Banking News dated 27th November 2018

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Banking News: November 27, 2018


Eyeing better cash recoveries, 4 PSU banks  put up NPAs worth over Rs 7,500cr for sale

Eyeing better cash recoveries, 4 PSU banks
put up NPAs worth over Rs 7,500cr for sale

Beena Parmar
The Moneycontrol News
Published on November 27, 2018

Lenders including SBI, Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank and Andhra Bank have decided to sell a large part of their NPA exposures to accounts which are undergoing resolutions at various insolvency courts

Mumbai, November 27: At least four large public sector banks have put up nearly Rs 7,500 crore worth of non-performing assets (NPAs) on sale to asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) and other financial institutions.

Lenders including State Bank of India (SBI), Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank and Andhra Bank have decided to sell a large part of their NPA exposures to accounts which are undergoing resolutions at various insolvency courts.

“We expect to recover a large part of these assets on a cash basis. This also helps us avoid delays in resolution due to the excessive litigation,” said the head of a large public sector bank.

On November 20, Bank of Baroda listed 35 bad loan accounts worth Rs 4,237 crore for sale on its website. These include: Jindal India Thermal Power (Rs 334.93 crore), Rathi Steel & Power (Rs 290.52 crore) and Rolta India (Rs 287.38 crore).

“The interested ARCs/ banks/ NBFCs/FIs can conduct due diligence of these assets with immediate effect after submitting expression of interest and executing a non-disclosure agreement with the Bank,” BoB said on its website.

Similarly, state-owned Andhra Bank has invited bids for the proposed sale of its NPAs comprising 53 accounts, with a principal balance of Rs 1,552.96 crore on a cash basis only. The e-bidding will take place on December 3. The bank will execute the assignment agreements and fund transfer on or before December 10.

Another government-owned lender Dena Bank proposed sale of 84 NPAs, with an outstanding exposure of Rs 3,324 crore, to be sold through an e-bidding process on November 29.

The country’s largest lender SBI had also put up 11 bad loan accounts for sale to ARCs and financial companies to recover dues worth nearly Rs 1,019 crore.

Price still pinches

“Banks are putting up many distressed assets on sale, but pricing continues to be an issue. However, with more cash deals and push for a clean-up from the regulator has helped us garner a better price. They (banks) also want to avoid the NCLT (National Company Law Tribunal) after the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) February 12 circular. Hence, they are putting up more assets on sale,” said a chief of a large ARC.

The circular mandates all lenders to push all borrower accounts for resolution under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code (IBC) if a successful recovery has not been made within 180 days of the loan turning into an NPA.

Banks and ARCs have been negotiating hard over the past several years. Given the rush to recover loans and increasing supply of bad loans, banks are willing to take more hair-cuts or losses on its loans than before for immediate cash recovery.

Asset Reconstruction Company (India), or Arcil, one of the country's largest ARCs, plans to buy about Rs 5,400 crore worth of stressed assets from banks. For this, it plans to raise additional Rs 1,500 crore in the next six months.

In FY18, Arcil acquired about Rs 2,700 crore worth of assets, while the same for the industry stood at over Rs 20,000 crore, said Pramod Gupta, Arcil’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

With a clear focus on retail and mid-sized distressed assets, Arcil's CEO and Managing Director Vinayak Bahuguna said his firm is selectively looking at some of the industrial assets too. “In the mid-sized segment, we are looking at companies with debt up to Rs 5,000 crore. We are looking at steel, textile and road projects and some select stressed power projects.”

In Q2, Bank of India had put up a total of Rs 10,000 crore worth of NPAs on sale through auction. The bank’s CEO and MD Dinabandhu Mohapatra said the management is negotiating resolutions for power assets worth Rs 3,000 crore.

Till March, cumulative estimates suggest that about one-third of the bad loans of banks have been purchased by ARCs.

As on September, banks are sitting on a huge pile of NPAs worth over Rs 10.50 lakh crore on its balance sheets, creating an opportunity for ARCs and domestic and foreign investors.


SBI General Insurance eyes
50% annual growth by 2020

The Business Line
Published on November 27, 2018

Chennai, November 26: SBI General Insurance, a 74:26 partnership venture between State Bank of India (SBI) and Insurance Australia Group (IAG), aims to be among the top five players in the Indian non-life sector.

