the3h - Hum Hain Hindustani
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India plays catch-up in global chip race, offers subsidies to woo firms | Business Standard, 07 may 2022
India to step up assistance as Sri Lanka stares at bankruptcy | The Economic Times, 07 may 2022
India's Hot Schools Show We Must Climate-Proof Education | TIME, 06 may 2022
Understanding The Role Of Private Healthcare Providers In India's March Toward Universal Health Coverage | Forbes India, 06 may 2022
How nutrient-deficient are Indian soils? | Down To Earth, 06 may 2022
Funding education through scholarship: How to avail it in India? | Financial Express, 05 may 2022
Indian economy may take till 2034-35 to overcome COVID-19 losses: RBI | Business Today, 05 may 2022
Finland's big new export to India: Education | ALJAZEERA, 04 may 2022
How Public-private Partnerships are helping revamp the critical healthcare infrastructure | The Times of India, 03 may 2022
What a drone picking up blood samples tells about healthcare in India | BBC, 01 may 2022
Policy & Governance
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 may 2022
According to Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) 2021-2022 Report on Currency and Finance (RCF) named 'Revive and Construct', the losses due to COVID-19 pandemic will take 15 years to overcome. The report suggests that India should focus on seven wheels of economic progress - aggregate demand; aggregate supply; institutions; intermediaries and markets; macroeconomic stability and policy coordination; productivity and technological progress; structural changes and sustainability. Moreover, price stability is an essential condition for strong and sustainable growth path. Shaktikanta Das, Governor of RBI, emphasises the need to create a virtuous cycle of greater opportunity for entrepreneurs, businesses, and the fiscal authority. For India's economic growth structural reforms that are needed include - enhancing access to litigation free low-cost land; raising the quality of labour through public expenditure on education and health and the Skill India Mission; scaling up R&D activities with an emphasis on innovation and technology; creating an enabling environment for start-ups and unicorns; rationalisation of subsidies that promote inefficiencies; and encouraging urban agglomerations by improving the housing and physical infrastructure. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 18 mar 2022
India's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) law, Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013, makes it mandatory for companies to spend 2% of their average net profit made during last three financial years on CSR activities in the current financial year. The companies that come under this law include - (i) Net worth of Rs. 500 crore or more. (ii) Turnover of Rs. 1000 crore or more (iii) Net profit of Rs. 5 crore or more. Some of the areas where these funds can be applied are poverty and hunger eradication, education, healthcare, rural development, women empowerment and environmental sustainability. To incorporate CSR in such a way is quite unique when compared to CSR as practiced around the world. Adhip Ray, founder of WinSavvy.com, explains the benefits of CSR as applied in India and how other countries and businesses operating there can apply this model for greater good to the society. India's CSR law provides for forming a CSR committee that should be created and enforced by three board directors, giving it more powerful role. The CSR policy should be elaborate, money spent should be audited, details of activity to be provided on annual report and also on company website. Indian companies are taking the law seriously and competing with each other to better spend CSR funds. This helps companies to enhance their value in communities they operate and provides them with great branding opportunity. India's dedicated approach to CSR can be internationalized. Mr. Ray suggests the following basic principles that companies must adhere to for effective CSR - (1) Get the highest management on board. (2) Create OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for enforcing your policy. (3) Fix accountability on the top management. Read on...
Why the Business World Should Use India as a Model for Corporate Social Responsibility
Author: Adhip Ray
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 feb 2022
Social entrepreneurship can fill the gap in India's healthcare infrastructure and delivery through the combination of innovation and the spirit to do social good. Maanoj Shah, co-founder of Mission ICU, provides how social enterprises can be boon to India's healthcare infrastructure, particularly in the underserved rural and remote areas, and bring positive change through entrepreneurial spirit and the commitment to serve the community. Pandemic induced crisis highlighted the importance of social and community based efforts in healthcare system. The need is to consolidate these scattered and individual efforts through developing social enterprises. Mr. Shah suggests following ways in which social entrepreneurship could uplift India's healthcare infrastructure - (1) Devise solutions based on detailed research: Use of technology and digital solutions at the grassroots level; Conducting thorough studies to find out gaps in healthcare delivery to rural communities; Create awareness regarding hygiene and health. (2) A focus on long-term, sustainable impact on healthcare infrastructure: Social enterprises with their commitment to service to society can bring long-term sustainable impact by channeling capital and resources where healthcare facililities are scarce; Committed healthcare personnel can be deployed in rural areas and make healthcare accessible and affordable. (3) Collaborations with local partners: Working with local social service organizations and communities is essential for successful implementation of healthcare projects; By this collaboration it will be easier for social entrepreneurs to identify and understand local needs and find opportunities and create tailored solutions; Partnerships are a necessity where the resources are scarce and help efficiently utilized them for better outcomes. (4) Bridge administrative gaps to complement the public health system: Government schemes can only be successful when implemented effectively and efficiently and that's where social enterprises can contribute significantly; Social enterprises with innovative and creative focus can bridge the implementation gap and work to strengthen public healthcare system. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 21 feb 2022
Healthcare in rural India is a challenge that needs to be taken seriously and sincerely. The infrastructure is in dismal condition. India's rural population is substantial, was about 903 million in 2021, and is expected to increase to 905 million in 2022. Priyadarshi Mohapatra, founder of CureBay, provides overview of India's rural healthcare sector and the challenges. He also explores the startup ecosystem and suggests how proper use of techology can be a game changer to improve accessibility and affordability of healthcare. Accessibility of quality healthcare is major issue in rural areas. The growing chronic diseases is also a cause of concern. Government run schemes, like Ayushman Bharat Health, Infrastructure Mission and Jan Arogya Yojana, when implemented effectively, can boost rural healthcare infrastructure. According to Invest India's study, 100% FDI has been allowed by the government under the automatic route to invest in developing hospitals. Moreover, 100% FDI is also permissible under automatic routes in medical device manufacturing. Health-tech entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem can play an important role in filling the gaps through innovation. The size of the market that is expected to reach Rs. 485.4 billion by 2024. According to Invest India's report, there has been a 45.06% increase in total investments in health-tech startups. A report by London & Partners and Dealroom.co published last year says that Indian health-tech startups have raised US$ 1.9 billion alone in 2021 from VCs. This ranks India just behind the US, China, and the UK. Currently, there are over 3000 health-tech startups in India and it is further growing. The investment will also provide employment opportunities to the sector. Government's healthcare infrastructure schemes, health-tech startup ecosystem and substantial investment can provide an upgrade to rural healthcare resulting in accessibility and affordability in healthcare delivery to rural population. Read on...
The Times of India:
How the changing dynamics of healthcare industry are making rural India healthy?
Author: Priyadarshi Mohapatra
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 05 jan 2022
COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges to the already struggling India's overall education delivery system. The school closures had not only affected the learning process but has led many students to drop out completely citing diverse reasons. Sudden transition from in-school learning to online learning took many by surprise - both teachers and students. This has been the case particularly with government-run and low budget private schools in small towns and rural areas, and students belonging to low socio-economic status (SES) households. Children had been deprived of mid-day meals that they use to get in schools, leading to a further challenge of malnutrition. Even though India has been undergoing digital transformation and evolving as a digital society, but the pandemic disrupted the gradual process. Many students, as well as a large number of teachers, found adapting to the technology-enabled learning difficult to handle efficiently and the process lacked effective learning outcomes. According to the School Children's Online and Offline Learning (SCHOOL) survey overseen by economists such as Jean Dreze, Reetika Khera etc, 77% of families in urban areas and 51% in villages have access to smartphones, a healthy number. But, only 31% of children in cities and 15% in villages are able to make use of smartphones for academic purposes. This shows how challenging it had been for children to use phones as an educational device. The Ministry of Education (Govt. of India) reported to the Parliamentary Committee of Women's Empowerment that about 320 million children got affected due to school closures and out of this 49.37% were girls. The Ministry of Education told the panel, 'Post pandemic, this can lead to a higher risk of girls permanently dropping out of school and reversing the gains made over recent years. One cannot also ignore the fact that there is a gender dimension in digital access to learning. In families which possess a single smartphone, it is likely that sons will be given the preference to access online classes, followed by girls, if time permits.' According to the report 'State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery' prepared by World Bank in cooperation with UNESCO and UNICEF (The Indian Express, 13 dec 2021), Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education, says, 'The COVID-19 crisis brought education systems across the world to a halt. Now, 21 months later, schools remain closed for millions of children, and others may never return to school. The loss of learning that many children are experiencing is morally unacceptable. And the potential increase of learning poverty might have a devastating impact on future productivity, earnings, and wellbeing for this generation of children and youth, their families and the world's economies.' The challenges remain as new variants of the COVID-19 like Delta and Omicron keep arising and pushing governments to implement measures like curfews, lock-downs, school closures etc. So, the online education will continue to remain the mode of learning in these times. Governments, nonprofits, technology companies, etc have to make sure that the process is able to provide optimal outcomes as it is a question of the country's and the world's future. Read on...
