Back to the future: On rebound of Indian economy

After two quarters of a sharp contraction, India’s economy is estimated to have rebounded out of a ‘technical recession’ to record feeble growth in the October-December 2020 period, with GDP rising by 0.4% and GVA by 1%. The overall numbers are not surprising. Just as the short-notice pandemic lockdown and the subsequent case surge took the wind out of mobility and economic activity in the first half of the fiscal year, the ‘unlocking phase’ that was largely complete by late September, brought back a semblance of normalcy, with pent-up and festival demand spurring spending, and helping reboot production lines. Agriculture remained the resilient bulwark in the third quarter as well, with farm GVA rising by 3.9% after being the sole sector to clock growth in the preceding two quarters. Manufacturing and construction resurfaced from a collapse to expand 1.2% and 6%, respectively. Both these sectors had been under stress even before the pandemic, posting contractions starting from the

Reviving the Iran deal: On Biden attempt to revive JCPOA

U.S. President Joe Biden’s attempts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, have not seen any breakthrough with both sides waiting for the other to blink. The Biden administration says it would return to the deal if Iran starts complying with its terms. Tehran, on the other side, asks the U.S., which unilaterally quit the deal under the Donald Trump administration in May 2018, to return to the agreement first and lift sanctions on Iran. The EU’s efforts to organise direct U.S.-Iran talks were also unsuccessful as Tehran reportedly rejected the offer. Iran has also accelerated its nuclear programme. This game of chicken continues as the clock is ticking. Iran will elect a new President in June. Hassan Rouhani, who bet his presidency on the deal — only to be repudiated by Mr. Trump — cannot stand in a third consecutive election. There is no guarantee that a moderate like Mr. Rouhani would be elected this time. And it is not a

High stakes: On the upcoming Assembly elections

Assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry will be taking place in changed circumstances. Polls will begin on March 27, with the results on May 2. Politics in these regions is not the same as it was five years ago. The BJP’s unrelenting pursuit of influence has unsettled conventional calculations in all these areas that are outside the core of the party’s traditional catchment area. In 2016, of the 824 seats in the fray, the BJP had won only 64 but it emerged as the ruling party in Assam. It hopes to retain power in Assam and win West Bengal, besides expanding its influence in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In 2016, the BJP had won only three seats in West Bengal, but its rise was dramatic in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when it won 18 of the 42 seats and 40.64% of votes. The BJP’s performance in West Bengal will be the most eagerly watched aspect in these elections. The significant strength of Muslim voters in West Bengal is often cited


Cold comfort: On Pak continues to be in FATF

To Islamabad’s deep disappointment, the Paris-based 39-member Financial Action Task Force has decided once again to keep Pakistan on its “grey list” of countries under “increased monitoring”, giving it another three months to complete its commitments. After being removed from that list in 2015, Pakistan was put back on it in June 2018, and handed a 27-point action list to fulfil. On Thursday, FATF President Marcus Pleyer announced that although Pakistan has made “significant progress”, it had three remaining points of the 27 that were only partially addressed, notably all in the area of curbing terror financing. The body listed the remaining tasks: demonstrating terror-funding prosecution is accurate, effective and dissuasive, and thoroughly implementing financial sanctions against all terrorists designated by the UN Security Council, which include LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, JeM chief Masood Azhar, other leaders of terror groups in Pakistan, and those belonging to al Qaeda. Pakistan’s


A wolf in watchdog’s clothing: On govt’s move to regulate digital media

The new rules introduced by the Centre last week to regulate all types of digital platforms, with the idea of redressing user grievances and ensuring compliance with the law, are deeply unsettling as they will end up giving the government a good deal of leverage over online news publishers and intermediaries. This holds troubling implications for freedom of expression and right to information. Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, while launching The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, presented it as a “soft-touch oversight mechanism”. A government press note termed it “progressive” and “liberal”. It also claimed the rules seek to “address people’s varied concerns while removing any misapprehension about curbing creativity and freedom of speech and expression”. The soft tone notwithstanding, these rules force digital news publishers and video streaming services to adhere to a cumbersome three-tier structure of

Open minds: On withdrawal of circular on online conferences

A colonial relic: On need to scrap sedition law

Vaccine inequities: On need to vaccinate all above 45

Scientific disinterest: On Minister’s presence at Coronil event

A new peak: On spike in coronavirus cases

After the coup: On political crisis in Myanmar

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