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ANINDA GHOSH.

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 7/10/2014 |
   A NEW ERA IN  INDIAN POLITICS


Introduction   ---  Editors of SONGSOPTOK  asked me  to submit this  month’s  article  on  Secularism  & its relevance in contemporary  Democratic politics.  A very  important topic , but  I asked  for postponement of  that  by 1 month, because   , Modi govt  is new – an event in itself &  at  least for this month , there are no dearth of  issues , incl comparison of 2 regimes  &  a  further  analysis into why a  secular regime failed   after 10 years ..  There can be more  questions --- A) what is secularism ?  B)  Is it same in an autocracy & a democracy?  C) Is it same in  people’s  autocracy? D)  Who are religious minorities?  E) Are  not caste based  atrocities  ,  throwing people out  of temples, chariots  & prasadam ,communalism ?  F)   Are not atrocities  on women communalism?    So,  I have lingered / postponed this essay  for next month . 

I am writing  this  piece on a day , RBI , like a predecessor  in Planning Commission Chairman , confirmed  / defined  the poverty  levels in India ---Based on the Suresh Tendulkar panel's recommendations in 2011-12, the poverty line had been fixed at Rs 27 in rural areas and Rs 33 in urban areas, levels at which getting two meals may be difficult. Those spending over Rs 32 a day in rural areas and Rs 47 in towns and cities should not be considered poor, an expert panel headed by former RBI governor C Rangarajan said in a report submitted to the BJP government last week. The panel's recommendation, however, results in an increase in the below poverty line population, which is estimated at 363 million in 2011-12, compared to the 270 million estimate based on the Tendulkar formula — an increase of almost 35%. This means 29.5% of the India population lives below the poverty line as defined by the Rangarajan committee, as against 21.9% according to Tendulkar. For 2009-10, Rangarajan has estimated that the share of BPL group in total population was 38.2%, translating into a decline in poverty ratio by 8.7 percentage points over a two-year period. The real change is in urban areas where the BPL number is projected to have nearly doubled to 102.5 million based on Rangarajan's estimates, compared to 53 million based on the previous committee's recommendations. So, based on the new measure, in 2011-12, 26.4% of the people living in urban areas were BPL, compared to 35.1% in 2009-10. In case of rural areas, the rise is of the order of 20% to 260.5 million, compared to around 217 million based on the Tendulkar formula. Rangarajan's estimates would put the BPL share of total population in rural areas at 30.9%, compared to 39.6% in 2009-10. Rangarajan panel has suggested to the government that those spending more than Rs 972 a month in rural areas and Rs 1,407 a month in urban areas in 2011-12 do not fall under the definition of poverty.

I am writing this  essay on  a day  NDA government has brought potatoes and onions in the essential commodities list, as well as moved to make hoarding a non-bailable offence. This may discourage hoarding, but the record of the state governments in tackling hoarders and black marketeers in the past few years is dismal. And the Modi government is dealing with the very same state governments as did UPA 2. between 2008 and 2013, a total of 26,472 persons were prosecuted under the Essential Commodities Act, the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act and rules flowing from it. This was after nearly 11 lakh raids were carried out and nearly Rs 1,200 crore worth of commodities were confiscated. But the most worrisome part is: Only 2,484 people were actually convicted. That's a conviction rate of less than 10%. It's unlikely to deter hoarders and black marketeers, especially if they are the big fish.

Actually , what  we have  inferred  in last 1 month+  is the  advent of some positive signs.  There  are good intents. And  there is concentration of power in  very few hands.  PMO is  a Power Centre . The ugly  part is that Amit  Shah is  rising the BJP  party presidency throne , & the good part is that  India  is preparing to  flex its muscle  & might with a  mighty neighbour  China  , with MOS  Home from  Arunachal , a state that  China considers its very own. 
To  some extent , there  can be expected  a  betterment in Federal structure of India in so far  as  Modi , a sufferer  himself, shall  not  allow Center  to  command over  state resources &  start a fair play in distribution of taxation & financial resources.
 
Modiji’s  practical approaches have never  cast any shadow on anybody. In 1 shot  Narmada dam Height rise has been cleared .  In 1 shot the  temple of democracy  that  he bowed down & touched dust  has ridiculed  democratic styles.  In 1 shot  India has  learnt  to become  China  realizing  lately that  capacity  building at  borders  of Ladakh, Siachen, Sikkim, Arunachal , Uttarakhand   atopmost priority.  Hopefully  we shall see  some of the so far  neglected areas  of renewable & untapped powers  of very  highly capital intensive nature ,  come into being.  Some  7  major projects have been cleared off red tape  by Modi govt  .

The finance ministry has helped resolve financing issues facing three power projects, including the hydropower project in Sikkim that is 94% complete and was to be commissioned by this December. The Reserve Bank of India and the finance ministry were roped in to help expedite a loan sanction from the Power Finance Corporation for the Sikkim project. Chief minister Pawan Chamling is betting on revenues from the hill-state's hydro-power potential to turn the state debt-free by next financial year. A Rs 5,600-crore 1,050 MW power project in Odisha, being developed by KVK Nilachal Power, also had financing troubles due to implementation delays. A consortium of lenders has agreed to treat its loans as 'standard assets' by adjusting overdue interest from its undisbursed term loan. Similarly, a financing problem holding up a Rs 9,000 crore power project in Chhattisgarh developed by RKM Powergen to generate 1,440 MW of power, has been resolved after talking to its lenders' consortium which includes Power Finance Corporation, Bank of Baroda and Corporation Bank.Another Rs 1,256 crore project mooted by Essar Power to re-start its 1,015 MW gas-based plants in Gujarat's Hazira has also been expedited with a state environmental appraisal committee being formed

Problem of this govt  is  of  centralization , extreme centralization &  drift  of democracy to  autocracy –the way China is handling & the way USSR used to handle development issues.  My professional  body  that comprises of the eyes & ears  of the nation  --  the FCAs  in practice  are seriously  hoping that  new govt  shall roll back  a no   of   threatening penal provisions imposed upon them by MCA.  They  are still not digesting  the act of  UPA  , whereby  these  eyes  & ears  have been  found guilty  in cases ranging from Satyam  , &  no constructive action  has been taken by ICAI  in so  many years  & UPA  has put  CAG over the professional dadas, the  elected  leaders of the profession , who govern the  genus  / the species  for  a year  are trembling,     In all probability,  this  govt is also  by , of & for FCAs    like  it is  of, for & by the trading community , who include the greatest  hoarders  of the nation.


Hope,  my  last  treatise  was  well  taken.  There was  a  report I read recently. The  report deliberated on how TOI became the national paper of India so fast.  The report compared Hindu, India Express , Hindustan Times & Times of India . The analysis explained that TOI  is by far the most  compromising paper given an all India lineage. In fact,  the volume of advts  it garners  incl  Eastern & NE  editions , wherein Telegraph has also got a sizable  presence, speaks volumes of a  vast network that  keeps this paper alive n growing. This  paper puts  little attention to magnanimous essays, or best of articles. Deccan Herald, a paper mostly concentrated in K’taka provides so much of  intellectual food , you may get surprised , why this paper is not  read all the nation over. But  most striking feature of Hindu over competition named herein is that  Hindu  is so very rich & quite uncompromising. And in typically southern papers, despite their  recently acclaimed  all India status, the Sothern falir & flavor are preserved, most treatises getting contributed by Soth Indians.  HT comes  with its KK Birla baggage & a Congress lineage . But typically speaking, in today’s India, no  paper can belong for long to a particular political class / party. TOI , per se, is a paper well enjoyed across age groups, &  readers  are hardly concerned about  the lengths & breadths of treatises. Rather they indulge in debates. In our childhood , we were taught to learn English from Statesman . Then came  Telegraph, in 1982. Invaded... and became UNPUTDOWNABLE . If we look at the  Free Press Journal or DNA  or  any other tabloid, we find, the youth of India , the biggest chunk of readers that have grown TOI from its maiden vesrion in Chennai to Chennai, Trichy, Coimbatore, 

Puducherry, Trichy & Madurai versions in TN; Trivandrum, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode versions in Kerala; Mangalore, Mysore, Hubli, Bangalore versions in Ktaka; Hyd, Vizag, Vijaywada versions in  AP. If  you really analyze, it is Kerala where 2 editions come out within a distance of just  60 km. Because Kerala’s own Malayala Manorama failed to garner an English alternative appropriately. Hindu’s predominance &  Partial  reign by Deccan Chronicle with same spice as TOI  has also prevented the growth  of TOI in AP across all corners. But it has been very surprising to note the in-depth analysis where Arnab Goswami has been allowed to take their news channel at the crucial newshour. This channel has been a perfect blend / admixture of diff flares &  palates --  in depth & yellow journalism, presentation of  great topics in  popular packages.

You must have been thinking by now, why I am discussing  all  these  , when I need  to discuss  on  economics & politics .  There  have been stray incidents since Modi govt  has sworn in.  a)  Mr Rajdeep Sardesai & Ms Sagarika Ghosh  have gone on very long leave at  CNN IBN  , as soon as  Reliance has bought  Network 18. Not very  surprisingly,  most of  the channels  are managed / influenced by  lobbies   that  are not neutral , either economically , or politically.   What a farce  it sounds , when  Mr Prakash Javedkar  openly declares  that  he would have wanted  to dissolve his  ministry.   If  there was a wave  created by BJP  to ride the throne , that was the creation of a meticulously planned & very well crafted  media mgt.  No govt  in India can ever  ignore the power of this  ministry.  And Mr Modi, who tweets each success & shares with  the  social  netizens, how can he ignore the power of this ministry?  And  the ministry that  boasts  of  Bimal Julka, Supriya Sahu, Raghavendra Singh, Anurag Srivastava, Nirupama Kotru, Rejimon & Niti Sarkar --- all  7 stalwarts in resp fields, is  this just to prepare for dissolving a ministry?  

In Bengal  we have grown observinng how  Yugantar was thrown to oblivion , a paper managed by hardcore  Congress family. Even  after 2 yrs +  of coming into power, Mamta could not rejuvenate Basumati.  Trinamul  has got  a slurry of papers  funded by  spurious funds,  and  some of so running dailies  are  gradually shifting loyalty from left block to extreme right of  the block. Hindi heartland still goes with HT.  We have already discussed  in last issue  the relative poverty of  Northern India  on a reference scale of Southern counterpart .And strangely enough, you cannot  correctly interprete that  Southies know English far better than North Indians. But till date TOI  publishes just 1 issue  from each of  Eastern states , &  Assam Tribune of Ghy first gave way to TT , then to TOI, which has just 1 lone version across  the vast 7 state wide hilly terrains .  But  whatever  competition may come,  India Today to TOI to  ABP &  their media channel counterparts  are  being run by same capitalist  interests ... and there  ABP news has been  thrown to a  backseat  by  too enthusiastic  Times Now.

