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November 2016

Demonetization: Queues Getting Shorter

Farmers allowed to buy seeds in old currency notes

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*Devsagar Singh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bold move to demonetize high value currency notes to curb black money and corruption signals his resolve to take on high and mighty ignoring political minefield. When the Prime Minister suddenly announced demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes on the evening of November 8 leaving people stunned, including his staunch supporters, there were much fears and misgivings. Almost two weeks since, there is slow but steady realization among people, especially the poor and the middle class, that the move is for cleaning the mess of black money and corruption which seriously affected the nation.

Queues outside banks and money dispensing ATM machines are getting shorter and frenzied reactions of people are giving way to reasoned conversations about the long term benefits of the measure. It is not to say that the Government has been able to sort out all issues concerning demonetization and that everything is falling into place. Although there are still some grievances of the common man, yet the government continues to address all the issues one by one to mitigate their difficulties. For instance, at the time of writing this article the government has announced another relief measure for the farmers who were finding it difficult to buy seeds for the current Rabi season. Now the government has announced that farmers can now purchase the seeds in old currency notes of 500 rupees for the current Rabi crop from the Seeds centers belonging to State or Centre’s PSUs.

As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said, the initial difficulty was only to be expected because advance arrangements could not have been made on account of the highest level of secrecy involved in the move. Immediately after the announcement, however, the Government got engaged in providing necessary infrastructure like moving new bank notes to remotest places as also recalibrating the ATM machines across the country. Banks immediately got down to a massive operation of exchanging old notes and dispensing with new ones with all resources at their command.

True, the exercise is gigantic in proportion to the problems that the measure is seeking to address. According to all official estimates and studies by the academic and professional bodies, there has been a parallel economy of black money in the country for a long time now. The Government loses revenue on account of this parallel economy and ordinary law abiding citizens bear the brunt in term of increased taxes and intermittent inflationary pressures. Yet another serious malaise afflicting the country was that of counterfeit currency. It aided and abetted the terror financing from across the border.

Ironically, there has been a lot of talk about the malaise of black money in the country and the resultant corruption. However, it is only now that someone has dared to take any serious action in this regard. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, therefore, needs to be complimented for daring to take the bull by the horns. He promised to take action against black money and corruption during his election campaign. Even after taking over as Prime Minister, he reiterated his resolve and finally did it.

There has been all-round support for the Prime Minister for taking this bold step. However, in this article we would like to mention what Shri Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, has said about the move. Welcoming the demonetization move, Shri Yadav termed it as a revolutionary step by the Prime Minister.  Expressing his gratitude on behalf of the poor, the farmers, the labourers, the backwards and Dalits, Shri Yadav, a former union minister and five-time member of Parliament said that the measure would strengthen the country’s economy by better financial discipline and generate employment for the needy and the dispossessed. He said it would “create the India which Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia and Deendayal Upadhyaya had dreamt of.”

There may be several pros and cons of the measure and several experts may have different views about the measure but in the ultimate analysis, all seem to agree that the step in the right earnest with good intent.

 The enormity of the task can be gauged from the fact that the total demonetized banknote numbered 2300 crore pieces. According to estimates, the printing itself could take at least three months. Add to this the job of transporting them to all corners of the country.

By all accounts, it is more than the proverbial Herculean task. The Prime Minister has sought just 50 days to bring the situation to normal. In the interest of the nation of 123 crore people and its economy, the second largest in Asia, it is time for every patriotic person to give a helping hand. This is an unprecedented situation and cannot be compared to the demonetization exercise undertaken by the Government in 1978 because of the sheer size of the economy.

Parliament is in session seized of the matter. Political sagacity and maturity political parties have never been in doubt when it comes to tackling issues of national interest.

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*Author is a senior journalist and regularly writes in major dailies on economic issues.

The views expressed in the Article are author’s own.

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HUNAR HAAT : Show Casing India’s Rich Heritage, Empowering Minorities

i2016111902.jpgAuthor: Sarira Brara

Naseem Bano was an amateur and a beginner when she had come to the trade fair in Delhi to display her craftsmanship in 1995. This time with over two decades of experience and a national award in her kitty, NaseemBano has a wide variety of chiken work to show case at the Hunar Haat organised for the first time, at the International Trade Fair in Delhi to encourage the artisans from minority communities from across the country. She has brought kurtas and other apparels done in excellent chicken work with innovative designs and colour combinations.

“I have put all my savings into it and hopefully, I will be able to earn a decent amount of money on my investment,” says optimistic Naseem Bano who has also been teaching this art to poor girls and women in a locality near Lucknow where she lives. She wants them to learn this art when they are young, so that they too are able to employ themselves gainfully. Naseem feels that despite having won a National Award for her skills in this craft, and having had sufficient exposure at various levels, her earnings do not match the talent, hard work and toil that goes into creating high standard chiken work. She says that though her young son has a lot of interest in this art and also has a flare for creative designs, he did not opt for it and chose to study biotechnology instead of expanding this family business. Naseem says that weavers artisans ad craftsman and woman like her need all the help, encouragement and incentives from the government and the civil society to display and market their creative traditional wares at all possible platforms which may help them improve their sale. “Otherwise, how do you expect us to compete with large business houses who aggressively sell their products in big malls and even online”, she asks.

