Saturday, May 7, 2016

EDITOR'S COLUMN

Friends,

If Monsoon had made irregular appearance before June- in April May last year, this time round, it’s been pretty hot, with no sign of rain God in the immediate future. Mercury level have been above 40 degrees in most parts of India. In some parts it had even crossed 50 degrees with death due to Sun strokes being reported from Andhra- Telangana parts of India. Drought in parts of Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra has been serious. Struggle for water has forced IPL matches out of Maharashtra. Thus the picture is not pretty from the agrarian front. If monsoon does not make early appearance, water crisis, may be for real.

National Meteorological Office has predicted good monsoon, may be slightly more than normal, as of now, its bright sky with no dark clouds hovering around. Yes, rain is most welcome to the parched land across most southern states, so also to help mercury go down.

Early on in the month of April, Panama Papers story had broken out. In what is described as the world’s largest leak in the media, among hundreds of names of global personalities, there appears to be some 500 names of Indians from different strata of society, including businessmen and cine stars holding offshore a/c in Panama. Mossack Fonseca, an international law firm, is the facilitator of this massive flight of money from sources both legal and illegal. Panama is a known tax haven for rogue shipping companies. Money parked therein may be tax-evaded black money or tax avoided grey funds. It could be under-invoicing, over-invoicing export-import trade, by individuals or companies, legal or illegal trade facilitation commission, terror fund transfers, hawal fund transfers. Or it could even be purely legal offshore investment. 

Government appears to be following the lead available to make all illegal a/c holders accountable. Hope NDA government at the centre acts responsible to fix the illegal offshore account holders, which included celebrities and business magnets, like Amitab Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, K.P Singh of DLF, Gautam Adani’s brother Vinod Adani, to name only a few. 

Month-in-Perspective as usual has covered many issues of relevance happened during April. We have expressed our concerns on the happenings with our usual take. We have tried to be truthful and honest in our observations.

In an attempt to save himself, Liquor Baron Vijay Mallya’s sudden flying away from Indian shores has catapulted corporate funding and its misuse by corporates into the centre stage. Non Performing Assets, or acronym NPA has become central to all discourse around Corporate funding. We have tried to discuss the issue of NPA in Focus. It is a very vast subject involving different dimension of our socio/political and economic life. We have tried to touch the issue from different angle, although more could have been covered. We do hope readers find our effort interesting. Do revert with your inputs on the issue. Rest as usual.
J. Shriyan    

MONTH-IN-PERSPECTIVE

Jammu & Kashmir: When it comes to India, there is something basically wrong with a section of Kashmiris. Or else what can really be said of celebrating India’s loss to West Indies in the T-20 World Cup Semi final at Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai. While winning and losing of a cricket match depends upon the performance as well as winning of the toss, the reaction to celebrate the loss is diabolic to say the least. If some people and a section of the media terms it as anti-national they cannot be faulted.
Besides, local police, beating a student, when he was only carrying the Indian tricolor in the protest march, is really reprehensible and totally unacceptable.
However what is truly disappointing is the mindset of Kashmiri Muslims, at least, a section of it, who simply do not like the idea of being with India, probably only because of Hindu majority in India. This cock-eyed approach of these Kashmiris have neither won friends non-influenced people.
Coming to politics, like Congress accuses the BJP, it had different yardsticks in two campuses. In Delhi, if BJP was ultra nationalist in Kashmir BJP seem to have exhonarated police beating of nationalist students who were waving Indian tricolor. After almost 3 weeks of the incident there is no action on anti-nationals in Kashmir as alleged by ‘outside’ students in the campus. Could it be because, in Delhi, the government is of AAP and in J & K BJP is partner in government with the PDP?
NEW DELHI: Salman Khan never fails to make news mostly for wrong reasons. Now he is at his histrionic best complaining that Maharashtra government and Mumbai police are trying to implicate him in the Sept 28, 2002, drunken driving case, where one died and many were injured. After a tortuous journey of over 12 years, ends of justice appeared to have met, when on 12th May 2015, Salman Khan was declared guilty of culpable homicide and was awarded with a 5 years jail term. As luck would have it, or is it the machinations of our legal fraternity, Salman did not spend even 5 minutes let alone 5 years, within the four walls of any jail. It was indeed a travesty of justice that he not only got the bail in matter of hours but the Bombay High Court, in its one of the fastest judgements, gave him a clean chit in December the same year. Taking judicial freedom of interpretation of statements of witnesses, Salman was cleared of all wrong doing. Things would have rested there, if there was the NCP led same government. After all it was RR Patil & Company, who had tried their best to save Salman, prior to his conviction by Justice Deshpande. Unfortunately for Salman and his cronies, the change of the guard at Sachivalaya tilted the balance and the High Court clearance was challenged with Advocate General going hammer and tong screaming ‘Salman acquittal is a travesty of justice’.
So, the spectre of Sept 28, 2002 and the spirit of police body guard Ravindra Patil has come back to haunt him. With the battery of lawyers, who have no qualms lying, Salman has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court that he “was neither drunk nor was he driving the vehicle, and that it was his driver Ashok Singh, who was driving the vehicle”. All of us are privy to the fact that driver Ashok Singh was parachuted into the scene after 13 years, and yet the Bombay High Court judge did not take cognizance of this fact, yet took the freedom to disbelieve the star witness, who was sitting right next to Salman on that fateful day. But then this is Yeh Mera India, where miscarriage of justice in favour of moneyed and the powerful, pass the muster. Hope Apex Court which is looking into the acquittal shall apply itself in all fairness, to return the verdict of guilty, where due.

UTTAR PRADESH: Newspaper just informed that Aparna Yadav, reportedly the 2nd daughter-in-law of ‘Netaaji’, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Samajwadi Party Supremo and defacto boss in U.P., is also entering politics and that she will be the party’s candidate from Lucknow constituency. According to the same report this ‘Netaaji’, already has six of his sons & relatives in political office. Elder son Akhilesh Yadav is the Chief Minister of U.P as an MLC. Dimple Yadav, wife of Akhilesh Yadav is a Loksabha M.P. Dharmendra Yadav, Akshay Pratap and Tej Pratap, are ‘Netaaji’s’ nephews and they are all members of parliament. Netaaji’s brother Ram Gopal Yadav is a Rajya Sabha M.P. Indians are surprised how like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Netaaji did not bring his wife into politics. That would have completed the family tree.
All these ‘ladies & gentlemen’ are emerging as leaders to ‘serve the nation’. Nearer home we have our own ‘son of the soil’ Deve Gowda & family trying to replicate UP ‘Netaaji’. It is incredible that, there is so much rush to ‘serve the nation’ among some political families, like Karunanidhi, Lalu Prasad, Sangma, Pawar, Chavan & others. And our politicians are never tired of talking about empowerment of women and marginalized. As usual these jokers do not mean what they are talking. Democracy supposed to be politics of people, by people, for people. Likes of Mulayam & Lalu have proved, it is of some families, by some families and for some families. This is Yeh Mera India.

“I want to see an India where people Actually Believe in Differences” was a title to the write up in the Education Express published by Indian Express on: 21st March 2016.
The above statement was attributed to Ovais Sultan Khan reportedly a recipient of Rights to Livelihood, called Alternative Nobel Prize.
India is a country of some 1270 millions. It has some 25+ officially recognized languages some over 1500 dialects. Some half a dozen religions, with hundreds of sects & castes of haves and have-nots. Its cultures and cuisines are so diametrically different from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and from Kutch to Kohima. Yet, but for some sporadic incidents of human pettiness, from all communities, it has been fairly peaceful, except aberrations like 1984 or 2002, in independent India. As a free country, both India and Pakistan were born on the same day, but isn’t there a difference in the evolution of our two geographical entities? If ‘Idea of India’ has survived, it’s because Indians do live with differences and have accepted the differences. Although U.S Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith had made a telling remark “India is a functioning anarchy”, more than half a century ago, the point is we are also a functioning democracy with an effective election commission and a vibrant justice delivery system, responsive and probably more fair than even the United States, for all its 68 years as an independent nation. This is indeed a reflection “Where people actually co-habit with differences”, only if media plays its role with responsibility and with a sense of purpose.
While we are about it, it may be relevant to put on record that undersigned had the happiness of sharing the same roof as part of the family, 4 members of a ‘so-called minority community- 3 generation in all- for 18 long years with complete harmony, besides being involved with some half-a-dozen minority educational institutions in reaching out to its needs and aspirations. Of course, media men, despite knowing it, had neither the time nor the inclinations to tell the wide world about this involvement. Everyone has his or her own agenda. Some are driven by selfish motives and some by altruistic motives. That’s all.

