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a) Transmission troubles: on inefficient banking system

The RBI continues to remain unable to influence the effective lending rates in the economy. In February, in its latest statement of intent to resolve poor monetary transmission, the RBI said it would instruct banks to switch base rate customers to the marginal cost of funds-based lending rate (MCLR) system from April 1, 2018. In April 2016, it had introduced the MCLR regime, scrapping the base rate regime, in place since 2010. “Since MCLR is more sensitive to policy rate signals, it has been decided to harmonise the methodology of determining benchmark rates by linking the Base Rate to the MCLR,” it had said. This was supposed to push banks to lower lending rates. Currently, under the base rate system, the lending rate at State Bank of India is 8.7%. The one-year MCLR rate is just 8.25%. This difference of 45 basis points could make a significant difference in borrowing costs, especially for smaller firms and retail consumers relying on equated monthly instalments. In the RBI’s assessment, a large proportion of outstanding loans and advances continues to be linked to the base rate system. This perhaps triggered the February statement. Yet, the RBI is yet to operationalise that intent. One can understand the banks’ reluctance to switch to the lower MCLR-based rates, given the multiple pressures they face, including record levels of non-performing assets and losses, and significant treasury losses. The RBI, which has often faced flak for poor monetary transmission, shouldn’t be swayed by these concerns. An RBI study estimates that public sector banks could take a ₹40,000-crore hit on revenue if they allow all base rate borrowers to switch to the MCLR rate. The RBI, which has just allowed banks to spread the booking of losses on the treasury front over four quarters — after talking tough about such rollovers — may not want to hurt them more. But this creates an unfair situation as new borrowers get MCLR rates while the older ones continue on the higher base rate system. While a base rate customer can shift to the MCLR regime only by paying a fee, this outcome is not too different from the previous attempt by the RBI eight years ago to influence transmission by shifting to base rates from what was called a Benchmark Prime Lending Rate regime. There was no sunset clause included then. For troubled banks, this is an asset-liability mismatch issue. Given the need to revive the economy through consumption and fresh investment, this impasse needs to be broken.

b) Trauma at the border

As part of its “zero-tolerance” approach to dealing with undocumented migrants, the Donald Trump administration in the U.S. has been separating parents and children within migrating families, leading to outrage over the burgeoning number of minors lodged in foster care. Reports suggest that between October 2017 and May 2018 at least 1,995 children were separated from their parents, with a significant majority of the instances between April 18 and May 31. In recent weeks, disturbing images and videos have emerged of screaming toddlers in the custody of Customs and Border Protection personnel, or in what appear to be chain-link cages in facilities holding older children, as well as one disturbing audio allegedly of wailing children at one such unit. Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed deep concern about the ethics of using children, facing trauma from separation from their parents, to discourage further undocumented border crossings. Mr. Trump, however, has refused to accept sole responsibility for the family separations. Instead, he took to Twitter to blame his Democratic opponents for not working with Republicans to pass new immigration legislation to mitigate the border crisis. His response begs two questions. First, why, when both Houses of the U.S. Congress are under Republican control, is Mr. Trump unable to garner the numbers to pass legislation to end family separations? The answer is that poignantly tragic though the fate of these broken families may be, the issue as such has failed to garner even as much bipartisan momentum on Capitol Hill as Mr. Trump’s rescinding of the Obama-era immigration order on Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals. The second question is whether the policy of separating migrant families is new, or if there was indeed “bad legislation passed by the Democrats” that supports this action, as Mr. Trump claims. The answer is that both are true. Mr. Trump’s critics are correct in that there is no single U.S. law requiring families to be separated. Rather, what the White House referred to as “loopholes” in legislation are two legal provisions: a law against “improper entry by aliens” at the border, and a decree known as the Flores settlement. The first is a federal law that makes it impossible to summarily deport certain vulnerable categories of migrants, such as families, asylum-seekers and unaccompanied minors. To get around this the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama adopted the policy of “catch and release” — whereby these migrants would be released from custody pending their deportation case adjudication. Family separation was unnecessary at that time, but under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance approach, all undocumented migrants are charged in criminal courts. Here the Flores settlement applies, because it limits to 20 days the length of time migrant children may be held in immigration detention. While their parents face charges, the children are transferred to a different location, often with devastating consequences for their families. This is unspeakable cruelty.


1) Intent

Meaning: Intention or purpose.

Example: “with alarm she realized his intent”

Synonyms: Aim, Purpose

2) Scrapping

Meaning: Abolish or cancel (a plan, policy, or law).

Example: “he supports the idea that road tax should be scrapped”

Synonyms: Abandon, Drop

Antonyms: Keep, Restore

3) Harmonise

Meaning: Make consistent or compatible.

Example: “plans to harmonize the railways of Europe”

Synonyms: Coordinate, Correlate

4) Relying on

Meaning: To need a particular thing or the help and support of someone or something in order to continue, to work correctly, or to succeed.

Example: The success of this project relies on everyone making an effort.

5) Outstanding

Meaning: Not yet paid, resolved, or dealt with.

Example: “much of the work is still outstanding”

Synonyms: Undone, Neglected

Antonyms: Complete, Paid

6) Triggered

Meaning: (of an event or situation) cause (someone) to do something.

Example: “the death of Helen’s father triggered her to follow a childhood dream and become a falconer”

7) Operationalise

Meaning: Put into operation or use.

