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Slow pace of disinvestment and challenges ahead     

After revising down the disinvestment target for 2021-2022, the government kept conservative target of 65,000 crore for 2022-2023. Out of which major portion was expected to come from LIC IPO. But the poor performance of the IPO has shown government’s inability to fetch higher prices for its assets. The target for the last two years was highly underachieved. Government was able to realize only 16 % of the total 2.10 lakh crore target for FY 21 while only 7 % (around 13,000 crore) was realized out of FY 2022 Target of 1.75 lakh crore. The privatization plan for two public sector banks also hit roadblock due to bank union’s protest. These two banks were expected to generate significant capital receipt for the government. So, government seems reset its expectations and choose to be conservative in its approach for this year’s target.


Out of the target of 65000 for the current fiscal year, government has already received 20,560 crores from LIC’s IPO. It is nearly one third of this year’s target. Other disinvestment plan’s include Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), Central Electronics Limited (CEL), Pawan Hans Helicopters (Arm on ONGC), Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) and Container Corporation of India (CONCOR).  IDBI is also being planned out by the government.

LIC IPO’s poor performance-

Government had sold 3.5 % of its stake in Insurance giant of India. It has fetched government around 21,000 crores. But against the expectations it got listed at discount of 9% at 865 against the issue price of 949. The price further got declined around 7 % in next 5 trading sessions despite Nifty on rising trajectory. It lost market cap of 77000 in 4 trading sessions.

The poor response is due to the shaky financials and inefficiencies in the organization. Also, the valuation of the company was kept very high. LIC was valued at 6 trillion during the issue. This led to very high price to earning (PE) ratio of 202, which is way higher that its peers.


Not only LIC but several other state-run companies that were listed earlier are trading much below their listed price.

The timid response to LIC’s IPO will be a challenge for the government for further disinvestment process.

BPCL:

BPCL is by far the largest entity listed for disinvestment. Government is planning 40,000 crores out of this. BPCL is the largest oil marketing company after Indian Oil and third largest oil refinery. However, there is poor response and no major business house has shown interest in it. Government earlier invited Expression of Interests (EOI) in 2020, but received only 1 bid. Now in 2022, government is again planning to call for bids. The reason for lack of interest is that the companies do not enjoy pricing freedom in India. Petrol prices are highly regulated and kept changing under the influence of politics. Also, the highly regulated energy sector, creates hurdles for the company to carry out necessary changes. The global push for renewable and green energy source is also the reason that business do not find it attractive. However, it is to be seen will the government be able to find any investor as in Air India.

BPCL is one of the major disinvestment plans. Without BPCL disinvestment, government can’t meet its target of 65,000 crore for 2023. While carrying out disinvestment in FY23 is itself a difficult task.

Pawan Hans on hold:

Government which is trying to sell Pawan Hans from 2016 has finalized deal with Star9 Mobility. On 29 April, government approved selling 51% stake for 211 crores, but it was put on hold over the NCLT’s ruling. Just 9 days before finalizing the deal, NCLT had passed an order against Almas Global Opportunity Fund (owns 49% of the Star9 Mobility) saying that the entity was in “knowing and wilful contravention of the approved resolution plan”. Now the government is studying the case and put the deal on hold.

CEL on hold:

Government in November approves 100% sale of stake in CEL. This was later the employee union and opposition alleged undervaluation of the company. The employees went to court and deal was put on hold. Similarly, CONCOR’S disinvestment plan was also put on hold over valuation and legal hurdles. Opposition has been alleging why so rush to sell PSU’s when government’s revenue is booming? Why sell strategic and profit-making PSU’s. CEL which create high end electronic equipment for defence and space sector was sold to minor financing firm Nandal Finance and leasing company which has no


experience in this sector. Congress spokesperson Vallabh Pant questions selling of Pawan Hans despite the role it played in off-shore operations, connecting inaccessible areas, charter services, search and rescue work, VIP transportation, corporate and special charters, hotline washing of insulators and heli-pilgrimages.

Anyways, it will be challenging for the government to meet’s its target for FY23. Several legal hurdles are on way. Opposition is also opposing the current disinvestment spree. It will be interesting to see how government can achieve its target for this year despite macroeconomic uncertainty. Also, it is do be seen how government will be positioning its assets to the investors. One of the major goals for disinvestments was to reduce fiscal deficit and fund National Infrastructure Pipeline. It will be challenging for the government to fund NIP if these targets are not met.


