Food Inflation

Combined food inflation increased to 6.66% in January 2016, compared to 6.31% recorded for December 2015. For rural and urban areas, food inflation was 7.00% and 6.23%, respectively, in January. Vegetable prices increased by 6.23% in January compared to those prevailing in December 2015. Inflation in fruit prices was -0.24% in January, while pulses were dearer by 43.32% y-o-y. Inflation for cereals stood at 2.19% and inflation for milk products was 4%. Price rise of non-vegetarian items, such as meat and fish, was 8.23% in January compared to 6.66% in December 2015.

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Suggestion for Pending I-T Refund Cases
This is with regard to SD Israni’s, “Taxpayer-friendly Norms” (issue dated 18 February 2016). Press reports suggest that the CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes) will expedite sub-Rs50,000 tax refunds not selected for scrutiny. This is a welcome step; but the reality will be known when the funds are received automatically, without further prompting. There are many cases pending with the income tax (I-T) department. 
 
Refunds due since, say, 2007-08 or for the past 10 years, which have not been received by assessees, must be paid immediately in a time-bound manner. Once the records show nil refunds pending, this should be notified in the press. In case some refunds are still due, say, after February 2016 (if that’s the outer limit that’s been set), they must be cleared by 31 March 2016, at the latest, through a simple application on I-T department’s website. 
 
Disputes or differences must be resolved through website applications, or e-mails with scanned copies of documents, or information being uploaded on the website. This is how the process can be simplified.
 
M Kumar, by email 

 

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD NEEDED! 

This is with regard to “Plummeting Confidence in the Government’s Ability To Tackle PSB Bad Loans” by Sucheta Dalal. It is tough for anyone to rescue public sector banks (PSBs) from the shameful situation they have been dragged into by government policies or to defend the high level of bad loans they have accumulated. Since nationalisation, political leadership has been meddling with the working of PSBs, using the ‘assumed’ ownership rights, with immunity. The miraculous survival of PSBs including SBI (State Bank of India) can be attributed to the net interest margins (NIMs) banks in India were privileged to enjoy continuously. During the current ‘Rajan era’, even at times of near ‘cartelisation’, RBI (Reserve Bank of India) has been merciful when it comes to passing on the benefits of lower resource cost by reducing lending rates.
 
Judging the performance of banks with reference to the bad loans accumulated or the support they need from the owners, by itself, is not rational. Comparison is always with private sector banks. To get a clear picture, one has to remember that PSBs’ share in banking business is three times that of private sector banks. What prevents the private sector banks from increasing their share in business is a riddle that policy-makers and regulators should solve, at least at this stage, before succumbing to the pressure to again ‘privatise’ PSBs. 
 
It may be recalled that banks were nationalised because of the refusal of the private sector to plough back deposits mobilised from small savers to sectors that benefited inclusive economic development. The residual and new private sector banks continue to be selective in providing credit; the social responsibility of the banking system was largely met by PSBs. The corporates, which did not want to follow the banking discipline, used their influence to get credit from PSBs. All these, together, resulted in differential treatment for public and private sector banks. Given a level playing field and semblance of functional autonomy, the future of Indian banking is safe in the hands of PSBs.
 
MG Warrier, online comment
 

NO ACTION TAKEN BY FM?

This is with regard to “Fortnightly Market View: Confidence Lost” by Debashis Basu. The ease with which listed companies short-change retail investors has increased several-fold in the past 10 years. No wonder, retail investors have fled and no action is taken by the current finance minister to bring them back.   
 
Suketu Shah, online comment

 

GREAT MESSAGE FOR ALL OF US!

This is with regard to “The Courage To Fight for Change” (issue dated 3 March 2016) which highlighted the role of two IAS officers, four decades apart, who have brought a great change in the perception of secretaries in the public mind. I have heard about the brilliant handling of Kumbh Mela by the team headed by Dr Gedam from Nashik. What he has achieved in a short period shows the path that each one of us can take in making a difference in the lives of people around us. 
 
Gandhiji had said “You must be the change that you wish to see around in the world.” Both of them have shown us that if we are steadfast in our principles, we can bring about the desired change. Their lives have a great message for all of us. 
 
I feel that our media—print and television —should keep showing such good services of officers rather than continuously bombarding us with negative news. It will stimulate many youngsters to take to playing important roles in public service.
 
After all, what constitutes India is you, me and everyone around us. If we don’t take up our own issues, who else will?
 
Dr Hari Venkatramani, by email
 

DIFFERENT FROM THE EARLIER REGIME?

This is with regard to “I’m Back!” by Debashis Basu and Jason Monteiro. I appreciate the frank opinion of the authors. They are unlike people who always support the people in power. Further, the wrong approaches or the policies done by the earlier government will never give the right to the current regime to continue with the same flaws. This government is in no way different from the earlier regime.
 
