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THE CORRIDOR OF GREAT GEO-ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE

Kaladan multimodal transport corridor, if completed as per the revised deadline of 2023, would transform the geo-economic scenario of the region as well as end its maritime isolation. This project would create opportunities for the emergence of industrial clusters in the Northeast, provided the political leadership of the region sets the ball rolling.

Jajati K. Pattnaik

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India’s Northeastern region abounds with natural resources accounting for nearly half of the country’s total biodiversity. The region holds one-fifth of India’s hydrocarbon reserves and is affluent in hydropower reserves.

Pictorial representation of the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Corridor.A file photo of the Kaladan river.

Kaladan multi-modal transit transport corridor as an integral component of India’s Act East policy is being prioritised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reinforce development through cross-country economic corridors. The current political dispensation has called for a robust and result oriented diplomacy to attain India’s national interest in South-East and East Asia while creating space for free trade architecture. In the backdrop of this, the timely execution of the Kaladan project would flourish cross-border trade, investment, and growth in India’s Northeast.

WHY KALADAN CORRIDOR?

India’s Northeastern region abounds with natural resources accounting for nearly half of the country’s total biodiversity. The region holds one-fifth of India’s hydrocarbon reserves and is affluent in hydropower reserves. The partition of India in 1947 delinked North-East India’s land and sea connectivity with East Bengal, limiting the region’s geographical connectivity with mainland India only through the 27 sq km narrow Siliguri corridor, called Chicken’s Neck. So, the Kaladan corridor provides an alternative passage to the Northeastern states to enter the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal.

The corridor— named after the river Kaladan originates in the Chin state of Myanmar— passes through the southern districts of Mizoram before falling into the Bay of Bengal. The Ministry of External Affairs of India acting as the nodal agency of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMTT) signed the Framework of Agreement with the Myanmar Government in 2008 to implement this ambitious project. This transport project links Kolkata port with Sittwe Port in Myanmar (539 km) on the sea; Sittwe to Paletwa by inland water transport (158 km) on river Kaladan; Paletwa to India-Myanmar border in Myanmar by road (110 km); and further to Lawngtlai (Mizoram) in India (100 km) by road. At present, the project is intended towards an integrated port and Inland water transport (IWT) terminal at Sittwe, a smooth navigational channel from Sittwe to Paletwa, and a highway transshipment terminal at Paletwa. The much-awaited US $484 million project is on the final stage of its completion, except 110 km of construction work in Myanmar that’s halted due to the inhospitable terrain and the threats posed by the militant group, Arakan Army.

THE CHINA FACTOR

The project intended to connect India’s Northeastern states with the domestic ports through the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport by avoiding the narrow Siliguri corridor. But in my opinion, after the inauguration of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Bridge, the bridge linking Sabroom (Tripura) and Ramgarh (Bangladesh ) over Feni river for Chittagong Port connectivity, now the Kaladan corridor, could be used for ASEAN economic integration under the broader framework of India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (IMEC). China under the rubric of BRI is constructing 1700 km China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) to connect Kunming in the Yunnan province of South West China with Mandalay in Central Myanmar, Yangon in the South, and Kyaukphyu in the Rakhine state of South West Myanmar through a network of techno-economic and energy modes. Moreover, it also assists China to spread its economic and strategic outreach in the Bay of Bengal, further expanding its foothold in South Asia, West Asia, Africa, and Europe through Maritime Silk Road( MSR) bypassing the busiest coke point of Strait of Malacca in the Indo-Pacific region. Many civil society groups are opposing the Chinese presence in Myanmar realising very well how the Belt and Road Initiative ( BRI) linked Afro-Asian countries like Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Laos, Djibouti, Angola, and Nigeria, etc. fell to the debt trap diplomacy of Beijing.

It is also alleged that China abetted the insurgent groups in Myanmar supplying weapons to the Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and United WA State Army (UWSA), much to the quagmire of Naypyitaw’s political dispensation. With the overthrow of a democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi and the assumption of power by the Tamadaw-Armed forces of Myanmar, China is again back to the centre stage of Myanmar to mold its development trajectory. What is more, Beijing has blocked a UN Security Council statement condemning the military coup in Myanmar which corroborated the Chinese backing of the military junta in Naypyitaw. As we know, Myanmar is strategically situated at the crossroads of South and East Asia, it could be a viable partner to promote India’s regional/sub-regional cooperation efforts within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC). Hence, the doctrine of ‘enlightened national interest’ pursued by the Modi Government towards regional /sub-regional issues could be doubly activated to induce deeper engagement with Myanmar to secure our national interest in India’s immediate/extended neighbourhood checkmating China’s brinkmanship in the region.

