The Hindustan Times – Why PM Modi is wrong when he says the timing of demonetisation was right

Rajesh Mahapatra

Op/Ed, 11 February 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi thinks he couldn’t have picked a better time to demonetise the economy. Speaking during the motion of thanks on the President’s address to Parliament, Modi used the analogy of medical surgery to defend his decision.

No matter how critical, a surgery is carried out only after ensuring the patient is scoring fine on vital parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate etc. The Indian economy was in good health when the government decided to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, Modi said.

Also, it was done at the risk of minimal disruption because it came days after Diwali, when the economy usually enters a lull phase. That is why, he argued, the government could successfully implement what has now come to be known as the biggest disruption in India’s financial history.

Given that this was the first time the prime minister spoke on demonetisation in Parliament, one expected he would support his claim with hard data and empirical evidence. Unfortunately, he didn’t. He didn’t because he can’t. Because, the economy was as shaky at the time of the note-ban decision as it was when Modi came to power in May 2014.

Data available now suggest industrial output contracted in as many months as it grew during the January-October period last year. More importantly, October had seen a sharp increase, 5.6%, raising hopes that the economy was finally turning around.

This was also reflected in exports, which had picked up a sustained momentum through September and October, after a roller-coaster ride for nearly two years.

Non-oil imports also tracked a similar trend. These green shoots of a smarter economic recovery were also mirrored in business confidence. According to industry body FICCI, which routinely conducts a survey of its member companies, business confidence had picked up between April and September.

Companies were beginning to explore investing in new projects, sluggish private investment has kept the broader economy from growing faster.

In such a scenario, the economy needed measures that would bolster sentiments and sustain the momentum.

Demonetisation, it would be difficult to argue, was one such measure.

Latest government data on industrial production show factory output contracted 0.4% in November; exports slipped nearly 15% month on month; and FICCI’s quarterly business confidence index dropped to 58.2 in October-December period compared to 67.3 in the preceding quarter and a high of 72.7 when Modi became prime minister.

Data on job losses and other effects have yet to come in, but it would be fair to say the story would not be any different there.

Another way to look at the strength of the Indian economy at the time of note-ban decision is to place it in a global economic context.

Crude prices had begun to firm up and foreign investors in the stock and bond markets were beginning to pull out as part of a worldwide trend in which capital was moving out of emerging economies to safer financial markets such as the United States.

In October, FIIs pulled out more than Rs 5,000 crore. That number jumped to a monthly average of Rs 13,000 crore after demonetisation. Such flight of capital, coupled with rising crude prices, tends to weaken the rupee and add to inflationary pressures.

Last week, the Reserve Bank of India refrained from cutting its key lending rate. The central bank fears inflation, which dipped temporarily because of the cash crunch after demonetisation, may rise again.

One of the biggest expectations from demonetisation was that it would help reduce interest rates. There has been some softening, but not enough to accelerate growth in credit and investment flows. And the stance taken by RBI means any further reduction is ruled out for now.

There was nothing right about the timing of demonetisation, just as there was never an economic rationale for the decision. It is time the government acknowledged it made a mistake.

The author is Chief Content Officer, Hindustan Times

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The Tribune – Peaceniks want Retreat to symbolise peace

Neeraj Bagga, Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 11 February 2017. Peaceniks have requested governments of India and Pakistan to turn the Retreat, a daily flag-lowering ceremony between India and Pakistan at the Attari-Wagah Joint Check Post, into a symbol of peace and co-existence.

These peaceniks, from across the state, were unanimous in their opinion. They were at Khalsa College here today for a seminar held jointly by the Sai Mian Meer International Foundation and Folklore Research Academy.

A memorandum was also sent to Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif to set up visa consulates of Pakistan and India in Amritsar and Lahore for the free movement of people across the border.

The current phase of bitter bilateral relations between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan has increased belligerent posturing and gestures between border guards of both nations during the ceremony.

Foundation head Harbhajan Singh Brar said that provocative gestures went up at the ceremony after the Indian military carried out a surgical strike on September 29.

The 45-minute ceremony takes place daily and features a formal set of handshakes between Indian and Pakistani soldiers.

But now, it is interspersed with ferocious opening of border gates and stares before making a brusque handshake.

Gent-Sint-Pieters – Baas Op Eigen Hoofd – Gent-Sint-Pieters

10 January 2016


Gent-Sint-Pieters – IC train to Brussel / Genk
Going to Brussel for meeting with GO

Baas Op Eigen Hoofd (BOEH)
10 January 2016


Muslimas wearing pag !


