Kurukshetra IAS Academy Blogs

1.Inflation still at 5.1%, but food prices rise

India’s retail inflation remained virtually unchanged at 5.09% in February, even as food prices paid by consumers resurged from 8.3% in January to 8.66% spurred primarily by vegetables, which rose at a seven-month high pace of 30.25%.

Inflation measured by the Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) accelerated from 9% in January to 9.2% for urban residents.

Meanwhile, rural India experienced an 8.2% uptick in February, compared with 7.9% in the previous month. Overall retail inflation stayed higher in rural India, unchanged from the 5.34% recorded in January, while urban inflation eased slightly from 4.9% to 4.8% in February. Most economists expect inflation to stay in the 5.1%-5.2% range in March as well.

Over the projection

This would lift average inflation in the last quarter of this year over the 5% average projected by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Moreover, persistently high food inflation may push interest rate cut hopes further into the horizon, especially as the RBI expects price rise to average 5% in the April to June quarter too.

Core inflation, excluding food and energy costs, remained below 4% for the third month in a row. While some estimates pegged it at the lowest level since 2015 when the current series of inflation data began, Crisil chief economist Dharmakirti Joshi reckoned it was at a 52-month low of 3.4%. On a sequential basis, the Consumer Price Index rose 0.16%, while the CFPI rose 0.11%.

Apart from vegetables, prices rose at a faster clip for eggs (10.7% in February, from 5.6% in January), and meat and fish (5.2% from 1.2%), and the pace of inflation was largely unchanged for sugar (7.5%) and cereals (7.6%). Pulses and spices prices experienced a slight deceleration, but still remained steep compared with last February, rising 18.5% and 13.5%, respectively.

Among the major States, inflation was above the RBI’s upper tolerance threshold of 6% in four States, compared with five in the previous month. Odisha’s inflation remained the highest at 7.55%, followed by Telangana (6.7%) and Haryana (6.3%) Seven other States experienced price rise over the national average of 5.1%, including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. Delhi and Madhya Pradesh continued to record the lowest inflation in the country, at 2.4% and 3.86%.

The current bout of inflation is purely food-driven, and will persist in the coming months as onion prices have bounced higher, reckoned Madan Sabnavis, Bank of Baroda chief economist.

2.‘Citizenship comes under domain of Centre, State governments have no role in CAA implementation’

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s statement that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 will not be implemented in the State will have no impact on the implementation of the legislation as citizenship is the domain of the Union government, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

While the task of processing the citizenship applications under the CAA has been entrusted to the Postal department and Census officials who function under the Centre, the responsibility of conducting background and security checks lies with Central security agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB), according to a notification issued on Monday.

As the applications will be filed online, the procedure leaves little scope for the involvement of the State government officials or local police, a senior Home Ministry official said.

The final decision on applications will be taken by the empowered committee headed by the Director (Census Operations) in each State, which will include officers from the Intelligence Bureau, the Post Master General, State or National Informatics Centre official, and a representative each from the Department of Home of the State government and the Divisional Railway Manager will be the invitees.

The district-level committee, which will be the primary body to sift the applications, will be headed by the Superintendent, Department of Post, and will have an official not below the rank of Naib Tehsildar or equivalent from the office of District Collector representing the State government only as an invitee.

Applications received

The official said that on Tuesday several applicants registered on the portalhttps://indiancitizenshiponline.nic.inafter it was launched on Monday. The registration requires a payment of ₹50. “There are several categories for citizenship under Section 6B of the CAA that are to be filled by applicants; also several documents are to be uploaded in definite format along with submission of affidavit and eligibility certificate [to establish faith] that are to be issued by local institutions. The final number of applicants will be available once the forms have been completely filled and submitted on the portal,” the official said.

District level committee

Besides submitting the documents online, which includes those issued by the government authorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, the applicant will have to appear before the district-level committee in person.

An explainer on CAA rules notified on Monday states that after the online form has been scrutinised, the “applicant will be intimated through e-mail/SMS, the date and time on which the applicant would be expected to visit the DLC [district-level committee] in personalong with originals of all the documents attached with the application for verification.”