Platforms like Hunar Haat and other incentives are needed for craftsmen and women to give a boost to their earnings but also to keep traditional arts alive, says Islam Ahmed who makes exquisite lac bangles and other jewellery. Adept at making lac bangles in a matter of minutes, Islam Ahmed displays his talent and creates lacbangles in the colour chosen by his customers right in front of their eyes. He however, laments that it is becoming difficult to keep such arts alive because it is getting very difficult to earn enough to match today’s life styles. It is for this reason that both his sons, he says, refused to carry on their art work that has been going on for generations.

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These two master craftsmen came across this author at the Hunar Haat which is currently going on at PragatiMaidan in New Delhi and has been organized under the USTTAD scheme (Upgrading the Skills & Training in Traditional Arts&Crafts for Development) of Ministry of Minority Affairs. About a hundred stalls have been set up at this Haat which will be on till 27th November. Several State and National Awardees representing as many as 26 states and Union Territories have come from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Bihar, North Eastern states and even Kerala are displaying their and craft work at the Hunar Haat pavilion.

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Echoing the sentiments of most of the artisans at the Hunar Haat, Naseem Bano says that the arrangement arereally good this time. They have got free stalls, daily allowance to meet their expenses and their travel to and fro Delhi too has been borne by the government.

Usttad: Promoting Tradional Arts And Craft

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USTTAD-Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts Crafts for Development

Although minority communities are known to hold a rich heritage of traditional skills, arts and craftsmanship, in today’s world of competitive market, globalization, and the deteriorating socio economic condition of master craftsmen and artisan , as many of the craftsmen pointed out, young generation is not keen to pursue the traditional arts . It was in this backdrop that the USTTAD scheme was worked out.

This initiative is one of the many steps taken by the government to improve the lot of the minority communities in India. It is not limited to giving incentives to traditional artisans and craftsmen but also building their capacities in every which way to withstand the competition and preserve and promote their art. USTTAD was launched last year in May in Varanasi with a multi-pronged objectives. This includes building capacity of master craftsmen and artisans and training the young generation ,standardising of identified arts and crafts and their documentation.

For facilitating and promoting marketing of the traditional art and craft products, USTTAD also helps establish linkages of traditional skills with the global market. The scheme also provides for institutional support for up-gradation of Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts. USTTAD Fellowship for Research and Development is another step towards promoting the Hunar of our traditional craftsmen.

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Documentation and marketing

The scheme also envisages setting up of Craft Museums for curating traditional arts and crafts. In order to support to minority craftsmen and artisans for marketing their products. the Ministry of Minority Affairs seeks the help of national level prestigious institutes like NIFT ( National Institute of Fashion Technology), NID (National Design Institute and IIP (Indian Institute of Packaging) for helping in designing, developing the range of products, packaging and organising exhibitions, tying up with e-commerce portals to increase the sale, building brands and working in are and craft clusters.

USTTAD scheme is expected to help not only in preserving and promoting our traditional art and craft but also give a dignified life style and higher standard of living to our crafts men and women endowed with unmatched talent, expertise and passion to take forward India’s rich heritage.

*Author is a New Delhi based independent Journalist and writes regularly in Newspapers on social sector issues.

Demonetization – Modi’s Proud Socialist Moment

Move to correct unacceptable level of inequality between rich and poor

Role of big money and black money in politics will come down

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*Dr R. Balashankar

November 8, 2016 will perhaps go down in history as the day India ushered in the most comprehensive finance sector reform that transformed the country as never before. Now, ten days later, it can be said, that it has almost been pulled off with aplomb with the least possible hardship to people.  There is no doubt that there are queues in front of the banks, the rural economy has to get used to the fast changing monetary reform and that there is going to be a temporary fall in the demand in the retail sector.

Making 86 per cent of the currency in circulation illegal in one stroke, the secrecy and shock in a country where still half of the population is outside the banking system and habitually hoard hard earned income and loathe the idea of going to the bank, is itself revolutionary. And of the 14.90 lakh crore high denomination notes almost 70 percent was kept as black money, hidden away from the banking system by those who have stashed away the national wealth.

