VISION 2030: Unfinished Agenda for an India that is Fair, Just and Egalitarian
The 71st Republic Day makes me reflect on the unfinished agenda for growth before the nation and a vision for the next decade. It is one thing to set a quantitative goal post and quite another to move higher on a qualitative agenda.
 
Such a qualitative goal requires more inclusivity and higher sensitisation than what we have at present. 
 
As a citizen, I would like to dream of an India, where peace and tranquility prevail; where transparency in governance exists in all fields; where there would be 100% food security and 100% self-sufficiency for food; where market forces do not devour the poor and the weak in society. 
 
India should be a country where better water and farm management would lead to better employment and least migration to urban and metropolitan areas from the rural areas; where population growth would not stand as an impediment for further growth of the economy; where all the employables get fully employed and the less employables would be endowed with appropriate skills and knowledge for full employment; where there is free entry and exit for firms in the economy with no parasites. 
 
Also it should be a country where women can walk freely even at midnight anywhere in the country; where values of life fall in tune with the culture and ethos of the nation and where the digital divide between the rural and urban vanish; where information asymmetry and moral hazard do not exist and where all the sectors of the economy realize their mutual dependence to their mutual benefit and the growth rate of the economy would move to a double digit figure as a matter of practice. 
 
I recall what Swami Ranganadhananda said once: “I look forward to the day when rural people stop easing themselves in public and start eating in public.” 
 
The statement is profound and carries with it an agenda for action: provision of good sanitation, safe drinking water, crossing the caste and other societal barriers and food within the reach of all. 
 
Fortunately, during the last few years, the Swachh Bharat mission has taken the open-defecation-free (ODF) areas close to 80-90% in several cities, although a lot remains to be done in many rural areas. 
 
Aspirational Districts program would similarly make several lagging districts to come to the forefront. Still, a lot needs to be done for an ODF India and safe drinking water being universally available. This calls for a synthesis between social and economic budgeting.
 
The barriers to realising such a vision would be:
  • Fragmented political will;

 

  • High population growth;

 

  • Poverty and low level of literacy;

 

  • Inadequate resources;

 

  • Weak financial sector mired in unrecovered corporate debts and frauds;

 

  • Poor governance;

 

  • Improper structural plans;

 

  •  Institutionalization and harmonization of legal aspects to set up monitoring systems.

 

  • Deficiencies in implementation.
 
Some of our strengths recognized worldwide are:
 
  • A middle class estimated at 350 million out of a total population of over 1.2 billion providing a stable market;

 

  • The second largest English-speaking scientific, technical and executive manpower in the world;

 

  • An abundant supply of raw materials;

 

  • An extensive rail and road network;

 

  • A stable political system based on parliamentary democracy;

 

  • A common legal system with English as the court language;

 

  • India is emerging as a major market and investment destination;

 

  • The dramatic economic reforms initiated in 1991 have left a wide canvas of positive thinking and affirmative action.

 

  • India is one of the top five in the world’s growing economies even after this temporary slowdown (5% of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of FY2020).

 

  • The sweeping change from unorganized to organized ways of doing businesses with the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

 

  • An ardent desire to pursue financial inclusion agenda and 
 
Another major strength is India’s ability to respond to crises:
 
When there was a crisis in meeting the food requirements against the backdrop of colonial misrule, with severe famine and large patches of drought, we fought it out valiantly through the green revolution and made India self-reliant in food; we are now on the threshold of food exports. When we had a crisis in foreign exchange, we ably steered through. 
 
Most of the natural calamities – recurring floods in several States or hard-hitting recurring cyclones in Andhra Pradesh (AP), Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, earthquakes of Latur in Maharashtra or Bhuj in Gujarat; the Tsunami of 2004 in Tamil Nadu -- have been ably handled with domestic resources.
 