The company is currently ranked 8th in the general insurance business. “We aspire to be within the top five players in the general insurance category by 2020, and to be there, we need to grow 50 per cent annually,” said Lisa Jeffery, Deputy CEO, SBI General Insurance.

“Our annual growth rate of 30 per cent is well above the industry average of 12 per cent,” she added. To achieve this aspirational growth, the company has a combination strategy, which includes digitalisation, addition of new products, and leveraging distribution channels, among others.

SME sector

Highlighting the health sector as a major focus area of the company, Jeffrey said small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector will also be the focus area since it is largely untapped.

Noting that the market sentiment is not conducive for an Initial Public Offering (IPO), Jeffrey said the company has deferred its plans to 2020.

As a pre-offer valuation exercise, SBI divested 4 per cent of its holdings in the general insurance company in September to Axis Bank and Premji Invest.

The company’s gross written premium (GWP) for the half-year period ended September 30, 2018, witnessed a 30 per cent increase at Rs. 2,067 crore, and it posted a net profit of Rs. 104 crore for the same period.


RBI can transfer Rs 1 trillion of
excess reserves to Government

The Press Trust of India
Published on November 26, 2018

Mumbai, November 26 (PTI):  The Reserve Bank has "more than adequate" reserves and that it can transfer over Rs 1 trillion to the government after a specially constituted panel identifies the "excess capital", says a report. An RBI board meeting had last Monday decided to form a committee, which is likely to be announced later this week.

"We expect the proposed committee on the RBI's economic capital framework (ECF) to identify Rs 1-3 trillion which is 0.5-1.6 per cent of GDP as excess capital," analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note Monday.

The brokerage report said as per its stress tests, the central bank can transfer Rs 1 trillion to the government if the transfer is limited to passing excess contingency reserve and can go up to Rs 3 trillion if the total capital is included.

Giving a break-up, the report said Rs 1.05 trillion can be transferred if the contingency reserve is capped at 3.5 percent of the RBI book. It further said this level will be 75 percent higher than the average of BRICS economies, excluding India.

Additional forms of transfers can include Rs 1.16 trillion from the contingency reserves if one restricts to yield rise of 4.5 percent as against 9 percent at present. Limiting the appreciation cover in RBI's currency and gold revaluation account to 25 percent (Rs 53.25 per USD) will release about Rs 72,000 crore to the government, it said.

It also said capping the overall reserves at 20 percent of the RBI's book as against 28.3 percent now and higher than 18 percent recommended by the Usha Thorat panel will be able to release Rs 3.11 trillion. The statutes do not prohibit transfer of excess capital to the government, it said, pointing out that the RBI Act places no bar as long as government maintains Rs 5 crore of reserve funds under Sec 46 of the RBI Act.

While Section 47 enjoins the RBI to credit its annual surplus to the national exchequer, after provisions, it does not place any restrictions on further transfers, it added.

The RBI's contingency reserves at 7 percent are higher than the BRICS (excluding India) average of 2 percent, it said, adding the revaluation reserves are also on the higher side relative to BRICS central banks. As per a press statement after the nine-hour marathon board meeting, the government and RBI will be jointly deciding on the panel constitution and also its terms of reference.

Following widespread criticism from many quarters, finance minister Arun Jaitley had said over the weekend that government did not need any support from the RBI's reserves for the next six months. However, multiple reports had claimed that the government is eyeing the extra cash which will help it in the run-up to the elections.

This comes amidst falling GST collections and little borrowing window left for the government, as it has already used up close to 96 percent of borrowings as of end October. By taking the money from the RBI, the government will only increase its fiscal deficit, as it will have to issue bonds to the central bank.

The government for the second year in a row has pegged fiscal deficit at 3.3 per cent of GDP this fiscal year. Many analysts are expecting government to overshoot this by at least 20-30 bps by March.


Indian banks mull ways to cope with US sanctions against Russia; special branches among options

Ksenia Kondratieva
The Business Line
Published on November 27, 2018

Following US sanctions, trade finance has
become a big issue for Russian banks in India

Mumbai, November 26: Indian banks may designate one branch each to handle all Russia-related businesses in the wake of US sanctions against that country. This was proposed at joint meeting of Indian and Russian banks coordinated by the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) earlier this month in Mumbai.

According to sources, the selected bank branches will be more conversant in the interpretation of the sanctions and help businesses work around them.