Enough ,,, let’s change topic.   On 21 June 2014, in a Bangalore seminar  of ICAI, I met Mr Raghu , current chairman. In all lectures  after the introduction of new Companies Act, the orators gave  very big lectures on how  frightening the penal  provisions have been made  anti profession & anti corporates.  Industrialists & FCAs  alike flocked together to meet  Nirmala Seetharaman in Chennai.  Since she could not make it, they all met the Secretaries in MCA. Sure, this govt by , for & of  business—capital—industry combine  shall  make it easier for  all. 

When we look back at  certain acts of UPA regime, it looks horrific & terrific.  Freedom of work gone... to cover up funds for  Mrs Gandhi’s  pet  MNREGA program.  The people themselves known for dishonesty left n right used to issue dictats  to Commissioners & below of CBI  enquiry into all  acts favoring assessees.  No civilization can run on such mistrusts . No Commissioner  giving any  genuine verdict in fear   of  revengeful retributions, all  amendments coming with retrospective effect  after  deptt  loses a battle  in a court...  All these  must go...  all  must act very fairly & without fear...   But  all  these  provisions mean nothing for  Sharda like chit funds , as they are not corporates & are not governed by  Companies Act  2013.  Well, Sahara can be  brought to books partially,  but shall  the money  come back  that myriads of investors have lost...  or Ceat Finance , Lloyds Finance & a host  of  spurious finance cos...   Today, in  villages , most of social events are sponsored by Sharda like funds ,,, spurious micro credit instns  &  not genuine Grameen Banks  that Yunus  instituted in B’desh.  Those grameen banks & rural coops need to spread wings across  states of India , if roads, power, water , sanitation have to reach Indian corners.

Till  now, &  in my last article  media &  we , the people , have been aghast  with the  oasis –Namo, --Moditva. Now, here, Indians , you are probably  going to have  a Man , who can  take  you to a ride  on  Presidency.  It is not the debate  here whether presidential system is  better or worse, debate here is what achieves  better as a server of  the populace. And, what Dr Singh could  have achieved, given a free hand , being an apolitical   eco scholar & beaurocrat, probably  NAMO shall achieve with fan & fad.    Today we  got Shashi  Tharoor  in  all praise for  this man at the centre , after an 180 degree drift  from decade-old rightist  image  and wining accolades one after another , bulldozing oppositions  one after another , ushering in a new era, maybe away  from age-old centre state  fights unbalancing  the federal basics.

Here is the PM who , like a corporate consultant & analyst  ,  looks at a  rape from a glass  eye  of a visionary  &   reaches straight to the  root cause &  the fish bone diagram ,  strategises  in 1 day, to build   community latrines  in all  villages.   We have all seen  rows  of males  with wife / wives  releasing nature’s  call  even in highly industrially  , growth –prone areas . But Bindheswar Pathak’s  concerted efforts  in mass  sanitation .
Minister Venkaiah Naidu has already said that the NDA government will come out with a new mission to make the existing cities better and also to develop new cities in a planned manner. Sources said that the ministry officials are preparing the policy framework and document so that government can start its project soon. TOI has learnt that under the new scheme, which is under preparation, the Centre will give more liberty to the state governments to chose projects and there will be greater monitoring. These were largely missing during the implementation of JNNURM.
 

Another focus area will be use of more information and communication technology (ICT) tools for better governance and service delivery, sources said. "This will include creating wifi zones across cities. First target would be the public places and commercial complexes. We will also fund projects for IT based monitoring of public transport for efficient management," another UD official said.
TOI reports--- Not since 1987-88 has economic growth been below 5% for two consecutive years. In 2013-14 the economy grew 4.7%, marginally higher than the previous year's 4.5%. Sift the data and the story is worrisome. Manufacturing, mining, construction and trade, areas that create jobs for relatively unskilled people, are doing badly. It shows how badly the economy needs a catalyst to pull it up from the dumps. UPA had lived for long on the Micawber principle: "something will turn up". It never did and UPA paid the price at the hustings. Over the last two years, finance minister P Chidambaram partially repaired Union government finances by relentlessly squeezing expenditure. However, he avoided politically sensitive cuts in expenditure such as subsidies. This is where BJP must prove worthy of its mandate. A cut in subsidies will allow Chidambaram's successor, Arun Jaitley, to redirect resources to creating new infrastructure. In addition, NDA must embark on a strong disinvestment programme to raise resources for economic revival. Civil aviation minister Ashok Pusapati mooted the idea of privatising Air India but appeared very hesitant. However, Air India is an excellent place to start as it will drain money from the public exchequer for the foreseeable future. And that  is not impossible,  simply  make  25% public holding of shares mandatory for PSUs &  real a/c deficit shall  vanish off.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled innovate ideas to make development a mass movement, clean up politics and change India’s image from “scam India to skill India” in his reply to the President’s address to Parliament.In his first speeches in the two houses of Parliament, Modi talked about empowering the poor through education, imparting required skills to youth for jobs, improving farm productivity and special development focus on north-eastern India.He also spoke about the need to make the two houses of Parliament “taint free” by asking the judiciary to decide on all pending cases against MPs within a year. This will be later replicated in states and civic bodies. Replaying to a debate on Motion of Thanks to President’s address, Modi told MPs in the Lok Sabha that he intends to speed up research work in agriculture universities and take them from laboratories to farm lands that would lead to an increase in productivity.The Prime Minister made a strong pitch for engaging students of agriculture to roll out his ambitious soil health card scheme that would help farmers determine the quality of the soil.He also emphasised on using information technology for real time data about agro products, which would help in better management of products. More on agriculture, he said there was a needed to replicate the Sikkim mode of organic produce which has a huge market in the west. He also floated the idea of the trifurcation of Food Corporation of India into three segments to deal separately with procurement, storage and distribution works. He laid focus on skill development to cater to the growing demand worldwide and making a big entry into ‘production’ of teachers who could be ‘exported’ to foreign countries.“We are the youngest nation. We can provide skilled manpower to the entire world,” he said.The Uttar Pradesh government has been sitting on Rs. 293 crore provided by the Centre for building toilets considered key to the security of women in rural India.

29th state of India  is a reality now &  its Man Friday – the ultimate opportunist , has already completely distanced  himself  from   BJP, since electorate  has a major share  of Muslim population.  Before we come to details of TG & AP, kly  have a look at  Soniaji’s  demands for AP---
SONIA'S WISHLIST

To ministry of water resources:

1. Notification of Polavaram Project Authority

2. Notification of KWDT-II additional terms of reference

3. Notification of apex council on water resources

4. Notification regarding Tungabhadra board

5. Notification regarding Krishna and Godavari river management boards

To ministry of home affairs:

1. Ordinance on transfer of certain mandals from Khammam to East Godavari and West Godavari for facilitating Polavaram project

2. Ordinance on correcting error in the Act regarding sharing of power from central generating stations

3. Cabinet note on establishment of National Institute of Disaster Management

4. Issue of rules for clarifying governor's 'special responsibilities' under Section 8 of the Act

5. Support for raising additional police forces

6. Taking over the Greyhounds Training Centre and operational hubs in AP

To ministry of finance:

1. Follow-up on cabinet decision on 14th finance commission

2. Allocation of 13th finance commission award

3. Special grant for 2014-15 to tide over revenue deficit in regular Union Budget of 2014-15

4. Announcement of Uttarakhand-type fiscal incentives for industry in designated backward areas

5. Financial support for the establishment of new capital
To HRD ministry:

Prepare Cabinet Notes for establishment of IIT, IIM, IIIT, NIT, IISER and Central University

To ministry of health:

Prepare Cabinet Note on establishment of AIIMS-type super specialty medical complex

To ministry of civil aviation:

Cabinet Notes on making Visakhapatnam, Tirupati and Vijayawada international airports

To ministry of defence:

Permission from Indian Navy to allow Visakhapatnam to operate as full-fledged international airport

To ministry of petroleum/IOC/HPCL

1. Cabinet Note of establishment of Petroleum University

2. Feasibility of establishing Greenfield refinery and petrochemical complex.

Ministry of urban development:

Feasibility Study of metro rail facility in Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali metropolitan urban development authority

Ministry of railways:

1. Examine feasibility of establishing new railway zone and expeditious decision thereon

2. Rapid rail connectivity between Hyderabad and new capital.

Ministry of steel:

Feasibility of establishing steel plant in Kadapa district

Ministry of commerce and Industry:

Feasibility of Vizag-Chennai industrial corridor along lines of Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor

Ministry of agriculture:

Cabinet Notes on establishment of agricultural and horticultural university

Ministry of tribal affairs:

Cabinet Note on establishment of tribal university

Ministry of communications and IT:

Cabinet note on establishment of IIIT

Ministry of shipping:

Cabinet note on development of new major port at Duggirajupatnam

To planning commission:

1. Notification of and subsequent endorsement of NDC for special category status for state

2. Activation of special cell for Seemandhra under chairmanship of deputy chairman

3. Formulation of Bundelkhand-type special development package for Rayalaseema and north coastal Andhra

Department of personnel and training:

Finalization of Kamalnathan (state-level) and Pratyush Sinha (all-India services) committee recommendation on allocation of personnel

Ministry of law and justice:

1. Follow-up with SC on establishment of a separate AP high court

Ministry of environment and forests:

If required, denotification of the degraded forest land for the new capital
An excellent job done, Soniaji. Outstanding… But question that any poor Indian would ask is,-- --- What  did you people do for 10 years?  Madam, you have been Champion of Senonomics  & welfare  state for  a decade. So many policies,… your son has  been a champion of destitute…  & your party  has always  been full of best brains  --a heritage  of  rich  & wealthy , elite &  cultured, aristocrats… Stephenians, LSE grads &  at  least  from Sriram College of Commerce / JNU .  Why do you need to ask for  so many demands from Mr  Modi?  What did  you do?    What  was done by your GOMs  &  EGOMs  ?  Madam, were you not a part of the abysmal policy paralysis?   A trench  excavated in morning &   filled up in evening  , a road   made in morning &   destroyed in evening…   madam, why India  ranks 132nd  today  in the world  in HDI ;  after years  of intensive  MNREGA, why  there are  no sanitations & drinking water  in    % of our villages  ;  madam,  can you deny having wasted around  Rs 3 lac crore  of our blood earned money  in the name of MNREGA… ?
You have done so many great revolutions , madam;  your Sheela Dixit  amassed 32 ACs in 1 house…  how many houses do each of  your party’s  sahzadas are holding?   Since the days of Emergency , when our current President was the FM in your  late mom in law’s  ministry , how  much money  has been stashed in Swiss Banks  by your party affiliates?
Madam, kly understand that $ 190Bn  has been invested  during your regime , at an ROI  of just 0.8% pa. Madam, Rs 10 lac crore  of bank loans  out of  Rs 60 lac crore has gone to  just 6  top business houses / families of India excl Tata & Reliance.
Madam, in your regime , in last 6 years, $ 260bn gold has come into India against a capex of just $ 588Bn .
You have done great achievements.  But what  has been inflicted on  populace  in return is sheer poverty , darker poverty,  your regime  has  tarnished  every glorious meaning & example  that  Senonomics could  so very well deliver….
After 10 years of UPA  regime that  have  sacrificed  lacs of  crores of   the money that  genuine tax payers have  given to GOI coffers, there  are  Rs 13 K crore holes,

HT reports  --- UP used only 46% (Rs 250 crore out of total Rs. 543 crore) of the scheme intended to make India open defecation-free.“UP has an available balance of Rs. 293 crore and Badaun district Rs. 1.04 crore. Adjoining districts also have sufficient funds available. State is requested to take urgent steps in the matter so as to ensure availability of adequate sanitation facilities especially for women,” Sarswati Prasad, joint secretary, department of drinking water and sanitation, wrote.  “At least 65% of the rape cases in rural areas happen due to lack of toilets,” said IG (Special Task Force) Ashish Gupta. Like Uttar Pradesh, its neighbours Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan have a poor sanitation record with only 30-47% spent on building toilets. The better performing states – Arunachal Pradesh (72%), Maharashtra (70%) and Jammu and Kashmir (64%) — are yet to utilise their money fully too.Under NBA, begun in 1999, the centre contributes Rs. 4,600 and the state Rs. 1,400 for each toilet. Another Rs. 4,500 per toilet comes under MGNREGA.