I met with BOEH and some of their supporters
before meeting with Raymonda Verdijck of GO


Group photo, not all present shown

11 January 2017


IC Train to Brussel and Brussel Luchthaven


Track 12 IC to Knokke/Blankenberge, Belgian coast
Track 11 IC to Brussel, Leuven, Liège and Eupen

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

DNA India – Punjab elections 2017: Sardulgarh in Mansa records 90.33% turnout during re-poll

The re-poll was held in 48 polling stations in Amritsar, Moga, Mansa, Sangrur and Muktsar due to malfunctioning of VVPATs and EVMs in the initial polling on 4 February.

Mansa recorded the highest polling percentage of 90.33 among the five districts of Punjab where re-poll was held for the Assembly elections on Thursday.

The re-poll was held in 48 polling stations in Amritsar, Moga, Mansa, Sangrur and Muktsar due to malfunctioning of VVPATs and EVMs in the initial polling on February 4.

Re-polling was held in 16 polling stations in Amritsar Lok Sabha segment for the by-election and 12 polling stations in Assembly segments of Majitha, nine each in Muktsar and Sangrur and one each in Moga and Sardulgarh.

Sardulgarh in Mansa, where re-poll was held in one polling station recorded the highest poll percentage of 90.33, followed by Sangrur where it was 84.64 per cent, Moga 81.26 per cent, Majitha 75 per cent and Amritsar 79.02 per cent. Mansa had also led the way with the highest voter turnout on February 4.

There was only marginal difference between polling percentages in 48 polling stations recorded on February 4 and after re-poll on Thursday. Except for the polling booth Number 180 in Sangrur, where the percentage jumped from 65.97 on February 4 to 80.04 after the re-poll.

The decision for re-poll was taken after 4.05 per cent of the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines failed during the voting on February 4. It was for the first time that the Election Commission had made use of the VVPATs in 33 Assembly constituencies in the state.

A total of 6,293 VVPATs were used, out of which 255 failed. Unlike regular EVMs, the VVPATs allow voters to verify that their vote has been cast correctly through instant feedback.

The re-polls were conducted peacefully, except for an incident in Majitha, where Congress and SAD workers were arrested for allegedly distributing cash among the voters on Wednesday.

The results will be announced on March 11.

The Hindu – More AIADMK leaders switch camps, back Panneerselvam

One Minister, 4 MPs come out in support of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister

Udhav Naig

Chennai, 12 February 2017. In a dramatic turn to the ongoing political turmoil in Tamil Nadu, two prominent members from AIADMK interim general secretary V K Sasikala’s camp, Education Minister K Pandiarajan and party spokesperson C Ponnaiyan, switched sides on Saturday to join Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, citing a groundswell of support for the latter.

In a further boost to the rebel camp, four MPs, P R Sundaram from Namakkal, K Ashok Kumar from Krishnagiri, R Vanaroja from Tiruvannamalai and V Sathyabhama from Tiruppur, also came out in support of Mr Panneerselvam.

Cryptic tweet

While the Namakkal and Krishnagiri MPs were the first to turn up at the CM’s Greenways Road residence here, Mr Pandiarajan’s arrival was a shot in the arm for Mr. Panneerselvam.

Not very long after posting a cryptic tweet that he would listen to the ‘collective voice of the people’, Mr Pandiarajan said he was backing Mr Panneerselvam because he did not want the AIADMK to split. “Over the last few days, there has been a clear groundswell of support for Mr Panneerselvam.

One could also detect a kind of revulsion against the choice of Sasikala as the legislature party leader,” he said.

“He has earned the goodwill of the people through his work during Cyclone Vardah and the oil spill. I realised it will be possible to meet the people during elections and seek votes only when the party is headed by OPS,” said Mr Pandiarajan.

Earlier, he had defended the decision of the party to elect Ms Sasikala as the head of AIADMK’s legislative party.

The Minister added that he was confident that Mr Panneerselvam would be elected as the Chief Minister once again, by the members of the legislative Assembly. “More MLAs will come [here] and OPS will be elected,” he said.

Later in the evening, Mr Ponnaiyan also met the Chief Minister along with his supporters. The senior AIADMK leader, who had also earlier backed Ms Sasikala, challenged her nomination as the party’s general secretary.

“According to AIADMK rules, only party cadre can select the general secretary. MLAs are the people’s representatives and they must take feedback from their constituents,” Mr Ponnaiyan said, adding that only Mr Panneerselvam had the capacity to lead the party.

During the day, former AIADMK MLA Manoj Pandian also announced that the lawyers’ wing of the AIADMK had extended its support to Mr. Panneerselvam.