Times Top10: Today’s Top News Headlines and Latest News from India & across the World

Today: Vice Presidential polls; Delhi court hearing on ED charge-sheet against Satyendar Jain; CWG 2022 Hockey – India to play semifinal. Tomorrow: PM Modi to chair NITI Aayog’s 7th Governing Council meeting; ISRO to launch new rocket SSLV for the first time from Sriharikota
1. Who’s opposing Ram Mandir?
1. Who’s opposing Ram Mandir?
Known for its traditional approach to protests, India’s grand old party on Friday sprang a surprise with what many saw as an out-of-the-box messaging by deciding to have black as the dress code for its nationwide protest against price rise, hike in GST on essential items and unemployment.

Who wore what

  • While the male Congress MPs were seen sporting black kurtas, shirts, scarves, and headgears, the women leaders wore black with elan led by party chief Sonia Gandhi who wore a printed crisp saree with a black border and a black blouse.
  • The most striking sartorial choice was by Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who wore a black kurta, a black turban and a white dhoti, turning heads during the Congress protest.

Shah’s remark

  • However, Home Minister Amit Shah linked Congress leaders’ protest in black clothes to the party’s “appeasement” politics, claiming that it was to convey its opposition to the Ram temple foundation laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this day in 2020.
  • But the Congress hit back with general secretary Jairam Ramesh tweeting, “Home Minister has made a desperate attempt to divert, distract, polarise and give a malicious twist to today’s democratic protests of @INCIndia against price rise, unemployment & GST. It’s only a sick mind which can produce such bogus arguments. Clearly the protests have hit home!” .

300 detained

  • Over 300 Congress members including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were detained by police for over six hours in the national capital.
2. Did Mamata meet Modi only for funds?
2. Did Mamata meet Modi only for funds?
  • The meeting: Against the backdrop of growing political strain, Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee met PM Narendra Modi on Friday evening. This is the first time since November 2021 that the two leaders held a one-on-one meeting. They met at the judges-CMs conference in April, when the PMO had rejected her request for a meeting.
  • A photo and a letter: The PMO tweeted a photograph of the Modi-Mamata meeting. The TMC shared a letter that Mamata submitted to the PM, seeking immediate release of pending dues to Bengal under several central schemes.
  • The demand: “I request for urgent release of funds due to the state [about Rs 17,996 crore] for implementation of schemes including MGNREGA, PM Awas Yojna and PM Gramin Sadak Yojna…With such a large amount remaining outstanding, the state is facing extreme difficulty to run affairs and take care of people of state.,” her letter read.
  • Nothing new: Her government has been demanding the same for a long time, at times accusing the Modi government of delaying GST dues to the Opposition-ruled states. Her advisor Amit Mitra in June said that the Centre had not released integrated dues to the tune of Rs 27,000 crore to states.
  • What about this? The Modi-Mamata meeting came when ED is probing her former minister Partha Chatterjee in a school jobs scam that forced her to sack another minister. Piles of cash have been recovered which BJP’s Dilip Ghosh linked to Mamata.
  • And: A number of TMC MPs were recently suspended from Parliament for sloganeering against the government. And the Vice Presidential election is happening today. Former Bengal Governor and Mamata’s bete noir is pitted against Congress’s Margaret Alva. TMC originally decided to abstain from the election.
3. Get set for another EMI increase
3. Get set for another EMI increase
Playing along expected lines, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das hiked the repo rate by 0.50% to take it to 5.40% — higher than what it was even in the pre-pandemic era, when it was 5.15%.

So what does that mean?