Those opposing the demonetization in the name of the suffering of the poor have not produced a single coherent argument to support their dissent. All agree that corruption has to be fought. They also agree that black money is the biggest source of corruption. It leads to inequality and price rise and devaluing the currency.  Equally worrying is the presence of huge chunks of counterfeit currency funding terror, crime and subversion in the country. All agree that the share of counterfeit money in circulation is almost equal to the black money in circulation. The fact that Kashmir has been peaceful for over ten days with 100 per cent attendance in schools for exams and the stealth wealth of Maoists has been reduced to mere paper bolster the purpose of the surgical strike.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clean-up operation has been hailed as a bold and long overdue step by most well meaning economists including former RBI governors K. Subba Rao, Rangarajan, Dr Meghnad Desai and Dr Surjit Bhalla. The opposition says that people in remote areas who have no access to the banking system are the worst sufferers. Here it is worth mentioning the unique manner in which Assam government tackled the problem of over a million tea garden workers in the remotest area.

The tea garden employees have traditionally been averse to become account holders. In the area spread over thousands of miles some four million people working in sprawling tea gardens have been getting weekly wages in cash for centuries. When Modiji announced demonetization and restrictions on cash transaction, the biggest concern for the state government was the tea garden employees, said Mr V K Pipersenia, Chief Secretary of Assam. With the help of the centre, he said, the state government got special permission to withdraw sufficient money to pay for the tea garden workers in cooperation with the private tea companies. The companies were asked to deposit their cheque in the state government account and equal amount was withdrawn by the state government and facilitated the uninterrupted disbursal of wages to the workers. In fact, within a couple of days things became normal in the entire Assam on the currency front. This unique example is a lesson for other States also. Pipersenia says soon all these people will become bank account holders taking a big leap towards financial inclusion. Over a thousand outlets of banks in various forms will come alive in the area. In fact, under Jan Dhan Yojana more number of bank accounts were opened in the last two years than the number of accounts since independence.

If the concern is the welfare of the people, demonetization is the most people friendly step ever taken by any government ever in history. In a society where 59 per cent of the national wealth is in the hands of just one per cent rich people and the poorest 10 per cent of the population’s share in the national wealth is only 0.2 per cent and the gap between the rich and the poor rose from 1480 times to 2450 times between 2004 and 2014, according to a recent study, Narendra Modi acted as a great leveler. The gap, the unacceptable level of inequality in the society has to be corrected, and this is a solid step in that direction.

With this, the Prime Minister has proclaimed his commitment to what Dr. B R Ambedkar called “social and economic equality” along with political equality enshrined in the constitution. With this, the role of big money and black money in politics will come down. It will become a level playing field for all political aspirants – attracting better talent in politics.

This will bring prices and lending rates down. This is bound to encourage investment. This will stop the use of black and fake money in crime and terror activities and make life safer for the common man. The drive on black money will bring more revenue to the government’s kitty making it possible to spend more on infrastructure, welfare schemes, health and education. The days of capitation fees are over. Education will no more be business as usual. Modi’s dream of house for all and 50 million free gas connections to BPL families would not have been possible with the existing levels of inflated realty prices. Modi has positioned as the messiah of the poor.

The road map the government has aims at creation of an egalitarian social structure, eliminating power brokers, black money and corruption with a focus on equitable distribution of wealth. Demonetization marks the beginning of transparency in public spending and end to splurge and vulgar extravaganza of a few at the cost of the rest.

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*The author is a senior Editor, and regularly writes on economic issues. He can be reached at Balashankar12@gmail.com, and on Twitter @drbalashankar 

The views expressed are those of the author.

Currency Demonetisation: Boon for the Real Estate and Housing

Demonetisation move to bring correction in property prices

This will help realize the dream of ‘Housing for All’

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The Modi government’s surgical strike against black money by way of demonetisation of high value currency notes, is set to shake up the real estate sector, marked by transactions involving unaccounted money. The landmark move, may initially hit the sentiment of the sector facing slowdown, but in the medium to long term, the trailblazing initiative to stamp out black money and bring in transparency, will prove to be a boon for real estate.

*Vinod Behl

Real estate is an asset class which has been significantly absorbing black money. Because of the big gap between the official rate and the market rate, there is a substantial cash component in the property transactions. Though the cash dealings in primary market, especially residential sector are far and few, due to home financing through banks, the secondary market has a significant cash component of 30 percent or more. The cash transactions are also there in high value luxury homes deals. In land, the cash component can be as high as 40-60 percent. The real estate developers encourage cash pay-out by offering discount on property price. Investors with hordes of black money, have been resorting to speculative buying, which in turn, has been leading to artificial price hike and profit booking. Over the years, this practice, had made homes unaffordable and out of the reach of masses.