The Siasat Daily:
The chaos of online education in India's pandemic times
Author: Manogna Chandrika Matta
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 dec 2021
India's handicraft sector is an important part of the economy, both from local consumption and export point of view. According to ibef.org (India Brand Equity Forum) website India has around 7 million artisans as per official estimates, but unofficial figures consider this figure to be huge 200 million. Moreover, there are more than 3000 art forms in which these artisans are engaged in. The website (ibef.org) further provides the following statistics related to Indian handicraft and handloom export (FY21): Woodwares at US$ 845.51 million; Embroidered and crocheted goods at US$ 604.38 million; Art metal wares at US$ 468.66 million; Handprinted textiles and scarves at US$ 339.03 million; Imitation jewellery at US$ 186.65 million; Miscellaneous handicrafts at US$ 826.68 million. Indian government is also providing special push to this sector through various schemes, as described on the handicrafts.nic.in (Development Commissioner Handicrafts, Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India) website - NATIONAL HANDICRAFTS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME - NHDP (Includes Marketing Support and Services; Skill Development in Handicraft Sector; Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana [AHVY]; Direct Benefit to Artisans (Welfare); Infrastructure and Technology Support; Research and Development ). COMPERHENSIVE HANDICRAFTS CLUSTER DEVELOPMENT SCHEME (CHCDS) that aims to enhance the insfratructural and production chain at handicraft clusters in India and bring them to global standards. According to Prof. Syed Khalid Hashmi of Millennium Institute of Management, Aurangabad (Market for Indian Handicrafts, Excel Journal of Engineering Technology and Management Science, Dec-Jan 2012), 'The handicrafts sector plays a significant and important role in the country's economy. It provides employment to a vast segment of craft persons in rural and semi urban areas and generates substantial foreign exchange for the country. The handicraft sector has, however, suffered due to its being unorganized, with the additional constraints of lack of education, low capital, and poor exposure to new technologies, absence of market intelligence, and a poor institutional framework...Indian handicraft has great growth potential in the changing scenario with its basic strength being the abundant and cheap availability of manpower and being a traditional profession of millions still requires very low investment compared with other countries barring China.' A new book, 'Crafting a Future: Stories of Indian Textiles and Sustainable Practices' by Archana Shah, explores the contribution of artisans, designers, NGOs etc to handcrafted textiles sector by focusing on the skills and processes of the creators, and weaves the stories of their accomplishment and success. Ms. Shah is worried about the competition that handcrafted textiles face with tech-powered textile manufacturing and has been working to revive and rejuvenate several craft skills. She is the founder of Ahmedabad's Bandhej (a handcrafted textile fashion brand founded in 1981), and has been collaborating with artisans around the country for the last 40 years to create textiles for urban markets. The book is the result of her interactions with artisans over her long career. She says, 'It is broadly divided into three sections of natural fibres: cotton, a plant-based fibre; silk produced by insects; and wool, obtained from animals. It resonates with Gandhiji's concept of developing khadi and village industries to rejuvenate the rural economy and stimulate development through a bottoms-up approach.' The book addresses two major challenges - unemployment and climate change. Ms. Shah says, 'By making productive use of their time and skills, women and marginalised communities involved in this sector will be empowered, and enjoy a sense of self-worth and dignity. Families will benefit from sustainable livelihoods in their own locations, protecting them from the misery of forced economic migration to urban centres where regular work is difficult to find. The challenge is how to bridge the gap, connect the producers with the markets, create products that are 'Handmade in India' for the local, national and global markets and in the process, make the world a better place for future generations.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 21 nov 2021
The book 'Unshackling India: Hard Truths and Clear Choices for Economic Revival' authored by Ajay Chhibber and Salman Anees Soz explores expectations from India's economy in the next 25 years and whether it will become a mature democracy and developed economy by 2047, the hundredth year of its independence. The authors argue that India needs to look ahead to achieve economic prosperity and inclusivity with realistic approaches and new ideas. They say, 'What India needs is an aspirational goal. GDP targets - US$ 5 trillion or even US$ 10 trillion - do not inspire the broader citizenry.' The book consider China a threat and suggests a competitive approach towards it. Also, 'Samriddh aur Sajit Bharat @100' (Prosperous and Inclusive India @100) is a slogan that all political parties should adopt as their motto. For Indian corporations, the book says, 'They should aim to grow at home and abroad instead of looking for tweaks in tariffs and regulations to serve very narrow short-term interests.' Mentioning COVID-19 crisis and government's approach towards it with existing substandard healthcare infrastructure, authors say, 'New lockdowns ensued, guaranteeing a slowdown in economic activity and prospects of further misery for the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society...India has been forced to reset by the COVID-19 crisis. Perhaps that is how India reforms - in response to crises. While COVID-19 may have set us back by several years (or longer), India could convert this into an opportunity to revitalize and structure our economic system for the future.' The crisis also created global economic challenges and India has to manage them effectivcely to pursue its expected growth trajectory. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 oct 2021
India's changing socio-economic scenario is urging corporates, entrepreneurs and individuals to focus on solving social problems and creating a positive social impact in lives of those who are at the bottom of the pyramid, a concept that was first propagated by C. K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart in their article 'The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid' (Strategy+Business, 2002). It proposed that companies should innovate and also focus on the needs of those at the bottom of the pyramid. By doing so they will not only expand their markets but will also serve the marginalized communites and uplift their socio-economic conditions. According to the article 'Budget 2014: Tapping the aspirational class of India' (Shuchi Bansal; Mint, 11 Jul 2014), while presenting the budget in 2014 Late Mr. Arun Jaitley, the then Finance Minister, referred to aspirational Indians and what he called the 'neo middle class'. He said, 'India unhesitatingly desires to grow...those who have got an opportunity to emerge from the difficult challenges have become aspirational. They now want to be part of the neo middle class.' In the same article, a research study by Quantum Consumer Consulting, finds that 34% of these strata are aged between 10 and 25 years and aspires for a better life. Ravi Narayan, CEO at T-Hub, explains how this aspirational class can be an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to focus on and make a real difference in the innovation ecosystem. He says, 'It is about time social changemakers start tapping into India's aspirational class, who are tomorrow's neo-middle class. Understanding this under-served stratum is key to unlocking the potential of the Indian economy.' He provides examples of organizations from India's impact ecosystem that are making a difference. According to Mr. Narayan, 'India's strong digital infrastructure has been a gamechanger for those who want to leverage the power of technology to create a social impact on a larger scale. The growing smartphone penetration and high-speed internet connectivity in rural areas have empowered social entrepreneurs and innovators to create new models for change to accelerate social impact.' EdTech, AgriTech, healthcare and microcredit finance are critical areas where social entrepreneurs and incubators are offering inclusive and sustainable solutions to ensure the upward mobility of the marginalized class. Mentioning the best practices in social innovation in India's context, Mr. Narayan says, 'Speaking from experience, I am convinced that social innovation in the Indian context is not clearly defined by an evidence-based approach. Perhaps therein lies one of its bigger challenges. Social entrepreneurs working to create an impact on the scale have to contend with operational challenges, such as a lack of market access, besides inadequate investor connect and mentoring opportunities. Also, technologically and in terms of scale, it is difficult to solve problems in this sector as the risk factor is high for social entrepreneurs. Besides, the educated class with its worldview isn't contributing enough to the growth of this sector. Such pain points highlight the need for open innovation to solve India's most complex social problems.' He also says that maximizing inclusion is key and this cannot be attained by merely leveraging technology. There has to be a larger objective of creating a holistic inclusive social impact ecosystem. A fragmented innovation ecosystem cannot thrive in the absence of a comprehensive social innovation policy. He concludes, 'I believe that social innovators - be it individuals, social incubators, governments, corporates, academia, or startups - who put people first will help create new and exciting markets and facilitate a synergistic innovation ecosystem.' Read on...
How to Address the Yawning Gap in India's Social Impact Sector
Author: Ravi Narayan
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 25 aug 2021
India is predominantly an agrarian society with 2/3rd of its population associated with agriculture and related sectors. Moreover, 1/3rd of rural India still lives below poverty line. These statistics points towards an imbalance in rural and urban society and leads to migration by rural population towards cities in search of livelihoods. Long-term well thought out planning and implementation is a necessity to pursue rural development and make rural economy a thriving force to bridge the rural-urban divide and provide opportunities to rural population and enhance their quality of life in rural areas. Some of the steps that would be required to make it a reality would include - (1) Skilled Manpower: Improve availability of educational and vocational skill-based training for rural youth to enhance their employability; Awareness and knowledge about modern agricultural practices to rural population; In addition to education, public health and sanitation, women empowerment, providing better electricity and irrigation, facilities for agriculture extension, research, loans and credit availability, along with skill development for employment, are some of the steps needed in this regard. (2) Aiding Growth: To reduce unplanned migration towards cities it is required to provide opportunities to youth in rural areas. It is necessary to invest time and resources in promoting investment and creating infrastructure for better employment opportunities; Quality of agricultural jobs should be improved and there should be better human resources practices in such jobs to make them attractive for rural youth. (3) Building Opportunities: Entrepreneurship is one concept that should be seriously introduced in rural and agricultural sector to increase opportunities and support growth. It is important to create micro-entrepreneurs and economic clusters in rural India; For rural entrepreneurs to thrive government has to improve rural infrastructure through investments in roads, electricity, irrigation networks, and national cold chain grids in the rural areas; Welfare funding is another area that need to be addressed. But overall the most important thing is to empower rural youth to become entrepreneur and become generator of employment opportunites within the rural setting will be turning point in rural economy leading to sustainable rural development. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 jun 2021
COVID-19 has brought about a massive online education transformation in India. There are many challenges that the traditional education system already faces and with the advent of the new tech-enabled education at such a large scale the challenges have multiplied. Dr. K. Kasturirangan, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Orgnisation (ISRO) and chairman of the committee that drafted the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP), voiced out his concerns while speaking at the 'Development Dialogue', a virtual interaction hosted by the International Centre Goa. He said, 'This is the beginning of online learning. Certainly, there is a digital divide. Whether it is internet connectivity, internet-enabled devices or a quiet study environment, these are all grossly underestimated in their complexity to be integrated into an Indian educational system. Quite a lot of research is going on but to have a system that can be adopted in an operational, scalable and affordable sense, I think we still have to wait.' He also emphasized the need for children to learn regional languages as recommened in the new NEP. He also talked about the importance of learning foreign language, particularly English, and mentioned that the new education policy will provide more opportunities to learn foreign languages. Read on...
