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INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 18TH FEBRUARY 2020

ISSUE: ROYAL INDIAN NAVY REVOLT

Seventy-four years ago on this date, on February 18, 1946, some 1,100 Indian sailors or “ratings” of the HMIS Talwar and the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) Signal School in Bombay declared a hunger strike, triggered by the conditions and treatment of Indians in the Navy. A “slow down” the strike was also called, which meant that the ratings would carry out their duties slowly.

Strike and demands

The morning after February 18, somewhere between 10,000-20,000 sailors joined the strike, as did shore establishments in Karachi, Madras, Calcutta, Mandapam, Visakhapatnam, and the Andaman Islands.

While the immediate trigger was the demand for better food and working conditions, the agitation soon turned into a wider demand for independence from British rule.

The protesting sailors demanded the release of all political prisoners including those from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA), action against the commander for ill-treatment and using insulting language, revision of pay and allowances to put RIN employees on a par with their counterparts in the Royal Navy, demobilisation of RIN personnel with provisions for peacetime employment, release of Indian forces stationed in Indonesia, and better treatment of subordinates by their officers.

Upsurge of nationalism

The RIN strike came at a time when the Indian nationalist sentiment had reached fever pitch across the country. The winter of 1945-46 saw three violent upsurges: in Calcutta in November 1945 over the INA trials; in February 1946, also in Calcutta, over the sentencing of INA officer Rashid Ali; and, in that same month, the ratings’ uprising in Bombay.

One of the triggers for the RIN strike was the arrest of a rating, BC Dutt, who had scrawled “Quit India” on the HMIS Talwar. The day after the strike began, the ratings went around Bombay in lorries, waving the Congress flag, and getting into scraps with Europeans and policemen who tried to confront them.

Soon, ordinary people joined the ratings, and life came to a virtual standstill in both Bombay and Calcutta. There were meetings, processions, strikes, and hartals. In Bombay, labourers participated in a general strike called by the Communist Party of India and the Bombay Students’ Union. In many cities across India, students boycotted classes in solidarity.

The response of the state was brutal. It is estimated that over 220 people died in police firing, while roughly 1,000 were injured.

Significance of the events

The RIN revolt remains a legend today. It was an event that strengthened further the determination among all sections of the Indian people to see the end of British rule. Deep solidarity and amity among religious groups was in evidence, which appeared to run counter to the rapidly spreading atmosphere of commuanal hatred and animosity.

However, communal unity was more in the nature of organisational unity than a unity among the two major communities. Within months, India was to be devoured by a terrible communal conflagration.

ISSUE: REALIGNMENT OF RBI’S CALENDAR WITH FISCAL CALENDAR

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is aligning its July-June accounting year with the government’s April-March fiscal year in order to ensure more effective management of the country’s finances.

How did the RBI’s July-June accounting year come to be?

When it commenced operations on April 1, 1935, with Sir Osborne Smith as its first Governor, the RBI followed a January-December accounting year. On March 11, 1940, however, the bank changed its accounting year to July-June. Now, after nearly eight decades, the RBI is making another switch: the next accounting year will be a nine-month period from July 2020 to March 31, 2021 and thereafter, all financial years will start from April, as it happens with the central and state governments.

Why are RBI’s accounts important?

The RBI’s balance sheet plays a critical role in the functioning of the country’s economy — largely reflecting the activities carried out in pursuance of its currency issue function, as well as monetary policy and reserve management objectives. The RBI Act says the central bank “shall undertake to accept monies for account of the Central Government and to make payments up to the amount standing to the credit of, and to carry out (its exchange), remittance and other banking operations, including the management of the public debt”.

The RBI is the country’s monetary authority, regulator, and supervisor of the financial system, manager of foreign exchange, issuer of currency, regulator and supervisor of payment and settlement systems, banker to the central and the state governments, and also banker to banks.

But why is the system being changed?

The Bimal Jalan Committee on Economic Capital Framework (ECF) of the RBI had proposed a more transparent presentation of the RBI’s annual accounts, and a change in its accounting year to April-March from the financial year 2020-21. It said the RBI would be able to provide better estimates of projected surplus transfers to the government for the financial year for budgeting purposes.

