Our flagship daily news show, where hosts Shashank Bhargava and Snigdha Sharma talk to in-house experts about what is going on and why you need to care about it.
First, Indian Express’ Udit Mishra joins host Shashank Bhargava to talk about how RBI’s latest report is being candid about the state of the Indian economy, but a bit rosy about its future.
Next, Indian Express’ Pranav Mukul tells us how people on board a SpiceJet flight got critically injured, and what the investigation into the matter will look at.
And in the end, Indian Express’ Arun Janardhanan talks about the controversy involving a medical college in Tamil Nadu, and the ‘Charak Oath’.
Shashank Bhargava: Hi, I’m Shashank Bhargava, and you’re listening to 3 Things The Indian Express news show. In this episode, we talk about people getting critically injured while being on board, a SpiceJet flight. We also talk about a medical college in Tamilnadu, getting into a controversy because of a Sanskrit oath. But first we talk about the Reserve Bank of India. Last week the RBI released its report on currency and finance. Now, this report has been making news because it talks about when the Indian economy is expected to overcome the losses that it has suffered due to COVID-19. But even apart from this, the report is also very candid in its assessment of the Indian economy. This is what Udit Misra who writes on the economy for the Indian Express points out in his latest piece. In the segment, we talked to him about the report and what it reveals. So that you’ve written that this report has been very forthright, very candid about the Indian economy, both pre and post COVID. So let’s talk about pre COVID. First, what does the report say about it?
Udit Misra: So one of the remarkable things about India’s economic growth in the recent past, as many of the listeners might recall, is that since middle of 2016-17, and that was typically around the time d monetization was announced. It has been argued by several academics that India’s economic growth momentum was lost and right through 2017-18. And 2019, all the way up till COVID hit us in 2020, the economic growth momentum had been falling. And this was a massive point of contention for two reasons. One, first of all, the government didn’t agree on any of those years that the growth momentum was falling and if you go back to the stories and statements of that time, you will find the government always saying well, it’s not a deceleration the growth is about to happen or is happening, you do not understand the numbers will come through. So that is one thing that whether the government was in denial and whether there was a deceleration happening, and how massive was the deceleration as it turned out, the deceleration was that in the year before COVID hit us, the economy grew by less than 4% without any COVID impact. The other thing was why the economy is slowing down. And again, there was this debate whether it is a supply side slowdown or a demand side slowdown again, the critics of the government and saw the most recognised voices in academics are saying that this is a demand slowdown data is showing that demand has been a worry, and that the policy response to that should be one to boost demand, whereas the government had a different view. And it was trying to boost supply a case in point being the corporate tax cut, which was a massive reform, genuinely reform, but perhaps ill timed. So why I say that this is a candid report is because this RBI report actually puts it on record many of the things that government was perhaps denying for a very long time. So on pre COVID scenario, the report is saying that the deceleration started in the second half of 2016-17. Now second half of 2016-17 starts from October 2016. And the argument has been that the monetization in November 2016 was the tipping point for things to unravel, then it says that the deceleration happened because of private consumption demand faltering.
Shashank Bhargava: Okay so, the report puts it on paper that the deceleration of the economy started in the second half of 2016. When we know Demonetization happened, and it puts on paper, that it was, in fact, a demand problem.
Udit Misra: Yes, it doesn’t mention Demonetization per se, but it gives it away by giving the very accurate marker of second half of 2016. And it also talks about unemployment and wages. Again, this has been a massive point of contention. Many of the readers might recall that the government itself ran down the periodic Labour Force Survey that came out, which said that unemployment was at the historic high in 2017-18, just before the 2019 general election, and it ran down the PFS data later only to accept it. But this report finally says that yes, unemployment was a massive issue. And it was rising unemployment and lower labour force participation was happening at a time when the wages were also growing at a slower pace. So that is why I’m saying that this is a candid report because it very honestly accepts what was ailing the Indian economy.
Shashank Bhargava: Okay, so this is what the report says about the pre COVID period. What does it say about the COVID and the present period?
