India is Banking

Since India started worrying about its economy, there have been several measures to achieve financial inclusion. Financial inclusion is a great tool to get to the ground reality of financial standards of all citizens. It can also help arrest leakages in the delivery of welfare programmes. Census 2011 estimated that out of 24.67 Crore households, 14.48 Crore (58.7%) households had access to banking services. In specific, only 54.46% of rural and 67.68% of urban households are connected with banking system and are included financially. The present banking network of the country (as on 31.03.2014) comprises of a bank branch network of 1,15,082 and ATM network of 1,60,055. The efforts to achieve financial inclusion by the Govt. Of India included constituting a committee under the chairmanship of Dr.C.Rangarajan. The report evidently interpreted the financial inclusion as an instrument for social transformation. Access to finance by the poor and deprived sections is key to inclusive growth.

The launch of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana(PMJDY) in the wake expediting the process is significant at times when world sees it is “India’s chance to fly”. PMJDY is a mass programme aimed at providing basic banking services to every household in this country. The programme has been channelled to cover every nuke and corner of the country which India has not attempted before. For example, the govt. launched “Swabhiman”, a scheme aimed at opening bank accounts for every household in villages whose population is more than 2000. But, PMJDY without any constraints to cover both rural and urban households. While Aadhar card laid foundation for large scale financial inclusion reforms, PMJDY followed it.

Kerala is the first state to have atleast one bank account for each household i.e., reached targets set by PMJDY. This could not be possible unless state government of kerala actively took the initiation forward. For the first time in India, states are empowered to oversee national interests in this regard. The state of Andhra Pradesh made tremendous progress in financial inclusion by seeding every welfare scheme with the Aadhar card. This is true to the spirits of competitive federalism. Arun Jaitley in his budget speech announced that over 12 crore households were brought into financial mainstream in just 90 days breaking all predictions. PMJDY provides a basic savings bank deposit account (as per the definition of RBI). This account is a zero balance account and would offer a RUPAY debit card with in-built accidental insurance upto 1Lakh. RUPAY, an indigenous debit card developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) would promote cashless transactions which economy wants for many reasons.

When I started to believe that, a 12 digit Aadhar number itself can act as an account number which would further ease account opening with post offices, the launch of PMJDY made me understand that “India cannot wait because it is already late” for that matter. Corporate banks are made involved in the programme which is a good sign. This would further increase FDI in the banking space. It is appreciable that the new govt. did not drop Aadhar rather continued strengthening the process of Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT). Now, it is clear that financial inclusion is not a onetime effort; it is an ongoing process. It is the only way India can overcome poverty through directing subsidies correctly. With the combined efforts of all stakeholders, viz.,policy makers, bankers, market regulators, NGOs and other similar entities, this can be made possible.

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Banking On Renewables

Renewable energy is future. The world has made significant growth in generating renewable energy by reducing the costs drastically. While power is one of the basic amenities for a person, about 280 million people in India don’t have power to their households. The new Government came to power with a sounding mantra “Power For All” which is impossible until it recognises the need for Renewables and their impact in coming years. Only 12% of total power generated in India is renewable. Tamil Nadu tops the list followed by Gujarat. The Economic Survey 2014-15 dated 27th February,2015 forecasts the sector to generate business opportunities worth 160billion$ and immediate scaling up to 175 GW of renewable energy. India has already allowed 100% FDI(Foreign Direct Investment) in generating Renewable Energy. Only 28 billion$ foreign investment is seen in the sector since 2000. That means FDI has to pickup with high pace effective immediately. The survey has also mentioned the need to establish Renewable Energy University to promote academics and research in this area. But, allotting 150 crores towards Research & Development in the budget statement is disappointing as this meagre funds are obviously not sufficient to boost innovations within the country. The new Government after assuming office in June last year swiftly announced goals for power sector and specifically 100 GW of solar energy generation by 2022. REINVEST2015 is a summit addressed in NewDelhi to invite Global Investors to invest in Renewable Energy in India. All targets were reiterated at the summit by the Prime Minister Of India, Narendra Modi and Energy Minister, Piyush Goyal. 266 GW of Renewable Energy(more than survey’s expectation) is committed by various companies across the globe including domestic producers at the summit. Now, it is up to Ministry Of New And Renewable Energy(MNRE) to create an environment to boost hastle free investments in this area. Because India ranks 142 in the “Ease Of Doing Business” index (source: doingbusiness.org by world bank) which is worse than its neighboring countries like Pakistan and Nepal.

