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Why It’s India’s Loss That ‘Rockstar’ Rajan Is Leaving RBI (Or Being Forced To)

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By Rahul Debasish Mazumdar:

The eve of June 18, 2016, brought two unpleasant surprises to the nation. The first was the loss against Zimbabwe in the first T-20 international after having comprehensively whitewashed the minnows in the ODI series. The other one that was far more depressing and could have wide-ranging negative repercussions was that of the current RBI Governor Dr. Raghuram Rajan not wishing to continue for a second stint at the central bank, thus putting an end to immense political speculation. The reason ostensibly was to pursue academics but anyone who has been following the recent public diatribes by a certain individual against the widely renowned and highly venerated economist knows that it was just an excuse to distance himself from such political slugfests.

Dr. Rajan is a person of incredible credentials. Apart from being a gold medalist from IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad, he has invaluable experience in various international banks and forums. He is widely acclaimed for being one of the very few economists who correctly predicted the impending US housing bubble crisis in 2005, a move for which he was widely criticised at that time. He holds the coveted distinction of being the youngest person to be appointed as the ‘Chief Economist’ of the International Monetary Fund and was also awarded the inaugural Fischer Black Prize. These are just a few achievements of a person who has attained great and unseen heights in his academic and professional career.

Dr. Rajan was brought into the Indian bureaucratic system by the erstwhile UPA government when he was appointed as India’s Chief Economic Adviser in 2012. A year later in one of its few good decisions, the then UPA government appointed Dr. Raghuram Rajan as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Since then under his able leadership, the RBI has undertaken many bold measures which propelled the Indian economy towards macroeconomic stability and sustainable growth. Aggressive provision of non-performing assets by public sector banks, a strong commitment to the fiscal deficit target, effective moderation of the repo rate – all were measures taken by the RBI on his behalf, sometimes even at the face of veiled criticisms by the finance ministry.

When Dr. Rajan took over the reins of the central bank, the nation’s economy was in dire straits. With retail inflation well over 10%, GDP growth at surprisingly low rates of 4-5% and continuous failures to meet fiscal deficit targets, India was no longer the ‘Shining Star’ that it had been since 1991 economic reforms. Instead, it was listed as one of the ‘Fragile Five‘ economies that posed a great risk to the global financial system.

Dr. Rajan’s immediate task at hand was to somehow moderate the unsustainable level of inflation through strict monetary policy. He did not give in to the constant demands of India Inc. and many politicians to drastically cut repo rates while maintaining that such high rates were essential to prevent any further loss in the value of the ‘rupee’. He though cautiously and systematically reduced the interest rates from around 8% in 2013 to the current 6.5% to boost private investments. As a result of his undying commitment to macroeconomic stability, retail inflation reduced to around 5.5% in 2016 even though the nation faced successive droughts in the last two years. Even his decision in the RBI’s last bi-monthly monetary policy of not reducing the repo rate any further, due to concerns of weak monsoon triggering a hike in retail prices, proved correct, as the inflation rate for the last month was a record 21-month high of 5.76%.

By his undying commitment to fiscal discipline, he has helped India win over the confidence of global investors which is very well reflected in the surge in the Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and Foreign Institutional Investments (FII) inflows earning much needed foreign exchange. The Indian currency which was plummeting to new lows in 2013, has since then regained stability against the dollar. This is no mean feat considering the competitive devaluation of the Yuan and a global recession leading to a fall in commodity prices. This atmosphere of economic stability played a huge part in ensuring a growth rate of 7.5%, the fast among large economies, even though the rest of the world faces recession.

The initiatives undertaken by the RBI under Dr. Rajan’s stewardship to boost financial inclusion and promote cashless transactions have been commendable. The in-principal approval given to 11 payments banks would go a long way to ensure financial inclusion, easy remittances, cashless transactions and a check on tax evasion. Another landmark step has been to introduce the MCLR (Marginal Cost of Lending Rates) system which ensures that the benefits of the rate cuts reach the general public as it requires all commercial banks to continuously alter rates in line with the marginal cost of lending replacing the earlier concept of average cost of lending.

It won’t be wrong to say that all was not well between the government and the RBI Governor. His candid remarks on ‘intolerance‘ and India being ‘Andher Nagri, Kana Raja‘ didn’t make him a favourite of the current ‘nationalist’ government. He refused to drastically lower rates even at the insistence of the Finance Ministry. The government on its part reduced the powers of the Governor and the recent formation of a committee to appoint the successor of H.R. Khan (one of the four current RBI Deputy Governors) without Dr. Rajan heading it shows the growing discomfort between Dr. Rajan and the NDA.

It is really disappointing when such an eminent personality is drawn into controversies due to mindless comments by an irrational fanatic whose sole aim in life appears to gain limelight by stoking controversy. A Governor who brings about much needed and progressive reforms must be honoured with a second term to implement and moderate the full benefits of his reforms. India would greatly miss the sincere services of the ‘Rockstar’.

Featured image credit: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint via Getty Images.

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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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