The Hindu Important Articles 28 November 2018

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The Hindu Important Articles 28 November 2018

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# RBI Governor stresses need for autonomy of central bank

Tells House panel on finance that monetary policy must be bank’s exclusive domain
Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel batted for autonomy of the institution in strong terms in his deposition before the Parliamentary Panel on Finance on Tuesday.

Mr. Patel made a presentation on the impact of demonetisation and the status of non-performing assets in the banking sector.

According to sources, while he steered clear of most controversial questions, including the recent friction between the government and the RBI, Mr Patel assured the Committee headed by Congress MP M. Veerappa Moily that he would submit written answers to all the questions posed by members at the meeting.

Another source said given the large number of questions, the Governor was asked to file written replies in 10-15 days.

Three key points

Mr. Patel made three key points during the meeting. First, he said depositors’ interests were of primary importance for which autonomy was non-negotiable. Second, he said monetary policy should be the exclusive domain of the RBI.

“He told us that it is only the experts and technocrats who should have a say in the country’s monetary policy. There would be a direct conflict of interest if any other committee is given say in the matter,” an opposition MP told The Hindu . Mr Patel also asserted that maintaining the central banks’ reserves was extremely essential to maintaining the country’s AAA rating.

The issue of central bank autonomy came into focus following RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya’s speech last month in which he cautioned against the Centre impinging on autonomy and trying to direct policy on key issues such as the prompt corrective action (PCA) norms and the quantum of surplus to be transferred to the Centre.

BJP MPs Nishikant Dubey and Shivkumar Chanabasappa Udasi asked why India should follow the Basel III norms for the banking sector to which Mr Patel said it was “obligatory” as per G20 commitments made by the government.

Mr. Patel also made a presentation about the state of economy, which he said was doing well.

The Committee will take stock of the developments at the crisis-hit IL&FS Group for three days from December 3, an official said on Tuesday.

( With inputs from

TCA Sharad Raghavan)

ISRO’s imaging satellite HysIS is all set for Thursday launch

Hyperspectral imaging camera on board can provide high definition images
HysIS, the country’s first hyperspectral imaging satellite for advanced earth observation, is slated for launch on Thursday from Sriharikota.

About 30 small satellites of foreign customers will be ferried on the PSLV launcher, numbered C-43, the Indian Space Research Organisation has announced. They will go into an orbit different from that of HysIS. The launch from the first launch pad is set for 9.57 a.m.

Clearer images

A hyperspectral imaging camera in space can provide well-defined images that can help identify objects on earth far more clearly than regular optical or remote sensing cameras, ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said earlier.

The technology will be an added advantage in watching over India from space across sectors including defence, agriculture, land use and mineral exploration. Sources said the new ‘eye in the sky’ can be used to even mark out a suspect object or person on the ground and separate it from the background with applications in transborder infiltration etc.

“The primary goal of HysIS is to study the Earth’s surface in visible, near-infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum,” ISRO said.

HysIS will be ISRO’s first full-scale working satellite with this capability. While the technology has been around, not many space agencies have working satellites with hyperspectral imaging cameras as yet.

Third longest mission

The November 29 PSLV flight would last eight minutes short of two hours, making it the third longest, low-earth mission of ISRO.

The satellites would be ejected in two orbits by restarting the rocket’s fourth-stage engine twice.

The PSLV, flying in its core-alone format, will first release HysIS to an orbit at 636 km 17 minutes after launch. The engine of the rocket’s fourth stage will be restarted twice — once an hour from launch and again 47 minutes later.

Modi to meet Xi in Buenos Aires

PM and Chinese President will will discuss issues of mutual interest
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in Argentine capital Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the G20 summit this week.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale announced on Tuesday that the bilateral meeting between the two leaders will cover issues of mutual interest. “It was decided at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg that both the leaders will meet frequently and both the countries were quite happy in incorporating it in their schedules,” Mr. Gokhale said, elaborating the list of bilateral meetings that have been firmed up for Mr. Modi’s visit to Buenos Aires.

The announcement came in the backdrop of a letter from Congress MP Ninong Ering of Arunachal Pradesh, which urged the Prime Minister to discuss the issues relevant to the State with the Chinese President. In a letter to Mr. Modi, the Member of Parliament said that the issue of stapled visa and ecological issues should be on the agenda of the India-China leaders in Buenos Aires.

