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As India’s economy stagnates, PM Modi revives UPA’s Economic Advisory Council

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Narendra Modi

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The five-member panel will be headed by Bibek Debroy and include Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy, Ashima Goyal and Ratan Watal

Three years into his government, hit by predictions of an impending doom in the Indian economy – wounded severely by demonetisation and a hasty rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime – Prime Minister Narendra Modi has revived the UPA government’s ‘think-tank’, the Economic Advisory Council, to help him steer the nation back to a growth trajectory.

Of course, the EAC predictably has as its members economists who are more aligned with the Modi regime’s ideas of economic reform and development, unlike the several panels that existed for different spans of time under former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s UPA government wherein members were often picked not purely for their ideological affiliations with the ruling party but for their expertise in different fields of the economy.

Nevertheless, Modi’s decision to revive the EAC with NITI Aayog member Bibey Debroy as its head is a significant move that – despite claims by the Prime Minister, finance minister Arun Jaitley, other senior ministers and BJP members – can be seen as the Prime Minister’s tacit admission of the fact that India’s growth story has taken a hit and needs expert ‘advise’ for revival.

Besides Debroy, who as member of NITI Aayog (Prime Minister’s redesigned version of the erstwhile Planning Commission) worked on several ideas on economic reforms that Modi held dear, other EAC members are Surjit Bhalla, development economist Rathin Roy and macro-economics expert Ashima Goyal. Ratan Watal, principal advisor to the NITI Aayog and a former finance secretary, will serve as the member-secretary of the panel.

The EAC members, all of whom seem well aligned with Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley’s idea of a making India’s economy more liberal (read: pro-market, pro-private sector and disinvestment), are expected to work closely with the NITI Aayog and senior bureaucrats of the Union finance ministry, including the government’s chief economic adviser Arvind Subramaniam and principal economic adviser Sanjeev Sanyal.

“Addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and presenting views thereon to the Prime Minister. This could be either suo-motu or on reference from the Prime Minister or anyone else,” is the key term of reference for the panel.

Taken at its face-value, the EAC appears to be the perfect team of economists who can draft a blueprint for reviving investor sentiment in the nation’s economy and suggest policy reforms that are in line with Modi’s vision (the this may be a matter of concern for many given the country’s experience in dealing with the Prime Minister’s demonetisation idea).

However, it may be worth exploring whether the constitution of the EAC – belated as it is – at a time when the government has less than two years left in power, will actually have enough time to realize its objectives. More importantly, given the slew of Assembly elections due across the country in the run up to the mega general election scheduled for April-May 2019 and the political compulsion of governments to adopt populist economic policies over pragmatic ones in state/union budgets that precede these polls, it remains to be seen whether the EAC will actually accomplish anything more than just filing copious reports on its recommendations.

The decline in India’s economy – despite contrary claims made by Modi and Jaitley – is more than evident and the recent figure of GDP growth rate declining to 5.7 per cent in the last quarter – falling to a three-year low – endorses this notion comprehensively. Besides just boosting figures and data, which mean little to a common man who doesn’t understand economic jargon, the major challenge for the EAC would be to suggest way of boosting India’s stagnant job market. All indications are that the Congress and opposition’s attack on the BJP during polls would include lack of jobs and the resultant unemployment as potent ammunition.

Modi doesn’t have the drawback that his predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh, was constantly bogged down by – having to accommodate views of the National Advisory Council headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and comprising activists who wanted the government to focus more on social empowerment, often at the cost of economic progress. But given the Prime Minister’s style of functioning, the bigger question seems to be whether he will actually be open to advise given by his council of economic advisors.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

India News

AAP leader Sanjay Singh accuses BJP of planning an attack on Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

The AAP leader accused PM Modi and the BJP of being immersed in hatred so much that they are conspiring to kill the Delhi Chief Minister. He added that the Prime Minister Office, BJP and PM Modi will be responsible if anything happens to Kejriwal.

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Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sanjay Singh on Monday accused BJP of planning an attack on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Singh was addressing a press conference in New Delhi where he said the BJP has been in a state of panic ever since Arvind Kejriwal came out of jail.

He said BJP is now plotting to launch a deadly attack on Arvind Kejriwal. This conspiracy is being conducted directly from the Prime Minister’s Office. A threat of attack on Kejriwal ji has been written at Rajiv Chowk and Patel Nagar Metro stations.

The AAP leader accused PM Modi and the BJP of being immersed in hatred so much that they are conspiring to kill the Delhi Chief Minister. He added that the Prime Minister Office, BJP and PM Modi will be responsible if anything happens to Kejriwal. He pointed out that Kejriwal had not been given insulin for 23 days when he was in judicial custody in Tihar jail.