LINK TO REGIONAL, SUB-REGIONAL COOPERATION

The multi-modal transit transport corridor would link India’s Northeastern states to the Sittwe port in Myanmar paving the way for greater connectivity with the ASEAN, BIMSTEC, and MGC as well. The transportation of goods from India’s Northeast covering approximately Guwahati-Sittwe(1201.7 km ), Itanagar–Sittwe ( 1284.9 km), Kohima-Sittwe(1150.6 km) and Imphal-Sittwe(1011.3 km ), Shillong–Sittwe(982.8km), Aizawl-Sittwe(611 km), and Agartala-Sittwe(955.5 km) would reduce travel time and carrying cost compared to the movement of goods through the Siliguri corridor to the Kolkata port, then to the Sittwe in Myanmar. The direct transshipment of goods from Sittwe to Laem Chabanag (Thailand), Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Port of Klang (Malaysia), Port of Singapore (Singapore), Port of Tanjung Priok (Indonesia), Hai Phong (Vietnam), etc. would fetch trade boom in future. Moreover, in the initial stages, resource-rich organic items like bamboo shoots, tea, cardamom, ginger, kiwi fruit, orange, petroleum products of the Northeastern region could be the major export items for the consumption-driven economies of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan among others. Later, pharmaceutical, ayurvedic, herbal products, soft drinks, and beverages could be added to the export basket. Cross-border collaborative projects could be initiated and growth triangles be formed based on comparative strengths of continuous regions capitalising on their natural resources, technology, finance, and human resources for successful industrial ventures.

No doubt, Kaladan multimodal transport corridor, if completed, as per the revised deadline of 2023, would transform the geo-economic scenario of the region as well as end its maritime isolation. This project would create opportunities for the emergence of industrial clusters in the Northeast, provided the political leadership of the region sets the agenda with a robust entrepreneurial culture and brings institutional reforms to generate growth and development. Then, only India’s Northeast would be ready to kick-start its trade and economic cooperation with the ASEAN and other regional groupings. Besides this, the Kaladan corridor would also raise the importance of the Northeast from the perspective of Act East policy and transform it from a landlocked to sea-linked region in near future.

The writer is an Associate Professor at the Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. The views expressed are personal.

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Opinion

Inflation Drives Online Business Down

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Inflation rates are on the rise this week, and we are seeing repercussions from that across multiple online industries. Many companies are preparing to tighten their belt as consumers are spending less and driving down values for online products.

Crypto Industry Takes a Blow

One of the most notable ways we have seen the rising inflation rates affect online business and products is in the cryptocurrency industry. Inflation has hit major crypto tokens very hard, spurring a bearish trend, or falling rates, almost across the board. Major cryptocurrency coins, like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Solana, are all down today, some as high as 9%, which is really astounding. This could signal the start of a market crash for the industry, which is coming on the heels of a recent crash that  sent the rates hurtling downward beyond where some of them have been in years.If the prices fall farther and stay down without any serious attempt at recovery, we could be seeing a new market low that would be tough to bounce back from. Many investors are already pulling out of the industry, selling off their crypto tokens or moving their tokens over to stablecoins that don’t see much in the way of price fluctuation.

There is a shift happening in the crypto industry, and it is due partly to inflation. If the economy doesn’t start to recover, some of those cryptos may never get back to where they were at the start of the year. What’s astounding is that this was the year that some analysts said Bitcoin would reach unprecedented heights, but those analysts failed to account for the possibility of rising inflation and what it would do to the industry.

Online Spending Is Down

We are also seeing many consumers buying less online, which is hurting retailers across the board. Just take a look at the gaming industry, which saw a shift toward older games all year long. The top played games of the year were almost all games from several years ago, including releases like Skyrim, Minecraft, Rocket League, and Grand Theft Auto V. Major new releases this year like Elden Ring are barely cracking the top 20 played games.

