4 January

The Overseas Indians have come a long way



The 15th edition of PravasiBharatiya Divas convention will be heldin Bengaluru, Karnataka from January 7 to 9, 2017. The first annual convention was held between January 9 and 11, 2003. January 9 was adopted as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or Overseas Indian Day based on the recommendations of a High Level Committee constituted in August, 2000.

The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was keenly interested in the issue of overseas Indians. The oversubscription of the Resurgent India Bonds in 1998, when India was battling sanctions post-Pokhran II, showed their strong faith in an emerging India. In a post-Liberalization environment the Indian Diaspora was willing to engage back with their country of origin. India becoming an IT power hub, fast growing economy and atomic power gave the Diaspora much needed confidence. It was on display at various places – from sports field to trade conferences and international meets.

The concerns of the overseas Indians had been on the mind of the Indian leadership for long.The House of Commons in Britain was forced to investigate, as early as 1841, into the pitiable condition Indian indentured workers in Mauritius. This was within a few years of beginning of the indentured system following the abolition of slavery in British Empire (1833). Way back in 1894, the Madras session of Congress had adopted a resolution against disenfranchisement of the Indians in South African colonies. The Congress adopted similar resolutions at Poona (1895), Calcutta (1896), Madras (1898), Lahore (1900), Calcutta (1901) and Ahmedabad (1902) sessions. In those days the question of overseas Indians pertained mostly to Indians in South and Eastern Africa. It is they who had launched numerous struggles against encroachment on their rights by the local British government. The Gandhi-Smuts Agreement, 1914 signified a major victory for them.

But there were overseas Indians in South East Asia viz. Burma, Singapore, Malaya, Thailand etc. Many of them contributed towards India’s freedom movement in the 1940s by volunteering in or funding the Azad Hind Fauz of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Of particular interest could be the stories of those teenaged Tamil girls, born in rubber plantations of Malaya, who decided to shoulder guns for the independence of India, a country they had never actually seen.

The PravasiBharatiya Divas memorializes the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi to India on January 9, 1915. He had spent 21 years in South Africa fighting for the rights of Indian community. His technique of Passive Resistance, which he named Satyagraha, was developed in South Africa before being implemented in India. In the colonial world that Gandhi inhabited the profile, status and condition of the overseas Indians were markedly different from today. Those were the days when one could not have been starry-eyed about ‘going abroad’ and ‘settling abroad’. A bulk of those who migrated abroad went for toiling in plantations or factories under Indenture System (to Africa, West Indies, Fiji etc), Kangany System (to Sri Lanka) and Maistry System (Burma). But they deserve credit as the pioneers who reversed the religious prohibition on seafaring that had fallen upon the Hindu society in the medieval ages.

In colonial times racial discrimination was instituted as a state policy by the colonial government. But the de-colonization brought in its wake another set of problems. In Gandhi’s lifetime itself the Indians in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Burma (Myanmar) entered a critical phase with Ceylonese and Burmese population respectively wanting to get rid of them. The first two legislations passed by the D.S. Senanayake government in independent Ceylon deprived almost a million people of Indian origin of their citizenship. While Indians might have captured power in Mauritius, they have been reduced to a miniscule minority in Myanmar. Thus Indians face a new kind of racialism in those erstwhile colonies.

The age of colonialism was an age of maritime empires. Till late 1950s, steamships were the most dependable mode of inter-continental travels. In early 1960s, the air plane replaced ship as the most preferred mode for long distance travels. It reflected upon the pattern of migration in terms of reach, human resource quality and connectivity with India. Coincidentally around the same time the passage of Immigration and Nationality Act, 1965 in the USA paved path for immigration of highly skilled professionals and students. This historic piece of legislation changed the size and profile of the Indian immigrant community. From a meager 12,000 in 1960 the number of Indian immigrants has risen to 2.5 million now. Such educated and successful immigrants are providing sinews to the Indian Diaspora.

But there is another side of the coin. When during the years of ‘Socialism’ India remained trapped in poor economic growth rate, the immigrants to the West were somewhat apologetic about their Indian identity. In India also the Non Residents Indians were perceived as escapers. But faster economic growth rate post-Liberalization, India’s emergence as IT power hub and the advent of Vajpayee government etc boosted the morale of the overseas Indians. The advent of satellite television, Internet and rising tele-density in the 1990s meant overseas Indians could be in regular touch with India. It was now possible for an overseas Indian to spend time thinking the interests of his mother country. Indians, resident and overseas, could commonly exercise opinion on bolstering India’s position in the world stage. This gave rise to the concept of ‘New Global Indian’ as the title of magazine launched from Boston in 2008 by Kanchan Banerjee stated.

But overseas Indian community, in several parts, continues to face severe challenges of racism, religious fanaticism and legislative disabilities. As against popular misconception not everyone is successful. Thus it is not yet time to lower the baton raised by Gandhi in South Africa in the 1890s.


National Youth Day, Jan 12


Bringing Youth to the Mainstream of Change



*Sudhirendar Sharma


It is befitting to dedicate Vivekananda’s birthday, January 12, to the youth of the country whose entrepreneurial ambition and consumerist desires need be exposed to countervailing moral and ethical values for bringing sanity to their attitudes and actions. It makes for a compelling case as today’s youth are fed on a celebrity overdose in a market-driven consumerist culture.


Unlike other growing economies that face the risk of an ageing workforce, India is poised to become the world’s youngest country with 64 per cent of its population in the working age group by 2020. This ‘demographic dividend’ offers a great opportunity for the country. Not just by numbers, the youth make 34% contribution to the country’s Gross National Income as well.


India’s population is expected to exceed 1.3 billion by 2020 with a median age of 28 which is considerably less than the expected median ages of China and Japan. The working population of India, is expected to increase to 592 million by 2020, next only to China (776 million), pointing to the fact that youth will make a significant contribution to country’s economic development.


However, growing up in a hyper-connected space of the virtual world this aspiration class needs directions to contribute to the efforts of nation building. Enhancing their labour force participation in improving productivity will only realize part of their energies. Since ideology has been substituted by technology, the youth rarely see the world beyond ‘themselves’.


Such generic transformation has created a generation very different from any known before. The youth find themselves distanced from the nation-building narrative of the post-independent era, and locate themselves in aworld that is bursting with hope, love and an air of cherubic optimism. The National Youth Day is thus an opportunity to connect youth to the ethos of the country.   


Although January 12 is celebrated every year as the National Youth Day since 1985, the youth-targeted schemes and programmes of the government are predominantly guided by the National Youth Policy 2014 which seeks “to empower the youth of the country to achieve their full potential, and through them enable India to find its rightful place in the community of nations”.


The Government of India currently invests more than Rs 92,000 Crore per annum on youth development programmes or approximately Rs 2,710 per young individual per year, through youth-targeted (Rs.37,000 crores for higher education, skill development, healthcare) and non-targeted (Rs.55,000 crore food subsidies, employment) programmes.


In addition, the State Governments and a number of other stakeholders are also working to support youth development and to enable productive youth participation. However, individual organizations working on youth issues in non-Government sector are small and fragmented, and there is a felt need of enhanced coordination between the various stakeholders.


It must, however, be noted that all through history, youth have been the harbingers of change – from winning independence for nations, to creating new technologies that upset the status quo, to new forms of art, music and culture. Supporting and promoting the development of youth therefore is one of the foremost priorities, across all sectors and stakeholders.


The challenge is to engage youth in building a cadre that thinks and acts beyond the narrow confines of ‘self’. The task is to help them rise above the ideology of consumption, open them to appreciate vast cultural diversity, and create a multi-polar environment where they effortlessly embrace differences of religion, sexual orientation and race.


What could be better than the teachings of Swami Vivekananda to offer philosophical directions to youth, whose speech at the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893 had made him popular as 'Messenger of Indian Wisdom to the Western World’? Vivekananda believed that a country's future depends on its youth, and his teachings focused on their development.


Bereft of an ideological baggage than the previous generations, youth of the country are in a better position to accept such teachings provided these are packaged as products in the idiom that can be conveniently consumed by the present generation. Else, this generation will be the next big ‘disruptor’ because they have literally distanced themselves from the political and social spheres.


A study by J Walter Thompson offers a ray of hope, though. According to him today’s youth have seen the flipside of consumption, and are ‘more inspired by Malala than Beyonce’. This generation is characterized by ethical consumption habits, native digital technology use, entrepreneurial ambition, and progressive views. What they need is philosophical guidance in the right direction, and National Youth Day offers perfect platform to launch youth into the mainstream of ‘change’. 



13 january

Swachh Bharat Mission: The Road Ahead


*Umakant Lakhera

Two incidents from the South African years of Mahatma Gandhi stand out distinctly. The first is the worst kind of racial discrimination that he suffered on the first class compartment of a train. He was heckled and thrown out of the train by a snobbish European at Pietermaritzburg station. 


The second is related to cleanliness and sanitation. When Gandhi saw South Africa’s poor Black men, cleaning the toilet of others, and carrying buckets of excreta and leftover on their heads, he was deeply moved. It stirred his conscience in no small measure. That very day, he vowed to clean his own toilet. His vow resonated in his insightful remark: "If we do not keep our backyards clean, our Swaraj will have a foul stench."


Apparently in keeping up with the ideals of Gandhi pertaining to cleanliness, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose October 2, 2014 Gandhi’s birth anniversary, as the day to launch the Swachh Bharat Mission. The Prime Minister's idea and vision of Swachh Bharat epitomizes the "Stench-Free Swaraj" articulated by the Father of the Nation.


The Mission, which is the Central Government’s largest-ever sanitation programme, has been subdivided into Urban and Rural components. The principal resolve of the Mission is to make India open defection free by October 2, 2019- Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.


Coming to Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), it is overseen by the Ministry of Urban Development and is mandated to provide sanitation and household toilet facilities in all 4041 statutory towns with a combined population of 377 million. The estimated cost is Rs 62,009 crore over five years with the centre slated to assist with Rs 14,623 crore. The Mission aims to cover 1.04 crore households, provide 2.5 lakh community toilet seats, 2.6 lakh public toilet seats and set up in all towns solid waste management facilities. At the core of this mission lie six components :


1. Individual household toilets;

2. Community toilets;

3. Public toilets;

4. Municipal Solid Waste Management;

5. Information and Educating Communication (IEC) and Public Awareness;

6. Capacity Building


The Urban mission seeks to eliminate open defecation; convert insanitary toilets to flush toilets; eradicate manual scavenging; and facilitate solid waste management. This mission lays special emphasis on bringing about a behavioral change relating to healthy sanitation practices by educating people about the environmental hazards emanating from the strewn garbage, the harmful effects of open defecation etc. Towards these objectives, urban local bodies are being ushered in and being strengthened to design, execute and operate systems for fostering an enabling environment for private sector participation in capital and operational expenditure.


The Rural mission, known as Swachh Bharat Gramin, aims to make Village Panchayats free of open defecation by October 2, 2019.


Removing bottlenecks and addressing critical issues that affect outcomes is the new thrust of this rural sanitation mission, which aims to provide all rural households with individual latrines; and construct cluster and community toilets on public-private partnership mode.


Considering the squalor and unhygienic conditions in village schools, this programme lays special emphasis on toilets in schools with basic sanitation amenities. Construction of Anganwadi toilets and management of solid and liquid waste in all Village Panchayats is the is the object of the mission. Nodal agencies will monitor the construction and use of toilets at the Village Panchayat and household levels. The rural scheme envisages building 11.11 crore toilets at an estimated cost of Rs.1,34,000.


Under the provision of Individual Household Latrines, villagers belonging to BPL and APL categories are given incentive - after construction and use - of Rs 9000 and Rs 3000 respectively for each toilet by Central and state governments. In the north-eastern states, Jammu and Kashmir and special category areas the incentive amount is amount of Rs 10,800 and Rs 1200.