 Bihar: Habits die hard. It is a gospel truth as clear as day light. Alcohol drinking is one such habit, that it may not be impossible to give up, but certainly one of the more difficult habits. Between smoking and drinking, the later has been hailed as a better habit. Because smoking can involve silent smokers around the active smoker, so also for the foul smell that comes by the burning of tobacco, smoking is more hated, unlike alcohol which involves only the individual and not his surrounding people. But unfortunately alcohol is more expensive and can be very debilitating financially for both the drunk and his family, who loses his income. Families have always suffered, due to a overdrinking bread winner. It was therefore very normal for Bihari women to demand banning the distribution of alcohol in the state. Purely as a vote bank strategy Nitish Kumar, the CM of Bihar banned the distribution and consumption of alcohol inside Bihar. He feels the women folk of Bihar are very pleased with the decision. Good luck to him and his government.
But, it was a very big decision with multiple dimensions. First and foremost it will lose some Rs 4000+ crores in revenues. For a state which simply cannot afford to lose this kind of money, it is a very big loss. How are you going to recoup the loss? Besides, it is in the human nature to break the law when forced to deny the right. Surely some will fall in line, some will not. So illegal ways to some extent, and some likely to create groups to circumvent the law, can be some of the possibilities.
There will be illegal illicit manufacturing and distribution, where quick money can be the rule of the game. Hooch tragedy is a most likely happening. Birth and growth of Mafia is another possibility. Then you have your neighbouring states, who are all open for drinks. All these can greatly increase the pressure on policing. After all Bihar is generally known to be a lawless state. With a alcohol mafia operating, which in all likelihood can be a happening thing, the Chief Minister will have his hands full without much doing. Nitish Kumar has the lesson of other states on Prohibition to learn from if he cares to learn. Prohibition has always failed after a year or two of enthusiastic enforcement. He has to find some way out. He must increase duties on alcohol to make it more expensive, but use the increased revenues for social engineering, to help the addicted labour class, whose families are on the brink of disaster, to slowly wean them away. They may not completely give-up, but the initiatives can be there to influence reduction in consumption. So that, this class of people not only can enjoy the drink occasionally, but is also left with enough time and money for the family. After all increased universal happiness index has to be the objective of all policy initiatives of elected governments.

Maharashtra: BJP or Sangh Pariwar can be very funny at times. They may not be violent professors of their ideology, but they can be plain stupid. BJP ruled Municipal Corporation of Nagpur (NMC) had organized an AIDS awareness programme at Kasturchand Park, sometime early April. But along with this, some temple authorities had joined hands to chant “Hanuman Chalisa”, organized by a BJP corporator. The logic was by reciting ‘Hanuman Chalisa’, would help cure AIDS. Whether it was pure faith or there were instances of proven cases of the efficacy of chanting Hanuman Chalisa in curing AIDS or any other malady was not the point. The point was how an elected government can associate itself with a purely religious event of a temple, even if ruling party members were involved.
Responding to a PIL by one Janardhan, a former corporator, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court justifiably reacted sharply, saying India belongs to all faiths and not just Hindus, and therefore government had no business to associate itself with a purely religious event of Hindus. It is another matter that there are many non Hindus, both among Muslims & Christians who are believers in some of the practices of Hindus. But they are purely at personal level and never at official level. Right enough, the government accepted without any fuss to disassociate itself with the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ event. Two cheers for the Idea of India.

Being a country of some 1275 million homosapiens, from hundreds of social background, India can present a myriad picture of all kinds of happenings. No wonder the print media datelined Mumbai had this story “Pillion rider stabs bus driver for overtaking”. Incredible, as it may sound, it happened in Chembur, in the North-eastern Mumbai.
Buses or bus drivers, anywhere in India, are always in a hurry, to reach the destination, hence a Maharashtra State Transport Corporation Bus was no different. Driver was either in a hurry or the two wheeler, which he overtook was probably slow. But a bus overtaking a two wheeler or a two wheeler overtaking a bus is an everyday happenings, may be in hundreds, in any big city, more so in a mega city like Mumbai. Difference in this case probably was that the two wheeler was being ridden by a female and her pillion rider was a male. Probably they were on a mission.
On overtaking by the ST bus driver, the female mobike rider, reportedly over sped her bike and overtook ST bus and stopped it in front of the bus. The infuriated male pillion rider got off the bike and confronted the driver and reportedly stabbed the ST bus driver. Obviously after grievously injuring the ST bus driver, the duo sped past. Reportedly the driver has been admitted to a local hospital with Trombay Police Station recording a complaint. Report informs that the hunt is on for the accused and the bike bearing registration No: MH 46-8140.
Here the question, which the report does not talk about is, what were the passengers of the ST bus doing, when a single person, attacking the driver, who was probably not at fault at all? He was only overtaking and overtaking is not a fault at all unless it is dangerous. If such an attack can takes place in broad day light near a traffic signal and attacker gives a slip, what is expected of a citizen? There could have been different ways of handling a lone attacker. How have we become so apathetic or afraid to stop an attack or overpower an attacker? It speaks poorly of our civilisational values. After all the bus driver is a community service provider and was serving those passengers in the bus. How can we make their life less dangerous and more safe? Don’t we have some responsibility towards such public servants? Like all of us, he too could be having his own set of personal problems, but as an employee he was serving you. Isn’t, because of such apathy, don’t care selfish attitude, these attackers, even when they are alone, go scot free? It is incomprehensible that not only the bus driver was attacked brutally, but attacker left without being caught. This kind of daring comes only from professional weapon users.

Recurring water crisis in Deccan plateau covering parts of Telangana, Maharashtra and Karnataka has been there for a longtime. Powers that be, have been only fiddling their fingers, without any long term strategy to manage water crisis.
This time round, it has been particularly bad in Latur in the south eastern part of Maharashtra. Authorities at Sachivalaya in Mumbai, has been organizing water tankers through trains to supply water to the parched land holders, besides imposing section 144 of the criminal code to avoid any possible riots for water.
There was this news some weeks ago that hospitals and nursing homes in Latur have stopped surgeries due to lack of water. This is an alarming situation. Small and big industries have already stopped activity.
But what is most saddening is, while aam aadmi is suffering from acute water shortage, politicians do not seem worried. They not only do not do much, to alleviate the suffering of people, they also indulge in private celebrations.
The local MLA Amit Deshmukh of Congress, who is also the son of former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, was recently in the news for wrong reasons. To celebrate his birthday, he organized sports events which consumed lot of water for the ground preparation. And comes the news of Eknath Khadse, a minister of Fadnavis government. Accusing the minister of complete insensitivity, the media and opposition blasted the minister, who was visiting Belkund village, some 40 kms from Latur to assess the drought situation.
Reportedly, after alighting at Latur airport, the minister wanted a helicopter service to cover the distance.
While use of helicopter for a mere 40 Kms distance can fairly be dubbed as arrogance, the wasted use of 10000 liters of scarce water to make temporary helipad was certainly height of insensitivity. Indeed when it comes to the issues relating to responsible behavior from politicians, BJP has proved as bad as Congress. And they are the principal political parties of the country. Whom do we turn to succour? Oh poor Mother India.

There was this story “Parole absconder held after 5 years”. We have also heard about Sanjay Dutt being given parole so very often. We all recognize that those who are guilty of offence, as accepted by the courts, have to undergo jail sentences. Those who go to jail some time there may be innocents getting caught in the crossfire being punished. It is a very sorry state of affairs. For varieties of reasons, they are pronounced guilty although they may be innocents. Our heart really goes out for them and prayers that they are out of jail soonest. Even those who are guilty, they too have families, wife, children, mother, father etc. they would like to visit them, when they are sick, or if there is marriage or some important functions, state grants them parole. A parole is granted purely as goodwill, and that has to be kept. It’s a gentleman’s promise to return to the prison, when parole is over. But then, like all situations there are exceptions, and some pull a-fast-one and escape into the dark alleys and are lost like this Md Shareef Md Iqbal Sheikh. This convict was released on 24th April 2013, from the Nashik jail for 14 days parole. He managed to remain allusive for almost 3 years until 20th March, when he was caught and was put behind bars. All these 3 years, he was a fugitive and therefore could never have enjoyed his freedom. Even his 3 years absence may become negative factor in his possible early release. It was true that Sanjay Dutt got more than the normal share of parole, as he was a bit influential, but always respected the terms and returned back to the prison. Hence no wonder, he was released early, before completion of his jail term.
While we are about it, we all need to appreciate, that police, with all their negatives, do have their problems with jailbirds like Mohd Iqbal Sheik. People like Sheikh increases the problem of police and make their jobs so much more difficult. They also make the life of other jail inmates difficult. Because of such vanishing tricks, genuine cases may not be sincerely heard or considered. Police can distrust all and therefore, those who have problems with the law have to fight within the legal framework, it can help all. Many times police may want to help or be nice, but such episode of slip make them tough, and we blame that police are heartless. Truly, it takes two for a tango.

KARNATAKA: The latest protest at the National Law School of India University over the dress code has again drawn the attention on the way student community wastes its time on inessentials of evolution. In recent times, we have seen and witnessed the vociferous and heightened protest on the so called protection of freedom of expression by students from some of the institutions of higher learning, as if it is the ‘be all and end of all of student life’. We all like freedom, and who don’t like it?! Even communists who have very little personal freedom in communist ruled countries, wants freedom in India, because, it is someone else who is ruling.
This time round, it was attending the classes by female students, in shorts, that too in a Law School University. As humans, we all want to try all sorts of things including scanty dressing. But to attend classes of professional education in shorts, certainly indicates a bit of waywardness of the person. Discipline is the core of our evolution. If we are not disciplined, we are not fit to be where we are. Of course, the Professor, who commented rather harshly in tasteless language has to be ticked off. He does not deserve to be a professor in a professional law school, if he can’t mind his language. That said, students, in their own interest should behave in a responsible way. They have to grow as responsible citizens and not as vagabonds acting on whims and fancies. Besides what surprises is the inaction or their blindness when sections of society forces its females to wear a particular kind of outfit, even when majority of these females abhor it. There is no student’s movement to protest for the human rights of these females, who have subjugated themselves to the male chauvinism of their society. In all fairness, students should mind their studies rather than waste their time in inessentials unbecoming of students.