J Sudharshan, online comment
 

RECOGNITION OF WOMEN’S ACHIEVEMENTS NEEDED

This is with regard to “Women Power” (issue dated 3 March 2016). Indian women excel in all fields and are no lesser than men in any way. No more are there exclusive areas reserved for men! It is a fact that, unless women are recognised for their achievements like men, no country can make progress. Some nations and societies are still backward because their women are not given the respect or the opportunities they deserve. Women who are successful and independent are usually the happiest ones. The recognition of women’s achievements in respective fields can be a wonder in not only Indian society but across the world!
 
Mahesh Kapasi, by email

 

DIGITAL SHAMING TSUNAMI?

This is with regard to “Bad Loans in SC’s Crosshairs” by Sucheta Dalal. This is an excellent and anguished article detailing the fraud that is being committed by politicians and bankers and corporates.
 
I agree that we cannot go to the Supreme Court for each and every failure of the government. But what if there is malfeasance? Will the government ever file a judicial case against itself because it has knowingly committed white-collar crimes? Remember that kicking the rascals out is no solution, as a new set of rascals replaces the ones that have just vacated the seat of power.
 
Perhaps, shaming may work. Why not have our army of lumpens, which is at the beck and call of every politician, hold daily demonstrations in front of the corporate houses and homes of politicians and bankers? Even better, why not have a digital shaming tsunami launched against the near and dear ones of these brazen wrong-doers? It seems to have worked in China. It might work here too.
 
People are getting fed up. For every Subrata Roy spending months behind bars, we have more conmen like Mallya who flaunt their ill-gotten wealth without facing even a day in prison.
 
Meenal Mamdani 
 

INFORMATIVE PIECE!

This is with regard to “Valuing Bank Stocks” by  R Balakrishnan. Thank you for this informative piece. If one listens to business channels on TV or if one reads business newspapers, it may seem as if having bank stocks is a must in anyone’s portfolio. Not so; I have realised after reading this article.
 
Please extend the analysis to NBFCs (non-banking finance companies) and HFCs (housing finance companies) and new-age ‘banks’ which have been approved by RBI (Reserve Bank of India) recently.
 
Anand Vaidya
 
R Balakrishnan replies:
 
Sometimes, being too logical has its problems too. I end up with nothing to ‘buy’... Thanks for your views.
 

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Ratna Nidhi wins Google Impact Challenge for Disabilities Award
Mumbai-based Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust is one amongst the NGO's that have won the Google Award to develop the Ratna Nidhi Leg, a well-fitting artificial leg through the use of 3D imaging, scanning and printing technologies
 
Mumbai-based Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust has been selected by Google for its Impact Challenge for Disabilities Award. Of thousands of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from over 50 countries, Ratna Nidhi is one amongst the NGO's that have won the Google Award to further the technology in helping limb amputees.
 
"We have joined hands with Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB) to develop the Ratna Nidhi Leg a well-fitting artificial leg through the use of 3D imaging/ scanning and 3D Printing technologies," it said in a release.
 
Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google.org, said, "Google.org is pleased to invest in the visions of Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust. Through their innovative applications of technology, they are developing new solutions that will improve the lives of people with disabilities in India and around the world." 
 
Ratna Nidhi, which is working for welfare of people from the most underprivileged strata of society, says over the years of working with limb amputees, it came to realise a few bottlenecks in the process of manufacturing the artificial limb and keeping them in mind the Ratna Nidhi Leg was conceptualised.
 
The Ratna Nidhi Leg, derived from the Jaipur Foot, will be created using a new process that enables rehabilitation engineers to deliver prosthetic legs to the amputees and landmine victims in the most rural and vulnerable populations in a shorter time. The new process uses mobile 3D scanning technologies to accurately capture and transmit 3D models of the residual limb, to design comfortable and yet affordable legs.
 
"Innovative technologies are already helping to improve everyday life for people living with disabilities. Through these grants, we want to empower organisations to build impactful solutions that will create better access for people living with disabilities in India," said Rajan Anandan, Vice President and Managing Director, Google India and Southeast Asia.
 
Globally, Google.org has donated over $100 million in grants and $1 billion in technology resources in 2015 alone.
 
Talking about the process for its new solution, Ratna Nidhi said, "The new process will avoid the need for transporting mold materials to the location of the amputee, minimizing their need to travel to the NGO centre. This will help in doubling the current capacity of RNCT to serve rural locations easily and cost effectively. The RNCT and BETiC (IIT) will document the whole process, develop training modules, and make them available online, thereby empowering all other NGOs working in this field globally. This is expected to further expand the capacity of the NGOs in reaching out to every amputee who needs a low-cost prosthetic leg free of cost."
 

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