CWG 2018: Saina Nehwal clinches women’s singles gold beating P V Sindhu

Saina Nehwal’s aggression and intensity quite literally wilted P V Sindhu as she picked up the women’s singles Commonwealth Games gold medal with exhilarating triumph in the final at Gold Coast on Sunday.

Saina Nehwal, who led the head-to-head count 3-1 before Sunday’s match, won 21-18 23-21 in the high-pressure match that lasted an hour.

 

The triumph marked a remarkable end to her CWG campaign this edition. She was the pillar of India’s gold-winning campaign in the team championship earlier, playing every one of the singles matches due to Sindhu’s injury.

In a match that started on equal footing, Saina managed to dominate, bringing a rarely seen aggression to the court.

The brute force of Sindhu’s smashes was something that Saina found hard to deal with. On the other hand, Sindhu found it tough to adjust to the delicate placement of strokes of Saina, who took the pace off the shuttle by attacking the net.

The strategy worked quite well for the London Olympics bronze-medallist and she raced to an 9-4 lead. As the gap widened, Saina’s command on the baseline also improved. The two contrasting styles of the two shuttlers made for an exhilarating contest.

What also stood out was Saina’s sharper instincts to leave the returns that landed out. Sindhu struggled to control the power she put on her shots, losing at least four points for pushing the shuttle outside and trailed 6-11 at the lemon break.

Sindhu came back strongly after the break and narrowed the gap a bit but the drift-factor affected her strokeplay way more than Saina, who also seemed the more pumped up of the two, grunting quite a bit after every point won.

Saina’s court coverage was also the more impressive of the two. A telling image of the opening game was when Sindhu was brought to her knees trying to return a smash that didn’t really have any power in it but was just placed perfectly on the left corner.

Sindhu found her bearings after Saina had taken a 20-14 lead and closed it 18-20 but Saina brought her own brute force to fore with a smash targeting Sindhu’s body which was simply unreturnable. Saina claimed the opening game 21-18 in 23 minutes.

The second game followed a similar tangent and despite having the more tired set of legs, Saina was a delight with her trademark angled smashes. But to Sindhu’s credit, she too exhibited a better command on her smashes and improved considerably court-coverage to take a 9-7 lead, which she widened to 13-8 after the break.

For the full house, mostly packed with the diaspora, it was a brilliant Sunday outing as the top two women of Indian badminton slugged it out, displaying an array of strokes.

Sindhu led 19-16 at one stage but a 64-stroke rally to narrow it to 18-19 brought Saina right back and she equalised at 19-19. However, Sindhu edged ahead for a 20-19 lead and a game point.

The see-saw battle continued when Sindhu hit one out to give Saina the equalising point yet again.

This time, it was Saina who got the championship point when Sindhu struck a return out. The lady, who looked the hungrier of the two all through, was surprisingly late in picking one up as Sindhu made it 21-21.

But Saina was back in lead with a cross-court smash that Sindhu just could not reach. Serving for the gold, Saina forced a wide stroke from Sindhu and then let out a scream to celebrate the triumph.

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CWG 2018: Saina Nehwal clinches women’s singles gold beating P V Sindhu

US adds India to currency watch list, demands reforms to address surpluses

The US Treasury added India to its watch list of countries with potentially questionable foreign exchange policies, joining China and four others, according to a report issued on Saturday.

 

The Treasury said the “monitoring list” includes those “major trading partners that merit close attention to their currency practices.” In addition to India, the semi-annual report to Congress names five countries that continue on the list from October: China, Germany, Japan, Korea and Switzerland.

 

Countries remain on the list for two report cycles “to help ensure that any improvement in performance versus the criteria is durable and is not due to temporary factors”.

While no major trading partner was found to be manipulating its currency, five of those on the list meet two of the three criteria, while China is included because “it constitutes a disproportionate share of the overall US trade deficit”. The US has a deficit of $337 billion with China of a total global trade deficit of $566 billion, according to government data.

“We will continue to monitor and combat unfair currency practices while encouraging policies and reforms to address large trade imbalances,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Treasury report is required by Congress to identify countries that are trying to artificially manage the value of their currency to gain a trade advantage, for example by keeping the exchange rate low to promote cheaper exports.