President of the Catholic Bishops conference of India, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal was speaking to the press before the start of plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishop of India, some weeks ago in Bengalooru.
“If the entire Hindu Community in India had decided to be communal, the Christian, Muslim and Sikhs would not have been safe. Thanks to God… the majority of Hindus in India are secular. The virtue of secularism should be celebrated by all”, Archibishop Thottunkal had reportedly stated.
Indeed the spirit of secularism is the most fragrant flower of India. It needs to bloom in all its glory spreading its fragrance everywhere. Lots of well meaning, well placed persons are making right noises but there need lot to be done on ground. The best way to sustain the spirit of secularism- alive & kicking-is to encourage inter faith marriages.
We do witness, they are happening. But there is a significant catch. If a Christian marries a Hindu, or a Muslim marries a Hindu, there is pressure on one of the spouses to change his or her religion. Can’t we encourage them to retain their faith so that there is true merging of faith, and we leave the freedom to their progeny to decide as they grow!
There was this wedding in Mandya between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy. Reportedly there was demonstration by a Hindu group opposing the wedding. Although initial report had informed that girl has not converted, a Nikah took place and her name was changed. If the marriage was registered without any religious ritual and name kept intact may be this protestors would have melted away. Nikah took place, obviously because, the boy’s family insisted, and girl’s family succumbed. Of course it is an individual choice, the Hindu protestors had no role. But if we are interested in the larger pan-Indian picture of plural India, such marriages are encouraged actively sans bigotry. After all shouldn’t we love our India more than our religion!? Then India would have truly arrived. Amen.

The reported refusal of Governor Vajubhai Vala to see former Prime Minister Deve Gowda is unfortunate to say the least. After having changed the appointment from 3PM to 2PM and then despite being on time and, then to wait for 45 minutes and still not been able to meet the governor, “as he is resting”, amounts to snub or humiliation or both. Reportedly even PM Narendra Modi met former PM Gowda twice in the recent past.
Raj Bhavans are also known as Old Age Homes for many, should have at least called in time for the former Prime Minister, either to delay the visit or to postpone to the next day or any mutually convenient day, since he is an octogenarian, unlike the Governor, who is in his 70’s. That former PM is unhappy with the episode is an understatement. He is quite entitled to feel furious.

There was this report of 25 year old Ms. Sandhya having donated the organs of her 34 year old husband, after a fatal accident. After the story of large heartedness was telecast and published in print media, it was as usual for the world at large. As usual, all forgot the event. But can it be as usual for someone who has lost her only bread winner for the family? Ms. Sandhya, still very young, with a child and the mother of the deceased, is having harrowing time. Neither the company, where her husband worked, paid any compensation, with no insurance cover, helpless young mother is having difficulties in managing home finance. Why not the police file a case of criminal negligence on the part of the employer who used the victim at a construction site and make him culpable to pay adequate compensation besides other penal actions? And what about those who benefitted from the organs of the deceased? Don’t they, even as a reciprocal gesture, have the responsibility to the organ donor family? After all they are smiling their way into all their to-morrows, shouldn’t they try to wipe the tear of those who are left to suffer the absence of their loved one? Society need to ponder and debate, how best we can help in reducing the suffering of those who are left behind, to suffer in their solitude. Hope this small write-up ignites some action.    
   
KERALA: Any loss of life- flora and fauna included, should always be condoled. It’s very sad that over 100 perished and over 300 injured in a kind of competitive fireworks at the Paravur temple in Kollam, Kerala. That it was caused by casual approach to the whole issue of managing- manufacturing, transporting, storing and usage- these firecrackers is not the issue. Issue is why at all we have this spectre of dangerous chemicals going up in flames only to entertain, the gathering of thrill seekers and certainly not those who come for the darshan and blessing of the God. These explosions or burnings of extremely harmful chemicals like potassium sulphate, is not only very risky for humans, as is witnessed in Kollam, but also very bad environmentally, besides causing completely avoidable noise pollution. So, should we at all have it? Notwithstanding what Travancore Devaswom Board member Prayar Gopalkrishnan had said post disaster at Kollam temple. He had reportedly remarked that “In many temples, pyrotechnics is part of rituals. As a ritual it should be maintained.” The question is ‘has the God from the sanctum sanctorum demanded these spectacles, which in ultimate analysis causes only loss of money, loss of property, environmental degradation, sound pollution and of course this hugely painful loss of human lives? State and Centre must debate the possibility of either completely banning the use of firecrackers or to heavily regulate the use of these harmful chemical products.

WORLD: On Sunday some of the national T.V Channels carried a BREAKING NEWS: and it followed “Prime Minister has been awarded with Saudi Arabia’s Highest Civilian Award”. That these TV Channels thought it a breaking news is note worthy.
As far as the memory goes, no prime minister of India was ever rewarded with this award, not even to a Pakistani national. For whatever reason this award was given, it is indeed a breakthrough of a rare and different kind. India and Indians should have celebrated. But no newspaper carried any story.
If two years earlier, by some quirk of fate if Dr. Manmohan Singh was to get this award, on his return to Palam or the IG International Airport, it would have been pretty natural if Dr Singh would have been greeted with ‘Bharath Maata Ki Jai’, and all would have lived happily ever after. But now there is a problem, largely made by elements within the Sangh Pariwar and some of their senior political and government functionaries. Both Sangh elements and their opponents in the public space acted and spoke with abundant immaturity. We Indians need to grow to appreciate things in right perspective without our negatives overtaking our positives. In this context RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had reportedly remarked “We have to create a great India where people themselves chant “Bharath Maatha Ki Jai. It need not be imposed.” Now that’s a matured statement.
Coming to this award, there are idiotic cynics who only paint a negative picture. Haven’t we heard ‘every cloud has a silver lining’? Let us see only silver lining, that Saudi Arabian Royalty has accepted India on its face value by recognizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Amen.

Some weeks ago, there was this report in the print media about the Visa being denied to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), by the Union government.
USCIRF had plans to travel to India, to study the alleged ‘extremist rhetoric' in the context of India’s multi-religious socio-political landscape. What was the purpose, unless there is a hidden agenda, was not known. Since last few months, we are all privy to the happenings across India, where some bad mouthing, especially from so-called right wing elements, had attracted lot of criticism. And whole lot of social media reaction has been there. But there have been similar or worse happenings from even those who are not clubbed with right wing elements. But our interlocutors in the public space and even media had maintained a kind of No See, No Hear and No Speak approach of 3 monkeys. This has been an ongoing thing whenever and wherever these so-called right wing parties come to power.
But the truth is, India being a Complex Country of all sorts, it has an amazing ability with its self correction system without the help of self Styled Super Power, the U.S. India certainly do not need the “tremendous missed opportunity” as observed by Katrina Swett, the Commissioner for USCIRF. She had thus commented after the visa denial. Commenting on the refusal of visa for the third time she had reportedly remarked “India is a great society and one of the most significant countries in the world. One would hope that a democratic and pluralistic society like India would welcome a visit from the Commission”. It was obvious they wanted to come uninvited, only to fish in the troubled water to make it more murkier. So that similar elements within India, are given a boost. Period.      

There is nobody in the world who do not wish to be happy. But we all know that, happiness is a mirage. If you chase, it will continue to elude you. But if you don’t, may be it will perch on your shoulder like a butter fly.
But what constitutes happiness? Is it having everything you desire or to be satisfied with what you have?
The Sustainable Development Solution Network (SDSN), a global initiative of the United Nations, has come up with ‘The World Happiness Report 2016’, recently.
Released in New York, it had shown India to be one of the more unhappy countries of the world. It is sad isn’t it! In a list of 156 countries, the world over, India reportedly is at 118, way behind even Pakistan and Bangladesh. The report apparently takes into account, GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make choices, generosity, corruption and dystopia. While all parameters are known, when a study of human development index is calculated, dystopia is a new terminology. The explanation given to dystopia refers to ‘a state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or an environmentally degraded one’.
Coming to India, which is shown at 118, as compared to Denmark which is No:1, there appear to be some serious issues of concern.
Report said that India was among the group of 10 countries witnessing the largest happiness declines along with Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and Botswana. India comes below even nations like Somalia at 75, Iran at 105, Pakistan at 92, Palestine at 108 and Bangladesh at 110.
Reportedly India had ranked 111th in 2013, clearly in 2016 it has become more unhappy at 118. Where are the Acche Dins!? Coming coming not coming!!
According to the report, it has given a special consideration to the measurement and consequences of inequality in the distribution of well being among countries. Experts across fields like economics, psychology, survey analysis, national statistics, health, public policy describe how measurement of well being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations. Report reflects a “new world wide demand for more attention to happiness as criteria for government policy. People are happier living in societies where there is less inequality of happiness”. However report notes that happiness inequality has increased in most countries. Isn’t it a reflection of the decline in the mental richness of societies the world over!? Is the man failing!