However, the government’s onslaught against black money through demonetization, will push speculators with unaccounted money out of the system that will in turn result in correction in property prices. As a precursor to this, there is a big drop in property transactions. Over the last two years, the government has been undertaking a series of reforms in the real estate and housing sector, with a view to make this sector more credible, transparent and investor- friendly on one hand and on the other hand to make housing affordable for the masses. It is keeping in view this broad objective that the government launched its flagship programme, ‘Housing for All by 2022″ Under this programme, the government has an ambitious target to build 6 crore homes. And in order to achieve its objective, the government is promoting affordable and low-cost housing, as maximum shortage is in this segment. The government made a budgetary allocation of Rs 4000 crore to National Housing Bank to promote affordable housing and brought housing for economically weaker sections and slum redevelopment under CSR. The exemption for built up area and capitalisation requirements was made for better access to FDI. For low cost homes up to 10 lakh, a subsidised interest rate of 6 percent was introduced.

Lack of easy and cheap funding has been the bane of real estate sector. In order to boost funding to the sector, the government took to FDI easing, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and other initiatives like allowing foreign investments in Alternate Investment Funds (AIF) and doing away with distinction between various kinds of funding. Besides these reforms, the government ushered in the landmark, ‘Real Estate Regulation Act’ (RERA) which has been stalled for long time. This is a historic legislation to make property transactions more transparent and secure, in order to safeguard the interests of property buyers, especially home buyers who were getting short-changed at the hands of unscrupulous developers. RERA, will put an end to malpractices, bringing sanity in real estate, much to the benefit of end- consumers. Further the historic GST Bill, making tax system more transparent and predictable, together with the proposed single window clearance system, will promote ease of doing business.

The government’s demonetisation move, together with  Benami Property Act, has to be seen in this backdrop, as government’s multi- pronged policy to create institutional and regulatory architecture for speedy growth of economy .All this will improve investor confidence and sentiment and make real estate as an attractive asset class for investment by foreign investors. The impact is already visible with global pension funds committing billions of dollars in real estate and infrastructure.

Another visible impact of demonetisation, is further reduction in interest rates which have already seen a cut of 150 bps in the last about 18 months. The demonetisation has boosted the liquidity in banking system and with lowering inflation, bankers and financial analysts, are expecting 25- 50 bps cut in repo rate by RBI in December policy review, bringing the effective interest rates below 9 percent.

In the New Year, we may well be heading towards Vajpayee government era, when interest rates were in the range of 7-8 percent. This dual impact of demonetisation,  bringing down property prices and lowering interest rates , will  make homes affordable, realizing the dream of  ‘Housing for All’.. And once the initial instability owing to demonetisation gets over, the real estate sector will emerge much stronger, with greater stability and affordability towards sustainable growth.

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*Delhi based senior journalist. Regularly writes for major dailies on real estate and infrastructural issues.

Views expressed in the article are author’s own.

 

Philosophy in Public Life

India’s struggle for freedom was animated by humanistic philosophy, Gandhi invested the political struggle with quintessentially Indian ethosi2016111501.jpg

Author : Priyadarshi Dutta

The UNESCO instituted the World Philosophy Day in 2005 to be observed on the third Thursday of November. This year the day falls on November 17.

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What was the need for dedicating a day to a discipline believed to be divorced from reality?

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Irina Bokova

“Philosophical reflection is above all a call to humility, to take a step back and engage in a  reasoned dialogue, to build together the solutions to challenges that are beyond our control”, says Irina Bokova, the UNESCO’s Director General. She adds “The greater the difficulties encountered the greater the need for philosophy to make sense of questions of peace and sustainable development”.

Philosophy, the UNESCO maintains, belongs to everyone, everywhere, who cares for it. Therefore the international body leads the World Philosophy Day but does not own it.

Philosophy might be viewed in two different ways. At one plane, it is speculative rather than empirical. It believes in discovering the intangible order of things. It peaks into spirituality. It is for individual edification, satisfaction and understanding of things. But at another plane it is about engagement with human civilization. It is about moulding the future of civilization by discovery of some sublime principles.

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“My purpose is to exhibit philosophy as an integral part of social and political life: not as the isolated speculations of remarkable individuals”, says Bertrand Russell in his classic A History of Western Philosophy.

This year is the 140th year of American Declaration of Independence (1776). The Declaration disavowed the divine right of kings, which George III, the then monarch of Britain clung to. It brought common people into the foreground of history. It is an argument in favour of democracy and equal rights for all citizens. Bereft of this uplifting philosophy, America’s war of independence might have reduced itself to crude military campaign against the British.

The document, drafted by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), abounds in original politicalOfficial_Presidential_portrait_of_Thomas_Jefferson_(by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800).jpg philosophy. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”.

Our own struggle for freedom was animated by humanistic philosophy. “This was no crude demand for the ending of foreign rule and the elevation of self chosen leaders absolute authority, such as we have seen in other emergent countries. This was a genuine dialectic argument about the nature of freedom, the character of nationhood, the obligations of individuals to society”, observed the late Oxford historian Hugh Tinker.