The CAG, which has audited 14 states over 2007-12, has also said projects have not been completed even after spending Rs 4,000 crore over five years, it reported.
According to CNN-IBN, in 14 states there were 129 lakh projects worth over Rs 1.26 lakh crore that were approved. Of this, only 30 percent has been completed.
And a whopping Rs 2,252 crore was spent on projects that should not have been taken up under MNREGA, the auditor has noted, according to the reports.
Bihar, Maharashtra and UP, where 46% of the poor live, used up only 20 percent of funds.
- The highest number of ghost workers, that is workers who exist only on paper, was to be found in Karnataka, over 1,600. Total ghost workers found in 8 states is 1,932.
- Misappropriation of funds was the highest in Assam.
- Job cards not issued in over 12,000 households
- Delayed payment to workers but no compensation paid.
- Incorrect maintainance of records in up to 54 percent of gram panchayats.
- The report finds Block Development Officers issued cheques in their own names.
- The report concludes that monitoring by the centre is unsatisfactory
The MNREGA has been the UPA's flagship welfare scheme that guarantees 100 days of work per rural household in a year. While there have been reports of irregularities in the funds being disbursed and the projects being done, the CAG's report could be an embarrassment  for the UPA government.

A  narrative from India Today  caught me into tears & I am sharing that with you all---
Rekha Devi, a native of Mahant Maniyari village in Bihar, opened an account with the local post office in 2008. That was when she enrolled for work in a livelihood programme of the central government. Over the years, she worked as a manual labourer on various projects as part of the programme launched under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). Her wages were credited directly into her post office account. The money was withdrawn as and when required. Everything went fine. There was one problem, though. She didn't know about the account. Confused? So was she when she found out about the account a few months ago.


REKHA DEVI

A resident of Bihar's Mahant Maniyari village, Devi found an MNREGA job card and post office account had existed in her name since 2008 though she was unaware of it
"I first thought it was some other Rekha Devi with the same address but even my husband's name was correct"
Devi, 35, was told about the account by social activist Sanjay Sahni, who trawled through the MNREGA website to find out details of works undertaken in Ratnauli and Mahant Maniyari villages, in Muzaffarpur district. "I was not aware of any such account, nor had I seen its passbook," she says. When she approached the post office to find out about the account and withdrawal of money the MNREGA website showed she had apparently received, she got no response. "I do not know who opened the account in my name," says Devi, who actually opened an account only in May 2012 when she began working on an MNREGA project to support her three children and a husband who suffers from a mental disorder. "I thought it was some other Rekha Devi with the same address but even my husband's name was the same."
MNREGA is the showpiece welfare legislation of the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The programme that promises to provide 100 days of manual work per year to all rural households was launched with much fanfare in February 2006. The scheme was an important factor that helped the UPA to retain power in 2009. But it was marred by rampant leakages of funds and large-scale corruption. As wages were distributed in cash based on manual entries made in muster rolls, or attendance sheets, it was easy for anyone who could exploit the system - be it the village headmen, local administration officials, contractors or middlemen - to siphon off money, with each person in the implementation chain getting a fixed percentage in the spoils. In 2008, the government decided to transfer wages directly into the bank or post office accounts of beneficiaries. Has it helped? Not much, says Sahni.


SURENDRA SHAH

This resident of Bihar's Amrakh village worked on a road project for 40 days in 2010, after which his passbook was taken away by the village munshi. He got the passbook back in 2013. The passbook shows money was credited into and debited from his account even when he was not using it
"I argued with the munshi and got the passbook back. I never got any money for the MNREGA work"
Sahni says that in 2011 he checked the muster rolls of Ratnauli and Mahant Maniyari villages. Nearly a quarter of the people listed in the rolls were unaware that bank or post office accounts existed in their name and that money had been deposited and withdrawn from these accounts. A majority 60 per cent of those listed had never even worked in any MNREGA project. Little has changed since then. In neighbouring Vaishali district, villagers and activists claim at least 12 to 15 per cent people are unaware that accounts exist in their name. "Account opening is in the hands of the post master. Connivance with village administration to open accounts is common. Since most people are illiterate, only thumb impressions are needed to open and access the accounts. These impressions can be of anyone as no one ever checks them," says Sahni.
Across Bihar - and most likely in several other states as well - a similar story is playing out. In Bihar's Muzaffarpur and Vaishali districts, Business Today found that most job cards and account passbooks are kept by the village strongmen. Discrepancies in deposits and withdrawals are evident even in cases where the beneficiaries have their own cards and passbooks. One such case is that of Madina Begum, a resident of Mahant Maniyari village. The 50-year-old can't read or write but accesses her own account. Her passbook shows a deposit of Rs 11,400 for a plantation work, but she says she got only Rs 10,000 from the post office. The passbook also shows deposit and withdrawal of Rs 5,016 and Rs 6,344, but she wasn't aware of these transactions. "I do not know about these entries. But I do know how many days I worked and how much I earned on each project," she says.


HADISHA KHATUN
The resident of Mahant Maniyari village never worked on a MNREGA project. She says her passbook and job card were kept by the village mukhiya's men until recently. The passbook shows a deposit of Rs 1,400 on Sept 2, 2011, and withdrawal of the same amount a fortnight later
"The account is in my name, so I should get the money"
BT also found that many MNREGA projects exist only on paper. In many cases, money had been spent with barely any productive assets to show for. In several cases labourers worked for 10 to 15 days but wages in their names were raised for 40 to 60 days. The additional money likely disappeared into the hands of village and block administration officials.

In Bhojpur district's Agarsanda panchayat, for instance, the arbitrary manner in which muster rolls and worksheets are prepared is evident by work undertaken on public holidays and festivals such as Vijay Dashmi. The rolls also show women working on festivals such as Teej, when they observe fasts through the day. Pond digging work was taken up in the flood-prone area in the rainy season, when such activities are banned.
In Vaishali village of the eponymous district, a signboard alongside a road showed Rs 1,62,425 was spent on planting trees as part of a MNREGA project. But the road did not have any tree. Activists say plantation work is the easiest route to make money in MNREGA. Why? In the case of an inquiry, the simple answer is that the plants dried. This was also the explanation that Vaishali Block Development Officer Kumar Patel, who had the additional charge of programme officer for MNREGA from July 2011 to January 2014, offered BT. "Plants are eaten by animals. They are destroyed due to village rivalries. In most cases, plants dry and die as they are not cared for by labourers."

MARRED BY LEAKAGES
Since 2006, the central government has spent a staggering Rs 2,43,178.72 crore on MNREGA projects, the programme's website shows. Of this, 60 per cent would have been used to pay wages, as mandated in the scheme. It would be naïve to believe the entire amount reaches the intended beneficiaries. Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Rural Development, acknowledges the problem. "In our delivery system the leakage is more and the coverage is less? How much money actually reaches the beneficiary is a big question mark," he said during MNREGA Divas in New Delhi in early February.

Estimates of leakages vary from state to state. A 2012 study by the Centre for Environment and Food Security, a non-government organisation based in New Delhi, estimated that only 27 per cent of the amount earmarked for payment as wages reached the intended beneficiaries in Bihar. Shankar Singh, a social activist from Rajasthan, expects leakages in the state to the tune of 30 to 35 per cent. In Jharkhand, activists say at least half the amount is siphoned off. A 2010 study by brokerage CLSA said that roughly 30 per cent of the central government's projected $50 billion (about Rs 310,000 crore at current exchange rates) spend on MNREGA over five years would be lost through leakages.
The Comptroller and Auditor General last year conducted a performance audit of MNREGA for the period from April 2007 to March 2012. It checked the scheme's implementation in 3,848 gram panchayats and found glaring inefficiencies. Given that India has 238,617 gram panchayats, actual losses could be much higher. R. Subrahmanyam, Joint Secretary in charge of MNREGA at the Ministry of Rural Development, admits there are leakages but says one should take a balanced view. He cites the example of Andhra Pradesh where leakages are in the range of one to six per cent only.
Surjit S. Bhalla, Chairman of Oxus Investments, an economic research and advisory firm, says less than 15 per cent funds earmarked for welfare programmes reach the poor. He adds that, in discussions about corruption in MNREGA, a lot of emphasis is given on leakages from wages since they account for 60 per cent of the spending. But 40 per cent of the total MNREGA amount is spent on procuring materials required to execute projects. "The material budget can be siphoned off to a large extent pretty easily in MNREGA. There are hardly any assets to show for."

CHECKS AND BALANCES

Subrahmanyam, the ministry official, says MNREGA has multiple levels of checks to prevent corruption. These checks include conducting social audits and forming vigilance committees in each state. But he admits that in most states audits are not conducted in the proper manner. "Some cases show 100 per cent social audits and zero per cent irregularities. We know that is not possible," he says.
All villagers and social activists BT spoke with in Bihar and Jharkhand said they had never participated in a social audit. Mohammed Kalam, Mukhiyapati of the Vaishali gram panchayat, says that block administration staff generally conducts the audit while sitting inside the panchayat office and without physically verifying the work sites or interacting with activists or labourers.

Villagers are unaware that they have a right to demand work and that the government must pay them an allowance if it cannot provide work. Activists say administration officials do not even receive application forms in many cases so that the mukhiya's favourites get jobs on paper and they share the money. A grievance redressal mechanism is also non-existent. Anil Kumar Bhagat, a social activist from Vaishali district, says false police cases were lodged against some panchayat committee members after they sought to know details of MNREGA schemes from block or district administration by filing Right to Information (RTI) requests. Bhagat filed an RTI request on October 8 last year regarding a welfare scheme in Muhammadpur panchayat of Vaishali district. The next day, the block development officer filed a first-information report against him with the police accusing him of interrupting government work and trying to extort money.
False police cases, however, is not the biggest threat activists face. Sometimes, they pay with their life, too. Sahni, the Muzaffarpur activist, says he and fellow RTI activist Ram Kumar Thakur in 2012 highlighted embezzlement of funds in Ratnauli village. This led to the state's rural development department ordering a social audit. Subsequently, Thakur was beaten up, allegedly by the village mukhiya's supporters, and the audit was stopped mid-way. In March 2013, Thakur was shot dead. No one has yet been arrested for the murder.

