The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Tamil cartoonist’s arrest is yet another attempt to gag voices on social media

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: No laughing matter

Tamil Nadu has a loan shark problem. Private moneylenders lending money at exorbitant rates and then threatening borrowers who are unable to pay back is a common social issue across the state. On October 24, a man set his wife and and children ablaze before immolating himself outside the Tirunelveli Collectorate in Tamil Nadu. He had been continually harassed by loan sharks and the Tamil Nadu police had allegedly done little to help him.

Rather than fix this problem, the Tamil Nadu government is expending its energies trying to gag criticism. On Sunday, the Tamil Nadu police’s Crime Branch wing arrested a freelance cartoonist for a cartoon he posted on social media. The cartoon attacked the district police commissioner, collector and state chief minister for their inability to prevent the family’s suicide.

This is just one in a long list of examples of free speech being gagged in India. However, of late, there is a special focus on social media and satire.

The country is going through a media churn, with many large media houses hesitant to critique governments. This has meant the demand for criticism of the government is met by disparate actors on social media, who often use satire to hold the government to account. This is not new. In 2012, for example, Mumbai police arrested a cartoonist for highlighting corruption amongst India’s politicians. That same year, the West Bengal government arrested a college professor for posting a cartoon on social media that mocked the chief minister.

Abdication by mainstream media and the explosion of social media since then has meant that even more political speech has now shifted to social media, with WhatsApp and Facebook acting as town squares. On October 31, for example, a man was arrested in Tamil Nadu for the act of criticising Prime Minister Modi in a private Facebook chat. In Uttar Pradesh, just as a new BJP government was sworn in eight months back, four people were arrested for ridiculing the new chief minister. In April, a man was picked up by the Uttar Pradesh police in Muzaffarnagar and allegedly tortured for simply cracking a joke about a high court ruling that granted legal person status to the Ganga as well as for ridiculing the BJP’s politics around the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

So pervasive is this crackdown that it has had a chilling effect on free speech across the board. In October, a comedian alleged that his stand-up routine poking fun at Narendra Modi was not aired.

In a democracy, the right to make fun of political leaders is no laughing matter. It is a crucial part of free speech that reminds us that our rulers are fallible. A clamp down on satire and the social media that disseminates it is a troubling trend for India.

The Big Scroll

  • A tsunami of debt is building up in Tamil Nadu – and no one knows where it is headed, reports M Rajshekhar.
  • At what point can free speech cross over to seditious territory – and who decides? Rishab Bailey and Lawrence Liang discuss the issue.
  • Internet anonymity in India encourages trolls – but it’s also necessary, writes Shoaib Daniyal.

Subscribe to “The Daily Fix” by either downloading Scroll’s Android app or opting for it to be delivered to your mailbox. For the rest of the day’s headlines do click here.

If you have any concerns about our coverage of particular issues, please write to the Readers’ Editor at


  • Cars not auto rickshaws are the problem, argues this Hindustan Times editorial. There is no cap on the number of cars that are allowed to ply on the roads, but regulating the number of rickshaws that are cheap and efficient for short distance travel are the focus of India’s urban planning. This attitude must change.
  • The Communist Part of India (Marxist)’s atrophy in West Bengal has dealt a body blow to the Left’s influence in Indian politics, writes Roshan Kishore in Mint.
  • The stage is set for elections in Nepal but there is no excitement among voters, says Yubaraj Ghimre in the Indian Express.


Don’t Miss

In Gujarat’s Adivasi belt, BJP has to contend with Bhilistan separatists, boycotts and “big people”, reports Aarefa Johari

Largely invisible in the popular representation of Gujarat, the state’s 9 million Adivasis make up at least 15% of its voters. The Adivasis have long been considered an assured Congress vote bank – particularly the Christian Adivasis. In the past decade, however, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has made inroads into this belt. The saffron party now holds 11 of the 27 Assembly constituencies reserved for Scheduled Tribes. Gujarat has a total of 182 Assembly seats.

With Assembly elections to be held on December 9 and 14, the BJP is believed to be aggressively wooing Adivasis to compensate for possible losses among the Patil community and other backward caste groups that have been loudly expressing discontent with the party. It is a tough proposition, though, given the strong anti-incumbency sentiment towards a party that has been in power since 1998. In South Gujarat, the Adivasis despair over their struggles with unemployment, water shortage, their land being acquired for projects and hurt community pride

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Making two-wheelers less polluting to combat air pollution in India

Innovations focusing on two-wheelers can make a difference in facing the challenges brought about by climate change.