There would be regular review of implementation. Results exceed expectations. The records show that 58,54,987 latrines were built against the expected outcome of 50 lakh in 2014-15. Achieving 117 per cent of the target is praiseworthy. During 2015-16, 127.41 lakh toilets have already been constructed against target of 120 lakh. In 2016-17, against a target of 1.5 crore latrines, 33,19, 451 have been constructed as on August 1, 2016


Under the Rural mission, 210.09 toilets have been constructed between October 1, 2014 and August 1, 2016. In the same period, sanitation coverage has been scaled up from 42.05 percent to 53.60 percent.


However, eventually, what matters is behavioural change in sanitation practices. This is a monumental task which requires capacity building of key stakeholders such as Collectors, CEO, Zila Panchayats, Chairmen of Zila Panchayats. This is being carried out in different states by roping in key resource centers for state-level workshops related to cleanliness drive.


Last but not the least, the Prime Minister has put his personal weight behind Swachh Bharat Mission. The coordination between the Centre and the states is enhanced by his representatives visiting the states and attending the coordination meetings. Swachh Bharat Mission is on the right track.  



16 january

The National Cancer Institute, AIIMS

One Year in the Making of India’s Largest Cancer Hospital


* V. Srinivas


The Health Minister has called the National Cancer Institute, the largest public health investment project of Independent India. With 710 beds, 26 Operation Theaters, 15 laboratories for Principal Investigators, a separate Diagnostics Block - the National Cancer Institute is the behemoth of Indian cancer care. At full capacity it will deploy 2700 employees and cater to 10 lac patients per annum. The design of the largest cancer hospital of India brought together India’s best cancer experts for conceptualization and design.

The National Cancer Institute is the state of the art Tertiary Cancer care cum Research Institute, being constructed at the AIIMS Jhajjar campusin an area of 31.2 acres. It is the nodal Institution for all activities related to cancer in the country and will have linkages with all Regional Cancer Centers and other Institutes of India. As India’s premier institute of cancer, its responsible for identifying priority areas for Research & Development carrying out basic and applied research in molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, cancer epidemiology, radiation biology and cancer vaccines. It is also to act as the premier center for development of human resource in various branches of cancer management depending on the needs of our country.

The Objectives of National Cancer Institute are (a) To provide affordable quality tertiary cancer care to cancer patients; (b) To act as the principal agency of the country in the field of oncology; (c) To carry out innovative research and the development of novel interventions to prevent and treat cancer;(d)  To undertake clinical trials of newer drugs as well as vaccines; (e) To carry out transnational research and incorporate newly developed techniques in cancer therapy into clinical practice and (f) To create international linkages with major cancer centers for exchanging cancer related information and for establishing exchange programmes for training and education.


The National Cancer Institute will have 710 beds  dedicated to treatment of those cancers which are based on research protocols. It will have equipment with latest technology. Research will be conducted in collaboration with other cancer centers. The total personnel deployment for the National Cancer Institute has been projected at 2705. A Project Monitoring Committee under the chairmanship of Health Secretary supervises implementation and a sub-committee chaired by Head National Cancer Institute monitors the day to day progress of the project.

Following Cabinet approval for Rs. 2035 crores, the commencement of civil works took some time. The project commencement necessitated statutory approvals from local authorities. The environmental impact assessment for the National Cancer Institute required approvals from 34 agencies in the Government of Haryana. Subsequent to the Environment Impact Assessment sanctions, civil works for the Institute Block and residential block of the National Cancer Institute were awarded. The stipulated date for completion of works is March 2018 for the Institute Block and August 2018 for the Residential Block. The Machinery and Equipment Procurement will be completed by July 2018.

December 2016 marks one year of commencement of civil works on the National Cancer Institute. The Institute Block of the National Cancer Institute comprises of several buildings namely the hospital and OPD block, Diagnostics block, Administration block, Academics block, Research Hostel for 200 students, and Service block.


The 710 bedded, 8 storey Hospital Block has been divided between Surgical Oncology (200 beds), Medical Oncology (200 beds), Radiation Ocology (120 beds), Palliative Care (40 beds), and the remaining between Nuclear Medicine, Anaesthesia, Emergency, ICU and Day care. Necessary approvals from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Agency were obtained to commence works in the Hospital Block.

The Diagnostics Block comprises of Laboratory space for Microbiology, Central Instrumentation Facility, Haemato-Pathology, Histo-Pathology, Cytopathology, Tumor Immunology and Advanced Diagnostics Centre.


The National Cancer Institute would also have a Research (Basic Sciences) Block with 15 Principal Investigator Laboratories. The Academic Block would have Conference Halls, Auditorium, Office Spaces and the Faculty Cafeteria. The Research Hostel would also have a studio residence for visiting researchers and the Head NCI suite. In addition there would be the Administration Block for Office Space.

The Residential Block comprises of 216 Type III dwelling units, 84 Type IV dwelling units, 56 Type V dwelling units, 16 Type VI dwelling units, a total of 37 dwelling units. In addition a Hostel Block to house 440 nurses, 154 Junior Residents and 46 Senior Residents is being constructed. In 2016, a financial progress of Rs. 171 crores has been achieved. An average labor deployment of 600 per day was witnessed.


The National Cancer Institute attracted a lot of international attention in 2016 with senior faculty visits from the National Cancer Institute of Baltimore and the MD Anderson Cancer Centre Houston to AIIMS. In addition the French Academy of Medicine conducted a workshop in Toulose for a collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of France.

Looking ahead the National Cancer Institute would be amongst the great public Cancer hospitals in the world setting new benchmarks in translational research and patient care. We eagerly look forward to timely completion of works and the project being fully operationalized in 2018.




 18 jan

Advancing Budget to Feb 1 will ensure quality in Govt expenditure




*Prakash Chawla



The Central Government earmarked close to Rs 20 lakh crore on the expenditure head of the Budget for 2016-17. It would be safe to assume that for the financial year 2017-18, the total expenditure to be allocated by Finance Minister Mr Arun Jaitley would be between Rs 22 lakh crore and Rs 23 lakh crore. This would be about 14 per cent of India’s Gross Domestic Product at current prices.


Unlike in the past when the Budget was presented to Parliament on the last working day of February, the Finance Minister would do the honours on February 1, for 2017-18.  Without going into any political debate, an independent analysis would certainly make out a strong case for advancing the Budget presentation, purely on the ground that it would help the government to achieve two most import objectives.


The first and foremost goal is and should be to achieve the quality of expenditure and the way the Central schemes and projects are executed would certainly change when the money allocated to each of them is approved by Parliament well in time and transferred to the concerned departments or ministries.  The second achievement following from the first would be the difference a quality government spend makes to the country’s GDP growth. The government expenditure in excess of Rs 20 lakh crore would make a huge difference to revival of investment and boosting consumer demand, also helped by implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission report for the Central Government employees.    


Under the system  prevalent so far, the Budget is presented in the Lok Sabha on the last working day of February and a vote on account is obtained from Parliament to draw money from the Consolidated Fund of India from April 1, the opening day of the new financial year.


The Budget session is divided into two phases and it is in the first phase that the Vote on Account is obtained to enable uninterrupted functioning of the government while the full and final Parliamentary go-ahead is available some time in May towards the end of the  second phase of the Budget  session.  While the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech comprising tax and non-tax proposals at the time of the Budget presentation is considered an important policy direction of the government of the day, quite often his closing speech at the end of the exhaustive parliamentary debate on the Budget is used at times to make any amends, depending on the popular response to the Budget proposals.


But by the time the full and final outlays are available, at least first quarter of the financial year is over and out.  It is in the second quarter that the departments begin work on implementing the projects and programmes as announced in the Budget, the most important blue-print of the government.  The government funds cannot be spent just like a private business house does. It must follow well laid down procedures which can stand scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and various other agencies like the Central Vigilance Commission, besides Parliamentary committees.  No wonder, the bureaucrats tasked with the implementation of the programmes and policies would rather err on the side of caution.  The entire procedure of floating tenders, finalizing the deals etc can take another few months, making it possible for the departments to place the orders with the contractors only in the middle or end of the third quarter in most cases. The money gets spent in the last quarter and somehow, has to be spent by March 31.


Naturally, the pressure is back-loaded on the system, resulting at times in dilution of the quality of expenditure, not by design but by default.


All that would change for better with advancement of the Budget, which should now get passed in the first phase of the Budget session even after demands for grants of different key ministries are adequately debated in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.  The intention of the government is to begin the spending programmes right in the beginning of the fiscal, making the Budget implementation front-loaded, rather than back- loaded.  


While such an option is always welcome, the requirement of it is much more urgent at this state of economy which has to deal with the issue of revival in consumer demand and boost investment, which has to be led by the government, given the fact that the private sector is over-leveraged with idle capacity in several key sectors. As is well conceded by senior ministers in different economic wings of the government, the state expenditure in sectors like roads, airports, ports, shipping, agriculture infrastructure etc would show the way to the economic revival in the fiscal 2017.  Once a momentum is built, the private sector should then get a multiplier effect and the entire virtuous cycle would see a transformation.


With an expectation of great focus on the rural landscape in the Budget, the government programmes relating to agriculture and the allied sectors should really be catalytic in the GDP momentum in the coming months.  


So, the entire Budget exercise must get completed sooner than later. The issues relating to the GDP relating to the current fiscal which become the basis for the next year’s Budget estimates can get sorted out with advance statistical tools and techniques. What matters is the intent.  


20 jan

Making Payments Digitally


*Sarita Brara

 “It is may not be a big amount  but definitely useful”  says   Mukesh Kumar Verma, a teacher  of government Primary school at Gonda in UP  who received  an SMS informing him  that he had won Rs 1000 in the  Lucky Grahak Yojana. Mukesh who is all for going digital says “It is simply better than handling cash,” besides other benefits.       

     Another lucky draw winner ,Satish Kumar a student preparing for  tenth class board exams is optimistic that  the digital mode of payments  will ultimately  help in  ‘putting an end to  black money as the prime minister has been emphasising’. Belonging to village Sarwatkhani in Bhadohi district of Sant Ravidas Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, Satish who wants to become a doctor hailed the scheme and said that digital payment is so much easier. Son of an agriculturist Satish Kumar says, “while going to buy  seeds  and other agriculture  inputs,  carrying cash  was always fraught with risks but now with the government offering several modes of  digital payments, the fear of  being looted or robbed  is gone.”

  Mukesh  and Satish Kumar are among a number of winners from rural India under the Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana awards launched on the 25th of December last year was to   encourage digital payments.

     Promoting digital payment options, is an integral part of Government’s overall strategy to weed out black money and corruption from public life. And As the Union Minister of Electronics & Information Technology and Law & Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Digital India means honest governance, digital payment means an honest mode of transaction, and digital economy means a strengthened economy.”

      Under the two incentive schemes all transactions by consumers and merchants starting from the 9th of November last year till April 14, this year are eligible for the cash rewards in the lucky draw.

       In an effort to make digital payments and less cash society a mass movement in India, the Digi Dhan Melas are taking  place in 100 different cities across the country over 100 days.  In the  first digi dhan mela  15000 winners were selected under 4 broad categories (USSD, UPI, AEPS, RuPay) from the eight crore digital transactions that took place between 9th November to 21st December last year. 15000 people will win awards every day for 100 days and the two incentive schemes will culminate with a mega draw on 14th April this year. All such transactions irrespective of the fact whether it has won daily / weekly prize, will be eligible for Mega Draw to be conducted on April 14, 2017.These will include three Mega prizes for consumers worth Rs. 1 crore, Rs 50 lakh and Rs 25 lakh. For merchants too there would be three mega prizes worth Rs. 50 lakh, Rs. 25 lakh and Rs. 12 lakh. . While 300 crore rupees would be spent on the prize for the two schemes Rs. 40 crore has been allocated for awareness and publicity.   In all over 18.75 lakh persons will be able to win monetary rewards under these incentive schemes.

    To spread awareness and  educate consumers and merchants about the digital payment options available to them  stake holders  of the digital payment system, like banks, wallets, telecom service providers, other financial service providers, UIDAI   will also be present  at the Digidhan melas.    According to  CEO Niti Aayog Amitabh Kant  the volume of digital transactions in India went up by 300 to 350 per cent in one and half month time  since the 9th of November which  showed the enthusiasm among the  people for  digital payment options.

