Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement that the Centre has decided to revoke Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcate the state dominated the news cycle for most of Monday.
The panic over what the government was up to had been building up over the weekend, peaking over Sunday night as the government put top politicians under house arrest and cut off communications in the state.
While everyone was glued to the TV and their phones, listening to Shah explain and defend the move in the Parliament and trying to understand what this means, five other important news items didn’t get the attention they should have.
1. Transgender Persons Bill Passed
The Lok Sabha passed the controversial Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019 on Monday by a voice vote amid noisy protests by some opposition parties.
Replying on the bill, Minister of State for Social Justice Rattan Lal Kataria said it makes a provision for establishing a national authority for safeguarding rights of transgenders.
However, the transgender community, according to The News Minute, has rejected the bill, with activist Grace Banu quoted as saying in the report, “The Bill is equal to killing trans people. The government is supposed to draft laws and schemes for the people but this Bill is totally against the people.”
Going by the bill, a person would have the right to choose to be identified as a man, woman or transgender person, irrespective of sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy. However, The News Minute added that the bill requires transgender persons to go through a district magistrate and district screening committee to get certified as a trans person. In case the certificate is denied, no provision for an appeal or review is mentioned.
The Wire had reported last month that activists had called for the full text of the bill to be made available, not just in English, so that the people directly affected by it could give their inputs. This hasn’t been done.
2. Sensex plunges, rupee weakens
The BSE’s benchmark index Sensex on Monday crashed over 418 points to slip below the 36,700-level, a near five-month low, as massive global sell-offs and growing political uncertainties in Jammu and Kashmir rattled investor sentiment.
Likewise, the NSE gauge Nifty dived nearly 135 points to close at 10,862.60.
Both benchmark indices — Sensex and Nifty — saw an intense volatility throughout the session due to multiple headwinds like escalation in US-China trade war, weak corporate earnings, rupee downfall and political tensions in Jammu and Kashmir. The sell-off in stocks had begun after the Union budget was presented on 5 July, on worries that a tax surcharge on the “super rich” meant the government was now targeting foreign portfolio investors. The Sensex had pared its losses on Tuesday afternoon, and was up over 487.67 points.
The rupee also weakened the most since September 2013 on Monday, reported Mint.
3. Re-verification notices for NRC cause panic
The people were asked to attend hearings between 5 and 7 August, at locations 300 kilometres away, reported NDTV.
The rules state that applicants must be given 15 days of notice before the hearing is held, but they weren’t followed, Scroll said. The report added that a bus ferrying people from Kamrup to Golaghat to attend NRC hearings met with an accident. Several people, including children, were injured.
4. Unnao rape survivor remains critical
The rape survivor, who was severely injured in a car-truck collision last week, was airlifted to New Delhi from Lucknow on Monday evening for further treatment following Supreme Court directives in this regard, police said.
“She is sick and on life support system needing medication to support her blood pressure. The patient remains critical and is undergoing treatment under multi-disciplinary team of doctors,” AIIMS Trauma Centre Chief Dr Rajesh Malhotra said.
The accident had dominated national headlines over the past week after it brought fresh attention to a series of misfortunes the complainant and her family have suffered, including the deaths of four people connected to her and the imprisonment of her uncle.
The Central Bureau of Investigation, which has taken over the investigation into the accident, has booked 10 people for murder, including Uttar Pradesh MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is already in jail, charged with the rape of the woman in 2017 when she was a minor. Sengar was finally expelled from the BJP after massive outrage last week.
5. Job cuts across auto dealerships
Around two lakh jobs have been cut across automobile dealerships in India in the last three months as vehicle retailers cut manpower to tide over the impact of the unprecedented sales slump, according to a statement by industry body Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA).
FADA, according to PTI, feared that the job cuts may continue, with more showrooms being shut in the near future and sought immediate government intervention such as reduction of GST to provide relief to the auto industry.
“The majority of job cuts have happened in the last three months...It started around May and continued through June and July,” FADA President Ashish Harsharaj Kale told PTI.
The two lakh jobs cuts in the last three months are over and above the 32,000 people who lost employment when 286 showrooms were closed across 271 cities in the 18-month period ended April this year, he added.
Leading automakers have announced up to 50% dip in their domestic sales in July, with market leader Maruti Suzuki alone reporting a 36% drop in sales. Maruti also said it has cut the number of temporary workers it employs to deal with the slowdown.
The sharp decline in sales numbers of the leading manufacturer shows the decline in consumer sentiment and indicates an overall slowdown in the economy, wrote The Indian Express.
(With PTI inputs)