Foreign Secretary Gokhale, however, declined to give details of the agenda of the bilateral talks, which are expected to be significant as it comes days after the dialogue between the Special Representatives (SR) of both India and China that pledged to increase ‘strategic communication’ between the two countries.

Mr. Modi’s meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France is also under planning, Mr. Gokhale said, without elaborating further.

PM Modi to be invited to Pakistan for SAARC summit, says Foreign Office Spokesman

Pak. to invite Modi for SAARC summit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be invited to Pakistan for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on Tuesday. Addressing a conference in Islamabad Tuesday, Mr. Faisal recalled that Prime Minister Imran Khan in his victory speech had said that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two.PTI

Lessons from a tragedy

The indigenous communities and settlers in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands must be equal stakeholders in a common future
The tragic death of a young American adventurer in the protected “tribal reserve” of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands archipelago has triggered global media interest in the region once again. Much of the debates on the alleged killing of John Allen Chau by “hostile” islanders remains focused on the intent, circumstances and tragic upshot of his misadventure, while others raise larger and more disturbing questions about the North Sentinel tribal community at large and the efficacy of the Indian government’s tribal welfare policies. The first set of debates regarding Chau’s evangelical calling and his almost willing surrender to the hazards it entailed are not of interest to us at this moment nor are the details of the investigations that are being carried out by the local police and administration.

Understanding ‘hostility’

What is of greater significance is the commentary on the “hostility” of the Sentinel islanders and the many experiences of heroic “contact” by visiting anthropologists and government officials. The broader media interest is in the peculiar and almost brutal hostility displayed by the Sentinel islanders towards the outsider. Some see it as signs of a pathological “primitivity” and the result of “complete isolation” from “civilisation” while others interpret it as an effect of the historical memory of colonial brutality. Given the fact that we do not know their language nor have had any opportunity to understand their varied gestures of hostility, it’s hard to come to any definitive answer.

But it is the question of “isolation” that demands more critical attention. We are not entirely sure if it can be established that the Sentinelese, or the “Sentinel Jarawas” as they were classified in colonial records, were or are completely isolated. Both colonial records and Census reports up to 1931 reveal that officials did set foot on the islands and were able to walk through it to collect information. The Government of India’s own official “contact” photographs from the 1970s onwards reveal interesting signs that question the “complete isolation” thesis.

If we carefully analyse this visual record, we can see how the shape of Sentinelese outrigger canoes has changed and how they continue to use large quantities of iron to make adze blades and arrowheads. We also notice small glass bead necklaces around their necks. Where are these glass beads, trinkets, large tarpaulin sheets and ready supplies of iron coming from?

Different images

Images of angry Sentinelese pointing at or shooting arrows at a passing helicopter or at the sight of an incoming boat abound in the media. Yet while these images remain in constant circulation, there are other images of them receiving coconuts, bananas and other gifts from government contact parties. Out of the Anthropological Survey of India’s recorded 26 visits to the islands, it is stated that seven were met with overt hostility. In other words, the argument that the hostility of the Sentinelese is chronic or pathological needs to be seen in perspective. Evidently the Sentinel Islanders decide what kind of visitations pose a threat to their survival or dignity and what are “safe” or “useful”. Their hostility towards the outsider is then to be regarded as “strategic” and deliberate and therefore key to their survival.

Some have asked why the Indian state cannot devise a method by which the Sentinelese could be “pacified” and brought under the welfare net. It goes to the credit of the Indian government that unlike its colonial predecessors it has completely abjured all kinds of coercion against the indigenous communities of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Colonial punitive expeditions, kidnappings, forced confinements that devastated the Andamanese populations at large are a thing of the past. Tribal welfare policy in the islands remains committed to protection and clearly “pacification” via coercion is no option. The policy today is to ensure “protection” but also to accept their right to self-determination.