Regulating Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies have become extremely popular now a days. The crypto industry got push with the popularization of the Bitcoin in 2008 and now over 10,000 cryptocurrencies operate in the market. Cryptocurrencies offer benefit of high transaction speed, low transaction cost, privacy and security.

The investment in cryptocurrencies has seen massive growth in past few years in India, thanks to new age startups and their high decibel campaigns. According to a report by a private firm BrokerChooser India has the highest number of crypto owners in the world at nearly 10.07 crore. Most of these are youngsters from Tier 1 and tier 2 cities.

But the Irony is that, there is no law governing the use of cryptocurrencies in India. The initial policy response was to ban the use of cryptocurrency but was reversed by supreme court order in March 2020. Government introduced 30% tax on virtual digital assets in 2022 at the same time clarified the taxation does not mean it has been legalized. Government seems to be confused over its stand on legality of cryptocurrencies. So currently there is neither a ban nor any regulation to govern their usage.

The policy indecision at the part of government has confused the Indian investors and can put them at risk. There is fear in part of the government as cryptocurrencies are difficult to regulate and are prone to be misused. But the potential of crypto assets and blockchain technology in innovating financial system can’t be ruled out. For instance, SBI has partnered with BankChain and Intel to use blockchain to manage KYC and efficiency of financial transactions without having to compromise on data confidentiality. Traders and investors are seeking recognition and legalization of cryptocurrencies so that serious investments can be made. Expert are of view that government should not ban it, instead harness the benefits of the underlying technology, blockchain.

The government need to take a balanced approach and bring new laws or amend the existing laws to strengthen the regulations. Several countries around the world have used different approach toward cryptocurrencies which can be explored. Government should create a framework in consultation with experts, market participant and stakeholders. They should implement it in a phased manner and test it in different circumstances, If successful, blockchain will have bright future in India.

Need for caste based census in India

India run one of the world’s biggest caste-based welfare program in the world. But on what basis are the opportunities distributed among the caste? It is the 1931 census. Yes 1931, the “90-year-old” caste census, carried by British government. Indian constitution provides reservation based on caste, but the data is 90 years old when India’s population was around 27 crores, now India’s population is more than 127crore.

It is shocking to see that in a country where the policies are designed based on caste demographics does not have any data on current population of the castes. The reservation for SC and ST was decided based on census, but the reservation for OBC was fixed at 27% as it was the only available space to keep cap at 50%. There is no data regarding the share of OBCs in population.

A study by researchers from JNU and SPPU shows the disproportionate distribution of wealth among castes. According to the report, STs own mere 3.7% of assets as compared to 9% of their population, while SCs who constitute 18 of population holds only 7.6% of country’s wealth. The backward castes hold substantially less share of wealth compare to their population. Such stark income inequality calls for better understanding of Indian society across the caste, so that government can design policies for the upliftment of the backward caste. Most of the menial jobs are done by people of deprived caste while majority of white-collar jobs are occupied by people of upper caste. The lack of caste diversity at the top level is shocking and can further the caste-based divide.

Caste based data for the current population can help government in equitable distribution of opportunities and wealth as well as identify progress made by communities. Caste census will allow policymakers to form better policies. Remember, Concrete policies can be formulated with concrete data only. Country is celebrating its 75th independence anniversary, It is perfect time for the government to solve the caste question and work on equitable distribution of opportunities. Without which India can’t improve its development index.

Freebies

Recently there has been a lot of debate around freebies. With newly formed AAP government announcing free electricity (up to 300 units) for residents, opposition is pointing toward negative consequences of freebies in long term. The common reference given is the economic crisis in the Sri Lanka. So lets understand meaning, role and consequences of freebies. In January, Supreme court also heard a plea asking for stopping freebies by political parties.

What does Freebies means ?

Freebies refers to the something given free or at very minimal cost. Political parties promises several free things like electricity, laptops, cycles etc to the people at subsidy or free of costs. The term freebie is actually a negative word used for subsidised goods. The word has recently been in trend as several parties are promising freebies to attract voters. Freebies has been considered an easy way to win elections. Some considered it as a corrupt practise to allure voters.

It came into play, when K Kamaraj introduced the concept of free education and free food in school. Later CN Annadurai promised around 4.5kg of rice for rs 1. The use of freebies was taken to next level by Jayalalitha in Tamil Naidu. In her political career she had given several freebies to the people. This include salt, fan, loans, scooters, gold, laptops, sarees, goats, cows and a lot more. Later on these freebies keep on increasing only and spread to other states as well. Other political parties were attracted to see how distributing free goods can help create a community of loyal voters. Jayalalitha tried to project her persona as of mother (Amma). The party defended these freebies saying only mother understand the needs of their children. A slew of freebies were promised in elections of 2011 and 2016. These freebies were considered to be secret of Jayalalitha’s dominance in Tamil Naidu.