The intellectual discourse that marked freedom movement guided India’s course to become an inclusive democracy. India was the first nation to implement universal adult franchise in 1951-52. Some were even skeptical of its wisdom, in a nation with literacy rate of meager 16 percent. But it could not have been any other system, given our freedom movement was fought in the name of everyone, high and low, rich and poor, men and women. The universal adult franchise, like democracy itself, was thus the outcome of the philosophy of freedom struggle.

It is a pity that India’s ingenious schools of philosophy got caught in time warp. The Sankhya, Yoga, Nyay-Vaisesika, Purva Mimansa, Uttar Mimansa and Vedanta are considered six orthodox systems that upheld the Vedas. Buddhism and Jainism were considered heterodox systems. Though all of them were rich in content, they did not inspire any political evolution unlike what we see in the West. Therefore we see no political evolution in medieval India, which might have modernized India without British intervention. But in the 19th century, in colonial India, Vedanta and Buddhism emanated as gospels humanity and universalism. Swami Vivekananda spoke of the glories of Vedanta and Buddhism in the West. They were projected as remedial answers to needs of the epoch.

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Yoga, originally a school of philosophy, is now fascinating the world. Instituting the ‘International Day of Yoga’ (June 21) in 2015 should reinforce our attention to Indian holistic philosophy.

Gandhi changed the rules of the game in politics. When he arrived on the scene a century ago, the national leaders were actually following western assumption of state, nationhood and political destiny. The more enthusiastic nationalists wanted to establish that Indians had a history of military and political superiority like the Europeans. Those who gave an alternative perspective based on Indian ideas like Rabindranath Tagore and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy were not men of masses. It was Gandhi who with his ideas of Satyagraha, Ashram, Charkha, Khadi, Daridra-Narayan Seva, Swachhata (Cleanliness), Ram Rajya, Hartal, Sarvodaya, Prarthana (Daily Prayer), Go-Raksha (Cow Protection) invested the political struggle with quintessentially Indian ethos. He created a different political idiom. While one might disagree with his policies, one could not deny the uniqueness of his approach.

The debate whether philosophy is for self-elevation or service of mankind might remain. It could actually be both. It is only when we elevate ourselves can we create a better socio-political discourse. Philosophy can build a public discourse based on reason and empathy rather than force and strength.

*The writer is an independent researcher and columnist based in New Delhi. The views expressed are his personal.

Preventing and management is the key to tackle Diabetes

i2016111201.jpgWorld Diabetes Day November 14

Author : Pandurang Hegde

Since 2006 the World Health Organisation and United Nations together worked to pass a resolution to celebrate World Diabetes Day.

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The main objective is to create awareness on diabetes and to take action to tackle this global health issue. India being home to 60 million diabetic patients, the largest country to have highest number of patients has launched many programmes to address this non-communicable disease.

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes), or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces (type 2 diabetes). This leads to raised blood glucose (sugar) level and over time, serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels. In India, the type 2 diabetes is on the increase among the younger age group due to intake of high calorie diet and sedentary lifestyle.

In our country, diabetes is not restricted to affluent class of people. Even the lower middle class and poor sections of the society are also victims of this disease in large number.

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Diabetes becomes more complicated as the health care systems are unable to diagnose the presence of the disease at early stage. Almost fifty per cent of the people suffering from diabetes are unaware of the presence of disease. Early identification of the person suffering from this disease is the key to effective management of the disease.

Recognising this fact, the union health and family welfare minister Shri J.P. Nadda has called for implementing the programme to screen the mass population to identify the onset of disease.

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He has also recently launched the M-Diabetes initiative, which aims at harnessing the mobile network to tackle the disease. With a missed call to 011-22901701 the caller can get basic information about the disease and how to manage it.

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Why there is such large number of people suffering from diabetes in our country? In addition to life style causes, Indians have high genetic susceptibility towards this disease. It is estimated that between 12 to 18 per cent of adult population living in urban areas are suffering from diabetes. More young people will be joining the ranks in the coming years with high levels of obesity being reported among the children.

Diabetes also leads to complications leading to kidney failure, requiring huge dialysis costs. It also causes retinopathy leading to vision loss in adult working population. It may also increase the chances of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

According to World Economic Forum, the economic burden of the diabetes alone will bephoto.jpg USD 0.15 trillion per year. As the average health costs of diabetes patient is three times higher than a normal person, with an estimated cost of Rs 10000 per annum required for treatment.  As poorer patients cannot afford the high costs, non compliance leads to severe complications, adversely affecting the working life of those suffering from diabetes.

NHMlogo.pngThe National Health Missions launched by Government of India has established special cells at state and district levels to tackle the disease. Early detection using inexpensive technologies and through affordable medications the government is trying to implement programme to prevent and manage the disease.

Adopting a healthy diet comprising of balanced portion of carbohydrates, protein and fats is essential to prevent the onset of the disease. Physical activity, body weight exercise and a regular practice of yoga regime has to become part of everyday life so that the disease is kept away. This will help to keep the blood sugar under control and a diabetic can lead a normal healthy life. There is possibility of reducing 80 percent of type 2 diabetes through preventive measures.