       To push  digital payments  specially in the rural areas, the government is working on a mission  mode  to provide training   to over one crore rural citizens, through 2 lakh Common Service  centres . In fact a number of steps have been taken for cashless transactions among in like improving the supply of cards and POS machines in rural areas.

         Farmers mostly buy agriculture inputs like seeds, fertilisers etc with cash or on credit because the technology has not yet fully reached rural areas. In order to enable farmers for cashless transactions NABARD has asked credit societies and cooperative banks to open saving accounts directly or under Jan Dhan. Farmers can buy seeds, fertilisers and other farming equipment through RuPAY cards. 200,000 point-of-sale (PoS) machines are planned to be deployed in 100,000 villages, for NABARD has allotted funds of Rs 120 crore. These PoS machines will be installed by commercial banks. NABARD will give Rs 6,000 per equipment incentive to the commercial banks for purchase of PoS machines.

      India has huge potential to transform the economy in to a digital one and the Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley is confident   that the Digital India movement will strengthen the country’s economic backbone.    

       Hopefully as Amitabh Kant, CEO Niti Aayog has said,” it is just a matter of time before India is heralded into an era of development, that is, digital revolution.”

National Voters’ Day – 25 January

National Voters’ Day: Reinforcing commitment to democracy



The 7th National Voters’ Day will be observed on Wednesday, January 25. It was instituted in 2011 in remembrance of the foundation day of the Election Commission of India. It was on January 25, 1950 on the eve of the first Republic Day that the Election Commission had come into existence. But it was future course of action rather than history that determined the decision on National Voters’ Day. Its declared objective was to increase the enrollment of eligible voters, especially those who had recently turned 18.

The Constitution (Sixty First Amendment) Act, 1988 had lowered the threshold voting age from 21 years to 18 years thus fulfilling a longstanding public demand. As a consequence, 35.7 million (or three and half crore) youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years could exercise their voting right in the 10th general elections held in November, 1989.   

But the mission was far from complete. The ensuing two decades did not produce exactly encouraging results. There was lukewarm response from the young eligible voters to get enrolled. In certain cases it could be as low as 20 to 25 percent only. Since enrollment and voting is voluntary, not compulsory, the Election Commission could only persuade. But the priority of the Commission had been to conduct free and fair elections. This in itself is a protracted and challenging task.

While voters tend to view the elections as an event, it is an elongated procedure for the Commission. From publishing of the notification to the declaration of the results, elections are a long drawn process. Conducting elections in a country as enormous and populous as India is a daunting task. Upon that the Commission had to battle the abuses of money and muscle power.

As regarding the electorate, generating a clean voters list (as per Sections 11 and 62 of the Representation of People Act, 1951) free from errors of duplication and disqualification remained the Commission’s priority. Voter mobilization was left to the election campaign by the various political parties. Every political party naturally did its best to lure to voters to vote in its favour. But there was little institutional campaign to persuade the voters to vote out of one’s civic duty and obligation towards democracy.

Some feel that rising literacy rate automatically translates into higher voting. Such complacency should have no room.  At the first general elections in India (1951-1952), the overall polling percentage was 51.15. It was considered as ‘by no means unsatisfactory’. The general literacy rate in those days did not exceed 17 percent. However, the voting percentage has not significantly appreciated with the sharp rise in literacy. In 2009 less than 60 percent of the enrolled voters cast their votes whereas the Census of India, 2011 revealed that literacy rate was 74 percent.

Thus in 2009, the Election Commission took up a messianic role to enhance voters’ turnout. The Election Commission designed a comprehensive programme called SVEEP (or Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation). Two slogans, which the Commission subsequently coined, capture the spirit of SVEEP – ‘Inclusive and Qualitative Participation’ and ‘No voter to be left behind”.

The SVEEP has, for the first time, put in place a structured voters’ awareness programme. It identifies all key stakeholders whether individuals or institutions. It documents gaps in registration and voting that retard voters’ participation. These might be on the lines of gender, region, socio-economic status, health conditions, educational level, professional migration, language etc. The idea is to offer custom made solutions based on those findings. It replaces a conventional bureaucratic intervention with sociological intervention. SVEEP views every Indian citizen as a voter. Even an underage boy or girl is a future voter, who needs to be sensitized from now. Therefore education institutions are tapped in.

The voters’ turnaround stagnating below 65 percent (of enrolled voters) may not be exceptional for India. Still, the political scientists would not view it as a healthy trend. A higher voting percentage signifies a vibrant democracy. A low voting percentage indicates a politically indifferent society. There is a potential danger of disruptive forces trying to exploit the situation to discredit democracy itself. Thus democracy cannot be left to the grand idea alone. It has to be continually reinforced in the ballots.

In the 16th general elections in 2015, the voting percentage stood at a record high of 66.38 percent. Most commentators have attributed it to political factors. But some credit is definitely due to SVEEP awareness campaign. This is sure to be tested in the future elections. So next time we should attribute higher voting percentage not merely to political factors but also the SVEEP. Such an interpretation can itself act as a secondary awareness campaign.

The National Voters’ Day is a significant step amongst various initiatives taken by Election Commission of India to encourage the new voters to have their decisive say in the democratic process.


23 jan

Celebrating the Girl Child









                                                                              *Barnali Das


The Nation celebrates National Girl Child Day tomorrow. On 24th January every year, we celebrate the girl child, acknowledge her equal status and position in society and together we commit to fight the disadvantages, discriminations and inequalities the girl child faces in our society.


However, it is very unfortunate and extremely alarming that since 1961 the child sex ratio in the country has been declining steadily. This is 2017 and we are nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century and yet we have not been able to reverse the trend.


For an educated, economically independent woman, respected both at work and at home, it is difficult to imagine the reality that a large number of people from cross sections of the Indian society desire only a son and do not wish to have a daughter. And that they would go to any length to do sex selective elimination of the female foetus.


Despite having some girls who are really high achievers in various fields, the stark reality for most girls born in India is that they are still deprived of basic rights like equal access to education, health, married off early as child etc. As a result, they remain economically disempowered, abused and violated. As per Census data, the Child Sex Ratio (CSR) has declined from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and further to 918 in 2011. This is a major indicator of women disempowerment as it reflects both pre-birth discrimination manifested through gender biased sex selection, and post birth discrimination against girls.


Widespread social discriminations against girls, easy availability, affordability and subsequent misuse of diagnostic tools, have cumulatively proved critical in lowering the CSR. This alarming reality had to be addressed, resulting in the roll out of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme which was designed and conceptualized after a series of multi-sectoral pan India consultations.


Launched by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi on 22nd January, 2015 at Panipat, Haryana, the primary objective of BBBP is to improve the declining CSR and address other related issues of women empowerment, over a life-cycle continuum. This two year old Scheme is a tri-Ministerial effort of Women and Child Development (WCD), Health & Family Welfare and Human Resource Development; WCD being the nodal Ministry. This Scheme is unique as it systematically challenges mindsets, customs and deep rooted patriarchy prevalent in Indian society.


A multi-sectoral strategy has been adopted to implement BBBP, comprising of a nation-wide awareness and advocacy campaign targeted at changing mindsets, focused community outreach through local innovative interventions; enforcement of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act by the Union Health Ministry and encouraging girl’s education through girl friendly infrastructure in schools and effective implementation of the Right to Education. 


BBBP was rolled out in 100 Districts across the country initially. During the last one year it has been able to create visibility and buzz in the community through extensive advocacy campaigns run on various media including Radio, Television, Cinema, Digital Media and Social Media The campaign challenged son-centric rituals and regressive social norms by collective community action such as celebration of birth of girl child, promotion of simple weddings, supporting women’s rights to inherit and own property, rewarding local champions who have defied social norms, engaging youth including men and boys. . It succeeded in highlighting the problem of decline in CSR through display of gender disaggregated data (Guddi-Gudda Boards) on birth of girls and boys.


The campaign engaged with communities for orientation and sensitization at multiple levels through holding dialogues through Gram Panchayats at various levels. Frontline Workers like Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), AnganWadi Worker (AWW), Auxiliary Nursing Midwife (ANM) and Self Help Group members, elected representatives, religious leaders, community leaders etc. were involved in such dialogues.


Social Media platforms have also been optimised for enhanced outreach on BBBP, especially amongst the youth, for spreading positive messages about value of girl child in the public domain.


In the second year of implementation of BBBP, the focus is being expanded to the stringent implementation of PC & PNDT Act and also with a special focus by Ministry of Human Resource Development on girls’ education. Measures like increased emphasis on early registration of pregnancy, institutionalised deliveries and birth registration are also being taken care of.


As on date, BBBP is getting implemented in 161 districts. The preliminary reports from 100 districts are heartening. It indicates that between April-March, 2014-15 and 2015-16, an increasing trend in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) is visible in 58 BBBP districts; 69 districts have reported progress in the first trimester registration against the reported ANC registrations and status of institutional deliveries have improved in 80 districts against the total reported deliveries in comparison to the previous year. The Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) touching the 900-mark for the first time in almost two decades in December 2016 in Haryana, notorious for its skewed sex ratio, has been widely reported in the media.


Engaging with Civil Society, International Organizations and Industrial Associations has been consciously undertaken by the Ministry of Women & Child Development to ensure sustained engagement of various stakeholders on the issue. This conscious engagement has motivated the civil society organizations working in this sector to re-align their campaign with BBBP.


For the girl child to flourish in India, it is paramount that BBBP is a roaring success and the success achieved in the first year clearly indicate that it very much possible as all stakeholders have joined hands to remove the stigma of adverse child sex ratio from the country.  


Beekeeping: Vital Input for Sustainable Agriculture


*Dr. B.L. Sarswat



  Beekeeping is an agro-based activity which is being undertaken by farmers/landless labours in rural area as an integrated farming practice. Beekeeping supplements income & employment generation and nutritional intake of rural population. Though the honeybees are best known for the honey they produce, their economic role in nature is to pollinate hundreds and thousands of flowering plants and assure setting of seed or fruit. Honeybees have been offering services to the society through ensured pollination in cross-pollinated crops as well as by providing honey and a variety of beehive products. Honey Bees have vital role in sustaining plants bio-diversity resulting in environmental stability. Beekeeping is one of the thrust areas and flagship programmes of Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.



Importance of Beekeeping in Agriculture and Rural Development:


Value of additional yield from pollination services by honeybees alone is about 15-20 times more than the value of all hive products put together (Dr. Kaloo, 2004). Honey bee pollination also improve the quality of produce. The potential benefits, due to bee pollination, in the form of increase in yields of various crops varies from 5% to 33150%. The crops-wise details of increase in yield due to bee pollination are given as under:



% increase in yields

Legume/ pulses

% increase in yields


128.1 to 159.8


23.4 to 19,733.3



Berseem and other Clovers

23.4 to 33,150


12.8 to 139.3


39 to 20,000


66 to 220

Broad Beans

6.8 to 90.1



Dwarf beans

2.8 to 20.7


4.2 to 114.3

Kidney beans

500 to 600


1.7 to 40

Runner beans

20.6 to 1,100




21 to 30


20 to 3,400

Other pulses (Arahar, etc.)

27-30 (RAU)

Orchard crops

% increase in yields

Vegetables for seed/ fruits

% increase in yields

Apple varieties

180 to 6,950


22 to 100


240 to 6,014


100 to 300


6.7 to 2,739


100 to 125


56.1 to 1,000


9.1 to 135.4


17.4 to 91.9


353.5 to 9,878


291.3 to 462.5






21.1 to 411


4,538 to 10,246

Miscellaneous crops

Citrus varieties

7 to 233.3

American cotton

5 to 20


756.4 to 6,700

Egyptian cotton

16 to 24


771.4 to 800






16.7 to 39. 8











In view of the above, in addition to 4 inputs: land, labour, capital & management including seed, fertilizer, pesticides, water, machinery, etc., honey bees/beekeeping have proved to be as 5th input for agriculture which regulates the efficacy of other four inputs.