Udit Misra: So for the COVID period, again, while the government has been arguing that you know, if you look at say the budget speeches, which are typically the one time perhaps the government actually reaches out on financial matters To the widest spectr um of Indian public, everybody listens in the finance minister gets up. There of you see there has been in the last two years no mention of the caseshape recovery, which is to say that there are massive inequalities in the way the recovery is happening, there is no mention of how difficult it would be for the Indian economy to recover, in the long term. The argument always has been that India has recovered, it has been a sharp recovery, and more technically, it has been a V shaped recovery, which is an incorrect thing for the government to argue. But it keeps repeating that again and again that it’s a V shaped recovery. Whereas this report again, places it very clearly that not only did India suffer the most in terms of the economic fallout of COVID. But because of the very stringent possibly the most stringent lockdowns, we also suffered one of the highest possibly only second to us in terms of the health impact the COVID deaths. And they’re also further there are credible evidence that, you know, deaths might be underreported. So what this report says is that, first of all, we did suffer the most, both on economy and health. And secondly, the recovery is no were near the v shape that the government keeps arguing about, it puts it on record saying that the recovery is just you know, we’ve grown by just 1.8% over what it was before COVID. So basically, you’re looking at almost a stagnant thing, whatever you lost, you just are barely able to catch up to that.
Shashank Bhargava: Right. And which makes sense because apart from there being stringent lockdowns and the number of COVID deaths, India’s economy was already faltering. And in this regard in the past, you came up with this analogy involving comorbidities. Could you tell that to our listeners?
Udit Misra: Yes, so many of the readers might recall and the stories there on the website were in March 2020, we did a analysis of trying to understand how COVID disruptions may impact the Indian economy. And at that time, well, before any of the data had actually come. Our analogy was that and guiding principle was that just like COVID typically affects more of those people who have comorbidities or who are physically weak have some ailments, the economic disruption will also be highest in those economies, which are already struggling. And India was one of those economies, because for the past three years leading up to COVID, our growth rate had been decelerating quite sharply, and unemployment was high consumption was low. So basically, all the factors were not in our favour. And we had argued that this is likely to happen. And this report again, the thing that sort of caught everybody’s attention in this report was how long it would take from here on for Indian economy to recover the pre COVID path.
Shashank Bhargava: Yeah, and that is what has been catching everyone’s attention. The report says that India is expected to overcome COVID-19 losses in 2034 to 2035. Now, to be honest, I can’t tell if this is a really long period or not, like is 12 years a really long time for an economy like this to recover?
Udit Misra: No, this is not a reasonable time, there are two three points I want to make here. One is that obviously this is a long period. But it is not surprising that this is a long period. And this is what a lot of academics had been pointing out that this will take a heavy toll on the Indian economy and notions that Indian economy has recovered and everything is hunky dory and we’ll be back will not really happen. And it is important for readers to understand that when we talk about recovering here, we are not talking about coming to the pre COVID level of GDP, we are talking about recovering to the pre COVID path or the trajectory. So if you are growing at a particular trajectory in GDP, COVID bumped you down knocked you down. Now for you to really go back to the same trajectory it will take you 13 years, otherwise, you will continue rising, but you will continue below where you might have been. Now the last point that I want to make on this and quite surprisingly, is that even this number 12-13 years from now is in my estimate a very rosy picture, because it expects that from next financial year onwards, Indian economy will grow at seven and a half percent every year till 2034-35. Now, if we look back in India’s economic history, there has been only one phase between 2004 and 2012 when we’ve actually grown at 7%. So to imagine that India will now grow at 7.5 for that longer period, which has never happened seems overly optimistic, which is to say that if we are not growing at 7.5, on average, then perhaps is going to take even longer.
Shashank Bhargava: And next we talk about SpiceJet. On Sunday, SpiceJet aircraft, which was travelling from Mumbai to Durgapur, experienced severe turbulence after it flew into bad weather, and ended up injuring many people who were on board. In fact, the turbulence was so bad that it caused some passengers and crew members to rise up almost as if in a zero gravity situation and then getting slammed back down. Indian Express’s Pranav Mukul, who reports on aviation for the paper joins us to talk about it. So Pranav, how many people ended up getting injured on this flight? And how serious are these injuries.
