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Demonetisation was an ‘unmitigated disaster’, says ex-banker Meera Sanyal

The PM’s promise that Demonetization would eradicate corruption was undoubtedly one of the main reasons for the initial goodwill towards Demonetization from the very poor, despite the hardships it inflicted on them. Sadly, however, this promise too was belied.

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Demonetisation Que

ew Delhi, Nov 8 (IANS) Exactly two years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government commenced the exercise to ban over 85 per cent of high-value currency notes, former banking industry honcho Meera H. Sanyal says in her upcoming book that in its implementation, the 2016 demonetisation was an “unmitigated disaster”.

Sanyal, former CEO and Chairperson of Royal Bank of Scotland in India is currently a member of the National Executive Committee of the Aam Aadmi Party. In the chapter titled The Surgical Strike, she says that as financial and human costs of demonetisation began to add up, it became “painfully clear that what had been intended as a surgical strike on black money had regrettably turned out to be a carpet-bombing of the Indian people and our economy. It was a classic case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.”

The Big Reverse: How Demonetization Knocked India Out — brought out by Haper Collins India — will be available in stores from November 8, 2018.

Following is an extract from the book:

There is no doubt that the PM touched a deep chord in the heart of India, when he talked of the menace of corruption. Who among us has not felt “Some people have misused their office for personal gain… that corruption and black money tend to be accepted as part of life… that it has afflicted our politics, our administration and our society like an infestation of termites…”

According to the 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report, 73 per cent of the bribes paid in India were by “the low economy groups, who had to pay money due to unavailability of other options, or had less influence to avoid paying bribes… high bribes were demanded for accessing public education and healthcare facilities… approximately 58 per cent and 59 per cent bribery rates were seen in education and healthcare sectors in India, respectively. The times when people paid a bribe was also seen to be almost equally high for police, identification documents, and basic amenities.”

The PM’s promise that Demonetization would eradicate corruption was undoubtedly one of the main reasons for the initial goodwill towards Demonetization from the very poor, despite the hardships it inflicted on them. Sadly, however, this promise too was belied.

In February 2018, Transparency International reported that India continued to be among the most corrupt countries in the world. In the 2017 Global Corruption Perception Index report, India with a score of 40 points, was ranked 81, down two places from its ranking of 79 in 2016.

Worse still, the report named India as the most corrupt country in the Asia-Pacific region, with 69 per cent bribery rates, which means that almost seven out of ten people had to pay a bribe to access public services. Vietnam was the second-most corrupt country with 65 per cent bribery rates, whereas Pakistan with only 40 per cent bribery rates, ranked much better than India. Japan came out as the least corrupt nation, with a 0.2 per cent bribery rate.

This demolishes one of the main arguments presented in favour of Demonetization. The Economic Survey for 2016-2017 had stated, “Across the globe there is a link between cash and nefarious activities: the higher the amount of cash in circulation, the greater the amount of corruption… In this sense, attempts to reduce the cash in an economy could have important long-term benefits in terms of reducing levels of corruption.”

As it happens, data does not support this argument. Japan is a case in point. Japan’s Currency to GDP ratio in 2015 was 18.61 per cent, much higher than India’s at 12.51 per cent. In the same year (2015) Japan was ranked as the 18th least corrupt nation in the world while India was ranked 76th, i.e. Japan, which has a much higher currency to GDP ratio than India, has far less corruption.

Clearly, therefore, Demonetization failed in its second big goal — eradication of corruption. If anything, the new 2,000 notes made it simpler for corrupt officials to take and stash away larger bribes, compounding the problem for ordinary Indians.

Analysis

YouTube testing new video recommendation format: Report

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San Francisco, Jan 16 : Google-owned video sharing platform YouTube is testing a new video recommendation format that displays blue bubbles on the screen with relevant keywords and related topic suggestions, facilitating easier browsing, media reported.

“The screenshots obtained show these blue bubbles just underneath the video player showing more specific video recommendations,” The Verge reported on Tuesday.

The video-sharing platform is currently testing the feature with some users on its main desktop page as well as on the mobile app.

For sometime now users have been complaining that the videos recommended on the side on YouTube’s interface often have little to do with the current video, making recommendations a point of contention for the platform.

“It’s unclear if the videos that populate from the new recommendation bubbles will face similar algorithmic issues that YouTube’s recommendation feed currently suffers,” the report added.

There has not been any word from YouTube as of now on the working of these blue bubbles and whether or not they will roll out the test feature to a bigger group in the coming months.

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Analysis

2002 Gujarat riots: Judge P.B. Desai ignored evidence, says activist Harsh Mander

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Harsh Mander

New Delhi, Jan 9 : Special SIT court judge P.B. Desai “ignored evidence” that former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in a mob attack in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Housing Society during the 2002 riots, did all that was possible within his power to protect Muslims from the “rage of the mob” and instead echoed the position of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi that his killing was only a “reaction” to his “action” of shooting at the mob, says human rights activist Harsh Mander.

