Taiwan earthquake, Row over Katchatheevu island, MPC holds rate at 6.5%, and more | The week in 5 charts

Here are five charts that will help you understand some of the key stories from last week

April 07, 2024 03:32 pm | Updated 03:32 pm IST

(Left) Rescue team prepare to enter a leaning building in the aftermath of an earthquake in Hualien, Taiwan, on April 3, 2024. (Centre) Indian pilgrims leave Katchatheevu in March 2023 after attending the St. Anthony’s Church festival. (Right) Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Butler plays a shot during the IPLT20 cricket match against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Jaipur on April 6, 2024.

(Left) Rescue team prepare to enter a leaning building in the aftermath of an earthquake in Hualien, Taiwan, on April 3, 2024. (Centre) Indian pilgrims leave Katchatheevu in March 2023 after attending the St. Anthony’s Church festival. (Right) Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Butler plays a shot during the IPLT20 cricket match against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Jaipur on April 6, 2024.

(1) Taiwan records strongest earthquake in 25 years

A 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck near Taiwan’s eastern coast near Hualien city, killing at least nine and injuring over 900 on Wednesday. The earthquake was the strongest in 25 years. In 1999, an earthquake of 7.6 magnitude struck Taiwan, killing around 2,400 people. The chart below shows the severity of earthquakes in the region since 1900. 

Taiwan, being near the ‘Ring of Fire’, is prone to earthquakes. The ‘Ring of Fire’ refers to the areas along the western North American and South American coasts, a part of Russia’s eastern coast, Japan, Indonesia, and New Zealand. On a map, this forms a ring around the Pacific ocean.

Ring of fire, Pacific Ocean, Wikimedia Commons

Ring of fire, Pacific Ocean, Wikimedia Commons | Photo Credit: GRJGM

Along these areas, tectonic plates converge, making them vulnerable to earthquakes. One estimate says that around 90% of the world’s earthquakes happen here. Taiwan is also near the region where the Eurasian plate and the Philippines plate meet. This has led to earthquakes near Hualien in Taiwan’s east coast in the past.

 Also read | In pictures | Taiwan rocked by strongest earthquake in nearly 25 years

Taiwan’s experience with past earthquakes equipped its government to deal with this week’s earthquake better. Building codes were revised after 1999 to ensure quake-resistance. Rescue teams were mobilised quickly. Coordination between local authorities and non-government organisations was strengthened.

(2) Row over Katchatheevu island

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 31 posted on social media platform ‘X’ that he blamed the Congress for “callously” giving away Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka. He cited a media report on documents received in response to a Right to Information Act application from K. Annamalai, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Tamil Nadu president.

Soon after, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar held a media conference, in which he sought to elaborate on Mr. Modi’s allegation. Calling for a “solution”, he said the bilateral agreements signed by India and Sri Lanka in 1974 and 1976, when the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) were in power respectively at the Centre and in Tamil Nadu, displayed indifference about Katchatheevu island, and compromised Indian fishermen’s rights in the Palk Strait separating India and Sri Lanka.

Katchatheevu, in the Palk Strait, is a tiny island, measuring 285.20 acres, and is located about 14 nautical miles from Rameswaram in India. The proximity of the isle to both countries, India and Sri Lanka, has been the cause of its being a bone of contention between the two nations for decades now. While there are records stating that the island was part of the then Ramnad Kingdom, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) also laid claim to it. It was administered jointly under British rule.

It was in the 1970s that the nondescript island gained prominence, and in 1974 and 1976 two agreements between the two nations followed. Then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike signed agreements making Katchatheevu a part of Sri Lanka. Even since, with Katchatheevu determining the maritime border, fishing rights have been a topic of debate on both sides.

While Indian politicians want the island retrieved, Sri Lankan politicians have not taken much interest in talks of handing the piece of land back to India. Last year, at an event attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chennai, Chief Minister M. K. Stalin appealed to the PM about this and said that this was the right time to retrieve Katchatheevu as it would uphold the rights of Indian fishermen.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka has been firm in their position there was no question of handing the island over, and it has established a naval camp at Katchatheevu.

