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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

BETTER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT FOR BETTER DAYS

                                                                      -Milan K Sinha
Tree And Rainbow Stock PhotoGeneral Budget 2014-15 was presented by the Finance Minister of NDA government at the Centre about five months after the Interim Budget for this fiscal was presented in parliament by Finance Minister of UPA-II government. It’s now an open fact that the Indian economy has been in poor shape for last two-three years due to plethora of known and unknown reasons. The GDP was lower, the inflation was high and so was the rate of unemployment. The fiscal deficit and current account deficit, though looking to be within the targeted level in 2013-14, was actually managed by resorting to accounting tactics for covering up ballooning subsidy bill by rolling over fuel subsidy worth thousands of crore from last fiscal to the current  fiscal, while remaining silent on the roll-over figures for food and fertilizer subsidies on the one hand  and  by containing  the quantum of gold import through imposition of additional customs duty on the other hand.

Notwithstanding the bad economic legacy that the new union  government inherited, the maiden budget presented by Arun Jaitley is undoubtedly an attempt, may not be seen as very bold,  to correct, improve and balance the position - by announcing several measures to control inflation, spur growth in all sectors to boost GDP indices and to create reasonable number of  job opportunities, offer certain tax exemption, effect fiscal consolidation and finally to create investor friendly business climate in the country.

The reaction by political parties for or against the budget proposals is going to be on expected lines based on their political ideology and compulsions for cogent reasons. Broadly speaking without any political bias from the point of view of a common man which includes millions of people from lower middle class, there are certain relief in terms of tax exemptions and also making provisions of funds for agriculture and rural development in general. There are many new initiatives to address the grey areas which have been  greatly impacting the lives of poor and disadvantaged section of society. In fact, next few months will be interesting to watch the real ground level impact of different budget proposals.

All said and done, the bigger question still remains unanswered, at least for now. And that is the perennial 15 paise versus 85 paise syndrome. Ironically, government after government accepts this to be the greatest malady as far as governance is concerned; the widening gap between rich and poor is concerned; the white and black economy in this welfare state named India is concerned, to list a few. 

But then, who will reverse the trend and how long it will take to make this happen against the backdrop of all big talks by all those who have been claiming to be the champion of espousing the cause and concern of common Indians for decades together? 

Believe me, if only this can be ensured and 85 paise of every rupee that government allocates in the budget starts reaching the targeted beneficiaries instead of meager 15 paise out of a rupee presently, there would be great qualitative as well as quantitative improvement not only in all sectors of economy but also in the lives of every Indian. After all, it is tax payers’ hard earned money, which nobody is entitled to waste, misutilise or misappropriate. 

To say in few words, instead of making much hue and cry for more and more resources by every government, be it in Centre or in States, if resource management is taken care of on highest priority with utmost sincerity in a truly professional manner, far better inclusive growth model can be sustained year after year. And then better days will not be really far off for none of us.

As always, I am keen to know what you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post Comments to share your views and experiences.  

              Will meet again with Open MindAll The Best.
# Published in Weekly Magazine,'Indian Currents' on 14.07.2014 

Monday, May 26, 2014

COMMON MAN'S AGENDA FOR THE NEW GOVERNMENT

                               -MILAN K SINHA

modi-victoryFew hours from now, the new government at the centre led by Narendra Modi of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is going to take oath of office with an unprecedented initiative on the external front- inviting the head of states of SAARC countries. Undoubtedly, this will have far reaching impact on internal policy formulation in days ahead by this non-congress government.

The massive mandate, cutting across all sections of society which BJP alone received in 2014 general election has raised the hope and aspirations of every common man to a new high - not without reason as even Narendra Modi made them believe all through his election campaign that  good days are coming ( Achche Din Aanewaale Hain).

We know and appreciate the gigantic task of nation building ahead for the new government for well-known reasons - inflation, corruption, low GDP growth etc. and hence there is bound to be intense pressure to perform within shortest possible time, but certain core issues need to be addressed on highest priority by the new government to instil the trust and confidence among millions of poor and disadvantaged section of our society throughout the length and breadth of this vast country.

Naturally, the following points of serious concern must find place in top agenda:
1. The Malady of Starvation Deaths
Every day more than 7000 people die of hunger in India.
India is topping the list of countries in World Hunger Chart.
More than 30% of the world's hungry population lives in India.
Over 200 million people sleep hungry every night.