The Indian Express:
'Digital divide in online education does exist, research on to find operational solution'
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 mar 2021
India's healthcare ecosystem is continuously evolving with changes in health policies, advancement in technologies, financial innovations etc. But, what is most critical is patient centricity, that should be at the core of all products and services development. Digital transformation is enabling this patient focus in healthcare. According to the World Economic Forum Report 2016 (weforum.org) titled 'Building the Healthcare System of the Future', the future of healthcare will be 'consumer-centric' and there are four digital themes that will be critical for digital transformation of healthcare over the next decade - (1) Smart Care (2) Care Anywhere (3) Empowered Care (4) Intelligent Healthcare Enterprise. The new structure for the healthcare system will include - Continuous Monitoring; Retail Clinics; Connected Home; Auto Paitent Access; Virtual Care Circles; Omni-channel Experience; Intelligent Treatments; Me, My Data and I; Augmented Wayfinding; Seamless Financing; Intelligent Machines; Virtual Care Team; Connected Care; Coordinated Ecosystem. Rehan A. Khan, Managing Director of MSD (India Region), explains how the patient-centered digitally-led healthcare ecosystem is developing in India driven by disease management, prevention and focus on wellness. He says, 'By leveraging disruptive innovations, we are personalizing patient and physician experience, and transforming healthcare access. We are around a close corner from a future where personalized medicines, curative therapies, digital therapeutics and precision intervention through robotic surgery, nanotechnology, 3D printing etc. will redefine healthcare across the globe and in our country.' Healthcare policies focused on digitalization are already in place and the initiatives are beginning to shape the future. There are now over 1 million registered Health IDs, 2900 verified 'digi doctors', a robust Health Facility Registry with over 1400 approved health facilities and a Live NDHM (National Digital Health Mission) application available on Android store. National Policy on Security of Health Systems and Privacy of Personal Health Records developed in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, will enable swift implementation of big data analytics. Mr. Khan suggests, 'Developing innovation hubs, forging strong Public Private Partnerships and driving patientcare digitally are critical pillars for driving Health For All.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 mar 2021
According to a research paper that is part of the wider report published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on how protected areas were affected by the pandemic, India was among the 22 countries which has enacted or proposed changes to its environmental regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. In India there are at least 31 proposals to open up national parks and sanctuaries for infrastructure, extraction and development projects, including coal mining. The pandemic's impact around the globe on nature conservation efforts include - job losses among protected area rangers, reduced anti-poaching patrols, and deaths among indigenous communities living in those lands. Pandemic has further made the protected areas more vulnerable. Out of the 60 countries surveyed, 17 countries have maintained or increased their support to protected areas despite the crisis. This includes 8 countries from the European Union. The researchers argue that to reduce further pandemic risks, more protected areas need to be created and the existing ones should be made sustainable. Mariana Napolitano Ferreira, head of science at WWF Brazil, and one of 150 researchers that are part of the research report, says, 'During a time when all eyes were obviously on covid...you had governments reducing budgets or weakening environmental protection. In this moment of economic and humanitarian crisis, we have an unique opportunity to stop and think on how to rebuild. We have to look at (protected areas) differently.' Dr. Bruno Oberle, IUCN Director General, while mentioning about the research papers published by IUCN (iucn.org) in a special issue of PARKS, the journal of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, says, 'While the global health crisis remains priority, this new research reveals just how severe a toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on conservation efforts and on communities dedicated to protecting nature. Let us not forget that only by investing in healthy nature can we provide a solid basis for our recovery from the pandemic, and avoid future public health crises.' Read on...
India rolls back environmental regulations during the pandemic
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 jan 2021
According to the World Bank's most recent statistics - India's rural population is 66% of the total population (2019); 41% of the total employment is involved in agriculture and farming (2020); Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, value added, contribute 16% to India's GDP (2019). Moreover, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (fao.org) says , 'Agriculture, with its allied sectors, is the largest source of livelihoods in India. 70% of its rural households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood, with 82% of farmers being small and marginal.' Considering these statistics it is evident that India is substantially dependant on agrarian economy. The sector is looking for transition from an inefficient, unorganized and archaic one, that pushes farmers to commit suicide, to more modern with incorporation of technology and scientific methodologies, to make it profitable and sustainable to the agricultural community. The recent protest of the farmers at such a large scale has also brought the need of handling any transformation in the sector with caution and is to be carried out in a peaceful and democratic way by taking into confidence those who are affected the most with any policy change. The need for consultation and understanding is the only way to bring the needed evolution of the agricultural sector and make it thrive. Digitization and varied use of technology is a step that pushes agricultural economy towards this goal. NITI Aayog's report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) says that to maintain annual growth rate of 8-10%, agriculture must grow at 4% or higher. Technologies that can be applied include those on the farming side like sensor-assisted soil assessment, automated monitoring of free-ranging animals on pastures, targeted control of agricultural machinery, use of high quality seeds, optimum and measured use of fertilizers and pesticides, modern farming equipment and methods, scientific approach to agriculture etc, and there are technologies that need to be applied post-production, from farm to the market, like digitization in farm product management, supply chain management, logistics, Mandis and retail selling etc. This will lead to better produce with agri-waste reduction and efficiency in cost optimization. The three most essential elements that would lay the foundation of digitization in agriculture would include - Internet of Things (IoT); Nanotechnology; Digital Education. There are two most important technology related concepts in farming - 'Precision Farming' involves creating new production and management techniques that make intensive and efficient use of data regarding a specific location and crop; 'Smart Farming' or 'Farming 4.0' is the application of information and data technologies for optimising complex farming systems. To implement these concepts at a large scale in India's massive agriculture sector comes up with many challenges that need to be overcome - Digital divide; Lack of farmer literacy; Lack of financial resources particularly in case of small and medium farmers; Interruptions in rural power supply. Even though government and private sector knows the potential of digitization and technological transformation, major challenge is to involve farmers in the process by creating proper awareness and showcasing the benefits of technology-enabled agriculture. Government and private sector have already initiated the various projects in this regard like for example Microsoft has developed an 'AI-Sowing App', in collaboration with International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT), that sends advisory to the farmers regarding the optimal date of seed-sowing; NITI Aayog has partnered with IBM to develop a crop yield prediction model backed by AI to provide real-time data and communicate the required advisory to farmers; 'Blue River' project has designed and integrated computer vision with machine learning technology that will help cultivators to reduce the use of fertilisers and herbicides by spraying only where and when needed. Government projects in digitization include - Kisan Suvidha, Pusa Krishi, Farm-o-pedia App, Crop Insurance Android App, Agri-Market, M-Kisan Application, Shetkari Masik Android App etc. Read on...
Digitisation In Agriculture: A Necessity For India
Author: Urvi Shrivastav
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 jan 2021
More and more educators and experts are advocating inclusion of design and creativity focused subjects in the mainstream school level curriculum. In a webinar titled, 'Why Design Education is Important for Odisha', educators and policymakers discussed the value of design education in India and specifically for the state of Odisha. Prof. Pradyumna Vyas, Senior Advisor of Design and Innovation at Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and former Director of National Institute of Design (NID) at Ahmedabad, says, 'We are in the fourth industrial revolution. Everything is merging with the other and as such design education can't be thought of in isolation. While the dependence on technology has been rapidly increasing, we have been losing touch on a human level. But the focus has to be on people. It should be remembered that technology is just an enabler, humanising that tech is design. If the pandemic has shown anything, it is that human beings can't be ignored.' Dr. Amar Patnaik, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), says, 'There is a need to mainstream design education and for that, it should be started at the school level. A curriculum should be built to incorporate design education as well. Design should be approached holistically and therefore it needs to be taught at the grassroot level and not during adulthood when it needs to be applied.' Prof. G. V. Sreekumar, former Head of the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) at IIT Bombay, says, 'There is a need to merge design with science, technology and art and looked at as a whole...More than a mere design school, the need is to build a design research center.' Prof. Paresh Choudhury, Founder of Odisha Design Council and former Head of National Institute of Design (NID) in Andhra Pradesh (AP), proposed the need to set up a design school in Odisha. Odisha Design Council (ODC) is a social nonprofit enterprise that intends to spread education, research and development and innovation in the field of design. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 31 dec 2020
Social enterprises have been part of the Indian social sector ecosystem for a long time, albeit not in the theoretically and legally defined framework that exists now. According to the study, 'The State of Social Enterprise in Bangladesh, Ghana, India and Pakistan' (British Council, 2016), led by Emily Darko, Director of Research at Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), there are roughly 2 million social enterprises operating in India. The study based on a survey of 258 social enterprises found a young social enterprise scene with 57% being 5 years old or younger. Moreover, these social enterprises work in many sectors - skills development (53%); education (30%); agriculture/fisheries/dairy (28%); financial services (26%); energy and clean technology (26%). From the surveyed social enterprises, 80% reinvest to further social or environmental goals, and they have supported a total of 150 million beneficiaries over their lifetime. The report found a total of 39 central government policies relevant to social enterprise and entrepreneurship. A notable policy with a specific mention of social enterprises was the 'National Skill and Entrepreneurship Policy' announced on 15 July 2015 by the Ministry of Skills and Entrepreneurship. The policy includes a section on social enterprises that aims to foster social entrepreneurship and grassroots innovation. The research study, 'Social Enterprises in the Indian Context: Conceptualizing through Qualitative Lens' (Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research, Springer Open, 15 jan 2018) (Authors: Subhanjan Sengupta of Birla Institute of Management Technology, Arunaditya Sahay of Birla Institute of Management Technology), researches the meaning of the 'social enterprise' construct in the Indian context, and develops a conceptual framework that represents the construct. The purpose of this empirical study is to develop orientation needed for aspiring social entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship researchers to familiarize with 'social enterprise' phenomenon in India. Authors explains, 'India is a country with socio-economic and cultural diversity, and a very high population. The country offers no legal definition for social enterprises. The ecosystem of social entrepreneurship in India is created by different organizations and universities/institutes advocating, promoting, and supporting social enterprises. Multiple stakeholders such as these have formulated their own meaning of social entrepreneurship in India; their work being influenced by the social, economic, and cultural diversity across the geographical length and breadth of the country, and the regulatory frameworks of the state and central governments...The key constructs that emerged to be clustering together to form the concept of social entrepreneurship in the Indian context are social value creation, market orientation, social entrepreneur, and balanced impact.' Recently, an India focused book on social enterpreneurship, 'Social Entrepreneurship in India: Quarter Idealism and a Pound of Pragmatism', is authored by Madhukar Shukla who is a Professor of Strategic Management at XLRI Jamshedpur. The book documents rise of the social innovation movement in India, along with profiles and roadmaps. ON COVID-19 - Prof. Shukla says, 'The pandemic, and the subsequent abrupt lockdown, create an unprecedented humanitarian crisis which has still not ended...In many ways, it was also a watershed event in the civil society and social entrepreneurial space - particularly for many social entrepreneurs, who, with reference to the typology in my book, I would describe as 'Public Goods Providers'. For instance, many of the established social ventures...which were already working in the space of relief and with migrant informal sector workers, spurred up their efforts to meet this challenge. There were also many other innovative initiatives from other ventures. At a smaller and localised level, there were many initiatives taken by individuals, citizen groups, and small organizations such as helping the migrants in their journey back home, providing basic subsistence necessities like rations and sanitary pads to marginalised communities, and so on. Why I used the term 'watershed' is because what I see is that many of these efforts, which started as a response to a crisis, also brought in new talent in the sector, and many are now evolving as viable and sustainable social ventures.' ON ROLE OF ACADEMICS - Prof. Shukla says, 'Academics can and does play a useful role in the social entrepreneurship field by identifying and documenting trends, principles, and models from practice. These can help the entrepreneurs to make more informed decisions.' ON SCALING UP CHALLENGES - Prof. Shukla says, 'When organizations scale-up and try to replicate the model which has succeeded in one place, they have to deal with a new set of problems and challenges. They need to consider and plan for three critical challenges...One, scaling up into other locations also increases the complexity of operations...Secondly, scaling up would also need hiring new talent to manage increasingly complex operations of the venture...Lastly, there is the danger of 'mission drift'.' ON DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY - Prof. Shukla says, 'Over the last decade or so, with the increasing affordability of and access to digital technology, it has become a part of the models that are used by many social entrepreneurs. In my experience, three important ways in which it helps creating social change are Access, Aggregation, and Democratisation.