In his valedictory statement, the departing Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Dr Raghuram Rajan, said the country’s current financial prospects were brighter than the year before, but that India’s economic growth was still below its achievable potential. In the foreword to the RBI’s report on the present fiscal, Dr Rajan listed three priorities facing the nation: these were faster economic growth, curbing inflation and ensuring that banks concentrate on rate cut transmission and clean balance sheets as work in progress.
On economic growth, Dr Rajan averred, that a ‘virtuous cycle of growth was possible, reinforced by anticipation of the coming benefits of economic reforms, such as the passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation in Parliament.’
A good monsoon, he anticipated, would lift farm output, while the Pay Commission award for government employees should increase consumption levels and lead to increased demand. The RBI has increased its growth projection to 7.6 per cent for the current fiscal.
‘We have been saying that if the agricultural sector shows growth due to a better monsoon, it should improve the GDP numbers by about 50 basic points, so we would concur with the RBI Governor’s views,’ commented Soumya Kanti Ghosh, Chief Economic Adviser to the State Bank of India (Business Line Mint, Hindu August 30). The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, as the saying goes.
Kashmir’s glimmer of light fades
After 51 days of jihadi-inspired violence, the Kashmir valley registered its first day of general peace and a lifting of the curfew, but a day later the violence returned. Home Minister Rajnath Singh is leading an all-party delegation to the troubled valley for frank and open discussions with local stakeholders in including, if possible, the recalcitrant secessionist pro-Pakistan Hurriyat. The violence was sparked off by the shooting dead of jihadi commander Burhan Vani, who was given to strutting around in military fatigues and had grown into a cult figure among certain sections of the youth population. (Hindu, Business Line August 30)
Goof on the loose
The Telegraph columnist Ramchandra Guha (September 2) advised Prime Minister Modi to go with folded hands and beg forgiveness of the mobs for the alleged delinquencies of the Indian state. With such goofs around who needs enemies? That said, it would be good to be warned that those who take up the sword risk perishing by the sword.
Sharif sends delegation on Kashmir odyssey
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, clearly at the end of his tether, has cobbled together twenty-two members of his country’s legislature for a foreign jaunt to explain the reasons behind the unrest in Kashmir and muster international support to wrest the State from India. As representatives of a country tested in state-sponsored jihadi terrorism in India and elsewhere, the Pakistani delegates have little chance of getting any sort of hearing, sympathetic or otherwise, from the civilized world (Hindu, Times of India August 30)
Maharashtra signs up to GST
Maharashtra, India’s most industrialized State, with its metropolis Mumbai, India’s financial capital, has signed up to the General Services and Tax (GST) when its Legislative Assembly ratified it in keeping with the requirement that 16 State assemblies must do likewise for the measure to become the law. Maharashtra’s decision has been followed by Odisha, hence the required assent of 16 State legislatures has been reached and the bill can now be sent to the President for his signature. The 281-seat Maharashtra Assembly passed the ratification with an overwhelming majority across all parties (Hindu August 30)
ISRO’s scramjet puts India in top league
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched a rocket at the weekend using a scramjet engine developed locally. This is a major step forward in producing an air breathing propulsion system that places India in the top four league. The scramjet engine uses oxygen in the atmosphere which reduces the quantum of fuel required to drive the machine.
Six times the speed of sound
In general, the propellant is required to power the first stage of the rocket to reach its desired velocity. The experiment achieved six times the speed of sound. It will take years to put the complete system into space. Prime Minister Modi and President Mukherjee congratulated ISRO scientists and engineers (Hindu, Times of India Business Line August 29)
India-Myanmar ties strengthened
Prime Minister Narendra Modi accorded a warm welcome to the visting Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw on his arrival in Delhi. He assured his guest that India would support Myanmar in ‘all its endeavours.’ In a wide-ranging discussion with the President, who had made India his first foreign port of call, Mr Modi told him that India would stand with Myanmar ‘every step’ in its new chapter of democracy and representative government. (Hindu August 30)
Second nuclear reactor in operation
The second reactor at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, near Chennai, has started generating electricity to the southern power grid. ‘We’re now transmitting 245 MW power…from the second unit, which will be gradually increased in phases to its full capacity of 1,000MW, after conducting mandatory tests stipulated by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board,’ said elated site Director R.S.Sundar, who monitored the synchronization from the control room along with senior colleagues.
The Russian technology is the most advanced in the world. Units 3 and 4 are presently under construction, while units 5 and 6 will follow in the wake of the recent framework agreement signed with Russia. ‘This is a great moment for Team KKNPP, which showed exemplary resolve in taking the reactors to this stage despite many hurdles. We’re immensely satisfied by the performance of the reactors, turbines and other allied units as every section is functioning exceptionally well along expected lines,’ explained Dr Sundar (Hindu August 30)
The Kundakulam project ran into heavy weather initially, with a local protest movement funded from Europe. Funds channelled via London arrived in Tamil Nadu for disruption activities. A German member of a NGO was expelled from India by the government in this regard
Major rail projects approved
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved Rs24,374 crore of rail projects that will give a major boost to transport infrastructure by de-congesting key national routes. The investments will concentrate on nine projects will entail construction of 1,937.38km of track across nine states. The Committee also increased investment on National Highways to Rs6.461 crore from the present Rs5.193 crore (Business Line August 25)
Mumbai whizz-kid makes it to MIT
Never say die. A 17year-old Mumbai girl, Malvika Joshi, without a Class X or Class XII certificate, thus ineligible for a place in an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), has made it to the world beating Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA, on the strength of her computer programming talent.
Olympiad of Information
Malvika Joshi won a three-year MIT scholarship for a Bachelor of Science degree, She clinched her place on the basis of the three medals (two silvers, one bronze) she won at the Olympiad of Information. MIT accepts medal-winning students at Olympiads in Physics, Mathematics and Computing. Madhavan Mukund of the Chennai Mathematical Institute praised her achievement, also paying tribute to the ‘flexibility’ of MIT that ‘they can offer admission to a student who demonstrates excellent intellectual potential despite having no formal high school credentials.’ Malavia’s mother stood by her and gave the conviction to break the mould (Hindu August 31)
India tops list for US student visas
The steep hike in US visa fees has been no impediment for Indian students heading to the US for higher education. Indian applicants cornered 72 per cent of the H-IB visas and 30 per cent of 1-1 visas issued worldwide.
The number of has been steadily rising, with US visas issued to Indians for business and tourism increasing by 81 per cent over the past five years, said Theresa Bond, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs (Business Line August 27)
Tata Group funds top-level research
The Tata Group has entered into collaborative ventures to fund research and development in the world’s leading institutions such as Harvard University, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and the Royal Society, UK. The amount exceeding $25 million will be spread over a timeline. The collaboration is critical for the $103 billion Tata Group as it will help Tata companies to stay ahead of the game with new products and commercial opportunities (Mint August 30)
BRICS arbitration a must: Jaitley
India’s Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, addressing a BRICS conference in Delhi, said it was ‘extremely important’ that a BRIC arbitration panel of eminent lawyers be set to adjudicate on disputes between member states Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. He suggested that a taskforce be set up to that end. (Hindu August 28)