1. Hindi imposition and its discontents
What are the reported recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Official Language? When did the linguistic row initially start? What is the history of the ‘anti-Hindi’ agitations in Tamil Nadu? How have regional leaders reacted?
The reported recommendation of the Parliamentary Committee on Official Language to use Hindi as the medium of instruction in Central institutions of higher education in Hindi-speaking States and regional languages in other States has once again ignited controversy.
At different points in time, leaders, starting from Jawaharlal Nehru in the mid-1950s, assured the people of Tamil Nadu that there would be no “imposition” of Hindi. However, in recent years, be it the National Education Policy or reports of English signage on National Highways in Tamil Nadu getting replaced with Hindi signage, the political class of the State had overwhelmingly expressed its reservations.
If reports in sections of the media are an indication, English, as a medium of instruction in all technical and non-technical institutions, will be permitted only where it is absolutely essential, as the idea is to replace the language gradually with Hindi in those institutions.
The story so far:
The reported recommendation of the Parliamentary Committee on Official Language to use Hindi as the medium of instruction in Central institutions of higher education in Hindi-speaking States and regional languages in other States has once again ignited a controversy over, what is called by critics of the BJP, an attempt to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking people. Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, M. K. Stalin and Pinarayi Vijayan have voiced their concerns over the recommendation.
What is the backdrop to the Hindi imposition row?
The origin of the linguistic row goes back to the debate on official languages. In the Constituent Assembly, Hindi was voted as the official language by a single vote. However, it added that English would continue to be used as an associate official language for 15 years. The Official Languages Act came into effect on the expiry of this 15-year period in 1965. This was the background in which the anti-Hindi agitation took place. However, as early as in 1959, Jawaharlal Nehru had given an assurance in Parliament that English would continue to be in use as long as non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.
Why do many parties in Tamil Nadu stand against the recommendation?
Tamil Nadu has had a long history of agitations against “Hindi imposition”. In August 1937, in the then Presidency of Madras, the regime headed by C. Rajagopalachari, also known as Rajaji or CR, decided to make Hindi compulsory in secondary schools. E.V. Ramasamy, or Periyar as he was known, who was still in the Justice Party at that time, had spearheaded an agitation against the move, marking the first such stir. A few months after CR’s resignation, the British government, in February 1940, made Hindi optional. In January 1965, the second round of agitations erupted in the wake of Hindi becoming the official language of the Union government coupled with the approach adopted by the Central government towards the whole issue.
At different points in time, leaders, starting from Jawaharlal Nehru in the mid-1950s, assured the people of Tamil Nadu that there would be no “imposition” of Hindi. However, in recent years, be it the National Education Policy or reports of English signage on National Highways in the State getting replaced with Hindi signage, the political class of the State had overwhelmingly expressed its reservations. The reiteration of the age-old assurance by the Central government coupled with the promise of the promotion of other Indian languages have barely mollified the protesters.
The essence of the Official Languages Act, 1963, is to provide something to each of the differing groups to meet its objections and safeguard its position. Whenever the parties in the State see any attempt to disturb this status quo, their reaction is always uniform — a virulent opposition.
What does the present proposal say?
If reports in sections of the media are an indication, English, as a medium of instruction in all technical and non-technical institutions, will be permitted only where it is absolutely essential, as the idea is to replace the language gradually with Hindi in those institutions.
While IITs, IIMs and All India Institute of Medical Sciences are considered technical institutions, Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas fall under the other category. Also, the committee has recommended the removal of English as one of the languages in examinations held for recruitment to the Central services. It has stated that the requisite knowledge of Hindi among candidates should also be ensured.
What is the alternative suggested by critics of the proposal ?
Both Mr. Stalin and Mr. Vijayan have called for equal treatment to all the languages specified under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. The Kerala Chief Minister has specifically stated that question papers for competitive examinations should be prepared in all the languages while his Tamil Nadu counterpart has urged the Centre to promote all languages and keep open the avenues of progress in terms of education and employment equal to speakers of all languages.
2. How does tokenisation prevent online card fraud?
Why has the RBI mandated the generation of a token for online merchant purchases? How will this move keep hackers and scammers at bay? Will it lead to better consumer security?
