Companies & Sectors
Auto industry begins FY15 with declining sales in most segments

Except two wheelers, all other segments like cars, CVs, LCVs reported a fall in sales during April, says SIAM

The auto industry begin FY15 with declining sales in most segments during April, says Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

 

According to the data released by SIAM, in April sales of passenger vehicles, including cars, vans and utility vehicles fell 9.5%. Within the passenger vehicles, sales of cars and vans fell 10.15% and 27.04%, respectively, while utility vehicles registered marginal (0.27%) higher sales, compared with same month last year. Car sales declined to 1.35 lakh units in April as compared to 1.50 lakh units in the year-ago month.


The overall commercial vehicles segment registered a de-growth of 24% to 43,080 units in April 2014 as compared to same month last year. Medium and heavy commercial vehicles (M&HCVs) sales fell 17.1% and light commercial vehicles (LCV) also dropped by 27.37%, SIAM said.

 

Two wheelers, however reported higher sales in April. Total two-wheeler sales in April grew 11.7% to 13.04 lakh units as against 11.7 lakh units in the same month last year. During the month, scooters, motorcycles and moped sales rose 26.1%, 8.1% and 0.23%, respectively over April 2013.

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Supreme Court asks CBI to probe Saradha, other Ponzi scams

The Supreme Court also asked CBI to look into any other ponzi scheme involved in chit fund scam in West Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Tripura

In a major setback to Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal (WB) government, the Supreme Court in Friday handed over the multi-crore Saradha scam investigation to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

 

"The (WB) state police has not been able to make any headway in the conspiracy angle, money trail and the seizure of the properties related to the scam," a bench headed by Justice TS Thakur said.

 

The West Bengal government, all through the hearing of the matter, had strongly resisted the plea for handing over the investigation to the CBI.

 

The apex court also asked CBI to look into any other ponzi scheme involved in chit fund scam in West Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Tripura.

 

Earlier in February, Saradha Group chairperson Sudipta Sen was sentenced to three years in jail by a court in Kolkata after he confessed to flouting provident fund guidelines.

 

Widening its probe into the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) last month issued summons to numerous entities even as it attached assets worth Rs140 crore of individuals and firms on money laundering charges. The notices came in the backdrop of ED attaching Rs105.62 crore assets of various entities involved in the case including Saradha Director Sudipta Sen and his wife Piyali. ED had attached Rs34 crore worth of assets earlier in the same probe.

 

Amid growing public outrage over an allegedly fraudulent investment scheme run by the Saradha group, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) also begun a fresh probe into the fund-raising activities of the Kolkata-based entity.

 

Besides fuelling huge protests in West Bengal and other states by investors and agents, an alleged chit fund scam by Saradha group had even snow-balled into a political controversy with various parties blaming each other for not taking enough steps to rein in fraudulent deposit-taking activities.

 

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee too had announced a high-level inquiry and also a SIT probe into the collapse of chit fund company of Saradha Group, which was said to have left thousands of investors in the lurch.

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An Open Letter to CEC on electoral reforms

Indian elections can be made much more efficient in the areas of preparedness, time  given to candidates, campaign duration, scheduling of polling dates and missing names of voters. Here are some suggestions

Dear Chief Election Commissioner,

India is in the grip of election fever since 5 March 2014 when the Election Commission (EC) announced the schedule for the General Election 2014.  After witnessing the way the election campaigns are being carried on by various political parties, as a citizen of this great country, I would like to share my thoughts and make certain suggestions for consideration of the Election Commission. I have attempted to do an environment analysis and look at five major aspects like overall preparedness, time for candidates for filling nomination, campaign duration allowed for candidates, multi-scheduling of polling dates, missing names of voters, and number of political parties in the country. Under each of these, I have examined the EC guidelines and given my observations.  Surely, my first observation is to compliment the EC for the humongous task  on its hand in ensuring fair and free election in the country.
 
1. Overall preparedness:
Guidelines of the EC: The EC is aware that the 15th Lok Sabha would be ending its present term by 31 May 2014. The first meeting on the plan of conducting the 16th Lok Sabha election was kick-started on 4 Feb 2014 when the EC convened its meeting with all the recognized National and State Political Parties.  The first date of election was 7 April 2014.