2. Problem of Drinking Water
Out of the 6.38 lakh revenue villages in India, more than 30% have water problems.
21% of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water.
73% of respondents of a question as to what truly make them proud of being an Indian said, "It is availability of safe drinking water to every Indian."

3. Literacy/Education Problem
Our literacy percentage is only 74%; Kerala being the highest with 94% and Bihar being the lowest with 63%. 
School dropout percentage is still more than 40%. 
The drop out percentage is even worse than that of Bangladesh and Vietnam - countries that got independence more than two decades later. 
We spend less than 2% of our national budget on education for the children who constitute 25% of our total population. 
The dropout percentage is higher among tribal, economically weaker sections of society etc.

4. Sanitation/Open Defecation Problem 
53% Indian population lack sanitation facilities, where as it is only 7% in case of Bangladesh and Brazil. 
India is termed as the world's capital of open defecation.
More than 60% of households in Uttarakhand, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan are without toilets. 
Only 28,000 Gram Panchayats (GPs) are declared as "Nirmal Gram" under TSC program out of 2.4 lakh GPs in the country.

5. Health & Nutrition Problem
Can we think of a strong India without healthy and strong citizens, present and future? 
Healthy Indians = Healthy & Strong India.
Child nutrition and their overall health need extra care in India as one in every three malnourished children in the world live in India; 8.8 lakh children die every year, more than 100 deaths per hour in India; the IMR (Infant Mortality Rate) in many states is still more than 50 per thousand for children up to the age of 5 years where as it should be at least below 30 per thousand; about 50% of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition; 26% of the world's childhood vaccine preventable deaths take place in the country; Anaemia affects 74% of children under the age of three; as high as 44% children under five years are underweight; malnutrition in early childhood has serious long term consequences because it impedes development of vital life organs.

There are, no doubt many more pressing problems before the country which demand serious attention of power that be at all levels, but to start with the issues enumerated above would definitely give the right signal to common people at large that this government is really doing well rather than talking well. And we all know, well begun is half done. 

Finally, lots of best wishes to the new central government of the largest democratic country of the world from a common Indian.

               Will meet again with Open MindAll The Best. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

NO POLITICS IN NATION BUILDING, PLEASE!

                                                         - MILA K  SINHA

rahul modi kejriwalNext few days would be extremely important and defining for the country. As such, it is pertinent to remember the former prime minister of India and the leader of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan fame, Lal Bahadur Shastri at this crucial juncture to know his perception on major issues – Governance, Development, National Integration - concerning country's wellbeing. This will help the architects of next Govt. at the Centre in finalising the right agenda and formulating the effective action plan for next sixty months.

Governance :
"...The basic idea of governance, as I see it, is to hold the society together so that it can develop and march towards certain goals. The task of the Government is to facilitate this evolution, this progress. It must provide proper conditions and a proper climate for this purpose. While governing, the administrator must, therefore, keep certain trends in view. He should be aware of the policies which he has to implement and of the methods which are open to him for their implementation. He should know what the Government wants and at the same time be attuned to the needs of the people..."

Development:

tree meadow nature"...The economic issues are most vital for us and it is of the highest importance that we should fight our biggest enemies – Poverty, unemployment... Whether it is agriculture or industrial development, or for that matter, development in other fields, the basic fact remains – that it would serve the largest number of our people...."

National Integration:
"...In this vast country of ours, people profess different religions, speak different languages, dress differently and observe different customs; but we are one nation; the history of our struggle for independence and our faith in our future development are our common bonds....Among the major tasks before us none is of greater importance for our strength and stability than the task of building up the unity and solidarity of our people. Our country has often stood as a solid rock in the face of common danger and there is a deep underlying unity which runs like a golden thread through all our seeming diversity...."

The election results are only few hours away but the fact remains that whichever party or coalition forms the next Government at the center, it must take all possible steps to enlist the support and cooperation of all political parties and every citizen  towards fulfilling its bounden duty to make this largest democracy of the world a place where everybody must have Food, Clothing, Shelter, Education, Health, Employment to name only the basic necessities of life. 

Lastly, a small word of caution: No Politics in Nation Building, Please! We have had enough of it in last 66 years since 1947.