  • For home loan borrowers, it’s the third instalment of bad news as this third repo rate hike in the last two months means that the RBI has now hiked rates by 1.40% — and judging by Das’s commentary on Friday, wherein he reiterated the bank will “remain focused on withdrawal of accommodation to ensure that inflation remains within the target going forward”, it may not be the last of the rate hikes, with the next monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting due at the end of next month.
  • In fact, the total hike in repo rates in two months is more than the total cut of 1.15% effected in the post-lockdown period since March 2020. EMIs, which had already increased by 11% since May’s repo rate hike cycle began, are expected to go up by 15.5% after factoring in Friday’s repo rate hike.
  • Home loan interest rates, which had fallen to a low of 6.4% last year at some banks, will now rise to 8% and above on an average, with some banks going as high as 8.4%. This could mean either of two things — hike in EMIs or hike in loan tenure. However, considering that a 20-year loan tenure could possibly increase to 28 years, if EMIs are not increased, most banks and financial institutions would tilt towards increasing EMIs.
  • And it’s not just home loan borrowers who are going to feel the pinch — car and two wheeler loans will also get expensive, as will education loans.

Silver lining?

  • A rise in repo rates also means a rise in deposit rates, which have traditionally been the go-to method of savings and multiplying money for a vast majority of Indians, especially senior citizens and retirees. However, while deposit rates will increase no doubt, their pace of increase will be much less than that of the loan rates.
  • For instance, the average deposit rate in scheduled commercial banks for term deposits has increased by only 0.06% in the last two months — from 5.07% in May to 5.13% in June. Even factoring in the rate hike announced on Friday, it’s unlikely that average deposit rates on term deposits will see any substantial hike.
4. The price US is now paying for Pelosi’s tour
4. The price US is now paying for Pelosi’s tour
An angry China on Friday slapped sanctions on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her immediate family in retaliation to her high-profile visit to Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of it and vows to integrate with the Chinese mainland, if necessary, using force. The communist state claims her visit undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and seriously tramples on the one-China principle.

What it means

  • The sanctions against Pelosi, the highest-ranking US official to visit the self-ruled island in 25 years, are seen as symbolic and ban her and her family members from travelling to China.
  • Earlier, Beijing had imposed sanctions against 28 former Trump administration officials, including the then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Other countermeasures

  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced several countermeasures against the US, which included cancellation of the China-US Theatre Commanders Talk, China-US Defence Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT), and the China-US Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) meetings.
  • The ministry also announced the suspension of the China-US cooperation on the repatriation of illegal immigrants, China-US talks on climate change among others.
  • The cancellation of the defence dialogue between the two countries was regarded as significant in Beijing as the major powers currently involved in intense strategic rivalry held periodic consultations, which observers say helped in avoiding accidental conflicts in hotspot areas like the disputed South China Sea. Updates here
6. Is made-in-India Tejas fighter jet getting export orders?
6. Is made-in-India Tejas fighter jet getting export orders?
India has offered to sell 18 indigenously made Tejas light-combat aircraft (LCA) to Malaysia, which is looking at replacing its ageing fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets.

Prospective buyers

  • Besides Malaysia, Argentina, Australia, Egypt, the United States, Indonesia, and the Philippines were also interested in the fighter jet, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt said in parliament on Friday.

The Indian jet

  • The Tejas, manufactured by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), is a single-engine and highly agile multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft capable of operating in high-threat air environments.
  • In February last year, India’s Defence Ministry sealed a Rs 48,000 crore deal with HAL for the procurement of 83 Tejas jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
  • India has started work on the MK 2 version of the Tejas and an ambitious project to develop a fifth-generation stealth fighter called the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), like the US F-35 and the Chinese J-20.

‘Make in India’