Nuancing ‘protection’

Yet here’s where the problem begins. Policies of “protection” demand strong surveillance infrastructures, empowered staff, coordination among police, forest and welfare agencies and, more importantly, investment in projects of sensitisation. The settler population on the islands clearly remains conflicted. There is an understanding that the islands’ indigenous communities are sources of tourist interest and potential revenue churners, yet the fact that public monies are invested to sustain them in their habitats remain a source of discomfort. Apart from a small segment of progressive citizens, there are clear marks of stress in settler-indigene relations on the islands.

It is tensions like these that allow collusive breaches of the law and the undermining of the protective cover for the Sentinelese and other Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) like the Jarawas. What aggravates such tensions are the skewed developmental priorities that mainland India imposes on these islands.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have historically been treated as terra nullius , or empty space, wherein mainland governments could inscribe their authority and initiate projects of control. The British initiated these projects treating the islands first as a strategic outpost and then a penal colony. The Indian government gave it a free society but used it as a space to settle its “excess” population. Hence the refugee rehabilitation schemes in the post-Partition years. It is this resettlement of the islands in independent India that demanded a renegotiation of its relations with the Islands’ indigenous communities. They had to be protected and cared for but moved out of their original forest habitats into newly designated “tribal reserves”. As a result of continuous settlement and often ill-conceived developmental projects on the islands over the past six decades, these reserves have become increasingly vulnerable to the intrusions of poachers, encroachers and tourists.

Looking ahead

We hope that we will be able to draw a few lessons from the unfortunate death of John Allen Chau and question the ways in which mainland India views the islands from its distant perch in New Delhi. We can only hope that the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the announcement of new projects for “holistic” development take a context-sensitive “island view” of development and recognise settlers and PVTGs as equal stakeholders in a common sustainable future.

Vishvajit Pandya, an anthropologist, and Madhumita Mazumdar, a historian, are based in Gandhinagar

‘Ayodhya will have no resonance with the public’

The leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha on the Assembly polls in five States, the need for Opposition unity, and the coalition government in Karnataka
Mallikarjun Kharge is leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, Member of Parliament from Karnataka, and a former Union Railway Minister. In this interview, Mr. Kharge lists the major issues that the Congress is planning to bring up in the winter session of Parliament, explains why Congress president Rahul Gandhi is a challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and says the Ayodhya issue will not fool the public. Excerpts:

What will be the major issues for you during the next Parliament session?

Rafale is at the top of our agenda. The government’s blatant takeover of the CBI is another. The brazen attempts to undermine the RBI, issues relating to the agriculture sector, the distress that the government fails to address will be taken up, including issues related to Minimum Support Price. The undemocratic, illegal and immoral dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will be raised. Interference in the functioning of autonomous institutions will be raised. Let’s see how the government and the Speaker respond. We shall try to persuade the Speaker to give priority to all these issues that concern the people and affect the functioning of our democracy.

Do you think the Congress campaign on Rafale is resonating with the public? The BJP says people don’t care about what you say.

People at large are feeling cheated that a deal that was concluded during the UPA time at Rs. 570 crore per plane is being [taken forward] for Rs. 1,670 crore per piece. How can this be a non-issue? The Modi government is ordering only 36 jets, that too at a hugely inflated price. This is a matter of the country’s defence and security. If the BJP says this is a non-issue, that itself exposes its attitude towards matters of national security and transparency.

You are a petitioner in the Supreme Court against the abrupt removal of the CBI Director by sending him on leave. You have raised procedural questions regarding the government’s decision. But the court has not given attention to your plea yet. In what direction do you see the case going?

I don’t want to comment on the Supreme Court’s attitude and how it might look at my petition. I am a member of the committee that selects the CBI Director. The Prime Minister is the chairman of the committee. The Chief Justice himself is a member of the committee. The Act is clear that any selection must be made by the committee, and for any transfer or for taking any action, the committee alone has the power. The Act [Section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act] is clear that before such actions, the government must consult the committee. How can the government unilaterally act, that too in the dead of the night, as it did? Even if there was an urgent need to ask the CBI Director to go on leave, the government should have called for a meeting of the committee and placed the facts before it. I don’t want to comment further, but I am confident that the Supreme Court will see the point.

What is your assessment of the public mood in the five States that are going to polls?

The Congress has a chance to win all the five States. Our cadres are working in full strength and with total commitment. You cannot but notice the formidable unity in the party.