Initiatives/Programmes of Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare & others


               Beekeeping has been included as an activity for promoting cross pollination of Horticultural Crops under National Horticulture Mission since May, 2005, which has been merged in Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH). MIDH has been in implementation in all parts of the country.  Under MIDH, among others, assistance for promoting Scientific Beekeeping under the component of ‘Pollination Support through Beekeeping’ is available and being implemented by the State Departments of Horticulture/Agriculture in the field. Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, State Khadi Board etc. are also implementing beekeeping schemes.


Shri Narender Modi, Hon’ble PM (then CM, Gujarat) understanding process of honey extraction.




National Bee Board (NBB) and its Role:


The main objective of NBB is overall development of beekeeping by promoting scientific beekeeping in the country to increase the productivity of crops through pollination support and production of honey and other beehive products to increase the income of farmers/beekeepers. NBB is one of the National Level Agencies (NLAs) under MIDH.


Presently, the main thrust of NBB is setting up of Integrated Beekeeping Development Centres (IBDCs)/Centres of Excellence (CoEs) on beekeeping, at least one in each State. In these centres (IBDCs), requisite infrastructural facilities for implementing end to end approach for development of scientific beekeeping in the country may be made available at one place. Centres will help the beekeepers/farmers of the area in adopting scientific beekeeping and encourage/promote scientific beekeeping in integrated manner in the Country. 3 IBDCs have been commissioned/approved during 2015-16 and 7 are in process.


Dr. S. K. Malhotra, Horticulture & Agriculture Commissioner and MS, NBB and Dr. B. L. Sarswat, Executive Director,NBB receiving award in Krishi Unnati Mela at IARI, Pusa.




Beekeeping Industry in India:


Presently, about 30 lakhs bee colonies in India are producing 94500 metric tonnes of Honey (2016-17 estimated) including honey from wild honey bees & providing employment to about 3.00 lakh persons. India is one of the honey exporting countries. The major markets for Indian honey are Germany, USA, UK, Japan, France, Italy, Spain etc.


World scenario of beekeeping:


Honey is the precious natural health product which is produced throughout the world. A total quantity of 14-15 lakh metric ton is produced world over. There are 15 countries in the world which produce 90% of the total production. Major honey producing countries are China, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia & India.  


Beekeeping as an Enterprise, source of Livelihood and benefits


Beekeeping industry is source of livelihood for rural poors/tribals/forest based population. Benefits of beekeeping are summarized as under:-

Ø  Unemployed youth can start this business with minimal funds (Rs. 1.00 to 2.00 lakhs);

Ø  Generates 3.75 lakhs mandays to maintain 10,000 Bee colonies in Bee hives;

Ø  Proper utilization of natural resources – nector & pollen otherwise go waste;

Ø  Different sectors and trades benefit from a strong beekeeping industry;

Ø  Beekeeping encourages ecological awareness;

Ø  Beekeeping helps in increasing National income;

Ø  Income from 100 Bee colonies is around Rs. 2.50-3.00 lakhs per annum;

Ø  May help in doubling farmers income by supplementing/complimenting agriculture/ horticulture;

Ø  Export of honey/beehive products attracts foreign exchange;

Ø  It helps in rural development and promotes small village industry;

Ø  Beekeeping is benign: Beekeeping generates income without destroying habitat;

Ø  Encouraging beekeeping encourages biodiversity.

Hence, beekeeping may be adopted as an enterprise by anyone after getting training on the subject.


Potential and Opportunities


India has vast potential for Beekeeping. The diversity in flora and fauna provides more opportunities for the development of beekeeping industry. The National Commission on Agriculture had visualized the need for deploying about 150 million Bee colonies for pollinating 12 major agricultural crops in the country.  Presently, 200 million Bee colonies are required for enhancing their yield which will provide employment to 215 lakh persons and produce 10 million tonnes of honey and increase in crop production.


               Main issues to be addressed are strengthening of National Bee Board, setting up of State Bee Boards/Missions/IBDCs; production of quality germplasm & nucleus stock of honey bees; indiscriminate use of pesticides in crops; quality standards for honey & other beehive products by BIS/ FSSAI, etc.; disease diagnostic labs &  bee products quality analysis labs ;  exemptions from various taxes (GST) for Beekeeping/beekeepers; treating beekeepers as farmers in all respects for compensation, etc. in the event of damage of bee colonies and accidental insurance coverage on subsidized rates, insurance of bee colonies on subsidized rates, etc.


24 jan

Skill Development Ministry marches towards a comprehensive quality assurance mechanism in VET 



*Rohit Nandan


Indian Vocational Education and Training (VET) and general education is in the process of reform and has under gone a number of changes which has seen the system open up to greater participation from industry through the introduction of a National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF). The NSQF was notified on 27th December 2013, and was anchored in the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA). Like the EU, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, the UAE and others, the introduction of a qualifications framework in India called for coordinated linkages across educational training sectors, and industry to ensure that all qualifications in the country are valued and consistent.

NSQF ensured a formal structure to qualifications/courses being offered and implemented in the most scattered manner, by organising them into levels of competencies based on knowledge, skill and attitude. A paradigm shift from input based approach of educational training to an outcome oriented training and assessment is envisaged through the NSQF. This is being done by NSDA by setting up minimum norms for industry validation, curricula, and content for qualification alignment and approval. NSDA is providing assistance to State Skill development Missions and GOI Ministries to align to the new approach, and so far around 1500 qualifications by various certifying bodies have been approved as per the outcome based approach. An outcome based approach will better inform the candidates and the employers about what a learner can do after taking up the course/qualification, and builds confidence in the quality assurance of qualifications leading to better acceptability by Industry, and mobility and progression within and between education and training systems.

National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 has emphasized on the need to undertake skilling in India at scale with speed, standard (quality) and sustainability. Training people under the new NSQF requires a coordinated effort to ensure parity of awards across different educational sectors, and to guarantee consistency in graduate outcomes nationally and increased remittances internationally. If the title and level of a qualification in one country does not meet the outcomes of a qualification of a similar title at a similar level in other countries then trust in that nation’s qualifications will begin to erode. This is where a nationally coordinated quality framework helps to protect the integrity of qualifications. Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship is keen to ensure that qualifications and skills gained are valued in the labour market by employers and students. This is done by aligning national qualifications and training/education needs with comprehensive labour market analyses, and applying outcomes-based quality assurance. This also facilitates smooth pathway progression to higher level qualifications. To achieve this, we require a quality framework to underpin the implementation of the qualifications framework, the NSQF. This will allow India to benchmark qualifications, training, and performance outcomes across Ministries, States and other countries. One common concurrence in all models for international recognition is the emphasis on a unified and internationally referenced quality assurance system for education and skills development.

The policy clearly states 'One Nation One Standard' to ensure that a uniform set of nationally accepted standards can be aligned globally and Indian youth can fetch jobs, and career progression opportunities at local, national and international levels.

The following parameters have been identified for improving quality: •

·         Quality assurance framework embedded in NSQF •

·         Market relevant training programmes •

·         Recognition of prior learning •

·         Curriculum alignment •

·         National Certification Framework •

·         Employability skills

·         Placements

The Policy has envisioned the role of National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) focussing on Quality Assurance and Policy Research in the skill eco-system. It mandated NSDA to establish and operationalise a Quality Assurance framework embedded in NSQF to improve consistency of outcomes in the skills landscape, which includes laying down a framework for training, assessment and certification processes and agencies in the country. The Quality Assurance Framework will act as a regulatory framework which will define the norms, quality standards and processes to be followed by various stakeholders, in the vocational education and training space in the country.

The proposed National Quality Assurance Framework (NQAF), places particular emphasis on the evaluation and improvement of the outputs and outcomes of VET and general education in terms of increasing employability, improving the match between demand and supply, and promoting better access to lifelong learning. Quality in the context of NQAF means; processes, procedures and outcomes for ensuring that qualifications, assessment and programme delivery produce graduates who productively meet industry’s current and future skill needs. The National Quality Assurance Framework (NQAF) is designed to be used across states, sectors and ministries and provides the structure within which all bodies operate.

The vision of the National Quality Assurance Framework is to:

1.      Improve the consistency and industry relevance of NSQF graduates through closer partnerships with industry and other social partners;

2.      Accommodates diversity and protects learners from inferior and non-relevant skills development for people from all socio-economic backgrounds and genders;

3.      Provide a structure for continuous improvement of the VET and general education systems in India;

4.      Improve the quality of all education and training in India, even those delivered by institutions that have limited resources, by an inclusive quality framework, which permits such institutions to achieve the quality standards laid down in the NQAF. The objective is not to exclude large number of participants in the VET and general education process by an exclusive framework that set benchmarks that excludes much of education and training provision existing in the country;

5.      Provide greater transparency and consistency across the entire VET and general education system as it provides a common framework for the system as a whole to improve, monitor and evaluate the management, provision and outcomes of education and training.

The NQAF is to be applied at all levels of the VET and general education system, and can be used to assess the effectiveness of VET and general education as a whole. A nationally consistent approach to quality will assist in raising the status of VET and general education as employers will realise that graduates are exiting training/education programmes with consistent relevant skills and knowledge. Ministries, States, Government and industry led bodies(Sector skill councils) all have a role in supporting continuous improvement across the skills development system in India. Most existing quality arrangements in India focus on up front audits rather than committing to the principle of continuously improving the quality of their training/education outcomes by building on the existing quality requirements. There are major variations in the standard of facilities, access to current equipment and the skills of teachers in the various stakeholders involved in VET and general education in India across geographies. Large urban based Training/Education Institutions are more likely to have access to skilled staff and good training equipment than in rural and remote areas. This disparity means that the quality framework must offer avenues for all training/education organisations to participate at different levels with the goal of progressing to common higher levels of quality through incremental improvement. The NQAF involves an incremental approach for training/education providers which will not adversely affect training and education efforts required to meet nationally set training targets.

The NQAF encompasses a sub-set of 8 Quality Manuals of processes, principles and indicators, which will provide a set of standards to be followed by stakeholders, so that the implementation process across Ministries, sectors, States and Departments is carried out with the same efficacy. Each Manual describes the processes to be undertaken. The Manuals will be referred by various stakeholders, implementers, regulators and policy makers to ensure that the NSQF is implemented in its full spirit and is able to build and maintain the confidence of all the stakeholders.

The Manuals in the NQAF series cover:

The first manual i.e. the Overview Manual provides an introductory overview of the entire regulatory framework and the quality standards covered for each stakeholder in the 7 subset manuals of the framework.

The second manual i.e. Registration of NSQF Qualification lays down the important aspects of a qualification, the process of aligning the same with the NSQF, and registration on National Qualification Register. The manual defines the role of competent bodies in alignment of qualifications, and describes the parameters and tools for alignment and review of qualification under NSQF.

The third manual is on Accreditation of Training/Education Institutions which lays down the norms and standards against which a training/education institute should be assessed in order to impart quality training services. It proposes a tiered approach with four tiers of accreditation depending upon the quality of services and operations. This provides the training provider with an inclusive accreditation framework and an opportunity of continual improvement in the VET space.

The fourth manual, Accreditation of Assessment Bodies and Quality Assurance in Assessments lays down norms and standards against which Assessment bodies will be accredited to conduct assessments in VET space. In line with the Accreditation framework for Training Institutions, a tiered approach is proposed for the assessment bodies also, with three tiers of accreditation. The manual provides best practices at each stage of assessment and act as a guide to assessors for delivering high quality assessment.

The fifth and the sixth manual i.e. the NQAF Auditor’s Manual and the Risk Assessment Framework Manual provide processes, and indicators for evaluation of compliance to NQAF Standards by service providers. While the Auditor’s Manual provides information on Audit processes under NQAF, the Risk Assessment Framework highlights the compliance status of service providers, measured against risk indicators and how the same will be used for monitoring and continuous improvement of the TVET system.

The seventh manual i.e. Quality Assurance of Industry Bodies Manual provides Quality Assurance procedures for industry consultations, qualification evidence and data collection requirements, information on communication about the NSQF and alignment to NSQF levels.

The eights manual i.e. Quality Assurance for National and State Level Bodies Manual specifically covers NSQF implementation and provides information on how the NQAF objectives can be monitored and quality improvements evaluated by appropriate national and state level bodies. It also lays down data collection requirements and interim arrangements for implementation of NQAF.

