BJP State President B.S. Yeddyurappa with his party MLAs show victory sign after H.D. Kumaraswamy lost the vote of confidence | PTI photo
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A Case of Migrating MLAs

Suhas Palshikar | Co-Director Lokniti, Chief Editor of Studies in Indian Politics and former professor of politics
The Indian Express

Palshikar writes that while the saga of migration of MLAs in Karnataka may be over, similar coups are expected soon, especially in states like Goa, Maharasthra and West Bengal.

Some may feel a sense of moral indignation, or some may justify this trend in defections as being reminiscent of the Congress days. But in a larger sense, it points out the fragility of India’s parties and party systems. Even though today the BJP appears invincible, the current in-flow and out-flow underline the weakness of the way parties are organised as elected representatives function almost independently of the organisation.

Studies carried out by Lokniti indicate only 31 per cent voters vote for the candidate rather than the party, signifying that party-hopping is a “treachery to voters”. But, amidst this “Aya Ram, Gaya Ram” trend, parties that adopt migrating MLAs should be blamed, not because of the scandal but for the democratic malaise created.

Why We Should Fear Easy Money

Ruchir Sharma | Author and global investor
The Times of India

Sharma writes that although there has been celebration in global markets and news media as the US Federal Reserve looks to cut interest rates, the almost free-of-cost borrowing under its new benchmark rate of half a per cent is driving up the demand for easy money.

With impending trade wars, the Federal Governor feels rate cuts will shield the US from an economic slowdown. Both right-wing leaders like Donald Trump and liberals like Bernie Sanders are embracing easy money theories for their individual reasons.

But, research shows low credit helps the largest corporations the most. Dependence on easy money raises the risk of a global recession, and recessions tend to be longer and deeper when the preceding expansion was fuelled by borrowing. While slashing rates post the 2008 crisis made sense, it could cause mayhem now. Easy money is not a painless fix, he concludes, it’s a dangerous addiction.

The expanding web of justice and impunity in Uttar Pradesh

Gitanjali Prasad | Social worker based in Delhi (written with support from Akram Akhtar Choudhary)
Hindustan Times

Prasad writes on The Indian Express’s recent investigation into the 2013 Muzaffarpur communal riots, which reveals that in 40 out of 41 cases, all the accused involved in attacks on Muslims were acquitted, and the sole conviction happened in a case in which seven Muslim men allegedly murdered two Hindu men.

The September 2013 violence forced displacement of thousands of Muslims, who took shelter in displacement camps initially taken care of by the Samajwadi Party government, but were soon forgotten. Rape, murder, arson and looting took place in villages where Muslim were minorities.

Many displaced villagers feared returning to their homes and this was systematically encouraged by the state government who offered monetary compensation on the condition of a signed affidavit stating they would not return. The “toothless” Special Investigation Team set up for the case and countless ignored applications for witness support show that checks and balances within the political system are hollow and the criminal justice system is simply a web of impunity and bias, Prasad writes.

Padding up for the next UNSC Innings

Krishnan Srinivasan | Former Foreign Secretary
The Hindu

Srinivasan writes about Indian diplomacy’s moment of pride as the country receives unanimous support to complete its eighth second-term as a non-permanent member of the UNSC.

Amidst fast-moving dynamics of international politics, India should focus on how all Security Council issues have an impact on the subcontinent. It needs to try to protect the World Trade Organisation from America’s undermining attempts, push for non-discriminatory elimination of weapons of mass destruction, protection of the environment against global warming and support treaties such as the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Pushing its agenda regarding Pakistan-based militancy might be futile as over the years UNSC has not made headway on terrorism-related conventions. To achieve big player status in the UN, India will have to prove to be pivotal in the South Asia region and aim to end its eight-term with its merit of legality-based judgments and wide respect.

Being witless about cashless

Ateesh Tankha | The writer is former head, partnerships and Citi merchant service, Citibank US
Economic Times

Tankha argues the government’s decisions to make India a digital economy have mostly been knee-jerk. He writes against the government’s planned move to do away with the fees — merchant discount rate (MDR) — “for cashless transactions for businesses with a turnover greater than Rs 50 crore”.

He also mentions that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman justified this by saying that these costs will now be absorbed by banks and RBI. He, however, points out the problems with the approach.

First, he says, cashless transactions are enabled not just by banks, but by other functionaries like payment gateways, payment networks, etc. as well. Doing away with MDR will cut the income source, which funds existing activities and future innovation.

Second, he writes, that the biggest component of MDR is bank interchange, which is set by payment networks like Visa and MasterCard. To reduce the bank interchange, he recommends that banks need “to carry two network marks on all Indian issued credit and debit cards”, one of which must be government’s RuPay. This will reduce costs as there will be competition, and the merchant will have the option of using the lower-priced network system.

The slump that threatens to hold the economy to ransom

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha | Member of the academic board of Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics

Rajadhyaksha writes that India is facing a sharp cyclical slowdown. Also, it is witnessing a dip in its savings rate. He says part of this dip can be explained by the slowdown as both government and corporate savings “tend to be pro-cyclical”.

This slowdown notwithstanding, however, he writes that the continued low household savings rate remains a mystery. This is because the household savings rate tends to increase when a country’s “working age population is at its peak”. And, the latter holds true for India currently. Part of the decline, he writes, can be due to the formalisation of previously unincorporated entities whose savings are now categorised under the corporate sector.

He suggests that one of the likely reasons for this decline might be a “change in cultural attitudes to consumer debt”. He writes there is not enough research being done on this declining savings rate.

Only decontrol can solve urea industry’s problems

Chandra Bhushan | The author is deputy director general, Centre for Science and Environment
Financial Express

Bhushan discusses an assessment his organisation the Centre for Science and Environment conducted on the urea fertiliser industry in India. He writes that the sector performed well in reducing its energy use and CO2 emissions. However, its performance on the water consumption and water-pollution parameters wasn’t satisfactory. The health and safety arrangements in older plants also remain a concern, he notes.

He mentions that the sector’s performance in different areas is largely determined by the incentive structure in those areas. The government incentivises energy efficiency, but doesn’t provide any incentives for controlling water pollution.

He also writes that the urea industry has a role to play in addressing environmental issues like nitrogen pollution and climate change.

Listing out suggestions, he writes that agriculture needs to move from a bulk application of urea to a more “precise supply of required nutrients”.

But he say, the most important measure is to bring a certain measure of decontrol in the industry.

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