Calcutta Notebook
US-China Trade War


The weakest pace in more than six years India's second quarter GDP growth slowed sharply to 4.5%. Manufacturing output hit a slump, and consumer demand and private investment weakened. The gross domestic product (GDP) expansion rate moderated from 5% recorded in April-June 2019, and is much weaker than the 7% growth registered in July-September 2018. The manufacturing sector contracted by 1%. Separate data indicates core infrastructure industries' output declining to 5.8% in October 2019, the biggest contraction since at least 2005. The GDP growth rate in the second quarter of fiscal year April to March 2019-20, is the slowest since January-March 2013, and marks six consecutive quarters of slowing growth, which is the first such occurrence since: 2012. It is worrisome, as the Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had taken several steps, including slashing corporate taxes, setting up of a special real estate fund, merging banks and announcing the biggest privatisation drive ever, to revive investment climate and bolster economic growth. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cut interest rates five times so far in 2019, by a total of 135 basis points, to boost liquidity in the financial system. Various surveys point to business confidence being at multi year lows. For the first half of FY 2019-2020, the GDP growth slowed to 4.8%, against 7.5% recorded in the first half of 2018-19.

Jharkhand Polls
Around 65% votes were cast in the constuencies of Jharkhand state assembly, at end Nov beginning Dec 2019. Polling was held amidst tight security in Maoist hit districts of Chatra, Gumla, Bishunpur, Lohardaga, Manika, Latehar, Paniki, Daltonganj, Bishampur, Chatarpur, Hussainabad, Garhwa and Bhawananath constituencies. A total of 1097 polling stations were marked as hyper-sensitive, and 461 polling stations as sensitive. On 30 November 2019, Left Wing Extremists (LWE) exploded a bomb near a culvert in Bishnupur assembly constituency, in the forests of Gumla district, but there was no casualty or damage. Naxals observe 02 to 08 December every year, as the "Peoples Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) Week". Police raided a training camp of Maoists in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli district on 30 November 2019, and killed two rebels in an encounter. The encounter occurred in early hours, in Bhamraged area, which borders on Chattisgarh. A woman Maoist was arrested on 01 December 2019, by-a joint team of security forces, in Dantewade district of Chattisgarh.

Hong Kong Fight
Local elections at end Nov 2019, in Hong Kong gave an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates. 24 November 2019 Sunday's district council polls delivered a stinging rebuke to the financial hub's pro-Beijing establishment, and undermined their argument that a silent majority were tired of the nearly six months of increasingly violent protests. Hong Kong's protests are fuelled by years of seething anger over Chinas' perceived erosion of liberties, in the semi-autonomous city. Millions of Hong Kongers marched in protest rallies, since mid 2019, when Carrie Lam's government introduced a bill, allowing extraditions to the authoritarian mainland. It was belatedly withdrawn under public pressure, but by then violent clashes between police and protesters, led the movement into wider calls for police accountability, and fully free elections. More than 5800 people have been arrested, and nearly 1000 charged. The police have fired more than 12000 tear gas canisters. Beijing denies stamping out Hong Kong's liberties and has portrayed the protests as a foreign-backed "colour revolution" aimed at destabiising mainland China. Since end November 2019, Hong Kong protesters have urged Britain and other countries to follow US footsteps in legislating laws to support its cause. A New US law prescribes sanctions on officials, found guilty of human rights abuses, and requires an annual review of a special trade status for Hong Kong. Another bans the export of certain non lethal munitions to Hong Kong police. China has warned of strong counter measures. Hong Kong's Government has slammed the US move as unwarranted meddling in its affairs. At end November 2019, US president Donald Trump signed into law congressional legislation that supported protesters in the China ruled city, despite angry objections from Beijing.

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Vol. 52, No. 30, Jan 26 - Feb 1, 2020