Example: “such measures would be difficult to operationalize”

8) Reluctance

Meaning: Unwillingness or disinclination to do something.

Example: “she sensed his reluctance to continue”

Synonyms: Unwillingness, Disinclination

Antonyms: Willingness, Eagerness

9) Flak

Meaning: Strong criticism.

Example: “you must be strong enough to take the flak if things go wrong”

Synonyms: Criticism, Censure

10) Swayed

Meaning: Control or influence (a person or course of action).

Synonyms: “he’s easily swayed by other people” Example:

Antonyms: Influence, Affect

11) Treasury

Meaning: The funds or revenue of a state, institution, or society.

Example: “she transferred billions from the national treasury to her personal bank account”

Synonyms: Purse, Bank

12) Rollovers

Meaning: The extension or transfer of a debt or other financial arrangement.

Example: “investments would be returned after four months unless a rollover was requested”

13) Sunset clause

Meaning: Part of a law or contract that states when it will end, or the conditions under which it will end.

Example: A sunset clause in the bill called for the tax cuts to expire in 2010.

14) Impasse

Meaning: A situation in which no progress is possible, especially because of disagreement; a deadlock.

Example: “the current political impasse”

Synonyms: Deadlock, Stalemate

15) Undocumented

Meaning: Not recorded in or proved by documents.

Example: “earlier, undocumented settlements”

16) Outrage

Meaning: Arouse fierce anger, shock, or indignation in (someone).

Example: “the public were outraged at the brutality involved”

Synonyms: Enrage, Incense

17) Burgeoning

Meaning: Begin to grow or increase rapidly; flourish.

Example: “manufacturers are keen to cash in on the burgeoning demand”

Synonyms: Expand, Boom

Antonyms: Shrink

18) Lodged

Meaning: Rent accommodation in another person’s house.

Example: “the man who lodged in the room next door”

Synonyms: Reside, Stay

19) Instances

Meaning: An example or single occurrence of something.

Example: “a serious instance of corruption”

Synonyms: Example, Occasion

20) Screaming

Meaning: A loud, high sound you make when very frightened, excited, or angry.

Example: No one heard their screams.

21) Toddlers

Meaning: A young child who is just beginning to walk.

Synonyms: Children, Babies

22) Wailing

Meaning: To make a long, high cry, usually because of pain or sadness.

Example: The women gathered around the coffin and began to wail, as was the custom in the region.

Synonyms: Howl, Weep

23) Concern

Meaning: Anxiety; worry.

Example: “Carole gazed at her with concern”

Synonyms: Anxiety, Worry

Antonyms: Serenity, Indifference

24) Trauma

Meaning: Emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may lead to long-term neurosis.

Example: “the event is relived with all the accompanying trauma”

Synonyms: Shock, Upheaval

25) Mitigate

Meaning: Make (something bad) less severe, serious, or painful.

Example: “drainage schemes have helped to mitigate this problem”

Synonyms: Alleviate, Reduce

Antonyms: Aggravate, Increase

26) Garner

Meaning: Gather or collect (something, especially information or approval).

Example: “the police struggled to garner sufficient evidence”

Synonyms: Gather, Collect

27) Poignantly

Meaning: In a way that evokes a keen sense of sadness or regret.

Example: “the experiences of the war are poignantly described”

28) Capitol Hill

Meaning: The hill on which the US Capitol stands, or the US legislature that meets there.

Example: The president will go to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers.

29) Rescinding

Meaning: Revoke, cancel, or repeal (a law, order, or agreement).

Example: “the government eventually rescinded the directive”

Synonyms: Revoke, Repeal

Antonyms: Enforce, Enact

30) Loopholes

Meaning: A small mistake in an agreement or law that gives someone the chance to avoid having to do something.

Example: The company employed lawyers to find loopholes in environmental protection laws.

Synonyms: Fault, Mistake

31) Decree

Meaning: An official statement that something must happen.

Example: The decree stopped short of a full declaration of independence.

Synonyms: Rules & Laws

32) Vulnerable

Meaning: (of a person) in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect.

Example: “the scheme will help charities working with vulnerable adults and young people”

33) Unaccompanied

Meaning: Having no companion or escort.

Example: “no unaccompanied children allowed”

Synonyms: Alone, Single

34) Adjudication

Meaning: The action or process of adjudicating.

Example: “the matter may have to go to court for adjudication”

Synonyms:  Arbitration, Resolution

35) Zero-tolerance

Meaning: The act of punishing all criminal or unacceptable behaviour severely, even if it is not very serious,

Example: The police are exercising a new policy of zero tolerance against motoring offenders.

36) Immigration

Meaning: The action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.

Example: “a barrier to control illegal immigration from Mexico”

37) Detention

Meaning: The action of detaining someone or the state of being detained in official custody.

Example: “the fifteen people arrested were still in police detention”

Synonyms: Confinement, Incarceration

38) Devastating

Meaning: Causing severe shock, distress, or grief.

Example: “the news came as a devastating blow”

Synonyms: Shattering, Shocking

39) Unspeakable

Meaning: Not able to be expressed in words.

Example: “I felt an unspeakable tenderness towards her”

Synonyms: Wonderful, Ineffable

40) Cruelty

Meaning: Cruel behaviour or attitudes.

Example: “he has treated her with extreme cruelty”

Synonyms: Brutality, Ferocity

Antonyms: Compassion, Mercy

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