How to overcome challenges?
#Besides generation of power, India has to learn consumption. Government is already promoting the use of LED bulbs for efficient power consumption but lacks clarity. Such policies should always be accompanied by planning and systematic budgetary support.
#Reduction in costs is a result of innovation. Unless we promote science and innovation in this area, it is impossible to achieve renewable energy targets.
#Build infrastructure adopting best practices in order to minimise transmission and distribution losses.
#Make In India campaign adopted by the government should include Energy sector as its thrust sector.
#Facilitate easy approvals for renewable power projects through internet and auction routes. Because, one CEO at Davos summit  had to say that his firm sought 192 different approvals to start business in India.
#Government should intensify ‘Roof Top Solar Panels-Grid linked’ scheme. This scheme facilitate households to link surplus power generated on roof tops with the grid for which they earn money. Empowerment of rural women can be possible with this.
#Coordination between Energy Ministry and Environment Ministry is vital in sanctioning clean projects.

Cheap and Clean Fuel

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Revamping Indian Railways

Indian Railways is one of the largest transportation networks in the world. Still there are places in this country awaiting the rail connectivity. This largest network is now cash strapped. India is a welfare state and therefore it is evident that Indian railways (A PSU Enterprise) is struck between its commercial operations and state’s welfare perspective. Indian Railways is the obvious choice when one wants to look at India’s infrastructure status. While the new Govt. flagged off the inaugural train to the north-east state of Meghalaya, the Prime Minister reiterated the need to improve the network to fit better standards.

Railway Budget 2014-15 revealed smashing numbers saying over 5 lakh crores needed for ongoing projects. Number might be so strong but there is no surprise if you realise that only 317 of 684 projects worth 1.57 lakh crores are completed in last 30 years. So, the mathematics is clear that rest projects worth only half the said amount grew to about 5 lakh crore correcting all inflationary and commodity conditions. Railways have always been an element of politics in sanctioning rail routes and other commercial interests. The passenger segment and the freight activities have been hurting in the recent past.

The government’s commitment in improving infrastructure in India can be showcased by revamping up its own cash strapped enterprise i.e., Indian railways. Last Railway budget is no new because it stressed on improving fiscal strength, addressing safety, modernising the network to improve passenger amenities and others as exactly did by previous budget statements of previous governments. In 2006, the ministry had also set-up Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) to effectively utilise vacant railway land for commercial purpose. Despite all these, it is clear that we are unaware of any improvement.

As India awaits Railways to improve its conditions, it is time to devise a revival plan for the same. While the technology allows cost cuts, a strong IT infrastructure is certainly a focus. Modernisation of railway stations across India should be able to measure a strong balance between welfare and commercial activities. Unmanned railway crossings continue to act as death traps for many. The major hurdle in achieving all these is investments. Investment and technology are interdependent and therefore all modes of mobilising money could be explored including PPP (Public Private Partnership) and BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) modes. Building infrastructure is not sufficient but leveraging the timely infusion of funds for maintaining them is a big task ahead. Minimizing project sanctions in a year and prioritising them without any influence from the political sphere can help Railways concentrate on the completion of those projects with strict time-frames. While the growing urbanisation accommodates shopping malls and other entertainment houses inside railway stations, it is up to us to create an environment for the same. Underground storeys can house them all. Pay to use toilets, decent waiting rooms, cleanliness, availability of fresh food and water can be a part of renovation.

Besides all these, the administrative network should be very flexible to growing needs of passengers. Co-ordination between various departments in achieving targets is the need of the hour. Can Indian Railways reach better standards? Suresh Prabhu as Railway minister is a good choice. Only time can prove his mettle in handling the biggest task (Revival of Indian Railways).

Hope for a new and safe rail travel.