THE AADHAAR LINK

 JOB CARDS

Job cards kept by a strongman in Muhammadpur panchayat of Vaishali district. Across Bihar and Jharkhand, a majority of passbooks and job card are kept by the village mukhiya's men or contractors
"How will direct transfers help? The workers do not even know they have to keep the cards or passbooks with them" Wakil Khan, Social Activist, Gumla, Jharkhand
Nearly two years ago, the government started a pilot project in a few states, including Jharkhand, to link workers' bank or post office accounts with their unique biometric identification Aadhaar numbers. The aim of the exercise was to weed out corruption in MNREGA by eliminating fake beneficiaries. Under the new system, beneficiaries depend on business correspondents to withdraw money. These bank-appointed agents carry a hand-held device called Micro ATM to request a withdrawal. After verifying their identities via fingerprint checks, the correspondent gives cash to the workers. But, this system also leaves scope for corruption, say activists in Jharkhand. The transaction receipts the illiterate workers get from the device are in English, so they are clueless about the details mentioned on it. Moreover, the receipts become illegible in no time. Also, the automated voice transaction notification from the machine is barely audible.
Gurjeet Singh, an activist with civil society group Jharkhand NREGA Watch, says instances of business correspondents asking for Rs 100 bribe from a group of eight to 10 workers have come to their notice. Jharkhand Chief Secretary R.S. Sharma says, however, that the Aadhaar-linked system, once fully operational, will allow beneficiaries to switch business correspondents if someone is seeking bribes to disburse their wages.


USHA DEVI and ABHIJEET KUMAR

The wife and son of Ram Kumar Thakur have been living in fear ever since the RTI activist was murdered in March 2013 for highlighting embezzlement of funds from welfare schemes in Ratnauli village of Bihar
"Even if panchayat committee members seek information on welfare spending, FIRs are lodged against them", says Anil Kumar Bhagat, RTI activist, Vaishali district, Bihar
Many villagers say the new payment system is helpful, but some complain about delays when the device does not work due to technical problems. Civil society activists and government officials agree that rural areas lack infrastructure such as Internet connectivity and electricity to support the new system. 

Reetika Khera, a development economist, says Aadhaar is not sufficient to prevent corruption. She cites the example of a pilot project based on Aadhaar to disburse subsidised food to beneficiaries in Andhra Pradesh's East Godavari district. She says 13 per cent transactions in the pilot happened through the manual override mechanism where a mobile number is entered into the hand-held device and a one-time password is sent to the phone. The transaction is completed after entering the password in the device. "The moment there is a manual override it means the whole system is collapsing."
Critics also say Aadhaar cannot prevent fraud in cases where money is deposited into the accounts of people who enroll for MNREGA projects but don't actually work. 


THE AADHAAR-LINKED PAYMENT SYSTEM

A business correspondent helps MNREGA workers at a service centre in Dohakatu panchayat, Ramgarh district, Jharkhand, withdraw wages from their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts using a hand-held device.
"A new set of intermediaries will be created in the form of business correspondents and middlemen can connive with them", says Balram, Activist with Jharkhand MNREGA Watch.
Officials at Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar cards and maintains a national database, admit there is currently no way to verify if the beneficiary who gets the money has actually worked. But they also say that Aadhaar has weeded out several fake and duplicate beneficiary accounts. Think-tank National Institute of Public Finance and Policy estimates that five per cent of the leakages can be plugged through wage disbursement using Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts.
Ashok Pal Singh, Deputy Director General, UIDAI, says the best use of Aadhaar will call for process engineering from top to bottom. He says that MNREGA job cards should be issued on biometric authentication and attendance at worksites be marked with biometrics. The job cards and attendance sheets will then capture the work hours and days and send payment schedules automatically. Money can then be credited directly into the accounts of the beneficiaries and withdrawn through biometric authentication. "It will minimise the role of middlemen and muster rolls cannot be fudged," he says. But implementing such a mammoth system requires a lot of financial and technical resources as well as trained manpower. Above all, it will require political will. That's something which isn't easy to find.

"The purpose of doling out subsidies should be to ensure productive assets. The current subsidy system in India does not create capital. If you look at the P&L of the government, a majority of its income is spent on subsidies and entitlement benefits. There is little money left to invest in infrastructure, healthcare and defence. That is the reason why India runs a high fiscal
deficit," Nitin Jain said.

Vidya Mahambare, Principal Economist at CRISIL Research told Economictimes.com that both diesel and LPG subsidies can be categorised as 'wasteful expenditure'. "In the larger context they do not create productive capacity. Most subsidies are not well targeted and the government should be able to convey why they need to be done away with," Mahambare said. According to Mythili, there is a need to do away with subsidies on LPG cylinders. "LPG as a fuel is consumed by the middle income groups. They can afford to pay higher prices and certainly do not need subsidies from the government's end," she told Economictimes.com.

Under the APMC Act, farmers can sell their produce only to traders and middlemen. This leaves them at the mercy of traders and middlemen who play with the prices of essential commodities and form cartels at mandis to fix prices. An amendment to the Act, which delists fruit and vegetables, would allow farmers to sell their produce directly to retailers and consumers. This should lead to a fall in prices of these products. However, doing away with APMC would take away the source of income of lakhs of traders and middlemen who have been loyal supporters of BJP since its inception.


With the Badaun rape and murder incident underscoring the issue of lack of sanitation facilities in villages, the Union rural development ministry on Tuesday asked the UP government to utilise the funds under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA). UP used only 46% (Rs 250 crore out of total Rs. 543 crore) of the scheme intended to make India open defecation-free.“UP has an available balance of Rs. 293 crore and Badaun district Rs. 1.04 crore. Adjoining districts also have sufficient funds available. State is requested to take urgent steps in the matter so as to ensure availability of adequate sanitation facilities especially for women,” Sarswati Prasad, joint secretary, department of drinking water and sanitation, wrote.Two minor girls who were cousins were abducted, raped and then murdered in village Katara (Badaun district) on the intervening night of May 26-27 when they had stepped out of their house to relieve themselves. The incident put the focus on the lack of sanitation facilities in rural UP besides leaving United Nations secretary general Ban Ki Moon ‘appalled’.Any woman defecating in the open is vulnerable and government must acknowledge the issue,” said Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International that specialises in low-cost sanitation. The organisation has implemented plan to make toilet for each house in Katara.

Official statistics reveal only 1.17 crore of 3.29 crore households in UP have toilet facility, forcing 14.82% people in urban areas and 77.13% in rural areas to defecate in the open. “At least 65% of the rape cases in rural areas happen due to lack of toilets,” said IG (Special Task Force) Ashish Gupta.Like Uttar Pradesh, its neighbours Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan have a poor sanitation record with only 30-47% spent on building toilets. The better performing states – Arunachal Pradesh (72%), Maharashtra (70%) and Jammu and Kashmir (64%) — are yet to utilise their money fully too.Under NBA, begun in 1999, the centre contributes Rs. 4,600 and the state Rs. 1,400 for each toilet. Another Rs. 4,500 per toilet comes under MGNREGA.

NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to give Rs 12,000 per household to the poor for working on building their homes, a measure that signifies the biggest convergence of two social welfare schemes and could provide a boost to both rural employment and consumption at a time when the monsoon is expected to be below average. Two of the biggest welfare schemes - the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee  Scheme. .."A textile industry body had suggested that people enrolled in the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme would be given 200 days of casual work by them, instead of the 100 days given by the government. Though this would have led to better output, it was rejected," said Shriram.
The government wants to set up new transmission lines and set up solar powered micro-grids to connect villages where regional power grids are unable to reach. India's installed power generation capacity increased to 2.45 lakh mw from 1.75 lakh mw in March 2011. However, penetration of power has not grown at the same pace. So far, out of 5.94 lakh villages, 5.72 lakh have been electrified while 3.6 per cent or 21,318 villages are without power. Centre has been implementing rural electricity program…..

NEW DELHI: The new government kicked into gear this week, clearing billions of dollars worth of long-delayed defence projects, including a big Navy base, as well as approving the scaling-up of one of the country's biggest dams.The decision to give the projects the go-ahead despite concern about their environmental and social impact signals Prime Minister Narendra Modi's no-nonsense approach to issues he considers to be important for national security.The clearances were made over several days and were the first major decisions from the government that swept to power on May 16 on promises of getting Asia's third-largest economy moving and building a stronger country.

Environment minister Prakash Javadekar said the government could not compromise on efforts to build military and civil infrastructure on the border with China as well the west-coast naval base in as an alternative to crowded Mumbai port.As well as the $2 billion extension to the Karwar base Karnataka, Javadekar approved a radar station in the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal.A defence source said he also planned to fast-track road building along the disputed border with China. Javadekar said China had built infrastructure in the Coco Islands, which are controlled by Myanmar and just to the north of the Andamans.


"If you have a situation where China is sitting in front and we won't do anything, how can you run the country like this," he said in comments made available to Reuters on Friday.
The radar station proposal had earlier been turned down because the environment ministry under the last government saw a threat to the Narcondam hornbill, an endangered bird species.The radar on Narcondam island is one of 18 that the military has planned, running north to south along the Andamans, which straddle the strategic seaway leading to the Malacca Straits.

This year, India's patchy radar meant it was unable to say whether missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 had passed over the islands.Modi met China's foreign minister this week and is likely to visit Beijing this year, but he is also keen to quickly build up border defences that have fallen far behind India's neighbour.The 63-year-old's first foreign foray will be on Sunday to tiny Bhutan, a Himalayan buffer between India and China that has long been a close Indian military and diplomatic ally.

Higher dam

Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party has promised to end a prolonged period of paralysis at the defence ministry where weapons acquisitions and infrastructure contracts were frozen because of fear of corruption scandals.

Javadekar said he had also cleared the second phase of a naval base in Karwar, on the west coast, that had stalled because environmental activists had warned the ecology of the Western Ghats mountains would be affected.

The base is intended to take the load off Mumbai port, used by the Navy and civilian ships. The Navy has also said it wanted a more secure base to berth its latest aircraft carrier.

"Mumbai is a target. We need an alternative. It is of strategic importance," he said.

The environment ministry is also trying to fast-track roads and defence projects classified as strategic.

Radars and telecommunications projects within 100km (62 miles) of the 4,000km (2,500-mile) border with China, large parts of which are disputed, will be put on an automatic approval list, a defence source said.

As well as the military projects, the government on Thursday approved a long-stalled proposal to raise the height of the Narmada dam to 138.73 metres (455 feet), from 121.92 metres (400 feet), so more water will be available for drinking, irrigation and power generation.

