facing an unprecedented situation of drought – the worst in a 100 years. So dire is the situation, that fearing water riots, Fadnavis’ own government has imposed section 144 in Latur city around water tankers. Surreally, by law, no more than 5 people can assembly around a truck carrying water.
Since this crisis is not hitting India’s metro centres and is limited to rural regions of the state such as Marathwada, it isn’t making the news as much as it should. Add to that the fact that the man responsible for relief is actually spending time, effort and political capital ruminating on the benefits of certain slogans, shows how even politicians are doing their best to shift attention away from what really matters: water.
Will chanting ”Bharat Mata ki jai” get Marathwada its water? But it will shift attention away from the massive failure of governance that Fadnavis' government is guilty of. The politics of identify in India has taken many forms. But to now use the facile debate over “Bharat Mata ki jai” to shift attention from desperately thirsty Marathis proves, as the historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted, that patriotism is the ultimate smokescreen.
The Big Scroll
Carrying water by train: A desperate fix-it solution shows what drought-hit Marathwada really needs. Also, why a temporary ban on sugarcane cultivation in Maharashtra is a good idea (in fact, it’s already happening).
Politicking & Policying
1. Hoshiarpur: Eye on Dalit votes, Parkash Singh Badal lays the foundation stone of Guru Ravidass memorial.
2. Nepal to summon Indian ambassador over “inappropriate” statement about its constitution.
3. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prakash Javadekar attacks his party’s long-time ally the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam over the Chennai floods.
4. For drought-hit Bundelkhand, the Uttar Pradesh government announces aid for all “Antyodaya” families.
5. Mehbooba Mufti to be sworn in as Jammu & Kashmir’s first woman chief minister on Monday.
1. In Chapati Mystery, Sarovar Zaidi looks at the semiotics of Muslim Bombay.
2. Simultaneous elections to panchayat, assembly and Lok Sabha may be desirable but they are not feasible says SY Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner of India in the Indian Express.
3. Ajay Shah in the Business Standard explains why India gets foreign borrowing wrong.
M Rajshekhar explains why the Kolkata flyover collapse is a warning for India’s infrastructure industry.
In some ways, IVRCL points to some of the ills in the country’s infrastructure space, according to people in the industry.
In the last 25 years, India has seen a clutch of unknown companies grow rapidly in the infrastructure space. Most of these have funded their expansion through bank loans.
As per RBI norms, a company taking a bank loan for building an infrastructure project has to put up 20% of the investment. This clause acts as a brake on the growth of companies. Going by it, a firm with Rs 100 crore cannot borrow more than Rs 400 crore.
But, over the years, India has seen several infrastructure companies – if not all – sidestep that requirement to grow faster. They do this by “over-invoicing” – meaning, a company exaggerates the cost of a project and pulls in a larger bank loan than what it needs. The surplus money is then re-circulated as the promoters’ equity into that very project or into some other project.