GDP grows by 7.3%
- India grew 7.3 per cent during 2014-15, the first financial year presided over by the Modi government, failing to overtake China as the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
- During the January-March quarter, however, India grew 7.5 per cent beating China’s 7 per cent.
- Capital formation remained lower at 28.7 per cent of the GDP against 29.7 per cent during 2013-14.
P.K. Sinha appointed Cabinet Secretary
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 29 approved the appointment of Pradeep Kumar Sinha, a 1977 batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, as the next Cabinet Secretary.
- Mr. Sinha, who has been serving as Power Secretary since July 2013, will succeed Ajit Seth whose term ends on June 13. He will soon be attached to the Cabinet Secretariat as OSD till the commencement of his tenure.
Indian-origin children on top again
- Scripting history, two Indian-Americans children on May 28 won the world’s prestigious spelling bee in a tie the second time in a row, maintaining the community’s complete dominance on the competition.
- Vanya Shivashankar, 13, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, were declared co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee as they together lifted the golden trophy amid confetti and applause in a repeat of last year’s surprise tie — a feat achieved by Indian-Americans for the second consecutive year.
- The two winners will each receive over $37,000 in cash and prizes.
- With this year’s success, young Indian-Americans have won as many as 14 of the past 18 contests and the eighth year in a row.
An issue mishandled
- After yet another stand-off with agitating Gujjars the Rajasthan government has caved in, announcing that it would provide the community 5 per cent reservation in jobs. This will be over and above the 50 per cent reservation extended to backward classes and scheduled castes and tribes. And crucially, the provision will be included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution so it cannot be challenged in court.
- Following a series of talks with the community the government’s hand appears to have been forced by the scale of the protests. Road and rail traffic in the State was disrupted after thousands of people blocked commercially significant rail routes and the Jaipur-Agra national highway. The estimated loss to the Railways is about Rs. 200 crore. The eight-day-long stalemate prompted the Rajasthan High Court to come down heavily on the government, asking why not a single arrest had been made. That fact in itself reflects the scale of the problem, but it is one that successive governments in the State have created for themselves.
- Agitations by Gujjars over reservations have been a near-annual event in Rajasthan since 2006. The problem goes back to 2003 when the Rajasthan unit of the BJP promised, in the run-up to the 2003 election, to have Gujjars included in the Scheduled Tribes list. But the violent opposition that the move evoked from the numerically stronger Meena community forced the State government to back down. The anger within the Gujjar community grew to worrying proportions after the Vajpayee government decided to reclassify Jats as ‘Other Backward Class’. Faced with immense pressure, the Vasundhara Raje government passed an Act in 2008 granting 5 per cent reservation to Gujjars and classifying them as a ‘separate backward community’. In 2010 that Act was struck down by the Rajasthan High Court, which held that the total quantum of reservation had exceeded the ceiling of 50 per cent as laid down in the Mandal judgment. Unsurprisingly, this did not go down well with the Gujjar community, which demanded the promised 5 per cent reservation no matter what. This is proof, if any were required, that once caste politics is set in motion it creates a vicious cycle of unsustainable promises. By succumbing to the demands rather than take proactive action to end the agitation, the Rajasthan government has set a dangerous precedent. For, concessions made to one community inevitably trigger concerns in others. The Gujjar agitation may have ended for now, but it is certain to return in other forms.
Gujjars agitating in Rajasthan