The Week That Was:

From: Vartaa Editorial Team on Jan 24, 2016

Suicide of a Dalit Student

The suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad University shook political corridors all the way till Delhi this past week. Rohith had been embroiled in a battle with the VC's office after protesting against Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP, the RSS' student wing) leaders' attack on the screening of a documentary on campus last year. With the University shutting down his stipend, the research student was driven to desperation and took his own life leaving a detailed suicide note. The case took a political turn as it was discovered that BJP MP Bandaru Duttareya has written to the HRD Ministry to direct the University to take action against Rohith after he clashed with ABVP leader Susheel Kumar last year.

And the politics follows....

With case being a critical faultline in India's politics as well as universities, it did not take long for political parties to jump into the fray. The opposition demanded action against both the HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Duttareya. Irani, on her part, put up a spirited defence, but failed to quell the issue. The BJP first reacted aggressively against Rohith but seemed to have mellowed down by the end of the week with the PM himself condoling the death. Tempers did not cool down however. Students protesting against PM Modi at Lucknow were allegedly evicted from their hostels and protests continued across the country. Rohith's family meanwhile has refused to accept the ex-gratia amount offered by the authorities. It remains to be seen how long this issue continues to simmer and whether the govt will be able cool the matter down.

Netaji Files Declassified

This past week the government declassified over 100 files related to the death and subsequent events of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Netaji's death has forever been a subject of debate in India with his family and supporters refusing to accept that he died in a plane crash in Taiwan in 1946. The files reveal how the Nehru government was reluctant to bring back Netaji's ashes to India due to his family's refusal to accept his death and also how the first PM of India put in place measures to support Netaji's wife and daughter financially post his death. Netaji's daughter though has requested the Indian govt to conduct DNA testing on the ashes still residing in a temple in Japan to confirm whether they indeed belong to him.

What Amit and Arun are upto

Current BJP President Amit Shah is set to be re-elected party President for a full term of 3 years this coming week. Shah, who is considered PM Modi's closest confidante, will be looking to shepherd the BJP through the coming state elections and onto the 2019 polls. More buzz was however created in the capital by a Reuters report that claimed that the PM was looking to remove Arun Jaitley from the Finance Ministry to Defence in light of the struggles still being faced by the economy. It remains to be seen whether given the political climate the PM would indeed take such step as part of the major reshuffle of portfolios in this government.

Opinions you must read:

  • Rohith Vemula's suicide presents a serious political troubleshooting problem for the BJP. Read on here to find out why.
  • Firstpost has some harsh words for Smriti Irani's handling of the Rohith Vemula crisis and believes that she could have done more to defuse the situation
  • In a hyper connected world, can business travel become obsolete? The Mint weighs in.

Chart of the Week

World over the print media publications are facing tremendous pressure from online and social channels. A recent PwC report charts how newspaper revenues have been in terminal decline for many years now and how while the number of circulations may go up, their value is going down.

India as a market however, seems to be bucking the trend. Data from the I&B Ministry indicates how print publications here are thriving, perhaps due to the still nascent broadband and mobile internet connectivity. Between 2008 and 2014, the total number of print publications, across languages, grew by a CAGR of 6.4% in India with growth being particularly strong in vernacular languages of Marathi, Kannada and Gujarati. By 2014, India had close to 100,000 print publications across languages and the chart below attempts to capture their spread and size by languages. The location of the bubble shows whether publications are present in these states while the size represents the number of publications present in the state. Readers can click on a colored bar at the top corresponding to a language to see number of publications in that language across the country.

Not surprisingly, most English publications are concentrated around Delhi and Mumbai. Hindi ones tend to be better spread, specially across UP, MP and Rajasthan. The Urdu press interestingly also enjoys national presence and informs dialogue across states with Muslim populations such as UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra/ Telengana. An interesting nugget to close the chart - There are 88 print publications in Sanskrit- a supposedly archaic language, with almost a third of them originating from UP!