Banking, Uncategorized

India at Davos

So India is no longer the flavour of the season in Davos. Is that a surprise at all? Why hold only the government responsible even if they do take the major blame. Companies have hardly acquitted themselves well and the judiciary has also contributed its share of irrationalism.

Take the SC decision where 122 telecom licences were cancelled one fine day in one fell swoop. This decision was one of the worst exercises of judicial dictatorship in recent memory.  Certainly there seems to have been corruption in the grant of these licences, and both the bribe giver and the bribe taker need to be taken to task. However, foreign investment into these companies came only after the licences were granted. For sure, the companies put in the funds after the licences were awarded. The cancellation of the licences badly affected the credibility of India as a stable investment destination.

The 2G losses were arrived at by CAG based on the very high premiums these companies paid  Are we going back to the heady days of Indian socialism where the Controller of Capital Issues decided what premium a company inviting investment can charge? If high premiums are a criteria or wrongdoing, then every single investment into the e-commerce sector would be suspect.

Cancellation of these licences where nothing was started, and no further investment had been made would perhaps have been justified, but to disrupt entirely companies which had already started operation, which included companies like Loop Mobile which already had ongoing operations, or those companies which has already made heavy capital investment was ridiculous to say the least. What the court should have done is to direct the government to auction these licences and reallot them fairly. Whichever company won the licences could then have taken over the investments made and assets created by the earlier allotted companies which would have gone a long way in assuaging the concerns of the foreign collaborators.

Banks have bad debts, and they have accumulated to very high levels. There are many reasons for this. Some of it, like in the case of Vijay Mallya is corruption. Other loans have become stuck because infrastructure projects has been held up mainly because of land acquisition issues. Some loans have become stuck because of diversion of funds. Real estate project loans are stuck because markets are down. So it is not just one reason and each loan needs to be handled accordingly. Making a huge noise about it is self-defeating. It does not make any sense to make statements which bring down the entire credibility of the banking system and all the borrowing companies.

 

 

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Banking, Uncategorized

RBI & Demonetisation

  • RBI seems to have been unnecessarily open with information on notes surrendered at bank branches during this whole period.
  • It is now quite apparent that information fed to top management of RBI from below was either deliberately or inadvertently exaggerated.
  • Having learnt lessons from that, now at least RBI is being careful in releasing information in the public domain & to Committees.
  • Instead of bleating about “loss of independence”, RBI Unions would do well to look at the rot in their own membership.
  • Not just in feeding wrong information to their bosses, there is enough indication that some RBI employees colluded to mislead and also actively acted wrongly.
  • Only Income Tax, ED and such other authorities can actually seize or freeze unaccounted funds in banks but banks themselves can take some action themselves.
  • There is no reason why bank officials should not be held accountable for misusing inoperative accounts, manipulating exchange of currency and so on and managements should also be held to account for taking corrective action.
  • There is no doubt that there is a deep rot in the banking system where corruption is rife and many, if not all, banks are involved.
  • Role of post offices should also be investigated to see if they have acted outside their remit in facilitating wrongdoing in exchange of banned notes.
  • Finance Ministry & RBI need to act much more promptly to ensure that credibility of banks is retained.

 

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Education, Uncategorized

Skill Development

Most skill development programmes in the country, whether of the government or other organisations seem to be tailed for those who are, or have been, unable, unwilling or for some reason incapable of completing a course of formal or even semi-formal school/college education. So we have colleges for engineers, doctors, architects and even those interested in catering. We have examinations for accountants, auditors and so on but no colleges or qualifying examinations for say a carpenter, a painter, an electrician or a mason.

So we have those in all these trades who have started out as helpers or assistants of more experienced craftsmen in that line, and by dint of their hard work and self-initiative, taken up independent jobs gradually making a name for themselves.

Formal school education is also standardised to mean every student takes up almost the same subject and course curriculum up to sixth or eighth standard, and then opted either for science or commerce. In junior college too there is mostly science and commerce, and in some cases arts too. So any choice of a formal career course say for law, catering, architecture, medicine or engineering comes up after these 121 years of standard education. It is almost taken for granted that those who cannot or do not wish to take up any of these options tries to go in for “skill development”, which means mobile repair, beautician etc.

We find many stories of children who dream of becoming engine-drivers or firemen. That is ofcourse just imagination. However, if a child even as young as twelve shows a keen inclination and talent to become an artist, and who might well opt to take it up as a career, why would such a child be forced to continue in the same formal courses which would not be useful at all to them in such a career.

While school might well be too early for a child to make such an important decision, in India at least, such a child is often forced to study some subject they have no aptitude for, just so that parents are happy their child is “atleast a graduate”.

Isn’t it about time, we broaden the choices in schools and colleges, and incorporate skill development options into the formal curriculum so that children and youngsters get much more choices? Why not introduce more vocational universities with courses like Bachelor in Construction Management with specialisation in masonry, electrical work, carpentry or house-p0ainting?

When the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yogana (PMKVY) was first introduced, there were reports that several vocational universities would come up with skill development being offered at graduate, post-graduate, even doctorate level. What happened to all those options? Were there not takers for this? Apart from more short-term courses in a lot of areas and functions, which are definitely useful and have opened up several opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, not much seems to have been done in terms of longer courses and options.

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Education, Uncategorized

Formal Education – School Board Examinations

After a few years of experimenting with a system of continuous evaluation, and an option for the hitherto mandatory board examination for 10th Standard, the CBSE board is now contemplating going back to the earlier system of mandatory board examinations.

The optional system threw up quite a bit of confusion in the minds of the students and parents. Not sure if the continuous evaluation system, which put the onus on their schoolteachers to evaluate their students, which many were not fully equipped to do, many students and their parents continued to go with the board examinations option. Others, parents who were unhappy with the pressure of board examinations on their children, as well as children themselves, saw the continuous evaluation option as less stressful.

However as other boards like ICSE continued with board examinations, and marks in 10th standard were the only criterion for admission to 11th standard and/or first year of junior college, the process of admission threw up various challenges. As it is, various states which have their own education boards for 10th and 12th standard examinations have their own ways of evaluating the examination papers. Some seemed to be more liberal than others, others perceived ICSE to be more liberal, still others thought the reverse.

As it stands therefore each state board and the central boards for ICSE and CBSE lay down the law in their own way. What is uniform is that options in school finals are limited to three streams – arts, science and commerce. Of late there are some options in vocational subjects.  The mandarins who decide on education policy are normally quite straight-jacketed in their thinking. The British bequeathed to us an education system that they thought was optimal for us. Perhaps in various ways it was at that time. However, with time, students who are now much more aware of the ways of the world started to opt out of standard employment choices of medicine and engineering, into myriad interests and vocations. Given this, the curriculum in schools needed to extensively rewritten to throw up options in line with the pursuance of such career choices. This has unfortunately not happened.

Why would a school student, who wishes to pursue a career in creative arts – say painting or sculpture, gain by studying algebra and trigonometry? Not much, but he or she does not presently have a choice and has to go with the flow. It is high time we recognise that apart from basic reading and writing in English/your native language, one additional language for those who wish to learn, and very basic maths which everyone needs to know, all other subjects should be made optional and many, many more choices introduced at the school level itself. As it stands now, most options are available now only from under-graduation courses. This thinking needs to change.

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