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has mandated the tokenisation of credit/debit cards for online merchants from October 1.
Tokenisation “refers to the replacement of actual card details with an alternative code called the ‘token’, which shall be unique for a combination of card and the token requestor (i.e. the entity which accepts the request from the customer for tokenisation of a card and passes it on to the card network to issue a corresponding token).”
The RBI says that a tokenised card transaction is considered safer as the actual card details are not shared with the merchant.
K. Bharat Kumar
The story so far:
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has mandated the tokenisation of credit/debit cards for online merchants from October 1. Till then, card details for online purchases were stored on the servers of these merchants in order to help customers avoid keying in their details every time they shopped with that merchant.
What is tokenisation?
As per the RBI’s FAQ on tokenisation updated late last month, tokenisation “refers to the replacement of actual card details with an alternative code called the ‘token’, which shall be unique for a combination of card and the token requestor (i.e. the entity which accepts the request from the customer for tokenisation of a card and passes it on to the card network to issue a corresponding token).”
So, if you use a mobile app or a website for online purchases, the merchant can, on your behalf but only with your explicit consent, raise a request for a token with the card issuing bank or the card network such as MasterCard.
Why is tokenisation necessary?
When you visit a restaurant, or even an ATM machine, it is possible for card thieves to clone your card with a skimmer, a gadget that quietly reads the magnetic strip at the back of your card. Similarly, hackers can also break into online websites and mobile apps that store your credit card details. Such data breaches could give con artists access to millions of cards in one go which are then sold on the dark web.
To help lessen the chances of such fraud, some banks have mandated the use of an OTP delivered to your registered mobile number to withdraw cash at ATMs. Other banks have enabled the use of their mobile app to allow cash withdrawal without the physical use of cards. Some credit card-issuing banks allow limits that you can set up yourself, per day, per transaction, etc on the bank’s app. The tokenisation mandate of the RBI is a similar exercise in caution.
As per the RBI annual report 2021-22, in FY20 there were a reported 2,677 cases of card fraud via the internet involving ₹129 crore. While in FY21, the number of cases decreased to 2,545, it further increased to 3,596 cases in FY22 with the amount involved being ₹155 crore.
What are the benefits of tokenisation?
The RBI says that a tokenised card transaction is safer as the actual card details are not shared with the merchant.
Even if a hacker/scammer were to get their hands on one’s token number, they would not be able to make indiscriminate use of it. Deep Agrawal, head of payments at PhonePe explains: “The token generated upon request for a specific merchant is unique to a specific card number and is usable only on that particular site or mobile app. The token is useless outside of that merchant’s ecosystem.” He also added that the “new mandate is only for the use of credit/debit cards online. For offline merchants, users would continue to swipe the cards on the POS machines as per previously existing guidelines.”
Popular card network Visa further explains the concept of tokenisation through the example of a metro train ticket. It is useful only for that route and not on any other. Similarly, the unique token generated for a specific site is only applicable on that site and nowhere else. And if an undesirable third-party gains access to that specfic token and shops within that specific website, the chances of identifying the party are more as their login and phone details would be with the site. However, regardless of whomever you shop with, be it Amazon or Ola or Swiggy, the app should ask your permission to use your credit card details for it to tokenise your card.
3. About 41.5 crore Indians out of multi-dimensional poverty since 2005-06
India has by far the largest number of poor people worldwide at 22.8 crore, followed by Nigeria at 9.6 crore. There were also 9.7 crore poor children in India in 2019-2021
About 41.5 crore people exited poverty in India during the 15-year period between 2005-06 and 2019-21, out of which two-third exited in the first 10 years, and one-third in the next five years, according to the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released on Monday.
The report produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) shows that the incidence of poverty fell from 55.1% in 2005-06 to 16.4% in 2019-21 in the country and that deprivations in all 10 MPI indicators saw significant reductions as a result of which the MPI value and incidence of poverty more than halved.
Improvement in MPI for India has significantly contributed to the decline in poverty in South Asia and it is for the first time that it is not the region with the highest number of poor people, at 38.5 crore, compared with 57.9 crore in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The report doesn’t fully assess the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on poverty in India as 71% of the data from the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-2021) relied upon for MPI were collected before the pandemic.