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 dec 2020
Access and affordability, along with innovation and sound regulatory mechanism and government policies, are the essential components of developed and modern healthcare system. India has to pursue consolidated strategies to become a better healthcare system and leverage its R&D human resources to become a design hub for medical devices with a focus on global markets. Pavan Choudary, Chairman and Director General of Medical Technology Association of India (MTaI), in conversation with Viveka Roychowdhury, Editor of Express Pharma and Express Healthcare, explains his views on India's healthcare sector, medical devices and medtech industry, COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic challenges, government policies, investments in the sector and the way forward. EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW - (1) ON HEALTHCARE SYSTEM: • 'Value-based healthcare will bring together all modalities of care delivery to create a well-coordinated 'continuum of care'. It is important for government to devise incentive systems to work for patients by encouraging companies and healthcare systems to deliver quality and better outcomes.' • 'India can take learning from countries like Philippines and Turkey who have over the time strengthened their health care infrastructure, but this has been done by making a conscious effort to increase their healthcare spend. At 1.29% of GDP spent on healthcare, India needs to considerably increase its healthcare budget to at least four per cent of the total GDP; by doing so, we will have started our journey towards last mile healthcare delivery.' • 'Telemedicine is another avenue that the government can facilitate to improve access to healthcare. The sheer size of India's 1.3 billion demographic means that the applications for telemedicine are immense. Telemedicine will also enable India to address its poor doctor-patient ratio of 0.85 which means barely one physician per 1000 people as compared to four physicians per 1000 people in Europe. A 2019 report by McKinsey Global Institute, 'Digital India: Technology to Transform a Connected Nation', states that India can save up to US$ 10 billion by 2025 if telemedicine services could replace 30 to 40% of in-person consultations.' (2) ON MEDTECH, MEDICAL DEVICES, INVESTMENTS & COVID-19: • 'Instead of implementing price caps on medtech products, the government should adopt a mechanism to rationalise trade margins which will achieve the objective of reducing high MRPs as well as allow medtech industry to continue bringing the latest technology in healthcare to India, increase affordable access to quality care and support skilling and training of health care workers.' • 'India also reduced custom duties on a few essential medical devices used in the treatment of COVID-19, however for the rest of the products it did not lighten the load of the 5% cess ad valorem imposed in April earlier this year. This, coupled with the INR depreciating by almost 7-8% in March 2020 against the EUR and the USD, meant a very significant hit for the medical technology industry where more than 80% of the products are imported.' • 'To be ATMANIRBHAR (self-reliant) in medtech, we should also be able to design in India medical devices for the world by utilising India's rich talent in R&D. India is the third largest medtech R&D employer of the world, next to only US and Germany.' • 'We must also be cognizant of the financial challenges that the pandemic has brought. There are some other aspects which the government needs to closely evaluate and consider to reassure the industry, these aspects include creating policies which provide a level playing field to all players, agnostic of their country of origin and a stable regulatory climate for the industry. Addressing these will move the make in India needle, steadily forward. The global companies hope to be eventually and once again, the main movers of this needle.' ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT is the Prime Minister's vision to make India a self-reliant nation. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 31 oct 2020
India's newly released National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 recommends internationalization of higher education sector. NEP has developed a vision to make India global study destination by 2030. Top universities of the world will be allowed to operate in India and a legislative framework will be created to facilitate this. Moreover, the Ministry of Education is preparing the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) bill to pave way for foreign universities to open their branches in India and Indian universities will be allowed to open campuses abroad and collaborate with foreign institutions. Reasons for this internationalization focus by NEP is due to current dismal standards of higher education - (1) Despite being second largest higher education system India, with its 990 universities and 40000 colleges, none figure in World University Rankings. (2) India ranks as low as 72 among 132 countries in the latest Global Talent Competitive Index which gauges country's current ability to grow and attract talents. (3) Top foreign universities would bring in capital, latest education technology, innovative pedagogy and facilitate institution mobility that is missing in India. (4) Higher education brain drain is a common phenomena in India. In 2019 alone, some 750000 students went for abroad to pursue higher studies. On an average, students spend US$ 15 billion per year to earn these degrees. Historically the policy of internationalization of education has been debated continuously since the inception of economic reforms and liberalization in 1991. There has always been some voices of opposition to such educational reforms. Moreover, there are also other challenges - Many Anglo-American universities are already struggling with financial issues and budget cuts along with drop in enrolments; Indian educational systems's bureaucratic hurdles that contrasts with operational freedom and academic autonomy that foreign institutions often expect. There can't be total guarantee that the legal framework and regulatory environment that NEP desires to create will provide these institutions such freedoms; Academic human resources will see heightened competition and local institutions will be on the receiving end as reputed foreign universities with more benefits will be attractive; Public universities in India work with a social and welfare agenda and emphasize on inclusion. Entry of foreign universities may impact this inclusion aspect. Also, neither NEP nor the HECI bill elaborate how India's public universities opening branches/campuses in other countries will help out the education system at home and at what cost. Indian government's budgetary allocation for education has already been witnessing a decline in recent years. Read on...
Observer Research Foundation:
Why internationalisation of higher education can be a game changer for India
Authors: Niranjan Sahoo, Jibran Khan
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 18 oct 2020
Small women-run farm collectives became a success story of self-sufficiency during COVID-19 lockdown in Tamil Nadu (India). These informal groups have been facilitated by a grassroots nonprofit 'Women's Collective' that encourages poor women, who neither own land nor are able to lease land on their own, to come together and lease land collectively to grow food. In the IndiaSpend article dated 09 sep 2019, author Shreya Raman states, 'In a country (India) where 73.2% of rural women workers are engaged in agriculture, women own only 12.8% of land holdings.' Sheelu Francis, co-founder of Women's Collective, says, 'We began with five collective farms in 2010, with the intention of helping landless single or widowed women achieve food security. With collective farming, we ensure nutrition and food security for landless women at the household level.' There are now 89 collective farms with a total of 695 members spread across Tamil Nadu. Each collective has 5-10 members. Women's Collective is responsible for training and providing agricultural know-how. Farmers utilize organic farm methods and avoid chemical fertilizers. The size of the plot determines the choice of crops the women farmers will grow. Landlord usually gets 1/3 of the harvest as rent while the members distribute the rest among themselves. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 aug 2020
The 'Report of the Committee on Business Responsibility Reporting' was recently released by Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA, Govt. of India) by MCA Secretary Rajesh Verma. The expert members of the committee include Gyaneshwar Kumar Singh (Chairman of the Committee & Joint Secretary, MCA), Amarjeet Singh (Executive Director, SEBI), Chandan Kumar (Deputy Director, MCA), Ashish Garg (President, The Institute of Company Secretaries of India, ICSI), Atul Kumar Gupta (President, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, ICAI), Balwinder Singh (President, The Institute of Cost Accountants of India, ICMAI), Shankar Venkateswaran (Adjunct Faculty, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, IICA) and Viraf Mehta (Adjunct Faculty, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, IICA). The report, as part of new Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) regime, suggests that businesses will have to disclose in detail how they try to influence regulatory policies and public opinion and list the public policy positions they advocate. The report proposes two different reporting procedures - one comprehensive mandatory reporting for large listed and unlisted companies and the other 'lite' reporting version for smaller businesses to adopt voluntarily. Disclosure of lobbying is considered an essential reporting requirement. The report says, 'Businesses, when engaging in influencing public and regulatory policy, should do so in a manner that is responsible and transparent.' Businesses also have to disclose details of public policy positions they advocate, methods resorted to for advocacy and whether information on this is available in the public domain. The report considers inclusion and diversity, and environmental considertations as important components of reporting. Former Secretary of MCA, Injeti Srinivas, who formulated the committee, writes in the report, 'With several global companies being larger than many nation states in terms of turnover, the responsibility of businesses to their stakeholders will only increase in the coming years. The NGRBC (National Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct) and its companion BRSR is a significant step to enable businesses in India to not just behave responsibly, but to also demonstrate to its stakeholders that it walks the talk. We can then proudly say 'Make in India - Responsibly'.' Gyaneshwar Kumar Singh, Chairman of the Committee & Joint Secretary in MCA, writes in the report, 'The endeavour of the Committee has been to ensure that the BRSR reporting format would serve as a single source for all non-financial disclosures. Over the last two decades, public policy across the world, has been moving in this direction. In designing the structure of the report, the Committee has made a conscious effort to balance the objective of self-regulation through disclosures while ensuring that there is no undue compliance burden on companies.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 jul 2020
India has developed expertise in chip design and microchip design related services and its R&D centers are world renowned. On the contrary, it lacks sunbstantially in chip fabrication and manufacturing facilities. Over the years not much investment has been made in this regard and India lags far behind countries like Taiwan, China and the US. Experts suggest that building chip fabrication facilities and ecosystem require huge investments and takes time along with conducive government policies. Moreover, manufacturing is expensive unless it can achieve economies of scale like in Taiwan and China. To reduce its dependancy on China and finding an opportunity to become an alternative destination for chip manufacturing, Indian policy makers and businesses have to consider long-term strategic planning in this regard. Aditya Narayan Mishra, Director and CEO of CIEL HR Services, says, 'Chip design and manufacturing is a highly capital-intensive business...We need access to capital, favourable policies and investment on the ecosystem from design to application engineering...The government has to decide if this is an industry which needs to be promoted.' Dr. Satya Gupta, Chairman of India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA), says, 'A fabrication facility for chip manufacturing requires on an average US$ 8-to-10 billion of investment...Most chip designers outsource to third-party manufacturers who have the expertise and scale in developing such chips.' Ganesh Suryanarayanan, CTO of Myelin Foundry Pvt. Ltd., says, 'Companies in China and Taiwan have had a lot of government support over the last couple of decades to foster such an ecosystem, which consists of materials, machinery, manufacturing, testing, packaging, and sales...Indian government tried one initiative called the Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (HSMC)...which did not take off-based on the need for heavy initial investment and delayed return on investment.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 jun 2020