The report said India, which has a $23 billion trade surplus with the United States, “increased its purchases of foreign exchange over the first three quarters of 2017”, although the rupee still rose in value.

And while China — which is at the centre of a brewing trade dispute with Washington — remained on the watch list, Treasury said “the Chinese currency generally moved against the dollar in a direction that should” help reduce China’s trade surplus with the United States.

Germany also remained on the watch list, even though it is part of the European currency union, which means it cannot independently control the exchange rate for the euro.

Even so, the report notes that Germany “has the world’s largest current account surplus” and has made “little to no progress in reducing this massive surplus the past three years.” Treasury called for all the countries on the list to implement economic reforms to address their surpluses.

US adds India to currency watch list, demands reforms to address surpluses

In top gear! Two-wheeler exports highest since FY12 at 2.8 million units

Two-wheeler exports from India clocked a record high since 2011-12 at 2.8 million units, registering a 20.29 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) growth, riding primarily on motorcycle exports.

The country exported 2.81 million two-wheelers in 2017-18, of which, 2.4 million or about 88 per cent were motorcycles. Scooters comprised about 11 per cent of the total exports at 314,307 units, growing at 7.34 per cent y-o-y. Moped exports, however, slipped 13.6 per cent to only around 17,412 units. As such, the TVS XL 100 from the TVS stable is the last man standing in the mopeds category in the country. But it, too, saw domestic demand slip 3.5 per cent during 2017-18.

Subrata Ray, senior group vice-president at ICRA, said the growth in exports was primarily on account of geography additions over the years and enhancing market share in these geographies. “Also, players such as Hero MotoCorp and Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) have taken to motorcycle exports in recent years. And they added to the volumes,” he added.

In the scooters segment, HMSI accounted for over 60 per cent of the total scooter exports at 189,438 units during 2017-18, a 16.5 per cent y-o-y growth.

Y S Guleria, senior vice-president, sales and marketing, HMSI, said, “With a market share of 60 per cent, Honda alone accounts for three out of every five scooters exported from India. Led by Dio, India’s number one exported model, Honda’s exports grew by 17 per cent which is more than double the 7 per cent growth of scooter exports.”

He added that HMSI was not only leading the ‘scooterisation’ in India but was also driving the trend in other markets, especially the SAARC nations. The company is also mining new opportunities in the ‘style-conscious youth’ segment in Latin American countries with its Navi and motorcycle CB Hornet.
India Yamaha Motor, too, saw a 45.5 per cent y-o-y rise in scooter exports during the year, riding on its fuel-efficient variants Cygnus Ray and Fascino and exported 43,025 units in 2017-18.

For motorcycles, Bajaj Auto was the undisputed category leader with exports to 70 countries. Bajaj exported 1.39 million units of motorcycles during the year, a 56 per cent share of total motorcycle exports. Bajaj clocked a 15 per cent y-o-y growth in exports on a high base.

Rakesh Sharma, president of international business at Bajaj Auto, said a combination of factors were responsible behind the export growth — entering new markets, enhancing market share in existing ones and an increased acceptance of the Bajaj brand and its proposition. Sharma added that exports were primarily driven by three models, Boxer, Pulsar and CT. The Pulsar brand, which has seen 13 refreshes since its launch, sold more than 10 million units globally over 16 years in December 2017.

Hero MotoCorp, too, saw a 27 per cent rise in exports of motorbikes in 2017-18, selling 178,156 units overseas. HMSI exported 159,152 units of motorcycles during the year, a growth of 32 per cent.

HMSI’s overall two-wheeler exports crossed 300,000 for the first time in 2017-18, growing 23 per cent. It exported to 27 nations. Guleria added, “The implementation of BS-VI norms in 2020 will open a golden window of opportunity to ‘make in India’ for the world as Indian quality will match global standards.”

In top gear! Two-wheeler exports highest since FY12 at 2.8 million units

Russia rues its declining role as arms supplier to India

For years, Russian equipment and defence firms were the highlight of Indian Defexpo and Aero India shows. After live displays, mainly featuring Russian aircraft, helicopters and armoured vehicles, the crowds would throng the glitzy, neon-lit Russian exhibits where executives in lightweight suits and improbably long-legged lady receptionists politely fielded the buzz surrounding the next big Russian contract.

