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Reaching Out

Modi reaches out to Rwanda; The ruckus over Rafale; Arvind Subramanian’s North Block connections; and more

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Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the central African nation of  Rwanda on 24 July, the first ever by an Indian premier, began just a few hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping left the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Modi’s itinerary included one-on-one talks with President Paul Kagame. India extended a $200 million line of  credit to Rwanda. The biggest takeaway for India, though, was a defence cooperation deal. Only 3,000 Indian nationals live in Rwanda, running its only sugar refinery and only modern textile mill. So, why Rwanda?

Rwanda’s is the fastest growing economy in Africa. With its Vision 2020 for combating poverty, it is embarking on a comprehensive programme of privatisation and liberalisation for rapid and sustainable economic growth. The goal is to transform the economy, welcome investors, create employment and new opportunities. In October 2015, more than 40 African heads of  state came to India for the third India-Africa Forum Summit. Many took part in the International Solar Alliance Founding Conference in March 2018. Modi’s visit to Rwanda reflects the seriousness of  India’s engagement with Africa.
— Manish Kumar Jha

Spilled Milk
Milkmen led by the Swabhimani Shetkari Saghtana tried to block milk supplies to various districts of western Maharashtra. Their demands included fair purchase prices for farmers and milkmen and relaxation of the GST for some dairy products. As protestors flooded the streets with spilled milk, another farmers’

organisation, the Shetkari Sangathna (Joshi) questioned the intentions of the protestors. It dubbed the protests as mischievous and politically motivated. A member of the mother organisation of shetkaris said wryly, “Most of the milk cooperatives and private vendors are controlled by the same people and most of  them are in the Congress Party or the Nationalist Congress Party”. The government has since raised the price of milk  and it goes without saying that the protests too have been called off .
—  Prabodh Krishna

Ruckus Over Rafale
Prime Minister Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron inked a deal in 2016 for 36 new Rafale fighter jets in a fly-away condition. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has an acute shortage of fighter aircraft. Its fleet is now depleted to 32 squadrons from the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons. The $7.5 billion deal obliterates unnecessary and bureaucratic red tape and plugs operational gaps speedily.

But brickbats from the Indian National Congress has now turned the defence deal controversial. The Congress alleges that the Rafale contract violates the procurement procedure and that the French were paid more than the prevailing cost of fighter jets.

The fact is that the Rafale deal is tailor made for the specific requirements of the Indian Air Force. The jets will be equipped with helmet mounted sights and targeting systems so pilots may shoot off weapons at lightening speed. They will have a radar warning receiver and a towed decoy system to thwart missile attacks in the air.  They will also have a better endurance capability in high altitudes – all of which will add up to the cost of the aircraft. Experts say Rafale will be India’s most capable fighter aircraft in the existing fleets and will be combat worthy in 2019.
— Manish Kumar Jha

All in the family

Chief Economic Advisors (CEA) to the Government of India are usually economists, mostly lateral entries from academia and invariably leave a stamp on North Block’s vision document — the Economic Survey. Arvind Subramanian, may be the only CEA though, whose treatise on the health of the Indian economy sold in pirated copies too. Subramanian, who has vacated his office before the end of  his term in October, will be remembered for many things and not just his predilection for poetry and John Maynard Keynes.

Many do know that he authored two books on India, India’s Turn: Understanding the Economic Transformation (2008) and Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance (2011). Some may know that he worked with his predecessor Raghuram Rajan at the International Monetary Fund. Few surely know that he had a sibling in North Block. “I have benefited from my conversations with my brother Dr Arvind Subramanian who provided me with many illuminating insights about GST at a conceptual level,” writers former Central Board of  Excise and Customs member, V. S. Krishnan, in this book, GST – A Transformational Tax Reform. Some things, it seems, just run in the family.
— Madhumita Chakraborty

A Pet Issue 
If you reside in Maharashtra, get paid for returning an empty PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle. In June, the Maharashtra government imposed a ban on the use of PET bottles (smaller than 200 ml along with other single use disposable plastic items) to tackle the menace of widespread plastic-based pollution. Maharashtra is one of the largest consumers of soft-drinks, water and other beverages that uses PET bottles.

According to a report of the Central Pollution Control Board, in 2015-16, 24 Indian states had produced 15.8 lakh tonnes of plastic waste, with Maharashtra alone generating 4.6 lakh tonnes. Now leading beverage makers like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Bisleri, among others, are printing a buyback value on all their PET bottles sold in Maharashtra (buyback prices for PET bottles are Rs 15/kg for the bottles and Rs 5 for shrink wraps). PepsiCo is working with Gem Enviro (one of the largest PET recycling companies in India) to set up reverse vending machines, collection points and collection centres for PET waste bottles. We need more reverse vending machines, collection points and much more to jointly tackle the collection of used plastic material
 –Ashish Sinha

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Magazine 21 July 2018 jottings narendra modi milk