The project will benefit Modi's home state of Gujarat. As chief minister of the state, he campaigned for approval to build the dam higher to protect farmers from drought.

Activist Medha Patkar, who has long campaigned against the project, said about 250,000 people will be displaced.

She said the government appeared to have rushed into the decision without looking at the social and environmental impact as required by law.

"How could the government deal with such a grave situation and go ahead just because Mr Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister?" she said.

The scent of 'black money' is in the air again. At the Supreme Court's order, Modi sarkar has set up a Special Investigation Team to look into cases of illegal outflow of money to foreign havens.

Astronomical figures of treasure hoards hidden abroad have been bandied around, especially in the recent elections. To understand what black money is and how it can be recovered, Subodh Varma spoke to India's pre-eminent expert on the black economy, Prof Arun Kumar of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

How do you define 'black money'?

Actually , 'black money' is a tiny component of the huge 'black economy'. All unreported incomes whether by legal or illegal means, and their subsequent use in consumption or investment forms the 'black economy'. The part of this economy which is available as 'money' is called black money . Often black money is taken to mean money generated through illegal activities like bribery. That's just one part of black money. If a private tutor or a doctor earns some income, that's not illegal. But when it is not included in his income returns it becomes `black'. At the societal level, this is a system, it's institutionalized. A sugar mill owner will under weigh the sugar cane, the juice and the crystalline sugar, and also bribe excise officials to report less production. So he gets extra unreported income at every stage of production and distribution.

What is the measure of this 'black economy' in India and how much of it is stashed away in foreign tax havens?

My estimate is that more than 50% of India's economy is black. About half of this is consumption while the remaining half is savings.

Of these savings, about 20% is taken out of the country . That means, of the total black economy , about 10% is in foreign banks. Some is consumed there (yachts, houses, vacations) and some is routed back to India through various means including hawala, or through the Mauritius route. If all the money that has been illegally taken out were to be invested back in India, the gain would be equivalent to $2 trillion (about Rs 120 lakh crore). This is not the amount of money stashed abroad — it is the opportunity cost of that.

How can the foreign-based black money be retrieved?

First of all, I think going after just the foreign component of black money is a diversion. The bulk of the money is right here in the country! It is very difficult to get money out of foreign tax havens unless someone has been really stupid. Let me clarify that all Indians with foreign accounts are not criminals. If it is untaxed, unreported income then it needs to be tracked and brought to book. No amount of agreements to avoid double taxation or infor mation sharing will yield information on real account holders. There are devious means by which money is transferred through several layers of shell companies. If you ask a Swiss bank, they might tell you the 'names' they have but these are not the real people. It will require a great deal of meticulous work here to get the right persons. This is what the US did in the case of its citizens who had stashed money in UBS. They prepared a case in US and presented it to the Swiss. That's what India should do.

The only other way is to wait for somebody to steal the data as happened in the case of LGT — the Lichtenstein based trust.

The present government seems to be very active in pursuing black money. Will this yield results?

Since 1948, about 40 committees, commissions, etc have looked at the problem from different angles. There have been raids, there have been amnesty schemes. The result is zero. My feeling is that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the government under Supreme Court pressure will be of limited use.

It is going to look at existing cases and go by what is offered to it - nothing more. The problem is that there is a triad of vested interests that runs everything in the country -business, politicians and the executive arm of the government. The Radia tapes have shown a glimpse of this nexus. This triad is the main beneficiary of the black economy . So, there has never been a political will to tackle the black economy in the past, and I doubt that the present government has it. Otherwise, Modi can order a crackdown on all hawala operators and all other routes of illegal money flows. Only pressure from people's movements will force the government to crack down on the black economy .

Would the black economy cool down if taxes were lowered?

This is like saying that if the red light was not there you would not be charged with jumping it! Remember, India has one of the lowest direct tax to GDP ratios in the whole world. Chidambaram used to say that our tax-GDP ratio has improved. But that's because of the enormous increase in corporate profits. Calculations show that just the top 0.1% of the population earns more than the bottom 55%. This is because of deregulation and concessions in taxes. Yet the black economy is flourishing. "
The funds held by Indians with banks in Switzerland rose by over 40 per cent during 2013, from about 1.42 billion Swiss francs at the end of previous year, as per the latest data released today by the country's central banking authority Swiss National Bank (SNB).In contrast, the money held in Swiss banks by their foreign clients from across the world continued to decline and stood at a record low of 1.32 trillion Swiss francs (about $1.56 trillion or over Rs 90 lakh crore) at the end of 2013.

During 2012, the Indians' money in Swiss banks had fallen by over one-third to a record low level.The total Indian money held in Swiss banks included 1.95 billion Swiss francs held directly by Indian individuals and entities, and another 77.3 million Swiss francs through 'fiduciaries' or wealth managers at the end of 2013. There are a total of 283 banks in Switzerland, down from nearly 300 at the beginning of 2013. This include two banks (UBS and Credit Suisse) classified as big banks, while there are 93 foreign-controlled banks operating in the country. A total of close to 1.25 lakh staff work at these banks.

According to the SNB data, funds held by the US entities in Swiss banks also rose during 2013 -- from 189 billion Swiss
francs to 193 billion Swiss francs -- despite a major crackdown by the American authorities against the Swiss banks.However, a number of countries saw their exposure to Swiss banks decline during the year, resulting in the overall funds held by foreign clients in Switzerland's banking institutions decline to 1.32 trillion Swiss francs, from 1.39 trillion .. The quantum of Indian funds in Swiss banks stood at a record high level of 6.5 billion Swiss francs at the end of 2006, but it declined by more than 4 billion
Swiss francs after four straight years of fall till 2010.

For clients across the world, total funds in Swiss banks stood at a record high level of 2.9 trillion Swiss francs at the end of 2005, while the all-time high level in the US currency was recorded in 2007 at $2.4 trillion. As per SNB data, funds held by Indians directly in the Swiss banks rose by over 600 million Swiss francs in 2013 to 1.95 billion Swiss francs (Rs 13,650
crore).On the other hand, the funds held through 'fiduciaries' fell marginally to 77.3 million Swiss francs (about Rs 550 crore) in 2013 -- marking the seventh straight year of fall.Indians' direct exposure to Swiss banks stood at a record high level of about
five billion Swiss francs in 2006, while the amount held through fiduciaries at that time was close to 1.5 billion Swiss francs.


Deposits made by Indians in Swiss banks went up by over 40% last year, according to Switzerland’s central bank on Thursday.While the nature of these funds -- and whether they were channelled out from India illegally -- was not ascertained, the latest data may raise concerns for a new government that made the retrieval of black money a campaign peg and set up a high-power panel for it in one of its initial decisions.Indians now have a total of 2 billion Swiss francs (nearly `14,000 crore) parked in Swiss accounts, according to the Zurich-based Swiss National Bank. They were also the only ones who funnelled more money into Swiss accounts in 2013, while deposits from other foreign nationals came down to record lows.In 2012, deposits from Indians had fallen by a third.In total, around 1.32 trillion Swiss francs (about $1.56 trillion or over 90 lakh crore) were deposited in Swiss accounts in 2013.The total Indian money held in Swiss banks included 1.95 billion Swiss francs held directly by Indian individuals and entities, and another 77.3 million Swiss francs through 'fiduciaries' or wealth managers at the end of 2013.The funds, described by SNB as 'liabilities' of Swiss banks or 'amounts due to' their clients, are the official figures disclosed by the Swiss authorities and do not indicate towards the quantum of the much-debated alleged black money held by Indians in the safe havens of Switzerland.SNB's official figures also do not include the money that Indians or others might have in Swiss banks in the names of entities from different countries.The Swiss National Bank said that the focus of banks in the country continues to shift away from foreign clients to domestic business, as reflected in the decline in their overall amounts due to overseas customers.There are a total of 283 banks in Switzerland, down from nearly 300 at the beginning of 2013. This include two banks (UBS and Credit Suisse) classified as big banks, while there are 93 foreign-controlled banks operating in the country. While a new treaty between India and Switzerland for sharing of information on issues related to tax crimes on a prospective basis, Switzerland has also agreed to a limited retrospective clause for such information exchange in case of India.While India has been stepping up pressure for data on alleged illicit funds parked in Swiss banks, Switzerland has said it cannot positively respond to requests which are beyond the ambit of bilateral tax treaty.The Swiss government's latest response came against the backdrop of former finance minister P Chidambaram shooting off numerous letters to his Swiss counterpart raising concerns about the Alpine nation denying information on alleged unaccounted money held by Indians in banks in Switzerland. Subsidies are very important in India, where the economic structure is disparate. No country can afford such disparity," Nitin Jain, CEO Capital Markets at EdelweissBSE 0.98 % told Economictimes.com. "However, we need targeted subsidies. The existing subsidy system is plagued with corruption and
ineffective distribution," he said.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded to President Pranab Mukherjee’s address in Parliament, saying that his government will fulfill the promises made in the speech. Rediff.com brings you some of the highlights of the speech.
1) Why don't we convert the laboratories in schools in India during summer holidays into a soil testing laboratories where agricultural university students can work during their vacations.
Do you think he can do it? Cast your vote.
2) We tried Soil Health Card in Gujarat, it can be replicated elsewhere, too, says Modi. Can't we give this card to every farmer in India?
Do you think he can do it? Cast your vote.
3) The technology must move from the laboratory to land. We also have to increase the productivity of the land. We have not been able to increase the protein content in pulses yet.
Will he be able to turn India around? Cast your vote
4) Should government only be for some educated people? Government should be for the poor. The rich can educate their children or getting medical help easily. Where will the poor go? Only the government can help them, listen to them and live for them.
Do you think he will fulfil his promises? Cast your vote.
5) It is our responsibility to changes the lives of farmers and villagers. We have to provide them modern facilities, so that villages can contribute to the country’s progress, through electricity, broadband connection.
Will he be able to turn India around? Cast your vote
6) We are so fortunate that we are in the generation where India is the youngest country in the world. China is growing older day by day when it comes to skilled labour and we are younger. Hence, all the countries are looking to us. We have an image of Scam India. We need to change that to Skilled India.
Do you think he can do it? Cast your vote.
7) We have to stop politicising rape. We are playing with the dignity of women. Protecting women should be the priority of the people of this country.
Do you think he can do it? Cast your vote.
8) We should ensure that everyone in this country should have the basic ameneties -- housing, electricity, running water and proper sanitation.
Will he turn India around? Cast your vote.
9) Mahabharata is over, but the people have never wanted Pandavas to lose. Victory teaches us a lot, including humility. I assure this House that we will never become arrogant. Regardless of our numbers, I do not want to move ahead without all of you. Not numbers, we want consensus.
Will Modi be able to do it? Cast your vote.
10) I welcome the talk when people say that Tamil Nadu is better than Gujarat. I want such competition between two states. I really want to hear that other states have left Gujarat behind. So, I think, this is the one contribution the Gujarat model has made. I reiterate my resolve to work for the welfare of all 125 crore Indians, and with this end my reply to the debate.
Will he be able to bring about change? Cast your vote
Need to change from ‘scam India’ to ‘skilled India’: Modi
Will leave no stone unturned in implementing roadmap outlined by the President in his address, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Yahoo India – Wed 11 Jun, 2014
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his maiden speech in the Lok Sabha said Wednesday that his government would "leave no stone unturned to fulfil" the promises outlined by President Pranab Mukherjee in his address.