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Keeping in view the enormity of situation, Government of India has adopted multi-pronged strategy to combat the menace of diabetes. While celebrating National Ayurveda Day on October 28, 2016 the theme was ‘prevention and control of diabetes through ayurveda’.  Shri Shripad Naik, Minister of state for AYUSH said “Ayureveda touches the entire way of life and therefore, we should look towards it not only for the treatment but also for the promotion of healthy life”.

nrdc.pngThe National Research Development Corporation, a wing of Ministry of Science and Technology is propagating commercialisation of Ayush -82, an ayurvedic formulation for prevention and management of diabetes at affordable price. They are popularising this medicine through giving advisements in national newspapers to reach maximum number of people.

Thus the Government of India has launched integrated approach to prevent and control the diabetes. However, in order to succeed there is need for many sectors in the society, employers, civil society and private sector to play active role towards achieving this objective.

*Author is an independent journalist and columnist based in Karnataka. Regularly writes on environmental issues.

It is time to drought-proof rainfed agriculture

Schemes like PMKSY will pave way for increasing contribution of agriculture to GDP55.jpg

Agriculture now needs to shift to less water-intensive crops especially pulses and oilseeds

Author : Sudhirendar Sharma

Six decades of investment in the irrigation sector notwithstanding, 45 per cent of the 142 million hectares of agricultural land has only been covered under assured irrigation. With cost-intensive dam-based large projects unlikely to expand irrigation any further, the shift in focus for ‘har khet ko pani’ (water for every field) through in situ water conservation under the recently launched Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) is a step in the right direction.

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As India plans to spend Rs 50,000 crore to fund irrigation schemes over next five years, drought-proofing the country has moved centre-stage in the implementation process. In last two years, 10 states have been severely hit by drought causing distress in agriculture and crash in commodity prices. An allocation of Rs 5,300 crore has been made in the first year of the scheme to bring additional 6 lakh hectares of rainfed agricultural land will be brought under irrigation.

By merging the existing three ongoing schemes viz., Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, Integrated Watershed Management Programme, and On Farm Water Management, PMKSY not only intends to extend irrigation coverage but promote water-use efficiency at the farm level as well. It is in this context that the scheme will promote drip irrigation in some 5 lakh hectares of land.

To be able to achieve its targets of irrigating additional area, existing water bodies and carrying capacity of traditional water sources will be strengthened. Securing additional resources from private agencies, groundwater and command area development to meet the growing water needs has also been envisaged. The crucial challenge, however, is to ensure that no additional groundwater sources, beyond the existing 30 million wells and tube wells, are exploited.

It is in this regard that water conservation and cutting down on wastage holds the key to bringing irrigation facilities to every farm in the country. This makes introduction of sustainable water preservation practices and optimization of water resources just as important as introduction of new irrigation facilities. A number of methods to treat and re-use municipal water have also been planned to augment irrigation water supply.

For a country that has historical tryst with droughts, such initiatives alone pave way for increasing contribution of agriculture to GDP.  Between 1801 and 2012, the country had experienced 45 severe droughts.  The recent weak monsoons have affected agriculture, registering low growth for the second year in a row. This has caused serious setback to economy, lending credence to the argument that only drought-proofing can cut down the impact of agriculture on the economy.

The Economic Survey 2015-16 has rightly called for a paradigm shift in agriculture, proposing efficient water use via micro-irrigation alongside more investment in research on hybrid and high-yielding seeds, technology, and mechanization. What has not been emphasized is the need to invest in researching climate-smart agriculture technologies for raising productivity and ensuring food security as the specter of climate change looms large.

Being water-stressed, Indian agriculture has long remained a ‘high investment, high risk’ proposition. The water-intensive cereal-centric nature of agriculture has further increased vulnerability to climatic exigencies. Unless it shifts to less water-intensive crops especially pulses and oilseeds, supported by a favorable minimum support price regime, productivity from nearly 98 million hectares of rain-dependent farmlands may not contribute to growth in agriculture

It is here that ‘decentralized State-level planning and execution’ under the PMKSY has to rise up to, drawing comprehensive District Irrigation Plans (DIP) from holistic developmental perspective outlining medium to long term water needs. The task is to not only conserve and secure local water sources but make distribution network efficient such that water-use at the field-level sustains crop productivity even during difficult times.

Having committed to reducing carbon emissions by 30-35 per cent of its GDP by 2030, India is obliged to reduce irrigation carbon-footprints of large-irrigation projects by switching to decentralised water management as outlined in PMKSY. However, the scheme will yield additional gains if increasing soil organic carbon through precision farming is made its integral part, carbon stocks retain soil moisture and reduce climate-induced crop vulnerability.