Few would have predicted how quickly change has come. On Wednesday, after opening Defexpo 2018, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in a swarm of subordinates and bodyguards, was touring the exhibits in Hall 1, where the big Russian exhibitors and Israeli defence vendors were arrayed opposite each other. Senior Russian officials recount that Sitharaman turned abruptly to the Israeli firms — Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael and Elbit Systems — and strolled past without bothering to even look at a single Russian exhibit.

 

Russian attempts to engage her attention were blocked by the guards around her.

“This is what the India-Russia defence relationship has come to. India’s political environment is no longer that friendly to Russia”, says a top Russian executive.

He ruled out a suggestion that Sitharaman’s snub might have been inadvertent. “A defence minister prepares for an event like Defexpo. She has assistants and advisors, who guide her along. It was deliberate”, he declared.

Contacted by email for confirmation, the defence ministry has not responded.

Only later in the day were the Russians placated, when the navy chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, and other senior admirals visited the navy-related Russian exhibits.

Russia remains India’s largest arms supplier, but its share is dwindling rapidly. A report last month from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute states that, in the five-year period 2013 to 2017, India sourced 62 per cent of its defence imports from Russia. That was down from 79 per cent in the previous five-year period.

A key reason for Russia’s decline was evident at Defexpo: India’s frustration at the low serviceability of Russian equipment and the shortage of spares. An India-Russia Military Industrial Conference held at Defexpo 2018 focused on “improvement of after-sales support of Russian-origin defence platforms being exploited by Indian defence forces and also to facilitate domestic manufacturing of some of the identified spare parts…”, India’s defence ministry announced.

The seven memoranda of understanding signed between Indian private firms and Russian OEMs were all aimed at ensuring the smooth supply of spares and assemblies for Russian-origin weaponry already in service in the Indian military.

A veteran Russian defence industry technocrat, who has supplied arms to India since Soviet Union days, says that Indian attitudes towards arms purchases had changed dramatically. In earlier times, the Soviet Union sold cheap, rugged and unsophisticated equipment — which was all India could afford anyway. “Now India has progressed. It can buy expensive and sophisticated weaponry and it is no longer content with cheap, rugged Russian arms. But, even though India’s military still has high regard for Russian arms, New Delhi’s political attitude to Moscow has changed”, he says. “Moscow sold weaponry to India on a friendship basis, at friendship prices. But India now wants Russia to compete in open global tenders. Fine! We will also deal with India on a purely commercial basis then,” says a Russian company chief executive.

In any such conversation with Russians, India’s “growing closeness with America” quickly bubbles to the surface. But when countered with the charge that Moscow too has come closer to Pakistan and China, the Russians quickly interrupt.

“There is no friendship in those relationships, like there is with India. Moscow engages Islamabad in order to have a handle on the Taliban. And China shares a long border with Russia. Every country deals with its immediate neighbours on a special basis”, claims the veteran Russian technocrat.

When we point out that India and Russia cooperate on projects that no other country does — for example, in designing and building INS Arihant, the nuclear missile submarine, and the lease of INS Chakra, a Russian nuclear propelled submarine — the Russians bitterly point at India’s “backtracking” on conventional submarines under Project 75-I.

“In 1999, India’s 30-year submarine programme decided to build six western-origin and six Russian-origin submarines. India bought the first six Scorpene submarines from France, but where is the contract for the other six? India wants Russia to compete with western shipyards in an open tender to build six boats equipped with ‘air-independent propulsion’. Why is India not giving Russia the order for the next six [submarines]?” says the Russian executive.

The Russians also point to long-standing inter-governmental agreements that have been languishing for years — specifically naming the deals to co-develop the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, build Kamov-226T light helicopters and buy the S-400 long range ground to air missile system.

“Countries with genuine security problems buy simple, rugged weaponry. Rich countries, which maintain ‘trophy militaries’, buy sophisticated costly kit that may or may not work in war. India faces real threats. It should not forget its longstanding Russian friendship,” he concludes.

Russia rues its declining role as arms supplier to India

India needs to reawaken to the principle of equality

The economic liberalisation that I was associated with in 1991-1996 and 2004-2014 was, above all, a process of opening up new opportunities for people born without social and economic privilege. This was for me the guiding vision behind our economic reforms.