The menace of freebies has spread to all other states as well. Prakash Singh Badal government introduced free electricity for farmers during his tenure 1997-2002. Akhilesh Yadav distributed free Laptops to students of class 12th. MP government distribute free smart phone to students who get enrolled in college. SAD distribited free cycles to girls in 2017. KCR’s TRS has several free schemes like, free sheeps, free washing machines for dhobis and others. Free electricity (up to some units) to Dalits, kits to pregnant ladies, assistance on girl marriage is common in several states. Not only in India, but in other countries as well. Free bus rides for women has become new trend in freebies culture.

Now the question arises are these freebies really bad ? It is definitely not completely true to say that Freebies have negative consequences only. In a country like India, where there is increasing inequality and rural economy performs badly, these subsidised goods can prove supportive. Free laptops has helped several students to explore more opportunities. Free rations ensures food safety. There are several freebies which are justifiable. Free water and electricity to people who can’t afford it, ensures access to quality infrastructure.

But these freebies are used as an instrument to allure voters, which undermines the vitality of democracy. Freebies or promise of free things are indirect way of bribing people to vote them. Most of the freebies are designed to target the voting groups, like laptops are distributed mostly to class 12th student since they will become eligible voters in a year. Also most of the freebies are laid out without any study on cost and benefits. The most contentious of all is the rising fiscal deficit of states. States like Tamil Naidu spent around 20,000 crore during 2011-2016, despite having fiscal deficit around 80%. State of Punjab is under immense debt, but freebies continue to flow.

Freebies can good only when it reached the target group, affordable to the state and are done with right intentions. Announcing it before elections undermines free and fair elections, as public is attracted to free things. Economic consequences must be kept in mind before announcing freebies.

Why is there a need to regulate EdTech industry in India

EdTech (a combination of “education” and “technology”) refers to hardware and software designed to enhance teacher-led learning in classrooms and improve students’ education outcomes. 

With the onset of Covid pandemic in early 2020’s led to shutdown of all the educational activities. Students were confined to their home. Online education come as panacea to them. It provided students a platform to continue their learning. It led to fast pace adoption to new technologies and Education shifted from online to offline mode. This has resulted in the rise of e-learning, normalizing the phenomenon of remote learning on digital platform and brought about unprecedented and massive changes in higher education. 

So lets first start with a brief overview of the industry.

So India is home to the most valued edtech startup, edtech emerged as the most funded sector in 2020, attracting almost one-fourth of total VC investments till November

Market– So the edtech market is very huge, It is expected to reach 4b dollar by 2025.  Also Indian parents are gardes obsessed which make it easier for edtech companies attract students.

The third is Low barrier to entry and exit– Anyone can start and run an online education platform. Low capital as well as lack of regulation has made it easier for individuals with knowledge and skills to enter the market.

Last is Huge growth after covid-

During covid Parents prefers to keep their child at home where they saw ed etch as a solution. Also these companies started offering free contetnt which saw steep rise in the traffic.

Now Why there is an urgent need to regulate the ed-tech industry ?

Though there are several regulations regarding education, online companies, consumer protection, child protection, but their no particular regulation for online education.

The first is Standardization– Every company creates its own content and have different standards. So Like consumer products adopt standards to signify quality, online courses should be controlled by meeting set standards based on learning outcomes, teaching quality, personalization tools, and students’ experiences..  

2nd is Ensuring minimum qualifications.-  Most of these platforms hire teachers in hasty manner, without proper background check, most of these so called tutors or teachers are either college student or gradates who lack experience in how to deal with students, especially pre teens chi;ldren..

Misleading advertisement–  Edtech companies have been seen using fear based marketing , which makes parents and students feel that they are missing out.  These practices often misguide students. So Regulation of advertisement in the edtech space is another concern to ensure ads are not deceptive or misleading.

Next is Pricing models– Access to after-school tutoring may be limited to wealthier families, furthering the socio-economic divide. There might be a need for intervention in how the courses are being priced, along with the content of the courses.

Data Privacy:

Data Privacy issues are a need of the hour for all the industries in recent times. EdTech has observed enormous growth in the past few years incorporating all tiers of education. The Covid-19 pandemic gave it a booster shot. From primary school, middle-school, high school to colleges and universities everyone is now attending their classes through online meeting platforms. Education industry is gradually becoming digitalized via ed-tech platforms. EdTech privacy has turned out to be a primary concern for students, parents, teachers, and school officials as more educational institutes turn to virtual learning. As Ed-tech companies continue to innovate and formulate great learning products for students, they need to consider student privacy as a priority. Data privacy is a significant problem for everyone, but it is even more crucial when handling the personal information of children.

