Get Wired 26/6: Rising Bad Loans, Advani Snub, Visa Biometrics, Rakhi Day and More

1. Govt will now celebrate Rakhi

In a bid to further its idea of India’s ‘soft power’ a little more after International Yoga Day, the government is now planning to officially celebrate Raksha Bandhan. The state-sponsored celebration of the festival, centred around brother-sister relationships, will be supervised by HRD Minister Smriti Irani, and Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Ananth Kumar. The move is reportedly endorsed by the RSS, which believes that the tying of rakhis promotes Hindu culture and its values.

2. Advani left out of BJP meet on Emergency

advani3801A BJP event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Emergency was attended by many top BJP leader including Amit Shah, but LK Advani was nowhere to be seen. Advani, one of the first people arrested after the Emergency was imposed, was conspicuous by his absence, as the rift between the BJP party leadership and him keeps widening. Some days back, Advani had said that it was possible for an Emergency-like situation to arise again, which many understood to be a jibe directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. All other members of the BJP who were detained during the Emergency were present and felicitated at the function.

3. India’s ‘Green box’ subsidy proposal stalled

India’s efforts to solve the issue of public stockholding programs for food security in developing nations were blocked by the US, EU, Australia and Pakistan. India proposed that these programs be included in the ‘green box’ disciplines so as to ensure they are outside the purview and calculations of the WTO, but the move was blocked saying this would affect the ‘integrity’ of the green box. The discussions on India and China’s food subsidies have been stalling the WTO’s talks for sometime now, with neither side ready to budge. Several studies have shown that developed countries provide large subsidies to their farmers, but these are included in the ‘green box’, while Indian public stockholding programs are not.

4. Govt to meet NGOs and discuss grievances

A Home Ministry circular says that a top bureaucrat from the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) division of the government will meet representatives of NGOs who have grievances with the government’s orders. The circular comes after a government crackdown on the NGOs and the release of the draft FCRA amendment rules. The NGOs will have to submit applications and the bureaucrat will hear them for 3 hours every month. The circular, however, is not clear whether appeals against suspension of licenses will be entertained. NGOs have consistently complained that their licenses are cancelled without giving them a hearing and that they want to discuss the cancellations with the ministry.

5. Bad loans rising, says RBI

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan at a press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday. PTI Photo by Shashank Parade.

The Reserve Bank of India has said that ‘stressed’ loans in the banking system have risen to 11.1 per cent of all lending, up from 10.7 per cent a year ago, while bad loans are set to rise to 4.8 per cent by September, from 4.6 per cent in March this year.

The worst placed are Public Sector Banks, who may see their non-performing assets rise to 5.7 per cent, or even to 7 per cent, under a severe stress scenario. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has termed the situation one of ‘increasing concern’.

6. Lalu makes Nitish act for Yadav vote

JD(U) MLA Anant Singh’s arrest was made possible due to the intervention of Lalu Prasad. Lalu was increasingly concerned about his opponent Pappu Yadav playing up the incident of kidnapping and murder of a youth, allegedly by Anant Singh, saying that the Yadavs are not safe under Nitish’s rule. Lalu put pressure on the Nitish government to make the arrest possible, to safeguard the Yadav vote for the new alliance.

7. Congress leader involved in Munde ‘scam’

In the award of contracts for which the Maharashtra Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde is being accused of corruption and nepotism, a bulk of the contracts have actually been received by an NGO headed by a local Congress leader. The Sindhudurg based Suryakanta Mahila Audyokik Sahakari Sanstha, which bagged 114 crore worth of the 206 crore contracts, is headed by Pradnya Parab, head of Congress’s women’s cell in Sindhudurg. The organization has been accused of supplying sub-standard goods, including chikkis for anganwadis.

8. MHA and MEA tussle on visa biometrics

The Ministry of Home Affairs rejected a proposal by the Ministry of External Affairs to collect the biometric data of visitors to India on arrival instead of at the visa application stage. The MHA said that there would be no letting up on international travellers travelling to India. While the MEA argued that the current procedure hampers and discourages tourism, the MHA has refused to relent, citing security concerns. The Ministry of Tourism had earlier asked the MEA to look into the matter, as they believed removing the biometrics requirement would increase India’s share in world tourism from 0.68 percent to one per cent.

9. Myanmar army veto to continue

A vote to change the clause in Myanmar’s Constitution that allows the armed forces to veto legislation failed in the Myanmar assembly. The change needed 75 per cent of the votes in parliament, but garnered just slightly more than two-thirds. A vote on a clause that prevents Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming President of the country also failed. The constitution disallows Suu Kyi from becoming president as her late husband and children are British citizens. Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) has been trying hard to rid the country of vestiges of their military junta past, but is finding it extremely difficult due to the powers that the armed forces have given to themselves.

10. Growth in urban child labour

A child repairs a scooter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad: PTI

Child Rights and You (CRY) has conducted a survey that reveals urban child labour has risen by 53 per cent in India, while rural child labour is down by about 29 per cent between 2001 and 2011.

The report comes after the passage of the controversial Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, which allows children under the age of 14 to work in family-run enterprises.

CRY reported that the most significant increase is seen in the age group of 5 to 9.

11. Bhasha Samman winners announced

The Sahitya Akademi has announced the winners of the prestigious Bhasha Samman awards, awarded for contribution to literature in various Indian languages. K Meenakshi Sundaram won the award for contributions to Classical and Medieval Literature (Southern) for 2013, while Munshiwar Jha won for his contributions to Classical and Medieval Literature (Eastern) for 2014. The Akademi also recognized the efforts of Charu Chandra Pande and Mathura Dutt Mathpal, for their work towards the enrichment of Kumaoni, a language not recognized by the Akademi until recently.