Citizens' Issues
How state investment leads to poor academic research in India
The state-funded research has now degenerated into a purposeless activity. The rise in the plagiarism cases only proves the point
 
The Delhi Gazette recently produced a video with the title “Academic Dishonesty” capturing an entire market that sells projects, thesis and final dissertations, involving the most reputed institutions of Delhi. This brings to the fore the sorry state of academics/research in India. However, this is not something new. Research in India has been plagued by cases of plagiarism and fake PhDs for quite sometime. In this light, let’s explore the possible causes for this phenomenon.
 
Education in India is fully state-controlled; probably the most regulated sector after agriculture. Since the state decides everything from what you teach, to how much you charge, to how do you grade students, there is very little room left for any innovation in this field. Even as the state’s monopoly continue to ruin the sector, we keep crying for more of its intervention. One can write so much about the ill effects of this on the whole education system, but let’s confine ourselves to PhD research programs in this piece. 
 
"Government should spend more on R&D", "We need to pay our researchers more", we keep hearing these lines all the time - especially during the Budget discussions.  We talk as if there is some innovation vending machine out there, and that if the government puts more money into it, we can draw more innovation. Quality human resource is central to research; but it hardly ever occurs to us to question the kind of research that is even possible with the students produced from our lackluster educational system. This is one of the major reasons why we struggle to get private investment in this field. In addition to the shortage of quality human resource, coercive taxation and the lack of proper Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) protection, scares investors away.
 
Instead of fixing these crucial aspects, and thereby letting the private investments flow into the sector, we take the easy route of demanding the state to invest. The state gladly accepts the ‘responsibility’ by imposing new taxes on us. And we have seen over the years on how the government handles things - as favors, dispensations, subsidies come to the fore, merit and reason takes backseat.
 
While a private organisation investing in research, surveys the market where it should invest so as to get returns, government’s investment decisions are based on immediate political advantages and/or bureaucratic whims and fancies. As a result, they produce low quality researchers who are more concerned about the number of papers published by them (paperwork) and less about coming out with real solutions that could change things on the ground. Hence the state-funded research has now degenerated into a purposeless activity. The rise in the plagiarism cases only proves the claim. Can we imagine a private research organization, after paying the researcher, tolerating plagiarism without extracting any work from him? 
 
One would wonder if not for the research ecosystem controlled by the government that injects laziness, at least for their own sake to compete in the job market later on, the researchers pursuing PhDs should be doing something worthwhile.  But, there is an interesting connection between the falling PhD standards and the government regulations on the teaching staff of graduate colleges. 
 
Regulation boards, in the name of maintaining high-class standards, impose norms on the teaching staff that the colleges recruit. For example, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) prescribes that 1/3rd of the engineering college staff should have a relevant PhD; and a normal student teacher ratio of 1:15. Which means, for every 45 students, a PhD professor is mandatory. Every year, an estimated 15 lakh engineering students graduate through out the country. Which means, the total number of students pursuing engineering at any point of time is 4yrsX15 lakhs =60 lakhs. If you exclude the 1st year students, where only general subjects are taught, we have 45 lakh proper engineering students. So a back of the envelope calculation says that there is a need for one lakh PhD holders in academics alone. That being the demand let us see the supply. 
 
On an average, in the technical arena, we are producing only  1000 PhDs per year. Now observe the huge gap between the artificial demand created by the regulatory board and the supply. Unsurprisingly, this report says 43% of teaching staff in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is lying unfilled and mentions lack of PhDs in the field as one of the major reasons. Correlate this fact with the falling PhD standards. A plagiarized or fake PhD can never get you a job in the industrial and production market where merit prevails. But thanks to the inflated demand for PhDs in the teaching field due to the state regulation, you are guaranteed a job just for carrying a PhD tag; and that to with a high salary, which is again fixed by the state as part of the norms. This should explain why students want to get a PhD by hook or crook.
 
What was the intention behind this regulation? To maintain high standards - and what are they achieving? Exactly the opposite - just like any other government regulation.
 