In his reply in the Lok Sabha to the debate on motion of thanks on the president's address, Modi said there were many who voiced doubts if the high promises spelt out in the president's address could be fulfilled.

Giving the example of his time as Gujarat chief minister when he lived up to the promise of providing 24-hour electricity across the state, Modi said: "It is understood that people will have doubts... But I assure this house that the path mentioned by the president, we will leave no stone unturned to fulfil them."

"For us, the president's address is part of tradition... The words are like a divine address and to fulfill them it will be our endeavour, and it will also inspire us to work."

Need to change from ‘scam India’ to ‘skilled India’

· We have an image of Scam India. We need to change that to Skilled India. Need to focus on skill development; decisions have to be taken with great courage.

· In the coming days, manpower would be needed. We should prioritise this. China is growing old, we are getting younger. Hence, all the countries are looking at us.

· We are so fortunate that we are in the generation where India is the youngest country in the world. China is growing older day by day when it comes to skilled labour and we are younger. Hence, all the countries are looking to us.

· I am not blaming any government, all I am saying is that the situation has not changed so far.

· It is the misfortune of our country. We ask our youth, what is your education and they say I am a graduate, an MBA -- but where is the skill? Can't we focus on skill development?

· We see people doing cycle repairing for three generations. How can we change this? If one section of the society is weak, how can society as a whole be strong? We have to empower society.
Modi turns emotional on rapes

· Turning emotional while talking about crimes against women in the country, the prime minister said incidents such as the Pune techie’s murder, Manali tragedy, the rapes in Uttar Pradesh, they make us introspect. The government has to act strong. I plead to the state governments that we should stop analysing these rape incidents. We have to stop belittling the dignity of our sisters and mothers.

We need to empower the poor

· We will empower the poor to enable them to fight poverty and come out of it.

· We are sincerely committed to bring down prices; it is our collective responsibility to ensure nobody sleeps hungry.

· Country needs real-time data on agri products to deal with price rise.

· Govt has to take strong action against incidents of violence against women like the recent one in UP.

· Security and respect for women should be the priority of all 125 crore people.

Real-time data is the need of the hour

· Real-time data is the need of the hour using India's strength as an IT power.

· If we have real-time data for agro products, the government would know where the agro product is needed most, and hence, act accordingly.

· The sooner we introduce technology in agriculture, the better, he said.

· We have succeeded in increasing the sugar content in sugarcane, but not in increasing protein content in our pulses. This is a challenge before us.

· The technology must move from the laboratory to land. We also have to increase the productivity of the land. We have not been able to increase the protein content in pulses yet.

We need develop the North-East region

· The dream is to make the entire North-East into an organic region.

· We tried Soil Health Card in Gujarat, it can be replicated elsewhere, too. Can't we give this card to every farmer in India?

· Why don't we convert the laboratories in schools in India during summer holidays into a soil testing laboratories where agricultural university students can work during their vacations.

· Our dream is that the poor man's chulha must be lit every evening.

PM invokes Mahatma Gandhi

· Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, the prime minister said that the need of the hour is another people’s movement, a su-raj andolan.

· We should ensure that everyone in this country should have the basic amenities -- housing, electricity, running water and proper sanitation.

· Responding to the jibe made by Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge that the Congress, like Pandavas, maybe few in number but won't be intimidated by a numerically superior opponent, Modi said we know that like the Pandavas, we need to be humble and will need to take along everyone.

‘I welcome it when people say TN is better than Gujarat’

· The prime minister said: I welcome the talk when people say that Tamil Nadu is better than Gujarat. I want such competition between two states. I really want to hear that other states have left Gujarat behind. So, I think, this is the one contribution the Gujarat model has made.

· I reiterate my resolve to work for the welfare of all 125 crore Indians, and with this end my reply to the debate.
# I am a newcomer in the House, forgive my mistakes.
# Everything thing will be done to implement the agenda outlined by the president.
# Will leave no stone unturned in implementing roadmap outlined by the President in his address.
# We will empower the poor to enable them to fight poverty and come out of it.
# The government should work for the upliftment of the poor.
# Education is the tool to eradicate poverty. The govt’s agenda is clear – fight poverty with a new vigour.
# I am not here to criticise any government.
# There is immense potential in our villages. We have to tap it by connecting with information highway.
# Time has come for India to stand tall.
# We are sincerely committed to bring down prices; it is our collective responsibility to ensure nobody sleeps hungry.
# Country needs real-time data on agri products to deal with price rise.
# Govt has to take strong action against incidents of violence against women like the recent one in UP.
# Security and respect for women should be the priority of all 125 crore people.
# The faster we get technology into agriculture we will stand to reap the benefits sooner.
# Women’s safety should be the top most priority of the country.
# Have to change our image as “Scam India” to “Skilled India.” We have to focus on skill development.
# Mere degrees will not help. Have to nurture skills of our youth.
# There is manpower requirement all over the world. Can’t we can fill that gap?
#There is no improvement in the conditions of Muslims. We are bound to work for their upliftment.
# The North East will be developed as a hub for organic products.
# We have to convert development as mass movement like Mahatma Gandhi freedom struggle.
# We have to do focussed activity to change lives of Muslims; they cannot be left behind in development.
# We should respect the best models for development from states.
# There should be a healthy competition among states to better on development index.
# Modi to Oppn: I don’t want to move forward without you, I don’t want to move ahead on basis of numbers but on the basis of collectivity.
# We don’t believe in big brother attitude towards states; We believe in Cooperative Federalism.
# There should be competition among states for development; I want to hear states saying they have left Gujarat behind.



In one illustration of this, he said that he did not consider “focused activity” for the welfare of Muslims as “appeasement” and advocated the need for the welfare of “all sections.” Today, he identified Muslim backwardness. “Even the third generation of Muslim brothers, whom I have seen since my young days, are continuing with their cycle repairing job. Why does such misfortune continue? We will have to undertake focus activity to bring about change in their lives. We will have to bring such programmes. I do not view such programmes within the prism of appeasement. I see them to bring about a change in their lives. No body can be called healthy if one of its organs is disabled. All organs of the human body needed to be fit in order for a person to be healthy. Similarly, all sections (organs) of the society need to empowered,” Modi said.

This is a significant change in his earlier remarks on the subject where he has said that poverty was the common enemy of both Hindu and Muslim and that he never saw religion in his “India First” view of secularism. Replying to the motion of thanks on President’s speech, Modi assured the country that he would govern with a spirit of collectivity with political rivals and state governments and said that aspiration for development should be tapped into a “mass movement.”

To critics of his “Gujarat model,” he said that this was, effectively, a model that provides for regional variations and “cooperative federalism” rather than a top-down imposition.
“We are not going to adopt a ‘big brother’ attitude that looks down upon you (states) and behaves as if we (Centre) are offering crumbs…We collectively want to take the country forward. That is why we talk about cooperative federalism,” Modi said assuring the regional parties ruling different states across the country to allay their apprehensions. He, however, said that he welcomed competition for development among states.
The Prime Minister sought to set the record straight over the impression that he brooks no dissent saying that he would welcome criticism, if not allegations, as it was the essence of democracy. In fact, he started his speech acknowledging the criticism made by opposition members during the course of discussion on the motion of thanks on the President’s speech.
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday responded to President Pranab Mukherjee's address in Parliament on June 9, saying that his government will fulfill the promises made by the President in his speech.

Making his maiden speech in Lok Sabha as Prime Minister, Modi said that his government will be devoted to the poorest of the poor and stressed on converting the country's image from "scam India" to "skill India".


Following are the highlights of Narendra Modi's address:

* Will leave no stone unturned in implementing roadmap outlined by the President in his address.

* We will empower the poor to enable them to fight poverty and come out of it.

* No one will leave villages if they are developed, provided 24 hour-power, good education and industries.

* We should concentrate on agro-based industries.

* Our aim must be to serve the poorest of the poor and to think of their welfare.

* We are sincerely committed to bring down prices. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that nobody sleeps hungry.

* The country needs real-time data on agri-products to deal with price rise.

* We have to stop politicizing rape. We are playing with the dignity of women. Protecting women should be the priority of the people of this country.

* We should plan from today how we will celebrate Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary after 5 years.

* We have to do focused activity to change the lives of Muslims; they cannot be left behind in development.

* Our image has become 'scam India', we have to convert it to 'skill India'.

* We welcome criticism, in a democracy, criticism gives strength and it will guide us.

* We need to focus on skill development, decisions have to be taken with great courage.

* I don't want to move forward without you (opposition), I don't want to move ahead on basis of numbers but on the basis of collectivity.

* We don't believe in big brother attitude towards states, we believe in cooperative federalism. There should be competition among states for development, I want to hear states saying they have left Gujarat behind.


NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday laid out a clear, action-based agenda of the new government as he addressed the joint sitting of Parliament as mandated by the Constitution on Monday.

Modi government's ambitious roadmap to revive the struggling economy also sent the markets soaring with Nifty ending at a record high.

Here's a list of 12 important goals of the Narendra Modi government which include sweeping economic reforms and big-bang policy initiatives:

Business

The President stated that the government will work to encourage foreign direct investment in India which will help in the creation of job and asset generation. The President added that the government will introduce the long-pending Goods and Services Tax that will help in creating a conducive environment for investment.

"My government will make every effort to introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) while addressing the concerns of states. Reforms will be undertaken to enhance the ease of doing business. My government will follow a policy of encouraging investments, including through FDI, which will be allowed in sectors that help create jobs and assets," he said.

Check on inflation

Containing food inflation will be the topmost priority of the government, which will also try to end rural-urban divide and reverse trend of hopelessness among farmers that leads to suicides, Mukherjee said.

The government will reform the Public Distribution System (PDS), incorporating best practices from the states.

Mukherjee added that the government is aware of the possibility of irregular monsoons due to El Nino that might have an impact on food inflation this year and contigency plans are being prepared to tackle the situation.

Diplomacy

On the foreign policy, the President said while the government was committed to work towards building a peaceful, stable and economically inter-linked neighbourhood, "we will never shy away from raising issues of concern to us at a bilateral level.

Observing that the government would further work together with South Asian leaders to revitalise SAARC as an effective instrument for regional cooperation, the President said, "My government is committed to building a strong, self-reliant and self-confident India, regaining its rightful place in the comity of nations."

Government will also work towards a "peaceful, stable and economically inter-linked neighbourhood" and work with South Asian leaders to revitalise SAARC as "an effective instrument for regional cooperation and as a united voice on global issues," he said.