The global MPI constructs a deprivation profile of each household and person through 10 indicators spanning health, education and standard of living. All indicators are equally weighted within each dimension. The global MPI identifies people as multidimensionally poor if their deprivation score is 1/3 or higher.
Bihar, the poorest State in 2015-2016, saw the fastest reduction in MPI value in absolute terms. The incidence of poverty there fell from 77.4% in 2005-2006 to to 34.7% in 2019-2021.
Despite the strides made, the report notes that the ongoing task of ending poverty remains daunting. India has by far the largest number of poor people worldwide at 22.8 crore, followed by Nigeria at 9.6 crore. Two-third of these people live in a household in which at least one person is deprived in nutrition. There were also 9.7 crore poor children in India in 2019-2021 — more than the total number of poor people, children and adults combined, in any other country covered by the global MPI.
Multidimensional Poverty Index
The Multidimensional Poverty Index is a medium to calculate poverty in all developing countries of the world. What makes MPI different is the multi-directional approach it follows for its calculations. This multilateral method is fuelled by MPI’s indicators that are varying. The need for a wider array of indicators has been felt as income is an insufficient factor to gauge poverty which is why the MPI is a great step forward. Acknowledgement gets us closer to the change we envisage in society.
The multidimensional Poverty Index was developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) in association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the year of 2010. These results are released annually and it comes under the UNPI’s Human Development Report (HDR).
Global Multidimensional Poverty Index is the report released by OPHI. Its national counterpart is released by the NITI Aayog namely National Multidimensional Poverty Index.
National Multidimensional Poverty Index
The National Multidimensional Poverty Index is India’s equivalent of the Global MPI. developed by the NITI Aayog, it uses the robust procedures followed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and the UNDP to determine the multidimensionality of poverty among the Indian masses.
Facts about the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)
This table shall offer you a quick oversight of the topic and some facts about the global multidimensional poverty index.
Indicators and Dimensions of Global MPI
The Global Multidimensional Index has a set of three dimensions which has a total of 10 indicators separated under it.
- Health: Nutrition and child mortality
- Education: Years of schooling and school attendance
- Living Standards: Cooking oil, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, housing, and assets
SDGs in Multidimensional Poverty Index
Along with the 3 dimensions and their further 10 indicators, there is another additional parameter that gets measured in the MPI, that is, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, associated with 169 targets and 304 indicators.
Sustainable Development Goals are a set of universally agreed and set goals that all UN member states are expected to put to use while framing their policies and targets. These SDGs have been divided according to the dimensions and indicators they cover in the table below:
Measuring Deprivation using MPI’s indicators
According to the OPHI, there are a few points that lead an individual or their family towards deprivation. These points are stated below:
A household shall be considered deprived if a household has;
- A malnourished individual within the age group of 0-70 years.
- A child (0-18 years) who passed away 5 years before the MPI survey.
- Not a single individual who has completed 6 years of schooling.
- A child in their school-going years not attending school (upto an age where they should be attending class 8)
- Solid fuels (cow dung, etc.) as cooking fuel
- Poor, shared or unavailability of sanitation
- Unavailability of accessible safe drinking water (should be at a distance that takes less than 30 minutes to cover)
- No electricity
- Inadequate housing materials (roof, walls, etc.)
- No car and only have one of the following; Telephone
- Animal cart
It is important to take note of the following regarding the Global MPI;
- It is responsible for assessing poverty on an individual’s level.
- The term ‘MPI Poor’ is used for an individual when he/she is found to be deprived of one-third of the 10 discussed above indicators.
- The extent of the multidimensions of their poverty is assessed through the amount of deprivation they are going through.
4. Editorial-1: Today’s weapon of choice, its expanding dimensions
As the 21st century advances, a new danger — the cyber threat — is becoming a hydra-headed monster. It is hardly confined to any one domain though the military is the one most often touted. Rather, it is the civilian sphere where the cyber threat is becoming more all-pervading today and, in turn, a serious menace. It is beginning to have a cascading effect with questions being raised on how this would fit in with our belief in, and need for, a well-regulated world order.