  • The central government, keen to reduce India’s reliance on foreign defence equipment, has also been making diplomatic efforts to export the jets.
  • HAL in October last year responded to a request for proposal from the Royal Malaysian Air Force for 18 jets, offering to sell the two-seater variant of Tejas, the ministry said.
7. Cryptocurrency exchange attracts ED raid
7. Cryptocurrency exchange attracts ED raid
  • A timed raid? Just a couple of days after Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary informed the Parliament that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was investigating two cases against popular cryptocurrency exchange WazirX for violations of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), it came to light that the ED had searched the premises of Sameer Mhatre, a Director at Zanmai Labs, which runs WazirX and frozen bank assets worth Rs 64.67 crore.
  • Crime file: The ED, which said the investigation was focused on “predatory lending practices in violation of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines and by using tele-callers who misuse personal data and use abusive language to extort high interest rates from the loan takers”, said it discovered a large amount of funds had been diverted by fintech companies to purchase crypto assets to launder money overseas.
  • A web of lies? The ED also alleged that Zanmai Labs, through a web of agreements with Crowdfire Inc USA, Binance (Cayman Islands) and Zettai Pte Ltd Singapore, had tried to hide the actual ownership of WazirX. Accusing WazirX of giving contradictory answers, the ED said that while earlier, the company’s managing director Nischal Shetty claimed that the exchange “controls all the crypto-crypto & INR-crypto transactions and only has an IP & preferential agreement with Binance” , the company now claims that it’s “involved in only INR-crypto transactions” and that “all the other transactions are done by Binance on WazirX.”
8. Is CBI’s 2G plea linked to 5G politics?
8. Is CBI’s 2G plea linked to 5G politics?
  • Back to 2G square: Context and timing give meaning to a lot of developments, especially in politics. In this sense, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) might have opened a new front for political slugfest between the ruling BJP and the Opposition, particularly the Congress’s Tamil Nadu ally, the DMK. The CBI has moved an application seeking a day-to-day hearing by the Delhi High Court of its appeals challenging acquittals in the 2G spectrum scam case.
  • CBI’s petition says the 2G scam case has great public importance and involves probity in public life and issues of integrity amongst public officials, having national and international ramifications, early disposal of the said appeals is in the interest of justice. It was for this reason that the Supreme Court was monitoring the investigation and trial, the CBI has told the high court.
  • The background: The 2G scam is a case of alleged irregularities in the allocation of spectrum bands to telecom companies in 2007-08. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s office led by Vinod Rai had back then estimated that the 2G allocation process caused a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore. DMK leaders and former Union ministers A Raja and Kanimozhi were among the accused. In December 2017, a special CBI court acquitted Raja, Kanimozhi and 15 others.
  • Now, timing: The CBI’s new application comes when the Opposition is alleging irregularities in the allocation of 5G spectrum that concluded on August 1. Raja among others has alleged a similar presumptive loss and demanded an investigation into 5G allocation. He said, “The government has itself estimated that 5G would be sold for Rs 5 lakh crore. But now 5G has been auctioned for only Rs 1.5 lakh crore…Where has the money gone?”
9. Are you among the 42% Indians who experienced financial fraud?
9. Are you among the 42% Indians who experienced financial fraud?
A survey by a social media platform, LocalCircles, says that 42% of Indians have fallen victim to financial fraud in the last three years with nearly three-fourths — 74% — of these victims failing to get their money back.

Gone money

  • The survey pointed out that only 17% of those who had fallen victims to financial frauds were able to get their money back. The highest number of frauds, with close to a third of all fraudulent transactions — 29% — were related to bank accounts.
  • These were followed by frauds by e-commerce sites, at 24% and credit or debit card frauds, at 18%. Frauds by mobile apps amounted to 12% while frauds via ATM cards stood at 8%. The survey was based on responses from 32,000 people from 301 districts across the country.
    Vanishing money

Take care

  • According to the survey’s findings, 33% of citizens store their bank account, debit or credit card and ATM passwords, Aadhaar and PAN numbers on email or computer while 11% of citizens stored these details in their mobile phone contact list — making it easier for cyber criminals to steal them, especially if the phone or computer on which the details are stored is stolen.

The quantum

  • According to the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) annual report for 2021-22, banks in India reported frauds totalling Rs 60,414 crore. However, the actual figure could be much higher as the RBI only takes into account frauds where the minimum amount of transaction is Rs 1 lakh.

Vice President of India. Former Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar is expected to win the Vice Presidential polls today against opposition candidate Margaret Alva. As per the Constitution, there’s no mention of the emoluments to be paid to the Vice President — instead, a Vice President gets paid for his/her role as the Rajya Sabha’s chairperson, which includes a monthly salary of Rs 4 lakh per month. The birthday of India’s first Vice President, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, born on September 5 and who later became the second President, is observed as Teacher’s Day.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Tejeesh Nippun Singh, Jayanta Kalita, Prabhash K Dutta
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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