That’s a big deal in an industry that is always chasing the new thing, and game developers and publishers cannot sustain themselves on the scraps they get from players who are not as interested in buying new games and playing them continuously. The current gaming business model require players to stay online and keep buying upgrades, loot chests, downloadable content, and other digital items that help hugely expensive games recoup their budgets.

There has been a migration of gamers to free games or at least free-to-play games, and the online gambling and casino industry has benefited from that. This is why สล็อตเว็บตรง have proven to be very popular lately, as well as other online casino games and free multiplayer offerings. Some of the most played games on Steam right now are free-to-play games like Counterstrike: GO and other similar titles. Gamers are spending less money on games but spending more time playing, and the gaming industry is trying to figure to what to do abut that. We may see games operate on smaller budgets in the near future as a way to handle the rising costs of development and the more frugal spending of gamers.Online retailers are having a difficult time with the inflation as well, as their costs have increased but consumer spending has decreased in most areas of online retail. The major retailers will likely be fine, but it is the little guys that will suffer and potentially have to go out of business. That is, unless they adapt to the changing consumer spending habits and find new ways to open up revenue streams and entice customers.

As inflation increases with no end in sight, we could be entering another recession soon. It is too early to call it yet, but that’s where things look to be headed unless major world governments issue stopgap measures to keep inflation from getting too out of hand. Until then, expect the online industries to keep trying to adapt.

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Opinion

PARTIES NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS AND RESPONSIBLE WHILE DOING POLITICS

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Udaipur

The incident of brutal beheading in Udaipur has tremendously dented the image of Rajasthan which has, hitherto, been known for communal harmony and peace. No words are enough to condemn this gruesome murder which is never allowed in a democratic country and civilized society. This type of macabre killing has been seen only in countries under dictatorships. This incident is the first of its kind that happened in India. The killers were so fearless that they posted the video of beheading on internet for terrorizing the society. There must not be any repetition of such a brutal act. All the political parties and the governments here should sit together and hammer out a solution to prevent it.

Now the question arises as to who is responsible for this. In a way, all the political parties are responsible for this. The role of TRP race of the news channels and social media cannot also be ruled out. Under pressure to top the list in terms of viewership, news channels tend to go to any extent for the TRP. Soon after being launched, some of the channels ran shows on concocted stories of magic and witchcraft. Once a channel showed a vehicle without a driver. The reality was that the driver was hiding somewhere in the car. This was followed by various debate shows where heated exchanges were the order of the day. One cannot forget how a story about an imaginative chip in Rs 2,000 note was run on some TV channels after demonetization. Some sponsored debates were conducted with an objective to please the government. Gradually, media channels started airing the views that fueled negativity in the atmosphere. The channels were seen vying with each other to ramp up viewership during the Gyanwapi issue. Amid all the charged atmosphere in media channels, Nupur Sharma said something that should have been avoided. It triggered massive debate on social media. And the result is for all of us to see.

It could have been prevented. But only if the governments and political parties had shown political will. Only one party cannot be blamed for this. Congress and other parties are as much responsible as the BJP. Whatever be the explanation, the Congress and other political outfits are indulging in Muslim appeasement. All the parties divided majority community into different castes and did politics of Muslim appeasement for five decades. Barring BJP, all the parties such as Congress, SP, RJD, the Left parties, etc. are still not ready to do any course correction. Akhilesh Yadav is still practicing Muslim-Yadav centric politics in UP. Similarly, the Congress government in Rajasthan is on the same old track. Events like Roza Iftar are organized and statements aimed at appeasing minorities come from Congress. This results in the majority taking a different view on the same.

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot needs to realise that the politics is changing now in the country. Congress and CM need to understand that the minority in Rajasthan will vote for Congress because it has no other option. Minorities go for the parties which can defeat BJP. So, the government should not do anything that could anger the majority which the BJP takes advantage of. The majority has been targeted in Rajasthan wherever communal violence has happened. The BJP will be more aggressive and the government will be questioned in days to come. If we look at UP, the Congress and other parties target CM Yogi Adityanath’s working style. But it hardly makes any difference to him as the people of UP are happy with his government. Everything is under control in UP, the state which was earlier known for riots.

