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Why The Current State Of The Economy Makes Raghuram Rajan’s Exit More Worrying

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By Bishal Paul:

“#India must be the wealthiest country on earth to let Raghuram Rajan @RBIGov stand down,” tweeted Olli Rehn, the Finance Minister of Finland on June 19, 2016, when RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan announced that he won’t be seeking a second term while returning to academics. And that kind of sums up the global mood on the Indian economy. By no means do I wish to say that the validation or commentary of a particular world leader is definitive when representing the image of India at a global stage but it does show us a mirror.

The way in which governor Rajan was almost hounded out hasn’t been good for projecting the image of our country as one which is serious about doing business and turning the economy around. Instead, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has allowed its motormouth MP, Dr. Subramanian Swamy to constantly attack him on public forums and leave behind an extremely bad taste. Rather than treasuring an economist like Rajan, the government almost validated Dr. Swamy’s point by not extending his term. This sets aside a healthy precedent since 1991 of giving an extension to every RBI Governor and it would be for the first time that such a practice has been overlooked.

Despite the glaring warnings from leading financial institutions about a large number of investments moving out on Dr. Rajan’s departure, the government didn’t budge. What does it signify? It signifies the fact that the current government values patronage and sycophancy over merit. Otherwise, what could possibly be the reason behind letting someone like Rajan depart while appointing incompetent individuals such as former cricketer Chetan Chauhan as the Chairman of the fashion institute, NIFT, when he has nothing to do with fashion? But that has been the trend ever since this government took charge.

Dr. Rajan never minces his words and has always maintained that he would never compromise on inflation for the growth of a few individual corporate houses. Hence, he has repeatedly turned down offers of lowering interest rates to benefit big corporate giants. At a time when the country is struggling with bad loan debts worth thousands of crores, why is the government so adamant on lowering interest rates which would encourage more such bad debts? Not to mention his follow up on all corporates with bad loan debts hasn’t been taken well by the government. So in such a situation, the question that arises is who should governor Rajan be loyal to, the country or the ruling party?

To be fair to him, Dr. Rajan has contained inflation significantly. High food prices have a negative effect on consumer spending and aggregate demand because they contract household budgets and leave little for spending on other goods and services. To argue, as some within the BJP have, that the RBI governor is willfully wrecking the economy by maintaining higher interest rates is to display profound ignorance. In such a scenario, it is prudent that we then look at the condition of the economy under the two-year governance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government recently celebrated the completion of its two years in office but did it live up to the promises and expectations as far as the economy is concerned? Let us look at some hard figures and decide.

To begin with, the GDP growth rate for the current fiscal has been estimated to grow at around 7.5% but economists around the world have raised suspicion over the number and rightly so, given the falling parameters of the economy. This has stemmed from the fact that when most of the crucial sectors of the economy are showing a negative trend, how come the overall GDP growth is doing well? The growth in eight core sectors has fallen from 6.5% in 2013 to a mere 2.7% last year. Make in India, which aimed at transforming the country into a manufacturing hub seems to have failed to deliver.

Exports have fallen to 6.74% in April and have been down for 17 months in a row. Trade deficit more than halved to $4.84 billion in April. In the same month last year, it was $11 billion. The manufacturing sector witnessed a significant drop to a four-month low in April, a latest business survey shows. The spending in infrastructure projects has fallen to record levels as well. FICCI’s latest quarterly survey on Indian manufacturing also fails to bring in any cheer.

This at a time when the country is facing a jobless growth. The Narendra Modi government had in his manifesto promised to create 10 lakh jobs every year whereas the data released by its own ministry shows a completely different picture. As per the data released by the Labour Bureau in April this year, no new jobs were created but there was actually a decline of 20,000 jobs across eight labour intensive sectors in the December quarter of 2015.

The Narendra Modi government had in his manifesto promised to create 10 lakh jobs every year whereas the data released by its own ministry shows a completely different picture. As per the data released by the Labour Bureau in April this year, no new jobs were created but there was actually a decline of 20,000 jobs across eight labour intensive sectors in the December quarter of 2015.

The total number of new jobs created across the eight sectors of textiles, leather, metals, automobiles, gems and jewellery, transport, information technology and the handloom sectors together stood at just 1.35 lakhs jobs during 2015, 67% lower than 421,000 jobs that were added in 2014, the last year of the United Progressive Alliance government. This is the slowest pace of new jobs being created since 2009. So job addition in the first full year of this government fell to just a fourth of 2014 and was only a tenth of the growth seen in 2009 when the UPA was in power.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg while the economy continues to be in tatters with a sluggish rupee. This was reflective post Raghuram Rajan’s decision against a second term, when market benchmark BSE Sensex opened on a negative note on Monday, that is 178 points lower at 26,447.88. The NSE Nifty also dropped by opening 62.85 points at 8,107.35. The effect was not just restricted to the Sensex but was also reflected in the valuation of rupee which fell by 60 paise to open at 67.68 per dollar. Just as a reminder, the value of rupee against the dollar was around 58.50 in May 2014 when Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister. What is surprising is that the ‘ease of doing business’ is being promoted at the cost of socio-economic factors including employment generation and agricultural livelihoods.

The government recently allowed 100% FDI in defence, pharmaceuticals, aviation, animal husbandry, trading of food products produced in India (including through e-commerce), private security services and broadcasting carriage services (such as DTH, cable networks and mobile TV). It is beyond my understanding how the government wishes to encourage initiatives like Make in India with a special focus on the defence sector while also opening up FDI gates to a monumental 100%.

This increase in FDI is expected to hurt India’s prospects even further. A 100% FDI in sectors such as animal husbandry, retail and trading of food products, for example, will encourage large corporations to further consolidate their control over farmland and various other agricultural assets. As a result, a vast majority of small agrarian families will become more vulnerable.

History bears testimony to the fact that usually economies with higher income and lower social friction tend to be more open to foreign capital in a higher degree. However, such encouragement comes only after achieving domestic economic stability, manufacturing and technological prowess and a robust economy to support such endeavours. When a large economy is opened to foreign investments without sufficient mechanisms and welcomed by a lacklustre domestic economy, hostile markets and inadequate technological know-how, it indicates that they’ve chewed more than they can digest and that is a dangerous precedent. With great talents like Dr. Raghuram Rajan moving out, it is difficult to predict who can show the government a mirror that it desperately needs.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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