The meeting was attended by senior officials from the RBI and their Russian counterparts, as well as officials from SBI, Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank and Union Bank of India, and Russia’s Sberbank, Gazprombank and Vnesheconombank.

According to the minutes of the meeting reviewed by BusinessLine, trade finance has become a big issue for Russian banks here as domestic lenders have not only stopped processing payments but also stopped issuing or renewing bank guarantees.

“This not only stalls payments for existing defence contracts — that will eventually lead to delays in deployment of critical defence equipment that India has procured from Russia — but will make participation by Russia suppliers in new tenders almost impossible, thus limiting India’s choice of suppliers to Western players,” a source in the Russian delegation at the meeting told BusinessLine.

Alternative to SWIFT

Indian banks did not accept a Russian central bank proposal to consider settlements through a Russian financial messaging system created in 2014 as an alternative to SWIFT.

Russian central bank officials, in a presentation on the sanctions, noted that “more than 50 EU Acts and 20 US Acts (against Russia) are currently in force”. However, most banks are not on the sanctions list, the presentation said.

Explaining the restrictions imposed on entities included in the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN) and Sectoral Sanctions Identifications (SSI) list, the presentation pointed out that transactions with entities on SDN are prohibited. With entities on the SSI list — which mainly includes companies in the financial, defence and energy sectors — the sanctions only limit transactions involving long-term debt.

Conservative approach

“Indian banks continue to be risk averse when it comes to Russian clients,” a Russian banking source told BusinessLine, adding that they even deny transactions permitted under US sanctions. Even banks in other geographies, including West Asia, Europe and the US itself, do not deny some of these services, the source added.


Debt concerns rise as 18 PSU banks’ write-offs
shoot up 41.5% to Rs 9,116 crore in Q2

Shritama Bose
The Financial Express
Published on November 27, 2018

Indian Bank saw the steepest climb in write-offs
that jumped 672% y-o-y to Rs 1,258 cr.

Mumbai, November 26: Loans written off by a clutch of 18 large and mid-sized public sector banks in the July-September quarter of FY19 rose 41.5% year-on-year (y-o-y) to over Rs 9,000 crore, showed data compiled by FE.

The reduction in non-performing assets (NPAs) due to write-offs stood at Rs 9,116 crore in Q2FY19, against Rs 6,440 crore in Q2FY18.

According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines and policy approved by banks’ boards, NPAs, including those in respect of which full provisioning has been made on completion of four years, are removed from the balance sheets of banks by way of write-offs.

Write-offs are part of a regular exercise by banks to clean up their balance sheets and avail tax benefits. Borrowers of written-off loans continue to be liable for repayment and banks keep up efforts to recover them. If recoveries are made from written-off accounts, they get reflected in banks’ non-interest income.

Indian Bank saw the steepest climb in write-offs, which jumped 672% y-o-y to Rs 1,258 crore in Q2FY19. It was followed by IDBI Bank, which saw a 475% rise in write-offs to Rs 115 crore during the July-September quarter. State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest lender, had written off loans worth Rs 13,537 crore during Q2FY19, up 30.5% from Rs 10,371 crore a year ago.

Bank of Baroda (BoB), Bank of India (BoI), Allahabad Bank and Andhra Bank were the only four lenders among the 18 that recorded a y-o-y drop in write-offs for the September quarter. BoB’s write-offs stood at Rs 1,287 crore during Q2FY19, lower 27% y-o-y, while BoI’s write-offs declined 94% y-o-y to Rs 161 crore.

Allahabad Bank wrote off loans worth Rs 429 crore and Andhra Bank worth Rs 177 crore, down 44% y-o-y and 14% y-o-y, respectively. In August, FE had reported that write-offs made by 21 PSBs rose 57% y-o-y in FY18 and crossed the Rs 1-lakh-crore mark. While it is possible banks may recover some of this money, the write-offs are expected to be sizeable in the current year too. The hits will come following the insolvency proceedings initiated for 40-odd large companies to which lenders have a total exposure of Rs 2.4 lakh crore, and some large power assets.


How to regulate the digital economy

Debjani Ghosh
The Business Line
Published on November 27, 2018

Regulation needs to adapt to rapid advances in technology,
as well as concerns over monopolistic behaviour

Light touch regulation has largely been the mantra of the global tech industry from the start and many rightfully credit it for the pace of growth and innovation the industry has seen. Technology symbolises innovation, growth and markets while regulation places limits on growth and symbolises bureaucracy. Technology and regulation are often posed as adversaries. However, regulation itself is a technology.