Singh said a 3 time elected chief minister is being openly threatened with attacks and murder, and nobody is saying anything. He said AAP leaders are writing letters to the Election Commission and if Kejiriwal gets a scratch, the PMO, BJP and PM Modi will be held responsible.

The Supreme Court has given interim bail to the Aam Aadmi Party supremo till June 1 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in New Delhi. But according to the terms of his bail, the Delhi chief minister cannot make any comments about his role in the Delhi liquor scam case.

 Kejriwal has spent over 50 days in Tihar Jail the Enforcement Directorate arrested him in an excise policy case on March 21, days after the election schedule for the general elections was announced. The bail is applicable until June 1 and Kejriwal has to surrender to authorities on June 2.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

36.73% voter turnout recorded till 1 pm in 5th phase of the Lok Sabha elections

36.73% voter turnout recorded till 1 pm in 8 states and UTs; Maharashtra continues to put up a poor show

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Voter turnout at 1 pm was recorded at 36.73% for the 5th phase of the Lok Sabha elections. As this unfolds, significant political showdowns are set to take place across eight states and union territories. Bihar: 34.62%, Jharkhand: 41.89%, Jammu and Kashmir: 34.79%, Maharashtra 27.78%, Ladakh: 52.01%, Uttar Pradesh 39.55%, Odisha 35.31%, West Bengal: 48.41%

Voters in 49 Lok Sabha seats will decide the fate of 695 candidates, with many high-stakes contests featuring political dynasties and senior leaders striving to retain their influence. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Raebareli, a seat held by his mother, Sonia Gandhi, since 2004. He is also contesting the election from Wayanad in Kerala. After losing Amethi to Union Minister Smriti Irani in 2019, the Congress has fielded dedicated worker KL Sharma to challenge Irani this time.

Rohini Acharya, daughter of former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, makes her political debut from Saran Lok Sabha seat. Chirag Paswan of the LJP (Ram Vilas) aims to retain the legacy of his late father, Ram Vilas Paswan from Hajipur Lok Sabha seat.

13 out of 48 parliamentary seats in Maharashtra are undergoing elections including high-profile candidates: Dindori: Union Minister Bharati Pravin Pawar (BJP) vs. Bhaskar Bhagare (NCP). Dhule: BJP’s Subhash Ramrao Bhamre vs. Congress’s Shobha Dinesh Bachhav.

Palghar: Hemant Vishnu Savara (BJP) vs. Bharti Kamadi (Shiv Sena UBT). Nashik: Rajabhau Waje (Shiv Sena UBT) vs. Godse Hemant Tukaram (Shiv Sena). This election phase will also serve as a crucial battleground for the factions of Shiv Sena to measure their support among voters.

In Ladakh, an independent candidate is posing a significant challenge to both BJP and Congress contenders. Simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha polls are taking place in Odisha with the fifth phase, covering 5 Lok Sabha seats and 35 assembly constituencies. Voters in 3 parliamentary Lok Sabha seats — Chatra, Koderma, and Hazaribagh—will cast their votes in this phase.

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India News

IMD issues red alert for heavy rainfall in Kerala

The IMD issued a red alert for the districts of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, and Alappuzha, warning residents and authorities about the potential for further heavy rains.

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The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a red alert for four districts in Kerala till May 21, after heavy pre-monsoon rainfall swept across the southern state on Sunday. The intense downpours affected numerous regions, including the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram. 

Considering the severe weather conditions, the IMD issued a red alert for the districts of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, and Alappuzha, warning residents and authorities about the potential for further heavy rains.

The weather department has also issued an orange alert in the districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, and Malappuram until May 22, forecasting isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall .

A bulletin issued by the IMD on Sunday stated that strong westerly and south-westerly winds are expected to dominate the lower levels of the state from May 19 to 23. This weather pattern is likely to result in widespread rainfall across isolated areas of Kerala from May 19 to 22. Additionally, heavy to very heavy rainfall is anticipated in isolated regions on May 23.

Given the potential hazards posed by heavy rains, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) has urged residents to remain vigilant. The forecasted heavy rainfall over a short period raises concerns about flash floods and urban waterlogging, especially in low-lying areas. It is reported that prolonged rainfall may also lead to landslides. Consequently, authorities advised residents, particularly those in hilly and coastal regions, to exercise caution and stay alert.

Reportedly, stringent directives have been issued to the District Superintendent of Police, Sub Divisional Magistrates, Regional Transport Officers, and Tehsildars to enforce a ban on tourist movements.

Meanwhile, after the Sunday rains visuals across social media showed houses and shops in some areas were inundated. Additionally, canals traversing the capital city and its suburbs have overflowed. Affected residents claimed that the waterlogging in the capital and surrounding areas resulted from the failure to conduct pre-monsoon cleaning of canals and drainage systems.

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