Two-wheelers are the lifeline of urban Asia, where they account for more than half of the vehicles owned in some countries. This trend is amply evident in India, where sales in the sub-category of mopeds alone rose 23% in 2016-17. In fact, one survey estimates that today one in every three Indian households owns a two-wheeler.

What explains the enduring popularity of two-wheelers? In one of the fastest growing economies in the world, two-wheeler ownership is a practical aspiration in small towns and rural areas, and a tactic to deal with choked roads in the bigger cities. Two-wheelers have also allowed more women to commute independently with the advent of gearless scooters and mopeds. Together, these factors have led to phenomenal growth in overall two-wheeler sales, which rose by 27.5% in the past five years, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). Indeed, the ICE 2016 360 survey says that two-wheelers are used by 37% of metropolitan commuters to reach work, and are owned by half the households in India’s bigger cities and developed rural areas.

Amid this exponential growth, experts have cautioned about two-wheelers’ role in compounding the impact of pollution. Largely ignored in measures to control vehicular pollution, experts say two-wheelers too need to be brought in the ambit of pollution control as they contribute across most factors determining vehicular pollution - engine technology, total number of vehicles, structure and age of vehicles and fuel quality. In fact, in major Indian cities, two-thirds of pollution load is due to two-wheelers. They give out 30% of the particulate matter load, 10 percentage points more than the contribution from cars. Additionally, 75% - 80% of the two-wheelers on the roads in some of the Asian cities have two-stroke engines which are more polluting.

The Bharat Stage (BS) emissions standards are set by the Indian government to regulate pollutants emitted by vehicles fitted with combustion engines. In April 2017, India’s ban of BS III certified vehicles in favour of the higher BS IV emission standards came into effect. By April 2020, India aims to leapfrog to the BS VI standards, being a signatory to Conference of Parties protocol on combating climate change. Over and above the BS VI norms target, the energy department has shown a clear commitment to move to an electric-only future for automobiles by 2030 with the announcement of the FAME scheme (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles in India).

The struggles of on-ground execution, though, remain herculean for automakers who are scrambling to upgrade engine technology in time to meet the deadlines for the next BS norms update. As compliance with BS VI would require changes in the engine system itself, it is being seen as one of the most mammoth R&D projects undertaken by the Indian automotive industry in recent times. Relative to BS IV, BS VI norms mandate a reduction of particulate matter by 82% and of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by 68%.

Emission control in fuel based two-wheelers can be tackled on several fronts. Amongst post-emission solutions, catalytic converters are highly effective. Catalytic converters transform exhaust emissions into less harmful compounds. They can be especially effective in removing hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide from the exhaust.

At the engine level itself, engine oil additives are helpful in reducing emissions. Anti-wear additives, friction modifiers, high performance fuel additives and more lead to better performance, improved combustion and a longer engine life. The improvement in the engine’s efficiency as a result directly correlates to lesser emissions over time. Fuel economy of a vehicle is yet another factor that helps determine emissions. It can be optimised by light weighting, which lessens fuel consumption itself. Light weighting a vehicle by 10 pounds can result in a 10-15-pound reduction of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Polymer systems that can bear a lot of stress have emerged as reliable replacements for metals in automotive construction.

BASF, the pioneer of the first catalytic converter for automobiles, has been at the forefront of developing technology to help automakers comply with advancing emission norms while retaining vehicle performance and cost-efficiency. Its new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Mahindra World City near Chennai is equipped to develop a range of catalysts for diverse requirements, from high performance and recreational bikes to economy-oriented basic transportation. BASF also leverages its additives expertise to provide compounded lubricant solutions, such as antioxidants, anti-wear additives and corrosion inhibitors and more. At the manufacturing level, BASF’s R&D in engineered material systems has led to the development of innovative materials that are much lighter than metals, yet just as durable and strong. These can be used to manufacture mirror brackets, intake pipes, step holders, clutch covers, etc.

With innovative solutions on all fronts of automobile production, BASF has been successfully collaborating with various companies in making their vehicles emission compliant in the most cost-effective way. You can read more about BASF’s innovations in two-wheeler emission control here, lubricant solutions here and light weighting solutions here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.