Why I quit the panel
C.P. Chandrasekhar | Former professor of economics at JNU, Delhi
The Indian Express
In this piece, dictated by Chandrasekhar to the , the economist begins by explaining why he joined the Standing Committee on Economic Statistics. He said it was based on his long association with the country’s statistical agencies. He writes, “I joined the Committee to contribute to strengthening that system.”
Nothwithstanding this, he mentions various issues that had concerned him even before he joined the committee. The first disturbing trend he witnessed was the methodology used in the National Accounts Statistics for constructing a back series, which used 2011-12 as the base. He writes that the report released was rejected because the numbers did not suit the government. “An alternative series was generated through a process that was controversial, because it pointed to political intervention, apparently motivated by the need to present growth under earlier governments in poorer light,” he adds.
Chandrasekhar’s second problem was the “tendency on part of the government to delay the release and even hold back survey reports when it found the results inconvenient or at odds with its rhetoric.” All of which “points to an erosion of the independence of the statistical system,” he argues.
Concerns of this kind have now taken on a new relevance because there are signs that the government does not brook disagreement and is not open to debate once it has embarked on a chosen trajectory, writes Chandrasekhar. He concludes by saying that the incident at JNU was the final tipping point and he saw no point in being part of the commission.
Black Sunday: Questions for Delhi Police, JNU VC
Yashovardhan Azad | Former IPS officer and Central Information Commissioner
The violence that took place Sunday in JNU shows Delhi Police in poor light and highlights the pathetic ineptitude of the JNU administration, writes Azad. The masked attackers spread terror on campus for more than three hours and “the Delhi Police deployed around the administration block remained mute spectators,” he adds.
Azad poses some potent questions — “How did the masked men enter the campus in which the JNU security commands access control? How did they escape through the main gate again in the presence of the Delhi Police, where, by a strange coincidence, the street lights were not working?”
He blames the JNU administration for not taking any action and just sitting on the sidelines. Calling the Sunday of 5 January “Black Sunday,” Azad writes that it will leave a deep imprint. He argues that the police needs to redeem itself and bring all the goons in the incident to book. In conclusion, he writes that the “JNU students and teachers will have to reflect on the image and future of their institution — as an academic centre of excellence or of political apprenticeship.”
Implications of a majoritarian agenda
Shyam Saran | Former foreign secretary and is currently senior fellow CPR.
Saran discusses how the central government’s pursuit of a majoritarian agenda can have serious foreign policy implications. He explains that the JNU mob attack Sunday was part of the “bloodstained saga” that started at Jamia Milia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University and then “enveloped Uttar Pradesh”.
The State has used a “security imperative to respond with increasing firepower”, placing limitations on citizens’ rights and thereby, threatening democracy, he writes. This will “undermine” national security and make it even more difficult to secure India’s “unsettled land borders”, he adds.
An internal climate of fear and anxiety will only make India “vulnerable to hostile external forces”, he writes. Saran reminds that in the past, “China exploited insurgencies in the North East”, “Pakistan… exploited politically disturbed conditions in Punjab and Kashmir” and Left-Wing extremism was difficult to contain. He suggests dialogue and compromise is better than armed suppression as the latter could “push dissent into disaffection”.
The “series of actions that have followed Prime Minister Modi’s second term”, from revoking Article 370 to the CAA, have had a “negative perceptional impact externally” and “images from JNU will not help”, he concludes.
Regulators need some capacity building
G.N. Bajpai | Former chairman, SEBI and LIC
Hindu Business Line
Bajpai calls for “an eco-system of building regulatory capacity, which is currently missing in India”. He explains how today’s “global integration of markets, blurring of boundaries between segments, explosion of information technology” and changing marketplace dynamics require better regulatory systems.
The meltdown of IL&FS, DHFL, HDIL, PMC and Karvy suggest that “markets are running ahead of the regulatory capacity”, he adds. Regulators at times “go overboard… and issue orders which further erode the rhythm of the market and hurt the participants”, he explains. In order to “keep pace with market ingenuity”, regulatory framework have to be evolutionary and constantly analyse “transaction data and behavioural patterns”, he writes.
Bajpai also suggests building “networking relationships of key officials with regulated entities” which “unfortunately” is “viewed with suspicion” in India. A “research wing within the regulatory framework” that will provide access to academic thinking for policies could help overcome this, he adds.
A good budget this year would take the skill of a trapeze artist
Niranjan Rajadhyaksha | Academic board member, Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics
Rajadhyaksha describes the upcoming budget as a “high-wire act for Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman” as she will have to strike a balance between fiscal stimulus and limited fiscal capacity to help recover the economy. There is a good case for “higher government spending to support aggregate demand until private sector activity recovers” but three points must be kept in mind, he writes.
He suggests that “market concerns about fiscal profligacy … be assuaged with credible commitments”. Secondly, the central government needs to put forth “a meaningful reforms package”, be it restructuring GST or a new direct tax code, which can “boost confidence”.
Finally, “a lot depends on how RBI responds to a fiscal expansion”, he writes. In recent months, RBI has been “extraordinarily supportive” of government borrowing. Furthermore, “risk-averse banks are happy parking money with the central bank at the reverse repo rate, making it the effective policy rate” which says a lot about the state of the economy”, he explains.