Troubled waters: On Palk Bay fishing conflict

The tragic death of four fishermen from Tamil Nadu — one of them a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee living in India — allegedly when the Sri Lankan Navy was about to arrest them last week, is yet another instance of the unresolved fisheries conflict in the Palk Bay taking an unacceptable toll of lives. While fishermen in Tamil Nadu say the four were killed in an attack by the Sri Lankan Navy, the latter maintains that they died when their trawler collided with a naval vessel while trying to avoid being apprehended. India has lodged a strong protest with the Sri Lankan authorities, who have set up a committee to find a permanent solution to the incursions by Indian fishermen. It was less than a month ago that the two countries resumed discussions through their Joint Working Group on fisheries after a three-year gap. India sought the early release of fishermen arrested in Sri Lankan waters, as well as the boats in Sri Lankan custody. Sri Lanka underscored the need to curb the illegal fishing,
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After the storm: On tightening scrutiny of large NBFCs

The RBI has proposed a significant shift in its regulatory approach towards India’s non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), from a general approach of light touch regulation to one that monitors larger players almost as closely as it does banks. If implemented, this could be the biggest overhaul of the regulatory framework for such finance companies (or shadow banks) in over two decades. After multitudes of investors were left high and dry as CRB group firms reneged on high-interest fixed deposits in 1997, Parliament bestowed greater powers over such firms to the central bank to fix the mess. The trigger now is similar though the scale of the problem has changed. The size of NBFC balance sheets is now more than a quarter of that of banks’ balance sheets, from just about 12% in 2010. In absolute terms, their balance sheets have more than doubled, from ₹20.7-lakh crore in 2015 to ₹49.2-lakh crore in 2020. While this growth is a reflection of how lighter regulations have given them the
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Helpful pause: On Centre’s offer to suspend farm laws

The Centre’s offer to suspend for 18 months the implementation of the three laws that are at the heart of the farmers’ unrest is a conciliatory gesture. It is regrettable that the farmers protesting against the laws that encourage market forces in the sector have rejected the government offer. They have been demanding the repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price for their produce. The government has refused to concede these demands, but its willingness to put off the implementation of the laws is a right step that could lead to a viable reform package for the agriculture sector. A toxic combination of the Centre’s intransigence, ignorance and insensitivity led to the current flare-up. That India’s agriculture sector requires reforms is not in dispute. The challenge is in identifying the viable measures from the economic, environmental and scientific perspectives and building a wide political agreement for them. The government has now shown wisdom and


Fire warning: On Serum Institute blaze

The deadly fire in an upcoming production facility at the Serum Institute of India (SII), in Pune has sent shock waves because of the key role played by the company in producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield COVID-19 vaccine. Five workers engaged in construction have perished, and there are indications that expensive equipment has been destroyed. There is understandable concern about the accident at the SII building, which is located away from the Covishield unit, as the company, reputedly the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, is now an institution of global importance. It is scheduled to deliver several hundred million doses of Covishield to a host of countries, including less affluent nations depending on the COVAX initiative led by WHO to protect their populations and move towards normality. Such a position of indispensability for the Pune facility in the war against the pandemic casts upon India, Maharashtra and SII, the responsibility of ring-fencing vaccine production


American healing: On Joe Biden inauguration

After one of the most contentious elections and presidential transitions in recent history, it was a relatively scaled-back inauguration ceremony that finally placed 46th President of the U.S. Joe Biden in the Oval Office. The devastating human and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with deep partisan rancour and the bitter aftertaste of the Capitol building attack earlier this month, meant that Inauguration Day was less a flamboyant extravaganza than a quiet celebration of multicultural America reasserting itself. There could have been no greater symbol of that assertion than the swearing-in of Kamala Harris, his running mate of Indian and African descent, as Vice-President — the first woman ever to hold that position. Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, chose to not attend the event, making him only the fourth President to do so. Nevertheless, bipartisan goodwill was present on the dais before the Capitol building, as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

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