Observations: It meant that the EC has considered that just two months as sufficient for gearing up the entire machinery and ensure their preparedness in taking up various responsibilities envisaged by the EC. The EC may claim that almost all the political parties are aware that the elections would be held in April-May 2014. So, they have commenced their preparations, strategies and selection of candidates much before the official announcement of schedule of election by the EC. But, a number of political parties would have got very little time -- hardly a month to organize themselves. The time given by the EC appears to be inadequate to provide level playing field for all the political parties. Of course, the EC can take steps only if it is assured that the present ruling party/ies would complete its term  as in the present case of United Progressive Alliance (UPA II).  Hypothetically, when a ruling team  is voted out in the Parliament that forces President’s Rule on the country, then the EC would get a clear six months  to conduct the next election. In the present case of UPA II, the EC could have announced its plan to hold the present election as early as December 2013 instead of March 2014. In the US, the election date is announced more than a year ago.  Of course, unlike in the US, where the dates of election to the post of the President are pre-determined and fixed, in India there is no certainty about the date of the General Elections. Nevertheless, the EC has a clear six months to announce its schedule of election dates in India, which would have been used in the present case. Perhaps, this may be followed in the next (17th Lok Sabha / Assembly) elections.  

2. Time for candidates:
Guidelines: Each candidate is given one week for filing his / her nomination from the date of notification by the EC for a specific Parliament Constituency /Assembly Constituency. For example, if the date of notification by the EC is 14 March 2014, the last date for filing nomination is 21 March 2014 and withdrawal is 24th March 2014.

Observations:  In continuation of my observations made above, if the announcement of schedule is made by the EC in December 2013, then most of the candidates would have got their nominations  accepted and would have given time for them to start the election preparedness. In addition, the EC should  make  the last date for  filling nomination of candidates uniform for all the constituencies in the country  irrespective of the date of election for a particular constituency. In the present case, say for instance, for Varanasi constituency, speculation about the names of candidates was in the air for a long time after the actual elections for various constituencies in the country have been completed. The General election to Lok Sabha should be taken as a single event and not separate events and the pre-poll events  should be freezed uniformly across the country. For example, in the present case, the last date for filling nominations might have been uniformly fixed as 21 March 2014 for all the constituencies in the country. This would save the work and resources of the EC across the country and concentrate on the election process which are more resource crunching.  

3. Campaign duration:
Guidelines: Campaign for any constituency to end two days before the date of election.

Suggestions: We are in a world where technology has annihilated time and distance.  For example, political parties are making their presence in the TV channels almost every day.  They use the internet, twitter and other systems to be in touch with their potential voters and continue to market their parties. Say for instance, the visual media provides space for the leaders of political parties to come and make their points heard even though they may not refer to a particular constituency. So, the extant guidelines of the EC are observed more in breach and it may need to be reviewed and if needed be dispensed with as it does not seem to serve any purpose.

4. Multi-scheduling of polling dates:
Guidelines: In the present case of elections to the 16th Lok Sabha, the EC has announced nine stages of polling covering  534 Lok Sabha seats, three state elections and some of the bi-elections to assembly segments.
 

Observations: I am not sure of any specific guidelines to have the elections spread over a period of time. But, given the intensity of campaigning, the quality of campaigning is reaching a new low with each passing day. It has been becoming more personal ignoring larger issues affecting the country and the people at large.  With technology in full blaze, the proceedings of election campaign give a sick feeling and there is a sense of fatigue among the citizens watching the proceedings going on.  Almost every State Election Commission offices are inundated with more than 1,000 complaints about violation of code of conduct which mainly on inappropriate / false allegations against the party candidates etc.  It is also practically impossible for the EC/ State offices of EC to examine all these complaints and take  actions  and  pronounce punishments wherever needed.  