There should be fear among criminals in Rajasthan. Amid speculation about foreign hands in the Udaipur incident, the Rajasthan government is answerable over its intelligence efficiency. Why did the police not have prior information on violence? Gehlot needs to realise that the violence and crimes can overshadow his pro-people decisions.

At the same time, Congress has been continuing to target PM Modi since 2004. Congress’ focus is not on strengthening organisation due to which debacles are being faced by it. It is hardly any significant force in opposition, which is not good in a democracy. BJP is benefiting from Congress’ wrong decisions. Congress’ appeasement politics is suiting BJP in its politics to woo majority. Undoubtedly, the saffron party gets benefited by any polarizing incident.

But BJP also needs to understand that excess of anything is not good. Polarisation cannot benefit it beyond a limit. Electoral benefits may come to it but it could corrode the social and communal fabric of the country. Our country is known for unity in diversity. Unity cannot be destroyed just by a couple of elements only. However, the political parties need to have patience and self-control during testing times.

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Opinion

India set to play a key role in new I2U2 forum

After the grand success of the revived Quad, India and the US are ready to open another arena of engagement, this time with Israel and the UAE, as the new I2U2 forum.

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On the one hand, when Russia and Ukraine are locked in a tussle that has cost the entire world heavily in terms of major food, energy and humanitarian crisis, nations are associating and collaborating through difference multilateral platforms to take up various global challenges as well as objectives. After the grand success of the revived Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), India and the US are ready to open another arena of engagement, this time with Israel and the UAE, as the new I2U2 forum.

A new grouping of India-Israel (I2) and UAE-US (U2) has been formed by the four nations, which has been referred as the “West Asian Quad” by the ambassador of UAE to India, Ahmed Al Banna. The framework of the group was formed in October 2021, when the grouping of the four nations—India, Israel, United Arab Emirates, and the United States—met for the first time and decided to set up I2U2 keeping the issues related to maritime security, digital infrastructure, infrastructural development, defence and climate change containment at the epicentre.

Geopolitically, it is focused on expanding economic and political cooperation in West Asia and Asia through strengthening diplomatic relations in different domains such as trade. The objective also includes finding comprehensive solutions to the global challenge of climate change. The nations also agreed to work in the areas of energy cooperation through this joint platform.

In October 2021, when External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visited Israel, the foreign ministers of the four countries met and the framework of I2U2 was constituted with the name, “International Forum for Economic Cooperation”. It was then decided that the heads of the four nations would meet through the first summit of I2U2 when US President Joe Biden would visit West Asia between 13-16 July. Biden would be visiting West Asia for the first time after becoming the US President. The noteworthy point is that he would also be visiting Israel. The first summit of I2U2 will be joined virtually by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Looking at the level of bilateral relations, the matrix has to be understood well. The relations between India and the US, India and Israel, India and UAE, US and Israel are positive and progressive. Relations between US and UAE seem to be positive, and are expected to be moving in further collaborative direction especially in the area of energy security. Last but not the least, despite the normalization of relations between Israel and UAE in August 2020, the question of their age-old negative relationship may work as an irritant. However, considering the overall matrix, I2U2 seems to be a strategically important engagement for the future considering the focus areas.

Biden would also visit Jeddah and Saudi Arab during his visit, and he would also be attending the significant summit of GCC+3 (Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan). Apart from the summit, he would also be having bilateral talks with all these nations. Considering Biden’s restricted communications with the Saudi royals, especially after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, it would be interesting to see what comes out of Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia. This meeting would be closely monitored as has called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state and believes in the involvement of Saudi Prince’s involvement in Khashoggi’s killing based on an intelligence report, although Donald Trump had an opposite view and thus, he maintained amicable relations with the Saudi royals.

However, things seem to changing since Biden became the President as he has initiated several multilateral initiatives and dialogues to strengthen defence, cultural and diplomatic relations of the US, globally. Biden has not only strengthened the Quad, he also revived the AUKUS, the three-nation alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom. He also started a quadrilateral dialogue with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. On the one hand, he is focusing on strengthening such platforms, and, on the other hand, he is leaving no stone unturned in containing China and Russia’s globally.

India would certainly be playing a critical role in the I2U2. Being a neutral nation so far, India is the only nation that is a part of the Quad as well as BRICS (Britain, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Both have positive global and regional goals to attain; however, the interesting fact is that the Quad aims to contain China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region, while BRICS is considered as a counter-defensive mechanism against the western block, especially NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Being a member nation of both the alliances, India seems to be playing a critical role in executing the balancing act.

