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When I was in high school, we had a system of electing the school leaders, for which the students from the 11th and 12th standard could vote. It was a flawed democracy because no one who pissed off a teacher could stand for office. But it was the closest we ever got to a democracy. This was the most political activity that we -as 16 year olds- had ever gotten to do and we were super excited to be a part of it.
Our teachers, who were ever concerned about our all round development, kept reminding us that centum marks and state ranks do not discriminate between the electors and the elected. Then they turned our attention to integral calculus and kept our noses to the grind. I remember feeling outraged. How could I ever learn the political duties of citizen if I was supposed to be mugging up random formulae for carboxylic acid or how exothermic reactions worked in thermodynamics?
And then I grasped what they were saying- you cannot let one event hijack your life because there’s so much happening everyday that you could miss out on. Or I hope so- they seemed to be serious about centums and state ranks. Either way, that’s this week for you. If you were following the state elections, you might have missed out on a ton of other stuff that happened.
At the United Nations General Assembly rejected the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city even as Donald Trump threatened to cut off funding to any state that voted against it on the international stage. India was amongst the nations who voted against United States but rather than looking at it as a victory of Indian diplomacy, it would be a good idea to take a pragmatic view of the factors that India to vote with the majority. This is also an interesting development in lieu of Indo-US relations. While the new National Security Strategy of the US lists India as one of the countries it wants to engage with, Manoj Joshi points out that this means little unless the US sticks to the national security strategy as outlined in the paper.
Closer to home, Nepal also completed elections at provincial, state and national levels and with its 2015 Constitution can emerge out of the political turmoil that it has been facing. It’s also time for India to deal with the new Left Alliance with whom it has only grappled with unsuccessfully in the past. This could also be part of a cohesive South Asian strategy that India needs to fulfill its ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.
As India brought up the issue of funding of terrorist organisations in the UN, various aspects of national security were in and out of the papers this week. Experts deliberated how to keep up with terrorism, integrating cyber security into national policies and continuing military operations in Kashmir.
In the throes on the elections, we forget that the numbers on our economy, whether it is growth or investment, are quite worrying. The largest item on the plate remains the state of non performing assets in the country. Manish Sabharwal traces why Indian banks recover only little of their bank loans and what is set to change;
A good bankruptcy regime does not aim for liquidation but motivates a speedy renegotiation of financial viability if there is operational viability; this needs immediate, automatic and universal disclosure.
Doctors know that emergency room medicine is triage followed by quick, invasive and expensive procedures. But if the patient comes to the emergency room regularly, they need to lose weight and eat better. Current bankruptcy changes represent triage but are complemented with preventive measures from the RBI like capping exposures to companies and sectors, disclosing provisioning divergence, prompt correction action framework, a central repository of information on large credits (CRILIC), and a mandatory legal entity identifier in CRILIC for all borrowers of more than Rs 1,000 crore by March 2018 and more than Rs 50 crore by December 2019.
The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill which was seen as a step towards solving the country’s huge NPA problem was tabled in the Parliament (and deferred) because of the huge alarm on whether banks could use depositors’ money to bail themselves out. You can read arguments on why these fears are unfounded and a defence of the bill by one of the drafters. Meanwhile, it is important not to move away from recovery of bad loans to selling assets of defaulting companies, says Meera Nangia.
Almost recognizing my teenage repulsion to organic chemistry, Indian science also stepped up and asked for space and recognition this week. Arvind Rajagopal points out how great scientists in independent India who should be household names are even neglected in graduate teaching. He attributes this to systemic problems of how scientific establishments are run in the country. Meanwhile, Ravi Kuchimanchi an Indian scientist was awarded the 2018 Andrei Sakharov Prize which recognizes outstanding leadership of scientists in upholding human rights. You may not know of the prize or the man but his is the story that inspired the movie, Swades.
Perhaps, one way to popularise science is to tell good stories and to let kids discover science and scientists on their own terms instead of making them learn arbitrary facts that they do not understand the relevance of. I sure wish I had.