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Home / Politics / News /  The big stories of the coming week – in charts

Every Monday, Mint’s Plain Facts section features key data releases and events to look for in the coming week. With India set to celebrate 75 years of independence on Monday, we look at the length of the prime minister’s Independence Day speeches since 2014. Covid-19 infections are on the rise in Delhi. The minutes of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) last monetary policy meeting are due this week.

1. Independence Day

After a long build-up, India is set to complete its 75 years of independence on Monday with immense patriotic fervour. On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver his ninth Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Modi is known to bring up less-discussed issues in his speeches as he communicates his vision for the country. His speeches have lasted 65-94 minutes so far. The historic 75th year speech is expected to feature new healthcare programmes, the need of the hour for the country after last year’s covid-19 disaster. Digital and banking inclusion and the road ahead for the economy for the next 25 years could also be on the agenda. Interestingly, the 70th Independence Day speech was Modi’s shortest. Will the speech this year, a historic one, be his longest?

2. Covid in Delhi

The surging covid-19 cases in Delhi have brought back fears that the pandemic might not be over yet. The national capital has now added more than 2,000 cases per day in 10 of the last 11 days and positivity rate has been hovering around a worrying range of above 15%. With Independence Day and Janmashtami celebrations due this week, mass gatherings could heighten the risk of faster transmission. The central and the state governments have issued advisories to keep a check on the virus, but the rising cases put a spotlight on low coverage of the population with booster doses. India, after a slow start, vaccinated most of the population with both doses in a year. However, a push from the administration was lacklustre for booster doses, which has put India behind not only advanced countries but also its neighbours. Against a world average of 24 booster doses per hundred population, India has managed only eight.

3. Ola EV

Ola Electric is set to launch a new vehicle on 15 August coinciding with India’s 75th year of independence. Chief executive officer Bhavish Aggarwal teased his followers on Twitter with the news of the impending launch without disclosing the product. Media reports suggest that the company could unveil its first electric car or a mass-market electric scooter. The launch comes in the wake of the company being embroiled in a series of controversies over its electric scooters catching fire in different parts of the country, triggering safety concerns over electric vehicles (EVs). Last month, the government sent notices to electric-scooter makers, including Ola Electric, seeking an explanation on why they should not be penalized for a spate of scooter fires, some of them deadly, caused by faulty batteries.

4. RBI policy minutes

Rising food and global commodity prices prompted the RBI to move away from its ultra-loose monetary policy in May and embark on a rate-hiking cycle to combat high levels of inflation. The central bank raised interest rates by half a percentage point at its most recent meeting in early August, taking the benchmark repo rate to 5.40%, above the pre-pandemic level. This means the repo rate has been raised by a cumulative 140 basis points this year.

Despite the fact that food prices have moderated and commodity prices have fallen significantly from record highs, economists believe the RBI will continue to raise interest rates for some time. According to RBI governor Shaktikanta Das, inflation has peaked and will moderate, but it will remain uncomfortably high. The minutes of the August meeting, which are due on Friday, will provide insight into signs of further rate hikes and a shift from an accommodative to a neutral stance.

5. UK inflation

Inflation data for July is due from the UK on Wednesday. Retail inflation surged to 9.4% in June, the highest since 1982. This is over four times the Bank of England’s (BoE’s) inflation rate target of 2%. Sky-high inflation has prompted the central bank to raise the bank rate five times since December, with the last hike of half-a-percentage point coming on 4 August. The bank rate stands at 1.75%, its highest level since late 2008. BoE governor Andrew Bailey has also warned of a “very big shock to inflation" in the coming days.

The runaway inflation has been attributed to a surge in food and energy prices on account of the Ukraine war. The BoE sees inflation at a staggering 13.3% by October and tay at elevated levels for a major part of 2023. The country is also likely to slip into a recession from the fourth quarter of this year amid weak consumer confidence, the central bank has said.

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