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Biz media supports PM on high growth rate, but Bloomberg differs

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The Prime Minister and the economy. The state of the economy continues to be on top of everyone’s mind, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who lauded his government’s growth achievements (the growth rate was 8.2 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, reports The Economic Times) when he spoke at the inauguration of the India Post Payments Bank Sunday.

In contrast, he said according to The Hindu, the Congress had “left the economy on a landmine”. He also blamed the Congress for today’s bank lending crisis, accusing a few ‘naamdars’  for exploiting bank regulations. For instance, only a select few had got loans, the PM said, after “phone calls” made by a particular family. No prizes for guessing which one.

Of course, elections are round the corner. The PM realises he needs more than 8 per cent growth to underwrite the “vikas” slogan with which he came to power in 2014.

The change in base year for evaluating the rate of growth has paid rich dividends for Mr Modi, after all, even at the cost of higher growth rate figures for the UPA. The PM certainly hopes no one will remember Manmohan Singh’s figures when he weaves wonders through his oratory, based on his own re-buoyed data.

The PM has already taken to Twitter to highlight his government’s achievement.

As did BJP president Amit Shah:

Several commentators, including Bibek Debroy, chairman of the Economic Advisory Council, have spoken about the encouraging trends in the economy. The debate around demonetisation’s failure seems to be fading by the day. According to Debroy, The Financial Express reported, the good news comes from a continued impetus on structural reforms and proper implementation of policies by Modi.

RSS ideologue S. Gurumurthy, meanwhile, defended demonetisation:

However, foreign news media outlets were far from impressed: A Bloomberg report titled ‘Fastest-Growing Major Economy Holds Shaky Crown as Risks Build’ stated, “India’s world-beating economic growth is running up against some big risks: High oil prices, emerging market stress as the era of easy money draws to a close, and policy paralysis in the run-up to next year’s federal election.”  The falling rupee, it said, serves as a reminder to the intrinsic issues with India’s economy, even if it has weathered the twin shocks of demonetisation and the “chaotic introduction” of GST.

Different dictionaries, different meanings: Narendra Modi’s comments that individuals who talk about a little discipline in India are branded autocrats is front-page new on The Telegraph today.

In a week in which several human rights activists were arrested and accusations of high-handedness made against the State, one wonders if the PM’s comments were directed at the #UrbanNaxal crackdown.

The Kolkata-based paper, in the vanguard of criticism against Modi, compared the meaning of the word “autocrat” as laid out in the Oxford dictionary and in “The Narendra Modi Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, Made in India”. The article is beyond interesting.

Prime Time

News about demonetisation and the new GDP figures was quickly forgotten by news channels at peak hour, but what continued to fuel debates on pro-BJP channels like Zee News ,TimesNow and Republic TV, was a predictable hashtag that screamed “#DestroyMaoists”. “Everyone who disagrees with the state should be destroyed and eliminated. I don’t believe in negotiation,” said Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami mid-debate. Oh well.

Rahul Shivshankar’s segment on TimesNow was a more sophisticated sit-down conversation with Subramanian Swamy and Pavan K. Varma. Shivshankar’s attempt to polarise the conversation underscored the discussion, but he couldn’t get the two to disagree on the fact that the matter of the activists’ involvement in Maoist activities was right now before the court, and no other authority. “I won’t go by newspaper reports,” Swamy said.

Robert Vadra’s alleged involvement in a land scam in Gurugram, Haryana, dating back to 2008, was also widely reported. The then Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Vadra have both been booked for cheating, forgery, and criminal conspiracy among other crimes in illegal land dealings to the tune of Rs 1500 crore.

“It’s a matter of timing”, said political analyst Ravi Shrivastava, a panelist on the TimesNow debate on the matter, “It (the FIR) was filed only now, when the BJP is slapped with (the results of) demonetisation, with the Rafale deal on their face, and exorbitant oil prices, they just want to divert (attention from) those issues.”

Business Class

The Srikrishna Committee, set up to look into accusations of irregularities in the dealings of ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, has been asked to extend its inquiry to include all the land dealings conducted by her family since she took over as CEO in 2009, reports The Economic Times. The committee is to submit its report in two and a half months.

Rural India is emerging as India’s latest ‘big-time spender’. Business Standard reports that their growth in rural India has surpassed the expectations of many of FMCG and auto companies. It adds, “Executives in the consumer goods industry argue that while uncertainty over macroeconomic situation and the job market has dented consumer confidence in the urban areas, rural households now tend to spend more.”

Point of View

What are the chances that Prime Minister Imran Khan will be able to change Pakistan’s ‘deep state’ India policy? Former national security adviser M.K. Narayanan advises caution. In a column in The Hindu, he writes, “To all intents and purposes, he (Imran Khan) appears to be a prisoner of the ‘deep state’. India would do well to realise this at the beginning of his tenure as Prime Minister. It is much better than being lulled into a false sense of complacency.”

Can India’s best-ever Asiad tally be matched at 2020 Olympics? The Times of India writes in an editorial that every effort should be made to ensure that India does its best at the Olympics too. It adds, “It is critical to sustain these gains and scale up further to meet world standards. Nothing exemplifies this more than failures in traditional Indian strengths like weightlifting, kabaddi, hockey and wrestling.”

News it’s just kinda cool to know

Jupiter could hold much more water than Earth’s oceans. Jupiter’s eye has above it multiple cloud layers, one of which is said to be composed of frozen water. “Water may play a critical role in Jupiter’s dynamic weather patterns, so this will help advance our understanding of what makes the planet’s atmosphere so turbulent,” said Clemson University astrophysicist Máté Ádámkovics, one of the foremost scientists looking into the matter.

“And, finally, where there’s the potential for liquid water, the possibility of life cannot be completely ruled out. So, though it appears very unlikely, life on Jupiter is not beyond the range of our imaginations,” he added.

(With inputs from Rajgopal Singh)

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