If the documents are found in order, the Designated Officer will administer “Oath of Allegiance” to the applicant and the digital copies will be forwarded to the empowered committee which will take the final decision.

The MHA on Monday notified the Citizenship Amendment Rules, 2024 that would enable the implementation of the CAA, passed by the Parliament four years ago.

The legislation facilitates citizenship to undocumented people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Christian and Jain community from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014 and fast-tracks the process by reducing the eligibility to five years’ continuous stay.

3.A new sense of urbanisation that is dominating

There have been two events in the media glare in the last nine months in India, namely, the inauguration of two very important institutions, i.e., the new Parliament building, which is a political institution, and the Ram temple, a religious institution, which raise pertinent issues. Both of these were inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India. Does this mean that the elected representative of the people can comfortably take over both the roles of democracy and worship? Will our future cities be driven by religion as the core, and not work, industry, and modernism, which have been an essential feature of the last seven decades of urbanisation?

It is estimated that around ₹85,000 crore will be spent in infrastructure building in Ayodhya. Will religious cities be the new paradigm of urban development in India?

Colonial versus new cities

The cities and urban development in the last two centuries draw a rural to urban migration premise for sustaining industrialisation. Metros are colonial cities according to the current discourse and new cities such as Ayodhya, Kashi and Pushkar must be built. The colonial cities were meant for the transport of goods, taxation and then sending them by ship.

Cities also bring in elements of modernism, not just in architecture but also in the entire gamut of culture, literature, human behaviours and the like. There are anecdotes of how this modernist feature was embedded in the development model of the Indian city. Innovative design and modernist features brought in by Le Corbusier, and the influence of Habib Rahman, who was brought in by Jawaharlal Nehru to design some of the important buildings in the national capital, laid an emphasis on modern technology and mass production techniques and material to design and manufacture high quality and cheap goods that are accessible to many. Likewise, almost all modern towns were developed with spaces for theatre, culture, art, and recreation. This was primarily the driving feature in modern cities.

The building of new towns met several needs — from providing jobs and homes for refugees and absorbing excess population from the older urban areas, to generating economic development in the local region and serving as symbols of the new modern India that was emerging, though not completely ideal and commensurate to the needs, but quite inclusive in design and what was built.

In the current phase, a new sense of urbanisation is dominating. And the old understanding that cities are considered to be centres of enlightenment, workplace, and habitat is being challenged. Cities should not just be centres of workplaces but also centres of yatras, pilgrimage and so on. Thus, we find big corporates also landing in a small town such as Ayodhya and investing heavily in its infrastructure.

Thus, the new conundrum in India is for a new form of urbanisation; a new revivalism of the faith where the cities and towns and where the system should be aligned to the religion of the majority, and not separate from it.

Investments and random modules

The post-colonial period saw the emergence of new towns, and some of them were industrial as well such as Bhilai, Rourkela, and Chandigarh to name a few. Still, the metros attracted the largest numbers of people and investments.

We know from the ranking of urban centres that if one goes by metro classification of the highest in population and wealth generation, colonial cities emerge in the list. After that the other urban centres are regional in character. There is an effort to try and elevate a regional pilgrimage city to that of a colonial city — the heavy investment in the urban infrastructure of Ayodhya is a pointer. It is good to spend resources in any regional city be it for production or tourism or otherwise. However, since there is no apparent plan to direct such expenditure according to a justifiable plan of investment in regional cities across India, one wonders what the justification of spending on random modules in a haphazard way is. The new Central Vista. The Sardar Patel statue. The high-speed bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. The temple in Ayodhya. What do we understand from this enormous expenditure?

It seems to indicate that the goal of the Indian government is to be a modern nation sitting on an ancient seat and to try to reverse the separation of religion from politics — to signal religion to be a social phenomenon rather than a private one.