Today, Ukraine is in a devastated state and there is a crucial question that remains unanswered: where will this all take us? Ukraine shares its cultural identity with Russia, and was its part until the disintegration of the erstwhile USSR in 1991. After this historic disintegration, the Cold War ended. The world was also observing a neo-liberal way of globalization, and ushered in to a new era of multi-polarity where the definition of power itself had changed. Though the US was the clear-cut winner of the Cold War, and remained the hegemon in world politics since then, new centres of power also emerged such as China. Moreover, the world witnessed a big change in terms of priorities of the countries that led them to connect with each other irrespective of their ideological or historical differences. Although Russia remained a major power, it had lost the glory of the leader of the eastern bloc. The military alliance it created with the support of other anti-west countries, backed by Warsaw pact, also declined eventually. However, on the other hand, the NATO, the military alliance created by the western bloc during the Cold War days, not only kept flourishing, it also started providing membership to the countries disintegrated from Russia. Slowly, Europe, especially the eastern part, started looking like getting NATO-fied. When Putin came into the power, he not only fiercely started working against this westernization of the countries around Russia, he also declared to work for reunification of Russia to get back its lost glory.

After attacking and establishing its bases in Georgia in 2008, Putin ruthlessly attacked and controlled Crimea in 2014 to keep a control over the passage to Black Sea. Since the world kept mum at both these attacks, Putin made it clear that he will not allow Ukraine to be a member of NATO, which was justified in a way, as who would allow his biggest enemy to reach his doorstep? As Ukraine did not pay any attention to the warnings of Putin, the world today witnesses the most brutal attack on Ukraine from the Russian army. Putin strategically encircled Ukraine, starting from the Eastern Ukraine where the pro-Russian separatist groups were already active. Zapped Volodymyr Zelenskyy expected help from the US, who pushed him not to step back from becoming a member of NATO as well as the NATO alliance countries. But soon he realised how he was trapped and used by the western lobby against Putin. US made it very clear that it will not fight any war on Ukraine’s soil, nor any NATO member country came forward to directly help Zelenskyy. After the first wave of shock, NATO member countries and the US announced economic sanctions, indirect support to Ukraine by seizing the air and maritime space for Russia, stopping all business with Russia and providing arms support to Ukraine. Despite all this, Putin did not stop.

Today, the situation seems to be in a deadlock where neither Putin is stopping the war, nor Ukraine is stepping back. Threats of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare are also emerging. In today’s multipolar world of diversified dimensions of engagements, why is this war happening in the first place? Who will stop it? The UN seems to be in a spot where its relevance itself has become a big question. Talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials are not concluding with any results. Ukraine is already destructed, Russia is also bleeding, China is preparing to be the next aggressor in the Asian theatre and a new arms race has started. War cannot be an answer to any differences, but it can make a remarkable difference to the world; this should not be forgotten.

Presently, there seems to be multi-dimensional challenges globally. From the grave Ukraine-Russia conflict to coming out of the shadow of Covid-19 to working for climate change containment to developing innovative and sustainable technologies to enhancing collaboration in the areas of counter-terrorism, food security and energy security; there seems to be a long list of prioritised objectives. Instead of working in a compartmentalised fashion, today’s nations are preferring to be working in a “team play” mode. Considering the same, I2U2 seems to be an optimistic development, presenting a unique alliance among the four significant nations.

Dr Anshu Joshi is Professor, School of International Studies, JNU.

In October 2021, when External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visited Israel, the foreign ministers of the four countries met and the framework of I2U2 was constituted with the name, “International Forum for Economic Cooperation”. It was then decided that the heads of the four nations would meet through the first summit of I2U2 when US President Joe Biden would visit West Asia between 13-16 July. Biden would be visiting West Asia for the first time after becoming the US President. The noteworthy point is that he would also be visiting Israel. The first summit of I2U2 will be joined virtually by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India would certainly be playing a critical role in the I2U2. Being a neutral nation so far, India is the only nation that is a part of the Quad as well as BRICS. Both have positive global and regional goals to attain.

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Opinion

What is SSC CPO Exam?