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2014: A Quick Look Back

#2014 is a year of challenges and reforms.
Here is a quick look back of events in which some marked reforms and others presented challenges.
Top Five of such events in our 365 days long journey :
General Elections : Narendra Modi is the star of the election year. This election is the biggest event in the history of India and has the potential to be for a better India. The agenda of development made citizens vote for a majority and powerful Government at the centre. Rise of Narendra Modi costs Indian National Congress’ ever seen poll debacle. Other old parties of Jantha Parivar fought the election with same old communal politics which yielded only a loss.

images
Diplomacy Redefined : Narendra Modi redefined Diplomacy after he assumed office. He invited all SAARC leaders to New Delhi for the swearing-in function advocating the “Neighbours First” policy.

PM with Chinese counterpart
PM with Chinese counterpart

Be it Madison square or AllPhones arena, he defined the rockstar concert style. 2015 begins with a high node as US president Barack Obama will be in capital to watch Republic Day parade. The year also presented some challenges like border tensions with Pakistan and China.

Let’s see how our PM grabs an opportunity to resolve border conflicts.

Industry sentiments at new high :  Markets have surged to all time high in the year 2014. Industry sentiments are on the rise. Investors are bullish over Indian markets. The new Govt. is still trying hard to promote the ease of doing business in this country. Therefore Achchhe Din continues to come for markets in 2015 too.

Extremism : India has witnessed less less terror disturbances last year though Bengaluru and Burdwan blasts signal the presence of terrorist groups. The infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan continued last year only with the aid of Pakistani rangers. The recent Peshawar carnage is a cowardly act, alarmed all world nations the need to fight terror together.

Safety for women : Crimes against women and children did not get enough attention from the government last year. A cab driver from Uber indulged in a shameless act which led to the ban of Uber. Later the ban was lifted with new regulations in place. Kerala being the most literate state tops in sexual assaults against children. This is the most serious and an alarming issue which still awaits a strong law. download

You may join the discussion on women safety here : http://www.fb.com/stoptheblameindia

 

 

Final Touch : Don’t get too emotional with #NewYearResolutions.

Happy new year.

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Make In India Push

The new Government promises to turn India as preferable manufacturing destination. With much promoted initiative “Make In India”, Investors looked back to country’s untapped potential in certain sectors including manufacturing.
Not surprisingly, The Government of India took internet route to promote the ambition. Interestingly, Its social media handles run quiz educating the community about updated policies in this regard with the hashtag #MakeInIndia being active on social media.

If you are interested too, then
www.makeinindia.gov.in/
https://www.facebook.com/makeinindiaofficial
www.twitter.com/makeinindia_

67 years old independent India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. After liberalising the economy in 1990s, Investments surged and growth multiplied. With changing trends, there is need to simplify the whole economy to create pro-business environment. Investors around the world are skeptical about red-tapism.
India has recorded significant growth in exporting automobiles. Imagine your dream car running on foreign roads with ‘Made In India’ tag. How proud ?

There is another side to it:
RBI Governor has cautioned the Government saying the demand in developed nations is decreasing and so, the market being India – ‘Make For India’.

It is obvious that China and India are biggest consumer markets. China has been successful as global manufacturing hub and now India follows the same.
Here are some must haves in the process :
#Simplified tax structure is the need of the hour and hence GST on cards.

#Labour reforms : It simply doesn’t only include payouts, but also the cultural side. When a foreign company comes to set up its unit near a village, communication gap between company officials and villagers need to be filled. This is learnt from British rule.

#Infrastructure : Capital being its biggest roadblock, One needs to explore ways to fuel big-ticket infra projects.

#Power : 24*7 power supply is our netas’ election promise. Serious crisis that the country has faced in this sector is corruption. Biggest ‘Coal Scam’ ruined the sector and investor’s hope. Transparent auction as promised by the new Govt. yet to be observed.

#Telecommunication : Though FDI allowed is 100%, India’s telecommunication is incomplete.

#Government policies and regulations should never increase cost of production.

#Reforms in education to be rolled out with long term goals.

India Inc. set to make only with the process being simpler.

Last but not least, India Inc. expects long pending rate cut from RBI. Early 2015 to see Central Bank’s soft stand. There is no need for India to compromise on its values while making economic reforms.