What is most unfortunate is that not enough attention is being bestowed on the ‘all-encompassing nature’ of the cyber threat. In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the world seems awash with papers on artificial intelligence (AI)-driven military innovations and ‘potential crisis hot zones’, along with stray references to new forms of hybrid warfare. But there is very little about the threat posed by cyber attacks. Ignored also is the new reality of the ‘weaponisation of everything’ which has entered the vocabulary of threats. The latter clearly demands a ‘proto-revolutionary’ outlook on the part of policymakers, which is evidently lacking. Lost in translation is also the nature of today’s weapon of choice, viz., cyber. This lack of awareness is unfortunate at a time when states clearly lack the necessary resilience to face a variety of multi-vector threats.
‘Grey zone operations’
‘Grey Zone Operations’ which fall outside traditional concepts of conflicts have become the new battleground, especially in regard to cyber warfare. ‘Grey Zone Operations’ are already beginning to be employed to undermine the vitals of a state’s functioning, a trend likely to grow. The convergence of emerging technologies alongside new hybrid usages, pose several challenges to nations and institutions.
Cyber space has been described by Lt. Gen. Rajesh Pant (retired), India’s current national cyber security coordinator, as a “superset of interconnected information and communication technology, hardware, software processes, services, data and systems”. Viewed from this perspective, it constitutes a critical aspect of our national power. Cyber threats are not confined to merely one set of conflicts — such as Ukraine, where no doubt cyber tools are being extensively employed — extending well beyond this and other conflicts of a varied nature. The cyber threat is in this sense all-pervading,embracing many regions and operating on different planes. Hence, dealing with the cyber threat calls for both versatility and imaginative thinking. Demands for a cyber command by the Indian military ignore the widely varying nature of the cyber threat. That a group of United Nations government experts have been deliberating endlessly on how to promote responsible behaviour of states in cyber space, without much success is testimony to the difficulties that prevail.
With each passing day, we confront a new reality, viz., the extent to which exploitation of cyber space by criminally minded elements undermines our everyday world and beliefs. The recent arrest in India, of a Russian for hacking into computers involved in the conduct of examinations for entry into the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), is a reflection of how cyber criminals are significantly amplifying their ‘Grey Zone Warfare’ tactics. This is, perhaps, the tip of the iceberg for, as a general rule, it takes a long time for the general public to become aware of the nature and consequences of cyber attacks. At first these look like random accidents and it takes sophisticated cyber forensics to understand the contours of such attacks. It may surprise many that the IIT entrance examination should be an area for ‘Grey Zone Warfare’, but the real surprise should be that the perpetrators could succeed in compromising an examination software system deemed to be among the most secure across the world. Thus, ‘Grey Zone Warfare’ is set to become the predominant paradigm for the remainder of the century. This adds urgency to erecting proper defences against Grey Zone attacks.
Distorting the entry-level results of the Joint Entrance Examination is a blow to the nation’s prestige, apart from creating chaos across the board, since entry into higher educational institutions and entry-level jobs in the country is driven by examinations which employ various kinds of technology. Till now, technology was perceived as a foolproof means to end malpractices, but the recent incident calls into question the veracity of such assumptions. What is even more consequential is that it significantly raises the bar as far as the intensity and scale of cyber attacks on other national assets and infrastructure are concerned, with many more of them coming under still more aggravated assaults.
The extent to which the system has been compromised is terrifying to contemplate, even before the full facts are unearthed. Yet, it has grave implications for the entire spectrum of endeavours that are totally dependent on technologically-driven remote access functioning as a part of their everyday business activity. Niche solutions for such cyber intrusions are available (though little known or used) and it is important that those concerned undertake a leap of faith to install such solutions before the situation goes out of control.