At the same time, the government will "never shy away from raising issues of concern to us at a bilateral level. We emphasise that the future of shared prosperity can only be built on the foundation of stability in the region, which requires sensitivity to security concerns and an end to export of terrorism to neighbours," Mukherjee said.

The government will also engage with China to develop strategic and cooperative partnership, with Japan on several initiatives including to build modern infrastructure and with Russia to build further on the strategic partnership.

"We emphasize that the future of shared prosperity can only be built on the foundation of stability in the region, which requires sensitivity to security concerns and an end to export of terrorism to neighbours."

Power

The aim of the government, he said, will be to substantially augment electricity generation capacity through judicious mix of conventional and non-conventional sources. He added that nuclear power projects for civilian purposes will be developed.

"The government will expand the national solar mission and connect households and industries with gas-grids. Reforms in the coal sector will be pursued with urgency for attracting private investment in a transparent manner," he said.



Urbanization

The President said that government will stress on the upliftment of the Tier II cities with a well-developed civic infrastructure.

"Integrated infrastructure will be rolled out in model towns to focus on cleanliness and sanitation. By the time the nation completes 75 years of its Independence, every family will have a pucca house with water connection, toilet facilities, 24x7 electricity supply and access," he added.

Job creation

The President said the labor-intensive manufacturing will be promoted to create jobs for the increasing youth population of the country.

"Employment opportunities will be expanded by promoting tourism and agro-based industries. The government will transform Employment Exchanges into Career Centres - connecting our youth with job opportunities in a transparent and effective manner through the use of technology as well as through counselling and training," he said.



Defence

On the defence sector, the President said the government will carry out reforms in defence procurement to increase efficiency and economy and encourage domestic industry, including the private sector, to have a larger share in design and production of defence equipment.

"We will strengthen defence preparedness by modernising our armed forces and addressing the shortage of manpower on priority," he said.

The government will set up a National Maritime Authority to strengthen coastal security, appoint a Veterans' Commission to address their grievances, implement 'one rank, one pension' scheme and build a National War Memorial.



Women safety and empowerment

Asserting that the government will have a policy of 'zero tolerance' for violence against women, the President said the criminal justice system would be strengthened.

The government was committed to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament and legislative assemblies and launch a mass campaign on 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' for saving the girl child and enabling her education.

Reaching out to minorities

The President underlined the government's resolve to reach out to the minorities, promising that they would be "equal partners in India's progress".

The government will strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among minority communities and a National Madrassa Modernisation Programme will be initiated.

Steps would be initiated to contain communal violence in the country that has been rampant in several states.

Poverty elimination

Giving the slogan of 'Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat', he said the greatest challenge was to end the curse of poverty.

Saying that the government is dedicated to the poor, he said, "My government will not be satisfied with mere "poverty alleviation"; and commits itself to the goal of "poverty elimination". With a firm belief that the first claim on development belongs to the poor; the government will focus its attention on those who need the basic necessities of life most urgently. It will take necessary steps to provide security in its entirety to all citizens; through empathy, support and empowerment."


Healthcare and sanitation

To achieve a holistic healthcare system, the government would formulate a new Health Policy and National Health Assurance Mission, besides promoting yoga in AYUSH and establishment of AIIMS like institutions in all the states, he said, adding IITs and IIMs will also be set up in every state.

For ensuring hygiene, waste management and sanitation across the nation a "Swachh Bharat Mission" will also be launched by the government.

Upgrading infrastructure

Outlining the ambitious plan for modernization and revamping of railways, including a quadrilateral project linking the metros with high speed trains, President Pranab Mukherjee said, "Modernisation and revamping of railways is on top of the infrastructure agenda. My government will launch a Diamond Quadrilateral project of high-speed trains."

The President said low-cost airports will also be developed to promote air connectivity to smaller towns. He promised that government will also modernize existing ports on one hand and develop new world class ports on the other.

Telegraph India reported that India will need an additional capacity of 330 million tonne to 380 million tonne for cement and 240 million tonne to 270 million tonne for clinker by 2025, which translates into an investment of INR 3 lakh crore to meet the sharp increase in demand by this period.The Indian cement industry is the second largest in the world with total production at around 221 million tonne in 2012.

However, the country fares poorly in terms of cement consumed per capita compared with other peer economies. According to a CII-AT Kearney Study on “Cement Vision 2025: Scaling New Heights”, demand is projected to grow 2.5-2.7 times the current volume and reach 550 million tonne per annum to 600 million tonne per annum by 2025.Per capita consumption is also likely to increase to 385 kilogram to 415 kilogram from 185 kilogram.

This growth, the report said, is likely to be led by investments in the infrastructure sector, with sub-sectors such as roads, power and irrigation leading the charge. However, an unattractive tax and infrastructure environment may stand in the way of the required investment of INR 3 lakh crore. The report said that in addition to policies that encourage companies to bring in such investments, continuous improvement will have to be made to strengthen the industry’s operating cost structure by increasing automation and improving efficiency in power use.

Source – Telegraph India
By Chaitanya Kalbag
It seemed like the rhyming slogans, the election jingles, and the grandiloquence of the Bharatiya Janata Party's manifesto were all that we needed to shake us out of our psychic numbing during the past few years. Alliteration hit you everywhere you turned. Narendra Modi told a small audience last Sunday that we needed to ramp up our Skills, Scale and Speed if we wanted to compete with China. The following day President Pranab Mukherjee echoed this in his speech to Parliament. He said the government would also build a Strong, Self-reliant and Self-confident India. It would revive Brand India riding on "our strengths of 5 T's: Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology". Indians thirsting for quick results would get them thanks to the three Ds of Democracy, Demography and Demand.
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True, there is a new sense of purposefulness in government. Many of the early steps Modi has taken reflect his Chief Executive Officer style in Gujarat. He does not believe in endless meetings and buck-passing. He has asked to be briefed by senior bureaucrats. He has thrown out the previous government's time-pass gimmicks of (un-empowered) Groups of Ministers and Empowered Groups of Ministers. (Mukherjee himself headed 12 GoMs and 12 EGoMs before he ascended Raisina Hill to his sinecure in RashtrapatiBhavan).

After the crescendo of elections, the business of a new government is nearly always quieter, but this time Modi's takeover is probably the most keenly watched in our history, helped by Television and Twitter. Every appointment and directive is grist for the gossip mill. There is a welcome absence of grey party eminences with puffed chests sounding off about their bailiwicks. Modi's ministers have been warned not to put their feet in their mouths, be wary of the media, work long hours and be modest in their trappings. Bureaucrats have been promised more power and autonomy and ordered to buckle down. Lawyers are aghast that the Chief Justice of India wants courts to work 365 days a year to chisel down their backlog of cases. Government offices are actually getting dusted off and are a-buzz with rumours that Modi will bring back six-day weeks and that tea breaks will be frowned upon. During Indira Gandhi's 1975-77 Emergency rule buses were painted with slogans like "Work More, Talk Less". More than two thirds of our population was born after that anushasanparva (era of discipline) and will be impatient for less government, even if Modi means more governance.
It is what Modi does not say that is concerning. He has maintained a studied silence on the mischief and bigotry that are sprouting like poison weeds on the borders of his green garden. Disconcertingly, the lunatic fringe is reinvigorated and would love to take centre-stage. The Born Agains, the Recent Converts and the Newly Emboldened have suddenly found voice, and social media are throbbing with vitriol and unconcealed belligerence. The Pune lynching by a flash mob of zealots is one signal; so is the chilling pleasantness with which Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal spoke on television of Muslim 'infiltrators' in the Northeast, the certainty of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, and the need for Hindus to procreate in greater numbers. Checking illegal immigration is unexceptionable, but throwing people out is non-trivial and deeply divisive.

Modi's victory was not the only scorcher this summer. High temperatures not seen since 1952, the year our first Parliament took oath, have singed ordinary mortals in north India. Two local BJP politicians were killed in Greater Noida and Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, adding to riots over power cuts in several UP towns. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a former chief minister of UP, will have his hands full sorting out law and order in our darkest and largest state. Elsewhere in India, sectarian crowds clashed in Tauru, Belgaum, Hyderabad, Poonch, and even Ahmedabad. We were promised by Mukherjee that the new government would draft a national plan to curb communal violence and show zero tolerance towards riots and crime.

Modi must be seen to be cracking down on such eruptions, even if he is allowing himself longer horizons for other goals. Last week I wrote about Great Expectations, and the President promised his government would rise to the occasion to fulfil them. "In 60 months from now, we should be able to say with confidence and pride that we have done it," he said. Note that 2019 is also the deadline for the Swachh Bharat Mission, which aims at toilets and open spaces littered with garbage.

I wish. Right now I wish India were Europe, where inflation is low, nearly zero, and deposit interest rates were cut to minus 0.1 per cent, which means you are being encouraged to spend rather than pay your bank to keep your money. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says while momentum is weakening in most emerging economies, India is at a "tentative positive turning point". India's stock markets hit more than $1.5 trillion in value this week, weeks before ArunJaitley unveils his first budget. The ardour has cooled only a bit as the summer grinds towards a monsoon that is certain to be the worst in four years. A severe drought and soaring food prices seem sure to grab us by our throats. More tests for Modi, and the nation is watching and waiting to Learn Leadership Lessons.
(The writer is a former Reuters Asia Ed)

According to ET Now, the Road Ministry has already begun discussions with potential investors and that the fund size could be anywhere between $4-5 billion. "The idea is to boost infrastructure projects in India, particularly road projects," reported ET Now. "Japanese and Korean investors have already showed interest in  participating in the fund. A PPP model will be followed for the projects," the channel said. Union Road Transport, Highways and Shipping MinisterNitin Gadkari..                 A textile industry body had suggested that people enrolled in the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme would be given 200 days of casual work by them, instead of the 100 days given by the government. Though this would have led to better output, it was rejected," said Shriram.

NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to give Rs 12,000 per household to the poor for working on building their homes, a measure that signifies the biggest convergence of two social welfare schemes and could provide a boost to both rural employment and consumption at a time when the monsoon is expected to be below average.




An open letter  to our new HRD Minister
Dear HRD minister,

Congratulations on BJP's victory in the general elections. We now eagerly await the measures that your government will take to drive socio-economic prosperity for the country. As the government prepares for such measures, it is important to note that for any growth model to be successful we need an educated and skilled population. That's why PM Narendra Modi placed skills at the head of his "skill, scale and speed" formula to transform India.

As you assume your newly assigned responsibilities, we take this opportunity to share our perspective on five big reforms that could transform India's education system from a mediocre to a world-class system.

First, our education system currently suffers from an apparent 'Licence Raj' that restricts entry and operation of private players. Even policies such as RTE neglect that private schools are a large part of the education ecosystem (already 40% of school students and 60% of college students are enrolled in private institutions). These norms have led to the shutdown of a large number of affordable private schools that serve low-income students. The government must deregulate school education and treat government and private schools as equal partners in solving India's education crisis.