Worst thing any human can do to another human, is to cause sorrow when the person is enjoying his happiness. This is what, the Pakistani terrorist group did to their Christian fellowmen, who were enjoying their Easter outing at the popular Gulshan-e-Iqbal park in Lahore. Some 70 people perished in the suicide bombing and over 200 were injured, some very seriously. The Idea of causing the mayhem on a holiday at a popular park was to cause the maximum loss of life and bloodshed. The terror group may be having some justification for causing this kind of barbaric act, but whatever your reasons for doing what you did, how can you kill innocents who are not even remotely connected with your cause.
This act is not only diabolic, but also barbaric, without any iota of justice. The group which is unhappy with the execution of policeman Qadri, who had killed Punjab governor Salman Taseer, should if at all, act against the government which executed Qadri, instead of attacking all the vulnerable innocents, who have no way of hitting back. This despicable act in the name of Jihad has to be condemned outright. We have this U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom, wanting to visit India to investigate some stupid bad mouthing by some Hindu bigots and not any violence, mind you! Where are they when these innocents were killed on one of their holiest days?!
       



What They Said

"IJTIHAD- IRSHAD MANJI & ISIS", (I&C April- 2016) This is good but looks dangerous.
-Prof. B.M Hegde, Former V.C Manipal University, Via- email

"IJTIHAD- IRSHAD MANJI & ISIS", (I&C April- 2016)  OK but could have been more forthright.                                                                                     B.R. Shetty, Bangalore

"Aamdanni Athanni Kharcha Rupaiyya Nathija Tan-Tan Gopal", (I&C April- 2016) Correctly said. We are concerned for small borrowers who are always honest and let big fish go freely.                                                                                  -Shridhar Salian, Via FB 

"Aamdanni Athanni Kharcha Rupaiyya Nathija Tan-Tan Gopal", (I&C April- 2016)
Good write up! Well, now since you have raised the issue...he has actually helped us to make a good case for tightening noose around the bigger "non performers"...namely....Anil Ambani, Adani, Ruias, Jindals and the likes. Well....lets see how the system rises up to the occassion. Test case to know how serious the FM is on tightening the system!

- Ashok LP Mendonca, Via FB

"Aamdanni Athanni Kharcha Rupaiyya Nathija Tan-Tan Gopal", (I&C April- 2016)
Good write up sir...farmers suicide for 9000 rupees..but our Mallya mam not thought of that final knot...but ran away with 9000 *crore*. Yeh Mera India.

- Mohidin Kunhi, Via FB 

"Intellectual Double Standard"- (I&C April- 2016)
Expression of individual opinions are part of society. He has expressed, You have expressed. Both will have supporters. There is no need to restrict or treat these as threat to our freedom nor democracy. I appreciate you for at least expressing!

-Anil Kumar G, Via FB.

"Intellectual Double Standard"- (I&C April- 2016)
The Hypocrisy & The Falsehood of the so called intellectual class is coming out in the open.. It is the expression of Intolerance to provisions of Constitution, Intolerance to freedom of expression of all others who don't toe their line.. Compliments on your well written comment. Jai Hind-

Ganesh Karnik, Via FB.

I have been reading this magazine since 4 years and all along I have enjoyed it and recommended to others as the contents are valuable and worthy.

S. Nanjundaswamy, Mysore.

"IJTIHAD- IRSHAD MANJI & ISIS", (I&C April- 2016) has truly focused on a burning issue of our time. Concerned section of the society has to take the call for the overall good of the world. Your writing has been a middle of the road approach, without any antagonism, a necessary quality for a tolerant world.                                 -A concerned reader.


