Archives  >  2019  >  August  >  26th

India, Trying Hard

1. What’s the story?

As 6 Things has previously covered here and here, India’s economy is not in the greatest of shapes. The fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector is down, numbers in the automobile sector dropped by 30%, employment is at an all-time low, and thousands have been laid off in the past few months. Rural India, especially in the Northern part of the country, has been hard hit. Now, the Central Government has a detailed plan to bring the economy back on track.  
Tell me more.

On Friday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a slew of measures aimed to get the economy running again. These include announcements like how CSR violation will no longer be a criminal offence, and how startups will be exempted from the “angel tax”. (Quick recap: Angel tax is usually the term used to refer to the income tax payable on the capital raised by unlisted companies via off-market transactions.)

“The government on Friday announced a raft of measures, including rollback of enhanced super-rich tax on foreign and domestic equity investors, exemption of startups from ‘angel tax’, a package to address distress in the auto sector and upfront infusion of Rs 70,000 crore to public sector banks, in efforts to boost economic growth from a five-year low.

To bolster consumption, the government also said that banks have decided to cut interest rates, a move that would lead to lower EMIs for home, auto and other loans.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who had been flooded with demands from different sectors after her maiden Budget this year did little to address their distress, promised to continue the reforms and announce more measures next week.

She also announced an immediate infusion of Rs 70,000 crore into banks to boost their liquidity and lending capacity of banks by Rs 5 lakh crore while housing finance companies would get up to Rs 30,000 crore with a view to revive the real estate sector.”
So, what now?

The Opposition is up in arms. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has claimed that the measures indicate the Government’s “confession” that the economy is in crisis. He also urged the Government to put money in the hands of the “needy, not the greedy”.

According to some experts, one needs to wait and watch before pronouncing Sitharaman’s new measures a success.

“Smart money is fleeing India for global bonds, equities are down 10 percent in two months. In July, blind to all reality, Sitharaman had stuck pins into effigies of investors: a tax on start-ups, another on foreign portfolio investments, yet another on certain returns earned by fatcats.

Some of these pins – which should never have been stuck, anyway – have been removed.

Much of this, as you realise, is simply attempts to undo self-inflicted damage. Over the last five years, the government could have developed a wide and deep market for bonds. But well, Modi & Co would rather cavort with Article 370, tax raids and Hindutva than attempt meaningful reforms.”

2. Where else should I be looking at?

Kashmir, that’s where. The state has been under lockdown since Article 370 was revoked earlier this month, and now there are reports that it might be running out of essentials like medicines and food. The Government, however, disagrees.

“The Jammu and Kashmir administration has dismissed reports suggesting that there is shortage of medicines in the region, which is under an unprecedented security cover. Jammu and Kashmir’s Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) categorically denied the reports, saying most of chemist shops in the region are functioning.

According to the DIPR, as many as 1165 out of 1666 chemist shops in Srinagar have remained open. In the whole of Kashmir Valley, 4331 chemist shops out of 7630 are working, which is almost 65% of the total strength.”

However, schools in the state remain empty – leading to a number of claims that the situation on the ground is grim.

“Barely 100 metres from Hyderpora crossing on the Srinagar Airport road, the narrow lane branching into a J&K government girls’ school wears a deserted look.

Earlier this week, the Kashmir administration announced that primary and middle schools were going to re-open after more than a fortnight of curbs, hoping that schools such as these would take the lead in restoring a semblance of normalcy in the Valley.

However, not even one student turned up at the school in the days
following the announcement.”

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, along with a number of Opposition leaders, was stopped from leaving the Srinagar airport on Saturday — leading to a heated altercation between Government officials and the visiting delegation.

““It’s been 20 days since the people of Jammu & Kashmir had their freedom and civil liberties curtailed,” Mr. Gandhi said in a tweet.

“Leaders of the Opposition and the press got a taste of the draconian administration and brute force unleashed on the people of J&K when we tried to visit Srinagar yesterday,” he said.

The former Congress president also posted a video of events, showing authorities reading out an order to the Opposition leaders.

The video showed Mr. Gandhi speaking to the media and alleging that media persons accompanying the delegation were mishandled and beaten up. He also said it is clear that things are “not normal” in Jammu and Kashmir.”

3. What more?

A 700-acre biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats may be the region’s best-kept secret. “An eco-tourism initiative, where tourists can co-exist peacefully with nature, provides a platform for homegrown scientists to study its rich biodiversity.” Watch here to understand the importance of such a space in this crowded country.

4. Anything else?

Athlete extraordinaire, P V Sindhu, became the first-ever Indian badminton player to be awarded the world championship after defeating former champion Nozomi Okuhara in a match that lasted just over half an hour.

“The 24-year-old, who had been on the wrong end of the result in two consecutive finals before this, was head and shoulders above Okuhara at St Jakobshalle arena as she equalled Chinese star Zhang Ning’s record of five world championship women’s singles medals, and one of each colour. Both have now won one gold, two silver and two bronze but the Indian has managed to achieve this tally in just six appearances in the prestigious tournament.”

5. Is that all?

As 6 Things had covered earlier, the Amazon rainforest is up in flames. The problem, however, is that it is probably due to the policies enacted by one single person – Brazil’s current President, Jair Bolsonaro.

“When Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidential election last year, having run on a platform of deforestation, David Wallace-Wells asked, “How much damage can one person do to the planet?” Bolsonaro didn’t pour lighter fluid to ignite the flames now ravaging the Amazon, but with his policies and rhetoric, he might as well have. The destruction he inspired—and allowed to rage with his days of stubborn unwillingness to douse the flames—has placed the planet at a hinge moment in its ecological history. Unfortunately, the planet doesn’t have a clue about how it should respond.

If a country obtains chemical or biological weapons, the rest of the world tends to react with fury—or at least it did in the not-so-distant past. Sanctions rained down on the proliferators, who were then ostracized from the global community. And in rare ( sometimes disastrously misguided) cases, the world decided that the threat justified a military response. The destruction of the Amazon is arguably far more dangerous than the weapons of mass destruction that have triggered a robust response. The consequences of the unfolding disaster—which will extinguish species and hasten a worst-case climate crisis—extend for eternity. To lose a fifth of the Amazon to deforestation would trigger a process known as “dieback,” releasing what The Intercept calls a “doomsday bomb of stored carbon.”

6. Before you leave …

Take a look at how our brain’s biological and evolutionary inability to empathize with our descendants might be the single largest reason behind our failure to do something about climate change.

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