The role of the state and social good

This draws one’s attention to one of the moot points. And that is to understand what the role of the state is in building cities and creating investments. We know that the accumulation of capital and the generation of surplus in a democratic society should be directed towards social good, and not for religious good, as we have experienced in the early centuries of Hindu revivalism. What does social good mean? In simple terms it means that the surplus generated must be distributed to build modern institutions, education, health, social infrastructure, particularly in a society that screams for social sector investments (the World Bank estimates that India will need to invest $840 billion over the next 15 years for urban infrastructure), and not for religious good, which is exactly what we are doing now.

This revivalism is based on an acute form of centralisation of finances and a ghettoisation of urban spaces on a religious basis. An answer to this is decentralisation, democratisation and a more dynamic coexistence of citizens, with access to equal rights and obligation.

4.CAA won’t impact citizenship of Indian Muslims, says Centre

No Indian citizen will be asked to produce any document to prove his or her citizenship after Act, Centre says and adds that the law has nothing to do with the present 18 crore Indian Muslims, who have equal rights as their Hindu counterparts

In a bid to allay the fears of Muslims after the rules for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) were notified, the Union Home Ministry on Tuesday said that “no Indian citizen would be asked to produce any document to prove his citizenship after this Act”.

The Ministry, in a press note titled “Positive narrative on CAA, 2019”, answered eight questions regarding its impact on Islam and Muslims.

The document was pulled down from government’s website late on Tuesday.

On the CAA’s impact on Muslims living in India, the Ministry said, “Indian Muslims need not worry as the CAA has not made any provision to impact their citizenship and has nothing to do with the present 18 crore Indian Muslims, who have equal rights like their Hindu counterparts. No Indian citizen will be asked to produce any document to prove his citizenship after this Act.”

There are apprehensions that the CAA, which allows citizenship on the basis of religion to six undocumented religious communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, followed by a countrywide compilation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), will adversely affect the Muslim community. While the CAA will come to the rescue of non-Muslims excluded from the NRC, the excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship, it is feared.

The Centre had told Parliament that “till now the government has not taken any decision to prepare NRC at national level” and had denied that the CAA and the NRC were linked. However, according to the Citizenship Rules 2003 under the Citizenship Act, 1955, the National Population Register (NPR), that is to be updated along the first phase of Census, is the first step towards compilation of the NRC. This rule has neither been amended nor dropped and no new legislation is needed to conduct the NPR across the country.

The Ministry stated on Tuesday that the CAA reduced the qualification period for acquiring Indian citizenship from 11 years to five years for the beneficiaries persecuted on religious grounds in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh “without curtailing the freedom and opportunity of Indian Muslims to enjoy their rights as they have been usually practising and entertaining since Independence like other Indian citizens belonging to other religions”.

To a question, “Is there any provision or agreement for repatriating illegal Muslim migrants to Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan?”, it said that “India does not have any pact or agreement with any of these countries to repatriate migrants back to these countries”.

‘Concern unjustifiable’

It added that the CAA does not deal with the deportation of illegal immigrants and therefore the concern of a section of people, including Muslims and students, that the Act was against Muslim minorities was unjustifiable.

The Ministry said that the CAA defined illegal migrant as a foreigner who has entered India without valid documents, just like the Citizenship Act of 1955.

Regarding the “impact of CAA on the image of Islam”, it said, “Due to the persecution of minorities in those three Muslim countries, the name of Islam was badly tarnished all around the world. However, Islam, being a peaceful religion, never preaches or suggests hatred/violence/any persecution on religious ground. This Act showing the compassion and compensation for the persecution, protects Islam from being tarnished in the name of persecution.”

The Ministry added that there was no bar on Muslims from anywhere in the world to seek Indian citizenship under Section 6 of the Citizenship Act, which deals with the citizenship by naturalisation. It said there was a need to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 “to show mercy on the persecuted minorities of those three countries .”

“The CAA does not cancel the naturalisation laws. This Act does not prevent any Muslim, who is persecuted in those three Islamic countries for practising their version of Islam, from applying for Indian citizenship under the existing laws,” it said.

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