In the recent report, 'Free Universities: Putting the Academic Freedom Index Into Action' by Katrin Kinzelbach (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg - FAU), Robert Quinn (Scholars at Risk Network), Janika Spannagel (Global Public Policy Institute - GPPi) and Ilyas Saliba (GPPi), that introduced Academic Freedom Index (AFi), India has a low score of 0.352 out of the maximum value of 1. India is in the same category [D Status (0.2-0.4)] as Algeria (0.357), Cameroon (0.361), Palestine/Gaza (0.371), Russia (0.364), Saudi Arabia (0.278), Vietnam (0.379) etc. The top category [A Status (0.8–1.0)] include countries like Uruguay (0.971), Portugal (0.971), Latvia (0.964), Germany (0.960), UK (0.934) etc while the bottom category [E Status (0.0-0.2)] include countries like North Korea (0.011), Eritrea (0.015), Bahrain (0.039), Turkey (.097), United Arab Emirates (0.103), Iran (0.116) etc. India is also one of a handful of countries whose AFi dipped by at least 0.1 points in the five years until 2019. The AFi has eight components. Three are based on factual data and the remaining five are 'expert-coded' - they’re based on the 1810 scholars' assessments 'integrated in a Bayesian measurement model'. The components are - (1) Freedom to research and teach (2) Freedom of academic exchange and dissemination (3) Institutional autonomy (4) Campus integrity (5) Freedom of academic and cultural expression (6) Constitutional protection of academic freedom (7) International legal commitment to academic freedom under the the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (8) Existence of universities. Atanu Biswas, a professor at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI-Kolkata), says that the report's accompanying 'codebook' doesn't have many details about the technique used to 'integrate' the assessments, called 'Bayesian factor analysis'. Madhusudhan Raman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR-Mumbai), also cautioned against over-interpreting conclusions based on one figure. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 jun 2020
India's agriculture should scale up to the next level in terms of empowerment to farmers, enhanced supply chain and logistics networks, advanced technological usage, superior quality of produce and global competitiveness. Recent announcement of reforms by the Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitaraman, focusing on amendment in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, the Essential Commodities Act, and facilitating contract farming through price and quality assurance, has drawn a positive response from Ashok Gulati, former chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, who termed it as 'A 1991 moment for Indian agriculture.' M. R. Subramani, executive editor of SwarajyaMag, explains the present focus and what more is required for India's agriculture to revolutionalize itself and move into an era of overall success. He points out three areas - (1) Food Stocks: Going beyond fulfilling domestic demand; Food Corporation of India (FCI) show that current foodgrain stocks in the country are nearly three times the mandated operational and reserve storage norms; Indian agriculture should look more closely at consumers' interests, export markets and making optimum use of its human resources; Focus on producing healthy foods like diabetic-friendly varieties etc; Encouraging the production of coarse grains such as ragi, maize, bajra and sorghum will help farmers diversify and getter higher returns. (2) Focus on Inputs: Focus has been on the input side of agriculture such as seeds, pesticides and insecticides only and most subsidies are directed here; Efforts should focus on the output side of agriculture such as marketing and meeting consumer needs; Change in farmer's mindset is needed to think beyond just selling their produce only to meet their next crop's input costs and keeping a portion for personal consumption; To keep next generations engaged in farming new methods and processes are to be introduced for increased productivity and profitability. (3) Minimum Support Price (MSP) System: Indian MSP policy is under the scrutiny of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for distorting markets and is supposedly flawed as it does not reward productivity; Incentivise foodgrain production by rewarding farmers producing more per hectare, and this is necessary particularly when the outlook shifts towards meeting the consumer or export market demand, in addition to staying self-sufficient. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 may 2020
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) spend is mandatory for certain profitable corporations in India. Most businesses are strategically utilizing their CSR funds. Moreover, Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent directive by government for corporates to participate in Covid-19 relief as part of their CSR activity, has prompted companies to innovate their CSR spends. Gaurav Patra, founder of Value360 Communication, explains how marketers are utilizing the challenge posed by Covid-19 as opportunity to strengthen their brands by strategically focusing on CSR to support society and connect with communities. He says, 'In this hour of global crisis, various marketers are stepping up and aligning their strategy in line with the announcements made by the government. Brands should take this as an opportunity to look inward and be as resourceful as possbile towards the cause. Many companies and businesses are donating certain amounts to the 'PM Cares Fund' formed by the Government of India, while others focus on facilitating vital necessities like masks, sanitizers, gloves, medicines, food to the underprivileged, health institutions, hospitals, etc. Marketers and brands are also committing a certain portion of their CSR funds towards Covid Fund. They are also placing health check-up camps in tier-2 cities in order to help migrants get tested first hand. Few brands have also come forward to manufacture ventilators, sanitizers, thermal testers, drones lending assistance to the government in combating this pandemic situation.' Companies are utilizing various media channels like print, television, social media etc to create awarenesss and educate the masses through creatively designing campaigns with Covid-19 theme. Mr. Patra suggests, 'Given the scale and urgency of the situation, brands should co-create their solutions as an effective response to Covid-19 outbreak. Together, through the right channel, one voice, we can safeguard our nation and help fight this global pandemic.' Read on...
How marketers are now focusing on CSR in current COVID-19 situation
Author: Gaurav Patra
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 31 mar 2020
India needs to upgrade its education system to build trained human resources and benefit from the demographic dividend. Amit Dasgupta, former Indian diplomat, author, educator and Inaugural India Country Director of UNSW (Sydney, Australia), explains, 'In a world of ageing societies, this demographic dividend can be leveraged to global advantage. But for this to happen, the young population needs to be in tune with the demands that future societies would require. This is fundamentally where Indian education fails as it clings on to an obsolete system of pedagogy with an acute resistance to change.' He says that education is about individual's overall development and Australian education makes it possible for students with diverse career aspirations, to gain deeper knowledge in the sectors of their interest. Moreover, it is not restricted to classroom and relies on broad engagement activities, personality development seminars, and soft-skill workshops. He provides lessons that India can learn from Australia's education system - (1) Need for dynamic faculty: Consult with potential employers, understand their expectations and design courses accordingly. Enhance learning experience through experiential or project-based learning. (2) Globalising education: Include, accept and celebrate diversity. Nurture and value different ideas and perspectives. Welcome students from all walks of life and different backgrounds. (3) Quality education: Avoid exclusivity and broaden intake of students. Have clarity in educational objectives. Institutions shouldn't function like business ventures but they should be knowledge imparters and focus on human development. (4) Robust research culture: Research is crucial part of the teaching and learning process. It provides students with in-depth knowledge on the subject and assists individuals in forming clearer opinions and promotes innovation. Read on...
4 things we can learn from Australia's education system
Author: Amit Dasgupta
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 09 mar 2020
Empowering women and girls in rural India is a necessity that can't be ignored. Initiative taken by Gurdev Kaur Deol of Ludhiana (Punjab, India) is trying to achieve it by a self-help group (SHG). She is marketing their produce through Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and making them self-reliant with sizeable income. There are other nonprofits that are transforming lives of women and their families by engaging in various ways. Ms. Kaur says, 'Initially, I formed SHGs involving 15 rural women...Later, I made 'Global Self-Help Group FPO' which is now engaged in production, manufacturing, processing and marketing of food processing items such as pickles, squash, honey besides staples. Currently, we have 300 farmers with 50% of them being women.' Deepika Sindhwani, president of NGO Mahila Kalyan Samiti, says, 'These rural women are talented and need guidance. We have formed 350 SHGs...We have imparted them training in phulkari, jute bags and food processing.' National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is also assisting through SHG Bank Linkage Programme by providing credit, skills and micro entrepreneurship development training. J. P. S. Bindra of NABARD says, 'During the past one decade, we have also started forming Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) to increase farmers' income. A few of our FPOs have successful women farmers.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 12 feb 2020
Recently published book 'Make Health in India: Reaching a Billion Plus' by Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and adjunct professor at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, analyzes India's health sector since the 1990s, explores the challenges in delivering healthcare to the large Indian population and provides recommendations on various policy and management matters. The book starts with health data and indicators. This provides how some overall figures have improved but digging deeper shows marked inter-state variations. Due to this it is recommended that there is a need to customize policy-making specific to each state. India has poor immunization rate (62-64%), which is even lower than some under-developed economies of sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, public health expenditure in India is among the lowest in the world (0.9-1.2% of the GDP). Another chapter explains how 55-63 million people in India have been pushed to poverty over the past decade because of out-of-pocket expenditure on health as families spend 10-40 per cent of their income on health. WHO recommends out-of-pocket expenditure not to exceed 15-20% of the total health expenditure. The book says, 'To achieve that even in stages, India must aim to bring it to 50% or lower as first step,' suggesting his would require 5-6% of GDP. The book discusses tussle between center and states over increasing in health budgets with Niti Ayog asking states to double their contributions. Currently center contributes 1/3 of total public health spending. Niti Ayog's proposal to hand over district hospitals to private medical colleges in public-private partnership (PPP) mode makes the author to term it as the 'partnership-for-private profit' model, showing discontent with the concept. Another chapter tackles the issue of inaccessibility of medicines - out of 55 million who became poor due to healthcare expenditure in 2011-12, about 38 million were impoverished because of spending on medicines alone. Although India is known as the producer of inexpensive drugs and is recognized as 'global pharmacy'. The book explains, 'While the low purchasing capacity of a large segment of the Indian population may be a contributing factor, the main reason is that many drugs in India are priced higher than they should be. While a reasonable level of profit is acceptable, high mark-ups over the manufacturing cost makes the drugs costlier than they need to be.' The book also addresses Ayushman Bharat scheme and Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) - 'While the activation of HWCs (health and wellness centers) is welcome, but the budgetary allocation to the National Health Mission (which covers rural and urban health missions) in 2018 and 2019 does not reflect the commitment to boost rural primary healthcare to the level needed. It is also disappointing to see that the Urban Health Mission component has been virtually ignored in these budgets.' 'In absence of effective primary health services, the uncontrolled demand for services under PMJAY will drain the health budget, and in turn, reduce the funds available for primary care and public sector hospital strengthening.' To address shortage of healthcare providers can debilitate the health system, the book recommends creation of a National Commission for Human Resources in Health. To tackle 'maldistribution of doctors', the book recommends establishment of a National Medical Service which should recruit fresh graduates in rural areas, post-graduates in district hospitals, and create a permanent cadre of specialist doctors. Read on...
