The Latest: Top stories of the day
1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make yet another visit to the United States in June, his fourth trip in three years, as one of US President Barack Obama's last state guests.
2. Authorities in Jammu & Kashmir's Kupwara district have ordered all WhatsApp news groups to be registered with the local magistrate.
3. More than 33 crore people, which amounts to a quarter of India's population, are in the grip of drought, the government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The Big Story: Not so provident
The Employee Provident Fund story is not yet over. From the time it was announced in February that changes were being made to the way the EPF works, there have been protests – followed by backtracking from the government.
First the government said it would tax 60% of the savings that accrued because of the EPF. Then the government waffled on this, and finally rolled it back saying it would only tax the interest earned on the fund. The government had at the time also said that the employer's portion of the contribution to the EPF – which is a savings instrument involving equal contributions from employer and employee – cannot be withdrawn until employees turn 58.
Though the government offered a few exceptions, there were nevertheless huge protests on the issue, including a riot in Bengaluru during which buses were set on fire. On Tuesday, this prompted the government to fully cancel its February notification, and revert to earlier rules allowing employees to withdraw their full EPF even before retirement.
The policies had been a part of the finance minister's efforts to better leverage India's savings, most obviously by trying to bring the equity-linked National Pension Scheme on par with the EPF. But in doing so, it is restricting access to money that citizens see as their own. This has naturally hit roadblocks, especially when the government has made almost no attempt to explain why anyone should trust it to manage savings better.
The violence and subsequent rollback should be a reminder to the finance minister that policy cannot be made in a vacuum: it needs to be communicated, consulted upon and the government needs to spend time convincing the public of its utility, something the Narendra Modi government was supposed to be good at.
Politicking & Policying
1. The government sent mixed messages, saying it would make all efforts to bring back the Kohinoor from the UK a day after telling the Supreme Court that the diamond had been a gift to the British. (Now it wants to blame Jawaharlal Nehru for not getting the diamond back).
2. A consortium of State Bank of India-led banks has decided to stop lending money to Punjab until it resolves the issue of an alleged loss of Rs 20,000 crore worth of foodgrains that has gone missing from its godowns.
3. Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said there is "now" momentum behind the idea of criminalising marital rape in India.
4. The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday slammed the Centre for "introducing chaos", a day before it is set to pass an order regarding the imposition of President's rule in the state.
1. A leader in the Indian Express insists that counter-terrorism capacity and smart alliances – not UN resolutions – will make India safe.
2. Efficient delivery of entitlements also requires information to be efficiently delivered to the masses who are entitled to benefits, writes Osama Manzar in Mint.
3. An editorial in the Business Standard criticises the move towards a universal minimum wage, saying the amount should be left to states.
Luis Dias explains how an Indian Sufi teacher left an imprint on Claude Debussy (and western classical music).
"In the first movement of Debussy’s 1905 orchestral work La Mer (“De l’aube à midi sur la mer”), there are many references to this: the repeated falling fifth of the bass ostinato line reminds of the Indian tanpura; the fragments of a pentatonic melody played by the woodwinds, with parallel fifths and avoidance of major third intervals, give the work a decidedly Asian mood; and the gradual addition of the “blue” notes is in the manner that an Indian musician would develop a raga."