NQAF embedded in NSQF has been conceived as an overarching framework for Quality Assurance, covering all skilling initiatives of States schemes, GOI ministries, private and corporate sector, to be implemented in a phased-wise manner through proper institutional structures.


India is in the midst of a major Digital Payment Movement 

Shri Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI AAYOG

*Amitabh Kant

India is making an attempt to transition to a digital payment, less cash economy. Given that only a meagre percentage of our population pays taxes, the nation’s economy also grows as more and more transactions come under banking and taxation system through digital payments. Besides, corruption in public life and governance is oiled by cash, so as we move towards a less-cash society, this anonymity which a corrupt entity enjoys by using cash goes away. Moreover, cash printing and its distribution is extremely expensive.

Individual consumers also have several benefits in going less-cash. All value of transactions, from Re. 1 to any amount, can be done digitally without carrying cash. And we can do digital transactions 24 hours even on holidays. Besides, the government has announced several incentives on digital payments which make it really cheaper as compared to cash payments for the same service.

It is not just western economies that have significant ratio of digital economy, African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria have achieved much higher adoption of digital payments even as their population is semi-literate. M-Pesa transactions account for 67% of total number of transactions under Kenya’s National Payment System. Many reports conclude that such a high rate of mobile banking has also led to increased access to financial services, reduced transaction costs and improved savings, especially by Kenyan women. India must learn from these success stories and use their experience as the India also has large young population and high mobile penetration.

Multiple initiatives

Several incentives have been announced for consumers such as discounts in fuel purchase, insurance premiums, service tax waivers and cashbacks. Revamped modes of digital payments, which are very secure, fast and customer friendly, have been launched such as BHIM app and new USSD. Large scale awareness campaigns have been launched, especially DigiDhan Melas in 100 cities, for education and handholding of public to adopt digital payments.

Several incentives and programs have been rolled out for merchants as well. Banks have been mandated to install 1 million new PoS terminals by this fiscal. Duties and taxes have been waived off on manufacture of these machines. MDR and other transaction charges on digital payments are in the process of being rationalized and soon a new regime of transaction charges will be put in place which will be based on high volume and low charges. Special care is being taken of small and rural merchants where SBI has proposed zero transaction/MDR charges on such terminals. Multiple banks are hoped to follow soon.

Solution for everyone

Given the enormous heterogeneity of India’s population and hence, government has evolved different options for different segments. Although there are more than 1 billion mobile subscriptions in the country, only 3rd of that (~370 million) use mobile internet. BHIM (UPI) and e-wallets cater to digital payments need of this segment using a smartphone (~220 million users). USSD, which can work on any mobile phone with GSM network without the need of internet, covers around 61% of population which uses only simple feature phones. Apart from these phone based solutions, we have ~78 crore debits cards in the country and ~1 billion Aadhar numbers (~40 crore bank accounts have already been seeded with Aadhaar). AEPS and PoS solutions cater to these users, with or without mobile phones, who have Aadhaar seeded bank accounts and debit/credit/prepaid cards respectively. For closer handholding to senior citizens and illiterate people, we have Banking Correspondent model which cover our rural areas where a Banking Correspondent helps in extending financial services.

BHIM app and Aadhaar Pay

Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) is an app that lets you make easy and quick payment transactions using UPI. It's easier than wallets! You will not have to fill-out those tedious bank account details. You can easily make direct bank to bank payments and instantly collect money using just Mobile number or Payment address. This app has been launched by NPCI, the umbrella organisation for all retail payments in the country. Over 10 million BHIM App have been downloaded in last 10 days.

Aadhaar Pay is a model for merchant acceptance based on AEPS. By only installing an app on the phone and attaching a fingerprint scanner, merchants can start accepting payments from all Aadhaar seeded accounts. No card or mobile phone or PoS machine is required. Only the Aadhaar number and thumb impression is sufficient to generate and authenticate the transaction. This will enable India to achieve technological leapfrogging. My view is that by 2020 Indians will make cards and ATM’s totally redundant.

Revamped USSD

USSD is a telecom channel which lets you directly communicate from your simple phone with your bank for various transactions. It does not require internet connection. It is as easy as checking your prepaid phone balance. *99# is the standard channel which is used for communicating with all banks.

In the revamped USSD, the base layer of USSD has been integrated with UPI platform. So, now any feature phone (which is unable to install BHIM app) can also transfer or accept money from any smartphone (linked with a bank account) using BHIM app. This feature enhances the inter-operability of USSD and UPI platforms to make transactions.

Security concerns and consumer redress

Government has already formed a committee to oversee security issues in digital payments. A separate Digital Payments Division has been formed in India Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In). Security audit of all NPCI systems has been started to gauge needed improvements.

All the transactions done digitally are covered under Consumer Protection Act. But even before approaching the consumer forum, it is advised to approach the concerned bank for any disputes. As all digital transactions leave a record of it, it is very easy for banks to establish the veracity of such disputed transactions. Even then if the bank is not able to resolve the dispute, RBI’s institution of Banking Ombudsman can be approached by all citizens which mandates the resolution by the bank in a definite timeframe.   


27 jan




Ram Vilas Paswan


Consumer Protection in the light of new IT interventions

One of the mandates of the Department of Consumer Affairs in the Government of India is consumer advocacy. The Department is laying greater emphasis on consumer education and working with the goal of reaching the next level, from Consumer Protection to consumer empowerment.  To achieve this goal the Government is offering a range of services such as National and State Consumer Helplines, Publicity Campaigns through Jago Grahak Jago, funding of academic institutions and voluntary consumer organisations in conducting Consumer Awareness Programmes, and involvement of Industry Associations and Chambers of Commerce in policy consultations and joint campaigns.


2.         Consumer markets for goods and services have undergone profound transformation since the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act in 1986.  The modern market place contains a plethora of increasingly complex products and services.  The emergence of global supply chains, rise in international trade and the rapid development of e-commerce have led to new delivery systems for goods and services and have provided new opportunities for consumers.  Equally, this has rendered the consumer vulnerable to new forms of unfair trade and unethical business practices. Taking note of these aspects, in addition to the strengthening of legal framework to address the new challenges faced by the consumers, the Department has taken several other initiatives.

3.         The Department of Consumer Affairs has launched an Integrated Grievance Redress Mechanism (INGRAM) portal for bringing all stakeholders such as consumers, Central and State Government Agencies, private companies, regulators, Ombudsmen and call centers etc. on to a single platform. The portal is creating awareness among consumers to protect their rights and inform them of their responsibilities. Consumers can register online their grievances through this portal. The National Consumer Helpline is also accessible now through this portal.

As value added services, a mobile application and easy to remember five digit short code 14404 have also been launched for consumers from across the country to access National Consumer Helpline.

4.         The Department in association with GS1 India has launched a mobile application  “ Smart Consumer”  to enable the consumer to scan the bar code of the product and get all details of the product such as name of the product, details of manufacturer, year and month of manufacture, net content and consumer care details for making complaint in case of any defect.


5.         Online dispute resolution uses technology to facilitate the resolution of disputes between parties. In this respect it is often seen as being the online equivalent of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is a wide field, which may be applied to a range of disputes including Business to Consumer disputes (B2C). It seems to be particularly apt for these disputes, since it is logical to use the same medium (the internet) for the resolution of e-commerce disputes when parties are frequently located far from one another.


The Online Consumer Mediation Centre (OCMC) has been established at the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India. The Centre aims to provide for a state-of-the-art infrastructure for resolving consumer disputes both through physical as well as online mediation through its platform. The Center will provide innovative technology for consumers and organisations to manage and resolve conflicts and to propel online mediation as a first choice to resolving consumer disputes. This is an innovative tool that affords consumers better access to justice through quick and easy redressal mechanism and at the same time provide opportunity for businesses to maintain good customer relations.


6.         As a result of the Government of India’s mission to encourage public to adopt the digital payment system, in the near future, several crore of hitherto digital non literate consumers are going to use internet for the first time for buying goods and services and pay for the same. In order to protect the consumer on the online environment, a comprehensive one year campaign for raising awareness about internet safety amongst Indian consumers is being run in partnership with Google. The campaign will integrate the internet safety message into everyday tasks that Indian consumers undertake over internet - whether it be doing financial transactions, using emails, doing e-Commerce or simply surfing the internet for information in collaborate with Government of India in the Jago Grahak Jago campaign.

The partnership will also extend to training of select VCOs, government officials and National Consumer Helpline counselors through a series of train the trainer’s programmes who will further conduct mass training programmes. Awareness generation is also going to be through a knowledge management portal which will be in the form of a micro site on the department website.


7.         In association with the Local Circles, a social media platform, the Department has launched a platform ‘Online Consumer Communities’   for citizens to discuss and opine about, consumer related issues. With Local Circles, a citizen can get connected with their Government, City, Causes, Neighborhood, Interest, needs and any other communities they are a part of. When citizens get connected and become communities, it leads to transparency, easy availability of trusted information, easier collective action to address common issues and an easier/better urban daily life. Using Local Circles, organizations can reach out to citizens and understand collective issues, challenges, solutions, opportunities, and pulse at macro or micro levels.           


 Price Stabilization Fund for Pulses

Pulses are important component of the food basket in India and is a major source of protein for the population. Despite India being the world’s largest producer and importer of Pulses, availability is not always sufficient to meet the requirement, which puts pressure on the prices.


Production, Imports and Demand of Pulses over time has been shown at the table below:




2.         Various initiatives have been taken by Government to enhance domestic production and productivity of pulses.  However, the gap between demand and supply of pulses is likely to continue at least in short to medium term due to the increasing population, improved disposable income of the people, change in food preferences in favour of protein, etc.  Taking cognizance of these facts, Government has been permitting import of pulses at zero per cent duty since June 2006 to improve availability at reasonable prices.  There is also a ban on exports of pulses except for Kabuli Chana and up to 10,000 MT per annum for Organic pulses and Lentils since June 2006.  However, despite these measures, prices of pulses remained under stress during last two years.  This may partially be explained by insufficient imports of pulses during the last two years when domestic production fell due, inter alia, to adverse weather conditions. As imports were almost entirely through private channels, it was guided more by profitability than welfare concerns. 


3.         In view of recent experiences of price volatility of pulses due to its less than sufficient availability because of lower than desirable imports and the significance of pulses in consumption bundle Government considered and approved creation of buffer stock of 1.5 lakh MT of pulses in one of its landmark decisions in December 2015 which was subsequently revised upto 20 lakh MT of pulses in September 2016 to be funded through Price Stabilisation Fund Scheme of Department of Consumer Affairs.  Of this buffer of 20 lakh MT, 10 lakh MT was to be procured domestically and the remaining was to be  imported to improve domestic availability.   However, this distribution between domestic procurement and imports was tentative and could be suitably amended to extend support to farmers, if need be.


 4.        For building the buffer stock of pulses, domestic procurement is being undertaken through Food Corporation of India (FCI), National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED), Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) while   imports is through Metals & Minerals Trading Corporation (MMTC) and State Trading Corporation (STC).  In addition, State Governments have also been authorized to undertake the procurement of specified quality of pulses up to a specified quantity on automatic basis and beyond that level with prior concurrence of central government. 


5.         In view of the enhanced limit of buffer stock of up to 20 lakh MT the domestic procurement target of Kharif pulses from KMS 2016-17 stood at 5 lakh MT.  However, in view of the bumper Kharif crop of pulses and the reported distress sales by farmers Government decided to enhance the procurement target of Kharif pulses to around 9.5 lakh MT.   The designated agencies have been actively engaged in procurement of the targeted quantities and the KMS 2016-17 procurement would continue till March 15, 2017.  As on January 19, 2017 the domestic procurement during KMS 2016-17 stood at 3.37 lakh MT taking the total buffer of pulses, including procurement during previous marketing seasons and contracted imports, to 8.62 lakh MT.  In view of the better production of Kharif pulses, it is expected that the procurement targets would be achieved for KMS 2016-17.   Furthermore, additional 5 lakh MT for the buffer is to be procured domestically out of arrivals of Rabi pulses during RMS 2017-18 for building a dynamic buffer upto 20 lakh MT.