                Will meet again with Open Mind. All The Best. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

NO FAME IN BLAME GAME

                                                             -MILAN K SINHA

blameDay in and day out we find ourselves, whether we agree or disagree, engaged in one of the finest and funniest games of the world- The Blame Game. Golda Meir says, ‘There can be no doubt that the average man blames much more than he praises. His instinct is to blame. If he is satisfied he says nothing; if he is not, he most illogically kicks up a row.'

In today’s politics, it is the major game being played by all political parties in varying degrees more by design than by default. Ironically, such political gossip stories are found to capture a sizeable portion of media space at the cost of serious discussion on matters concerning common man’s welfare and well-being.  

While on the subject, I am tempted to share with you one short story from 'Akbar- Birbal' stock. The story goes like this: Akbar, the Great Moghul Emperor once asked Birbal, his most favorite and wisest courtier who was immensely loved by the commoners too because of his ready wit and wisdom, to paint his portrait. Accordingly, Birbal commenced the job and completed it within a week and then presented the portrait to the Emperor. Akbar was extremely delighted to see the portrait. In order to have comments from his other courtiers (Navratnas), Akbar asked them to offer their views on Birbal's art work. So, everyone came up to the portrait one by one, had a deep glance, detected few mistakes and put dots on such points where improvement was required as per their perception. Interestingly, some of the courtiers made corrections on the portrait itself. Consequently, the portrait was smeared with dots and dashes. Akbar was very upset and asked Birbal to offer his comment and reaction. Birbal gave it a thought for a moment and called for blank canvases, paints and brushes for each of his fellow courtiers. He then requested them to paint the portrait of the emperor with all the improvements and corrections suggested by them. Interestingly, none came forward to perform the job. Akbar was obviously annoyed and angry to assert, “What a difference between 'Doers and Doters'?”

The moral of the story is: whenever you point an accusing finger at someone, you have the other three fingers pointing at you.


In fact, the real boldness lies in admitting our own mistakes and laughing at ourselves. Acceptance of our own weakness is a greatness which paves the path for our improvement and progress. Ralph Marston puts it in another way, 'Concern yourself more with accepting responsibility than with assigning blame. Let the possibilities inspire you more than the obstacles discourage you.’

As always, I am keen to know what you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post Comments to share your views and experiences.

                  Will meet again with Open MindAll the Best.
Published in Patna Daily.com
# Do visit my site : milanksinha.com  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

THE MENACE OF BAD LOANS

                                                         - MILAN K SINHA
Just after reviewing the quarterly performance of state-run banks, the union finance minister informed the media, 'Bad loans of PSU banks are expected to be slightly higher by March-end from a year earlier and banks have been asked to focus on recovery of bad loans, particularly large NPA accounts.'

There is no denying the fact that the biggest challenge facing the public sector banks is their ever growing NPA portfolio. In fact, bad loans of PSU banks rose by 28.5 per cent from Rs.1.83 lakh cr in March, 2013 to Rs. 2.36 lakh cr in September’13- within just two quarters. By all indications, it is going to be far worse by the end of this fiscal.

The matter assumes greater concern as it is reported that one of the Kolkata based PSU banks- United Bank of India has recorded huge surge in its NPA portfolio. In the September quarter, it had to make provision for NPA to the extent of Rs.987.35 cr which rose to Rs.1857.83 cr in the December’13 quarter. The bank’s gross NPA rose from 5.39%  to 10.82% during the same period. As a natural outcome, United Bank recorded a net loss of 1238 cr. in December'13 quarter. Its net worth has also registered substantial erosion and its capital adequacy ratio dropped to the floor level of 9%. 

But, how did it happen in the first place despite so much internal checks and balances; strict control and regular supervision by the RBI and also by other statutory authorities as per the law of the land? What is the efficacy of quarterly review mechanism being undertaken religiously by the ministry? 

Interestingly, yet very unfortunately, this is not the first case of its kind for any state-run bank. It does happen in almost all banks - both public and private in differing magnitude depending upon various factors contrary to the laid down norms of classifying an asset. To put it straight, all banks allow its top brass to influence, if not manipulate the asset recognition exercise to boost profit and show better bottom line performance. If we take a ten year span to see and analyze the balance sheet of any bank after taking over of the new CMD or CEO and the previous one of his or her predecessor, we can very well see large variation in both the figures of NPA as well as profit for obvious reasons.  