Gross inadequacies are noticed in terms of value addition due to inadequate attention to crop specific infrastructure and post-harvest technologies like pre-cooling, cold storages with assured power at uniform voltage, price hedging operations, and market reforms in the farm sector. 
 
Some States have initiated special studies in this regard to prioritize their investments in these areas and deploy the needed resources. The impacts of these initiatives would be felt in due course. However, there is a regulatory overhang in India with more than twelve Union ministries, corresponding state ministries, laws framed by the Union government with rules framed by the state governments for implementing them. 
 
Still, due to the several food control orders governing the production and trade of those commodities and crops into which the farmers would like to diversify, the farmer, rural industry and farm trade are virtually strangulated. While there is an awakening in respect of these areas, the speed of reforms and actions in these areas deserve urgent attention.
 
Farmers benefit from more accurate weighing, faster processing time, and prompt payment, and from access to a wide range of information, including accurate market price knowledge, and market trends, which help them decide when, where, and at what price to sell. E-NAM has not fully absorbed the e-Choupal model.
 
Farmers selling directly to ITC Ltd through an e-Choupal typically receive a higher price for their crops than they would receive through the mandi system, on an average about 2.5% higher. The total benefit to farmers includes lower prices for inputs and other goods, higher yields, and a sense of empowerment. The e-Choupal system has had a measurable impact on what farmers chose to do. The system also provides direct access to the farmer to information about conditions on the ground, improving planning and building relationships that increase its security of supply. Farmers Producers Organizations (FPO) are gaining ground, albeit slowly. FPOs need clusterisation to derive greater advantage. 
 
Every Law should stand the test of the Constitution and stakeholder consultation a priori and should be subject to regulatory impact assessment at the beginning of the first Parliament session of the year.
 
Increased urbanisation during the last five decades has not diminished the rural space significantly. Comprehensive connectivity of village complexes providing economic opportunities to all segments of people remains unfulfilled. 
 
The integrated method that will bring prosperity to rural areas envisages four types of connectivity: physical connectivity through quality roads and transport; electronic connectivity through telecom with high bandwidth fibre optic cables; knowledge connectivity through education, skill training for farmers, artisans and craftsmen and entrepreneurship programmes, where the future roadmap of economic growth lies. 
 
It is not so much globalisation that is important as global competitiveness that is the need and healthy growth of manufacturing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), empowering women and reordering the subsidy regime in all the fields. We have no room for complacence. 
 
(The author is an economist and risk management specialist. The views are personal.)
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    Help Requested to Find N Madhavan, Missing IIM-Cal Alumnus
    N Madhavan, an alumnus of IIM Calcutta, who was employed at Moneylife as a Technical Consultant until July 2019, has gone missing. 
     
    The matter came to light when a former colleague spotted him at Andheri last week and called up to inquire about him. He had spotted Madhavan in soiled clothes and a forlorn expression near Andheri Station at SV Road.
     
    Moneylife’s efforts to check on his well-being led to the discover that he has not only been missing for over two months, but is now homeless. 
     
    Madhavan lived with his mother at Chandavili until she passed away after a sudden illness a year ago.  Since then, he has become increasingly erratic, although it was clear that he has been suffering from some issues for a while. 
     
    Before he finally quit work, he has stopped coming to work regularly and often did not respond to phone calls. The office sometimes sent a person to check on him. 
     
    Moneylife has made our concerns about his mental state know to his two brothers, one of whom resides in Hyderabad while the other stays in Powai. Fortunately, the brother in Hyderabad, who responds to our calls informed us last week that he had made several visits to Mumbai and had once lodged a missing persons complaint at Saki Naka police station on 31st October 2019. This was done when Madhavan was untraceable for over a month. However a few days later, on 6 November 2019, he was found at Andheri and reunited with his brother, only to give him the slip and disappear again. 
     
    He also said that the rented apartment where Madhavan lived with his mother at Chandivli has been given back to the owner, so he is now homeless and has no place to stay even if he returns to his home. 
     