But there are reports about widespread rebellion in the party in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Ninety-nine per cent of our candidate selection has been bang on. There are a few instances here and there of those who could not be accommodated getting upset. But that is a minor glitch. Our feedback is clear that there is a groundswell of support for the Congress and severe anger against the BJP in all the five States. They are particularly angry with Modiji for demonetisation, GST and his failure to deliver on the tall promises he made to bring back black money, deposit Rs. 15 lakh in everyone’s account, provide two crore new jobs. People are realising the dishonesty of his politics. Now he has announced one more jumla — that small and medium enterprises can get a loan in 59 minutes. Initially they believed him because he was new. Now people are telling him: you promised us achhe din and duped us; we want a return of the UPA days.

How do you think the Assembly polls will impact national politics?

Naturally, the State polls will have an impact on national politics. Though local issues dominate in these States, and national issues will come up more prominently in 2019, some boost will be there for the Congress from the results of these elections.

How has the ongoing campaign helped Mr. Gandhi’s image? Has he proven anything? Is he a serious challenger to Prime Minister Modi in 2019?

Yes, 100%. He has proved his mettle to be the leader of the country. Who is the BJP criticising? Who is Modiji targeting? It is only Mr. Gandhi and always Mr. Gandhi. No other party leader is attacked and abused by the BJP. The Prime Minister is scared of Mr. Gandhi and that is the reason why he is attacking him all the time. That in itself is proof that Mr. Gandhi has emerged as a challenger to Mr. Modi.

How do you see Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s attempts to create a national understanding of all parties against the BJP? What will be the role of the Congress in any such emergent understanding?

Everybody should do their best to unite people against the divisive ideology of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP. We are all uniting because of the dictatorial functioning of the Prime Minister and the ideology that he pursues, which is harmful for our country and people. He is trying to divide society to retain power. Any mobilisation against his dangerous style and ideology will have the full support of the Congress. And we are in the forefront of that resistance. We make sacrifices for the cause, as you saw in Karnataka. Though we had more MLAs in Karnataka, we gave the post of Chief Minister and all the important portfolios to a regional party. That shows how accommodating we are in our attempts to take all parties along.

Do you think the Karnataka model of supporting a smaller party for a larger cause can be replicated in other States or at the Centre in 2019?

Let’s see. It depends on the situation, which could be different from place to place. And wherever that occasion arises, our high command will take a decision.

You personally had a legitimate claim to be the Chief Minister of Karnataka. Are you disappointed that the Congress gave the chair to a smaller party?

That does not arise now. Now, I am the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha. We have sacrificed our post of Chief Minister with a sense of duty to protect democracy, the Constitution, and the secular principles of our republic, for inclusive growth, and to oppose the forces that divide the country on the basis of religion, caste and language. My party took the right decision. There is no question of any disappointment. If our ideology makes progress, and our efforts to uphold these principles are successful, that is satisfying for me.

Are you satisfied with the performance of the JD(S)-Congress coalition government in Karnataka?

It has been there only for a few months and you should give them some time before making any judgment. They are doing their best. Meanwhile, the BJP is instigating people to create disturbance in the State and destabilise the government. The government is working hard… the coalition will remain stable and complete its term.

Do you expect that some parties that are with the BJP will leave and join you?

Those who believe in the principles of secularism, fraternity and tolerance… if they realise their mistake of joining the BJP and come to us, we will welcome them. Those who believe in or support the RSS’s ideology will continue with them; those who don’t believe in that ideology will leave them.

You spoke about the Congress’s opposition to divisive politics. Congress leader C.P. Joshi made remarks last week that were widely seen as betraying a casteist outlook. How do you explain that?

Mr. Gandhi has made it clear that such statements should not come from senior leaders of the party. He has since then apologised for his comments. So, that issue is closed, as he himself realised that it was a mistake.

Many non-BJP critics of the Congress also find merit in the argument that the Congress is largely an upper caste-party. How do you respond to that?

The Congress is the only party that takes all the people into its fold. You will find minorities, Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes, upper castes in our leadership. Everybody is welcome in the party and everyone has an equal chance to rise to the leadership in the party. You tell me which party has such diversity among its leadership? During the Congress government, important portfolios went to members of the SC, OBC, and weaker sections. Contrast that with the current BJP government. Name one significant Ministry that is under the command of a Minister from a weaker section. The BJP talks big, but unless you entrust leaders from the weaker sections with important responsibilities, they will not be able to assert themselves as a community.