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The Staff Selection Commission conducts a national-level SSC CPO exam for the aspirants to recruit in Central Police Organisations(Delhi). SSC CPO is an excellent chance for aspiring candidates to join paramilitary forces like CRPF, BSF, CISF, ITBP, and SSB as Sub-Inspectors and ASI (Executive) in CISF. 

Thus, the aspirant should gather proper information concerning the eligibility criteria, and syllabus, before appearing for the SSC CPO 2022 exam. From this article, Candidates will get information regarding the levels of eligibility criteria such as nationality, age limit, and the SSC CPO syllabus.

SSC CPO Syllabus

The syllabus for the SSC CPO exam is specified by the recruiting board on the official website in PDF format. The SSC CPO Syllabus gets updated once every year which is released by the authority for the candidates.  

Candidates must know the SSC CPO syllabus which will help them to put effort into important topics to get ready for the exam. SSC CPO syllabus will give the outlook of difficult topics related to the exam for which candidates can make a preparation strategy for better results. The SSC CPO exam deals with two paper, the syllabus for each paper are stated below-

●  SSC CPO Syllabus Paper 1: Subjects are English, General Awareness, Reasoning, Maths

●   For SSC CPO Syllabus Paper 2: Only English Language.

As the SSC CPO 2022 notification will be held in August 2022, the syllabus is not yet released by the commission. Students can also refer to BYJU’s Exam Prep for more details and assistance. SSC CPO exam is organised in three stages, namely –

●     Paper 1

●     Paper 2

● Physical Efficiency Test (PET)

Candidates are required to clear these stages to get appointed as SI and ASI posts in SSC CPO. 

The above-mentioned SSC CPO syllabus is necessary to study by the candidates for the upcoming exam. Candidates must keep on checking the official website for theupdated syllabus of the SSC CPO exam 2022.

Eligibility Criteria of SSC CPO

Candidates who are willing to attempt the SSC CPO exam must satisfy the eligibility criteria provided by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC). Candidates who fail to fulfil the given eligibility criteria of any level will be disqualified for the SSC CPO exam.

Nationality Criteria for SSC CPO

Nationality is the foremost eligibility criterion among all the criteria that every candidate must know. The candidate who possesses the nationality criteria is allowed to apply for SSC CPO Exam. The condition of nationality criteria are –

  • The candidate must be a citizen of India, Nepal or Bhutan.
  • A candidate who has their Eligibility Certificate issued by the Indian Government. 

SSC CPO Age Limit

The age limit of the candidates is another criterion of SSC CPO along with the relaxation.

●    Candidates who were born between 1st January,1996 to 1st January 2001 can apply for the SSC CPO exam.

● Candidates must be of age between 20 to 25 years.

The details of age relaxation for a certain reserved category with posts- wise are listed below-

●   For SC/ST category- The age relaxation limit is 5 years.

●   For the OBC category- The age relaxation limit is 3 years.

● For Ex-Servicemen (ESM) category – The age relaxation is 3 years. 

Here, we have discussed the eligibility criteria and syllabus for the SSC CPO exam which will benefit the candidates for preparation. Candidates can indulge in these posts to understand the SSC CPO syllabus and eligibility criteria before attending the exam.

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Opinion

THE UNEVEN PLAYING FIELD OF UNNATURAL ALLIES

Priya Sahgal

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As Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi government goes from crisis to ICU mode, there is a larger lesson here on coalition politics. At the very outset, the alliance was termed as an unnatural one that saw ideologically opposite parties like the Congress-NCP join hands with the radical right wing Shiv Sena. For the coalition to tango, one side had to give in and interestingly it was the Sena that took most of the backward steps. It compromised on its hardcore Hindutva ideology, toned down its rhetoric and tried an image makeover under the aegis of Uddhav Thackeray and his heir apparent Aaditya Thackeray. The politics of both Uddhav and Aaditya were progressive, they talked new age concerns like environment and sent the right feelers on governance from the financial capital of the country. The one mistake they made perhaps was not to involve all the stakeholders, it is now clear by Eknath Shinde’s comments that they felt left out of the governance pie and also resented the hold that individuals like Sanjay Raut, Sharad Pawar and even a first time MLA Aaditya himself had over the party. (An interesting factoid is that in 2019 Aditya was the first Thackeray to contest polls and his father the first Thackeray to sit on the CMs chair. Usually Bal Thackeray preferred to appoint a nominee as CM and run the state by remote control from Matoshree.) Whatever the reasons, if the government topples, it would set the Sena back on the path of regressive, chest thumping hardline politics and that would be a tragedy. But that’s another column.