While economic growth remains a high priority for the country, there is now a growing concern that the concomitant commitment to ensuring that disparities and inequality do not grow is weakening. This can be a serious potential threat to our democracy. Economists and development experts worldwide are today emphasising the grave danger to sustained growth from growing inequality. They point out that economic inequality and exclusion are threats not only to economic and social wellbeing, but also to a cohesive functioning of the polity as a whole.

 

It is vitally important for us in India to maintain strong focus on containing the growth of economic inequality, and work actively to reduce it. A range of economic and social policy measures are available to us. What is required is stronger social and political reawakening to the principle of equality — social, economic and political — for the sake of equality and as a mark of our commitment to democracy.

Freedom

As much as equality, freedom is a pre-requisite for democracy. The freedom of a country is not the freedom of its government. It is the freedom of people, which in turn, is not the freedom only of its privileged and powerful, but the freedom of every Indian. Freedom is the freedom to question, the freedom to express one’s views, howsoever troubling they may be for others. The only constraint to freedom must be the freedom of others — in other words, the freedom of one person or a group should not be used to constrain the freedom of other individuals or groups. Without a firm commitment to this idea of freedom for which many of our forefathers made tremendous sacrifices, our democracy will not survive.

An integral and central component of our freedom is the independence of India. The independence of a country is a collective expression of the independence and freedom of its individual citizens. The loss of the independence of India means that the power to determine the policies of the country has been transferred outside our shores, away from our people. There can be no democracy without national independence. Nor can we be independent without democracy.

A dangerous and false binary is now surfacing in Indian political discourse, which must be firmly rejected. It is that we have to choose between freedom and development. It is not a new binary. The argument was put to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation, that good governance and development are better than swaraj. The argument was also widely advanced by colonial and pro-colonial forces that India was not ready for freedom, and that continued British raj would be better for us for our development. The choice of the people of India then was, and still is, clear and unambiguous. We will be free and independent. For us freedom is neither merely an instrument for development nor to be subordinated to development. Growth, wealth and development are fruits of democracy, not substitutes.

Fraternity

Democracy is as inseparable from fraternity as is equality and freedom. Only fraternal people can maintain a democracy. And, conversely, only a democratic nation can maintain fraternity. Fraternity is based, as powerfully and eloquently stated in the Preamble of our Constitution, on the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. I need not dwell long on the current deep concern that attempts are being made to divide the Indian people on the basis of religion and caste, language and culture. Atrocities against minorities and dalits are increasing. If unchecked these tendencies can only harm our democracy. As a people, we must strongly reject divisive policies and politics.

India needs no lessons in the importance of fraternity. Who can ever forget the epic tragedy of our own history — when at the time of partition in 1947 the ancient fabric of our deep rooted fraternity — woven from sacred threads of love and affection seasoned over centuries — was sought to be deliberately torn up and destroyed? I bear personal witness to its unspeakable consequences. Hatred should never be allowed to enter our shores ever again.

Electoral system

We are all most proud of our democratic electoral system in which ruling parties have been defeated and power has been transferred peacefully. This is a rare success in today’s world. Our electoral system has succeeded against great odds. It has destroyed feudal systems of government. It has opened up opportunities for the aam aadmi without any social, economic or political privilege whatsoever by birth to occupy the highest positions of power. There is, however, today widespread concern that our electoral system is being undermined by money power and muscle power. Electoral reforms to cleanse elections of money and muscle power and to maintain the integrity of elected officials are another vital area for securing and strengthening of our democracy. Like democratic political parties, the media and the judiciary also need to be strong guardians of the public weal.

Renew our commitment to Democracy

Dr Ambedkar once worried that the day may come when people may prefer government for the people to government by and of the people. He saw that as a great danger. On this 70th anniversary, we must ensure that we do not fall into the trap of choosing government for the people over government by and of the people.

Governance is complex. It is messy. It is slow. Its benefits are long term. It requires great patience. Above all, democracy is a system in which people without privilege have a decisive voice in governance. If this is lost, democracy becomes meaningless.

 

India needs to reawaken to the principle of equality

Reclassification helps govt rein in fiscal deficit to 3.4% of GDP in FY18

The Narendra Modi government has had to depend on some smart accounting and expenditure rationalisation to rein in the 2017-18 fiscal deficit at 3.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), lower than the Revised Estimates (RE) of 3.5 per cent.