Industry watchers say that there is nothing unusual about this and it is also not without the know of regulator and the ministry  as almost every new incumbent to the top post faces this music of hidden NPAs and under reporting of bad loans  by the previous top management. 

Yes, a far more severe than what happened in United Bank's instant case did happen with Chennai based Indian Bank in early nineties. The entire banking industry was under attack from all corners during that period- ironically a period when the economic liberalization had started taking shape in this country. But, that was the period of manual banking, unlike today’s technology based CBS banking where everything is computerized and IT enabled. Moreover, United Bank of India too uses the same computer software named Finacle for accounting purposes as many other banks in India.

To put it in plain words, the prudential norms of asset classification and income recognition is not strictly complied by the banks in the country as per the laid down principles by maintaining a fair and transparent system. And most importantly, the follow up, monitoring and control mechanism of RBI and ministry have not been full proof and up to the mark to ensure early detection of irregularities for initiating timely and effective action to keep the banking sector always in good health.   

As always, I am keen to know what you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post Comments to share your views and experiences.

                  Will meet again with Open MindAll the Best.
Published in Indian Currents.org
# Do visit my site : milanksinha.com

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TIME TO EXCEL IN ELECTION EXERCISE

                                                                     - Milan K Sinha
Finally the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the nine – phase poll schedule for election to the 16th Lok Sabha and also for three state assemblies namely Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha to be held during a long span of thirty six days between 7th April to 12th May,2014. The counting for the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies along with the three state assemblies will, however be taking place on a single day – 16th May, 2014.

As rightly asserted by the chief election commissioner V. S. Sampat while sharing the details of poll schedule, ‘Elections to the world’s largest democracy pose immense challenges with respect to logistics and man and material management…’, the ensuing election will see the participation of   814 million strong electorate- more than the population of Europe, by casting their vote in 9.3 lakh polling booths across the country to make it the biggest democratic exercise in the world. It is interesting to note here that in in the last Lok Sabha election of 2009 the number of electorate was 98 million less at  716 million  and the polling stations was one lakh less at  8.3 lakh.  One more defining change, to facilitate the contesting candidates and also to political parties, is the enhancement in prescribed expenditure limits. Only a few days back, as we know, the union cabinet approved an amendment to the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, and upwardly revised the limit for election expenditure by a candidate for parliamentary constituencies from Rs. 40 lakhs to Rs.70 lakh in all states except Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Puducherry, where it was kept at Rs.54 lakh.

We are 66 year old independent country where the Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950 and where the first general election was held 61 years ago in 1952 with 61.20% voter turnout. But, it is extremely shocking to observe that the voter turnout in last Lok Sabha election of 2009 was only 58% – even 3% less than what it achieved in 1952.  Ironically, the turnout percentage hovered between the highest of 61.97% and lowest of 56.97% in the seven general elections held during the period between 1989 to2009. That does mean besides many things that around 40% adult citizens have no say in electing a government supposed to rule them too for next couple of years in the name of inclusive politics based on equity and justice. Why it is so? Is it the real democracy our constitution talks about?

Reports say that the election commission took many initiatives which include its mega awareness programme of Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) — particularly in areas known for low turnouts to encourage voters to exercise their basic democratic right. All this would definitely help boost voting percentage in coming election besides factors like inclusion and participation of youths and women in sizable numbers across the country due to multiple socio-political factors. But to what extent?

On number scale even 5% to 10% increase in voter turnout might look like a very big achievement for ECI but it shouldn’t be allowed to be complacent on this score on such low percentage improvement. This issue, therefore calls for serious introspection and matching remedial action on the part of ECI during the intervening period as it has the bounden duty not only to ensure  enrolment of all eligible citizens very genuinely- pruning the fake voters simultaneously from its rolls, on highest priority, but also to create such a congenial situation which prompts, if not compel, every voter to cast his or her vote (now NOTA option is also available on EVM) in a free and fair manner to register minimum  voting turnout of 90% in next Lok Sabha elections and in each election thereafter to let our democracy function in true sense of the term.

Hope, the ECI, the central and all state governments together with all political parties make this happen by enlisting support and cooperation of civil society in an unprecedented manner  to register its best ever  performance in the next election exercise.

