Historic ‘Sengol’ to be installed in new Parliament
Prime Minister is set to install the ‘Sengol,’ a historical sceptre from Tamil Nadu, in the new parliament building which will be inaugurated on May 28, 2023.
What is Sengol?
- Sengol is a historical sceptre that holds significant cultural and historical value in Tamil Nadu.
- Derived from the Tamil word “Semmai,” meaning “Righteousness,” Sengol represents a symbol of justice and good governance.
- In the Chola era, the transfer of power from one king to another was sanctified with the sceptre being handed over as a symbol of authority and the responsibility to rule with fairness and justice.
- It gained prominence during the transfer of power from the British to the Indian people at the time of India’s independence.
History: Traditional Chola Practice and Symbolism –
- Historical Practice:The presentation of the Sengol aligns with a traditional Chola practice where Samayacharyas (spiritual leaders) led the coronation of kings, sanctifying the transfer of power and symbolically recognizing the ruler.
- Symbol of Justice and Good Governance:The Sengol, a symbol of justice and good governance, holds cultural significance as recorded in ancient Tamil texts like Silapathikaram and Manimekalai.
Sengol’s recent context and creation –
- LordMountbatten’s Question: Prior to Independence, Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, asked Nehru about the ceremony that should symbolize the transfer of power.
- Inspiration from Chola Dynasty:Rajagopalachari, the last Governor-General of India, suggested a ceremony from the Chola dynasty, where the transfer of power was sanctified and blessed by high priests.
- Manufacturing the Sengol:Rajagopalachari approached Thiruvaduthurai Atheenam, a renowned Shaivite mutt in Tamil Nadu’s Tanjore district, which commissioned the creation of the Sengol from Chennai-based jewellers, “Vummidi Bangaru Chetty.”
- Craftsmanship:Vummidi Ethirajulu and Vummidi Sudhakar skillfully crafted the five-foot-long Sengol, featuring a symbolic ‘Nandi’ bull representing justice.
Significance of the ‘Sengol’ –
- Symbolic importance: Derived from the Tamil word “Semmai,” meaning “Righteousness,” the ‘Sengol’ represents a significant historical symbol of Independence.
- Marks Transfer of Power:On August 14, 1947, Pandit Nehru, the first PM, received the ‘Sengol’ from the Adhinam of Tamil Nadu, marking the shift of power from the British to the Indian people.
The Handover Ceremony –
- Arrival of the Sengol:Three individuals, including the deputy high priest of the Adheenam, a Nadaswaram player, and an Oduvar (singer), brought the newly made Sengol from Tamil Nadu.
- The Ceremony:On August 14, 1947, the Sengol was handed over to Lord Mountbatten during a procession, and later taken to Jawaharlal Nehru’s house, where it was officially presented to him.
- Sacred Song and Attendees:A special song composed by the 7th-century Tamil saint Tirugnana Sambandar, as specified by the high priest, accompanied the ceremony. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, India’s first president, and other dignitaries were present during the event.
Ceremonial Procession and Tamil Traditions –
- Grand Procession:The Sengol will be ceremoniously transported to the House in a grand procession.
- Musical Ensemble: Traditional Nadaswaram musicians, playing Tamil Nadu’s iconic instrument, will lead the procession, and PM is expected to walk alongside them, embracing Tamil culture.
- Adheenams and Sanctification:Adheenams, priests from Shaivite mutts in Tamil Nadu, will be present in the Lok Sabha’s Well. They will sanctify the Sengol with holy water after Prime Minister Modi greets them, honoring Tamil traditions.
- Oduvars and Sacred Recitation:Tamil temple singers known as Oduvars will recite the “Kolaru Padhigam” lyrically, while the Nadaswaram musicians enchant with their soulful music.
- The Sengol continues to be revered as a representation of India’s independence and serves as a tangible reminder of the country’s rich cultural heritage and the values it upholds.
- Its installation in the new Parliament building further emphasizes its importance and aims to educate and inspire people about this historical event and the principles it embodies.
India to triple Supercomputing capabilities
India is set to significantly enhance its supercomputing capabilities by installing an 18-petaflop system this year.
This development aims to improve complex mathematical calculations, particularly in weather forecasting, by providing greater processing power and accuracy.
Understanding Supercomputers –
- A supercomputer is a high-performance computer capable of processing massive amounts of data at extraordinary speeds.
- Performance is measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) rather than million instructions per second (MIPS).
- Supercomputers have the ability to perform trillions (peta) of FLOPS.
India’s Journey in Supercomputing –
- India’s supercomputing journey began in the late 1980s when the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) was established in response to technology embargoes imposed by the United States.