Pranav Mukul: So there were exactly 189 passengers on board in addition to two pilots and four cabin crew members on this pilot flight from Mumbai to to Cabo, which operated on Sunday. Of these around 14 to 15 passengers suffered injuries. And as per the latest information that we had on Monday evening, 11 of them were hospitalised but eight of them were discharged. Three was still in the hospital with two of them being in ICU for head and spinal injuries. And obviously, we know that this happened because the flight encountered severe turbulence during its descent and the passenger was subjected to really disruptive flight, because of which there was a lot of mayhem inside the cabin, baggages we’re falling down from the overhead cabins to those who did not have their seatbelts on were, in fact lifted into the air and then slammed down which resulted in them getting injured. So alongside the passengers, SpiceJet crew members were also injured because of this.
Shashank Bhargava: Right. And among those who were injured, also includes an eight year old girl who fractured her wrist. But now Do we know why the flight experienced such turbulence?
Pranav Mukul: So what we do know is that the flight, perhaps flew into some bad weather, we don’t exactly know what kind of bad weather there was, there are various kinds of bad weather that cause a turbulent flight, it could be Jetstream changing direction, it could be a thunderstorm, it could be a really strong cloud, it could be hot air rising from the ground, especially since this flight was on a descent. We don’t know the details about what exactly the nature of that bad weather was. But yeah, it said that the flight flew into bad weather which caused severe turbulence.
Shashank Bhargava: And how common is it for a flight to experience such severe turbulence that people end up getting seriously injured.
Pranav Mukul: So typically, you know, it’s not very uncommon for flights to run into turbulence is that’s a pretty normal thing. But whenever there are really bad weather, typically what pilots would do is in coordination with the ATC is to try and avoid that specific patch of bad weather that they’re on their route. They either assigned or designed to avoid that. But sometimes what will happen is that the weather will form suddenly, and the pilots will get caught unaware, which is when these kinds of incidents tend to happen. And it’s said in the aviation industry, you know that there’s actually no way to prevent running into turbulences for flight, except for pilots to be aware to the best of what’s available in terms of information regarding the weather that can either develop suddenly or already exist.
Shashank Bhargava: And I’m guessing this must be tricky, because weather can be so unpredictable.
Pranav Mukul: It can be predicted to some extent, but when it happens suddenly, that’s when such severe incidents happen.
Shashank Bhargava: And what action has been taken against the flight so far?
Pranav Mukul: So right now, we don’t exactly know if there was some role that the flight cockpit and cabin crew played in the event unfolding as it did, but that is being investigated because obviously one part of the investigation is looking at why the flight flew into turbulence. But the second part is also looking at why so many people got injured, there may or may not be a role that the crew would have played and whether it was not being ready in terms of preparing the cabin for turbulence, or when the pilots expected turbulence that will be investigated. But pending that investigation, the crew has been off rostered. They’ve been taken off duty but that something that happens in the course of any aviation incident investigation that happens.
Shashank Bhargava: So any investigation that happens the crew is immediately taken off duty.
Pranav Mukul: So yeah, if the crew is being investigated, if they are under investigation, then yes, they will be taken off duty.
Shashank Bhargava: And Pranav considering flights do have an experience turbulence. Is there anything that passengers can do to keep themselves safe?
Pranav Mukul: Yeah, so the US Federal Aviation Administration, which is the aviation regulator in the US has said that you know, passengers can easily prevent injuries from unexpected turbulence by keeping their seatbelt buckled at all time. We’ve often seen in flights that during landing and takeoff, of course, the pilots turn their seatbelt and on but whenever a flight encounters turbulence, they again switch it on, but sometimes passengers don’t tend to buckle their seatbelts on and that’s something that can be done to prevent injuries from turbulence that is unexpected. And the FAA also said that you know passengers should listen to instructions from the flight attendants and pay attention to the safety briefing at the beginning of the flight.