As always, I am keen to know what you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post Comments to share your views and experiences.

                Will meet again with Open MindAll the Best.
Published in Hastekshep.com

# Do visit my site : milanksinha.com

Sunday, March 9, 2014

TOUGH GOING FOR COMMON MAN

                                                        - MILAN K SINHA

Rock Mountain Or Hill Climibing clip artWith fresh snow fall and rain in northern part of the country including national capital, the cold weather prolonged its stay for some more days amid plethora of dampening news of Indian Economy too suffering from cold with no signs of fast recovery at least during the current fiscal despite certain monetary and fiscal measures taken by RBI and the central government.  Revision and re- revision of estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Fiscal Deficit (FD), Current Account Deficit (CAD) and other economic and financial indices have been  worked out as a desperate attempt to make the figures look not that bad to affect the electoral prospects of UPA partners in the ensuing 16th general election. The presentation of vote of account (interim budget) for FY14-15 in Lok Sabha on 17th Feb'14 is seen as part of that political exercise of ruling coalition at the Centre.

However, while presenting the interim budget of 2014-15 the Union Finance Minister said, 'Let me begin with the good news. The fiscal deficit for 2013-14 will be contained at 4.6 per cent of GDP, well below the red line that I had drawn last year. More importantly, the Current Account Deficit, that threatened to exceed last year’s CAD of USD 88 billion, will be contained at USD 45 billion, and I am happy to inform the House that we expect to add about USD 15 billion to the foreign exchange reserves by the end of the financial year.'

The fiscal deficit, which is the gap between expenditure and revenue, was 4.9 per cent of GDP in 2012-13. Experts are of the opinion that the fiscal deficit could be restricted to 4.6% mainly by shrinking expenditure and higher-than-expected realization from the auctioning 2G radio spectrum. It is notable that plan expenditure was also reduced by 14.37%. Moreover, to achieve its fiscal deficit target the government resorted to accounting tactics  for covering up ballooning subsidy bill by rolling over fuel subsidy worth Rs.35,000 crore to the next fiscal, while remaining silent on the roll-over figures for food and fertilizer subsidies. The question is – why to adopt short cuts to paint and project a bright picture?

So far containing India’s Current Account deficit (CAD) at the level of $45 billion this fiscal - a reduction of $33 billion from the record high level of 2012-13, is concerned,   both the finance ministry as well as the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) did all to curtail gold imports - one of the major reasons for the record CAD in financial year 2012-13. In fact, the customs duty on gold was increased by 10% in not less than three doses by the central government in current financial year and RBI on its part imposed a series of curbs on inward shipments of gold. The question is – who had allowed gold imports so thoughtlessly which impacted CAD so badly? 

Interestingly, a deeper look at government’s balance sheet reveals that as high as 37% of government revenue goes to service interest on borrowings. It is also estimated that a major chunk of our borrowings in 2014-15 will be cornered for payment of interest on total borrowings. The simple question is – are we heading towards a situation of ‘Debt Trap’? 

From the common man's perspective, even though both the government and the RBI claim to have acted in tandem to bring down price rise, yet the food inflation is at 8.8% - a major cause of concern. FM admitted this by saying, “While our efforts have not been in vain, there is still some distance to go. Food inflation still remains a worry."

So, going by the major economic data mentioned herein above coupled with political indecisiveness at the apex level even on economic issues concerning the general well-being of millions of common people, it is but natural for the citizens of the country to be highly apprehensive of further escalation in prices of essential commodities at least during next few months till new government assumes power at the Centre and then takes some concrete measures on this count.

It being so, the Indian economy is destined to be in bad weather for some time more, the  implication of which, we know well, is and would be fatal as far as job creation, implementation of welfare schemes, external debt & interest servicing, investment prospects, price rise etc. are concerned.

The bigger question now is - can a country having huge human as well as natural resources (with world's largest youth force) allow it to happen like this anymore or should it stand up not only to compel the policy makers and political class to act decisively at all levels to ensure robust and inclusive economic growth in coming years but also to identify and punish suitably all those political and administrative bigwigs who have been responsible and accountable for this sordid state of economy. 

As always, I am keen to know what you think on this subject. Hence, request you to post Comments to share your views and experiences.

                Will meet again with Open MindAll the Best.

# Do visit my site : milanksinha.com