Cyber space battles, dilemmas
It can be argued that there may be nothing radically wrong in highlighting cyber space as essentially a locus of geo-political conflict — the Russia-Ukraine crisis being an instance — but there is much more to the cyber threat than this. In the case of the Russia-Ukraine war, cyber space has become an experiment for various players to try and support a weaker nation against a more powerful opponent, through distortion of information and communication flows, which are considered essential to the success or failure of any war strategy. While Russia may not publicly admit to the fact that it is hurting, with most global information networks being ranged against it and distorting realities, it has certainly added a new cyber dimension to the ongoing conflict. While its effect on the course of the conflict may not be decisive, the potential for mischief is immense. Additionally, distortion by private players of the concept of ‘the information super highway’ casts a dark shadow over the entire current systems of belief, providing a great deal of fuel for thought — more specifically when such influences turn out to be fake or distorted.
All this again brings to mind shades of the past, when the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted over the issue of its becoming involved in elections. Similar suspicions again surfaced regarding Facebook’s manipulation of personal data. Hence, it is evident that the cyber realm is no longer confined to events such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the battle is now in our own backyards, with several non-state actors engaging in hybrid warfare and distorting day-to-day practices, including examinations. These pose legal, ethical and real dilemmas. Left unchecked, the world may have to confront a new kind of Wild West, before states find a common denominator for regulating cyber space and lay down proper rules and practices to prevent anarchy and chaos.
5. Editorial-2: Recovery analysis that points out what India got wrong
A recent World Bank report, titled “Correcting Course”, captures the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global poverty. The number of people living in extreme poverty rose by seven crore million in 2020, as the global poverty rate rose from 8.4% in 2019 to 9.3% in 2020. This is the first time in two decades that the poverty rate has gone up. Global inequalities have widened, evident in the relative impacts felt on incomes in the richest countries as opposed to the poorest; and, unsurprisingly, economic recovery has been similarly uneven.
The report focuses on fiscal policy as an instrument for governments in dealing with crises such as the pandemic. Poorer countries were unable to use fiscal policy as effectively, and thus unable to offset the impact of the pandemic to a much lesser degree than richer countries. The report identifies three priorities for fiscal policy for governments to aid with post-pandemic recovery: Targeted subsidies that benefit the poor; public investment to build resilience in the long term; and revenue mobilisation that should rely on progressive direct taxation rather than indirect taxes.
The focus on fiscal policy has merit. A recent ODI paper, “Fiscal policy and income inequality: The role of taxes and social spending”, aggregates evidence on social spending and taxes from across the world and comes to a similar conclusion regarding the importance of fiscal policy in post-pandemic recovery.
How India fared
So how did India fare? And how does our policy response stack up, given the lessons identified in the reports mentioned above? India’s economy continues to be sluggish in 2022, and one should look back at the policy choices that were made back in 2020. The World Bank report relies on the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS) by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), in the absence of official poverty data since 2011. By their estimate, 5.6 crore people are likely to have slipped into poverty as India’s GDP fell by 7.5% in FY2020-21. The population below poverty line in India stood at 10% in 2020.
Refusal to provide a fiscal stimulus to consumption — the Government announced a fiscal stimulus worth ₹2 lakh crore, or 1% of GDP. However, only a small fraction therein reflected incremental spending. The minor increase to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) wage by ₹20 per day was a long-pending correction and quite inadequate to say the least. The majority of India’s stimulus package took the form of credit lines and refinancing schemes to private enterprises, which are an inefficient mechanism to realise the goal of putting money in the hands of people to boost household-level consumption.
A highlight, but no long-term solution
The only saving grace was the announcement that 80 crore people in India would get food aid through the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY), a scheme that continues mainly because of the undeniable household-level distress. PMGKAY is currently estimated to cost about ₹3.90 lakh crore. Started in April 2020, it has been extended till the upcoming Assembly elections are over. However, India ranked 107th out of 121 countries in the 2022 Global Hunger Index, demonstrating that food aid is not a long-term solution, and certainly does not solve the problem of chronic malnutrition.
Obtuse tax policies
Then there are befuddling tax policies. Through the pandemic and beyond, India persisted with the reduced corporate tax rate that had been announced in September 2019. The reduction of corporate tax from 30% to 22% cost the exchequer ₹1.84 lakh crore over the last two fiscal years, according to the Parliamentary Committee on Estimates. At the same time, corporate profits soared, as reported by the CMIE. Through all of this, and in spite of the World Inequality Report terming India as a ‘poor and very unequal country’, India has refused to reintroduce wealth tax, or indeed, an inheritance tax. India has repeatedly increased the rates on a wide range of products covered by the Goods and Services Tax as well as increased the prices of cooking and transport fuels. While indirect taxes may help prop up public finances, they place a disproportionate burden on the poor.