The official data for the April-March 2017-18 fiscal deficit will be released on May 31. As reported in Business Standard earlier, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) transferred an additional Rs 100 billion in surplus to the central coffers, and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) returned nearly Rs 500 billion it was allocated to the finance ministry.

 

The Rs 500-billion allocation to the FCI had been earlier classified as capital expenditure, but was later converted to a ‘ways and means advance’, which needs to be returned within a financial year. Hence, the expenditure at the end of March will show a reduction by a similar amount.

At the end of any given year, the finance ministry can always count on Rs 200-300 billion in unspent allocations being returned by various central government departments. For 2017-18, the North Block is said to have cut Rs 150 billion from gross budgetary support to the railways, whose minister Piyush Goyal has put emphasis on the ministry, raising its own resources rather than depending on budgetary support. Surprisingly, the defence ministry, which has been prone to returning unspent capital expenditure allocations in the past, did not return any sum last fiscal.

Meeting targets

Govt depending on expenditure rationalisation to rein in the 2017-18 fiscal deficit to 3.4% of GDP
Official data will be released on May 31
RBI has transferred Rs 100 billion additional surplus
FCI has returned Rs 500 billion it was allocated
Fiscal deficit for April-February 2017-18 was Rs 7.16 trillion, an overshoot of Rs 1.2 trillion
In an interview to another publication, Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg said the fiscal deficit for 2017-18 will come in at 3.4 per cent of GDP. He said total revenue was to the RE, while non-tax revenue was somewhat lower than revised numbers.

The total non-tax revenue for 2017-18 was already revised downwards to Rs 2.36 trillion from Rs 2.9 trillion. This shows that dividends from public sector companies and banks, and telecom spectrum revenue, showed weak returns compared to earlier estimates.

Reclassification helps govt rein in fiscal deficit to 3.4% of GDP in FY18

Rs 6.21-billion fraud: CBI books former UCO Bank CMD Arun Kaul, others

The CBI has booked former chairman-cum-managing director of UCO Bank Arun Kaul and others in connection with an alleged Rs 6.21 billion loan fraud which has caused a loss of over Rs 7.37 billion to the bank, officials said on Saturday.

The agency carried out searches at 10 locations today, they said here.

 

Besides Kaul, the CBI booked Era Engineering Infra India Ltd. (EEIL), its CMD Hem Singh Bharana, two chartered accountants — Pankaj Jain and Vandna Sharda — and Pawan Bansal of Altius Finserve Pvt. Ltd. among others, they said.

It is alleged that the accused persons in pursuance of a criminal conspiracy defrauded the UCO Bank to the tune of about Rs 6.21 billion by diversion and siphoning of the bank loans, they said.

Kaul, who was the CMD of a Kolkata-based bank between 2010 and 2015, allegedly facilitated the accused company in obtaining the loan, they said.

The loan was secured by producing false end-use certificates issued by the chartered accountant and by fabricating business data. The loan was not utilized for the sanctioned purpose, the CBI alleged.

“Searches are being conducted at 10 places (8 in Delhi and 2 in Mumbai) including the office premises of the companies, chartered accountants and the residence of the aforesaid accused persons,” the CBI spokesperson said.

In its complaint, now part of the CBI FIR, the bank alleged that two loans were issued to the company in 2010 — Rs 2 billion in March and Rs 4.5 billion in October.

The Rs 2 billion loan was issued for repayment of high cost debt to Central Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and IFCI. It was found that the company did not utilize the amount for the purpose for which it was disbursed and diverted the funds.

“No amount was used to repay the dues of Central Bank of India and Punjab National Bank while only Rs 5.9 million were repaid towards dues of IFCI while purpose of the loan was to repay the dues of these banks,” it said.

Chartered accountant Pankaj Jain dishonestly and fraudulently did not mention the details of utilisation of term loan in the end-use certificate.

In the case of the Rs 4.5 billion loan, too, the funds were utilised for purposes other than stipulated in the sanction and the end-use certificates given by the chartered account were intentionally ambiguous and against the fact, it alleged.

“The account was declared NPA as on July 7, 2013 by the bank and the present balance as on December 31, 2017 is Rs 7.38 billion,” it alleged.

Rs 6.21-billion fraud: CBI books former UCO Bank CMD Arun Kaul, others