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Showing posts from November 30, 2016

Afghanistan, India hope to corner Pakistan

India is hoping to corner Pakistan on the issue of “cross-border terrorism” at the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar this weekend, say officials, even as the Ministry of External Affairs denied it had received any proposal for a bilateral meeting with Pakistan Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz during the conference. “The threat of terrorism is the biggest challenge to peace and security in the region,” said Ministry official Gopal Bagley, who oversees the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran division. He gave the preliminary details of the counter-terrorism framework that is due to be adopted by the conference.“There is support in our region and where the problem lies we all know,” Mr. Bagley said, indicating Pakistan. “It needs to be squarely addressed, and we need to discuss how to stop safe havens, stop all support to terrorists, stop the glorification of terrorists.” Mr. Aziz is expected to travel to Amritsar for a few hours on Sunday, driving over the Wagah border from Pakistan, and r…

Thousands lose homes to China’s huge telescope

Humanity’s best bet at detecting aliens is a giant silver Chinese dish the size of 30 football fields — one that simultaneously showcases Beijing’s abilities to deploy cutting-edge technologies and ignore objectors’ rights as it seeks global prominence. The five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in the country’s southwest, which began operations in September and cost 1.2 billion yuan ($180 million) to build, is the world’s largest radio telescope. Once fully operational, FAST will be able to peer deeper into space than ever before, examining pulsars, dark matter and gravitational waves — and searching for signs of life. But it comes at the cost of forcibly displacing about 9,000 villagers who called the site in Pingtang county their home.Many were outraged at being forced to leave the valley surrounded by forested karst hills and hundreds of families are now suing the government, with some cases being heard this week. Octogenarian Han Jingfu drank pesticide days after…

India to firm up defence ties with Bangladesh

In the first visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Bangladesh in the last 45 years, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar arrived here on a two-day visit to strengthen defence cooperation between the two neighbours. An Indian Air Force plane carrying Mr. Parrikar and an 11-member high-powered delegation reached the Bangladesh Air Force Base in Kurmitola on Wednesday morning. Mr. Parrikar is visiting Bangladesh to bolster defence cooperation initiatives ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in December, say diplomatic sources. He would discuss with the government leaders to firm up a proposed framework of bilateral defence cooperation deal, likely to be signed during Ms. Hasina’s visit. Another key focus during Ms. Hasina’s visit would be to present awards and financial assistance to families of the Indian soldiers who were killed during the Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971. Mr. Parrikar and his entourage were greeted by Bangladesh Defence Forces’ Principal Staf…

NHRC issues notice over lack of relief to Hindu migrants from Pak

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday issued notices to authorities in Delhi for not providing relief to Hindu migrants from Pakistan who were left homeless after a fire. About 500 Hindus from Pakistan had come to India in 2013-2014 and were temporarily settled at Majnu ka Tilla in north Delhi. About 30 makeshift dwellings of these migrants at Majnu ka Tilla were gutted when a fire broke out on November 27. The NHRC observed that the families affected by the fire were left homeless and are now living on the streets as temporary living arrangements promised by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate have not been provided so far. “The victims have complained that they do not even have food, clothes and basic amenities, which are necessary for a human being... The contents of the news reports raise a serious issue of violation of their right to life and dignity,” said the NHRC. Seeks detailed report Taking suo motu cognisance, the NHRC issued notices to the Delhi Chief Secretar…

LIVE: Pay Day after demonetisation

With demonetisation leading to a currency crisis in the country, the first pay day after the move has led to speculations of how the government is going to handle the cash distrubution. The Centre has asked all employers and contractors to ensure that wages are paid to all employees, including casual and contract workers, through cheques or electronic transfers into a bank account. The Chief Labour Commissioner, under the Ministry of Labour and Employment, has also asked firms to get bank accounts opened for all those workers who do not have one already, and report on the compliance status with the details of the new bank accounts opened by December 2, 2016.

Amartya Sen terms demonetisation a despotic action

“By taking despotic action and saying we had promised but won’t fulfil our promise, you hit at the root of this”. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has called the Narendra Modi government’s demonetisation move “despotic action that has struck at the root of economy based on trust.” “It (demonetisation) undermines notes, it undermines bank accounts, it undermines the entire economy of trust. That is the sense in which it is despotic,” Prof. Sen told to a TV channel. He further said his immediate point of view on demonetisation is on its economic aspect. “It’s (demonetisation) a disaster on economy of trust. In the last 20 years, the country has been growing very fast. But it is all based on acceptance of each other’s word. By taking despotic action and saying we had promised but won’t fulfil our promise, you hit at the root of this,” Prof. Sen said. Noting that capitalism has many successes that have come from having trust in businesses, he said if a government promises in promissory notes a…