FOCUS

NPAs

An Interminable Saga of National Loot

On 3rd of March, most newspapers across the country screamed “Mallya escapes”, leaving the entire Indian banking industry in lurch with Rs 9000 crores in outstanding bank loans and interest dues generally called as NPA.
Suddenly NPA became central to all socio-political discourse across the country. To a banker, NPA or Non Performing Assets represents a loan which has stopped earning interest to the lending bank.  We all know, in life there is nothing free. So if you have borrowed, you have to pay the borrowed money plus the agreed amount of interest. Thus, the interest becomes a cost to the borrower, while to the bank, it is a revenue or income.
Why does a bank loan become an NPA? A borrower agrees to a programme of repayment of loan - principal + interest, a schedule of liquidation of borrowed money with interest. Many a time, it may not be possible to keep the schedule and it can remain outstanding for a period beyond say, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months etc. Then many banks, depending on the genuineness of the reasons for default in repayment, try to reschedule these outstandings, sometime by increasing the limits of borrowing, which is always outstanding principal + outstanding interest. Of course, there are cases where no rescheduling is agreed for varieties of reasons, like, assessment by the bank that the borrower is not able to manage the project or borrower has lost the trust of the bank or borrower has diverted the funds for purposes other than the original purpose of the loan, or diverted the funds for personal purposes.  Rescheduling also can take place looking into the future prospects of the borrower’s project and genuineness of the reasons for default in repayment, unholy nexus between the bank management and the borrower for unwritten reasons etc.. There are allegations of kickbacks to the top management of Banks for agreeing to rescheduling the loans also.  These rescheduling are basically window dressing, or ever-greening or evading provisioning for bad and doubtful debts.
Now having dealt with this latest monster called NPA, what we need to know is, how NPA was allowed to become a monster. Available information in the public space tells us, it is to the tune of some 4.5 lakh crores of rupees. Mind you, this is after periodic write offs which would again run into lakhs of crores of rupees over a period of many years. During the last three years alone, reportedly Rs. 1,14,000 crores have been written off  by PSBs. Again this 4.5 lakh crores, presently being shown as NPA, may eventually be written off as bad debt either partly or fully. The question is whose money is it being written off? It is the nation’s resource, if available, could have been used for funding essential developmental projects. There may be genuine reasons too among the number of controversial reasons for default in repayment by the   borrowers.  Of course, business is always risk driven. There is no business without any risk, unless it is a monopoly or State supported enterprise. In a competitive environment, risk is a factor that is ever present. Hence, there are all possibilities that there could be loss. But do we have any loss analysis prior to the decision to write off a loan (principal and interest)?
Is there a mechanism to fix responsibility at the door of the borrower, as to how this loss could have been avoided or was it unavoidable? Or were there any flaw in the appraisal of the loan by the bank official while assessing the repayment capacity of the borrower?  Were there any misrepresentation by the borrower in the financials of the project viability?  Whether the assets offered as security are sufficient, marketable and free from outside claims? Whether there is any mechanism to protect banks in such situations?  Hence, question of accountability on the part of both the lender and the borrower is of paramount importance. But has this importance been given to this issue of concern, is a point lost in the chaotic discussion on NPAs.
In banking sector, there are both private sector and public sector players in India. A comparison between both private lenders and public sector banks shows that the NPAs of private sector banks are far smaller as compared to public sector banks. Is it because the accountability in private sector banks is far stricter than that of public sector banks? Is it the “chalta hai” attitude in PSBs? According to a policy watcher, “Private sector banks appear to have weathered the financial turbulence much better than PSBs. They appear to have managed their provisioning with greater due diligence. More importantly they have disbursed loans with lot more prudence. Financial prudence, after all, is supposed to be the bed rock on which banking structures are built. Somehow, many PSBs forgot this” he opined. “Private banks penalize managers who overstep prudential norms. A good example is the manner in which a foreign bank eased out three of its very top managers for over-exposure to a leading Indian industry house. One seldom sees such penalties being imposed on defaulting PSB managers.” He added.   
We all recognize that every loan proposal gets considered on the basis of its repayment capacity, gestation period and future viability. There are set guidelines for appraisal of the loan proposal like the history of the borrower, feedback from other financial players, past financials like Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss account etc., creation of assets by the borrower and borrowers’ stake in the project like the funds and assets brought in by promoters involved. It’s fairly straight forward and no complexity of a rocket science. Thus, it is possible to make a prudent assessment of the need for external funding, quantum of external funding and the gestation period of its operation and eventually how, the completed and operating project, could meet its financial needs and leave a surplus to pay to the funding institutions.
So what really went wrong with Vijaya Mallya & his companies and all those who add up to Rs. 4.5 lakh crores of rupees? 
Every Bank is required to frame its credit policy under which the powers are delegated to different levels of authority including Board of Directors for dispensation of credit.  For example, “A” Bank may decide that large advances, say Rs.100 crores and above could be sanctioned only by the Board.  All the sanction of loans are subject to RBI directives.  During the 90s, RBI came with a direction that the power to sanction loans by the Board could be delegated to a Committee of the Board (called Management Committee) consisting of RBI and Ministry Directors besides CMD, ED and other non-executive Directors nominated to the Committee on a rotation basis every six months. Only the minutes of the Committee are placed before the Board and those members of the Management Committee would be privy to the vital information on the credit sanctioned by the Committee. Whatever NPAs we are talking about in the industry today are all sanctioned at the highest levels.  It is an irony that the regulator, the RBI and the owner, Government of India (MoF) had their representatives on the Board and Management Committees and how such dubious loans (which have become NPA today) got sanctioned without any questions raised by these watchdogs points to the allegation of corporate-political nexus. The suspicion gets strengthened with the clout certain industry groups enjoy with the establishment.  It is well known fact in the industry that the selection to the posts of CMD and ED are made in a opaque manner and it is believed that the candidates who have close connections with these groups get selected (even by relaxing the eligibility criteria).  A few years back the Mangalore Head quartered PSB, Corporation Bank had a CMD appointed, who had only 13 months of service left! Once the candidates are posted, these groups put pressure on these top executives to return the favours which also have contributed to the NPA mess.
An ordinary customer goes for a personal or housing loan, he will be required to provide collateral security besides mortgage of the assets to get the loan.  But in case of corporates, crores of rupees are sanctioned taking the land and building and machinery and inventories, all at inflated values as security. Over the years RBI had also dispensed with mandatory obtention of personal guarantee of Promoter Directors which has further helped the unscrupulous corporates to get loans without any fear and accountability.  During the 2000s, RBI also permitted Banks to sanction short term loans (less than 1 year) to corporates beyond the consortium. This also helped the corporates to avail crores of short term loans at concessional rates from Banks many of which today have turned NPAs.
Here it is relevant to quote Mr. Anil Sinha, the CBI director. He was speaking at the 7th conference of CBI &IBA (Indian Banks Association) on 2nd March 2016, in Mumbai. 
Quote: “During the last six years, gross NPA in PSBs have gone up from Rs 44357 crores in 2009 to Rs 3 lakh crores in 2015. The level of gross NPAs as % of gross advances has also gone up from 2% in 2009 to 4.36% in 2015. And we are not even considering huge amounts tied-up in accounts under restructuring. There is also a rise in quantum of high value frauds in borrower a/cs. There is also rising trend in case of bank frauds and financial crimes taken up by the CBI. The crisis in the banking and financial system runs deep and there is a growing sense of anguish among the public that while banks are strict on retail borrowers, the big borrowers and large scale fraudsters are able to not only evade the law but enjoy the fruits of their crime. Something is indeed seriously wrong. While I fully understand that loan defaults can happen due to business risk and & reasons beyond the control of banks, borrowers & regulators, yet a significant part of the defaults are willful & fraudulent. What causes concern is that a major part of the NPAs & frauds are in large value accounts. Added to this is the unduly slow & long process by which such loans & advances are red flagged, declared NDAs, then as willful defaulters & finally as fraudulent. This whole process is so time consuming that it allows large borrowers ample time to walk away with funds, including hawala to tax havens. As a result of these limitations, investigations by CBI are grossly hampered. The accountability mechanism in banks & financial institutions are weak & defused. In the end no one seems accountable. The message to the public is that rich and powerful are able to avoid consequences of cheating and fraud, while the ordinary citizens are promptly booked. This undermines faith of people in rule of law which has dangerous consequences in democracy. CBI has recently registered a case of cheating & fraud against Kingfisher involving allegations of defrauding banks to the tune of nearly Rs 7000 crores.
This case was registered in July 2015, for loans of 2004 to 2012. However despite our repeated requests, the banks did not file a complaint with CBI. We had registered the case at our own initiative. The question is, that undue delay in identifying and reporting such a fraud has jeopardized the cause of justice to the offenders’ benefit giving them opportunity to divert funds and destroy evidence. All of us must ponder over this issue”. Unquote. 
Right enough SBI, the lead banker to King Fisher loan, filed application with DRT only after Vijay Mallya fled, seeking to arrest him and impounding his passport.      
The RBI conducts Annual Financial Inspection (AFI) in every Bank and how these NPA loans skipped RBI investigation is a big surprise. Further, it is the RBI which  encouraged postponing the NPA problem in the name of loan restructuring and Corporate Debt Restructuring under which the corporates have been given huge concessions in interest and other charges which if investigated would bring out another scam.
RBI’s data shows that industrial players accounted for 55% of NPA while accounting for only 10% of employment generation. Compared to this agri-sector accounts for 50% employment generation while accounting for less than 8% NPAs. Still a hue and cry is made when farm loans are written off by the same industry barrons who have looted the banks while lakhs of crores of corporate loans are written off without any questions asked. This is a reflection on the State priorities for all post independent years.   
Today all of a sudden the RBI wants to clean up the Banks in the name of AQR (Asset Quality Review) which is claimed to be one shot remedy for the ills of the banking industry and the PSBs are forced to swallow the bitter pill as they had ventured into the above mentioned projects under compulsion and without necessary skills.
Kingfisher Effect:
The actions taken to recover the money from Kingfisher have created ripples in the corporate sector and will have a lasting effect if the judiciary of the country, the only hope for the people, has its way.  Thanks to the media which is active, the masses in the country have come to know about the private loot of public resources through its nexus with the powers. The judiciary has proved that none is above the law through its demonstrative actions against Mr. Subroto Roy (Sahara Group Chairman) for defaulting repayment of deposits to the depositors and now the Kingfisher CMD, Mr. Vijay Mallya. 
While it has to be understood that all NPA borrowers are not willful defaulters, those closely associated with the industry know that Kingfisher is only the tip of the ice berg. It is reported that corporates like Bhushan Steels, Essar Group etc. are in the list of NPA defaulters who have borrowed tens of thousands of crores from PSBs which are hard to recover as they had inflated project costs and had not created commensurate assets resulting in steep erosion in value of securities. It is hoped that the Government should show its resolve in helping PSBs to recover the public money from these unscrupulous corporates.  Continued media attention and judicial scrutiny will help the Banks to recover the public money from these corporates who have manipulated the entire system to loot the public money for their private gain. 
What the Government can do?
The Government can take the following steps to help the recovery of public money:
1. Strengthen recovery mechanism like DRT (Debt Recovery Tribunal) and SARFAESI (Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest) by giving teeth to the laws and make recovery process faster and less time consuming.
2. Conduct forensic audit of all NPAs which are say, more than Rs.500 crores and punish those responsible for throwing public money in the hands of money launderers and cheats
3. Amend IPC to make willful default a cognizable offence with stern punishment 
4. Amend Banking Secrecy Law and publish the name of willful defaulters 
5. Bar promoters and full time Directors of companies (which are willful defaulters) from holding public offices.
6. Adopt a policy to recover the concessions extended to corporates under CDR (Corporate Debt Restructuring) and other restructuring schemes, once the company starts making profits.
7. Wherever securities are enough to recover, stop selling NPAs to ARCs at throw away price. 
8. External Audit of write off of loans as it involves loss of public money.
9. Give autonomy (real) to Bank Boards and stop micro management of Banks
However it is to the credit of the present government that as far back as May 2015, almost an year earlier, had initiated steps to check loan frauds, having already collected comprehensive data on willful defaulters of public sector banks. A Central Fraud Registry (CFR) under RBI is planned. A concept of Red Flagged Account (RFA) has already been introduced, to pre-empt attempt at fraud. Any RFA designated a/c will not be allowed restructuring or additional funding. Finance ministry, while acknowledging NPAs to be at unacceptable levels did acknowledge huge NPAs were due to indiscretion, inaction so also due to challenges.   
Hope the Government would prove its resolve to fight the NPA menace through its actions in the days ahead.

J. Shriyan with inputs from D.N Prakash, a former Vice President of All India Bank Officers' Confederation.

FEATURE

The epidemic that wasn’t.

Prof. B. M. Hegde,
hegdebm@gmail.com

“The fact is that in creating towns, men create the materials for an immense hotbed of disease, and this effect can only be neutralised by extraordinary artificial precautions.”             Anonymous

The memory of that “great” epidemic (that wasn’t) news broke out in all headlines in both print and electronic media in the summer of 2009. It continued day in and day out spreading from the sacred American media to the lesser media channels all over the world. Indian media is probably the most obedient of all as far as the western media news goes. Everyone was worried that they might die anytime due to this deadly pandemic where a deadly virus, that imaginary H1N1, had taken hold of this world! Today it is the scare of that deadly virus ZIKA which, luckily has failed to kill anyone since 1947. There is a twist in the tale now. The threat is not for you but for your yet to be born progeny growing in the mother’s womb oblivious to this threat. Instead the mothers to be are scared which might affect their bun in the oven.