This technology now needs a refresh in order to deal with developments in information technology. Regulation must be technology agnostic — meaning it must be effective, irrespective of the underlying technology. The billion-dollar question before us is: What “technology of governance” is needed to regulate the emerging business activities that were practically unthinkable a few years ago?

Woefully inadequate

The existing technology of governance is woefully inadequate. The pace of change is rapid and new possibilities will continue to present themselves as cost of data transfer, storage and computing crash and the speed of data transfer and computing continue to grow — rapidly. Often, when balancing the twin challenges of legroom required for innovation and appropriate governance, grey areas emerge, primarily because we are still trying to understand the full potential of new technologies. And, it helps to remember that there is no precedence.

Transformative change due to advanced technologies, brings in its wake opportunities and threats alike.

Our regulatory technology needs to be equipped to understand the evolving risks and guide firms to place appropriate safeguards. The increasing pace and scope of innovation and other emerging dynamics like globalisation compels a hard re-look at some of the modern-day paradoxes. “Free” services, almost the sine qua non of the digital world, aren’t really so. Firms earn money by using the personal data collected to ensure targeted advertising, cross selling other products/services. Personalisation is based on data. Notwithstanding the compelling advantages, unless suitably regulated, the consumer will be severely disadvantaged. And, we aren’t just referring to privacy.

Granular information helps the former gain complete control over pricing, availability and the digital marketplace — increasing the potential of harm from information asymmetry. Thus, the profit-maximisation motive may override consumers’ needs unless suitable guardrails are in place. The earlier matrix of seller-dealer-buyer has new actors — tech platforms/marketplaces, digital assistants, design evangelists, data scientists, etc.

If a product bought on a platform malfunctions and causes harm, then to what extent is it liable? Consider these anomalies. A self-driven car crashes. On who do we pin primary responsibility? Manufacturer? Software developer? The owner or, the occupant?

A 3-D printed furniture collapses! Who’s to take responsibility — the store, the designer, or the printer manufacturer? Again, Ola/ Uber/Lyfts of the world are forever fighting cases where their drivers have caused harm. Apportioning liability appropriately is increasingly becoming grey.

Fostering a competitive environment poses unprecedented challenges. The maddening rush to capture network effects (attracting buyers and sellers to a platform) is unmistakable. The value derived of a platform is proportional to the ever increasing traffic flow which has to be sustained.

While addressing price elasticity and curbing ill-effects of monopolies, regulators will have to ensure that they don’t re-invent the wheel. At any cost, the government/regulatory body must resist getting into the business themselves. Their role should be to create a competitive environment and also not be apprehensive of incumbents failing.

Innovation requires leg room

The proverbial “think global act local” adage, finds resonance from a regulatory standpoint as well. The internet is fragmented, which has resulted in a differentiated approach to policy-making. The Indian draft law on data localisation is a glaring example. Instead of focussing on strengthening the mechanisms to improve data access for law enforcement, it has suggested that all data should have a copy in India.

In addition, any “critical” data is to be stored only in India. Curiously, the RBI has mandated that all payments data should be stored only here. The unparalleled success of the IT BPM industry in India is fashioned on the global delivery model. With emerging technologies, an unimaginable future beckons. At this juncture, do we burn bridges and look inwards? While there is increasing consensus that there is a real need for more regulation, there is also increasing concern about the ‘how’. In order to be effective, the regulatory technology will itself need to be disrupted. What we need is a consultative process that brings together the best minds from government and technology to work together, to create a framework that allows for experimentation, failure, learning and continuous evolution. In short, what we need is co-creation and co-ownership of a digital world where innovation and security co-exist.

It’s no more about us versus them but being co-creators of value while primarily concerning “ourselves” (on both sides) with driving innovation and economic growth. This would require not just industry and regulators/government to meaningfully co-operate but also the regulators and government bodies to harmonise their regulatory approaches so that they see the “big picture” together.

Secondly, can we have “true” democratisation of data where data is actually owned by the citizens and can be leveraged by citizens to drive innovation? Today, even data from government that is publicly available sits in silos and is not in a readily usable format. The existing initiatives like open data platform need to be placed on the front burner and require latest data sets to be relevant. Government and industry, both sit on large tract of citizen data. We should work on how that can be accessed and used by the citizens without compromising on data security.