Second, it is important not only to invest more in education but to do so more strategically. Central government should invest more resources in teacher education and development, principal training, ICT in education and assessments. It is also critical for the ministry of human resource development to rework its results framework document (RFD) to include student learning outcomes. Furthermore, a portion of the budget allocation to states should be contingent upon the adoption of progressive education policies and improvement of outcomes. There is an opportunity to create version 2.0 of the central education budget that shifts focus from inputs and outlays to outcomes and impact, while holding states accountable.

Third, improve quality standards through nationwide assessments. Assessments need to be at the core of any planning exercise for improving India's education system. The government should introduce statewide learning assessments that are undertaken at regular periods during a child's school journey, which can also contribute to remediation and improvement in teaching. Additionally, a school rating system should be instituted to set targets for school level improvements. The National Achievement Survey (NAS) should be revamped such that it becomes a barometer for student learning and the de facto benchmark for state performance.

Modi's government in Gujarat has already taken a lead in this regard with the Gunotsav programme, an accountability framework for quality of primary education that includes learning outcomes of children as well as co-scholastic activities, optimal use of financial resources and community participation. This model can be replicated in other states.


Fourth, equip school principals to become efficient school leaders. Great leaders make great institutions, in every sphere. In schools principals are the highest point of leverage, yet their role is often restricted to administrative functions. There is a need to reimagine the role of the principal — as an instructional leader, rather than an administrator. Moreover, we need to institute stricter guidelines for recruitment of school leaders that prioritise merit over seniority. Gujarat has again taken the lead by establishing the headmaster eligibility test for selection of its principals. The government should set up centres for school leadership in every state and mandate induction as well as ongoing training for all principals.

Fifth, improve teacher quality for better learning outcomes. It is unfortunate that teaching today does not attract the best talent. We need public awareness campaigns in India that are able to effectively project teaching as a rewarding and meaningful profession. Centres of excellence need to be created for teacher education in prestigious universities across India. Our Teacher Education Institutes (TEI) capacity is extremely fragmented with over 11 lakh seats in 14,000 TEIs. Most of this capacity is of poor quality that has been created through non-transparent, poorly formulated TEI recognition procedures. Government should build and scale high-quality institutes at top 10 central universities and strengthen SCERTs and DIETs.

We believe that every child in India deserves excellent education. We also believe that given the vastness and diversity of our country we can only succeed with thorough experimentation and analysis, rather than a mere adoption of predefined rules. Our country needs bold reforms and focused implementation with clear targets for learning outcomes to achieve this goal.

Our emerging market peers — China, Brazil and Poland, among others — have made education reform a priority as they recognise it as the surest path to sustained economic development. In the run-up to elections we circulated a letter signed by leading citizens — Cyrus Mistry, Kumar Birla, Anand Mahindra, Gurcharan Das and 30 others — that highlighted the need for prioritising education in the policy agenda and suggested reforms. The future of 240 million children is at stake, and as concerned citizens we urge your attention to these bold steps that can truly improve their lives.

Thank you.

Anu Aga is a Rajya Sabha MP and Chairperson- Thermax Social Initiative Foundation; Ashish Dhawan is Founder and CEO- Central Square Foundation and Founder- Ashoka University; Amit Chandra is Managing Director- Bain Capital Advisors, Board Member- Akanksha Foundation.




Decision taken in view of significant feedback, say sources
A day after senior advocate and former Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium withdrew his consent for appointment as a Supreme Court judge, highly placed government sources claimed that the government rejected his candidature after it got “overwhelming evidence” that indicated his unsuitability as a judge for the country’s top court.
While respecting Mr. Subramanium’s professional competence as a senior advocate, the sources on Thursday said an Intelligence Bureau (IB) report about him was sent on May 22, four days before the Narendra Modi government was sworn in. The Law and Justice Ministry had decided that the new government should take a call on it.

On Wednesday, in a nine-page letter, Mr. Subramanium told Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha that he did not want his elevation to be the subject of any kind of politicisation. He also questioned the segregation of his name from the other three candidates without the consent of the Supreme Court collegium.
Decision in totality

Defending the segregation, government sources said there was precedent at the Supreme Court and High Court level. “The government did not want to delay the appointment of the three other judges as there was no objection or adverse report against them. Whom he appeared for and whom he opposed was not considered. It is his suitability as a Supreme Court judge which was the issue and the new government has a right to take a decision in view of the significant feedback that required a consideration. The decision was taken in totality,” the sources said.

The file containing the other three names — Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Arun Mishra, Orissa High Court Chief Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and senior advocate Rohinton Nariman — was cleared by the Prime Minister and approved by the President in a matter of a few hours, the sources said. Citing the example of Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice C.K. Prasad, the sources said while Justice Kumar was appointed apex court judge in due course in 2009, Justice Prasad’s elevation was delayed by two months.

The sources said there were several instances where the collegium of several High Courts itself had withdrawn some names which had been proposed for appointment as judges. In 2012, as many as 15 names were recommended by the Allahabad High Court collegium to be appointed as judges but the Supreme Court recommended only eight, dropping seven.
In 2012, the Andhra Pradesh High Court collegium recommended seven names but only five were appointed as judges. In 2013, the Madras High Court recommended eight names for appointment as judges but only five were found suitable.
Partisan step

Critical of the stand taken by the Modi government on Mr. Subramanium, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Thursday said the apex court should act and undo the damage caused by this “partisan” step.
It said the way the Modi government acted would be detrimental to the independence of judiciary. “Mr. Subramanium had been penalised for his role as amicus curiae to assist the Supreme Court in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case which resulted in Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amit Shah being charge-sheeted in the case,” the CPI(M) said.
If  India  wants  to imitate China & emulate growth at all  costs  of Green, Environment  &  a vacuum full of imaginary  stability  in economy, it needs  to read  out the following article—
Australia's largest iron ore miners are still upbeat about Chinese demand for the steel making material, despite iron ore prices falling to their lowest level in 18 months in March. The price of iron ore may have jumped overnight, but there's no denying the Chinese steel industry -- the largest buyer of Australian ore -- is fighting for its survival.In the first two months of 2014, members of China's Iron and Steel Association made a collective loss of 2.8 billion yuan, or $490 million. "The first quarter of this year is likely to be the worst performing quarter in the new century,” said Liu Zhenjiang, deputy director of the China Iron and Steel Association.The steel industry's profitability also sunk to a nadir in 2013 when it barely managed to stay in the black, with a razor-thin margin of 0.48 per cent. The owner of China's largest privately controlled steel mill, Shen Wenrong, illustrated it more graphically last year.He said the profit for a tonne of steel was about 2,000 yuan 20 years ago and about 1,000 yuan a decade ago. And now it was less than the margins on a simple dish of stir fried meat, he complained bitterly last year.Apart from sharply declining profitability, the prospect of default is looming over China's heavily indebted steel mills. The debt ratio for many of the largest steel mills in China is about 70 per cent, which banks regard as the red line for listed steel companies.In fact, China's largest privately controlled steel mill has a debt ratio of 83.03 per cent. And the seven largest steel mills in China have a collective debt obligation of 1.3 trillion yuan ($226 billion), which is much larger than the market capitalisation of BHP Billiton.The prospect of default in the world's largest steel industry is only a matter of time  -- especially after Beijing allowed its first corporate debt default this year since 1990s. Haixin, the largest private steel mill in the coal-rich Shanxi province needs to pay back 15-20 billion yuan worth of its bank loans.The local government is unlikely to come to its rescue as it struggles to keep coal companies -- the most important industry for the province -- afloat after significant fall in coal prices recently.China's banking regulator and banks are coming down hard on indebted steel mills and especially private ones without the backing of local governments. China Banking Regulatory Commission chairman Shang Fulin told officials to pay particular attention to industries that suffer from problems of excess capacity and the steel industry is one of the worst offenders in this category.Chinese lenders like the Construction Bank of China, Minsheng Banking Corp and Pudong Development Bank are all reportedly avoiding issuing new loans to steel mills. A banker from Minsheng told Caixin, "regarding steel industry, we will try our best to avoid it.” It looks like Beijing is using this opportunity to consolidate the fragmented steel industry through forced mergers and closures of steel mills. The Chinese government has been long unhappy about the fragmented nature of the industry.In China, the top ten producers only account for 40 per cent of the total steel production. In contrast, the top producers in Japan and Korea usually account for 20 per cent of the total production on their own.We can probably expect more defaults in China's steel industry this year as economic headwinds remain strong. In addition, Premier Li Keqiang also made clear the government's goal to reduce 27 million tonnes of excess capacity this year.China Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute head Li Xinchuang said recently that the most important trend for the steel industry in the coming decade was consolidation and reorganisation.
 

China's steel industry will face twin headwinds of high leverage and razor-thin profitability this year. It is inevitable that Beijing will have to let go many smaller mills this year as they struggle to meet their debt obligations as well new tougher environmental standards




Conclusion---  Gujarat's first budget in the post Narendra Modi era predominantly focussed on social sectors which received 39% of the total plan allocation — Rs 71,330 crore — for development in 2014-15.State finance minister Saurabh Patel presented the Rs 1,33,465 crore budget on Tuesday, emphasizing the need to take Gujarat's growth story forward from where Modi has left off. The budget introduced a new levy on civil works contract and hiked the stamp duty on property development agreements to 3.5% from the existing 1%. It also doubled motor vehicle tax on 6-8 seater transport vehicles from Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 per seat per year - it is up to Rs 15,000 per berth per year in case of private luxury buses - while lowering the levy for state transport buses which will lead to cheaper fares for GSRTC buses. Having presented an interim budget in April 2014, the state government presented modified budget estimates for 2014-15 with an overall budget size of Rs 1,33,465 crore, an increase of 17% compared to 2013-14. Plan allocation for 2014-15 is Rs 71,330 for annual development, which shows a 21% rise over the plan size of last year. "The most striking example of community development was at Amreli where a group of US based NRGs have adopted 23 primary schools. Despite recurring expenditure, NRGs are supporting education of all at these primary schools," said Dr Bhavna Mehta, associate professor and at MS University's Faculty of Social Work which surveyed 6,000 villages across eight districts. The survey, commissioned by the Gujarat NRG Foundation, shows that NRGs contributed to the development of 2,331 villages of 203 talukas. This means every eighth village in the state has seen NRG dollars and pounds contributing to their uplift.In fact, Banaskantha district was the biggest beneficiary, with NRGs contributing to the growth of 345 villages.

Do you smell something?  Same  Senonomical  essence  in the state of Gujarat, the state  of business people  who regard  welfare as subservient to charity.
And today Mr Diggy Raja has showered a  pool of graft charges  on to MP CM.
Petrol & Diesel prices have gone up… draught  on the offing…  crops  on the decline… Inflation up… Train fare raised by 14%  & Freights by 6% …  all logical ,  the steps UPA postponed executed by  NDA.  But how  long shall  the  honeymoon sustain?   People shall start  judging  Modiji in same coin as he  so articulately humiliated  UPA & its 80 yr old  genius.  It is high time MOdi’s men should pull up socks.












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