He says that “the learned judge”, who retired in December 2017, overlooked statements by surviving witnesses that Jafri made repeated desperate calls to senior police officers and other persons in authority, “including allegedly Chief Minister Modi”, pleading that security forces be sent to “disperse the crowd” and rescue those “against whom the mob had laid a powerful siege”.

Mander, who quit the IAS in Gujarat in the wake of the riots, makes these observations in his just released book, “Partitions of the Heart: Unmaking the Idea of India”, published by Penguin.

The 66-year-old activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as homeless persons and street children, goes on to quote the late journalist Kuldip Nayar to establish that Jafri had desperately telephoned him, “begging him to contact someone in authority to send in the police or the Army to rescue them”.

Mander says Nayar rang up the Union Home Ministry to convey to it the seriousness of the situation. The Home Ministry said it was in touch with the state government and was “watching” the situation. Jafri called again, pleading with Nayar to do something as the mob was threatening to lynch him.

In the chapter titled “Whatever happened in Gulberg Society?”, Mander contends that Jafri did everything within his power to protect “those who believed that his influence would shield them from the rage of the mob”. Mander says Jafri begged the mob to “take his life instead” and in a show of valour went out “to plead and negotiate” with the angry crowd.

“When he realised that no one in authority would come in for their protection, he also did pick up his licensed firearm and shoot at the crowd…,” Mander notes, describing it as the “final vain bid” on behalf of Jafri to protect the Muslims in the line of fire.

The author notes that in describing Jafri’s final resort to firing as an illegitimate action, the judge only echoed the position taken repeatedly by Modi, who had given an interview to a newspaper in which he had said that it was Jafri who had first fired at the mob.

“He forgot to say what a citizen is expected to do when a menacing mob, which has already slaughtered many, approaches him and the police has deliberately not responded to his pleas,” says Mander.

He says that it was as if even when under attack and surrounded by an armed mob warning to slaughter them, “and with acid bombs and burning rags flung at them”, a good Muslim victim should do nothing except plead, and this would ensure their safety.

Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri, according to Mander, was firmly convinced that her husband was killed because of a conspiracy that went right to the top of the state administration, beginning with Modi. The author notes that the court, in its judgement running into more than 1,300 pages, disagreed.

“It did indict 11 people for the murder but they were just foot soldiers,” observed Mander.

He further says that the story the survivors told the judge over prolonged hearings was consistent but Judge Desai was convinced that there was “no conspiracy behind the slaughter” and that the administration did all it could to control it.

“Jafri, by the judge’s reckoning, and that of Modi, was responsible for his own slaughter,” he laments.

Mander also argues in the book that recurring episodes of communal violence in Ahmedabad had altered the city’s demography, dividing it into Hindu and Muslim areas and Gulberg was among the last remaining “Muslim” settlements in the “Hindu” section of the city.

He says that Desai also disregarded the evidence in the conversations secretly taped by Tehelka reporters, mentioning that superior courts, according to Desai himself, have ruled that while a person cannot be convicted exclusively based on the evidence collected in such “sting operations”, such evidence is certainly “admissible as corroborative proof”.

“But he chose to disregard this evidence, not because there was proof that these video recordings were in any way doctored or false but simply because the Special Investigative Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India chose to ignore this evidence,” says Mander.

According to Mander, the Tehelka recordings “certainly supported the theory that there was indeed a plan to collect, incite and arm the mob to undertake the gruesome slaughter”.

The SIT was headed by R.K. Raghavan, today Ambassador to Cyprus. Mander contends in the book that just because the investigators did not pursue Tehelka recordings in greater depth, Desai concluded that the “recordings cannot be relied upon as trustworthy of substantial evidence and establish any conspiracy herein”.

In the book, Mander takes stock of whether India has upheld the values it had set out to achieve and offers painful, unsparing insight into the contours of violence. The book is now available both online and in bookstores.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

Number of suicides highest in Army amongst three services

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

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Ajit Doval

New Delhi, Jan 7 : The number of defence personnel committing suicide was highest in the Army amongst the three services in the last three years, data shows.

In 2018 alone, as many as 80 Army personnel are believed to have committed suicide. This number is 16 for Air Force and 08 for the Navy, Minister of State (MoS) for Defence Subhash Bhamre told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Monday.

In 2017, the number of Army men who are suspected to have committed suicide was 75, while in 2016 this number was 104.

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

In his reply, the Minister said that various steps have been taken by the armed forces to create healthy environment for their officers and other ranks.

“Some of the steps include provision of better facilities such as clothing, food, married accommodation, travel facilities, schooling, recreation etc and periodic welfare meetings, promoting yoga and meditation as a tool for stress management, and training and deployment of psychological counsellors,” the reply read.

It said mental health awareness is provided during pre-induction training.

Besides, institutionalisation of projects “MILAP” and “SAHYOG” by the Army in Northern and Eastern Commands to reduce stress among troops has been done.

A helpline has also been established by the Army and the Air Force to provide professional counselling.

IANS

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