It is in this context that ‘captive water availability’ through community-managed traditional tank systems, and improving ‘soil moisture regime’ through decentralized watershed development assumes significance. Both are critical inputs for drought-proofing the countryside, as in situ surface water storage converts soil profile into a veritable water reservoir that acts as a cushion against climate aberrations.

An Inter-Ministerial National Steering Committee within NITI Aayog has been established, however, it remains to be seen how various departments at the State-level cooperate in delivering ambitious results of PMKSY on the ground.

*Dr Sudhirendar Sharma researches and writes on development issues.

GOA IS ALL SET TO HOST THE 47th INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF INDIA

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Author: Syed Mahmoud Nawaz

 

The 47th Edition of the Prestigious International Film Festival of India is all set to be held in Goa from the 20th November to 28th November 2016. The picturesque State of Goa has been hosting IFFI every year since 2004. The Directorate of Film Festivals of the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting organizes the festival in collaboration with the Entertainment Society of Goa which has been established by the state government as the nodal agency for organizing IFFI.

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The first IFFI was organized in 1952 and the festival has come a long way in becoming one of the most reputed film festivals over the decades. More than one thousand film entries have been received from over 100 countries for the 47th IFFI. Around 200 films representing 88 countries have been selected for this year’s festival.

IFFI derives its theme from the phrase ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – The Whole World is One Family’. And the phrase very well exemplifies the Indian notion of non-violence and peaceful coexistence. The Indian Panorama section of IFFI 2016 will showcase 22 films.

Fifteen films from across the world, including two Indian Films namely ‘Ishti’ and ‘Sahaj Paather Gappo’, will compete in the International Competition section.

12 films which have won awards at the Cannes Film Festival 2016 will also be screened at IFFI this year. The list includes, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, the winner this year of Cannes Festival’s highest honour, the prestigious Palme d’Or. The world of cinema lost two giants this year – Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda and Iranian film maker Abbas Kiarostami. A special tribute section in the memory of the two masters would also be organised.

To enhance cultural dialogue and partnership and to promote friendly relations with other nations, it has been a tradition for many years now that the International Festival of India features a ‘Country of Focus’ every year. In this category, prominent films made by the Country of Focus are screened delegations from the country of focus visit IFFI and there are intensive discussions and exchange of ideas. We have had Spain at IFFI 2015, China at IFFI 2014, Japan at IFFI 2013, Turkey at IFFI 2012, and USA at IFFI 2011 – as our focus countries. The Country of Focus at the 47th IFFI in Goa will be the Republic of Korea.

Korean Writer and Director Kwon Taek Im, who is better known as the father of New Korean Cinema and who has strongly made his presence felt at the world stage , will be honored with the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ this year. Kwon Taek Im has directed more than a 100 films in the last about 5 decades and has been honored with a number of awards, including Best Director Award at Cannes Film Festival, 2002 for his movie Chi-hwa-seon (Strokes of Fire) which was about a 19th Century Korean painter who changed the direction of Korean art.

Acclaimed singer, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam would be honored with the Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year 2016, for his contribution to Indian Cinema. He holds the record in the Guinness Book for singing and recording more than 40,000 songs and has won the National Award six times.

A new initiative, Centenary Award for Best Debut Feature of a Director, would recognize young talent under this new competition section. This section would showcase some of the outstanding directorial debuts of 2016 from across the world of cinema.

IFFI 2016 in collaboration with the International Council for Film, Television and Audiovisual Communication (ICFT), Paris and UNESCO would also present the “ICFT- UNESCO Gandhi Medal” to a film, which reflects the ideals of peace, tolerance and non-violence.

The opening film of the festival would be the grand masterpiece, ‘After-Image’, a creation of veteran writer and director, late. Andrzej Wajda. This movie is a passionate biopic about avant-garde painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski. The closing film of 47th IFFI would be the South Korean official entry for the Academy Awards, The Age of Shadows, an action thriller directed by Kim Jee-woon.

47th IFFI also has in store, a number of Master classes and workshops to be conducted by internationally acclaimed personalities. Peter Hain will conduct a master class in ‘Action Direction’, Rajko Grlić in ‘Screenplay Writing’, Alan Heim in ‘Editing’, Richie Mehta on ‘Documentary Film Making’, Robert Yeoman in ‘Cinematography’, Rosalie Varda in ‘Costume Designing and Theresa Ellis Rygiel in ‘Visual Effects’.

Special workshops will be conducted by, Namit Malhotra on ‘Digital Transformation-Future of Film Making’, Sean Feeney on ‘Current Overview of Animation Industry in India’, Sid Ganis on ‘Foreign Language Film Selection for Oscar Awards by AMPAS’ and Sue Kuruvilla on ‘Film PR & Publicity’.

