FirstFT: India’s military recruitment reform sparks violent protests

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Aspiring military recruits have launched violent protests across India over plans by prime minister Narendra Modi’s government to replace many permanent positions in the armed forces with four-year contracts.

The furious reaction to the proposed reforms has exposed the extent of India’s job crisis, particularly for young people for whom a career in the armed forces represents coveted economic security.

Modi’s government last week unveiled the controversial new scheme, known as “Agnipath” or “Way of Fire”, which removes guaranteed long-term employment and pensions for new military recruits.

Thousands of people, including many young Indians preparing for the competitive selection process, have reacted with outrage. In states including Bihar in northern India and southern Andhra Pradesh, angry crowds have vandalised trains, cars and government buildings, leading to hundreds of arrests. At least one person has been killed in the violence.

The armed forces, which suspended recruitment during the pandemic, were set to recruit an initial 40,000 people this year under the scheme. That is planned to increase to about 50,000 over coming years.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here is the rest of the day’s news — Emily

1. S&P 500 bounces 2.4% after sharp weekly decline US stocks gained on Tuesday, leading the S&P 500 index to its best day since late May, as traders hunted for bargains following a steep weekly decline for global shares fuelled by central banks raising interest rates.

  • Go deeper: To make sense of the markets meltdown, FT’s top investment brains join Claer Barrett’s Money Clinic podcast to explain what’s going on and where things could go from here.

2. Hong Kong exchange sets terms for Evergrande to avoid delisting The world’s most indebted developer said in an exchange filing yesterday that it had until September 20, 2023 to resume trading in its shares. The developer will need to meet a series of conditions, including publishing an independent investigation into its property services unit and demonstrating it has sufficient assets to operate.

3. Kellogg’s to split into three separate food businesses Kellogg is splitting into three public companies, keeping its core global snacking business while spinning off the North American cereal brands where the Corn Flakes maker’s origins lie and a smaller business selling plant-based foods.

4. Crypto exchange FTX bails out lending platform BlockFi Sam Bankman-Fried has delivered his second bailout of a struggling digital assets firm in as many weeks. The 30-year-old chief executive of crypto trading platform FTX has extended a $250mn loan to BlockFi. Just last week, he also helped crypto broker Voyager Digital to pull back from the brink with a loan that totalled about $485mn in cash and bitcoins.

  • More crypto news: South Korean prosecutors have banned Terraform Labs employees from leaving the country as an investigation into the company and its co-founders deepens after the $40bn implosion of its cryptocurrency.

5. Macau’s Covid crackdown leaves SJM casino group burning cash The Macau casino empire founded by the late gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, is burning through its cash reserves as the Chinese territory tightens a zero-Covid regime that has already sent gambling revenues plunging.

The day ahead

Brics business forum Chinese President Xi Jinping will deliver the keynote address at the gathering of the five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Federal Reserve chair testimony Jay Powell will give his semi-annual monetary policy report to the Senate banking, housing and urban affairs committee.

50th Glastonbury music festival Campgrounds at the UK festival open today, with the event returning from a two-year pandemic-related hiatus to its venue at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset. The headline acts include Sir Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish and Elbow.

Read more in our Week Ahead newsletter.

What else we’re reading

The private equity groups that buy companies they own A growing number of privately owned companies are being bought and sold by the same firm. Such deals have partly been a consequence of the tidal wave of cash that has flooded private markets during the long era of low interest rates. But critics point to conflicts of interest.

South-east Asia bucks global stagflation trend War in Ukraine, record fuel and food prices and rising interest rates are stoking the threat of stagflation but at least one region is positioned to avoid the worst of the downturn: south-east Asia. In four of the six biggest economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, gross domestic product is rising faster than inflation, a FT analysis has found.

IPL rights auction sets up power play The Indian Premier League cricket now claims to be the world’s second-most valuable sports league on a per-game basis, behind only the US National Football League. How Disney and Viacom18 use their valuable new properties as broadcasting and digital rights holders, will prove an important test for India’s entertainment market.

Elon Musk’s aid to Ukraine attracts scrutiny in China When Elon Musk’s SpaceX dispatched a shipment of Starlink satellite kits to fortify Ukraine’s internet network against Putin’s forces in the early days of the war he was commended by western leaders. China, however, took a different view. Tesla makes a quarter of its revenues in China and now its chief executive is under pressure from the country’s national security and data hawks.

Can the ECB prevent a second euro crisis? The European Central Bank has moved quickly on the “fragmentation” of the bloc’s sovereign bond market. Investors will deduce the central bank’s point of intolerance from intervention, writes Eric Lonergan, fund manager at M&G.

Fashion

Weeks after the easing of restrictions in Shanghai, consumers and business owners are navigating a precarious new normal. While some have set out on “revenge spending”, where consumers buy more than they normally would as a reaction to having endured restrictions and limitations, others are not planning to spend on luxury again anytime soon, having found that lockdown gave them “a lower threshold for what makes me happy”.

Some in China welcomed the easing of restrictions with a bout of ‘revenge shopping’, but others remain cautious © AP

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