It is also expected to result in better management of transfer of dividend or surplus to the government. Moreover, as governments, companies, and other institutions follow the April-March year, it will help with effective management of accounting. In May 2018, when Urjit Patel was Governor, the RBI appointed its first ever Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Sudha Balakrishnan.

What will be impact of the change?

The change in the fiscal year could reduce the need for interim dividend being paid by the RBI, and such payments may then be restricted to extraordinary circumstances. It will obviate any timing considerations that may enter into the selection of open market operations or Market Stabilization Scheme as monetary policy tools. It will also bring greater cohesiveness in monetary policy projections and reports published by the RBI, which mostly use the fiscal year as the base.

Last fiscal, the RBI paid Rs 28,000 crore as interim dividend; in 2017-18, the government received Rs 10,000 crore. In RBI’s balance sheet, while capital and reserve fund are explicitly shown, other sources of financial resilience are grouped under ‘Other Liabilities and Provisions’ and enumerated via Schedules, making it difficult to arrive at total risk provisions, the Jalan panel said.

In August 2019, the RBI transferred Rs 1,76,051 crore to government, comprising Rs 1,23,414 crore of surplus for 2018-19, and Rs 52,637 crore of excess provisions identified as per revised ECF proposed by the Jalan panel.

ISSUE: M S GOLWALKAR 

Golwalkar, fondly remembered as Guruji, dedicated his life to the awakening of nationalistic sentiments rooted in the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Sri Aurobindo. Guruji made an unforgettable contribution to society and nation-building, going on to live as an ascetic.

Born in 1906, Guruji completed his Masters from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) with a first division. He then took admission in a Chennai institute for research. He was, however, compelled to give up on his research midway because of financial constraints. Subsequently, he began teaching in BHU and soon he became famous as Guruji. While Golwalkar taught at BHU, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya remained deeply attached to him.

Guruji studied law as well but he remained unhappy with society’s mental weaknesses and the fact that India continued to remain a British colony. It was because of this sadness that Guruji moved towards spirituality under the guidance of Swami Akhandananda, who was a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Under Swami Akhandananda’s guidance, Guruji learnt the true meaning and essence of sacrifice and detachment.

Guruji was deeply influenced by Hedgewar’s beliefs that while rousing speeches can give us short-term benefits, in the long term, the work of nation-building wasn’t possible without showing humility in speech. So, it is our duty to work for the nation by exercising a strict control over what we say and keeping intact a tenderness of heart and mind.

Guruji was also influenced by Sri Aurobindo’s teaching that for the creator of the universe, Ma Bhagwati, we must become virtuous souls who can spread love and positivity. From this perspective, his nationalism wasn’t one that had ego or tried to rule over people with the use of force. It was a cultural nationalism imbued with spirituality.

He concurred with Vivekananda and Aurobindo that the country wasn’t merely a piece of land or a synonym for political power. She is the mother who nurtures us. In modern times, if we try to understand Guruji’s philosophy, we find that he was imploring us to become the best version of ourselves for the betterment of our country. In Indian tradition, the human being is not supreme. Excellence lies in giving one’s best to the nation. Being grateful to the nation is of prime importance. This should never translate into low self-esteem or weakness.

Guruji considered staying united and powerful to be in the interest of the nation. His understanding of life was immersed in sound logic even as he remained a steadfast idealist. He believed in creating institutions based on the need of the hour and rejected traditions based on superstitions and those that were devoid of logic.

His views on patriarchy are reflected in the incident where his parents told him that what would happen to their lineage if he renounces worldly life despite being their only son. To this, Guruji said that he didn’t believe in the end of family dynasties. He said his aim was the welfare of the society.

Guruji rejected the Varna system as an outdated idea. He was a large-hearted, fearless nationalist. He believed the real worship of God was in human deeds. He did not believe in religious and caste divides. He believed that national unity and integrity lay in people respecting the national mission, goals and cultural symbols.

India today, more than ever, needs to revisit Golwalkar and his teachings to realise its full potential.

 

 

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