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Political, not religious, motives underlined temple desecration in medieval India

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-04-2017 Ragini Bhuyan

The rise of modern fundamentalist quasi-Islamic states such as Taliban and ISIS has also led to an increase in iconoclastic practices (such as destruction of Bamiyan Buddha and various shrines/museums in areas under ISIS influence) in these regions.

Should such acts be seen as driven by religion or politics? Sriya Iyer from the University of Cambridge and her co-authors have built a data base of temple desecrations in medieval India to understand this issue. Their research shows that the probability of temple desecrations increased during wars and victories of Muslim rulers over Hindus, suggesting that it was an act to curb the power of Hindu kingdoms. The study also shows that temples within Muslim kingdoms were left undisturbed, except during times of wars. While the authors do not generalize these results for all Muslim rulers, they argue that political and not religious motives had primacy behind such acts. Based on their conclusions, the authors call for looking at political motives behind so-called religious actors today and exercising caution with respect to discourse on the history of temple desecrations in India, which has led to many communal riots.

Also read: Holy Wars? Temple Desecrations In Medieval India

Asymmetry of information is an important factor in all markets, especially currency and stock, which fluctuate a lot. While private information was not public earlier, social media has led to certain individuals divulging their private information voluntarily. Can such information be useful for traders? Vahid Gholampour from Bucknell University and Eric van Wincoop from the University of Virginia have developed a model to match tweets by foreign exchange traders and risk-adjusted returns in currency markets to answer this question. They do this by analysing 633 days of tweets by traders and developing a lexicon to classify them as positive, negative and neutral. The paper shows that there are significant gains from trading strategies based on Twitter sentiment.

Also read: What can we learn from Euro-Dollar tweets?

Land acquisition by consent is no guarantee for future satisfaction among those who part with their land. A paper in the Economic and Political Weekly by Dhanmanjiri Sathe from Savitribai Phule University shows that while a majority of farmers in Maan village near Pune saw the compensation fair initially, subsequent appreciation in land prices made 80% of the respondents think that they had been short-changed. Sathe uses these facts to argue that farmers should have a stake in future appreciation in land value.

Also read: Land acquisition and beyond: The Farmer’s Perspective

Poverty estimates in India are based on private consumption and not public utilities. Because of this, they would not capture regional disparities in provision of services such as public distribution system and education and health. At the same time, there is also a wide debate on whether universal provision of social services is better in comparison to targeted programmes such as the Public Distribution System (PDS). Anders Kjelsrud from the University of Oslo and Rohini Somanathan from the Delhi School of Economics deal with these issues by comparing gains from public schooling to gains from subsidized fuel and food from the PDS for rural families. The paper argues that gains from public schooling are higher than from the PDS system. One of the reasons given by the authors is that while PDS benefits are fixed at the household level, there is no cap on the number of children who can avail of free education. This benefits the poor more as they have more school-going children.

Also read: Poverty Targeting through Public Goods

The State Bank of India (SBI) merged with its associates on 1 April 2017. Writing in his blog, Mostly Economics, Amol Agrawal lays out the history behind the process of the merger of the associated banks of SBI. According to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), there were 54 such state banks in 1952, all of which differed in size and policies. Agrawal notes that the process of integration began at the behest of the government of India, which wanted a pan-India bank. The RBI, on the other hand, wanted to go slow, nationalize SBI first, and then include other state banks. In going slow, it also wanted to weed out those banks that were weak. Despite this tension, integration was boosted by the State Reorganisation Committee in 1956 when banks were impacted by the re-drawing of the boundaries of princely states. The resignation of RBI governor Rama Rau in the previous year also helped as his replacement H.V.R. Iengar was more favourably disposed to the idea of integration.

Also read: There were 54 Princely State banks in 1950s! (The thinking to merge these banks started in 1951..)

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