(3) Where India stands in global democracy indices

Half of the world’s population will head to polls in 2024, and almost a fourth of them live in India. When it comes to global democracy indices - from the varieties of democracy (V-Dem) project to Freedom House - there is a consensus that India’s democracy is in peril, comparable to conditions in 1975, when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency.

But India has previously denounced all global rating assessments of Indian conditions, from democracy index, to press freedom, to hunger, human development, and happiness. Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in 2021 called the makers of these indices “self-appointed custodians,” who are “not motive-less.”

“They invent their rules, their parameters, they pass their judgments and then make out as though this is some kind of global exercise,” said Mr. Jaishankar, implying there is a “very political agenda” embedded in these assessments. The Central Government last year announced plans to devise new measures of socio-economic progress, discarding “misleading” international parameters that measure childhood stunting, female labour force participation rate and life expectancy at birth.

In the V-Dem’s assessment of democracy across the world - which calculates a score between 0 and 1 to a country - India scored a mere 0.29.

When it comes to the different democracy indices, the approach in measuring the health of a democracy in each of these indices varies vastly too. While V-Dem’s researchers code a series of indicators for 12 areas across media, civil society, political parties, judiciary, and civil liberties; some use only two indicators while others have more than 400. 

But, each index asks and responds to a different question evaluating the health of democracy. All agree that democracy is a political system in which citizens get to participate in free and fair elections (electoral democracy). Democracies are also liberal societies, which invest in the civic rights of citizens and offer them protections. Indices like V-Dem’s, Economist Intelligence Unit and the Bertelsmann Transformation Index assess other dimensions as well: Is the democracy ‘participatory’, are citizen groups and civil society organisations functional? Are decisions made deliberately, in the best interest of all people, rather than through coercion or minority group interests? Is it egalitarian — are economic and social resources distributed equally?

The table below also summarises how various other indices are measured and read.

(4) MPC holds rate at 6.5% to tame inflation

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on April 5 decided to keep the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.50%. This is the 7th time that the rates have been kept on hold. The MPC also decided to remain focused on withdrawal of accommodation to ensure that inflation progressively aligns to the target, while supporting growth.

The RBI also retained GDP growth forecast of 7% for 2024-25 financial year, with June quarter growth at 7%, and September quarter at 6.9%. In the third and fourth quarter the growth is expected to be 7% each. This is lower than the 7.6% expansion estimated for FY24.

“The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) remains focused on aligning inflation to the target on a durable basis. We derive satisfaction from the progress made under disinflation. But the task is not yet finished,” RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said at a press conference after the MPC meeting.

(5) Jos Buttler overtakes Rohit Sharma

Rajasthan Royals (RR) batter Jos Buttler on April 6 overtook Mumbai Indians (MI) and India star batter Rohit Sharma to become the eighth-highest run-getter in T20 cricket. Buttler achieved this upward movement in charts during his side’s Indian Premier League (IPL) clash against Rajasthan Royals (RR) at Jaipur.

This was also his 100th IPL match. Buttler scored 100* in 58 balls, with nine fours and four sixes. His runs came at a strike rate of over 172.

Now in 407 T20 matches, Buttler has made 11,281 runs at an average of 34.71 and a strike rate of over 144, with seven centuries and 80 fifties, with the best score of 124. Rohit, who has slipped to ninth, has 11,225 runs in 429 matches at an average of 30.66 and a strike rate of almost 134, with seven centuries and 74 fifties.

His best score is 121*. The highest run-getter in T20 cricket is West Indies legend Chris Gayle, who has made 14,562 runs at an average of 36.22 and a strike rate of 144.75. He has scored 22 centuries and 88 half-centuries, with the best score is 175*.

This was Buttler’s sixth IPL century, which came after a long period of struggle. Before this century, Buttler had scored just 183 runs in his previous ten IPL innings, which included three ducks and a knock of 95 against Sunrisers Hyderabad last year. Now, he has tied with West Indies legend Chris Gayle for having second-most centuries in the IPL and is three more away from Virat’s all-time record of eight IPL tons.

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