Thirdly, it should be about minimising power-led inefficiencies such as monopolistic practices and combating other ills like fake news which do unimaginable damage.

Finally, the process of regulation-making must generate trust as we might still get some regulations completely wrong or face situations where the regulations affect certain segments of industry negatively while benefiting others. The temptation to take short-cuts and populist measures while jeopardising the future must be curbed though checks and balances in the regulation-making process. In order to truly harness the opportunities from the digital economy, we must invest in building the right technology of governance.

The writer is President, Nasscom.


ATM Costs are Part of Overall Bank Costs

Editorial, The Economic Times
Published on November 27, 2018

The reported warning by the Confederation of ATM Industry that nearly half of the 2,38,000 automated teller machines (ATMs) may shut down by March 2019 due to unviability of their operations cannot be dismissed lightly.

Providing customers access to ATMs is a service of the banking industry. Additional costs associated with the infrastructure needed to make ATM operations secure should be counted as overhead costs that must be defrayed by banks, not the outsourced service providers.

If ATMs do not have cash, customers will need to visit branches, putting more pressure on tellers. Typically, banks spend at least three times more to service their clients for routine transactions. More office space, more tellers, all spell cost.

Rightly, banks are liable for all the associated risks of the cash held with service providers and their sub-contractors. RBI and the ministry of home affairs have stipulated stringent standards for these service providers that include a minimum net worth requirement of Rs 100 crore, minimum fleet size of 300 fully-equipped cash vans, two custodians and two armed guards plus a driver, GPS-CCTV, upgradation of the software and using lockable cassettes in their ATMs to prevent pilferage.

The estimated cost of adhering to the minimum standards is Rs 1,50,000 per ATM per month. That’s not small change. But compromising security is not a solution. Banks do have to recover the extra costs of this infrastructure.

India is a large, underbanked country, and banks must ensure that beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana who withdraw subsidies in form of cash through ATMs cannot be deprived of the basic benefit. The cost must be spread over the generality of banking services and recovered from them in general, not specifically from ATMs.


How falling oil prices support
the Indian rupee and macros

The Moneycontrol News
Published on November 26, 2018

Crude oil prices have erased all the gains for this year.
This a major benefit to India as the economy as
an aggregate is a net consumer of oil.

Mumbai, November 26: Crude oil prices and rupee are two big factors which impact the macros of India. And, both, which were acting as a headwind for the economy and markets, have turned into a tailwind so far in the month of November.

Brent prices were in an upward trend since June 2017 as it rallied by about 97 percent from a low of around $44 to a high of almost $87 in the international market. But, has now corrected by about 30 percent to slip below $60/bbl to hit a one-year low.

Crude oil prices have erased all the gains for this year. This a major benefit to India as the economy as an aggregate is a net consumer of oil, Kotak Securities explained in a note.

Lower oil prices mean:

1.   Lower oil prices mean lower imported inflation
2.   Lower subsidy burden for the government
3.   Lower cost of transporting goods
4.   It boosts the real disposable income of households,
as cost of living declines, which is positive for consumption.

“Therefore, we can conclude that lower oil prices support low inflation and high growth. This helps to attract foreign capital flows into India, in the debt and equity markets, and hence it is positive for the rupee,” the report added.

It also incentivises carry trade as real interest rate differential between India and others become attractive, which adds fuel to Long INR trade.

“Carry trade can be done by owning Indian GOI Securities or corporate bonds or even it can be simply selling USDINR long forwards and then rolling it down. In either of the case, it exerts downward pressure on USD and upward pressure on the Rupee,” said the report.

Where are rupee and crude oil headed?

Technical View & Rupee:

Intermediate to short-term downtrend is intact in USD/INR as long as it is trading below Rs71/USD on spot. Support level is expected to be around Rs 70.20/70.00 and 69.50/60 on spot. Resistance is placed around Rs 71/USD on the spot.

“We have added to our short position on Thursday around 71.00 levels and would like to cover part of the short position around the opening hour,” said the Kotak Securities report.

Oil remains soft on the back of long liquidation from major funds, which is supportive for Indian bonds and equity. Another supportive factor remains the mild strength of Asian currencies against the Greenback.

Technical view on Brent:

Brent prices were in an upward trend since June 2017 as it rallied by about 97 percent from a low of around $44 to a high of almost $87 in the international market. Brent was in an upward trend for the last 16 months. In the month of October 2018, prices corrected almost 30 percent from the recent peak of $87.