Former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi campaigned in Telangana last week. Will she campaign in 2019?

We will see. Telangana was a particular case, as many people requested her to campaign. She has a special bond with the people of Telangana and people consider her ‘Amma’. After a lot a persuasion, she went there last week and huge crowds gathered to listen to her.

There is new mobilisation underway for a temple in Ayodhya. What impact will this have on national politics?

Every time there is an election, the BJP thinks of the temple. By March 2019, the elections will be announced. This is an attempt to mobilise their cadres ahead of the polls, like they have been doing for the last 30-40 years. But people are clever. You can’t make all people fools all the time. So this will have no resonance with the public.

Unless you entrust leaders from the weaker sections with important responsibilities, they will not be able to assert themselves as a community

A prescription for the future

While using cutting-edge technology, we need to find ways to continuously lower the cost of healthcare
The world as we know it is changing so fast and so much. Global mega-trends only reinforce this fact. The Internet has taken over our lives, smartphone penetration is growing rapidly, demographics are evolving. For the first time, in 2019, millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), who feel fully at home in a digital world, will overtake the population of baby boomers. There are dramatic lifestyle and behavioural changes occurring every day, with strong implications for the future of our planet and its inhabitants.

Impactful changes

Healthcare is no stranger to change — in fact, the most impactful transformations in human life have happened in healthcare. Time ’s cover three years ago showed the picture of a child with the headline, “This baby could live to be 142 years old”. That is the extent of the breakthrough in longevity that modern medicine has been able to achieve. Healthcare in India too has been transformed over the last three decades, and as members of this industry, we can be proud of how far we’ve come in terms of improved indices on life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal deaths and quality of outcomes.

But we cannot rest on these achievements now, because the pace of change is still scorching, and is fundamentally altering disease patterns, patient risk profiles and their expectations. Information technology and biotechnology are twin engines, with immense potential to transform the mechanics of care delivery, the outcomes we can achieve and, above all, the lives we can touch and save.

There are several examples of the kinds of impact technology and biotechnology can make on healthcare. Telemedicine has already brought healthcare to the remotest corners of the country. The use of artificial intelligence for preventive and predictive health analytics can strongly support clinical diagnosis with evidence-based guidance, and also prevent disease. From the virtual reality (VR) of 3D-printing, we are now moving towards augmented reality (AR), by which, for example, every piece of node in a malignant melanoma can be completely removed, thereby eliminating the risk of the cancer spreading to any other part of the body. Biotechnology, cell biology and genetics are opening up whole new paradigms of understanding of human life and disease, and have made personalised medicine a way of life.

Largest health scheme

So, the outlook is clear: those in healthcare who wish for status quo and for the comfort of the familiar run the risk of becoming irrelevant. And that goes for countries too. India needs to rapidly adapt to, embrace and drive change if it wishes to stay relevant in the global healthcare order.

India’s change imperative has become even more pronounced with the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana Abhiyan, or National Health Protection Mission (NHPM), under the ambit of Ayushman Bharat. This major shift in approach to public health addresses the healthcare needs of over 500 million Indians in the first stage through what is probably the world’s largest public health-for-all insurance scheme. The vast scale of the programme requires reimagining an innovative model which will transform healthcare delivery in the country. By leapfrogging through smart adoption of technology and using emerging platforms such as Blockchain, significant improvements are possible in healthcare operations and costs.

The private health sector is committed to support this programme, and ensure its success, because we are beneficiaries of society’s social licence to operate, and it is our responsibility to make sure this programme reaches the most vulnerable and the under-privileged, for whom it is intended. At the same time, we have a solemn responsibility to ensure that the sector is sustainable in the long term. For India to grow, healthcare as an engine of the economy needs to flourish. And the private sector, which has contributed over 80% of the bed additions in the last decade, needs to earn healthy rates of return on investment to continue capital investment in infrastructure, technology upgrades, and to have the ability to acquire top clinical talent, which can lead to differentiated outcomes. In our quest to achieve low-cost healthcare, we must not inhibit our potential for growth, nor isolate ourselves from exciting global developments.