Shashank Bhargava: And in the end, we talk about the controversy that took place in a medical college in Tamil Nadu. For years medical students and physicians across the country and across the world have been taking the famous Hippocratic Oath, which is an oath to uphold the ethics in the medical profession, and is attributed to Hippocrates, the so called father of modern medicine. Although originally in Greek, it has been translated into many languages, including English, and this is what a part of it sounds like. “I will approach all aspects of my education with honesty, honesty and integrity, I will always maintain the highest standards of professional conduct”. In India, taking this oath has broadly been the tradition, but lately there has been a push to replace the Hippocratic Oath with the Charak Shapath which is an oath in Sanskrit attributed to Maharishi Charak, who was an important physician in ancient Indian society. In February it was the national medical commission the regulator for medical education and practices, which suggested that medical colleges should replace the Hippocratic oath which Charak Shapath this push for a Sanskrit oath is being viewed by many as part of BJP is Hindutva agenda as well. Now while the push is new, interestingly, students of some medical colleges including AIIMS, have been taking the Charak oath during the annual convocation for several years now. But this did not stop the Madurai Medical College in Tamil Nadu from getting into a controversy when its new students took the Charak Shapath instead of the traditional Hippocratic oath. The event in question was attended by the finance minister and commercial taxes minister of the state. The Tamil Nadu government in reaction has now removed the dean of the medical college, when we spoke to Arun Janardhanan, who reports in Tamil Nadu for the paper, he told us that the students did not take the oath to cause any political controversy. They had just found the oath online.
Arun Janardhanan: Actually, the students and professors there, according to them, what happened was students had taken this oath from the Charak oath from National Medical Commission website, and it was a Sanskrit or written in English not translated in English. So they were just reading out a Sanskrit quote from Roman letters, and we have no reason to believe that it was done purposefully.
Shashank Bhargava: Now the thing to note is that the reason this became a controversy has a lot to do with the politics of Tamil Nadu. The state, for example, already has ongoing tensions with the centre and has always protested the imposition of Hindi and Sanskrit.
Arun Janardhanan: Tamil Nadu is a state which is very sensitive about language, it may be one of the states that is religiously following a two language policy where Tamil and English are being taught in schools, while Hindi is not a mandatory subject language to do. So the very political history of Tamil Nadu itself makes, you know, the state and the politics very sensitive towards Hindi and Sanskrit.
Shashank Bhargava: Arun also points out that the state has in the past witnessed Anti-Hindi agitations. These were protests that took place in both pre and post independent India regarding the imposition of Hindi in the state.
Arun Janardhanan: So, the moment when you bring in a Sanskrit quote, taken from an ancient text, so Tamil Nadu naturally will have a strong objection because for for over a century, especially Madurai Medical College, one of the oldest many colleges has been following this already go. So there is no reason to change, especially you know, the change makes a lot of issues when it was actually suggested by the Center rule by BJP, a month ago
Shashank Bhargava: And he says that after the event, the local media started covering it. And then the college had to give an explanation regarding it.
Arun Janardhanan: The official Dr. Rathinavel who is the dean of moderate medical college, so he gave an explanation to the media that it was actually decision to read out a Charak Sanskrit aath was taken by students. He specifically said that the student cabinet secretary was the person who was in charge of I mean, who was responsible for that, but at the same time, his argument was not, you know, acceptable for the government. And it was quite an embarrassing situation for the ruling, because at least politically you know, they have to react in such a way that they cannot entertain such changes such aberrations in the conventional systems practices. So that is why the government decided to remove Dr. Rathinavel from the post of Dean.
Shashank Bhargava: And since he was removed from the post of the Dean, Dr. Rathinavel has been put on a waiting list and has not been given any new postings. You’re listening to 3 Things by the Indian Express Today Show was written and produced by me, Shashank Bhargava and was edited and mixed by Suresh Pawar. If you liked the show, then do subscribe to us wherever you get your podcast. You can also recommend the show to someone you think would like it, share it with a friend or someone in your family. It’s the best way for people to get to know about us. You can tweet us @expresspodcasts and write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org