To come back to the topic of unnatural alliances, the first sign of rebellion from Shinde and his men was regarding the MLC elections when they were not happy with the party dictat to support a Congress candidate. The hold of the NCP over governance and powerful ministerial portfolios was another grouse. In the end, it was not so much about ideology about power. But then, that’s how it always is.

Take a look at the Mahagathbandan in Bihar, where again, two political foes—Lalu Yadav’s RJD and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U)—came together on one platform. That did not last long with Nitish soon finding his way back to the BJP. Or even the not so unnatual alliance between two UP Ke Ladke that had Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi contesting from the same platform in the 2017 state assembly polls. When one side did not pull its weight in the ballot boxes that alliance broke with the two taking pot shots at each other. Ditto for the alliance between the SP and Mayawati’s BSP in the 2019 Lok Sabha where the cadres on ground found it difficult to canvass for a party they had spent a lifetime taking pot shots at.

This brings us to the larger issue at play—while on paper, it is all very well for strategists like Prashant Kishor to talk about bringing the entire opposition on one platform to take on the BJP in the Lok Sahba polls, the reality on ground is very different where the Congress and various regional parties are fighting each other at the state level. Bringing diverse parties and egos on one platform post polls is also not easy as Dr Manmohan Singh found out when he tried to run a coalition with both Mamata and the CPM. Which brings another twist in the BJP vs The Rest version of the Game of Thrones, and again, as with most political turns these days, it’s one that works in Modi’s favour.

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Opinion

‘Bad Bank’ must succeed to have good banks

Non-performing assets have been beleaguering the banking sector in India for a long time, but have worsened lately. Designed policies often fail to deliver desired results due to implementation challenges. In this case, time is of the essence and delays could be detrimental.

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‘Exact predictions of policy outcomes are routine. Expressions of uncertainty are rare. Predictions and estimates often are fragile, resting on unsupported assumptions. So the expressed certitude is incredible,” states Charles F. Manski, an eminent economist, renowned for his work on judgement and decisions, and policy analysis in an uncertain world.

The quote could guide the progress of the recently established National Asset Reconstruction Company Limited (NARCL) dubbed as “Bad Bank“. It is a potent mechanism for tackling the mounting Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) of commercial banks. Taking them off their balance sheets may help them fulfil regulatory compliance and also enhance their lending capacity. But to serve the purpose, it must act with speed.

Announced in September 2021, NARCL is to take the big-ticket defaults of the commercial banks off their balance sheet, identified to be worth Rs 2 lakh crore. As per plans, 38 NPA accounts worth Rs 82,845 crore were expected to be transferred to the NARCL in the first phase out of which 15 accounts worth Rs 50,000 crore were to be transferred by the end of the fiscal year 2022.

NARCL is supposed to acquire these assets by paying 15% in cash and 85% in tradable Security Receipts (SRs), and redeemable on the resolution of the distressed assets. The government guarantee is expected to provide liquidity to SRs and can be invoked to make up for the shortfall in case of resale failure or sales at a discount of those assets by the bad bank. The target could not be achieved due to procedural delays and the deadline stands extended to July 2022.

Designed policies often fail to deliver desired results due to the implementation challenges. In this case, time is of the essence and delays could be detrimental. NPAs have been beleaguering the banking sector in India for a long time, but have worsened lately. Gross NPAs of the Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs) have steadily increased from Rs 59,373 crore in 2005 to Rs 2.63 lakh crore in 2014 and further to Rs 8.35 lakh crore in 2021. In between, they had peaked at Rs 10.36 lakh crore as of March 2018. Gross NPAs of the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) have been no exception, as they too jumped up from Rs 47,621 crore to Rs 2.27 lakh crore and Rs 6.17 lakh crore during the corresponding period.

The pandemic has further exacerbated the situation. The RBI’s financial stability report estimates that the gross NPA ratio might rise from 6.9% in September 2021 to 8.1% in the best-case scenario. In the worst case, they could rise to 9.5% by September 2022. The recent hikes in repo rate by 40 and 50 basis points to restrain the deteriorating inflation outlook is expected to make repayment of the loans more difficult putting further stress on NPAs in the coming months.

