Kash­mir on the boil over mil­i­tant’s death, 8 killed FM bats for lower rates on de­posits

FLASH­POINT Thou­sands defy cur­few to turn up at Hizbul com­man­der’s fu­neral

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Toufiq Rashid let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com HT Correspondent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

Wide­spread vi­o­lence across Kash­mir brought back fears of a surge in mil­i­tancy in the trou­bled re­gion on Satur­day, as tens of thou­sands of peo­ple clashed with po­lice over the killing of a top in­sur­gent leader, leav­ing at least eight peo­ple dead and scores wounded.

Hizbul Mu­jahideen com­man­der Burhan Wani’s body was buried in his home­town Tral amid mass wail­ing and an­gry anti-In­dia slo­gans, a day af­ter sol­diers gunned down the 21-year-old who was the face of mil­i­tancy in Kash­mir for the last five years.

Pro­test­ers hurled stones, looted po­lice weapons and set fire to three po­lice sta­tions and two gov­ern­ment build­ings in towns south of Srinagar. Scores were in­jured on both sides and three po­lice­men have gone miss­ing, source said.

Satur­day’s vi­o­lence and its fall­out are seen as a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal test for chief min­is­ter Me­hbooba Mufti and her al­liance with a party largely un­pop­u­lar in the re­gion, the BJP.

Ex­perts fear Wani’s killing could be­come a ral­ly­ing point for mil­i­tants to re­vive an in­sur­gency that has flagged from its peak in the 1990s when at­tacks were re­ported daily, the lo­cal econ­omy tanked and res­i­dents fled the re­gion in droves.

“Burhan’s abil­ity to re­cruit into mil­i­tancy from the grave will far out­strip any­thing he did on so­cial me­dia… Kash­mir’s dis­af­fected got a new icon y’day,” for­mer Vil­lagers in Tral at­tend the fu­neral of Burhan Wani, chief of op­er­a­tions of Kash­mir’s largest mil­i­tant group Hizbul Mu­jahideen who was killed by forces, on Satur­day. CM Omar Ab­dul­lah tweeted on Satur­day. The con­flict has of­fi­cially killed some 40,000 peo­ple over the past quar­ter-cen­tury, although rights groups put the fa­tal­i­ties at more than twice that num­ber.

Satur­day’s deaths were re­ported from Anant­nag, Kul­gam, Bi­jbe­hara and Kok­er­nag. One per­son drowned in the Jhelum as se­cu­rity forces sought to dis­perse a vi­o­lent mob. Un­con­firmed re­ports put the toll at up to 11.

Ex­pect­ing trou­ble dur­ing Wani’s fu­neral, thou­sands of armed po­lice and para­mil­i­tary sol­diers in riot gear fanned out across the re­gion and drove through neigh­bour­hoods, warn­ing res­i­dents to stay in­doors.

Fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley on Satur­day partly blamed high re­turns on sav­ings de­posits as a key rea­son be­hind costly bank bor­row­ing that is hurt­ing pri­vate in­vest­ment and growth in the broader econ­omy.

While the gov­ern­ment has kept in­ter­est rates un­changed on state-run small sav­ings for the July-Septem­ber quar­ter, Jait­ley’s com­ments can be seen as a sig­nal for banks to re­duce lend­ing rates, even if these came at the cost of marginally lower re­turns on sav­ings and fixed de­posits.

Busi­nesses have been push­ing for banks to lower loan rates, re­duce cap­i­tal rais­ing costs and aid ca­pac­ity ad­di­tions.

“Whether do­mes­tic sav­ings are only to be used by such in­stru­ments which give you a higher re­turn and cre­ate an in­ter­est regime which is ex­tremely costly and makes the econ­omy slug­gish, or higher re­turns are to be got from such in­stru­ments as funds, bonds, shares (that fi­nance projects and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity),” Jait­ley said.

“A lot of them have also an 8.1% 8.1% 7.2% 7.4% 7.9% el­e­ment of se­cured in­vest­ment in them which can give peo­ple a very re­spectable re­turn it­self,” the fi­nance min­is­ter said, ar­gu­ing in favour of park­ing money in non-bank sav­ings op­tions such as pen­sion funds.

“That’s the ba­sis on which pen­sion funds the world over have been func­tion­ing and I think these are ar­eas of ad­vances as we grow over the next sev­eral years and decades. More and more op­por­tu­ni­ties are go­ing to come to us,” he said. Jait­ley was speak­ing at a func­tion to un­veil a com­mem­o­ra­tive postage stamp to mark 140 years of the Bom­bay Stock Ex­change (BSE).

In April, In­dia moved to a mar­ket-lined sys­tem of state-ad­min­is­tered sav­ings rates, an­nounc­ing sharp cuts in in­ter­est earned on a range of gov­ern­ment-run schemes in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar pub­lic prov­i­dent fund (PPF). Mar­ket rates move in tan­dem with gov­ern­ment bond rates that are cur­rently on a down­ward trend.

Should banks lower re­turns on sav­ings and fixed de­posits, the move could al­low banks to pass on pol­icy rate cuts by the cen­tral bank through lower lend­ing rates.

AP PHOTO

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