The transition towards using digital applications to improve education comes with its own set of hardships. EdTech has become the main prey for frequent and high-intensity cyberattacks which are increasing rapidly every year.

Challenges faced by Ed-Tech Industry in maintaining Data Privacy & security

  • Digital Socialization: We need to impart digital socialization in the form of education, children should be taught good and bad on the internet, what are the risks they might face, what are the precautionary measures they need to know on the internet.
  • Lack of Digital Parenting: Even when parents have interacted with tech enthusiasts or read many Data Privacy, Data Security and Cybercrime related articles they always face a dilemma on how to teach cyber ethics to kids, whether to buy tech gadgets for them or not. But not buying digital gadgets and not allowing them to take advantage of the internet is not a solution.
  • Risk of Parental data theft: Through students, the cyber criminals are trying to access the data of the parents because sometimes students use their parent’s devices. These devices may contain the financial and personal information of the parents so it becomes an easy target for the criminals, hence we have to look at not only the privacy of students but also the security of online educational institutes and parents.
  • Data Security breaches on Cloud: Maximum EdTech companies use cloud-based solutions for data violations. But it increases the risk of data breaches relating to the personal information of students that can be misused to divert payments to fictitious accounts that hacker’s control.
  • Unwanted Exposure: A recent phenomenon has been reported where online video conferencing platforms are interrupted by intruders. Incidents such as hate speech against students during online classrooms, or exposure to undesirable and destructive media during virtual classes hinder learning through these platforms and create fear of using technology.

EdTech privacy is not something to be taken lightly. The Ed-Tech industry requires an entire ecosystem that can handle the problem from the core, because if the problem won’t be addressed from the very beginning, then it will be very difficult to come up with a solution.

Mental Health:

The rapid introduction of computer-based learning, online textbooks, and one-on-one programs has now added significantly to the time students spend on screens. This is due both to the time spent in class on devices and the time spent doing homework.

The interaction between online homework assignments and children’s non-school-related use is particularly problematic. Homework assignments often take much longer to complete, as students’ attention is divided between the assignment and the digital distractions at hand.

Online education has taken a huge toll on the mental and physical health of students as well as their teachers.

  • Lack of interest: Humans are social animals, and the most introverted ones also need to see faces and have human interactions once in a while. The children have grown to lose interest in their classes.
  • Stress and anxiety: In the traditional classroom setup, students follow a routine schedule during school days. When it’s time to wake up, time to go to school, time for class, time to do homework, lunchtime to interact with friends and attend extra-curricular activities. It’s never the same with online learning.

Staying focused on online classes is a challenge. Separating home life and class time, not following a routine schedule, the distractions at home, caused students not to able to concentrate well with their classes.

  • Zoom fatigue: Zoom fatigue refers to the exhaustion after having attended zoom classes, or video conferences. With the screen time increasing drastically, the mind is overwhelmed with information and the brain finds it rather difficult to register all the information.
  • Isolation: The use of EdTech lessens human interaction in schools. This compounds the social isolation effects that social media and excessive screen time engender outside the school day.

Summary & Conclusion

The Covid-19 pandemic gave an unexpected boost to online education in India. This also posed some challenges for online learning formats. The reasons for the success of global online education providers are the standard of content and strict regulation. There is a need for Indian government to emulate the successful models and regulate EdTech companies and online courses. There is an urgent need to appoint a nodal body to look into the working and standardisation of e-learning content. Not only should the body ensure uniformity of curriculum across e-learning or EdTech companies, it should also approve content that enables students to stay on a portal rather than swap platforms in search of solutions. The other function of the nodal body would be to ensure quality of content for online courses for higher education and college education.

History of MSP

MSP refers ‘Minimum Support Price’, which is a floor price or minimum price for a crop decided by government of India. It was first implemented in 1966-1967 for wheat and rice. Currently it covers 23 crops.