Unhealthy affair: Book review - Make Health in India
Author: Banjot Kaur
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 jan 2020
Team of researchers led by Prof. Saptarshi Ghosh of Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur have developed an AI-based (Artificial Intelligence) system to automate reading of legal case judgements. Although in countries like US, Britain, Japan, Singapore and Australia, AI is utlilized for legal research, review documents during litigation and conduct due diligence, analyse contracts to determine whether they meet pre-determined criteria, and to even predict case outcomes. But this research can become pioneering in Indian context as AI use in legal field is just taking off. India follows a Common Law system that prioritises the doctrine of legal precedent over statutory law, and where legal documents are often written in an unstructured way. The paper, 'Identification of Rhetorical Roles of Sentences in Indian Legal Judgments', based on the research received 'Best Paper Award' at JURIX 2019, the International Conference on Legal Knowledge and Information Systems, at Madrid. Other researchers in the project are - Paheli Bhattacharya (IIT Kharagpur), Kripabandhu Ghosh (Tata Research Development and Design Centre, Pune), Shounak Paul (IIT Kharagpur), Adam Wyner (Swansea University, UK). Prof. Ghosh says, 'Taking 50 judgments from the Supreme Court of India, we segmented these by first labelling sentences...then performing extensive analysis of the human-assigned labels and developing a high quality gold standard corpus to train the machine to carry out the task. We are trying to build an AI system which can give guidance to the common man about which laws are being violated in a given situation, or if there is merit in taking a particular situation to court, so that legal costs can be minimised.' The neural methods used by the team enables automatic learning of the features, given sufficient amount of data, and can be used across multiple legal domains. This method can help in several downstream tasks such as summarization of legal judgments, legal search, case law analysis, and other functions. Read on...
IIT Kharagpur develops AI-powered tech for reading legal cases
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 dec 2019
According to nseinfobase.com, CSR spends of Indian corporates have increased 17.2% to Rs. 11867.2 crore in FY19 from Rs. 10128.3 in FY18. This is the highest spend since FY15 (Rs. 6552.5 crore), when the CSR spend was made mandatory through Companies Act 2013. It is observed that corporates are increasingly using their CSR spends on charitable contributions. The highest amount of Rs. 4406 crore were for schedule VII (II) that focuses on education. The next big spend was Rs. 3206.5 crore under VII (I) for eradicating hunger, poverty, malnutrition and promoting health and hygiene. Rural development got Rs. 1319 crore and remaining went for projects that include environment protection, benefits to the armed forces, disaster management etc. From geographical point of view Maharashtra and Gujarat were at the top to get contributions while Bihar and North-East states got the least CSR funds. Experts say that large spends have also seemed to have prompted closer attention to how the money is spent. Amit Tandon, founder and MD of Institutional Investor Advisory Services India (IiAS), says, 'There are more and more companies who are doing impact assessment...people recognise the need to do it.' Pranav Haldea, MD at Prime Database, says, 'Low CSR budget could act as a constraint for some companies to adopt monitoring mechanisms. It may only make sense for firms with very large budgets. Smaller companies may find it too expensive to employ an agency for external audits on a regular basis.' Read on...
Companies spent Rs 11,867 cr on CSR activities in FY19; highest so far
Author: Sachin P. Mampatta
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 25 dec 2019
Social enterprises can become an important pillar of Indian economy just like corporations and businesses. India has more than two million social enterprises that include nonprofits, for-profits and hybrid models. According to a McKinsey study, 'impact investors' in India poured a total of US$ 5.2 billion between 2010 and 2016, with substantial focus on sectors like financial inclusion and clean energy. A survey conducted by Brookings India found that 57% of the social enterprises identify access to debt and equity as a barrier to growth and sustainability. In the budget Indian government proposed a social stock exchange (SSE) to list social enterprises and voluntary organisations. Suresh K. Krishna, MD and CEO, and Geet Kalra, portfolio associate, at Yunus Social Business Fund, explain what benefits this social stock exchange will bring to the social enterprise ecosystem and suggest that careful planning is needed in designing it. They explain, 'SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) set up its working committee on SSEs on September 19, however, many experts have already proposed distilling learnings from those of other countries. Some of these exchanges are either information sites, like in the case of the London Stock Exchange, or list nonprofit projects only. Canada's Social Venture Connexion (SVC) and Singapore's Impact Investment exchange are more advanced in terms of accreditation, valuation and monitoring, whereas the Brazilian model didn't use such valuations at all. While formulating a similar product for India, we need to have an extensive as well as 'cautious' approach. There is no consensus in the wider social impact community about what is and isn't a social enterprise, therefore the definition itself first needs more objectivity...Once we have a shared frame of reference in place, we can design impact valuation parameters for social enterprises based on social and environmental mission, target beneficiaries, service delivery, stakeholder involvement, and impact measurement.' SSE listing will provide visibility to social enterprises and assist in attracting funds in the form of private equity and debt. Listing debt products on the SSE would encourage banks, NBFCs (Non-Banking Financial Company) and other investors to participate in the growth of social enterprises and enhancing their impact. Moreover, SSE impact valuation will encourage development of more innovative financial products. SME exchanges operated by BSE and NSE can also provide valuable learning in effectively designing SSE. Mr. Krishna and Mr. Kalra suggest, 'For a social stock exchange to meet its intended objectives, we need to take measures such as: educating market participants about the valuation metrics weighing both on social and financial returns; amplifying the efforts of creating and supporting social businesses; bringing policy and regulatory reforms to support investors, and facilitating research and development for small social enterprises.' Read on...
A social stock exchange will help in raising capital
Authors: Suresh K. Krishna, Geet Kalra
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 07 nov 2019
Human health is closely linked to the condition of the surrounding environment. According to the National Health Report (NHP) released on 31 October 2019, a degraded environment filled with air and water pollution continues to affect health of people in India. Air pollution-linked acute respiratory infections contributed 68.47% to the morbidity burden in the country and also to highest mortality rate after pneumonia. While contaminated drinking water caused acute diarrhoeal diseases that led to second highest morbidity at 21.83%. Moreover, cholera cases went up to 651 in 2018 from 508 in 2017. While releasing the 14th National Health Profile 2019, Dr. Harsh Vardhan (Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India), said, 'Data helps us to navigate health needs and issues, and helps devise area specific programme strategies.' But despite the increasing burden of diseases in the country, the budgetary allowance for controlling diseases has been steadily dipping in the last few years, says the report. According to 2017-18 budget estimates, India spends only 1.28% of its GDP as public expenditure on health. The NHP report pointed out that per capita public expenditure on health has gone up to Rs 1657 in 2017-18 from Rs 621 in 2009-10. While states are bearing 63% of this expenditure, out of pocket expenditure by the patients are not included in this estimate, which is known to be the biggest reason behind increasing debt in the population. Read on...
Diseases linked to a degraded environment continue to ravage India
Author: Vibha Varshney
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 oct 2019
Agriculture is one of the critical sectors of Indian economy as it employs about 50% of the working population and contributes 15-16% to GDP. Even though government policies are designed to make the sector benficial for those engaged in it, but the media is full of news describing the ailing condition of India's agriculture at the ground. Can entrepreneurs, full of ideas and working zeal, coupled with effectiveness and efficiencies of technology, become harbingers of change and transform the condition of not only the farms and their produce, but also the farmers and all other hard working people employed in the sector. Abhishek Agarwal, co-founder of TechnifyBiz, suggests that agri-tech entrepreneurs can tackle some of the problems of Indian agriculture and help grow the sector. He cites following issues - Depleted ground-water, low-quality seeds and ravaged soil quality due to over-use of chemicals; Lack of market linkage creates a considerable gap in the industry; Inadeguate transporation and storage; Scarcity of credit and high lending rates. He suggests that agri-startups can assist in standardization of agri-market practices through technology, aggregation and organized marketing. According to NASSCOM, sector had secured a funding of US$ 73 million in 2018. The agri-tech industry has been able to raise financing of over US$ 248 million till June 2019. Accenture says that digital agricultural services market is set to touch US$ 4.55 billion by 2020. Mr. Agarwal explains, 'Market linkage, farmer markets in the digital space, superior database management, digital agriculture and micro-financing are gaining in popularity, making the sector conducive to attract funding.' Agri-startups are encompassing both the production and after-harvest side of agriculture. He says, 'The various areas of improvement, like the reduction of input costs, better nutritional value in food crops, better quality seeds that drive crop production and improving soil quality. Using technology to predict weather patterns, irrigation cycles and soil quality are the focus of some startups. This enhances the quality of production...The use of smart technology and superior logistics infrastructure has created a new eco-system of agri-marketing. New-age startups are leveraging technology to tap the retail as well as B2B marketplaces through digital agronomy startups.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 07 sep 2019
Trust between patients and care givers is one of the critical factors in determining success of healthcare system. And trust develops over a period of time through positive experiences that are achieved by providing quality care at the right time, effectively and efficiently at the right price. But, it seems, India's healthcare is lacking behind in satisfactory healthcare delivery. According to the recent report by Ernst & Young (EY) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), 'Re-engineering Indian Healthcare 2.0', based on an online survey of 1000 patients across six geographical zones in India, 'There is a growing mistrust among patients against healthcare providers and the Indian healthcare system needs to tailor its current model for inclusion and mass healthcare to deliver true care with a focus on primary care, wellness and health outcomes.' The report finds that - 61% patients believe that hospitals did not act in their best interests; 63% of patients indicated that they were not happy with hospital responsiveness and waiting times; 59% patients felt the hospitals were not concerned about feedback and do not actively seek it. Kaivaan Movdawalla, Partner at EY India (Healthcare), says, 'For realising the aspired levels of efficiency, it is imperative for healthcare providers to shift from an incremental performance plus approach to a radical design to cost or direct-to-consumer approach for redesigning their operating models and cost structures.' Dr. Arvind Lal, Chair at FICCI Healthservices Committee and CMD of Dr Lal PathLabs, says, 'There is an urgent need to bridge the 'trust deficit' between the patient and the doctor; patient and the hospital; as well as government and the private healthcare provider for the Health of the Indian Healthcare.' EY recommends a '5E Framework' for building trust across all principal stakeholders, that is, policymakers, healthcare providers, payors and the public. This framework comprises integrating empathy, efficiency, empowerment, ease and environment to achieve the agenda of universal health access and the right to health. Read on...