The way forward

The prescription is clear. We need to achieve a balance between staying at the cutting edge of clinical protocols, technology and innovation and continue to deliver world-class care, while finding increasingly efficient ways of operating to continuously lower the cost of care and bring it within the reach of those who cannot afford it. This is a difficult balance to achieve, but not impossible. And when accomplished, India would have found an answer that can be an example for the rest of the world to emulate.

With clarity and focus, we can create a blueprint for the legacy we wish to build and set the trajectory for Indian healthcare for the next several decades. The decisions we make today are decisions we make for our children, a future we will create for them. Will they lead healthier lives than we do? Will they approve of our choices and actions? Are we building an inclusive and sustainable world for them? We have it in our hands to shape the winds of change we face today into the aero-dynamics that will definitively propel our collective destinies forward.

Suneeta Reddy is Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Group

Breathing space

Fall in oil prices gives the rupee andthe Indian economy a much-needed boost
After falling consistently against the U.S. dollar for most of this year, the rupee has managed to gain some ground over the last few weeks. It has gained almost 5% from its lowest levels reached in October. The fortunes of the rupee, which even after the recent appreciation is down about 11% since the beginning of the year, have been tightly linked to the price of crude oil in the global markets. This is no surprise since imported oil meets about 80% of India’s total demand. The value of the rupee tanked amid the uptrend in oil prices this year which lasted till early October. Since then, the rupee has gained against the dollar in tandem with the fall in global crude prices. Brent Crude has dropped by a massive 30% since early October, when a barrel cost around $86, to around $60 today. This sharp fall has been the result of a dramatic change in mood in the oil market. Investors until a few weeks ago were worried about the lack of sufficient supply in the market due to disruptions in arrivals from major producers such as Iran and Venezuela. Now, however, the markets are worried about possible oversupply as the U.S. has softened its stance against Iran and turned into the largest crude oil producer in the world with the boom in shale production. Worries about a drop in global demand due to faltering growth in major economies like China may have also contributed to the fall in prices.

The fall in global crude oil prices comes as a big relief to the Central government, which has faced increasing macroeconomic and political pressure due to rising prices. According to UBS, a drop of $10 in the price of oil can improve India’s current account and fiscal deficits by 0.5% and 0.1% of GDP, respectively. The ruling party may be pleased with falling oil prices in the run-up to the general elections next year. Fuel prices across major Indian cities have fallen significantly in the last few weeks. The Reserve Bank of India will be relieved as it will have to worry less about the rupee and oil-induced inflation. Foreign investors, who have been net sellers this year, have turned net buyers this month. This points to an increase in investor confidence in the economy as the fundamentals improve. But amid rising global uncertainties, it may not be so easy to map what lies ahead for global crude oil prices and the rupee. The December 6 meeting of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will make clear the response of oil producers to the sharp fall in prices. Shale companies are also likely to respond to falling prices by cutting production; the profit break-even point for shale producers, however, is anyone’s guess. India should capitalise on the relief offered by the fall in oil prices to improve its preparedness for any future jump in oil prices.

Trail of destruction

The extent of damage caused by Cyclone Gaja is much worse than what was believed earlier
It is now becoming clear that Cyclone Gaja is a major disaster, and its economic impact in Tamil Nadu is comparable to that of the tsunami of 2004. The devastation suffered by tens of thousands of people in several districts of the State has been severe, going well beyond the annual storm season losses. In the initial days after November 16, when the cyclone struck, the State heaved a sigh of relief since the death toll was relatively low. But it is now clear that the suffering, the loss, and the displacement in large parts of Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts is of an enormous magnitude. Communities in the affected areas are distraught as houses have collapsed, farms lie ruined, water sources are contaminated and electricity supply remains disrupted. Many areas remain inaccessible because fallen trees have blocked roads. In its report to the Centre, the Tamil Nadu government has estimated the number of people rendered homeless at 3.7 lakh, and houses destroyed at 3.4 lakh. The cyclone has crippled agriculture and livelihoods in a fertile region, felling thousands of productive trees and killing livestock. Between 60% and 80% of the coconut trees in the region have fallen, hobbling Tamil Nadu’s farmers, who contribute a quarter of India’s coconuts with the highest unit yield. Unlike paddy or many other crops, bringing coconut plantations back to life will take years.