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Talking to the media recently during the curtain raiser press conference of the 47th IFFI, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, the  Minister of Information & Broadcasting shed light on the Government’s efforts to project India as a soft power and Filming Destination. He said, “It has been a win-win situation so far, in terms of attracting global stakeholders from various quarters of film industry to India as well as Indian films, expertise and talent being accepted globally at international festivals. We have also outlined plans to set up a Film Promotion Fund, to provide financial assistance to Indian films which would be selected in any competition section of an International Film Festival, or being India’s official nomination to the Academy Awards under Foreign Film Category, for promotional activities. This initiative would help independent filmmakers to promote their work across the globe”.

We should hope that IFFI as a platform would keep on providing encouragement to the film makers who contribute to the world of cinema through their creations.

*Author is a senior journalist and film-maker. He writes on a variety of subjects.

Master stroke on black money to make India Swachch Bharat

Prime Minister’s sweep shot on corruption is the biggest ever exercise launched anywhere in the world to broom and clean up the economyi201611902

 Crack down on black money would be a big deflationary move

Author : Prakash Chawla

The mid night scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes , as announced by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on November 8,  is being seen as a master stroke against black money and  corruption that has been eating into the Indian economy like a termite for several decades. The sudden announcement of a decision which may be well thought over several months with only a handful of the top  echelons in the government having a whiff of it, would cause some disruptions in the interim, but then as the Prime Minister called upon the people , it is the price each citizen is called upon to  pay for defeating the monster of corruption and black money which, combined with counterfeit currency and terror funding, can strike at the root of a nation.

“There comes a time in the history of a country’s development when a need is felt for a strong and decisive step,” Shri Modi said. But for the Donald Trump victory, India’s war on black money would have created instant ripples the world over. In any case, the ripples of the Modi move to hit at the hoarders of ill-gotten money where it would hurt them the most, would be felt for the Indian economy far too long.

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While Swachch Bharat is being implemented for cleaning up streets ,roads  and building toilets ,  PM’s  sweep  shot on corruption is the biggest ever exercise launched anywhere in the world to broom and clean up the economy which was growing at the fastest clip among the global peers , yet yielding low results for the common people.  Imagine the scale at which the brooming exercise can clean up the system. By some estimates as much as Rs 14 lakh crore currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination are in circulation and would be withdrawn by December 31, 2016 or at the most  March 31, 2017.

Some bankers feel that there could be as much as one-third of this amount which may not be deposited with the banks, since taking the ownership of the loads of money stashed in gunny bags may land some people in trouble. Now that would mean the country gets a windfall of Rs 4.33 lakh crore which would accrue to the nation in terms of reduced liability of the Reserve Bank of India which will replace the surrendered currency that much less.

Going forward, this huge cleaning up would lead to a much better fiscal position of the Central Government with several positives for the macro picture , the biggest being on the inflation front. As is common knowledge that inflation is fuelled by a large margins by the black money which finds its way into conspicuous spending on theme parties and building of assets like real estate.  In fact, the real estate market has been thriving only on the cash part of the deals which of course would stop, giving a jerk to the sector in the transit till it readjusts itself to the new reality. So, it is being rightly interpreted by the analysts that the crack down on black money would be a big deflationary move, ultimately helping the common people, who may have to go through some temporary pains .

Besides, the decision to scrap high value notes would drastically reduce premium on corruption in the public services since the risk –reward would be highly tilted towards the peril of being caught off-guard. As enumerated in the PM’s address to the nation, the NDA Government has taken several other measures to check the black money in the last two years. These include: a law for disclosure of foreign black money; agreements with many countries to add provisions for sharing banking information; strict law to curb benami transactions; and a  scheme for declaration of  black money after paying a stiff penalty.  As much as Rs 1.25 lakh crore has already been brought out through these efforts and if  we add another Rs 4.33 lakh crore which may not return to the banking system and become junk, over Rs 5.50 lakh crore , a humungous figure, would have been neutralized.  The benefits would certainly accrue in the medium to long term.

The only challenge for the government in the interim is to ensure that a minimum inconvenience  is caused to the common people and the banking system is geared up to instill a sense of confidence among the people that the common households’ money is very much safe.

“Honest citizens want this fight against corruption, black money, benami property, terrorism and counterfeiting to continue. Which honest citizen would not be pained by reports of crores worth of currency notes stashed under the beds of government officers? Or by reports of cash found in gunny bags? “, a decisive Prime Minister said.

He is so right when he says that in spite of  being ranked as the fastest growing economy in the world, India figures so high on the global corruption index. With so many steps having been already initiated, India still ranks 76 on this dubious distinction.

Even though initial reactions in the stock markets were adverse, as was expected, the sentiment was also related to the Trump victory which had spooked the global markets which would slowly digest the new global paradigm of challenging the status quo.

The Modi master stroke would take India several  leaps ahead as being real Swachch Bharat.

New Currency Notes of 500 and 1000 rupee.

*Prakash Chawla is a senior New Delhi-based journalist writing mostly on political-economic issues 

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