Imagine if there were no government regulations on recruiting staff and the colleges were open to recruit anyone. Then the colleges could hire knowledgeable, experienced people from the industry who would be able to impart greater practical knowledge to the students. And they also would then become a competition to these researchers. This would force the researchers to look at PhD not simply as a tag, but something to be achieved by exploring and applying subject. This would not only improve the quality of research, but would also enormously improve the quality of teaching. 
 
Instead of exploring any such alternatives to make the sector competitive, the government regulatory boards come up with silly regulations. To curb plagiarism, the University Grants Commission (UGC) made it mandatory for the universities to install software to detect PhD plagiarism. This did nothing but open up a new source of income for those in the thesis and project selling business. They now simply modify the content to make it pass through the mandated software and sell it as a premium service.
 
Without addressing any of the core issues, we keep saying, "pay our researchers more". In fact, paying researchers more in the existing set up would not only waste crores of taxpayers money, but also can seriously distort the job market. For example, if the government pays researchers close to the industry job standards, more students will opt for research. This not only increases the number of good-for-nothing PhDs, but also creates a shortage in the production department. Just like what the NREGA did to the labor market. 
 
(The author can be reached at twitter.com/ravithinkz)
 

User

COMMENTS

B. Yerram Raju

2 years ago

It is not the pay alone that promotes purposeful research. Research paper should actually reflect the commitment of the researcher in the subject and the depth of knowledge in the subject. The search buttons are giving the host of outputs used in the research paper as though the student/teacher concerned has actually gone through the paper. In a few Interview Boards I happened to be there for recruiting teachers in Economics, I got blank responses to the questions on Adam Smith, J.M. Keynes, Marshall and Pigou, Paul Samuelson, Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz, Milton Friedman etc. the need for studying the fundamentals in any subject has taken backseat and therefore, the urge to do purposive research. This is the case with most social science subjects. Fortunately however, it is otherwise in the case of Science Subjects and so are we having Pridhwi and missiles getting global recognition.

mm

2 years ago

It is a Mafia. Your inflate the cost of education so that private mangements can generate black money. One year of empty talk by this governmemrent has not resulted in curbing not even one source which generates black money

Bank Employees and Social Banking
Bank employees and unions will have to recharge themselves to a new set of objectives that would enhance the business of banks on one side and help the society on the other
 
May Day is usually the day to recall the assertion of their rights. For a change, the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) during this 70th year thought of taking the initiative of enjoining social responsibility. Gone are the hard days of militant agitations as means to achieve fair compensation, safety, security and comfort in work places. Workmen and officer representatives are today part of the governance and management of banks. Machines dictate the employees’ ways of working. Discretion has less relevance now than in the past. Technology dictates the employees’ ways of working and management processes. But are the customers, a happier lot? The response is discouraging.
 
Ever since the introduction of banking reforms following the recommendations of Narasimham Committee 1 and 2 and the alignment with the global regulatory architecture through BASEL I, 2 and 3, technology and capital adequacy have become the prime drivers of growth in banking sector.
 
Mobile banking and micro finance institutions (MFIs) moved into the space left by the RRBs, weakened cooperatives, and rural branches of commercial banks. Banking correspondents and customer service points, White ATMs surfaced.  Who should we blame for providing this space excepting the lack of commitment and motivation of staff to align with the objectives of the nationalisation of banks?
 
Several progressive regulatory measures from the RBI – asset reconstruction companies, payments and settlement solutions, safe mobile banking and revisiting the priority sector definitions have all happened during this period. 
 
Success of social banking is a function of trust and banking with a human face. Banks’ business is growing exponentially. Globally inclusive banking has become a great concern. Several economies – with developed nations being no exception – are devising ways to make possible access to banking easy, convenient and cheap. Digital architecture is reshaping the way of banking of the future.
 
Seamless integration with the mobile phones, emails, messages between the banks and customers benefits the banks more than the customers. Massive data is going to be captured through cloud technology. Cyber security is going to be an issue that would haunt the banks continuously. There is a huge opportunity for banks to innovate in this space. 
 
“Being able to take advantage of, or react to, the digital revolution requires banks to behave in ways that they are not quite accustomed to. It requires extremely clear and quick cross-functional collaboration.” Says McKinsey in its November 2014 Report.
 