MSP is probable the most trending word for 2021. Amid protest in Delhi, there is lot of debates and news around MSP. There is fear among farmers that the new laws introduced by government of India are aimed at dissolving MSP. Entire farmer protest is around this topic. Everyone is discussing MSP today. But do you know history of MSP and how is it calculated. Here it is-

What is MSP ?
MSP refers to Minimum Support Price, which is a floor price or minimum price for a crop decided by Government of India. It is a safety net provided to farmers to ensure that they get remunerated for their produce. State like Punjab and Haryana are food surplus state. Due to surplus produce, which means increase in supply, prices falls sharply, which led to loss to farmer. So government introduce MSP system to ensure farmers get minimum price for their produce. Government decide minimum price of a crop before its harvest. Even the prices of crop fall , government buy it at MSP. MSP protect crop prices from market fluctuations. While MSP is not enforceable by law.

History of MSP-
Back in 1960’s, India was facing acute shortage of food supply. India had got newly Independence and has already fought two wars. India was mostly dependent on imports for wheat. So Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri Ji introduce policies to make promote Agriculture to make India self sufficient. A series of administrative and technological reforms were carried out, but still the outcome was not up to expectation. It was realised that farming is very vulnerable, because farmer due not get profitable price for their produce and end up selling at losses.
To ensure minimum price for farmer’s output, Prime Minister set up 5 member Food Price Committee in August 1964. The committee was set up under his own secretary LK Jha. The committee include TP Singh (member, Planning Commission), BN Adarkar (Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance), ML Dantwala (Department of Economic Affairs) and SC Chaudhary (Economic and Statistical Consultant, Ministry of Food and Agriculture). Based on recommendation of committee Agriculture Price Commission (APC) and Food Corporation of India was established in January 1965. The report was approved by B Shivaraman, then secretary to Government of India in October 1965. Committee recommended providing minimum price to the farmers and implementing maximum retail price for grains, so to ensure availability of food to poor. The committee recommended price for 1964-65 only. In 1985 Agriculture Price Commission (APC) was renamed as Commission for Agriculture Cost and Pricing (CACP).
Also this system was set up to protect farmers from being tapped in debt cycle of middlemen or Zamindars. After independence India’s agriculture was under stress, due to lack of availability of raw material and capital. So farmers used to borrow money from Zamindars, Landlords and Arhtiyas. At that time there was no proper infrastructure, system and knowledge for farmers, so they sell their produce directly to Arhtiyas, Zamindars or Landlords. But these middlemen pay very less for their produce. Farmers became indebted to middlemen and get tapped in debt trap. Farmers were at mercy of middlemens. But MSP ensures that they would get minimum price for their produce.
Here it is also to be noted that MSP is a administrative decision, it does not have any legal backing. It depends upon governments. So far from 1965 it has been continued.

How is MSP calculated ?
MSP is fixed by ministry of agriculture based on recommendation of Commission for Agriculture Cost and Pricing (CACP). It is statutory body so its recommendations are not binding on government. While calculating cost it consider cost of labour, land, inputs, interest on investment, inflation etc. CACP uses 3 formulas to calculate MSP- A2, A2+FL and C2, prescribed by Swaminathan committee.
A2– It include out- of -pocket expense incurred by farmer. It includes cash expense like labour, seed, manure, fertilizer, electricity, fuel, rent etc for production of crop.
A2+FL- FL refers to Family Labour. It includes unpaid labour of family members in cost of crop production.
C2- It refers to Comprehensive Cost (CC OR C2). In addition to A2+FL, it includes interest on capital invested, rent, interest on owned land and machinery.
In reply to parliament Agriculture Minister Tomar said that government use both A2+FL and C2 while calculating MSP.

MSP had been boon to our country and played important role in making India food sufficient. MSP had commercialized the farming. It had attracted farmers toward commercial farming by providing them price security. But it has been established only in few states like Punjab, Haryana and UP. MSP implementation has its own impact. Environment degradation and reducing water table in Punjab has widely been acknowledged. As every coin has two sides, MSP too have both positive and negative impact. It put a lot of burden on government’s exchequer. Also MSP procurement is dependent on middlemen, commission agents and bureaucrats.

New farm bills of 2020 are aimed at dissolving MSP by allowing farmers to sell their produce outside APMC mandis. Farmer fear that if MSP is not provided, corporates will manipulate prices. This has led to protest around Delhi. Government should come with policies that protect stakeholder’s interests and with proper consultation.

Farm Laws, 2020 Explained

Three farm reform bills were passed by Indian parliament in September. Since its passage it has created a lot controversy in India, especially in northern agriculturally rich state of Punjab and Haryana.

Thousand of Farmers are protesting on border of National Capital, Delhi. Farmers with their families and tractors are marching toward Delhi. Government has invited protesting farmers group for talks. Despite around 9 round of talks, parties have reached no result. Farmers are adamant on demand of repealing these farm laws, while government have agreed to bring amendment to the existing laws but not to repeal laws. This protest is expanding everyday. There has been a lot of debate over this new law. So here is explained the 3 Farm laws.