Most patients are dissatisfied with India's healthcare system, says EY-FICCI report
Author: P. B. Jayakumar
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 jul 2019
Even though India has achieved success consistently in agriculture sector through policy and reforms, but there is still a lot to be desired. Farmer suicides and droughts become headline news from time to time. Ken Ash, Director of Trade & Agriculture at OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), and Silvia Sorescu, Policy Analyst at OECD, provides an overview of India's state of agriculture and what needs to be done to tap opportunities. According to them, many smallholders have not been able to exploit the opportunities opening up to them; they remain hampered by low productivity, an under-developed food processing and retail sector, and water and environmental degradation. They explain that India faces 'triple challenge' in the agricultural sector similar to other countries - delivering safe and nutritious food to a growing population at affordable prices; providing a livelihood for farmers and others in the food chain; and overcoming severe resource and climate pressures. According to the OECD and the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) report in the Agricultural Policies in India 2018 study and the 2019 OECD Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation, India's domestic and trade policies (like restrictions due to agri-marketing regulations, export restrictions, huge farm subsidies for farm inputs etc) have combined to reduce Indian farm revenue by an estimated 5.7% in the past three years. Moreover, funding for public services - such as physical infrastructure, inspection, research & development, and education and skills - that are essential to enable the long-term productivity and sustainability of the sector has not kept pace. India can draw lessons from Ashok Gulati's analysis of farm policy developments in China, and also from EU's (European Union) agricultural policy reform experiences. Persistence is critical for the success in the sector. Electronic National Agricultural Market (eNAM), the 2017 marketing model act, and the recently implemented direct cash transfers scheme to small-scale farmers, are steps in the right direction. Authors suggest, 'Scarce financial resources should be directed towards investment in public services that enable a productive, sustainable, and resilient food and agriculture sector. Doing so would require strengthening the institutional framework; eliminating duplication and fragmentation is a pre-requisite to ensuring coherent policy packages are developed and consistently implemented. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and addressing the 'triple challenge' will require new policy directions in India, as elsewhere.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 may 2019
India's CSR legislation is a step in the right direction and is globally praised. Recently, 47 participants from 33 global multinational companies that are associated with WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) visited India to learn about sustainable businesses. WBCSD Leadership Program is a year-long series of engagements and learning exercises in partnership with Yale University. Rodney Irwin, Managing Director of WBCSD's Redefining Value and Education program, says, 'The legislation asking large companies to spend 2% of their profit on corporate social responsibility (CSR) is appreciable, but large companies should not stop there. These large firms should look at making their businesses sustainable by integrating the concept of environmental, social and governance advantages into the core business.' He advocated the need for integrating sustainable approach to doing businesses along with maintaining profitability. He adds, 'In long-run, profitability can be greater if you embrace opportunities that accompany sustainable approach.' Since a number of large Indian companies are family-owned, he says, 'The companies that have family connections tend to not just make the businesses successful but they want to make sure that the business can be passed on to the next generation. They have a long-term vision.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 07 apr 2019
Biotechnology is expected to be the next big thing for the Indian economy, just like the IT industry has been, explains Amit Kapoor, President & CEO of India Council on Competitiveness and Honorary Chairman at Institute for Competitiveness. According to him, '...biotechnology industry seemed poised to take over the mantle. In the span of a decade beginning in 2007, the industry has grown exponentially in size from about US$ 2 billion to over US$ 11 billion in terms of revenue. By 2025, it is targeted to touch US$ 100 billion.' In the past, both Green Revolution (agricultural transformation) and White Revolution (dairy sector transformation) became successful because of the contributions from biotechnology. At present India's rising competitiveness in pharmaceuticals is also the result of biotechnological advancements and research. Moreover, energy needs of rural areas are also met by biomass fuel, produced through application of biotechnology. Mr. Kapoor explains evolution of biotechnology in India, 'As early as 1986, Rajiv Gandhi, recognising the potential of biotechnology in the country's development, set up the Department of Biotechnology...Department of Biotechnology has set up 17 Centres of Excellence at higher education institutions across the country and has supported the establishment of eight biotechnology parks across different cities...Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) in 2012, which has successfully supported 316 start-ups in its six years of existence...As of 2016, India had over a thousand biotechnology start-ups.' According to Mr. Kapoor, the sector faces many challenges and they need to be addressed effectively and promptly - (1) India's research and development expenditure is quite low at 0.67% of GDP, not only compared to mature biotechnology economies such as Japan and the US (around 3%) but also in comparison to emerging economies like China (around 2%). (2) Specific to the biotech pharmaceutical sector, there are a few India-specific challenges with the country's IP regime. There are two main areas of contention for the industry in India's approach to intellectual property. The first issue lies in Section 3(d) of the Patents (Amendment) Act, 2005, which sets a higher standard for patentability than mandated by TRIPS. The industry argues that India's stricter standards for patents discourages innovation and dampens foreign investment. The second issue is that of compulsory licensing, which gives the government power to suspend a patent in times of health emergencies. Although India has used this option only once, the industry feels that such regulations keep investors clear of Indian markets. (3) Another challenge lies in the risk involved in the Valley of Death, that is, the risk of failure in the transition of innovative products and services from discovery to marketisation. Most of the early research funding, often provided by universities or the government, runs out before the marketisation phase, the funding for which is mostly provided by venture capitalists. It becomes difficult to attract further capital between these two stages because a developing technology may seem promising, but it is often too early to validate its commercial potential. This gap has a huge impact in commercialisation of innovative ideas. Read on...
The Economic Times:
Why biotechnology can be Indian economy's next success story
Author: Amit Kapoor
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 06 apr 2019
India is a diverse economy with a large population size. The availability of correct data is a challenge. But there are reliable and free sources that contain datasets and data visualisations of the Indian economic scenario that can be utilized by data scientists - (1) NITI Aayog (Salary Expenditure): It is part of data.gov.in website. An expense or expenditure made to the employees for their work in terms of salary is known as Salary expenditure. It is an outflow of money from the Government for different services. The Data contains Actual, Pre-actual and Budgeted Expenditure for Salary expenditure, total expenditure, Revenue Expenditure, Salary expenditure as percentage of revenue expenditure (net of IP & Pension) and Salary expenditure as percentage of total expenditure of states & union territories. (2) Open Budgets India (openbudgetsindia.org): The portal provides budget information of different tiers of government in India (Union Budget, State Budgets, and Budgets of several Municipal Corporations across the country) in accessible and open (non-proprietary) formats. The four major features of the portal, as of now (in the beta version), are - Budget documents (i.e. the original PDF documents); Machine Readable Datasets (for those budget documents, where it was technically feasible to prepare machine readable datasets); Visualizations (or infographics) generated from the machine readable datasets; and Budget basics (for greater familiarity with budget concepts, processes and documents). The portal includes twelve broad sectors that represent Union and State Budget expenditure on both Economic Services and Social Services. It has 10.6k datasets from 509 budget sources. (3) Ministry Of Statistics (Indian Income Tax): It is part of data.gov.in website. The data refers to details on receipts under income tax from 2000-01 to 2011-12 in head of account such as Minor Head-Other Receipts, Minor Head-Surcharge, Penalties, Interest Recoveries, Primary Education Cess, Secondary and Higher Education Cess. (4) NITI Aayog (Manufacturing GDP): It is part of data.gov.in website. The data refers to information on contribution to manufacturing GDP in the 11th Five-Year Plan and employment in 2009-10 in different segments of the manufacturing sector. It projects employment in 2016-17 and 2024-25 in different segments of manufacturing in two different scenarios. (5) Ministry Of Finance (Statistical Appendix): It is part of the Economic Survey. Website is mofapp.nic.in:8080/economicsurvey. Includes Economic Survey 2017-18 and previous ones. The Statistical Appendix has following sections along with their sub-sections - National Income and Production; Budgetary Transactions; Employment; Monetary Trends; Prices; Balance of Payments; Foreign Trade; External Assistance; Human Development Indicators. Data files can be downloaded in Excel and PDF formats. (6) Ministry of Finance - Department Of Economic Affairs (Trade Balance Of India): It is part of data.gov.in website. The trade balance is the difference between the monetary value of exports and imports of output in an economy. It is one of the most important macroeconomic parameter. Data contains Exports, Imports and Trade Balance of India (in Rs Crore and US$ Million) from 1949-50. It also contains the percentage rate of change of exports as well as imports with respect to the previous year. The data has been provided by Department of Economic Affairs. (7) The World Bank (data.worldbank.org/country/india): Includes time series data on variety of topics like GDP, Population, School Enrolment, CO2 Emissions etc. DataBank is an analysis and visualization tool. (8) IMF DATA (data.imf.org): It provides access to macroeconomic and financial data. Asia and Pacific Regional Economic Outlook (APDREO) provides information on recent economic developments and prospects for countries in Asia and Pacific. India is included in this region. Read on...