6.         Government of India is creating a dynamic buffer stock of pulses with the objective of ensuring adequate availability of protein at reasonable prices. However, participation of States/UTs especially in distribution of pulses would be crucial for most effective use of the buffer.  Distribution through States/UTs in may ensure channelization of the pulses directly to the consumers and minimize the scope of trade interests cornering gains from government’s operation.  States/UTs were consulted on existence of distribution mechanism at the stage of formulation of plan for enhanced buffer. Most of them had indicated existence of channels through which pulses may be retailed directly to consumers.  However, many States have not taken sufficient initiative for benefiting from the buffer by lifting pulses from it. The optimal use of buffer would be facilitated by improved participation of States/UTs, professional management of stock and making the stock dynamic.  


Remembering Mahatma Gandhi


*Pandurang Hegde

It was on 30 January 1948 Mahatma succumbed to the bullets while he was on his way to the daily prayers. Though he left us physically, his teachings, numerous experiments in his personal life, politics and philosophy is fresh among the minds of  people in India and other countries of the world.

Why is he remembered in every nook and corners of the world? What aspects of his philosophy are attractive enough to lure youngsters into Gandhian fold? His life has become a model for those who are keen to practice the non violence at various levels among individuals and governments.

The first thing that one remembers Mahatma Gandhi is that of a thin bespectacled man clad  with one piece of cloth walking confidently with his stick or sitting quietly in front of Charkha spinning. This simplicity is the signature of his living and teachings.

The most important aspect of his life is that there was no difference between what he taught and what he practiced. Therefore he said “be the change you want to see in the world”, which literally means that instead of dreaming or speaking about the change, it must begin from the individual.

One of the foundations of his thought was non violence. It was not just at the philosophical and mental level, but to be put into practice at personal and community levels in everyday life. It was not just a hollow principle to be followed by fellow human beings, but it meant to respect other creatures in nature like insects and animals.

 Though he is remembered as a great leader to put the tools of non violent into use as a political strategy to win independence from the British rule, he felt that this needs to be part of common man’s life to end exploitation among the family and in the society.

Gandhi was the first modern pacifist, and he coined the word Pacifism, which means non violent opposition to war, militarism and violence.  This is also known as ‘Satyagraha”, one of the main tools that led to winning the independence from colonial rule.

To achieve this he asked for practice forgiveness instead of spreading hate. He said that “forgiveness is the attribute of the strong and those who are weak can never forgive”. Therefore he respected even his enemies, and appealed to the goodwill present among the enemies and gradually was able to win them with his persuasion. That is the reason for many British people were supporting Gandhi despite British Raj being the staunch enemy.

There was no hatred in his mind against his detractors or those who criticised his ideas and acts. For him taking revenge is like spreading the poison, to practice an eye for eye would make the whole world blind.

His life was an experiment with truth and non violence in which he was constantly learning form situations and people. His quote is” live as if you die tomorrow and learn as if you were to live forever”.  He learnt from his mistakes, improving on his strategies and making his ideas more effective.

It is a phenomenal feat that he wrote 55000 pages, which is produced in 100 volumes of collected works by the government of India. We need to remember that he wrote this by hand, when there were no computers.

In remembering Gandhi the present government is trying to put his ideas into practice. The launching of the cleanliness campaign under the banner of Swach Bharat Ahiyaan(SBA)is inspired by his idea.  It has created awareness among the masses and gradually the people are adapting, changing their age old habits and practicing the concept of cleanliness in daily life.

The emphasis on reviving the age old Khadi cloth among the younger generation is another area in which the Prime Minister has taken personal interest and he has appealed to people to support Khadi by purchasing it and wearing it regularly.

Gandhi’s philosophy of simple living is the basis for low carbon footprint life style to address the issue of climate change and global warming. Remembering this aspect of Gandhi the Central Government signed the Climate Change Agreement on Gandhi’s birthday.

Thus, Gandhi is alive through his ideas both at national and international levels.

At national level the launching of non violent Chipko – Appiko Movement to protect the forest resources was inspired by Gandhi’s ideas and led by Sarvodaya leaders like Padma Vibhushan Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna.

At international level Nelson Mandela followed Gandhi’s philosophy to end the apartheid rule in South Africa. Similarly, Martin Luther King Jr in USA and many other practiced non violence are carrying forward their struggles for justice.

It will be appropriate to recall his words on the death anniversary” So long as my faith burns bright, as I hope it will , even if I stand alone, I shall be alive in the grave and what is more speaking form it”.

That is literally true, his ideas are resonating across the world and the creed is growing.

On his 69th death anniversary we need to remember Gandhi’s ideas by putting them into practice in our daily lives. This is the only way we can pay the due respects to the Father of the Nation.


Why humanity remember Gandhi



*Dr. D John Chelladurai


In the world of thorough compartmentalization dictated by industrialized division of labour in which humanity find itself having lost the sense of purpose and identity, Gandhi showed a holistic way that leads us into experiencing life in its fullness.  


He got this holistic perspective from the realization of Truth as God, which is eternal, an all encompassing reality.  ‘Being part of the whole’, he acknowledged, ‘I too am a part of the Truth’.  In the epistemological sense it reflects the wisdom of Upanishad ‘Aham Brahmasmi’.


Functionally, his pursuit of Truth could be termed as an advaita (non-dualistic) practice.  He saw a singular Truth in umpteen facets of life. Ekam Sat vipra Bahudha vadanti.  For him, each of his efforts was some part of the truth or his endless quest for it.  Even the means of his striving, nonviolence, according to him, was a form of Truth. Truth is God and Nonviolence the religion, he explained. Johan Galtung put it as ‘the way is the goal’.


This led him into a unique experience of an inclusive method, a comprehensive approach to life. He saw oneness in all and everything.  That is how he could declare  “I have no enemy” even while fighting against British imperialism.  He then clarified, ‘my fight is against the wrong and not the wrong doer who is my brother’.  


This perspective of endearing oneness is evident in all his endeavors right from his early years.


Be it his colleagues in South Africa, men and women from wide range of persuasions: Muslims, Parsis, Christians, Jews, north Indians and South Indians in equal measure; or his fellow satyagrahis as diverse as the mighty Pathans from the north-west frontier and the meekly peasants of Bihar; or is readiness to induct into his domestic fold Dalits and Leprosy Patients with equal elan, or his prayers that integrated the spirit of all religions, he led humans into a new social reality.


His non-dualistic vision helped him lay the conceptual foundation for a new nation. He interpreted ‘Purna Swaraj’ which originally meant as ‘complete freedom from the bonds of the British’,into a principle of liberation from all evils – of both what are within individual – value decay and lack of social sensibility, and  between individuals – socio, economic political injustice and inequalities.  His 18 constructive programs represent as many facets of liberation: freedom from alcoholism, communal enmity, poverty, sanitation problem, gender inequality so on.


Ideologically he harmonized Satya and Ahimsa as two sides of a coin; and functionally Satyagraha (struggle against the imperial power) and Constructive interventions (building a society of empowered masses) as two wings of a flight to freedom.


Civilization would however remember Gandhi for the all encompassing way of living he professed for the divided world. The guiding spirit is Truth. That enabled him to cultivate within him a triune dexterity called harmony between word, thought and deed; head heart and hand; and between ‘oneself, fellow beings and God.


His non-dualistic (seeing one in all) methodology led him further into a process of social amalgamation, and helped him see potential for human betterment in the same traits that divided humanity into water tight compartments.   For instance, he could see the productive craftsmanship of the shudras, the material acumen of the Bania, the righteous indignation of the Kshatriya and the sagely scholarship of Brahmin are adorable human qualities equally important to every modern human.

And thus, he was happy being a shudra when needed to cultivate his grains, spinning out his own clothes and building hutments in the ashram; he was a typical bania (vaishya) while bargaining for freedom and mobilizing resources for it; as a satyagrahi he showed the valor of a Kshatriya fighting against the antagonistic powers for the sake of humanity even at the risk of his own life.  As a seeker after truth he spoke with the clarity of a Brahmin (scholar and teacher). Thus he brought down the walls that stood between the classes and sailed from one class to another seamlessly.


Similarly, he translated the four stages of life (Ashramas) into four noble virtues to be adopted, not one after another, but all the time together.  While being a grahastha (ashram being his large joint family), he was a brahmacharya all along; without retiring into Jungle he attained liberation.  While living in the thick of the society, he informed, he carries a potable ‘cave’ (society) for spiritual contemplation every moment.


The same harmonizing perspective helped Gandhi braid the four yogic paths into one noble passage for holistic realization.   His passion for Truth and Nonviolence that “transcended human reasoning” was the height of bhakti, equivalent to that of Mira, that fired him to be an invincible adherent of Truth.  Be it his Khadi movement, Harijan campaign or striving for communal harmony, we see an unstoppable performer and his performance evinced the quality of a karma yogi. His conscious exploration into the inner recesses of Truth gave him the wisdom of a gyan yogi; empowered by the bhakti and gyan, his karma (action) invariably steered him to lead the masses out of man-made suffering.  The making of the ‘father of the nation’ is certainly one of Raja Yoga.


Thus Gandhi in his advaita realization of Truth, saw life as a comprehensive experience, not to be realized in compartments, but all inclusively.  The realization of oneness enabled him to see the worth of multifarious manifestations without deterred by their diversity, helped him sail between classes of society, phases of life and through diverse paths of life and ethical schools. 


In the world of thorough compartmentalization dictated by industrialized division of labour in which humanity find itself having lost individual sense of purpose and identity, Gandhi shows in this manner, a holistic way to realize the fullness of life.  Civilization would remember him for this forever.


National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme



*Rajiv Pratap Rudy

Since the early ages, the transfer of skills has been happening through the tradition of apprentices. A young apprentice would work under the tutelage of a master craftsman to learn the craft, while the master craftsman would get an inexpensive form of labour in exchange of training the apprentice and basic amenities. This tradition of skill development through on the job training has survived the test of time and found its place in the skill development programs of various nations around the world.

The key benefits of apprenticeship as a mode of skill development are that it is a win-win model for both the industry and the apprentice, and it leads to the creation of an industry-ready workforce. Most countries around the world have implemented the apprenticeship model – Japan has over 10 million apprentices, Germany has 3 million apprentices and USA has 0.5 million apprentices, while India has only 0.3 million apprentices. This number is relatively low considering the huge population and demography of India with more than 300 million people in the age group of 18 -35 years.

In order to realise the potential of the favourable demographic dividend of India, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the Skill India campaign and subsequently, a separate Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) was formed in November 2014 with an ambition to convert India into the Skill capital of the world. The young and start-up ministry in a very quick time has covered good ground in terms of putting together policy frameworks, launching and scaling up the flagship skill development scheme – Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), revamping the ITI ecosystem, launching new schemes for entrepreneurship development, etc.

Similarly, Ministry has taken two key steps to increase the adoption of apprenticeship model in India:

1. Amendments to the Apprenticeship Act, 1961

2. Launching of National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) to replace Apprentice Protsahan Yojna (APY)

Apprenticeship Act, 1961

The Apprentices Act, 1961 was enacted with the objective of regulating the programme of training of apprentices in the industry by utilising the facilities available therein for imparting on-the-job training. The Act makes it obligatory for employers to engage apprentices in designated trades to impart apprenticeship training on the job in industry to school leavers and ITI pass outs, Graduates engineer, Diploma holder and Certificate in 10+2 vocational stream to develop skilled manpower. During the past few decades, the performance of Apprenticeship Training Scheme (ATS) was not in line with the growth of the economy of India. It was found that a large number of training facilities available in the industry going unutilized depriving unemployed youth to avail the benefits of the ATS. Analysis and interaction with stakeholders revealed that employers were not satisfied with the provisions of the act, especially the penal provision of imprisonment of 6 months. These provisions were considered too rigid by employers to encourage them to engage apprentices.