These three laws are-

  1. Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and facilitation) Act, 2020
  2. Farmer’s (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price assurance and Farm service Act, 2020
  3. Essential Commodities (Amendment Act, 2020)

A Brief Overview

India has been a agrarian economy. Agriculture is primary source of employment for 58% of India’s population and contributes 16% to GDP of the country. It hold an important place in country’s economy and politics. But it has not developed compared to other sectors. Agricultural sector is still dependent on government for procurement and regulations. 86.2% of Indian farmers are marginalized i.e they hold less than 2 hectares of land. These laws are introduced with aim to bring much needed reform in agriculture sector.

Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and facilitation) Act, 2020– This act was introduced with aim to provide greater choice to farmers for selling their produce. Earlier the produce was compulsory to be sold under APMC Act at Mandis set up by state government. This Mandi system was set up to protect farmers from being tapped in debt cycle of middlemen or Zamindars.
After independence India’s agriculture was under stress, due to lack of availability of raw material and capital. So farmers used to borrow money from Zamindars, Landlords and Arhtiyas. At that time there was no proper infrastructure, system and knowledge for farmers, so they sell their produce directly to Arhtiyas, Zamindars or Landlords. But these middlemen pay very less for their produce. Farmers became indebted to middlemen and get tapped in debt trap. Farmers were at mercy of middlemens. The system was very exploitative and became hurdle for growth of agriculture in India.
In 1960’s India fought two wars and was facing food shortage. So to promote agriculture, government introduced MSP (Minimum Support Price) system in 1966 and set up APMC mandis. MSP ensures minimum price for farmer’s produce which would be purchased by government at APMC mandi.
Now since India is food surplus, government introduced this bill to allow farmer to sell outside APMC mandi. Now farmers can sell outside the mandi also. Which means he can sell directly to industries. This will provide farmers freedom of choice for selling his product, thus increasing competition. Famers can sell within state , outside state or even online. This will provide farmer more opportunity to attract better cost for his produce. After the implementation of this bill farmers will not only be the ‘producer’, they will be the traders. This bill promote electronic trading and e-commerce of farmer’s produce. Also bill restrict state government from levying tax , commission fee etc on procurement of farm produce outside APC mandi.
Currently Punjab charges 8.5% and Haryana 6.5% as commission fee on procurement, which is source of revenue for state. This is probably the reason the State governments are concerned about bill.

Farmer’s (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price assurance and Farm service Act, 2020:
This bill introduce a legal framework for contract farming. Under this law now farmers can enter into legal agreement with companies, industries or institution for purchase of the produce at a mentioned price. Contract will include all the terms and condition like price, standard and quality, timing, order size and dispute resolution framework. With this bill government aimed at protecting small farmers from being exploited by wholesalers and corporates, as the farmers will have written agreement with buyers and can sue them if they try to cheat them.


Essential Commodities (Amendment Act, 2020):
Essential commodity act was introduced back in 1955 to prevent hoarding of essential commodities such as food items, petrol, drugs, fertilizer etc. The new amendment has removed oil seeds, cereals, potato and pulses from the list. Thus allowing supermarket or giant retailers to hoard these products. This move will attract corporate in the agriculture market as now they can manipulate prices by changing supply-demand accordingly.

There was widespread discussion to bring change in the agriculture sector. Indian agriculture sector has performed badly when it comes to quality. Also there was very few efforts for research and innovation in agriculture. This reforms will increase competition in market and also improve quality of farm produce. India has seen how well dairy and horticulture has performed even without MSP or government regulation. Since both dairy and farming are rural economic activity, Dairy has performed far better than agriculture. Fruits and vegetables were delisted from APMC act in 2014 by congress government. So far we have reported no reduction in production or quality in fruit and vegetable segment. Also with entry of corporates in Dairy segment, production of milk has increased. Nestle and Danone has actively contributed in increase in production of milk in Punjab especially in Moga district. Similarly these laws will agriculture by increasing competition. Other topic of debate around these laws will be discussed in next blog.

India Pride Project.

India Pride Project (IPP) is a group of art enthusiasts who uses social media to identify stolen religious artefacts from Indian temples and secure their return. Co-founded in 2014 by two Singapore-based art enthusiasts, S. Vijay Kumar and Anuraag Saxena, it now has activists from all over the world.

