About-the world this week, 29 January to 4 February 2023: a documentary and a research report create heat and dust in India; America’s police brutality is tiring; Iran continues acting tough; India’s Amrit Kaal Budget; and the Australian Open Tennis closes.
Over the past week India was boiling and it continued into this week with two hot items causing lots of steam release. One, a BBC Documentary on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, conducting its own ‘un-Sherlock Holmes’ like investigation into the 2002 Godhra riots in India’s Gujarat when Modi was the Chief Minister of the State, and without credible evidence, blaming him as directly responsible and tacitly supportive of the assault on muslims.
The riots started when Hindu pilgrims returning by train from the Ram Janmaboomi Site in Ayodhya were attacked by a Muslim mob who set ablaze their coach at Godhra Station, resulting in 59 Hindus-including 27 women ad 10 children-being burnt alive. This triggered a spontaneous outbreak of retaliatory violence resulting in one of the worst communal clashes in post-independence India.
The BBC Documentary was based on ‘false truths walking on water’ and does not stand the test of India’s Supreme Court, which set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to thoroughly investigate allegations on Narendra Modi – at a time when the now ruling Party was in the opposition. The SIT gave Modi and 64 others a clean chit. A challenge to the verdict was also thrown out by the Supreme Court in July 2022, as ‘devoid of merit, and which intent was to keep the pot billing for ulterior design’. Well, the BBC is doing just that and has no business in casting aspersions and trying to be smarter than the highest Court of our Land, that too when deep investigations have been done into the matter.
Two, The Hindenburg Report by short-seller Hindenburg Research, which in a two year investigation claimed that India’s Adani Group led by the World’s third richest person Gautam Adani was involved in massive and brazen stock manipulation and an accounting fraud scheme. The report questioned how the Adani Group uses entities in offshore tax havens such as Mauritius and Caribbean Islands and said key Adani companies had substantial debt, which put the entire group in precarious financial footing. The cause a melt down in Adani stocks causing unbelievable chaos in the financial markets.
Short-selling or shorting is a trading strategy where an Investor or Trader buys a stock or security and sells it on the open market planning to buy it back for less money. Short Sellers bet on and profit from a drop in a stock’s price. Traders usually short stock by selling shares they have borrowed -they don’t buy them- from others through brokerages. When the prices of the shares fall to expected levels the Trader would purchase the shares at the lower price and return them to the owner, booking a profit in the process. However, if the price of the share appreciates instead of falling the Trader will be forced to buy shares at higher prices to return to the owner, thereby booking a loss.
Last year in May 2022, a Judge in New York said that investors in a sports betting company called Draft Kings Inc., cannot rely on short seller reports to prove fraud. Short Sellers are not unbiased narrators, the Judge said, in a ruling in a securities fraud class action against Draft Kings. When they publish damning revelations about publicly traded companies, it’s usually because they are hoping to drive down the Company’s share price so they can cover their bets. The Judge dismissed action against Draft Kings, concluding that shareholders’ case was fatally flawed because it relied almost entirely on assertions from a 2019 Hindenburg Research report that pushed Draft Kings’ share price down about 4.2%. I guess we can figure out what’s happening in the Adani case?
Later in the week, a Follow-on Public Offer (FPO) following its Initial Public Offer (IPO)-selling of securities to the public in the primary market- by the Adani Group, which was fully subscribed, was called-off by Adani and the money is to be returned to investors. The reason cited was volatility in the market and the Adani Board strongly felt that it would not be morally correct to proceed with the FPO. Under the circumstances, a bold thing to do!
It is a signature-tune in America, if not guns shooting down people, it is Police high-handedness and abuse of the law, killing one at a time. And this time it’s black and black.
