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India’s current economic scenario not like 1991 crisis: Bimal Jalan

The government should restrict its role to deciding on policy and monitoring the performance of banks. It has to decide to do this reform.

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New Delhi, Nov 1 : The sharply depreciating rupee amidst rising global oil prices and the massive foreign funds outflow from the capital market are not crises comparable to the likes of the balance of payments (BoP) emergency India experienced in 1991 because the country’s fundamentals are stronger than before, its BoP is strong and it has one of the highest levels of foreign exchange reserves, says former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan.

On the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) refusing to raise its key lending rate in October as a way to counter the falling rupee and the fund outflows, Jalan told IANS in an interview that in setting its interest rates the central bank’s monetary policy committee has its own set of considerations like inflation, growth and the global economic scenario.

Instead, Jalan, also a former Finance Secretary and Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, says in his latest book — “India Ahead 2025 and Beyond” — that though the country’s fundamentals are much stronger today, it faces several old and new challenges in the area of politics, economics and governance.

“What is happening to the rupee is not a crisis… it is not a situation like in 1991 when we had a grave balance of payments situation. Now we have a much better ability to intervene, the economy has high capacity, we have hi-technology… our fundamentals are strong,” he said in reply to a question.

On the ongoing sharp foreign fund outflows from the capital market, Jalan pointed to the earlier flush of inflows in the preceding period.

“Financially we are in a much stronger position now than, for instance, we were during the Asian financial crisis in the nineties. We were able to handle that crisis, and we can handle this outflow situation now,” he said.

The Asian financial crisis was a sequence of currency devaluations and other events that began in mid-1997 and spread through many Asian markets. The currency markets first failed in Thailand and the contagion spread rapidly throughout Southeast Asia, in turn causing stock market declines and reduced import revenues.

On the other hand, the former Governor pointed to the need for reform in the wider area of political economy as elaborated in his latest book, which would include strengthening the prudential, provisioning and capitalisation norms of state-run banks to bring them in line with the best international standards and reduce the possibilities of future financial crises.

The accumulated non-performing assets (NPAs), or bad loans of banks, which have crossed a staggering Rs 10 lakh crore, are a matter of great concern, he writes.

“PSBs (public sector banks) have to decentralise. Banks report now to the government, which should withdraw from the actual day-to-day governance of banks,” Jalan said.

“The government should restrict its role to deciding on policy and monitoring the performance of banks. It has to decide to do this reform.”

He pointed out that some reform measures, like the RBI’s Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework for banks and enactment of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), had been initiated to deal with the NPA crisis which had provoked risk-aversion among banks and has been accompanied by a significant decline in private corporate revenues and investment.

“All these measures could have been taken a little earlier… one or two years ago,” he said.

Declining to comment on the RBI-government relations, Jalan, instead, drew attention to the many old and new challenges in the areas of politics economics and governance that the country faces which are the focus of his book.

“These can only be met if we are able to generate sufficient political will to pursue the right policies and shake off the dead weight of the past,” he said.

The RBI has recently underlined the importance of its autonomy and warned that the government’s focus on short-term goals could be harmful to the economy.

At a public lecture in Mumbai last week, RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya said undermining the regulator’s independence could be “catastrophic”, citing the examples Argentina’s former central bank chief, who resigned following a dispute over the transfer of reserves, and the recent criticism of their central banks’ actions by the US and Turkish Presidents.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley retaliated by alleging that the central bank looked the other way when indiscriminate lending happened between 2008 and 2014 leading to the NPA crisis.

Media reports earlier this week said that the government has invoked Section 7 of the RBI Act that empowers it to consult and direct the RBI to act on issues that it considers necessary in public interest.

Facing criticism for invoking a hitherto unused section to issue instructions to the RBI, the government on Wednesday said that it respected the autonomy of the central bank but within the framework of the RBI Act.

(Biswajit Choudhury can be reached at [email protected])

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Once dreaded ‘queen of outlaws’ Phoolan now a ‘veerangana’

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

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phoolan devi Bandit Queen

Bandit queen-turned-politician Phoolan Devi has been conferred the title of ‘veerangana’ (a brave warrior) by the Eklavya Welfare Society in Jalaun district.

Phoolan’s native village Garha Ka Purwa is located in Jalaun district and the Eklavya Welfare Society represents the Nishad community to which Phoolan belonged.

“The title of Veerangna has been conferred on Phoolan Devi because she was a true warrior — she fought for her honour and later, for the welfare of the oppressed.

“She deserves her and the young generations need to be told about her contribution. We will soon install her statue here,” said Gopalm Nishad, a member of the Eklavya Welfare Society.

Phoolan Devi, a bandit in the ravines across Uttar Pradesh and present Chhattisgarh and also Madhya Pradesh, had hit the headlines when she massacred 22 Thakurs in Behmai in Kanpur in February 1981 to avenge her sexual exploitation by a Thakur gang led by Lala Ram and Sri Ram.

In 1994, then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh withdrew the cases against Phoolan and she contested and won the Lok Sabha elections from Mirzapur in 1996 on a Samajwadi Party ticket.

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

The Nishad community constitutes about 4.5 per cent of the state’s population and are known to be among the Most Backward Castes (MBC).

The Nishad community has a sizeable population in about 40 assembly segments. Since the past one decade, they are trying to be included in the Scheduled Caste’s category but their demand has been caught in legal hassles.

An attempt was made to install Phoolan’s statue in Gorakhpur in 2016 but the attempt was foiled by the district administration that claimed that requisite permission for same had not been obtained.