- Since then, India has steadily progressed, unveiling the PARAM 800 in 1991, which was the world’s second-fastest supercomputer at the time.
- The National Supercomputing Mission (NSM), launched in 2015 with a budget of ₹4,500 crore, has been instrumental in propelling India’s supercomputing capabilities.
- The mission aims to create a network of supercomputers across academic and research institutions in the country, supporting academia, researchers, MSMEs, and startups.
Current Supercomputing Infrastructure –
- India’s most powerful civilian supercomputers, Pratyush and Mihir, have a combined capacity of 6.8 petaflops.
- Pratyush is located at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, while Mihir is housed at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) in Noida.
- These supercomputers became operational in 2018 after an investment of ₹438 crore.
- Both institutions are affiliated with the MoES.
Acquisition of New Supercomputers –
- The new supercomputers, sourced from French corporation ATOS, were procured as part of a deal signed between the Indian and French governments in December 2018.
- The Government aims to acquire high-performance computers worth ₹4,500 crore by 2025, with an estimated cost of ₹900 crore for the new earth-sciences Ministry computers.
Enhanced Capabilities and Future Outlook –
- Upgrading the supercomputing systems every 4-5 years is essential to improve performance.
- The new system will enhance resolution from the current 12×12 km to 6×6 km, providing greater clarity and accuracy in local weather forecasts.
- The ultimate goal is to represent areas using 1 km-square grids, enabling the prediction of rapidly evolving weather phenomena such as cloudbursts.
- The current fastest high-performance computing system in the world is the Frontier-Cray system at Oakridge National Laboratory in the United States, with a peak speed of 1 exa-flop (equivalent to 1,000 petaflops).
Way forward –
To further enhance India’s supercomputing capabilities and maintain technological advancements, the following steps can be considered:
- Continued investment in research and development to stay at the forefront of supercomputing technology.
- Collaboration with international partners and organizations to leverage global expertise.
- Encouraging academia, researchers, MSMEs, and startups to utilize the supercomputing infrastructure for scientific breakthroughs and innovation.
- Strengthening the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) by expanding its network and providing adequate resources.
- Regularly upgrading supercomputing systems to keep up with evolving computational demands and maintain competitiveness on a global scale.
Evaluating the RBI’s Recent Currency withdrawal Decision
When discussing the value of a currency, the focus often revolves around its exchange rate and purchasing power. However, there is a more fundamental aspect to consider is the confidence citizens have in its acceptance and stability as a medium of exchange and store of value. This confidence is deeply rooted in the trust placed in the central bank, such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Rationale behind the decision to withdraw ₹2,000 notes from circulation while keeping them legal tender –
- Promoting Clean Note Policy:The withdrawal is part of the RBI’s initiative to promote a cleaner currency system. By encouraging the exchange of soiled or damaged notes, the RBI aims to improve the overall quality of currency in circulation.
- Curbing Black Money: The decision is aimed at curbing the hoarding of black money, as higher denomination notes are often associated with illicit activities. By limiting the usage of ₹2,000 notes, the RBI intends to discourage the accumulation of unaccounted wealth.
- Enhancing Transparency:The withdrawal is expected to increase transparency in financial transactions. By reducing the availability of high-value currency, the RBI aims to encourage a shift towards digital payments and traceable transactions.
- Addressing Counterfeit Concerns: The withdrawal may help mitigate the risks associated with counterfeit currency. High-denomination notes are often targeted by counterfeiters, and by withdrawing ₹2,000 notes, the RBI aims to combat counterfeiting and maintain the integrity of the currency.
- Managing Currency Supply: The withdrawal allows the RBI to better manage the supply and circulation of currency. By gradually replacing ₹2,000 notes with lower denomination currency, the RBI can ensure an adequate availability of notes for day-to-day transactions.
- Aligning with Majority Usage: The decision is based on the observation that a significant majority of transactions in India involve lower monetary values. By withdrawing ₹2,000 notes, which are predominantly used for high-value transactions, the RBI aims to align the currency with the needs of the majority of the population.
Potential Impact of this move on Business and Economy –
- Uncertainty and Business Sentiment:The move to withdraw ₹2,000 notes may create uncertainty among businesses, as sudden changes in the currency system can disrupt economic activities. This uncertainty can affect business sentiment and decision-making, potentially leading to a cautious approach in investments and expansion plans.
- Cash-dependent Sectors:Certain sectors that heavily rely on cash transactions, such as small businesses, informal sectors, and rural areas, may face challenges in adjusting to the withdrawal. The availability of lower denomination notes to replace ₹2,000 notes and the need for individuals to exchange their existing notes can temporarily disrupt cash flow in these sectors.