Tyre Nicholas, a 29 years old Afro-American motorist, was pulled over by a Team of Afro-American Police Officers, on 7 January at a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee State, for what police said was reckless driving. While attempting to flee on foot, Nicholas was struck with a taser, kicked, punched, pepper-sprayed, brutally hit with a baton, and left reeling under the assault. It took more than 20 minutes for him to receive medical attention. Three days later, Tyre Nicholas died in hospital. A video of the incident shows Nicholas, at one point shouting, “Mom, Mom, Mom.” His mother’s home was only about 73 metres away. The five officers involved have been fired and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, and other crimes.
US President Biden spoke to Nicholas’ mother and committed to supporting legislation to help prevent police abuse. He said he was “outraged and deeply pained.” Protestors gathered in cities like New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Memphis to protest the brutality.
The protests in Iran against wearing the headscarf and ruthless implementation of the Islamic Dress Code for women rages on, but in quiet defiance. This follows the deadly crackdown that led to thousands of arrests and at least four executions. Many women are boldly venturing out in public without the mandated headscarf and small groups of demonstrators are still gathering to make noises that can be heard. Now, we learn that an Iranian couple, Astiyazh Haghighi and Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, in their 20s, were sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for dancing in the street. The couple have a large social media following, and were arrested in November last year, after posting a video dancing in front of Tehran’s Azadi Tower. Haghighi was not wearing a headscarf, a move which appeared to show solidarity with the headscarf protesters. Now, the Iranian regime has convicted the pair of corruption, prostitution, and national security charges. That’s brutal.
India’s Budget – an Amrit Kaal
The Annual ritual of presenting the Budget for India happened on 1st February and the Government termed it an ‘Amrit Kaal’ Budget giving a big push for capital expenditure in building infrastructure, fiscal consolidation, and unleashing personal income tax-reforms for the ‘much ignored’ salaried, middle class.
‘Amrit Kaal’ is a term pulled out from Vedic Astrology and refers to an auspicious period when the portals of great pleasure open for humans and other living beings.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman is easily the most consequential Finance Minister India has ever had. She has done a commendable job by navigating the economy through a tough pandemic and the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, and nurturing it as a lone bright spot when the world braces for a recession.
Indian Industrialist Harsh Goenka (I follow him on Twitter) Chairman of RPG Enterprises best summed it up as, “M’bap’pe of a budget, not ‘Messi’ at all. A budget that puts India on the path to become the world champion- all set to score goals on infra development, consumption and inclusion. A big boost for domestic manufacturing, job creation and ease of doing business”. Glad he brought-in Mbappe: he is a top scorer, is young, and can kick us into the future – will lots of ‘goals’.
He did not stop with that, but when further, roped-in an Indian movie scorching the world screens, and said, “we at RPG love this budget because it’s RRR once again: Railways; Renewables; and Reforms. A ‘Naatu Naatu’ budget for the whole country putting us on track to conquer the golden globe”-alluding to the Indian film RRR winning a Golden Globe Award for best original song of ’Naatu Naatu’.
We can dance to that!
Last Saturday, Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, the 5th seed, came from a set down to beat Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, the 22nd seed, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Australian Open women’s singles event at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. This is Sabalenaka’s maiden singles Grand Slam. The reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina seemed to be in control after winning the first set, but was completely outplayed in the second set by Sabalenka, who then fought her way to claim the decider, despite squandering three championship points.
In the Men’s finals played this Sunday, as widely expected, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic coolly beat Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6, 7-6 to win his 10th Australian Open title and level with Spain’s Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slams. That was a pretty straight win. The others behind in Grand Slam Title wins, but retired, are Roger Federer with 20 and Pete Sampras with 14 Grand Slams. That leaves two ‘fit’ horses in the race to the next Slam level: Djokovic and Nadal.
India has a knack of throwing up great cricketers and this week a precious find could well be 23 year old Shubman Gill, from Punjab State, who smashed the highest-ever score by an Indian in T20 Cricket. He hit 126, not-out, off 63 deliveries in his maiden hundred in a T20 match against New Zealand. Shubam Gill beat the previous record held by Virat Kohli who did a 122 of 61 balls against Afghanistan in September 2022.
More smashing stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Plan your budget after reading World Inthavaaram.