The demographic profile of bank customers will also undergo sea change. Senior citizens are likely to constitute 20% of population by 2025, demanding far different services from the bank than the present. The youth, that constitute 40% of population, used to working on active social media like the Facebook, Twitter and the like, wanting speed and accuracy of transactions and women demanding different products to suit their multiple chores at family and work.  
 
HM Khan, Deputy Governor of RBI, while inaugurating a Dena Bank’s Self-Service Branch bank exhorted very rightly; “The focus has been on alternative channels and digitisation of banking and move (banking) from assisted to self-service mode… But the fact remains in the Indian context that despite us moving in the Jet-plane age, we have the bullock cart as well. We have different market segments and have to look at the hand behind the machine as well….” He called for handholding of older generation on-branch customers and the new entrants through ‘a blend of software with human touch’. 
 
Managements would be hence forward busy in formulating strategic initiatives to withstand the competition both from domestic and global financial institutions (the presence of global financial institutions on Indian landscape has been doubling up), coping with regulatory compliances, evolving new products and measures to mitigate product and process risks continuously. In other words, managements would focus on risk management and compliance. Risk management should be viewed as a window of opportunity for greater earnings and greater profits than as cost centre.
 
Most of the members of the staff, unlike in the past, are comfortably placed in the work environment. They have negotiated settlements on wages, salaries and perks; they do not have to slog for balancing their daybooks or ledgers. They are the face of the bank. This is precisely the reason for the employees to be socially sensitive. 
 
In the absence of any substantive relationship issues with the managements now, the unions should devote their time in house for service to the customer far more friendly than now. It is time to give back to the society. The employees have to relocate and recharge themselves to a new set of objectives that would enhance the business of the banks on one side and help better reach to the society on the other.
 
Social banking has to be responsible and responsive to small and marginal farmers, leaseholders, micro and small enterprises, small retail shop owners, economically weaker sections and women in bottom-of-pyramid  that require more than banking to succeed in the enterprise they pursue and they look to the banks to help them in that direction. Field visits help the employees to understand the farmer and entrepreneur. The documents tell only ownership story and not the story of his production and marketing. 
 
Mutual understanding builds trust and trust begets trust. Banking in India is built on the Scottish principle of ‘suspect and respect’ and not the reverse. The reversal has to be engineered only through a change in the mindset and cultural shift in understanding the requirements of the 25% of the country that are still poor. The bourgeoning middle class and the elitist can always be cultured into technology and internet banking.
 
Employees have more leisure than most of their predecessors of yesteryears and fewer responsibilities on the home front as well because of nuclear families. If a group of employees can volunteer to adopt a village, visit at least for two days in a month in a picnic mode, enhance the customers’ knowledge of bank and its deposit and loan products, prepare at least one bankable project once in a quarter, 15 lakh viable projects with loyal customer base would turn banking an experience worth the life. This in essence will be the responsible and responsive social banking.
 
(Dr Yerram Raju Behara is a former senior executive of SBI and an economist and risk management specialist. The views expressed in the article are his personal.)

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COMMENTS

SuchindranathAiyerS

2 years ago

Why would Bank employees be any different from the Nation's leadership? Aren't they on the lower rungs of India's Neta-Babu-Cop-Milard-Crony Kleptocracy? ( Computerization has only increased the insouciance and the officers do not even read the screen properly it seems. Recently my ECS mandate for BSNL was bounced for Rs 1,070/- by State Bank of India Jayanagar 2nd Block putting me to enormous inconvenience. I have fixed deposits in excess of 20 Lakhs there and an overdraft limit that I never draw on) This would never have happened during our non-computerized days without there being Hell to pay for the erring officer).

GANESHKUMAR AP

2 years ago

Challenge is to be relevant!

PATTABHI

2 years ago

Dr Yerram Raju. has rightly flagged the opportunities and challenges that face the Bank Employees as Ache Din is being ushered in by the present Govt. I hope the Employees and Unions would now start focussing on social change and on making a difference to the Society with greater purposive involvement.