- Digital Payment Adoption:With the reduction in the availability of high-value currency, there may be a push for increased adoption of digital payment methods. The withdrawal can potentially accelerate the ongoing shift towards digital transactions, as individuals and businesses seek alternatives to cash transactions.
- Impact on Consumption:The withdrawal can have implications for consumer spending patterns. If individuals perceive a scarcity of high-value currency, it may affect their spending behavior, particularly for larger purchases. This could lead to a short-term dampening of consumer demand and impact certain sectors of the economy, such as real estate and luxury goods.
- Counterfeit and Black Money: The withdrawal of ₹2,000 notes aims to combat counterfeiting and curb the hoarding of black money. If successful, it can contribute to enhancing the integrity of the currency and promoting a more transparent financial system. However, the actual impact on eliminating black money and counterfeit currency will depend on the effectiveness of enforcement measures and the adoption of alternative means for illicit transactions.
- Financial Inclusion:The withdrawal may pose challenges for individuals who have limited access to banking services or digital payment infrastructure. Efforts will be needed to ensure that the transition does not hinder financial inclusion and that adequate support is provided to vulnerable segments of the population.
Concerns and arguments over the central bank’s reputation –
- Demonetization Fallout:The implementation of demonetization in 2016, where high-value currency notes were invalidated, received mixed reactions. Critics argue that the RBI’s involvement in the decision-making process and its execution raised questions about the central bank’s independence and its ability to manage the country’s monetary policies effectively.
- Inflation Management:The RBI’s primary mandate is to maintain price stability and control inflation. However, the central bank has faced challenges in achieving its inflation targets consistently. Critics contend that the RBI’s monetary policy framework and communication strategies could be improved to ensure better alignment with its objectives and boost its reputation in inflation management.
- Banking Sector Oversight:The RBI is responsible for overseeing the banking sector and maintaining financial stability. Some argue that the central bank could have been more proactive in detecting and addressing issues related to non-performing assets (NPAs) and the overall health of banks. The perceived delays in taking corrective measures and addressing governance issues have raised concerns about the effectiveness of the RBI’s regulatory oversight.
- Communication and Transparency:The RBI’s communication and transparency have been points of discussion. Critics argue that the central bank could enhance its communication strategies, ensuring clearer and more consistent messaging about policy decisions and their objectives.
- Autonomy and Independence:The reputation of the RBI rests heavily on its autonomy and independence from external influences. Concerns have been raised over potential encroachments on the central bank’s independence, such as the invocation of certain provisions of the RBI Act and debates around the RBI’s relationship with the government. Preserving the RBI’s autonomy is seen as crucial for maintaining its reputation as a credible and independent institution.
What measures RBI must take to restore and maintain its reputation?
- Transparency and Communication:The RBI should prioritize transparency in its operations and decision-making process. It should provide clear and timely communication regarding policy decisions, objectives, and the rationale behind its actions. Regular and effective communication can help build public trust and enhance understanding of the RBI’s role in maintaining a stable and resilient financial system.
- Independence and Autonomy:The RBI should emphasize its independence from political interference. It should ensure that its decision-making process remains free from external pressures and is based on sound economic principles. Upholding its autonomy strengthens the perception of the RBI as a credible and reliable institution.
- Consistency and Predictability:A clear and consistent approach to monetary policy, regulation, and supervision fosters stability and confidence in the financial system. Avoiding abrupt shifts or reversals in policy direction can enhance the RBI’s reputation for sound decision-making.
- Accountability and Oversight:The RBI should establish robust mechanisms for accountability and oversight. This includes effective internal controls, external audits, and appropriate checks and balances to ensure that the RBI’s policies and actions align with its mandate and serve the best interests of the economy. Accountability helps maintain public confidence in the RBI’s operations.
- Economic Stability and Financial Inclusion:The RBI should prioritize its mandate of maintaining economic stability while promoting financial inclusion. By implementing effective monetary policies, managing inflation, and ensuring a resilient financial system, the RBI can contribute to sustainable economic growth and reduce income disparities.
- Continuous Learning and Adaptation: TheRBI should emphasize continuous learning, research, and adaptation to evolving economic and financial challenges. Staying informed about global best practices, monitoring emerging risks, and proactively addressing new challenges will enable the RBI to enhance its effectiveness and reputation as a forward-looking institution.
The recent actions of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), including the withdrawal of the ₹2,000 note and the aftermath of the 2016 demonetization, have cast doubt on the RBI’s judgment and ability to uphold public trust. By aligning its actions with the long-term interests of the Indian economy, the RBI can preserve the value of the currency and ensure stability in the financial system. Only then can the RBI regain its reputation and fulfill its role as a trustworthy and effective central bank