It has been a difficult week for India. Few things come easy in this day and age, least of high-value currency demonetization which is a swap of one category of notes for another across the entire country to the last hamlet and outpost. In a cash-driven economy of a billion plus population entailing a subcontinent it turned to be something of a survival race, hence a grueling test of endurance it turned out to be. ATMs went dry as they required recalibration for the new notes and banks were swamped by the human swell desperate to change old notes for the new. The print and electronic media had endless stories to tell, the majority bad, some good, and of opposition political parties gearing up for the anticipated field days in Parliament, shouting and brawling as they bring proceedings to a standstill at the taxpayers’ expense. The ruling BJP, which in its time was as disrespectful parliamentary norms, did so as its counterparts on the opposition parties, having sown the wind are reaping the whirlwind.
Unlike Britain, where the silly season occurs in midsummer, in India it follows Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wherever she goes. The Indian silly season can therefore appear anytime, anywhere. She has demanded the rollback of demonetization. Her projected grand alliance of opposition parties, including her bête noire, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, as it is popularly known, turned out to be a damp squib as a ragbag, Aam Aadmi, Omar Abdullah’s National Conference and Shiv Sena joined her Trinamool Congress mob in a march to Rastrapati Bhavan to present a petition to President Pranab Mukherjee, to roll back demonetization; the soul of tact, the President replied that he would into ‘look into the matter.’ The Shiv Sena broke ranks by presenting a separate petition, since it supported demonetization, questioning only the hardship to the public in its implementation. A thundering nuisance and bore clearly is our Mamata, blissfully unaware of her warts.
Implementation falls short
The implementation of demonetization could have been better organized and some of the pain and discomfort of the ordinary citizen thereby reduced to a more tolerable level. Banks, for the most part, did their best to weather the crisis. Most were open through the entire weekend, with recalling retired staff to help out by coming in and dealing with overstretched counters lengthening queues of customers waiting to be served. Hopefully the worst will be over by the end of the month and normal life fully restored thereafter. ((Hindu, Times of India, Business Line, Telegraph, Mint, TV networks November 12-20)
Prime Minister’s biggest move against tax evasion and black money could result in a bonanza of $45 billion to the exchequer come the next national Budget. This is no amateur forecast, but a serious prediction of the respected Mumbai-based brokerage firm Edelweiss Securities that the government’s measures to trawl high-value currency notes from the deepest pockets of the community of the corrupt and greedy will bring to the surface R 3 lakh crore or $45 billion of black money.
‘This money can now be utilized for various economic reforms funding,’ said Edelweiss financial analyst Manoj Bahety. The central bank will be able now to reduce its liabilities. Government can augment spending threefold on energy, defence and social schemes three-fold social expenditure, significantly increase and also reduce the fiscal deficit ‘As investments drive up the supply capacity of the economy, overall gross domestic product is expected to benefit in the long-term,’ said economist Dharmukirti Joshi at Cresil. In the short-term the impact was likely to be more negative than positive, he averred. (Business Line November 11)
Godrej take of Chairman Adi
Godrej was buoyantly optimistic on demonetization, saying it was a blessing that would destroy black money, counter terrorism and crime. ‘GST also makes it very difficult to evade indirect taxes Combined with this year’s good monsoon, it could catapult into double digit growth.’ Phew! We had better wait and see. (Business Line November 16)
Supportive Bill Gates
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, on a visit to Delhi, said that the government’s move to demonetize high-value notes was an important step to move away from a shadow economy to one that was more transparent. Gates said digital transactions over the few years would make India the most digitalized country in the world. ‘The world is looking to India not just to solve its problems but to address global challenges through its innovation ,’ he said during a lecture in the city (Times of India November 17)
Chandrababu Naidu for demonetization
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu welcomed the high-value currency demonetization, saying the short-term pain would substantial longer-term economic benefits. He accepted the hardship caused to significant sections of society, but he said these would be temporary, and that ‘cashless transactions should be encouraged through mobile banking, internet banking and card transactions. This was the road to the future, he said (Business Line November 18).
The Pakistan military has admitted it is addicted to denying, that Indian counter-blows along the Line of Control in the Kashmir Valley is hurting. In a rare admission, a spokesman of the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate abjured the customary state of denial, saying that recent Indian shelling had killed seven Pakistani soldiers. The Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad, Gautam Bambawale, was summoned for a protest and a warning by Sartaz Aziz, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Foreign Affairs Adviser, that a ‘strategic miscalculation’ by India would lead to an effective response. Big words by Mickey Mouse has long been the name of the game (Telegraph November 15)
Border post linked
Long years of grueling labour against insuperable odds have been rewarded at long last been rewarded at long last, with the opening of road linking the strategic military post on the Indo-China border in Uttarkhand with Malari, located 40 km away. It was opened for vehicular traffic of the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police The route is 11,000ft high and the mountainous rock face presenting formiable obstacles for engineers and sappers. ‘It will now take us approximately three hours from to reach Rinkhim from Joshinath while earlier the time taken was almost two days,’ said an Army officer (Times of India November 11)
Moving on from Bofors
The spectre of the Bofors affair decades ago has finally been exorcized by the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Prime Minister Modi, approving the induction of first modern 155mm howitzers into the Indian Army. India has signed a government to government deal with the US for the acquisition of 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers with the United States worth $737 million. This weapon, ideally suited to mountain warfare, is now manufactured by BAE Systems, which now is the original Swedish company. BAE. Systems has chosen Mahindra & Mahindra as its Indian partner for its local assembly and production (Times of India November 17)
Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd is to manufacture a Kalashnikov class of small arms for India’s armed forces in a joint venture with Kalashnikov Israel Company. The manufacturing facility could be up in Pipavav shipyard owned by the Reliance Group, which will hold 51 per cent of the stake, with its Israeli partner hold the rest (Business Line Novemberr 15)
India-Bangla military ties strengthen
Indian Minister is to visit Dhaka shortly to chalk out a major upgrade in bilateral defence cooperation with Bangladesh. This will include increased Indian military supplies, technology transfer, joint exercises and closer interaction on combating jihadi terrorism (Times of India NNNovember 16)
Hi-tech degrees for Naval officers
The Indian Navy in its drive to create a first-rate force is building an armada of warships and submarines fit for purpose in the 21st century. To this it has added the qualification imperative that all officers must have at the minimum a B-Tech degree. Going forward the Navy plans to increase its present 138 vessels and 235 aircraft, plus 1 aircraft carrier to 212 warships, 3 aircraft carriers and 458 aircraft over the next ten years. Its operational perimeter extends from the Strait of Malacca in the South China Sea bordering the Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia to the Straits of Hormuz in the Middle East (Times of India November 12)
Indian students for US universities surge
With a 25 per cent jump in Indian students entering US universities in 2015-16, according to the Open Doors report released by the Institute of International Education working in tandem with the US State Department. There are presently 165,918 Indian students in US higher education institutions. R.K.Chauhan, a former secretary to India’s University Grants Commi8ssion, said: the growth may have been powered by by the collaboration agreements and student exchange arrangements that many private Indian universities had struck with American institutions over the past two years.(Telegraph November 15).