You might wonder as to why we are talking of 2009? There is a pattern that never dies. History repeats itself. Newer facts have come to light about that innocent H1N1 now. We were only blaming the drug companies and the WHO for sleeping in the same bed for that episode. Now a new partner has come to light which is much scarier. The watch dog body that is the protector of the common man, the CDC itself, has been found to have been in cahoots with the other two in this game. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) at that time claimed there were roughly ten thousand Swine Flu victims in America.Sharyl Attkisson, the CBS news channel investigator discovered something quite strange. Back in July, the CDC had stopped counting Swine Flu cases. This was found out by Sharyl. She wrote on October 21, 2009 in an article in the CBS website: "Swine Flu Cases Overestimated?":If you've been diagnosed 'probable' or 'presumed' 2009 H1N1 or 'swine flu' in recent months, you may be surprised to know this: odds are you didn't have H1N1 [Swine] flu. In fact, you probably didn't have flu at all.""In late July, the CDC abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 [Swine] flu, and stopped counting individual cases. The rationale given for the CDC guidance to forego testing and tracking individual cases was: why waste resources testing for H1N1 flu when the government has already confirmed there's an epidemic?" The investigators found out that the“vast majority of cases were negative for H1N1 as well as seasonal flu, despite the fact that many states were specifically testing patients deemed to be most likely to have H1N1 flu, based on symptoms and risk factors, such as travel to Mexico." Despite this the CDC put out their statistics in November 2009 that "Shockingly, 14 million to 34 million U.S. residents — the CDC's best guess is 22 million — came down with H1N1 swine flu by Oct. 17 [2009]."

Sharyl Attkisson replied to that "...we discovered through our FOI efforts that before the CDC mysteriously stopped counting Swine Flu cases, they had learned that almost none of the cases they had counted as Swine Flu was, in fact, Swine Flu or any sort of flu at all!” Attkisson's investigation was fair, accurate, legally approved. Does that mean that the public took and gave their children an experimental vaccine that may not have been necessary? Hundreds of thousands all over the world must have taken the expensive drug for no fault of theirs? Governments stockpiled the drugs as Swine ‘Flu was declared a pandemic by the WHO obligating governments all over to buy drugs. Every tax payer in all those countries has the right to question that. Do we learn any lessons from these happenings? If not, we will have to relive those experiences. Now with the new threat of Zika do we become wiser? The other day I met our Health Minister, Mr. U. T. Khader,in a plane who was all worked up about this threat of Zika. His whole department is working overtime to stop the devil,Zika from invading Karnataka State. I did try my best to tell him the other side of the coin but I wonder if he has taken that to heart! In the bargain I got an opportunity to inform him that the best method to stop malaria is to give every poor man, woman and child a mosquito net. I think that has set in. He told me that he will think on those lines. This was a plus point in the whole meeting.

“Thought is an infection. In the case of certain thoughts, it becomes an epidemic.”     Wallace Stevens

Budget & Fine Print

A N Shanbhag
Our perusal of the fine print of Budget 2016 has been throwing up some very interesting findings. Over the past few weeks, we have aggregated some of the more significant amendments that have managed to pass under the radar, so to speak, and hence not reported extensively (if at all) in the media. Through this article the same is being shared with our readers.
Sec. 24: The interest payable on capital borrowed for acquiring a housing property was exempt u/s 24 up to some specified limits if its acquisition or construction was completed within 3 years from the end of the year in which the capital was borrowed. Finding that in the current scenario, this requirement has become too tight, the limit of 3 years has been raised to 5 years. However, corresponding amendments have not been inserted for Sec. 54 and Sec. 54F related with exemption of Long Term Capital Gain (LTCG) where the 3 year limit continues to apply. Hopefully, corrective action will be taken by the next Budget.
New Sec. 47(viic) & 48: In the case of bonds and debentures, the benefit of indexation is not available. However, Indexed Bonds issued by the government attract indexation. On the same lines, Budget 2016 has brought Sovereign Gold Bond issued by the RBI under indexation. However the newly inserted Sec. 47(viic) does not consider these bonds as capital assets at the time of their redemption by an individual!
Sec. 48: Consequent upon the judgment of various courts related with the definition of ‘securities’ under SCRA, it is  clarified that the LTCG arising from transfer of a share of a private limited company shall be charged to tax @10%. Moreover, the period for getting benefit of LTCG in case of shares of unlisted companies has been reduced from 3 to 2 years.
New Sec. 115BBDA:  Even if normally, dividends are tax-free in the hands of the recipient, an additional tax @10% will be applicable if dividend during the FY received by an individual, HUF or a firm who is resident in India, exceeds Rs. 10 lakh. No deduction in respect of any expenditure or allowance or set off of loss shall be allowed in computing the income by way of dividend. This amendment fortunately does not cover dividend received from Mutual Funds. It has to be realised that the DDT, by itself, has risen to quite a high level of 17.7675% on equities and 29.6125% for debt-based MF schemes. This being so, the new law that triply taxes dividends is most unfair even if it results in only being applicable to High Networth Individuals.
Sec.  211: has been amended  to provide that the number of installments and due dates for payment of advance tax in the case of individuals, HUFs, firms, etc., shall be the same as is applicable to companies. This is most scary!!! It forces such an assessee to pay advance tax four times in place of three times with the first installment of 15% required to be paid on or before 15th June instead of 15th September. The rest of the installments are adjusted taking in view of the first installment. TDS is treated as advance tax paid. Senior citizens are exempt from paying advance tax if they do not have any business or professional income.
Voluntary Disclosure Income Scheme
The FM has offered an Amnesty Scheme without naming it as such. It  provides an  opportunity to persons who have not paid full  taxes in the past up to FY 2015-16 to declare such  undisclosed income and pay  tax @30% of undisclosed income  plus 7.5% ‘Krishi Kalyan cess’ plus 7.5%  penalty aggregating to 45% tax of such undisclosed  income.
No scrutiny and enquiry under the IT Act and Wealth-tax Act shall be undertaken in respect of such declarations and immunity from prosecution under such Acts shall be provided.
Following cases shall not be eligible for the scheme:
where notices for assessment, reassessment or  search has been issued;
where a search or survey has been conducted and  time for issuance of notice has not expired;
where information has been  received by competent  authority under an agreement with foreign  countries in respect of undisclosed asset.
 This then sums up our discussion on some of the nuances of Budget 2016. Also, the authorities do not reserve only the Budget to make any major announcements – these can be made outside the Budget too (case in point – the recent Small Savings rate cut). Whether through the mode of the Budget or otherwise – if there are any amendments or changes to the law that affects your investments or taxes, we assure you that the same would be reported and analyzed as usual through this column.
(The author may be contacted at wonderlandconsultants@yahoo.com)

PSYCHOLOGY

Winning is all about mind over matter

Washington: According to a recent study, fights are won and lost in the brain. Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have found that a deep-brain structure called the habenula contains two neural circuits that work in a complex interplay to influence whether a fight will be a win or loss.
The circuits, which originate in the habenula and pass through the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN), terminate in the dorsal tegmental area. This part of the fish brain is thought to correspond to a region in mammals called the periaqueductal gray that regulates fight and flight behaviors. The proximity and possible homology of these brain areas inspired an investigation into whether the habenula is also involved in freezing, fleeing, and fighting behaviors.
The results establish that two sub-regions of the dorsal habenula (dHb) antagonistically regulate the outcome of zebrafish fights, with activity in the lateral and medial parts associated with surrender or continuing aggression, respectively. To probe the circuits, the team led by Hitoshi Okamoto documented the signaling, circling, biting, and surrender behaviors in zebrafish clashes for dominance.
They then measured the local field potentials, the summed electric current from a small group of neurons, in the IPN of winning and losing fish in vivo. When sub-regions in the upstream dHb were electrically stimulated, activity in the dorsal (dIPN), but not ventral IPN, was reduced in loser fish.
In the experiments, activity levels were not significantly different between winner, loser, and naive (non-fighting) fish in the other circuit (medial sub-region of dHb to ventral IPN). According to lead author Ming-Yi Chou, the IPN weighs the habenular inputs, essentially acting like a calculator of the outcome of the fight behavior.
Transgenic fish, in which these circuits were selectively silenced with a nerve toxin, provided definitive evidence. Without activity in the dHbL to dIPN circuit, fish were much more likely to lose a fight. By contrast, silencing dHbM activity disposed the fish to win their fights. These transgenic fish were not developmentally or physically different from their wild type counterparts, so the implication is that transmission in the habenula-IPN circuits is decisive to the fight outcome.


MEDICAL FRONTIERS

3D technology helps save baby

Beijing: Doctors in China have performed the first successful open heart surgery using a 3D-printed heart model to save a nine-month-old baby suffering from a severe heart defect, reports PTI.
 The boy, who weighed 5.6 kgs before surgery, was experiencing shortness of breath after birth and was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Defect (CHD).
The surgery performed in the northeast Jilin Province was the first open heart surgery performed using 3D printing technology through which a full-sized heart replica modeled the boy’s cardiac structure and helped the doctors plan the operation, state-run Xinhua news agency reported today.   “With the model, we were able to know precisely where and how we should cut, and how big the incision should be. And with such a thorough plan, we spent only half the time we had expected to complete the surgery,” Zhang Xueqin, the baby’s surgeon and director of the pediatric cardiac surgery centre at the People’s Hospital of Jilin said.
The operation took place, and the infant has already been transferred to a general ward and is recovering.  “The defect was very rare and complicated,” Zhang said. The young patient suffered from ‘total pulmonary venous anomalous drainage’ – which means all four of his pulmonary veins were malpositioned. He also had an atrial septal defect, causing blood to flow between the upper chambers of the heart. “He was taken to the hospital and was critically ill with heart failure and severe pneumonia, because the boy is so young and small, it was difficult to develop the best surgery plan using just an ultrasound examination, he said.
If treatment had been delayed, the baby’s chance of dying before his first birthday would have been as high as 80 per cent, he said, adding that to save the child, the team turned to 3D-printing. “China’s first cardiac surgery using 3D technology is believed to have been on July 21, 2015, on a nine-month-old boy with CHD in east China’s Jiangsu Province. The technology will hopefully be more widely used in medicine in the future, Zhang said.