Dancing Shiva: In 2014, it helped to secure the return of a US$5 million bronze statue of the Hindu god Shiva from the National Gallery of Australia. Named Dancing Shiva, the statue was stolen from a Tamil Nadu temple and trafficked by Subhash Kapoor, a former Manhattan art dealer who was later under the United States federal investigation known as Operation Hidden Idol. When the gallery denied the statue was stolen, IPP used the social media to publicize and compare the images of the stolen idol with the one on gallery’s display. Since the arrest of Kapoor in 2012, United States has returned to India many artefacts recovered under Operation Hidden Idol.

Ms Donna Yates, a lecturer on antiquities trafficking at the University of Glasgow, believes “the grassroots work of the IPP in documenting cases of theft and bringing them to public attention is crucial – and unmatched anywhere in the world.”

Nalanda‘s 12th century Buddha: This six-and-a-half-inch bronze (with traces of silver inlay) of the Buddha seated in the bhumisparsha mudra, was stolen along with 13 other statues 1961 from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) site museum in Nalanda.[5] It was noticed at a at a London auction. Fortunately a photographic record of the statue was saved by Sachindra S. Biswas, a retired director general of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Kumar, is attempting to pursue India’s claim on another Buddha statue, suspected to be from the 1961 theft, currently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the US.

Background


Ancient Indian sculptures, manuscripts, maps and artefacts are stolen and find their way into the international art-markets and are sold off for millions of dollars. The history of India is being illegally smuggled out to private-collectors and museums across the world.

Home most dangerous place for women –UN

In 2017, 50,000 women were killed by partners or family members while 137 women were killed by family members everyday.

The most dangerous place for women is their home, according to the 2018 report on gender related killing of people . Of the 87,000 women killed last year, 50,000 (58%) were killed by partners of family members.

The report was compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and released on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25). It looked at homicide data related to gender violence and focused specifically on intimate partner and family member violence.

The report says that 137 women are killed by family members every day. A third of the women were intentionally murdered by a current of former partner.

Globally, Asia had the highest number of women killed by partners or family members last year, at 20,000, followed by Africa (19,000), the Americas (8,000), Europe (3,000) and Oceania (300). Yet rates were higher in Africa and the Americas, meaning women faced the greatest risk of being killed by partners or family members in these regions.

In Africa, homicides at the hands of a partner or family member accounted for 3.1 victims per 100,000 of the female population and in the Americas, the rate was 1.6 victims per 100,000 of the female population — compared with 0.9 per 100,000 in Asia.

Europe showed the lowest rate of gender-based homicide, with 0.7 victims per 100,000 of the female population.

According to the report, only one out of every five homicides across the globe is perpetrated by an intimate partner or family member. However, women and girls make up the vast majority of those deaths. There is a large disparity in the shares attributable to male and female victims of homicides committed by intimate partners or family members: 36% male versus 64% female victims

Despite steps taken by countries to reduce female homicides, including the adoption of special units and more training in the criminal justice system, the report said there is no sign of a fall in the number of gender-related killings of women and girls worldwide.

On the contrary, the total number of female homicide victims appears to have increased since 2012, when the number of women killed by partners or family members was estimated at 48,000 or 47% of all female homicide victims.

The study stresses that intimate partner/family member killings is not an exhaustive category for female homicides. “Femicide”, defined in 1992 as “the misogynous killing of women by men motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure, or a sense of ownership over women, rooted in historically unequal power relations between women and men”, is a broader term that can take the form of honor killings or other patriarchal motivated violence.

Consequently, the study has called for a series of measures to combat the broader global problem of femicide, by improving coordination between the police, the criminal justice system and health and social services. It also emphasises the need to identify patterns and motives in the killings to better address them at the root.

The need to include men in the fight against these types of homicides was also highlighted. “In order to prevent and tackle gender-related killing of women and girls, men need to be involved in efforts to combat intimate partner violence/family-related homicide and in changing cultural norms that move away from violent masculinity and gender stereotypes,” it said.

Modi Sarkar 2.0.

As the results of the much anticipated Lok Sabha elections in India unfold themselves , it is clear that Narendra Damodardas Modi is all set to occupy the Prime Minister’s chair of India once again. In this avatar of Modi 2.0, BJP is looking set to get a majority on its own and NDA as a pre poll alliance is expected to beat its 2014 tally! First things first. This is a remarkable feat for an incumbent to not just return but return with a better performance than the 1stterm and so kudos are in order!

