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Growth, with caveats – OPINION – The Hindu

  • The Centre must pay heed to RBI Governor Urjit Patel’s plain speak

    • The central bank was not expected to tinker with key policy rates in its first monetary policy review of 2017-18 unveiled on Thursday, following its decision to shift from an accommodative to a neutral monetary policy stance in February.
    • The Monetary Policy Committee chaired by Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel has, in fact, decided to raise the rate at which the central bank borrows funds from banks (the reverse repo rate) by 25 basis points, from 5.75% to 6%, while leaving other policy rates untouched.
    • This marginal change is aimed at sucking out from the system excess liquidity that remains a lingering concern, despite coming off its peak in the aftermath of the demonetization exercise.
    • The RBI has also proposed a new liquidity management tool that awaits government approval, making the draining of surplus liquidity a critical priority all through this year.
    • The RBI says achieving the stated target of 4% inflation even next year could be challenging, with no “lucky disinflationary forces” expected, such as benign commodity and oil prices. It has also pointed to a one-time upside risk to inflation with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.
    • The RBI is quite optimistic about an uptick in the economy this year, projecting 7.4% growth in Gross Value-Added, compared to 6.7% in 2016-17
    • Along with improved prospects for the world economy, a rebound in discretionary consumer spending at home is likely, in line with the “pace of remonetization” and investment demand on account of lowered interest rates
      • First, the need to urgently resolve the surge of bad loans on bank books, for which the RBI will unveil a new Prompt Corrective Action framework by the middle of this month.
        • Without this, a virtuous cycle of healthy credit growth necessary for investment and job creation will remain elusive.
      • Second, the RBI has reminded the government there will be “clearly more demand for capital” in the coming days. The government’s allocation of Rs. 10,000 crore to recapitalise public sector banks is obviously inadequate.
      • Third, while banks have reduced lending rates, the RBI has pointed out there is room for more cuts if rates on small savings schemes are corrected.

  • Though a formula-based rate was adopted to set these rates last April, small savings schemes still deliver 61-95 basis points higher returns than what they should if the formula is followed, as per the RBI.

  • the government must not ignore Mr Patel’s categorical call to eschew loan waivers of the kind just announced in Uttar Pradesh. This, he warned, would crowd out private investments and dent the nation’s balance sheet.

Suicide isn’t a criminal act – OPINION – The Hindu

  • The Supreme Court’s views on suicide over the years

    • Twenty-three years ago, Justice B.L. Hansaria of the Supreme Court described the plight of a rape victim forced to stand trial for the “crime” of an attempt to suicide.
      • In his judgment in P. Rathinam v. Union of India (1994), the judge described the trial in one word: “persecution”.

  • The Lok Sabha, late last month, passed the Bill which decriminalises a failed suicide.

    • The Bill presumes that the person wilted under severe stress and attempted suicide. Instead of punishing him/her under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (attempt to suicide) with an open trial, a fine (even though in most cases a token amount) or imprisonment extending to a year, the new Bill reinvents the state in the role of a caregiver to the survivor of the suicide attempt. The goal is to prevent the person from trying the act again.
    • One clause in the new Bill says the government “shall, in particular, plan, design and implement public health programmes to reduce suicides and attempted suicides.”
    • In 1985, Justice R.A. Jahagirdar of the Bombay High Court gave four reasons why Section 309 was unconstitutional:

  • Nobody agrees on what constitutes suicide, much less attempted suicide; mens rea is not clearly discernible; temporary insanity, which drives suicide, is a valid defence even in homicides; individuals driven to suicide require psychiatric care.

  • The Law Commission of India called Section 309 “monstrous”. Criminalisation of suicide was not in tune with the global wavelength, the Supreme Court once said.
  • Unlike the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench which concluded in the Gian Kaur case that the right to life does not include the right to die, international case laws tolerate even euthanasia.
  • In McKay v. Bergstedt (1990), the Supreme Court of Nevada took the view that the desire of a patient for withdrawal of his respirator did not tantamount to suicide but was rather an exercise of his constitutional and common law right to “discontinue unwanted medical treatment”.
  • However, the new Bill does not define suicide. Differences among suicide researchers as to what constitutes suicide remain.

Is India a racist country? – OPINION – The Hindu

    • What we are witnessing is the conflict of cultures which is a law and order problem, not racism
    • Some sporadic incidents cannot, and should not, lead one to brand any society as racist.
    • one cannot deny that there has been some violence against people of African origin in some parts of the country. But a majority of these incidents have not been motivated by the colour of the nationalities involved. The reasons are sex, drug trafficking and behavioural patterns which unsettle the structured values cherished by locals.
    • Chances of conflicts are higher when empathy and reason diminish. What we are witnessing is the conflict of cultures which is a law and order problem, not racism.

  • The case of Western societies

      • Racism is a negative value of life which is not a part of the Indian psyche.
      • Whether a society is racist or becoming racist can be judged only by the collective consciousness of larger masses.
      • India’s history and the psychology of its masses have remained unchanged for as long as one can remember. During the anti-colonial movement, leaders of the freedom movement wisely secularised the struggle against colonial forces.
      • Indians had no problem when two westerners, George Yule (1888) and William Wedderburn (1889) became presidents of the Indian National Congress (INC).
      • Acceptance is the norm in Indian society. There is an interesting observation in the 1911 Census report that Indians had no problems stating their religion.
      • Historically, India has welcomed people of different races and creeds. The INC participated in the anti-apartheid conference in 1927 in Brussels.

  • We are one family

  • It is this credo of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole universe is one family) which led Indians to embrace victims of religious or racist persecutions. In 1931, as the Census data revealed, there were 24,000 Jews and 109,754 Parsis in India. They played a significant role in our freedom movement and in economic activities that shaped India. In the first session of the INC, there were nine Parsi delegates, and two each from the Muslim and Christian communities, of a total of 72. Their representation kept swelling in successive Congress sessions.
  • Moreover, there has been consensus for Anglo-Indian representation in Parliament. The fundamental rationale underpinning this has been one of cherishing diversities
  • However, in India, there have been clashes between Dalits and upper castes and some violent incidents against students from the Northeast. But drawing a parallel with racism would not be correct
  • Racism is based on hatred which makes conciliation between people of different groups virtually impossible. Spiritual democracy is the basis of our secularism and our multiculturalism negates perpetuation of conflicts. These have little to do with race.