Calcium Can Help Heart Disease Risk

Seoul: In older people, higher dietary calcium intake may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) but not of stroke and fracture, a new study has found.
"The role of dietary calcium intake in cardiovascular disease, stroke and fracture is controversial. Moreover, participants in previous studies were from populations that had calcium-rich diets," said Sung Hye Kong from Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea.
"We aimed to evaluate whether high dietary calcium intake increases the risk of CVD, stroke and fracture in a population with low calcium intake," said Kong. Researchers conducted the study among individuals in Korea's ongoing prospective community-based Ansung and Ansan Cohort Study that began in 2001.
Of the 4,589 men and 5,042 women in the cohort study's database who were 40 years of age and above at baseline and were followed up for an average of 13 years, researchers performed their analysis in 2,199 men and 2,704 women over 50 years of age without previous cardiovascular disease and stroke.The individuals in the study reported their dietary food intake in periodic food frequency questionnaires. Cardiovascular disease, stroke and fractures were recorded during interviews and examinations every two years.


Time of eating is more important than eating

New York: When you eat is more important than what you eat as researchers have revealed that mitochondria — powerhouse of human cells — is highly regulated by the body’s biological or circadian clocks, reports IANS.
This may help explain why people who sleep and eat out of tune with their circadian clocks are at higher risk of developing obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
“Circadian clocks which are found in living things from bacteria to flies and humans control the rhythms of sleep, activity, eating and metabolism,” said lead author Gad Asher from Weizmann Institute’s bimolecular sciences department in Israel.
“In a sense, it’s like a daily calendar, telling the body what to expect, so it can prepare for the future and operate optimally,” Asher added.
The researchers looked for circadian changes in the mitochondria that, by creating peaks and dips in the cells’ energy levels, would also help regulate day-night cycles.
The group identified and quantified hundreds of mitochondrial proteins which showed the quantities of a whopping 40 percent peak once a day.
Surprisingly, most of the circadian proteins in the mitochondria peaked four hours into the daylight part of the cycle (in mice which are active at night).
The team provided mitochondria with sugar and found that at around fourth hour, respiration and glucose utilisation were indeed at their highest.



SERIAL : 35

INDIAN IN COWBOY COUNTRY

THE HUNT

Like a shrewd direct mailer, he sent succinct and polite requests for meetings, with a handwritten “personal” inscribed on the envelope, a tactic Dan suggested. This was to prevent an overzealous executive assistant from opening his letter and making the decision to either reject it or reroute it to the human resource department, from whom he could only expect a standard “thank you but no thank you” missive.  
He was pleasantly surprised with the results. His Lunch Bunch was right- he was undershooting, and he did have a credible reputation in the industry. His requests for interviews were often granted. Dan had cautioned him that he needed to schedule fewer meetings in a day. This would allow the executives the flexibility of extending the interview to call in colleagues to meet him and, perhaps, take him out for lunch or supper to test his social graces and etiquette.
The Lunch Bunch held mock interviews with him, sensitizing him to major management concerns and smoothening his rough edges. Dan took him to his favorite clothier and picked out suits for him. Satish blanched at seeing the price tags, but Dan comforted him. “Think about it as an investment, not an expense. Its CAPEX, not OPEX,” he said, referring to industry acronyms for capital expenditures and operating expenditures.
During the first two weeks of August, Satish entered a new universe of experience. Though they had different personalities, the executives all had similar concerns about sustaining the value delivered to shareholders, and how to get the right people and organization to deliver this value. They were uniformly polite and courteous, making inquires about his family and background, and were appreciative that he had written to them when there were so many employment opportunities in town for a person of his caliber and reputation.
Most of them carefully avoided discussing the details of his work at Clark, staying far away from potentially confidential issues. Others, when they did tread in these waters, respected his tactful dodges and did not push for more information.
Uniformly, they were interested in his strategic thinking, his quick “analysis and synthesis” skills, and whether he was an effective “organizational man” who could successfully lead engineering teams, which he had displayed at Clark.
As Dan had predicted, a second meeting often followed his first one. This would be over lunch or supper with a key subordinate, an obvious sounding board, present. There was no doubt in these executives’ minds that he would be a good addition. He would also be affordable, since he was so grossly underpaid at Clark.
As he grew more confident, he entered a new realm of interrogating the executives on their strategies and the challenges to successfully executing them. His questions were incisive, and soon he could tell if he was being “fed a load of manure,” as Clyde would say.
During the peak heat season in mid-August, Satish began to receive offers, some by mail and some verbally at subsequent meetings. All were for senior positions: vice president at smaller organizations, and director at larger ones. Each had a different compensations plan, with variations in stock options, bonuses, salaries, and perquisites.
When he saw the numbers, he realized how unappreciated and underpaid he had been at Clark. At first, he was angry with Tim and the rest of the management team, but then he reconciled that his inattention was equally to blame.
At first he attempted to take his assortment of job options to his Lunch Bunch, but soon all of them were unavailable. They were working on a project that Clyde had brought to them, and could not discuss it with him because of non-disclosure agreements. Monica was the only trusted partner with whom he could discuss his array of options.
He created spreadsheets- quantitative analyses of various compensation plans- to share with Monica. She liked what she saw, but felt that they were inadequate for him to make a good decision. She asked him many questions about his chemistry with each firm’s executive team.
Working on Monica’s germ of an idea, he added a series of aspects to his evaluation criteria. But when he drew graphs comparing scores on these two dimensions, he discovered that firms that were offering substantially higher salaries scored lower on the qualitative dimension, and vice verse. He then created numerical thresholds of acceptance on both dimensions, and found that only three of the twelve offers he had received exceeded thresholds on both counts.
Satish had learned a long time ago, the hard way, that numerical analysis in complex systems, such as in oil and gas exploration and production, could only provide a general sense of direction, like a compass. He was traversing an uncharted territory, and the engineer in him wanted more information to make an intelligent decision. That was when Tim called.
“Hey buddy! How are you doing?” Tim asked.
“Good,” Satish replied. “And you?”
“Good, But it could be better. How’s the job search going?”
“Good actually: better than I expected.”
“By the way, if you have some time, I’d like to meet with you.”
“I’d be happy to, Tim. You pick the place and the time, and I’ll be there.”
“How about this afternoon?”
“That’s short notice, Tim. I have already scheduled a meeting for this afternoon. Are there any other slots open on your calendar?”
“I’ll tell you what; let me have Liz give you a call.”
“Billy’s secretary?” Satish asked.
“Yeah. Actually, Billy wants to meet you. You know I’m just his gofer. I’ll tell you what, set a time to visit with Billy and call me, and we’ll meet at least an hour before that meeting. I’ll fill you in.”
“Can you tell me why he wants to meet me?”
“Can’t do. I don’t know the whole picture, only part of it. By the time you get here, I’ll have a better idea. All I know is that Billy wants you to come back.”
“Sounds good, Tim. Take care.” Satish said, and hung up the phone.
He could not hide his delight. It was as if his firing had been repudiated. Monica, who heard the tone of the conversation go from mild interest to delight, was curious about the cause of this sudden transformation in her husband. He told her that Tim had just informed him that Clark wanted him back.
Monica did not share his joy, and she told him so.
“Why would you want to go back to a firm and a boss who just fired you?” she asked with rare disdain. “You need to keep your self-respect.”
“I did not say that I was going to join them,” he said defensively.
“I just said that they wanted me back. I have no clue what it’s all about.”
“You should have said you are not interested. You have a dozen job offers and you would still want to go back to Clark?” she asked sternly.
“I cannot say no immediately. I have to listen to what they have to say. I cannot be emotional about it. I have to be rational. Let’s do this. Take the graph that we used earlier and see what would make Clark attractive to me.”
Monica was not convinced that the graph would reveal anything, but she decided to play along. Both graded Clark on its qualitative aspects and came up with different scores. He gave them higher marks that crossed his acceptance threshold, while she did not. He was disappointed with her low scores. She justified her grading with, “They exploited you for ten years, paid you less, and then laid you off. How do you expect me to see them in better light?”
Satish stayed silent because he knew there was more coming.
“You cannot ignore the last six months. You, Seeta, and I have had a tense six months wondering if you were going to get another job. If it were not for your Lunch Bunch, you’d be still out there calling on six people a day. You can trust the Lunch Bunch but not Clark, and certainly not Tim. He was their slave master. He kept you down while all the time pretending to be your friend.” She stopped abruptly.
‘Are you done?” he asked.
“Yes. I am done,” she said, and suddenly began weeping uncontrollably.
He rushed to her and hugged her. He asked her what had happened, and through the tears and the sobbing she mumbled, “I just realized something out of the blue. It came from nowhere: a thought that I married a blessed man, who sees no evil or bad in anyone. And thanks to your karma, when people began to hurt you, strangers came out of nowhere to help you get back on your feet. I am so sorry that I spoke out.”
“Calm down, Monica. Calm down,” he said as he held her and stroked her hair from the forehead back. Seeta, who was taking a nap, woke up. She saw that her mother was upset, came to her and said, “Mommy, don’t cry.” She shook her favorite rattle as a distraction.
Seeta followed her parents as her father sat her mother down on a sofa in the den, then sat next to her and held her while she recovered. She then climbed on to her mother’s lap, stood up, and began showering her cheeks with kisses. She said, “Good, Mommy. Don’t cry. Want milk?”
Monica could not help but smile when she heard her daughter ask her if she wanted milk, a tactic she used to quite Seeta down whenever she cried. Slowly, she returned to normal. She kissed her daughter, gave her husband a peck on his cheek, and said, “You two are the best family any women could ever have.”
“Mommy is the best Mommy,” the daughter added, and immediately asked, “Can I have a candy?”
The parents burst out laughing at this little imp’s perfect timing in asking for a treat. Satish picked her up in one sweeping movement of his right hand and went to the kitchen to reward her for her contribution in calming Monica. As he gave her a piece of chocolate, he asked Monica, “Would you like to have some chai? I am going to make some.” She uncharacteristically declined, saying that she was nauseated from tension.