Bad Banks have been tested in an assortment of countries with variable success. Assets Reconstruction Companies (ARCs) have been generally successful where NPAs were caused due to delay and default on account of real estate lending, presumably because the mortgage assets for such lending are easier to identify, evaluate and sell. Will it work in case of the big-ticket bad loans each worth Rs 500 crore or more, particularly when they are accumulated over time due to the bad lending decision for unviable projects or restructuring of previous loans or where money could have been siphoned off?

Design-wise, the NARCL is structured well with built-in checks and balances. The PSBs being a 51% equity stakeholders in it will have a vested interest in the speedy resolution of bad debts acquired by NARCL. The government guarantee for the Security Receipt (SRs) issued by it against the bad debt of banks gives it grit.

Though the extent of the guarantee is stated to be Rs 30,600 crore, the actual outflow is expected to be much less as it is to be restricted to the shortfall between the face value of the SRs and the actual realisation by way of resolution or liquidation. The liability could be further contained by the provision that it could be invoked only if the resolution and realisation of the toxic assets happen within 5 years.

Additionally, to discourage the resolution of assets from being prolonged, NARCL would be required to pay to the banks a guarantee fee of 0.25% of the outstanding amount, from the second year onward, which would increase to 0.5%, 1% and 2% in the third, fourth and fifth year. Besides, the NPAs identified to be acquired in the first phase are fully provisioned as per the prudential norms.

The success of the Bad Bank idea could hinge on two factors: Firstly, the objectivity and transparency in the valuation of NPAs and their fair resolution; and secondly, the expertise of the debt resolution company. As far as the valuation and resolution of NPAs are concerned, these have been lying in the books of the banks for years, despite their best efforts to realise them, but in vain. Most would be compelled to sell their toxic assets at discount ranging between 40-70% of the book value minus accumulated interest.

As regards expertise, India should not have a dearth of knowledge and as regards experience, Indians are known to have a steep learning curve. The real challenge would, however, be to find the buyers of the bad debt. All the more critically, will the market have the appetite for such Assets? Protecting the process from the vested interests, who often use their acumen to circumvent the prescribed procedure for personal profit is all the more difficult to gauge and forestall.

A study by the Bank of International Settlements in 2020 highlighted that bad banks work best if supported by a recapitalisation. It further pointed out that a capable, effective and robust regulatory system is a sine qua non for the desired results. It was a good sign that the Union budget 2021-22 had provided Rs 20,000 crores for recapitalisation of PSBs, though the amount was reduced to Rs 15,000 crore in the revised estimate. Sadly, no fresh provision has been made for capital infusion into PSBs in the 2022-23 budget. However, many experts regard the government guarantee for SRs as an indirect form of recapitalisation. Still, given the magnitude of NPAs, the provision may seem scanty.

The banking sector is the backbone of a robust economy. A large number of small savers and risk-averse investors trust banks with their hard-earned savings in the hope that their deposits would be safe and earn a positive real return. This can be possible only if banks are able to lend in productive investments that are realisable in time as per the loan arrangements. NPAs bleed banks, impinge on their profitability and efficiency and shake the confidence of crores of savers and investors. The Bad Bank must succeed in letter and spirit.

Furqan Qamar, a Professor in the Faculty of Management Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, is a former Advisor (Education) in the Planning Commission of India. Taufeeque Ahmad Siddiqui is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Management Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia.

Bad Banks have been tested in an assortment of countries with variable success. Assets Reconstruction Companies (ARCs) have been generally successful where NPAs were caused due to delay and default on account of real estate lending, presumably because the mortgage assets for such lending are easier to identify, evaluate and sell. Will it work in case of the big-ticket bad loans each worth Rs 500 crore or more, particularly when they are accumulated over time due to the bad lending decision for unviable projects or restructuring of previous loans or where money could have been siphoned off?

Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das announces to increase the policy repo rate by 50 basic points, in New Delhi on 8 June 2022. The RBI’s financial stability report estimates that the gross NPA ratio might rise from 6.9% in September 2021 to 8.1% in the best-case scenario. In the worst case, they could rise to 9.5% by September 2022. ANI

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