 Based on these inputs the Apprenticeship Act, 1961 was amended in 2014 which came into effect on 22 December 2014. The key changes brought about by the amendment are as follows:

a. Imprisonment is no longer a penalty for violations under the Apprentices Act. After the Amendment, any non-compliance would be punishable only by a fine.

b. The definition of worker has been broadened and the method of determining the number of apprentices to be appointed has been amended. These amendments would ensure that employers engage a larger number of apprentices

c. The amendment also made provision for setting up a portal leading to electronic management of records, contracts and returns.

The motive behind these amendments was to ensure that employers engage a larger number of apprentices and to encourage employers to comply with the provisions of the Apprentices Act.

National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme

The government has launched the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) on 19th August 2016 to promote apprenticeship training and incentivize employers who wish to engage apprentices. NAPS has replaced Apprentice Protsahan Yojna (APY) from 19th August 2016. While APY provided sharing of 50% of the stipend as prescribed by the Government only for the first two years, NAPS has provision for sharing of expenditure incurred in both providing training and stipend to the apprentice as follows:

•      Reimbursement of 25% of prescribed stipend subject to a maximum of   Rs. 1500/- per month per apprentice to all apprentices to employers.

•      Sharing of the cost of basic training in respect of fresher apprentices (who come directly for apprenticeship training without formal training) limited to Rs. 7500/- per apprentice for a maximum duration of 500 hours/3 months.

NAPS was launched with an ambitious objective of increasing the engagement of apprenticeship from 2.3 Lakhs to 50 Lakhs cumulatively by 2020. We have received an encouraging response from 1.43 Lakh students who have registered since the launch of the scheme in August. Ministry of Defence has also shown support for NAPS, by asking all PSUs under it engage over 10% of total workforce as apprentices. Hon’ble Prime Minister recently distributed reimbursement cheques to 15 establishments under NAPS in an event on 19thDecember in Kanpur.

A user-friendly online portal (www.apprenticeship.gov.in) has been launched in order to facilitate the easy processing of entire apprenticeship cycle and for effective administration and monitoring of the scheme. The portal provides end to end service for the employer from registration and mentioning vacancy to submitting claims, and for the apprentice from registration to receiving and accepting offer letters online.

MSDE is working towards promoting the skilling ecosystem through its initiatives to provide the incentives to employers and creating a regulatory framework to promote compliance. I strongly believe that our initiatives such as NAPS will enable us to create an industry-ready workforce and help us transform India into the ‘Skill Capital of the world'.


Turning Padma Awards into People’s Awards





The Padma Awardees List for 2017 has come as a whiff of fresh air.  The ‘unsung heroes’ have captured the imagination of the people. They include a) Meenakshi Amma (76), India’s oldest women exponent of Kalaripayttu b) Girish Bharadwaj (66), who have built over 100 suspension bridges in villages of Karnatka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh c) Bipin Ganatra (59) who is a voluntary fire fighter for the last 40 years in Kolkata d) Dr. Bhakti Yadav (91), the nonagenarian gynecologist from Indore who treats patients for free e) Daripalli Ramaiah (68) who had planted over one crore trees in arid parts of Telangana f) Chintakindi Mallesham (44) the inventor of Laxmi ASU machine that has reduced time and labour for weaving Pochampalli Silk Sarees g) Karimul Haque (52), the tea garden worker in West Bengal who has upgraded his bike into an ambulance h) Dr. Subroto Das (51) who set up unified helpline for accidents of highways etc. All of them are included in the list of 75 Padma Shri winners. This year there is no Bollywood actor on the list.

This happened because for the first time in the 62-year old history of Padma Awards, ordinary citizens were also given the opportunity to nominate others. Previously only union ministers, MoS, Chief Ministers, Governors, Members of Parliament, previous recipients and important persons could nominate others for the Awards. This led to perceived prevalence of lobbying. Being an offline process, the accusation could neither be proved nor disproved. 

Nomination process has now been made completely online, to maintain transparency. Lobbying is completely eliminated. Not more than five amongst all Padma Awardees are from Delhi, a refreshing change from a few years ago when not less than 20 would be from the national capital. A total of 89 persons have been awarded Padma Awards – seven Padma Vibhushan, seven Padma Bhushan and 75 Padma Shris. The list is concise, which indicates the high level of scrutiny. In previous years the list extended above 100. The total admissible limit in a year is 120.

The Padma Awards viz. Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri are being conferred every year since 1955 by the President of India upon individuals in recognition to their exceptional/distinguished achievement or service to the society.

Ranked next only to the Bharat Ratna, they constitute the highest civilian awards of the Republic. The Article 18 of the Constitution of India abolished the practice of civilian titles e.g. Knighthood, Rai Bahadur, Khan Bahadur and Sardar Bahadur etc which the British used to confer upon the Indians during the colonial era. The Indian state confers/recognizes no title which is not an academic or military distinction. The Padma Awards, based on recognition merit and contribution, were instituted in 1954. They assumed their present names the following year i.e. 1955. Not being a title, no Padma Award recipient, should prefix or suffix the name of the award to his/her own.

There are nine broad categories viz. art, social work, public affairs, science & engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature & education, civil services and sports where an individual’s contribution is reckoned with for the award. But a tenth category under which unconventional contributions towards humanity, environment, wildlife etc is recognized also exists. The names are announced on the eve of the Republic Day (January 26) though the actual award ceremony is hosted in Rashtrapati Bhavan in March/April. Being a foreigner or non-citizen is not a bar for receiving a Padma Award. But his work must have someway benefitted India or its standing abroad.

The Awards are decided by a committee constituted for the purpose by the Prime Minister every year. Headed by the Cabinet Secretary, the committee includes Home Secretary, Secretary to the President in addition to four or six eminent persons as members. The recommendations are submitted to the Prime Minister and the President of India in strict confidence for approval.

The Padma Awards are normally not given posthumously. But the government can consider a posthumous award in highly deserving case. This year there are four posthumous Padma Shri awards. One of them is Dr. Suniti Solomon (1938-2015), a physician and microbiologist who pioneered the AIDS research and prevention activities after the first AIDS case of India was detected in Chennai in 1985. The AIDS is a disease that hit poor and uneducated the most. We owe much to Dr. Suniti Solomon for AIDS awareness in India. It is pity that she could not be honoured during her lifetime.

Another physician Dr. S.V. Mapuskar could not be honoured during his lifetime. He acted as ‘Swachhhata Doot’ or pioneer of rural hygiene and sanitation at least half a century before Swachh Bharat Mission came into existence. In Dehu, a village near Pune, he helped built toilets fitted with bio-gas tank. This resulted in not only clean villages but clean energy. Mapuskar’s NGO toiled for a decade to make those popular in Maharashtra villages and elsewhere. This could serve as one of the model toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission.

Padma, meaning Lotus, is a flower of celestial beauty. Though growing in muck, it remains utterly unsoiled. Most of the unsung heroes, honoured with Padma Awards this year, came from ordinary background. They chose to work amongst ordinary people, to bring a change into their lives. In the process they themselves became extraordinary.


Padma Awards 2017

Ordinary Indians with Extraordinary Capabilities



*Nivedita Khandekar

Karimul Haque and Nivedita Bhide have nothing in common. Neither education, family background, resources at disposal nor even geographical location, but one thing that both have common is their willingness to serve. There is very little chance that you may have met or read about Nivedita Raghunath Bhide, a social worker, associated with Kanyakumari-headquartered Vivekananda Kendra. Similarly, there is very little chance that you may have met or heard about Karimul Haque, a tea garden worker from West Bengal. But they represent the ordinary Indians with extraordinary capabilities.

“On reaching Kanyakumari, after seeing people of India reeling under poverty and ignorance, Swami Vivekananda concluded that a real purposeful life starts with the question – What can I do for my country?”, Bhide told the students of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) at Indore on January 12, 2013. Hindustan Times, Indore reported that Bhide, national vice president of Vivekananda Kendra, further described Vivekananda’s journey through India before he reached Kanyakumari in 1892 and then posed a few questions to the impressionable IIM students. (http://www.vsc.iitm.ac.in/Home/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/VSC_Hindustan_Times_Indore2013-01-12_page4.pdf)

She herself had left her home in Maharashtra to be a full time worker at Kanyakumari and dedicated her life for social service under the banner of the organization started as a living memorial to Swami Vivekananda. An ordinary Indian doing extraordinary work!

For Karimul Haque, who lost his mother 15 years ago to the absence of a vehicle to take her to the nearest hospital, a chance few years later became his mission. His coworker collapsed in the field in front of him, prompting Haque to tie him to his back and take him on a bike to Jalpaiguri Hospital, 50 kms away. Of course, his coworker’s life was saved.

Haque’s two-wheeler has been the only lifeline for 20-odd villages in and around Dhalabari in that district, part of West Bengal. The area lacks basic healthcare facilities and as reported by Hindustan Times(http://www.hindustantimes.com/kolkata/how-north-bengal-s-bike-ambulance-dada-is-saving-lives/story-66aVHiLbElBP46hKVMovNJ.html), ferrying a patient to the hospital in an ambulance is a luxury mostly elusive for a majority in the region. Haque has also started providing basic care at the people’s doorstep after taking intensive training from local doctors. He has single handedly saved over 3000 lives on his mission. So much for an ordinary tea garden worker!

Element of public service, a showcase for ‘excellence plus’

That is what makes Haque and Bhide special. That is what makes them stand out in the crowd of millions and millions of ordinary Indians. And that is what got them selected from more than 18,000 nominations for Padma Awards.  

The ‘Selection Criterion’ as mentioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs for Padma awards (http://www.padmaawards.gov.in/SelectionGuidelines.aspx) is: “While no rigid criteria or trenchant formula for selection is applied by the Padma Awards Committee, it looks for life time achievements of an individual while making a selection. There ought to be an element of public service in the achievements of the person to be selected. The award is given for ‘special services’ and not merely for long services. It should not be merely excellence in a particular field, but the criteria has to be ‘excellence plus’.” (Emphasis added).

Indeed Haque and Bhide along with several of the unsung heros were honoured this year, in what is being labeled as a clear departure from the past. For instance, 1925 born V Koteswaramma. She has had an incredible journey from a small village to an eminent person running educational institutions. She lost her mother when she was just two. The girl from a tiny village Gosala near Vijayawada went on to become first woman graduate in the Vijayawada taluk thanks to her determination, her endless efforts at overcoming grim odds. As reported by The Hindu (http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/Hard-work-pays-off-says-Padma-awardee-Koteswaramma/article17094713.ece), Koteswaramma knew education opens up new vistas of growth as it did for her – “in those days, it was very difficult to get girls educated as no girls would step out of home after crossing 13 years,” she had told The Hindu correspondent – and so she strove hard to bring that quality change in lives of others.

The state level and national level ‘Best Teacher’ awardee, she set up Montessori Junior and Degree Colleges and later the Montessori College of Education, offering the entire range from KG to PG.

Recognising those working at the grass root level

Government officials said, special emphasis was laid on awarding recognition to those who have been rendering selfless service to the society at the grass root level. “This government has been instrumental in recognizing the work of unsung persons working at grass root level in awarding the Padma awards,” the officials added.

A perfect example can be said that of Sukri Bommagowda, also called the nightingale of Halakki Vokalinga tribes in Karnataka. The singer and performer of tribal folk music for almost six decades now, the social activist led a protest against the sale of liquor at Badigeri haadi (a small hamlet). She has also been instrumental in preserving cultural heritage by way of singing songs to save the culture from disappearing.

Another grass root person is ‘Eco Baba’ Balbir Singh Seechewal, who has resurrected the 160-kms long Kali Bein river in Punjab by mobilising local volunteers and developing the Seechewal Model of underground sewerage system. He mobilized volunteers and raised funds from locals to first create awareness amongst locals to not dispose sewage into the river; led to a clean riverbed; restored natural spring and brought the river to life again. That is what sets him apart. Scores of Gurus have become visible across media scene thanks to their celebrity followers but Seechewal stands out tall amongst them for his humble background and grass root work.