YEH MERA INDIA

Outsourcing Sterilisation to NGOs- SC pulls up states

New Delhi: The Supreme Court took strong exception to the outsourcing of sterilisation camps by state governments to NGOs, as questions were raised over the family planning targets set by the Centre which have to be fulfilled by the states.
The matter being heard by the apex court related to such a camp in Bihar's Araria district where 53 women were operated within about two hours in January 2012.
A bench headed by Justice M B Lokur also asked Chhattisgarh government to file an affidavit specifying details as to how much compensation was paid to the victims of such a camp held in November 2014 in Bilaspur district in which over dozen women had lost their lives.
"It is a question of human life. We can't live with problems throughout our lives. It needs to be cured, solutions need to be found. This compensation thing is bringing all the problems. For this compensation, there is race against time and a number of operations are being conducted," it said. The bench, also comprising Justice U U Lalit, asked Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand to specify the Centre's stand on discontinuing granting of compensation to the patients and sought suggestions from it to check outsourcing of such camps and imposition of guidelines.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, said the target for sterilisation set by the Centre was the "trigger point" and states have to fulfil them.
States in order to meet these targets outsource the camps to NGOs, he said, adding that ASHA workers who are given targets bring women to such camps.
To this, the court said "sometimes the women are not even aware what they are subjected to. They (NGOs) are not doing any philanthropic work." "All possible loopholes need to be plugged. You can't flock people like herds (to these camps). Compensation needs to be dissuaded," the bench observed.
When counsel for Chhattisgarh government said action has been taken against the doctors who had conducted the operations, the bench retorted: "Forget about the prosecution and say what are the steps taken to prevent such incidents". It sought details of the steps taken by the state. The bench also threatened to impose Rs five lakh as compensation per victim on an NGO, Jai Ambe Welfare Society which had organised the camp in Bihar in which 53 women were operated in around two hours in January 2012.
"How are these NGOs selected for conducting such camps? Is there any background check? Who are the doctors who conduct such camps? Who gives permission for holding camps," the bench asked ASG.
The Additional Solicitor General told the bench that the Centre has framed certain guidelines for conducting sterilisation camps and it was the state which has to decide on who will conduct these camps.
The court was hearing a plea filed by Devika Biswas, who has sought an independent probe by a body like National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights into such incidents.
Biswas, who hails from Araria district and claims to be an eye-witness, has also sought a thorough probe into the January 7, 2012 sterilisation camp held in her district. The bench asked the NGO to file its audited accounts, permission for holding such camps, details of members on its board and whether it had any medical professional or not. Counsel appearing for the NGO argued that it has been blacklisted by Bihar government since the incident and the only allegations against it was that they had supplied expired date medicines to persons who had undergone the surgery.

Bus Driver Stabbed for Overtaking

Mumbai: In yet another case of road rage, a state transport bus driver got several stab wounds near Punjab wadi signal in Chembur, allegedly for overtaking a motorbike being driven by a female. The accused, a pillion rider on the motorbike, was infuriated after the ST bus reportedly overtook them. Police said that a lady was riding the motorbike and the accused was a pillion passenger. After a thorough chase the lady over-sped her motorbike and stopped it before the ST bus, after which the accused got off the bike and reportedly stabbed the ST bus driver after getting physical with him. The ST bus driver, who received several stab wounds and injuries after being roughed up, was immediately taken to nearby Shatabdi hospital, form where he has now been discharged, police said. A complaint has been filed with Trombay Police Station and the hunt to nail the accused and bike bearing number MH-46 8140 is underway.

Maharashtra Government- more business friendly than people friendly

Mumbai: State cabinet has cleared changes in the procurement procedure for the Take Home Ration (THR) scheme. However, the changes would drive away the small Self Help Groups run by needy women from the competition and would favour certain bidders who control the women and child welfare department, Federation of Women Self Help Groups has said.
The cabinet, approved proposal to invite Expression of Interest (EOI) through technical bids instead of commercial bid for the THR under integrated child development service (ICDS) and SABALA schemes. Under these schemes, breakfast and lunch is supplied to children between age 6 months to 3 years, malnourished children and pregnant women at their doorsteps.
It was pointed out in cabinet meeting that there is no provision to call e-tender through EoI in Procurement Policy brought in by the industries department. Hence, cabinet also gave its nod to call e-tenders through EOIs based on technical bids in place of commercial bids, senior officials said.
However, the Federation of Women Self Help Groups claimed that the cabinet decision will favour three giant bidders who have indirect control over the women and child department.
Sanjana Ghadi, president of Federation of Women Self Help Groups, said, “This is an ugly attempt to throw away small SHGs run by needy women out of competition as the new procedure would require furnishing of several documents which hardly any SHG would have. The conditions regarding financial health of the bidders too are difficult for any single SHG to meet.”
Meanwhile, leader of opposition in legislative council Dhananjay Munde too accused the State government of planning to do away with small SHGs from bid competition to provide THR.
“The High Court has given clear directions to the State government that Women’s SHGs should get the tender of supplying ration. But, the department appears to have decided to keep these women’s SHGs away from the process,” he said.

Politicians' Wealth & Apex Court’s Helplessness

New Delhi: The Supreme Court agreed 100% with former top cop Julio Ribeiro on need to verify the politicians’ wealth, but it shied away from passing any order since it would amount to stepping onto Parliament’s domain.
Even while dismissing his PIL (public interest litigation) seeking a mechanism to verify the politicians’ wealth declared in their nominations while contesting elections, the Bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur advised him to better join hands with other eminent personalities to pursue the issue on other appropriate forums.
“Parliament should make a law. This is an area of the legislature where we can’t get in,” the Chief Justice said on the former Mumbai Police Commissioner’s petition for directions to the election Commission to get every declaration by the candidate verified.
He told Rebeiro that his concern is appreciated but he should better understand that the Election Commission does not have the kind of manpower needed to undertake the exercise he has demanded, lest it gets “submerged” doing it, rendering it unable to do its main job of holding elections to Parliament and State Legislatures. Millions of candidates contest these elections and the task of verifying all declarations was a tall order, the Bench said.
Ribeiro’s concern was why mandate such declarations if anyone can get away with false information.
The Bench said in any case the candidates losing the election were at liberty to challenge the winner for making a wrong declaration. It, however, agreed that this would not result in unseating of the winning candidates but it would lead to penalising such politicians in other ways.


No Hawking Zone board & Hawker’s right below

Bhayandar: After dragging its feet to curb the menace, the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) has now rolled up its sleeves to launch a massive anti-encroachment drive to get rid of illegal hawkers operating in the twin-city. This following Shiv Sena corporator Prashant Dalvi’s offer to resign in protest of civic chief Achyut Hange’s failure to find an effective mechanism on resolving the issue of illegal hawkers in the Mira Bhayandar region.
Fed up of official apathy towards tackling basic civic problems including the rising menace of hawkers Dalvi had offered to resign from the MBMC by submitting a letter to party chief Udhav Thackeray.
While Dalvi has listed a series of unattended civic issues, his major complaint is against MBMC’s deliberate failure towards putting an end to illegal hawker menace which has assumed alarming proportions in the twin-city, particularly in Mira Road’s Shanti Nagar, an area which he represents.
According to him, the menace of illegal hawkers and weekly markets is not just limited to an obstruction for pedestrians/motorists but it has been attracting criminal elements who are mostly into pick-pocketing and eve-teasing. Stung by Dalvi’s move and being pulled up by senior Shiv Sena functionaries, Hange has assured to launch a crackdown from Wednesday.  Notably, the entire stretches of road designated ‘No Hawking Zones’ declared by the MBMC have in fact turned into a vendors’ paradise so much so that pedestrians have been left with little or no space at all forcing them to walk on the road amidst heavy traffic movement.
As per a resolution passed by the general body, 66 ‘No Hawking’ and 26 ‘Hawking Zones’ have been identified in the region.