    Sccording to the brother, Madhavan does not have his phone with him, but his number continues to ring, indicating that the SIM is active and the phone charged.  
     
    Over the past few days we have been in touch with the police and various NGOs to try and trace Madhavan along with a social media outreach. If you spot him or anyone who looks like him, please call us at (022) 4920 5000.
     
     
    Following are a few more details to help identify him:
     
    Name: Madhavan Narasimhan 
    Last Known Address: Chandivili, Mumbai
    DOB: 06-12-1963
    Age: 57 years
    Height: 5’3”
    Other details: Wheat complexion and slim built; chain smoker.
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    COMMENTS

    Sucheta Dalal

    1 month ago

    I am happy to report that N Madhavan was found by one of our colleagues who went looking for him. He was in a bad state. We took him to the police - first Sakinaka, then the DNNagar police. The latter were helpful in getting him cleaned up and persuading him to go with us. He is now in a wellness centre and we are hoping for his full recovery!!

    REPLY

    m.prabhu.shankar

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 4 weeks ago

    Thank God. Good to see your message.

    Veeresh

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 1 month ago

    Good to hear, thanks update, very gentle person.

    Abhijit Gosavi

    1 month ago

    Very sorry to read this! Hope he's okay and that someone finds him soon. Loneliness is an unpleasant companion in middle age.

    Newme

    1 month ago

    Seems to be suffering from depression after his mother\'s demise. Americans keep dogs and cats as pets to give them company. We all need someone to share our life.
    I will pray for his return.

    Electoral Bonds: SC Declines Immediate Stay on the EB Scheme; Seeks Election Commission Reply Within 2 Weeks
    The Supreme Court on Monday refused to grant an immediate stay on the implementation of the electoral bonds (EB) scheme, 2018 ahead of assembly elections in Delhi. A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justice BR Gavai and Justice Surya Kant asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to file a response within two weeks.
     
    Association for Democratic Reforms and CPI(M) had sought stay on the EB scheme, especially during the ongoing Delhi assembly polls. Appearing for the petitioners, counsel Prashant Bhushan contented that "Initially the scheme was meant only for Lok Sabha elections. But now, every time there is an election, they open it and ruling party gets 1000s of crores."
     
    In 2017, ADR had filed a writ petition challenging provisions of Finance Act, 2017 and Finance Act, 2016, both passed as money bills. It says, "(passing of the Acts as money bill have) opened doors to unlimited political donations, even from foreign companies and thereby legitimising electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in
    political funding."  
     
    On 2 January 2018, the ministry of finance had notified the EB scheme. As per the scheme, an electoral bond is a bond issued in the nature of promissory note, it may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India or entities incorporated or established in India. The bonds are issued in multiples of Rs1,000, Rs10,000, Rs1 lakh, Rs10 lakh and Rs1 crore. These are available at specified branches of SBI and any account holder compliant with know-your-customer (KYC) norms can buy these bonds. Donors can donate the bonds to their party of choice, which can then be encashed by the party's verified account within 15 days. The bond does not carry the name of the buyer or the payee. The political party does not have to disclose who it has received the bond from in its account. Neither does the donor entity have to state to which party it has donated. Also, as per the scheme only eligible political parties with 1% vote share are eligible to buy electoral bonds. 
     
    The plea filed by ADR also stated that the RBI had given repeated warning to the government against electoral bond scheme stating that it has the potential to increase black money circulation, money laundering, cross-border counterfeiting and forgery. This has been revealed in replies received under right to information (RTI) act by transparency activists Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd) and Anjali Bhardwaj. 
     