Mandarins within India’s economic management establishment often claim that India kept its powder dry in 2020-2021 by being fiscally conservative. They derided the experts who had called for more cash transfers or other similar mechanisms to put more money in the hands of the poor. In the last two years, the often-promised public capital expenditure has not fructified beyond repeated grand announcements. What we can now see is this — the economic mismanagement we were witness to in India resulted in 5.6 crore people slipping into extreme poverty in 2020. And any signs of a course correction are nowhere to be seen.
6. Editorial-3: Tread carefully
Price, growth trends need to be watched closely before raising interest rates
India’s latest inflation data present policymakers with a fraught choice: whether to respond to the latest acceleration in retail price gains to a five-month high with more sizeable interest rate increases, or pause the monetary tightening so as to allow fragile growth to gain more traction. Inflation figures based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) show retail price gains on a resurgent trajectory with food prices leading the charge. Vegetables and cereals were the biggest culprits, with the prices of the former surging 18% from a year earlier and rising a substantial 2.6% from the preceding month; staple grains, including rice and wheat, climbed 11.5% from September 2021 and increased 2% from August levels. These two food items have a combined weight of 15.7% in the overall CPI and account for more than a third of the food and beverages category’s cumulative weight. Rice prices have continued to rise in the face of a projected 6% shortfall in kharif output, the Government’s efforts to ease supply through export curbs on non-Basmati rice notwithstanding. Heavy rains at the monsoon’s tail end have hit vegetable output, causing wholesale level prices to accelerate by an eye-watering 39.7% in September, with month-on-month gains alone exceeding 10%. The forecast for food prices, therefore, remains clouded with uncertainty, at least in the short term, with the risks tilted to the upside.
The rupee’s continuing depreciation against the dollar has further roiled the outlook for price stability, with imported inflation hard to counter through monetary measures. As RBI Deputy Governor Michael Patra noted in the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting last month, that India is a ‘net commodity importer, with over a third of the CPI being imported’ complicates policymaking, especially when the terms of trade turn unfavourable. Also, with five of the six services categories registering sequential inflation as well, it is hard to disagree with RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das’s argument that policy must be aimed at preventing price pressures from broadening. Still, with the latest private sector output trends in S&P Global’s survey-based manufacturing and services PMI data for September flagging a renewed slowdown, and a looming global recession pointing to a decline in demand for India’s exports, the outlook for growth appears tenuous. Given that monetary policy affects real interest rates with a distinct lag, it may be a difficult but wiser choice to heed the MPC’s dissenting voices of Ashima Goyal and Jayanth Varma and refrain momentarily from raising interest rates till the fog of uncertainty lifts and a clearer picture of price and growth trends emerges.
7. Editorial-4: Gone girls
Zero tolerance to violence against women is the only acceptable course
Reported violence against women is the proverbial tip of the iceberg; it conceals more than it reveals. But what it reveals can sometimes shock the collective conscience of a nation, especially a heinous crime that plays out in broad daylight as an assault on a young woman. Last week’s incident of violence in Chennai, where college student Sathyapriya was decapitated as a young man pursuing her romantically pushed her in the path of an oncoming train did no less tug at the heartstrings of the public. The incidents of violence against women in train stations in Chennai are following a nearly copycat pattern after Swathi, a young techie was murdered in 2016, in broad daylight by a man, who was again stalking her, in a railway station. In 2021, Swetha, a young college goer was murdered near a suburban train station by a man in a ‘troubled relationship’ with her. In each of these cases, the inability of the stalker to accept the fact that his overtures were turned down by the girl directly led to the violence. Earlier this month, an eight-year-old girl in Delhi was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered. In September, the bodies of two teenaged girls were found in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh. Police said they had been strangled with a scarf and hung from a tree after they were raped. Only a few cases hit the headlines or make an impact on social media. Many more go unreported, the massive unseen underbelly of the iceberg.
