Beyond Money
Dakshana Foundation: Investing in Educational Opportunities for Gifted Poor Children
It is the dream of all parents that their child should pursue a professional course in engineering or medicine, after passing the entrance examination. Yet, how many are able to achieve this, even if their child is gifted? This is where Dakshana Foundation comes in, to help gifted children from economically backward families.
 
Noor and Sadika, from a tiny village near Kargil in Jammu & Kashmir, are examples. From a village with no electricity or hospital within a radius of 15km, the two girls were given a one-year scholarship to study at Pune and prepare for their medical entrance exams. They are the first from their village to be sent for further studies anywhere beyond Delhi and will be the first to attend medical college next year. 
 
Dakshana Foundation was established by Mohnish Pabrai, investor and hedge fund manager, who made news in 2007, when he won a bid to have lunch with Warren Buffett. That money went to charity. A year earlier, Mr Pabrai had set up Dakshana with the objective of alleviating poverty through education. Dakshana’s mission is to focus on investing in the delivery of world-class education opportunities for exceptionally gifted children from impoverished rural backgrounds in India.
 
The inspiration for setting up Dakshana, for Mr Pabrai and his wife, Harina Kapoor,  was the Ramanujan School of Mathematics at Patna (Bihar), founded by Anand Kumar, 33, a local mathematician, and Abhayanand, 52, Patna’s deputy director-general of police and a lover of physics. 
 
In 2006, Dakshana signed a memorandum of understanding with the ministry of human resources and development to prepare deserving, but disadvantaged, students from the 595+ Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across India for the IIT entrance exams. Dakshana does this by offering a two-year scholarship to selected students after they complete class 10, while they are studying for their class 11th and 12th of the Central Board of Secondary Education course.
 
 Since 2015, Dakshana has been offering one-year scholarships to help underprivileged students from state government schools, after class 12, to prepare for the JEE or medical entrance exams. During the year, all costs incurred for coaching, boarding and lodging, cost of books and cost of application forms, for each student, are borne by Dakshana. “The programme is absolutely free for beneficiaries,” says Sharmila Pai. The Foundation now has 400 Dakshana scholars undergoing training which is fully funded by Dakshana at six locations across India.
 
Dakshana’s track-record of results has been excellent. “A total 1,100 of 2,044 Dakshana-sponsored underprivileged scholars, have been accepted by IITs and another 800 to NITs; an aggregate acceptance rate of 51% at IIT-JEE over the past eight years,” says Sharmila Pai, chief operating officer of Dakshana Foundation.
 
Dakshana is headquartered at Kadus Village, Pune. The entire operation is headed by an army veteran, colonel Ram Kumar Sharma, who has fought the three wars for India. At 76 years, colonel Sharma runs Dakshana like a young, vibrant CEO of a multinational conglomerate. He brings with him the vast experience of managing a large operation with ease and success. Fondly known as ‘Dadaji’ by the scholars at all Dakshana Centres of Excellence, colonel Sharma is a philanthropist in the true sense as he works full-time for Dakshana for a remuneration of one rupee a year.
 
Dakshana’s team comprises mainly its alumni who have been beneficiaries and have graduated as engineers but have decided to come back and serve Dakshana as Fellows. Heading the team is commander Arun Mishra (chief administrative officer) with 20 years’ experience in the Indian Navy. He runs the Dakshana administration as a ship that is sailing smoothly towards success. All donations to Dakshana are exempt under Section 80-G of the Income-tax Act. 
 
Dakshana Foundation
Kadus, Taluka Khed,
Pune, Maharashtra
Telephone +91.20.2685.3485
Fax +91.20.2685.5344

 

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Surprise: Trump’s Advisor on Wall Street Regulations is a Longtime Swamp-Dweller

President-elect Donald Trump's transition-team adviser on financial policies and appointments, Paul Atkins, has been depicted as an ideological advocate of small government. But the ways that the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans are likely to approach financial deregulation could serve Atkins' wallet as well as his political agenda. Like Trump himself, Atkins himself faces potential conflicts between his business dealings and his public role.

 

In 2009, a year after he finished his term as a Republican member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Atkins formed Patomak Global Partners, a consulting firm headquartered on 17th Street, nestled blocks from the Hay-Adams Hotel and the south lawn of the White House. While Trump promised to "drain the swamp" of Washington, Atkins' environs could not get any swampier. Patomak's president is Daniel Gallagher, also a right-leaning former SEC commissioner who might be a candidate for SEC chairman under Trump. Former high-level government officials populate Patomak's ranks.