Similar is the case of Shekhar Naik. While his counterparts from other forms of cricket have nearly an iconic following, Naik, a blind cricketer, – who has a career span of 13 years with 32 centuries to his credit in 67 matches – is hardly known to even die hard cricket fans, forget rest of India. Naik was born to a poor family at a nondescript village in Karnataka. He rose literally through the ranks in his cricket matches, fought a untrustworthy system and yet achieved excellence – comparable to his ‘peers who can see’ from cricketing world. But as the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) is yet to get recognition from the BCCI, Naik and his ilk are made to suffer needlessly.

“Despite representing India for 13 years, I don’t get any money for playing cricket. It is my NGO Samarthanam, where I work as a sports coordinator, which pays me Rs 15,000 as monthly salary,” Naik told Hindustan Times (http://www.hindustantimes.com/cricket/world-cup-winning-blind-cricket-captain-who-earns-just-rs-15k-month/story-iIfq9SriRcYkxZ0w1pzQNJ.html).

Indeed, an ordinary man with extraordinary vision (pun intended). Hope, the Padma award will change the situation for better for Naik.

And hope also that the trend or recognising the unsung will continue every year from now onwards.


31 jan

Developing an Institutional Framework for Capturing Services Trade Data – Challenges & Opportunities





*Dr. Dipankar Sinha

India’s service sector has been a major driving force in the growth of the economy. In 2015, India’s trade in services was valued at $277 billion, with $155 billion worth of export and $122 billion worth of imports. With a share of 3.3 per cent in world export and a share of 2.7 per cent in world imports, India was ranked the 5thlargest exporter and 6th largest importer of commercial services.

Compilation of Services Trade Data

Following the entry into force of GATS in 1995, the demand for detailed and comparable statistics on trade in services significantly increased. Several developed countries such as USA, UK etc. have developed a fairly robust system of collection of data on trade in services.  These countries have an institutional framework for services trade data collection supported by appropriate regulations, procedures for regular collection of data from administrative sources, regulators and other partner countries (mirror data) and periodic surveys of enterprises engaged in international trade.       

Unlike these countries, Indian services trade data is currently based primarily on International Transaction Reporting System (ITRS) in which foreign exchange transactions channelled through banks are reported to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The reporting of foreign exchange transactions is mandated under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999.

Dissemination of services Trade data & its limitations

The monthly RBI Bulletin provides aggregate level data following the standard classification as stipulated under the IMF’s Balance of Payment Manual, Version 6, for categories like Travel, Transport, Telecommunications, etc. However, information by partner country, by categories and sub-categories of services as prescribed in the negotiating list W/120 and by mode of delivery of services is not available from the RBI data. This severely restricts study and analysis of the impact of liberalization commitments on bilateral trade and pursuing servicesnegotiations with different countries and trading blocks.

Services Trade Data & the Role of Department of Commerce (DoC)

Given the lacunas in the existing framework, the DoC has been working relentlessly to develop a robust framework for collection of statistics on services trade. The following initiatives of the DoC deserve a special mention:

Expert Committee in Central Statistics Office (CSO) & Technical Group on Services in DoC


Amongst the important recommendations made by the Expert Committee and the Technical Group are designating a nodal agency with a mandate to collect, compile and disseminate services trade statistics, integrate some of the data requirements of DoC on external trade in services with the Annual Survey on Services to be launched by CSO, capture information on exporting units in the Sixth Economic Census to be used for conduct of future surveys and undertake more pilot or methodological studies in areas identified for creation of services database.


Implementation of Recommendations of the TG

DoC, on 30th September 2015, designated DGCI&S as the nodal agency to collect, compile and disseminate services trade statistics.

On the request of the DoC, provision was made for collection of some basic information on international trade in services in the 74th Round of NSS survey launched in August 2016.

After the pilots in health and education sectors, several new pilot studies were taken up by DGCI&S with the approval of DoC in sectors like Tourism, Telecommunication, Audiovisual, Logistics, Computer & IT services, Professional services etc. Report of the pilot study on audiovisual, logistics, professional and telecommunication sectors, conducted in partnership with ICRIER was released in June 2016.


Services Trade data for IT, ITeS


Since bulk of IT exporting units are located in STPs and SEZs, arrangements for transmission of data from SEZs to DGCI&S have been put in place to publish quarterly estimates of exports from SEZs from April 2016. A few issues regarding coverage are being sorted out with STPI before the quarterly data on export of IT & ITeS from STPIs can be released. 


The code structure for compilation of IT & ITeS data adopted by various stakeholders has also been reviewed in the DoC and a new code structure developed in consultation with DeitY, STPI, NASSCOM and RBI which is likely to be notified by RBI soon for adoption in SOFTEX form.


Medical Tourism


To promote medical tourism, GOI has a proposal to build up a databank of available resources in the field of medical & wellness services and develop mechanism to disseminate such information.


As a part of this effort, DoC has launched a Medical Tourism survey in June 2016 with a view to collecting information on export earnings/import expenditures by country, distribution of number of non-residents by country of residence and export of health services by discipline. The survey report will be released in April 2017.




With inputs from Bureau of Immigration and the Ministry of Tourism, Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) Kolkata is currently working with DGCI&S on developing a model for generation of quarterly estimates of export earnings from the tourism sector.     






Two pilot studies had been conducted by the DoC covering Higher Education services and undergraduate courses. With the survey instruments already in place and the list of institutions which had enrolled foreign students available from the HRD Ministry, preparatory work for launching a pan India survey for this sector is currently in progress.


Strengthening data collection mechanism to reduce non response


Non-response is a serious issue in the successful conduct of any enterprise survey. An appropriate administrative set-up to strengthen the data collection set up of DGCI&S is currently under examination in the DoC in consultation with MOS&PI.

Trade data Classification

Trade negotiators require disaggregated statistics as a guide for future negotiations of specific commitments and for evaluating and monitoring their economic impact in respect of each type of service. CSO in 2010 had developed the National Product Classification for Services Sector (NPCSS) for non transportable goods based on the Central Product Classification (CPC) (Version 2.0) which has been subsequently updated by DGCIS on the basis of CPC Version 2.1 released by UNSD in August 2015. The new Services Classification (NPCSS 2016) has 1277 services instead of 1842 appearing in the previous version of NPCSS. The updated classification will facilitate the category and sub-category-wise data collection in services trade as well as ensure international compatibility.

Enterprise Surveys in Other Sectors

Preparatory work for launching of surveys in other sectors like Logistics, Audiovisual, Professional services as well as the Insurance sector in collaboration with the regulator IRDA is in progress.


The plan of action as envisaged by DoC will help to generate data by services category & trading partner as well as make data available on some of the categories like education and health not covered through ITRS. This data will provide vital inputs for various policy making decisions in the government and meet the long standing demand of researchers and analysts working in the area of services trade.


31 jan

Positive Impact of Export Facilitation Measures on Exports



*Ajay Srivastava



Latest data suggests signs of recovery of India’s exports. December 2016 is the continuous 4th month when merchandise exports registered positive growth. Despite weak global demand, India’s overall Trade figures also look good, helped by the strong net foreign exchange earnings from the IT-led Services Export Sector. During this period, Government kept a watch and intervened frequently to improve the export performance through initiatives targeted at improving export competitiveness: both short and long term.


Indian government’s Export Facilitation Measures fall into three categories: (I) Reducing cost disability through new Export Schemes (II) Engaging with the world for protecting India’s interests and promoting market access and (III) strengthening internal Trade Eco System. We will discuss each in some detail.


Measures to reduce cost disability through Export Schemes


High transaction costs are major cost disability for Indian exporters. They spend at least 15% more compared to their international counterparts due to higher credit, logistics and other transaction Costs.  The Government launched the New Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) in April 2015 with a focus on supporting both merchandise and services exports.


FTP also introduced many schemes to reduce cost disability of exporters. The most important is the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS). It seeks to reduce part of such costs for products with high export and employment potential in sectors like Food Processing, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology, Defence, High Tech, Electronic Hardware, Automobile, Auto Components, Apparel & Textiles etc. MEIS thus compliments the Make in India initiative. MEIS incentives are available at 2, 3 and 5% of the FOB value of exports.


MEIS initially incentivized export under 4914 tariff lines. However, it was expanded to support additional products keeping in mind the adverse environment faced by the exporters. Currently, it covers 7914 lines.  The Government in May 2016 also expanded the scheme to cover all countries. Initially, MEIS was available to a product only when exported to a notified group of countries. Such interventions resulted from the close tracking of exports performance at product and country level.


To support diversified exports from the Service sector, Government introduced Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) in the FTP. SEIS supports delivery of services from the healthcare, tourism, hotels, education, Legal, Accounting, Architectural, Engineering, and other business services sectors. Services delivered from or consumed in India are supported under the scheme.


Engaging with the world for protecting India’s interests and promoting market access


Most countries have turned protectionist introducing measures to discourage imports from other countries. Since the economic crisis of 2008, G20 countries alone have imposed over 2000 such measures. To safeguard India’s interests, the government actively engaged with many countries and institutions to ensure best possible market access for Indian products.


India has so far signed 10 FTAs including with Japan, South Korea and ASEAN and 6 small coverage agreements. For ensuring further market access, India is currently negotiating /expanding 16 more FTAs including a mega FTA, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with China, ASEAN, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.


India has ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement of WTO with the hope that it will make trade regime across countries less cumbersome. India continues duty-free market access to exports from the Least Developed Countries under Duty-Free Tariff Preference Scheme and to neighbors like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan under SAFTA Agreement. For protecting interests of domestic industry, India took many trade defense measures like imposing anti-dumping or safeguard duties on imports from the firms/ countries using unfair trade practices.


Strengthening internal Trade Eco System


Infrastructure-Logistics costs are a significant part of the export cost. A number of projects are under implementation towards improving the efficiency of select Ports, Airports, Land Customs Stations, Inland Container Depots and Container Freight Stations. The most audacious of these is Sagarmala initiative that aims to reduce logistics cost for both domestic and export-import cargo.


Institutions- Indian Commercial missions located important countries have been activated to identify export opportunities for Indian businesses. Sector specific Export promotion Councils, Federation of Indian Export organizations and number of Trade Associations engage with exporters on resolving day to day and development issues. Export Cum Guarantee Corporation provides insurance facility while Exim bank extends long duration loans to long duration projects located in specified countries. India Brand Equity programme actively promotes Indian brands and traditional goods like tea, spices, ayurvedic products and services like yoga, wellness and health care. Council for Trade Development and Promotion has been created for making states active partners in boosting India’s exports. Board of Trade (BOT) engages with leaders of industry in promoting India’s trade interests. 


Ease of Doing Business and IT initiatives-Aware of the need to simplify India’s export process, a number of measures have been taken to reduce export, import clearance time and cost. Thus the number of mandatory documents required have been reduced to 3 each for export and import. Earlier 7 documents were required for exports and 10 for imports. Major ports, custom-houses, Special Economic Zones, DGFT etc. are EDI connected. More than 95% of export transactions are processed through EDI-enabled Customs Stations. We are gradually moving towards a trade Single window system. Customs introduced Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade (SWIFT) integrating approval process of 6 Government agencies on a single platform. On the incentive side, DGFT exchanges data with Customs, Banks, and EPCs through the secured EDI message exchange system, reducing physical interface of exporters with DGFT.


Developing new exporters-Skilling new entrepreneurs into exports is an important priority. In the last two years over 50,000 entrepreneurs have been trained under the Niryat Bandhu program implemented by DGFT, thus complementing the Startup India and Skill India initiatives.


Few web based free access tools have been created for exporters. Many firms get their first insights into India’s export products and markets from the Trade Analytics tool available at the Department of Commerce website. Firms also use Indian Trade Portal to access Trade inquiries uploaded by Indian trade missions.


Many new measures are on the anvil to make exports competitive and reduce cost and time of operations. How do we assess the impact of such measures? It is difficult to draw a linear relationship between export support measure and the real export performance as exports volumes are affected by many factors both internal and international. However, data gives few interesting insights. For example, products covered under the MEIS suffered less than half the impact of export decline than other products. Additionally, since most of the initiatives aim at strengthening the core competitiveness of the sector, they will anyway contribute to overall growth. With a strong core in place, we may soon hope to see a surge.