Economy & Nation Exclusive
No income tax on LPG subsidy, says Finance Ministry
The Finance Act treats all subsidies, grants, cash incentives, duty drawbacks, waiver, concessions and reimbursements as taxable income. However, the Finance Ministrty has claried that there would be no income tax on LPG and other welfare subsidies for individuals
 
UPDATE: Updated to include clarification from Finance Ministry
 
First, the union government made it mandatory for every consumer to avail subsidy benefit for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) refill through bank accounts. However, to the shock of most taxpayers, who are receiving such subsidy, the amendment in the Finance Bill has termed this as income, and thus liable for taxation. Earlier, experts were divided whether such subsidy was taxable under the Income Tax (I-T) Act as there was no clear guidance from the authorities. Late in the evening (after this article was published), the government clarified that provision in Finance Bill 2015 won't affect the LPG subsidy and other welfare subsidies received by individuals.
 
The Finance Bill, 2015, as passed by Lok Sabha on 30th April has specified that subsidies no longer would be treated as capital gains, but as income (revenue receipt). The amendment in the definition of 'Income' under Section 2(24) in the Finance Bill, 2015, says, "A new sub-clause (xviii) is proposed to be inserted in Section 2(24) to provide that assistance in the form of a subsidy or grant or cash incentive or duty drawback or waiver or concession or reimbursement (by whatever name called) by the Central Government or a State Government or any authority or body or agency in cash or kind to the assesse [other than one considered under Explanation 10 to Section 43(1)] would be included in assessee's income."
 
This in other words any subsidy that is not reduced from the actual cost of the asset in view of provisions of Explanation 10 to Section 43(1) will be taxable as revenue receipts of the assessee.
 
This includes the subsidy for LPG refill as well. However, there are still some flaws in the taxability of subsidy for LPG. Some experts feel that the consumer pays in full towards buying the LPG refill at market price, for which she may already be paying income tax. Since the government is simply reimbursing the subsidy amount, it may lead to double taxation. 
 
For example, for a LPG refill the consumer pays about Rs650 as full market price from her pocket. Next the government reimburses around Rs200 (actual amount may differ), the difference between subsidised price and the full market price. The consumer may already be paying income tax on the total amount of Rs7,800 (Rs650x12 LPG refill per year). If she receives Rs2,400 as subsidy, then as per the Amendment in the Finance Bill, her tax liability would increase by this amount. 
 
So in the end, the consumer would end up paying income tax on Rs10,200 (Rs7,800 actual payment +Rs2,400 LPG subsidy). If the consumer is in the highest tax bracket, then she will have to pay Rs3,060 towards the income tax, instead of Rs2,160 she is already paying. An additional burden of Rs900 because of the LPG subsidy.
 
It is preposterous to treat LPG subsidy as income, as it is contrary to reason. It is only a refund of the excess amount paid by the consumer to the gas dealer, which the oil company refunds to the beneficiary to comply with the government order to sell the LPG cylinder at the stipulated price to the users. It is therefore, impetuous for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the Modi government to take a view that this amount is taxable at the hands of beneficiaries.
 
So what is the way forward? If the Narendra Modi government is serious about providing subsidy, then there is a need to make exemptions, especially for subsidies provided as social benefits, like LPG subsidy. If there is no exemption provided, then honest taxpayers and a very large number of them will have to pay more tax.
 
 UPDATE:
The Finance Ministry, in a clarification, has said that the provision in the Finance Bill will not affect LPG subsidy and other welfare subsidies received by individuals.

"The Income Computation and Disclosure Standards (ICDS) notified by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is applicable to persons having income chargeable under the head "Profits and gains of business or profession" or "Income from other sources" and following Mercantile System of Accounting. This is not applicable to individuals not having any income chargeable under the head "Profits and gains of business or profession" and receiving LPG subsidy or any other subsidy which is for the welfare of the individual. The Finance Bill, 2015 proposes to align the definition of Income with that provided in ICDS for this purpose. To restate the position, the provision in the Finance Bill, 2015, will not affect the LPG subsidy and other welfare subsidies received by individuals," the Finance Ministry said in a release.
 