Nowhere people

The Rohingyas are a community whom no country wants. Myanmar, which they consider their home, calls them Bengalis, denies them citizenship rights, looks away as they become targets of ethnic violence, packs them in squalid camps, but refuses to let them leave the country. The Rohingyas pay human smugglers and make their way to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they are repulsed. Sick and starving, the people crowd rickety boats and float adrift for weeks in the Indian Ocean waiting for the tension to abate. This has been the fate of the Rohingyas for decades. In the latest round of violence against them, the community has been targeted after Islamist militants attacked Myanmarese security forces, killing a dozen law enforcers early this month. In retaliation, the security forces trained their guns on the Rohingyas, who are Muslims. Neighbouring Bangladesh has again refused them entry; Dhaka has asked Yangon to take them back. Myanmar is a multicultural society with 135 communities. But …

What does the currency ban mean for banks?

The withdrawal of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes on 8 November has changed the composition of money supply in the economy. A large part of what was currency in circulation is now coming to banks as deposits. The sudden inflow of deposits has given rise to speculation about how these will be utilized by the banks. There are reports that banks will increase lending. Some have suggested that banks’ non-performing asset (NPA) problems will get alleviated. This is not correct. Our analysis suggests that: (1) banks are not in a position to significantly increase lending, (2) their net interest income (NII) may fall over the next few quarters, worsening their capital position, and (3) their NPA situation may get worse, further adding to their capital woes.  Close to 86% of the currency in circulation, amounting to roughly Rs14 trillion, was withdrawn overnight. By 13 November, Rs5.1 trillionout of this had been deposited in the banking system and Rs0.3 trillion had been exchanged over the counter.…

A last chance for amnesty

The amendments to theIncome Tax law passed by the Lok Sabha now offer those with unaccounted cash a last shot at amnesty. They can pay half their cash as tax and deposit a quarter into a new Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana. Those who fail to do this voluntarily for bank deposits made since November 8 would end up retaining about 15 per cent of the total amount if they cannot establish a legitimate source for the funds. There is a Robinhood-esque edge to the PMGKY approach, directly linking the war on black money to welfare of the poor. Essentially an extension of the recent Income Disclosure Scheme that cleaned up about Rs.65,000 crore of undeclared income by levying 45 per cent tax, the December 30 deadline for bank deposits in demonetised notes gives a more purposeful push to the effort to clean out all the cash in the grey economy. The scheme for disclosing foreign assets last year had yielded just about Rs.2,400 crore in taxes, so a tougher approach was perhaps necessary to in…

Dashed expectations

The government’s move to demonetise high-value currency notes is imposing significant costs on the economy. No matter, its advocates say. There will be benefits, some immediate and some that will show up over the long run. The costs are becoming apparent. Millions standing in queues to get cash, individuals unable to buy essentials, the disruption of small business, trade, transport and agriculture. Many analysts think GDP growth will drop below 7 per cent in 2016-17. Some think it will be significantly lower. The important question is whether the move will deliver benefits that outweigh the short-term costs. Let us focus for now on one immediate benefit we were asked to expect: a decline in lending rates in the economy. Banks have been flooded with deposits. Most of it will be withdrawn for use. But even if 10 per cent of the deposits were to stay, it was argued, it would suffice for banks to cut lending rates. Lower rates would boost spending and help offset the huge shock to aggre…

No country for the Rohingyas

ew humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Myanmar after the military crackdown on “Islamist jihadists” in the Rakhine State, home to more than one million Rohingya Muslims. The military claims it began the counter-terror operation after three border security posts came under attack on October 9. But since then more than 130 people have been killed in the State and 30,000 displaced, triggering a new wave of migration of Rohingyas to neighbouring countries. The army denies targeting civilians, but satellite images taken after the start of the crackdown indicate that hundreds of buildings were burnt down; reports suggest that even those who tried to flee the country were shot dead. The migrants are not welcome in Myanmar’s neighbourhood either. The violence itself is not surprising given the record of persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar. Many in the Buddhist-majority country call them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh though they have been living in Rakhine for generations. Myanmar’s …

Back to the collegium

There has been, in recent times, an unusually public conflict between the judiciary and the executive over the shortage of judges in various high courts. Amidst the perception that the situation has reached crisis proportions and is threatening to cripple judicial functioning, it is somewhat disconcerting that as many as 43 names out of a list of 77 recommended for appointment have not found favour with the Centre. It has informed the Supreme Court that these names require reconsideration by the collegium. The Centre contends that it has cleared 34 appointments, and that there is no file pending with it. It appears to have taken the cue from the remarks of the Chief Justice of India, T.S. Thakur, that it is better to send back the names it is not happy with rather than keep the entire list pending. The collegium is now obliged to return to its recommendations and examine the government’s specific objections about the suitability of each candidate. This may further delay the filling u…