Looking at the monthly chart of Brent, the downside in the prices are still not over and long-term trend of the chart still looks bearish, Manoj Jain, Director Commodity & Currency, IndiaNivesh Commodities told Moneycontrol.

“We expect a ‘dead cat’ bounce from the current level, which could last till $66-67 levels. If it hits $66-67, it will be a great opportunity to go short in crude oil prices with a tiny stop loss of $69.20 on a closing basis for the downside target of $60-58,” he said.

Brent will show strength only if it closes and sustains above $70 levels but and in that case, it is expected to test $76-77 levels again but chances are remote.


Constitutional Liberties Must be Protected to
Preserve Democracy: Chief Justice of India

Anindita Sanyal
The ND-TV News
Published on November 26, 2018

“The Constitution Day is inextricably entwined in our lives
and it is in our best interest to pay attention to its advice”

New Delhi, November 26: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Monday underscored the primacy of the Constitution and warned that to preserve democracy and the country's institutions, the constitutional liberties must be safeguarded.

"We must observe the caution which (British political economist) John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in maintenance of democracy, namely not to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man. Or to trust him with power which enables him to subvert their institutions," the Chief Justice said at an event to mark Constitution Day on Monday.

"There is nothing wrong in being grateful to a great man who has rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness," he added.

The Constitution Day, marking the adoption of the constitution in 1950, is "inextricably entwined" in our lives and it is in our best interest to pay attention to its advice, the Chief Justice said. "If we do not, our hubris will result in sharp descent into chaos," he said.

His warning comes amid Congress allegations of subversion of institutes by the government, which have been sharpened after the recent crisis at the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Over the last year, the Congress and the BJP have levelled tit-for-tat political attacks, accusing each other of failing to uphold the Constitution. In April, following a spate of attacks on people from the Scheduled Castes, the Congress had launched a year-long "Save the Constitution" campaign.

Hours later, BJP chief Amit Shah accused the Congress of trampling on the Constitution for 60 years. The Congress, he said, had also tried to impeach the Chief Justice of India and accused the party of attacking every institution, including the national auditor CAG, the Election Commission, the Army and the Supreme Court at different points of time.

Over the last few months, the Congress has alleged that the BJP-led government was tearing apart the judiciary, the Election Commission, the CBI and the Reserve Bank.


Don’t repeat 1992

Editorial: The Times of India
Published on November 27, 2018

Ayodhya mobilisation is a clear and
present danger to citizens’ and national security

As right-wing outfits from Shiv Sena to VHP descended on Ayodhya over the weekend, calling on government to expedite the construction of a Ram Mandir at the disputed site, memories of December 6, 1992 came flooding back. The temple town saw much violence on that dark day after the Babri Masjid was brought down by frenzied kar sevaks. Thereafter riots convulsed the whole country. Fearing a re-run of the violence, Muslim residents of Ayodhya have moved out of the town for the time being.

While parties like BJP and Shiv Sena may be engaged in competitive Hindutva over the Ram Mandir issue, the title suit pertaining to the disputed site is in the Supreme Court and will be addressed as per the interpretation of the law. Therefore, there is little legal room to expedite the construction of Ram Mandir before the court passes an order in the case. There has been talk of government adopting the ordinance route to clear the way for temple construction. But this too will attract legal challenge.

Ram Mandir may be right-wing outfits’ calling card, but people’s priorities are different. Neither will the Supreme Court allow itself to be subjected to a political calendar. It is the constitutional duty of governments – whether at the Centre, in UP or in other states – to uphold the rule of law as well as peace and security of citizens. A re-run of 1992 must be avoided at all costs. Among other things, it would mean the end of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s oft-articulated vision of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’.

There’s another good reason to do so. As the nation observes the tenth anniversary of 26/11, it would be foolish to write off the possibility of another horrific attack on similar lines. Security agencies must exercise themselves to the utmost to head off another attack. This must include expecting the unexpected: the next attack, for example, may not be a seaborne strike by LeT on Mumbai, but an attack on Delhi or Bengaluru by some other organisation. It is imperative to foolproof the polity as well, for which reason divisive politics must be shunned. Communal riots provide an excellent recruiting environment for terrorists. BJP, which is strong on national security, should keep this in mind – let’s not make ISI’s or Islamic State’s job easier.

Source: Internet Newspapers and Anupsen articles

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