 

User

COMMENTS

Aditya Soni

1 year ago

Subsidies are financial help provided by government to their economically weak citizens. So How can government apply income tax on subsidies. On the other hand Mr. Modi introduces LPG subsidy surrender/give up scheme, this should be adopt by people who are financially strong.

give up subsidy here- http://www.getlpgsubsidy.in

R Varadarajan

2 years ago

Although the Oil price has fallen from US$106 to US$ 64, reduction of nearly 35% taking into exchange fluctuation, the reduction of Petrol and Diesel Prices are just about 11%. The difference of Rs.16/ & Rs12/ in the case of Petrol and Diesel would translate into a fortune if some one calculates the total difference on the total consumption of 25& 80 Million Ltrs respectively.Perhaps Moneylife could post the details of consumption and annual price difference not passed on to the consumers !!!

SuchindranathAiyerS

2 years ago

India's rulers are adept at stealing from Indians. Like the Constitution they say is mighty fine, it gives hundred rights and takes back ninety nine!

Bal krishna Gupta

2 years ago

The actual subsidy per cylinder is just Ra. 169.57. (I got one credited in my account today). So for those consuming 12 subsidised cylinders it amounts to Rs. 2034.38 per annum.
Out of 15 crore users, hardly 3 crore pay Income Tqax and almost 70% fall in 10% bracket. Their out go will therefore be hardly Rs.200 per annum.
It is not even certain whether this is taxable or not.
Even if it is taxable or not is it ok to make such a Hula Gulla about such a significant amount.
My family of four consumes just 6 cylinders a year. Those consuming 12 cylinders will have more than one earning members and can easily afford this Rs. 200-300 tax.

1. Due to direct transfer, the problem of ghost users and

2. Black marketing will reduce to a great extent.

3. Genuine users will get gas on time and

4. Waiting period would vanish.

5. Sale of gas to commercial users at higher prices would increase.

6. This will help gas companies to reduce their losses.

S K Gupta

2 years ago

Its a blatant preying on ignorant masses. Politician are happy making a free lavish living on public exchequer and bureaucrats have nothing to loose.

J Pinto

2 years ago

Government and bureaucracy are not known for their wisdom. Quite the contrary in fact.

Paras Savla

2 years ago

Press release issued by Finance Ministry states LPG and other welfare subsidy are not subject to income-tax http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.a...

Davidson D

2 years ago

According to me the burden would be on Rs. 2400 (200*12)@ 30.9% which works out to Rs.742 (Rs. 62 p.m.) additional tax burden. If the Govt. wants to tax subsidy,, then let them reduce entire value paid at the time of refill from total income so that consumers are in advantageous position.Every successive govt. seems to be worse than a pauper. This methodology of charging full price on refill and then crediting differential as subsidy in itself is a ridiculous way of handling subsidy. OMC have the no. of cylinders at subsidised rate, let them bill for 12 cylinders at subsidised rate and clear balance with full value. This would eliminate the round about method of crediting subsidies, tax implications can be eliminated, additional burden on banks of crediting subsidies to every account linked to Aadahar also gets eliminated. This would be a win win situation for consumers, banks, govt.

LALIT SHAH

2 years ago

All LPG cylinders holders pay attention
Is there actul subsidy on gas ?
All omc paying huge salery to its staff make everyone jillious. Also making heavy profit and paying aflatoon divided to government.
As far Gas subsidy is a great blunder run by this and previous government. And making public full.
Yday to news in navgujrat
1, Army has no fund to buy arms
2, We will do propaganda that our government has work in last 11 month says P.M.
And will spend any dam amount for TV PAPER AND INTERNET MIDEA
public knows that P.M. IS moving THIS TO THAT CONTRY ON WORLD TOUR. AND WEARING COSTLY CLOTHS SUITS BOOTS ETC.
PUBLIC WILL REPLY IN COMMING ELECTION.
SO ADVICE P.M. TO LET YOUR WORK SPEAK AND AAM PUBLIC KI DAL ROTI KI THALI PE BURI NAZAR NA DALE
MINISTERS AUR GOVERNMENT EXPANCE KO LAGAM DO

Ravindra Shetye

2 years ago

This is not the limit of their intelligence. They may come out with brighter ideas of Taxtortion for sure. Do they also tax the subsidy paid to the Oil Companies (with retrospective effect from 1956??
COMEDY CENTRAL realy. Kapil Sharma will blush at such comedies.

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