 

Patomak has thrived as financial firms tried to navigate the new world of post-crisis regulations. Patomak and its counterparts, like Promontory Financial Group, are not technically lobbyists, but they exploit their connections to regulators to help their clients — banks and other financial institutions — navigate the rules. (Such consulting firms say they help clients comply with, not circumvent, the rules. A Patomak spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.)

 

The firms stand as emblems of the Washington revolving door. Banks pay a premium to former high-level regulators, valuing them for their contacts at the regulatory agencies. Stacked with Republicans, Patomak is well positioned to benefit from the new power structure in Washington. "They have better lines of communications with those in power. They are better able to see and understand what is coming down the pike," says one former high-ranking regulator who now works for a hedge fund.

 

Under a court order last month, Atkins and his firm are now monitoring Deutsche Bank's agreement with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to properly oversee and disclose its derivatives trading. Separately, Deutsche Bank is negotiating with the Department of Justice over the size of its fine to settle mortgage related misdeeds. Donald Trump has outstanding loans from Deutsche Bank. These inter-connections raise a host of conflict of interest issues. Will Patomak monitor Deutsche Bank vigilantly? Will financial regulators, perhaps appointed by Trump on Atkins' recommendation, be inclined to soften their regulatory stance on Deutsche Bank in exchange for business favors to the Trump empire?

 

Wall Street is thrilled about the incoming Trump administration. Bank stocks are soaring. Atkins, who is overseeing the appointees to the independent financial regulators like the SEC and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, will be able to help shape the Trump Administration approach to financial regulation. But just what does that vision entail? Or, among the disparate groups vying for influence, whose ideas will win out?

 

There seem to be three tribes in the Trump financial regulatory coalition: ideologues, Wall Streeters and populists.

 

Atkins belongs to the first tribe. "I think of him as more libertarian than conservative," says Simon Lorne, the former general counsel for the SEC, who worked with Atkins in the Clinton Administration.

 

In testimony last year to the House Financial Services Committee, Atkins opened by approvingly quoting Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist and philosopher beloved by libertarians. Hayek, Atkins explained, identified the "fatal conceit": the idea that "man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes."

 

Governments, in Atkins' view, share this hubristic notion. When they try to corral capital markets to prevent exploitative or risky behavior, they end up hurting the economy. Since the financial crisis, Atkins has been a part of the steady assault on Dodd Frank.

 

"The real tragedy — or inconvenient truth — behind Dodd-Frank and the hundreds of other rules flowing from Washington every year is that consumers, investors, and small business are harmed the most," he told Congress in May.

 

But as the existence of Patomak demonstrates, even ideologues find the regulatory state lucrative.

 

Meanwhile, the Wall Street crowd appears to have a seat at the table. Steve Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs partner who was the Trump campaign's national finance chairman, is a possible Treasury secretary.

 

The third tribe, in theory, is the populists. Trump campaigned with a populist message but they have no representatives on regulatory transition team or among the rumored appointees. Steve Bannon, Trump's chief political strategist and a former Goldman Sachs partner, has criticized the 2008 bank bail-out, and the Republican platform called for breaking up the big banks. But few expect anything resembling that.

 

Experts say the GOP isn't likely to repeal Dodd Frank wholesale. Instead, they will likely chip away at it, opening up loopholes. Some changes will come from Congress, others from inside the regulatory bodies themselves. Many "elements can be dismantled in back rooms," says Marcus Stanley, policy director of the consumer group Americans for Financial Reform.

 

Instead of shuttering the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the GOP-controlled Congress may change its leadership structure, shift its source of funding, and shave its budget. Instead of repealing the Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks from trading for their own account, regulators may widen the number of trades that fall outside the definition. Legislators have floated proposals to loosen derivatives trading rules. They aspire to weaken the Financial Stability Oversight Council. Congress will likely continue to trim the budgets for the SEC and the CFTC and reverse rules extending fiduciary standards to new classes of financial advisors.

 

Such moves diminish Republican vulnerability to Democratic attacks that a repeal of Dodd Frank is a gift to Wall Street. Maintaining a sprawling kudzu of arcane rules and regulations preserves the necessity of specialists in the art of navigating the bramble of the swamp. Including firms like Patomak.

 

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