In the chequered history of handling the many forms of violence against women in India, the horrific Nirbhaya rape of 2012 is a definitive milestone. It rocked the nation with such force that lawmakers rushed to strengthen laws, and put in place systems and infrastructure that were meant to ensure such dreadful incidents are never repeated. However, according to National Crime Records Bureau statistics, a whopping 4,28,278 lakh crimes against women happened in 2021. These included rape, rape and murder, dowry harassment, kidnapping, forced marriage, trafficking, and online harassment. At this juncture, a decade later, it is pertinent to ask if the Government has rolled out all the strategies conceived of and fuelled by the Nirbhaya Fund. Speedy process of trial and resolution resulting in conviction of the accused is a casualty in courts that are flooded with pending cases. The Sustainable Development Goals underline the importance of building safe, resilient and inclusive cities from a gender lens. No slackening on the part of authorities is acceptable when it comes to dealing with violence against women; zero tolerance alone is acceptable.
8. Editorial-5: Strengthening dollar shrinks foreign reserves across nations
While the fall of the rupee has been relatively moderate, the pace at which India’s foreign exchange reserves are dwindling are a cause for concern
The rupee’s weakening exchange rate and the pace at which India’s foreign exchange reserves are dwindling are back in focus. The Ukraine crisis and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s aggressive monetary tightening have led the rupee to depreciate past the 82 per dollar mark, while India’s reserves have shrunk to a two-year low.
Reserves include foreign currency assets, gold, special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund, and reserve tranche position. These external assets, controlled by the monetary authority, are used to absorb shocks during times of crises; provide confidence to the market that external obligations can be met; and build capacity for intervention in foreign exchange markets.
Forex reserves are a crucial indicator of a country’s economic health and its import capacity. As per a Bloomberg report, dwindling forex reserves have led to a shortage of dollars in many import-reliant economies. As a result, countries that are dependent on overseas food purchases are finding it hard to pay for commodities such as rice and wheat.
The Fed’s steep increases in interest rates have made the dollar more attractive. Consequently, the dollar index has soared by 15% this year – a two-decade high – while other currencies have declined.
Strong currencies such as the pound (-21.62%) and euro (-17%) have also weakened against the dollar. The Japanese yen, considered a safe haven, has slipped to a 24-year-low. Several currencies, like the rupee, have touched their all-time lows, but the fall of the rupee has been relatively more moderate. Chart 1 shows the change in a currency’s value against the dollar in 2022 (data till October 7).
Central banks across the world have stepped in to defend their currencies. As a result, reserves have depleted by more than $100 billion each in China, Japan, Switzerland and Singapore. While Singapore’s reserves saw the sharpest decline in percentage terms, China’s fell the most in absolute terms. As the yen breached the 145 per dollar mark, Japan’s reserves fell by $54 billion in the last one month. Table 2 lists the drop in reserves in absolute terms and the percentage change in 2022. It also lists the total reserves available.
In the last nine months, India’s reserve stockpile fell by $97 billion. This is significantly higher than the drawdown of reserves during the 2008 global financial crisis ($37.3 billion) and the period of the taper tantrum in 2013 ($16.6 billion). A crucial difference between this crisis and the other two has been the size of India’s reserves. While India has the fifth-highest reserves in the world, the pace at which they are depleting is causing concern. Reserves as of September 2022 were equivalent to nine months of import cover compared to more than 15 months in September 2021. Chart 3 shows the month-wise level of India’s forex reserves in 2008, 2013 and 2022. India’s reserves are by and large a product of capital flows (funds through foreign investments, borrowings) and not so much from the current account (net income earned through exports of goods and services and remittances), which is currently in deficit. As foreign investments eased, accumulation in India’s foreign reserves also dropped.
With the dollar strengthening, the value of the euro, pound and yen (also part of India’s foreign reserves) took a beating. This too led to a reduction in India’s reserves. This is called a valuation loss.
Chart 4 shows the change in India’s forex reserves due to two factors — through balance of payments (sum of India’s capital flows and current account deficit) and through valuation loss/gain.