The top priority for the Tamil Nadu government should be to restore administrative systems and service delivery in the affected areas. Only with physical access, electricity connections and public health facilities can effective relief work be undertaken. Solar power can get public facilities running overnight. It is equally important to assure the large number of stricken farmers that there will be a moratorium on any agricultural loans that they have taken, while a fair compensation scheme is prepared. Many of them have invested in trees and livestock expecting long-term returns, but have been rendered paupers overnight. The Tamil Nadu government has given the Centre a memorandum seeking nearly Rs. 15,000 crore for restoration, rehabilitation and mitigation, besides Rs. 1,431 crore for immediate relief work. The State’s requirements should be met in full. It is also worth pointing out that farm insurance under the Centre’s Fasal Bima Yojana covers only food crops, oilseeds and annual horticultural crops, making extraordinary compensation for farmers important. The average citizen is also keen on contributing money and material to the relief effort, as the experience with the Kerala floods shows. What she wants to see is administrative efficiency in rebuilding the shattered districts. Officials should not wait for people to launch protests before coming up with a response. Cyclone Gaja has wrought terrible devastation, and the relief programme must match it in scale.

Ceylon P.M. emphasises special ties with India

The Prime Minister of Ceylon, Mr. Dudley Senanayake, to-day [November 27] said with confidence that with the general common approach that existed between his country and India, “agreed solutions between us would not be difficult” on all problems of mutual interest and international issues. Mr. Senanayake was reciprocating the sentiments of warm and abiding friendship between the two countries expressed by the Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, while welcoming him at the Palam airport. Mr. Senanayake, who arrived here [New Delhi] on an eight-day State visit, was received by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Morarji Desai, other Cabinet Ministers, diplomats and senior officials besides a large gathering of non-officials, Indians as well as Ceylonese.

NPAs on downhill path since March peak, says RBI

‘However, higher provisions, fall in earnings from loan assets hit profitability’
Both gross and net non-performing assets (NPAs) of scheduled commercial banks have reduced in the two quarters ending September 30, 2018 since their peak in March 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on Tuesday.

However, the RBI did point out that the profitability of banks was still impacted due to a decline in earnings from loan assets and on higher provisioning required due to deterioration in asset quality.

That said, it highlighted the bank credit growth that had accelerated over the last two quarters.

The RBI, in its submissions to the Standing Committee on Finance, said that the gross and net NPAs of scheduled commercial banks had reduced due to the concerted efforts taken by the government and the central bank to address the problem.

“As a consequence of these measures, the gross NPAs as well as net NPAs of the scheduled commercial banks, after peaking in March 2018, have registered declines for two consecutive quarters,” the RBI said in its submission reviewed by The Hindu.

The data shows that gross non-performing assets of all scheduled commercial banks were at Rs. 10.36 lakh crore at the end of the March 2018 quarter, and subsequently declined to Rs. 10.14 lakh crore by the end of the September quarter.

Public sector banks account for an overwhelming proportion of these gross NPAs but even their contribution had marginally come down since March 2018. Where public sector banks accounted for 86.6% of all gross NPAs of scheduled commercial banks, this fell to 85.9% by September 30, 2018.

Net NPAs for all scheduled commercial banks fell from Rs. 4.54 lakh crore in the March quarter to Rs. 4.10 lakh crore as of September 30. Correspondingly, the net NPA percentage fell from 7.97% to 7.19% over the same period.

Sharp fall in slippages

“The annualised slippage ratio (i.e. the percentage of fresh NPAs as percentage of standard advances at the beginning of the quarter) has also witnessed a declining trend over the past two quarters, which is again reflective of the improving credit discipline,” it said.

“The profitability of banks, though, continues to be impacted on account of the decline in earnings from loan assets, and given the higher provisions that are required to be maintained to reflect the deterioration in asset quality, which will eventually crystallise as actual losses,” the the central bank added. “However, the decline in NPAs, particularly fresh slippages, will reflect in the improved profitability going forward.” The RBI said that although weak bank balance sheets had created significant headwinds for credit growth, this had still been picking up on a year-on-year basis.

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