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India bats for Smart Cities

Smart city’ is a buzzword of just six months old. Our Netas are inspired by smart cities and smart villages overtime bureaucrats are indulged in formulating guidelines for the same. In several occasions, we have learnt that Ministry Of Urban Development will release the draft on Smart Cities by this month end. Do you know Beijing invests several lakh crores for its smart city projects? But, the same concept of Smart City means something different to India. Govt. has allotted 7000 Crores for Smart Cities in its maiden budget.

All Indian cities/city capitals have two faces: One with urban infrastructure and the other, slums. Recent NSSO survey revealed that there are over 33,500 slums in India. Maharashtra tops the list followed by Andhra Pradesh. It is time now to restructure these slums rather than evacuating them. Nobody can deny that 24 hours power, safe drinking water, hygienic environment should add to proposed features. Sanitation is another obvious focus. Later focus is smart features like adaptive traffic monitoring systems, e-governance initiatives, e-access to education, healthcare, transportation, Wi-Fi hotspots, GPS and other satellite tracking systems etc.  With growing appetite for smart apps, Bengaluru Police has already installed Kiosk machines to file FIRs on the go and an app to locate the same.

Some key points that really matter to the Govt. Of India:

  • Co-ordination among various ministries and to streamline administration machinery in formulating the project.
  • This project is to be marketed as big-ticket initiative to promote “Make In India”.
  • Unskilled Labour employed in construction projects must be a part of restructured Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).
  • To realise the very big scope for Power Sector in India and to integrate it with Smart Cities.
  • Design and Develop cities so as to focus on long-term economic growth.
  • India has already partnered with USA in developing smart cities and is partnering with other nations too. Therefore, this project is sensitive in promoting diplomatic relations.
  • A smart system in place to make habitats safe and secure is a key consideration.
  • More flexible cities to always allow migrants to settle.
  • Cyber security to stabilise e-governance systems.
  • Recent floods in Jammu & Kashmir and the cyclone Hudhud proved that smart cities are nothing if they are not disaster proof.

 

One major hurdle faced by all nations to build smart cities in common is “Funding”. India must use the newly formed BRICS Bank to the fullest and promote investments in infra sector at a time industrial sentiments are on the rise.

It is with the people of India to watch keenness of our lawmakers in proving their mettle to overcome these hurdles.

As always discussion is welcome.

Solving the Swachh equation

The recent initiative “Swachh Bharat” is not more than a renewed sanitation mission to accomplish cleaner and better livelihood in the country. This time around, the mission with similar targets as before, has created buzz across the country and made people a part of it. With celebrities picking up brooms to clean roads, people are encouraged to contribute to the mission.

Deriving the ‘Clean’:

Cleaner India should not just be limited as an urban phenomenon but must include every village and slum. This five years’ 1800 crore mission will have two factors to take it to success. Firstly, the behavioural change and secondly, the Govt.’s role.

Let us now discuss each factor in specific:

  1. Behavioural Change: People are always fascinated to see foreign countries and spectacular New Delhi’s Rashtrapathi Bhavan to witness its clean and bright roads. I have a short case study here: When I was in Tiruchchirappalli (Tamil Nadu) railway station two days back, I felt really honoured to walk on clean platforms. I knew about the programme taken up by the station officials by reading newspapers and anyway I had to witness the same only 48 hours ago. Those platforms look like no commuter can ever get an intention to throw wastes. Soon after I boarded, I was embarrassed to see a man throwing his used tea cup on to the train track as I said he couldn’t throw it on platform. I was later realised to know that he really bothered walking up to the dustbin which was just 20m away. Therefore this mind-set needs change.
  2. Govt.’s role is also crucial in encouraging public. Beyond that, I feel some of the following measures to be taken up :
  • Govt. must also include rag pickers in this mission. Roadside rag pickers should get more awareness about their role.
  • Allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in promoting waste management through modern techniques.
  • This mission is incomplete if industrial wastes ignored. Relevant techniques should be installed to tackle it.
  • Support local technology that promotes cleanliness and eco-friendly atmosphere.
  • Include Cleanliness in the curriculum right from school education paving way for next generation behavioural change.

India has now realised the importance of sanitation and more importantly to make people participate.

Thank You.

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