The issue had revived an intense caste war between OBCs and MBCs in Uttar Pradesh.

Last year, Phoolan’s mother, Moola Devi, 90, who still lives in the village in abject poverty, had released the Chambal Manifesto on the eve of Lok Sabha elections to press for development of the Chambal region.

The 4-page manifesto was a compilation of the demands for the region which included the formation of the Chambal Commission for a scientific study of the issues and challenges faced by the people living in Chambal region along with solutions.

More than 40 years after she picked up the gun and turned into a bandit, following a dispute over four bighas of land with her cousin Maya Din, Phoolan Devi’s family in her native village in Jalaun district is still waiting to reclaim that elusive piece of land.

Meanwhile, the land that was initially owned by Phoolan’s father, Devi Din Mallah, and after his death, it still eludes her mother Moola Devi as the rightful owner.

Maya Din, son of late Devi Din’s elder brother allegedly grabbed the plot and did not allow Phoolan’s mother to till the land. Maya Din claimed the land was passed on to him as legacy.

Moola Devi said, “My daughter Phoolan fought with Maya Din for this land. Maya Din and his men ridiculed her and hurled abuses at her. She got together some girls from the village and staged a dharna on the land. The village elders tried to remove her from the land but failed. Then Maya Din hurled a brick at her and she fell unconscious. After this, she became a ‘baaghi’ (rebel).”

It is said that Maya Din ‘sold’ her off to Lal Ram and Shri Ram — heads of a Thakur gang of dacoits — who not only raped her but also held her captive.

A few years later, Phoolan Devi fell in love with another dacoit Vikram Mallah, who was later killed by the Lala Ram and Shri Ram gang.

To avenge the wrong done to her by the Thakur gang, Phoolan Devi gradually built up her own gang and the rest, as they say, is history.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Theme, Date and history of the day

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It is celebrated on December 3 all around the world. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

IDPD mobilizes support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotes awareness-raising about disability issues and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.

UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are motivated to support IDPD by collaborating with organizations for people with disabilities to arrange events and activities.

International Day of People with Disability: Theme

The theme for IDPwD 2020 is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.

Every year the UN announces a theme to observe for International Day of People with Disability. The annual theme provides an overarching focus on how society can strive for inclusivity through the removal of physical, technological and attitudinal barriers for people with disabilities.

This has been occurring since 1992 when the General Assembly announced 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons.

National Disability Strategy 2010–2020

In Australia, the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 commits all governments to a nationwide approach aimed at improving the lives of disabled people, their families and carers.

The Strategy’s ten-year national framework for reform concentrates on better inclusion for people with disabilities and seeks to create a society that enables people with disabilities to fulfill their potential as equal citizens.

On the 2012 International Day of People with Disability, the United Kingdom government introduced mandatory work for disabled people who received welfare benefits in order to “Improve disabled peoples chances of getting work by mandatory employment”.

A program is also launched on December 3 across India to serve the differently-able community of the country as an initiative called Accessible India Campaign under the Article 9 of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

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BJP leaders brainstorm for second day, say govt ready for talks with farmers

Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Agriculture Minister Narender Singh Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam.

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Farmers on Protest

Eager to break the deadlock with famers who are agitating for scrapping the new farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership held meetings for a second consecutive day on Monday and sent out the message that the Union government is ready for talks.

Union home minister Amit Shah met Union minister for agriculture, NS Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam. A senior party functionary said, “The message from the top is clear that the laws are not anti-farmers and that the farmers are being misled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that laws will offer better opportunity for the farmers.”

The functionary said the government is ready to sit across the table and discuss the new laws and “address whatever concerns” the farmers have.

Speaking in Varanasi, the PM on Monday said the laws have given farmers new options and legal protection. He lashed out at the opposition for “misleading” the farmers and said earlier decisions of government were opposed now rumours have become the basis for opposition and propaganda is being served even though the laws favour the farmers.

The party has also opted for a cautious, measured response to the agitation. Even though it is pinning the blame on the opposition for provoking the protest, it is taking care not to rile the farmers. “The farmers are innocent. They are being misled by those with vested interests. The laws have barely been implemented and their impact is yet to be ascertained, so how can people rush to call these anti-farmers,” said Rajkuamr Chahar, head of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.

He said the Punjab unit of the Morcha has been communicating with the farmers’ representatives and has relayed the government’s willingness to address their concerns.

On Monday, even as the party tried to diffuse the anger against the bills, its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) joined the chorus for the rollback of the laws. Rajasthan lawmaker and RLP chief, Hanuman Beniwal, shot off a letter to Shah, seeking the reversal of the laws.

“….In view of the countrywide sentiment in support of the ongoing farmers’ movement, the recently introduced three bills related to agriculture should be immediately withdrawn. (The Centre must) implement all recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, and immediately hold dialogue with farmers in Delhi,” he said.

The BJP, however, played down the ally’s demand. Its national spokesperson on economic issues, Gopal Krishna Agarwal said, “We assure all, including our NDA partners that farmers’ well-being and welfare are in our heart. Large scale market reforms are needed and that has always been the consensus.”

He went on to add that while the BJP opposes misgivings about the APMC mandis being dismantled and MSP being withdrawn, the opposition is politicizing the issue along with the Arhtiyas (commission agents) and middleman.

“We have offered all the basic facilities to farmers, drinking water, toilets, shelters and medical facilities. They have been given permission to protest and also been invited for dialogue. We are open for all discussions on the merits or demerits of the three bills. If farmers have certain serious concerns, we are ready to listen to them,” he said.

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