This has been a busy and a turbulent fortnight, across the world and in India as well, all for different reasons. China has forcibly opened up its borders, eager to come back into the business cycle that it had sorely missed because of the Covid pandemic, but its decision has been criticised, because the country is yet to come out of the influence of the deadly disease.
Then the US shot down a Chinese balloon floating in US airspace, creating some angst and tension between the two superpowers.
In between, a massive earthquake – 7.8 on the Richter scale – struck Turkey and war-torn Syria, bringing unthinkable suffering, killing over 10,000 as of writing this, with 25 million displaced. It was good to hear that India immediately sent relief material and a company of NDRF personnel to Turkey, creating a diplomatic channel with a country which has been talking against India for some time now.
If that was the sum and substance of all that happened, it would almost have been a decent fortnight. But there were more. In India finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the NDA government’s last full budget before next year’s general elections. It was a decent budget, with a huge projected growth in capex, though whether the government will be able to reach that limit is not sure. Confusion has also started with the two different income tax regimes, but one guesses that this is a problem that will be sorted out in the course of time.
No, the budget did not present anything substantial for the poor but, then, in India when has any budget been pro-poor? What one noticed was that the budget was pro-growth and not election oriented. That was good move. People had expected a mix of populism and growth, but that is an almost impossibility for a growth-oriented economy.
The big issue was that all the good work of the FM was virtually knocked out of the front pages of all newspapers and from prime time across news channels, by a very sinister development, in which a US-based firm, called Hindenburg Research, presented in public a report that was incredibly damning for the empire that Gautam Adani had built. The reports called Adani’s accounting system as the “greatest con job in corporate history”, and there must have been a great deal of truth in the report for the Adani group to quickly lose almost half of its valuation as the stock market went red. Gautam Adani, not too long back the second richest man in the world, fell from the perch, and even out of the top 15.
More damningly, it was Adani’s proximity with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has now taken over like a fast spreading fever, with even parliament being rocked by it. This has become a major stumbling block for the BJP in its journey through many elections cycles that are before that. This year alone, there are nine state elections scheduled, not to talk about the general elections of 2024.
How the Adani scandal pans out across the larger canvas will be a matter to watch.
So, yes, this was a busy fortnight; interesting, saddening and making us even more eager to know more.