Moreover, the enormous responsibility rests with the state machinery in various states to keep constant vigil  in guarding the electronic voting machines (EVMs) from being tampered with, stolen, destroyed till the 16 May 2014 when the results are scheduled to be announced.  For election held on 7 April 2014, the responsibility will be very over-bearing for the security forces to hold these EVMs for over a month.  In fact, the election to these remote areas could have been held in the last stage as it would have reduced the risk of the safety of EVMs as these areas are more vulnerable than other places. So, if the time for duration of election schedule is reduced to the minimum, it would have avoided  the enormous energy and cost on.  

Suggestion is to divide the election constituencies into four  broad categories: 1. very safe locations; 2. Safe locations; 3. Difficult access/ risky locations; 4. Very difficult/ very risky locations.
 
Elections should be held to each of the four locations on a particular date across the country in the above order. This would reduce the number of dates of elections to four dates for the whole country. With technology in place, EVMs under use, this is a feasible one. This will reduce the enormous resources needed to mobilize the police/ security forces to keep them on toes, which is about one and a half month (40 days ) in the present election schedule.  I also do not see any country where elections are held for such a long period of about one and a half month. I reiterate that with technology in place, it is feasible to make the elections held in a shorter span of time than the present nine stages scheduled.

5. Missing names from voter list:
Electorates:  There will be 814.5 million electorates who would exercise their voting rights in the 16th Lok Sabha elections.
 
Observations:  There were huge number of eligible voters not finding their names in the voters list (Deepak Parekh of HDFC is among them who does not find his name). I am also one of those unfortunates who did not find my name in the voters’ list though I am a permanent resident of Pune for about eight years. Besides, I also understand that certain category of  defense personnel do not get their voting exercised. So too, huge number of non-resident Indian (NRIs) who may not be able to use the services of Indian Missions abroad for casting their votes in the election.

Another significant category is those whose names are in the list but out of station on the date of polling due to variety of compelling circumstances (marriage, death, hospitalization and official engagements). These otherwise eligible voters also miss out from exercising their right to vote.  Such of these eligible voters and those who are missed out of the voters’ list,  provision should be made to exercise their votes in a separately designed machine (with technology this is a feasible one)  in the nearest polling booth provided they are able to show anyone of the listed documents (EC may follow KYC norms of banks) to the polling officials as proof of identity and address.
 
Number of Political Parties:
Guidelines: It appears that no specific guidelines available to limit the number of political parties can function in the country.

Observations:  It is an open statement that there are a very large number of parties fighting the present election. According to the EC website (10 March 2014), there are six National Parties,  about 50 State Parties and 1,593 registered and unregistered parties in the country. The list is increasing with more parties registered with the EC since the last reference date mentioned above. Former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, had stated that, “Every general election has shown the results that people are selecting leaders who focus on economic development in the state and at the centre. The ensuing general election is all the more important as there will be a dynamic change in peoples’ choice of the right type of leadership. I want a two-party system. Even though there are a number of parties in the system, but within a decade or two, India will also move towards a two- or three-party system. That is an ideal system which will have convergence and decision making will be faster.”  

It is high time, this issue is addressed squarely and steps taken by the EC to bring norms for registering a political party, at national level and state level in the country. In any case, community or caste based parties should be denied to get registration as a political party.

Since the dates for next general election are  pretty far away, the EC may work on the technology based solution to make it possible for all eligible voters to exercise their votes irrespective of their presence in the area of polling of booth.   

(Dr S Santhanam holds PhD in Economics and retired as General Manager of NABARD)

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COMMENTS

Azad Singh

3 years ago

Sir,
Path-breaking suggestions but missed one very basic & revolutionary suggestion - e-voting. Possible with technology & already in use in advanced democracies.

Nagesh Kini

3 years ago

As one who has read and reviewed Dr. Quraishi's book, i'd say almost all the concerns have been adequately addressed.

P b Sarma

3 years ago

1.voter lists must be fool proof.Why there is no accountability for omissions and commissions on a large scale.Whether ECI is a law unto itself.
First major lapse is faulty preparation and allotment of polling booths in urban and metro areas.
2.Nominations must be closed at least 6 months before the polling date.Then the incumbent and the contesting candidate must come to each polling booth area and conduct a meeting and submit their report card and answer the complaints of the voters.Otherwise it is becoming a farce and notorious people are contesting and escaping the attention of voters under the pretext of lack of sufficient time.

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