Analytics India Magazine:
8 Free Resources On Indian Economy You Can Use For Your Data Science Projects
Author: Ram Sagar
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 feb 2019
Companies Act of 2014 made India the first country that made CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) mandatory for a section of corporates. The companies were expected to integrate social development programs into their business models and culture. KPMG's 2018-19 report that analyzed the CSR work of 100 companies found that corporates increased their prescribed amount for CSR expenditure from Rs 5779.7 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 7096.9 crore in 2017-18. Moreover, they were actually spending more than what was prescribed (Rs 4708 crore in 2014-15; Rs 7424 crore in 2017-18. But India's most backward districts remain deprived these CSR funds. According to the Ministry of Rural Development, 115 of the 718 districts in India are backward. NITI Aayog suggests that corporates can contribute to the development of these districts. Jharkhand (19 districts, 1% CSR funds received); Bihar (13, 2%); Chhattisgarh (10, 1%); Madhya Pradesh (8, 3%); Odisha (8, 11%). While Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which account for only 15% of such districts, have received 60% of the CSR money. The most backward districts got only 13% of this year's funds and not more than 25% of the total projects. Companies have found convenient ways to direct their CSR funds and shrug off their social responsibility. In July 2018, 272 companies were served notices by the Registrar of Companies for non-compliance with CSR expenditure. Between July 2016 and March 2017, about 1018 companies were issued notices for non-compliance. KPMG has identified three principal areas of non-compliance - disclosure of direct and overhead expenditure on projects, details of overhead expenses, and keeping these overhead expenses below 5% of total CSR spends. Sujit Kumar Singh, senior program manager at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), says, 'There is no data to know if companies are undertaking need-based assessment studies, a must since it prioritises the requirements of the impacted communities.' Mr. Singh adds, '...Often, professionals handling CSR are not trained to comprehend societal nuances. In most cases those heading the human resource department handle CSR activities. The need now is a policy which drive companies towards self-regulation, the key to CSR.' According to the reporting guidelines that CSE has prepared, 'Companies should self-regulate and be responsive to the disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised sections of society. They should respect and promote human rights, make efforts to protect and restore the environment, and support inclusive growth and equitable development. The guidelines show how to improve accountability and transparency in CSR spending, and make it an integral part of business.' Read on...
Indian firms' CSR spending needs more accountability and transparency
Author: Vikrant Wankhede
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 feb 2019
India's 'Development Agenda' as outlined by current government includes development of 100 smart cities, 40 million dwelling units, 20 million affordable homes, better infrastructure facilities through the AMRUT scheme, focus on urban development and transformation, slum rehabilitation, and 'Housing for All' by 2022. It is estimated that to fulfil this agenda there is requirement of 75 million skilled people in real estate and infrastructure. Moreover, according to reports there is need of 4 million core professionals (architects, engineers, planners). Shubika Bilkha, Business Head at The Real Estate Management Institute (REMI), explains the key aspects that architectural graduates and planners should keep in while building their skill set in evolving environment - (1) Be Multifaceted: Take advantage of a number of roles- from design architecture, structural or liaisoning architects, to urban planning, property development, sustainable development, teaching or getting involved with disaster relief/re-building communities. Require skills such as engineering, design, supervisory skills, managing people/teams/vendors/client expectations, an understanding of key building/designing/construction/smart technology, strong communication and persuasion skills to communicate their vision. Have much larger role and bigger scope getting involved from pre-design services, to cost analysis and land-use studies, feasibility reports, environment studies to developing the final construction plans etc. (2) Be Business Minded: Understand key real estate and planning concepts and calculations, municipal and local development regulations, legal limitations, the social and urban infrastructure, fundraising/financing and the evolving policy framework. (3) Be Responsible: Consider social and environmental impact of the recommendations. Understand sustainability and implement it effectively. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 jan 2019
According to the 'Global Highly-Cited Researchers 2018 List' by Clarivate Analytics, India has only 10 researchers among the world's 4000 most influential researchers. Even though India has many globally renowned institutions, but it lacks breakthrough research output. Top three countries in the list are - US (2639), UK (546), China (482). Prof. CNR Rao, world renowned chemist from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Sciences and named in the list, says, 'About 15 years ago, China and India were at the same level, but China today contributes to 15-16% of the science output in the world, while we currently contribute only 4%.' Prof. Dinesh Mohan, environmental science academic at JNU and included in the list, says, 'Areas such as climate change, water and energy are areas where research is more relevant nowadays. Where you publish your work is also important for impact.' Dr. Avnish Agarwal, also named in the list, says, 'We need to improve our research ecosystem...There is a lack of focus on quality research in Indian academia. If teachers do not do high-quality research, they will not be updated with new developments.' Others in the list are - Dr. Rajeev Varshney (Agriculture researcher at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics-ICRISAT); Dr. Ashok Pandey (Researcher at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research); Dr. Alok Mittal and Dr. Jyoti Mittal (Researchers in environmental science, water treatment, green chemistry and chemical kinetics at the Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology); Dr. Rajnish Kumar (Researcher and professor at IIT Madras's Department of Chemical Engineering); Dr. Sanjeeb Sahoo (Researcher in nanotechnology at the Institute of Life Sciences); Dr. Sakthivel Rathinaswamy (Professor and researcher in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Bharathiar University). Read on...
ONLY 10 AMONG THE WORLD'S TOP 4000 INFLUENTIAL RESEARCHERS ARE INDIAN: REPORT
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 31 dec 2018
In India there are central government run healthcare institutions, public state run institutions and private medical colleges that provide modern healthcare education mainly the four year degree MBBS and after that post-graduate degrees of MS and MD. India also have a number of institutions that provide degrees in other healthcare systems like Ayurveda (BAMS), Unani-Greek (BUMS), Homoeopathy (BHMS), Naturopathy etc. Moreover, there are vocational training institutes that provide skills and courses to develop other medical staff like nurses, health assistants etc. There are also corporate run and other private medical colleges and universities and training institutes. India's healthcare facilities are generally concentrated in urban areas while rural areas are generally served by public hospitals and centers. Private clinics are also present in both rural and urban areas. They are generally run by a single doctor or doctor couple and provide basic healthcare. Diagnostic centers are spread all over due to technological advancements and compact and affordable equipments. Healthcare has major disparities between urban and rural areas when it comes to healthcare access. Healthcare has become one of India's largest sectors - both in terms of revenue and employment. The industry comprises public and private hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, pathology and diagnostics, medical devices industry, clinical trials, outsourcing, telemedicine, medical tourism, health insurance and medical equipment. The public sector constitutes primary health centers, central research centers and hospitals, state-run research institutes and hospitals etc. The private sector provides majority of secondary, tertiary and quaternary care institutions with a major concentration in metros, tier-I and tier-II cities. According to National Family Health Survey-3, the private medical sector remains the primary source of health care for 70% of households in urban areas and 63% of households in rural areas. Rise of technology is creating new business models in the healthcare industry. Healthcare through smart phones and fitness trackers is new trend. Information technology is automating and streamlining various healthcare processes. Big data is creating new ways of improving healthcare delivery. Startups in India are promising to provide best healthcare at affordable cost more effectively. Latest healthcare equipment is not only imported but also manufactured in India. Digital technologies are enhancing every aspect of healthcare. Technology solutions are able to modernise current medical practices, reduce costs, eliminate any duplication of tests as well as streamline processes and update medical records in real time. Modern technology has great potential to increase access of healthcare services in rural communities, especially the ones where there is serious shortage of doctors. India has demonstrated since long a commitment to offer comprehensive healthcare to all citizens. This has been reaffirmed in the 12th Five-year Plan, National Health Assurance Mission, and more recently through Ayushman Bharat Program. However, the challenges remain and this goal has not been achieved as of yet. There are two critical components of successful healthcare systems. One is the financial aspects whereby citizens are protected against any eventuality and don't get into penury due to health spending. Second is the provision and delivery of healthcare services. It is imperative to ensure that healthcare infrastructure is sufficiently equipped to provide effective healthcare when needed by its citizens. Technology, public-private partnerships, access and affordability are the critical component in the future of India's healthcare. Better healthcare with policy, financial and physical framework will bring long-term benefits to the nation. Develop effective mechanisms to improve general health, and disease prevention strategies through campaigns, advocacy etc. To make India's citizens more aware about their health, inculcate better sanitization and cleanliness habits will help to improve overall health of India. Prevention before cure becomes the key for the country with the size and demographic profile like India. Health aware citizens, trained, sensitive and caring medical staff, cutting edge technologies and modern infrastructure, are the golden elements for a healthy future of India. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 dec 2018
India is adopting emerging technologies and its future progress will be defined by their effective utilization. A recent study by Cisco and IDC suggests that globally the net job addition in new technologies will be more than 5.9 million by 2027 out of which 1.4 million will be in India. India is building its capacities in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT). Government has special focus on AI, as between mid 2017 and early 2018, the government constituted two AI Task Forces, first under the Ministry of Commerce and the second under the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Information Technology has also set up four committees to encourage research in the field. Niti Aayog has also published the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. Similarly, efforts have been underway by goverment to promote the development and adoption of IoT since 2016 with the release of a draft policy on IOT by MeitY. Private sector too has made massive investments in IoT. Another technology that India has to focus on is Data Science as it has enormous potential in promoting development and humanitarian efforts. Data Science has the capability to provide effective solutions to problems faced by the developing world. It can significantly make an impact in decision and policy making. India has to understand the advantages of using Data Science to complement policy efforts and exploit its potential accordingly. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 oct 2018
Indian corporates that fulfil the conditions of Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013 relating to mandatory spending of 2% of last 3 years average profit on CSR are making a difference in vulnerable communities in India. According to the latest India CSR Outlook Report published by NGOBOX, Reliance Industries, HDFC Bank, Wipro, Tata Steel, NTPC, Indian Oil Corporation & ONGC spent more than their prescribed CSR budgets in FY 2017-18. The report analyzed CSR spends of 359 companies. The prescribed CSR budget of these 359 companies was Rs 9543.51 crore whereas the actual CSR spend was Rs 8875.93 crore (3/4th of total CSR spend in India). There is an increase in the prescribed CSR from 6% to 8% in the actual CSR spend from FY 16-17 and the number of projects have also increased by 25% from the previous year. REPORT HIGHLIGHTS: Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat together received over 1/4th of India's total CSR fund. North-eastern states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura have received least funds; Public sector contribution is over 1/4th of the total; Oil, refinery and petrochemicals account for alsmost 1/4th of the total while healthcare and pharma contributes the least with just Rs 294 crore; CSR funding on education and skill increased by 50% from last year and is 1/3rd of the total CSR spend; Over 1/4th is spend on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and healthcare projects. Read on...
Corporates spend 50% CSR funds in education, skill development: Report
Author: Sonal Khetarpal
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