As much as the return of Modi as the prime minister was expected to a large extent, the scale and the ease of this victory was not expected till some of the exit polls predicted so. What were we told all this while? “Demonetisation hurt jobs and the poor. GST is still hurting traders. There is agrarian crisis all over. Job creation has hit a historic low. Minority are living under increasing fear. Economy is not growing enough. And since 2014, the Idea of India has been threatened”. And much more. So, in spite of the fact this this government did perform in areas of infrastructure like roads, highways, railways…, asset building in rural areas, reaching electricity to the hinterland,…,… we were told that these were not enough to re-elect Modi again that too with a clear majority.

That being the case, what explains this massive victory? What is behind the making of Modi 2.0? I call it the story of “M”s!

M for Modi: – Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind people on this. People have not voted for BJP or the NDA. They have unequivocally voted for Narendra Modi! States like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan which were lost by BJP are now being swept by them! Modi has been seen as being earnest in his endeavour to fulfil promises he made. So, even if ALL the promises were not kept fully, people are being kind enough to give another chance. Programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Demonetisation, Toilet construction, rural electrification and Ujwala Yojana… are being seen as sincere attempts in improving living conditions in India. Though some of the programmes like Demonetisation faltered, people were willing to forgive and forget!

M for Muscular leadership: I will have to narrate an anecdote here to elaborate this point. A day before polling in Mumbai, my 11 year old daughter’s friend asked my wife as to whom she would vote. My wife asked why she wanted to know that. And her response left me stunned. “Aunty, I hope you will vote for Modi. Because only he can give a fitting response to Pakistan. India in the past never entered Pakistan and hit them. But under Modiji, humne ghuske maara”! This was the impact a strong leader leaves in the minds of the young. Critics may call it mindless belligerence when Modi decided to do a surgical strike and follow it up with an air strike. But people want their leaders to show spine in matters of their country’s defence.

M for Mission mode: This is the difference between Vajpayee/Advani era BJP and Modi/Shah BJP. During NDA-1, after forming the government and running a reasonably good one at that for 6 years, BJP did not do anything to widen their base. But the BJP under Modi/Shah is a different kettle of fish. After having won a decisive mandate in 2014, did they keep quiet? They got into “Mission mode” in North East and then later Bengal and the results are there to see. For BJP, if 2014 was UP story, 2019 is Bengal+UP story! In 2019, when it was facing the spectre of the SP-BSP-RJD gathbandan, BJP activated its “Mission mode” to target 300 on its own! This by targeting areas like Orissa, Bengal and North East.

M for Machinery: This is linked to the above. That is of having a plan and executing the plan through an effective machinery. The party machinery under the leadership of Amit Shah works relentlessly in expanding their base within India. Not just during election time. This also means that BJP will now target states like Telangana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu next probably for 2024!

M for last Mile Delivery: It is one thing to announce programs. It is one thing to have a strategy in the board room. It is another thing to ensure last Mile delivery. Whether it is Jan Dhan Yojana or Ujwala Yojana or otherYojanas, Modi Government’s track record on last mile delivery has certainly made a difference to people. This is what has made BJP and Modi to hold on to their leads even in the face of a combined opposition in states like UP.

M for Marketing: The word “Marketing” is often derided upon as if it is a bad word! As a marketing professional myself, I have resented it often. And I have said that Marketing is not a bad thing at all and is a critical element in a product’s success or failure. In political arena, for a leader or for a party, it is not just enough to perform. But it is important to be “seen as performing”! In that sense, BJPas a party and Modi as a leader are miles ahead in terms of marketing themselves. Some would say that Modi’ssuccess is all about just marketing! I tend to disagree. One should not forget the fundamental mantra that even great marketing cannot save a bad product! One can write a separate blog on BJP’s marketing but turning the Chowkidar Chor hai slogan of Congress on its head as Main bhi Chowkidar campaign in its favour is one example of some great marketing by BJP!

M for Models: One reason for Modi in the 1st place to earn credibility in 2014 was his famed “Gujarat model”. This credibility is important for people to take your promises seriously. And this is the problem with the opposition today. The main opposition party doesn’t have any credible model to point the people to! If today, the Congresspromises “Nyay”, people are reluctant to take it seriously. Because, even in states which are ruled by Congress, they find it difficult to hold on. If Congress has to be taken seriously in future, they need to develop their own “models” which they can positively refer to.

I hear some of you saying that it is all just one “M” which is Modi! No victory is accomplished with one factor. It is usually a combination of factors. I believe that in the making of Modi 2.0, the mantras were the above so many “M”s! Now that Modi 2.0 has been accomplished, it is time to look ahead and focus on the agenda for Modi 2.0. What should that be? Please look for my next post! For now, M for Mangal! -Anand kumar.