    However, concerns raised by the RBI were dismissed by the ministry of finance in a note dated 30 January 2017, which is signed by the revenue secretary and carries signature of Arun Jaitley, the then finance minister. The note procured under RTI states: "It appears to me that the RBI has not understood the proposed mechanism of having pre-paid instruments for the purpose of keeping the identity of the donor secret, while ensuring that donation is made only out of fully tax paid money of a person. Since there will be a time limit for redeeming the pre-paid instruments and since there will be a limitation of redeeming such bonds only in the designated accounts of registered political parties, the fear of such bearer instrument being used as currency is totally unfounded. Also this advice has come quite late at a time when the Finance Bill is already printed. We may, therefore, go ahead with our proposal.”
     
    "Not only were the objections raised by the RBI disregarded, but even the suggestions made to make the scheme less vulnerable to fraud were ignored. The only suggestion which was accepted was regarding restricting the validity of these electoral bearer bonds to 15 days. The documents obtained through the RTI Act show that the central bank never actually gave the government its explicit consent to go ahead with the electoral bond scheme as envisaged. Instead, the government had to resort to using the RBI’s 'indirect approval' as recorded in a hand written noting by secretary (EA) dated 21 November 2017 and also carrying signature of the finance minister," the petition filed by ADR says. 
     
    According to ADR, so far, electoral bonds worth more than Rs6,000 crore have been sold in 12 cycles. Quoting a report from Factly.in, the petition says, so far, a total of Rs3,355.93 crore worth of electoral bonds were sold in the current financial year of 2019-20. This is higher than the whole of the previous financial year which was Rs2,550.78 crore. 
     
    "About 99.7% of the bonds purchased by value are of Rs1 crore and Rs10 lakh denomination as of October 2019. Electoral Bonds with the highest denomination of ?1 Crores form 45.68% of the total number of electoral bonds, their value makes up for 91.76% of the total worth. This is exceedingly high compared to the value of other denominations with the value of Rs10 lakh denominations amounting to 7.95% and Rs1 lakh denominations being only 0.27%. The share of the lower denominations in the total value is negligible," the plea says.
     
    Until the latest window period till October 2019, a total of 12,313 electoral bonds of various denominations were purchased. A major portion of them is the highest value denomination of Rs1 crore (5,624 bonds) followed by the next highest denomination of Rs10 lakh (4,877 bonds). A total of 1,695 bonds of Rs1 lakh denomination were sold in these 12 cycles. Meanwhile, the purchases made for the lower denominations of Rs1,000 and Rs10,000 are only 47 and 70 electoral bonds, respectively. 
     
    The report from Factly.in shows that while Mumbai and Kolkata are the cities where the highest amount of electoral bonds were purchased, it is New Delhi where the largest share of the purchased bonds were redeemed. The total value of electoral bonds redeemed in New Delhi is Rs4,917.51 crore, which make up to nearly 80.5% of the total amount, the report says.
     
    ADR, in its petition submitted that total income through electoral bonds as declared by the political parties who have submitted their audit reports for 2018-19 amounts to just Rs599.07 crore or 23.5% of the total electoral bonds purchased in 2018-19. In other words, it says, "The two national parties together could have cornered more than 70% worth of the bonds in 2018-19. As of November 2019, nearly 76.5% of the electoral bonds purchased during 2018-19, cannot be traced to any specific political party. The delay and noncompliance by political parties defeats the purpose of any such reporting."
     
    Earlier this month, the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) has asked four public authorities – the Reserve Bank of India (RBI); State Bank of India (SBI); the ECI and the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) to provide names of individuals and entities that wanted to hide their identities in the electoral bond scheme. 
     
    The commission, which is the apex body under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, issued a show cause notice to all four asking as to why penalty should not be imposed on their central public information officers (CIPOs) for not providing information that falls in the ambit of their organisation.
     
    The order is part of a two-year battle fought by well-known RTI activists Venkatesh Nayak, who is a research scholar at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Cmde Batra. 
     
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    COMMENTS

    nadeem

    4 weeks ago

    Strange.. because granting a stay wouldn't have caused any great harm. Electoral Bonds seem to be nothing short of corporatized corruption. Donors and recipients should be known to all.

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