Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Great Indian Tamasha circa 2014

The biggest powerhouse of democracy is here. To many, this is India’s watershed election. But I differ with this coinage. Why is this election being termed as paradigm shift or watershed? I am not seeing anything new in this election season. The same old political rivalry, nasty exchange of words among the political leaders, campaigning with grand hue and colour, some promises which are never to be kept and some later entrants, for last minute benefit. So what’s new in this vote? Many argue, Modi Wave is something phenomenon. But it’s not unusual. Let’s look back to some of the past elections. Everywhere there was a leading figure. Both in 1998 and 1999, Vajpayee was the face of NDA camp. 2004 was hijacked by ‘India Shining’ campaign along with Vajpayee-Advani face values. Congress's campaigns too were on expected lines. The projection is, what they have already delivered, what more is in the store. The sycophancy amongst Congress workers surrounding Sonia and Rahul is as old as Gandhi-Nehru family dominance. Yet, this election is termed as different. Yes, it is different from another perspective. If ‘Ab ki bar, Modi Sarkar’ becomes a reality, to many, it will be the biggest dent on democratic process, simply because of Gujarat Genocide of 2002. Though, in one of the cases the Supreme Court of India gave him a clean chit, but his ‘involvement’ (direct or indirect in whatever manner it may be) in the Genocide is beyond doubt as it is widely believed. Had he become the Prime Minister of the country, it would definitely defeat the purpose of democracy. But some believe, an incident which took place 12 years back, there’s no issue crying over that. Modi had won Gujarat 3 times after that, his ‘development model’ had become the most talked about thing, so what’s wrong in giving him a chance? Actually, everyone should be provided a level playing platform. Now, let’s explore the Congress camp. This is going to be Rahul Gandhi’s acid test, for the first time though. So long, he has been second fiddle to Sonia Gandhi. This is the first time when Rahul is leading the party from front. If he fails, his political acumen will be questioned. Not only that, the sycophancy surrounding the Nehru-Gandhi family can put to rest. Though at a later stage Priyanka Gandhi has taken the mantle of campaigning for her mother and brother, but whether the Dynasty Daughter can save the front, will be closely watched. The other question, which ought to be come to your mind is, the performance of the Regional Satraps. Be it TMC or AIDMK, BSP, SP, JDU, RJD, no one knows whether the key to Loksabha formation will be held any of them.If the poll-stars are to be believed the 'Mad Sister'(Mamata-Mayawati-Jayalalitha) can have edge over others. But others cannot be written off as well. Indian election is as uncertain as cricket match. Even if the pollstars are projecting Modi Wave and pulling down congress to double digit, still nothing could be said. Both in 2004 and 2009, opinion polls and exit polls had gone horrendously wrong, so have to wait for the mandate of Janta Janardan. Predicting a Hung Parliament might not be an exaggeration. The feeling is managing 200+ seats for any alliance will be difficult. The other thing is the 'Har Har Modi...' campaign. Is is as inflated as the India Shining or is it reflecting the mind of the Indian voters? Just a fortnight to go... the mandate will put to rest everything.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Journey of a lonely girl

With a broad smile the doctor entered and delivered the news to my mother, ‘you have a baby girl’. It was enough to shatter the dream of my close ones ---- because they never wanted a girl in their family. That was the beginning of a long story. No, I cannot say that my parents didn’t provide me with good schooling and college, but there was always a vacuum. It was never straight from the heart; it seemed more like ‘duty!’ Still, life goes on. It was not an exception. As I grew older, the loneliness became my only companion. (My grandmother and aunt, cousins were always a continuous support). As a kid, I couldn't piece together the moments spent with parents. Neither had I moments which can be tagged as unforgettable. Suddenly I realised I have grown up, unknowingly, to some extent. And what do you feel when you actually ‘grow up?’ taking your own decision? That I used to take when I was in class 3! Choosing a path for higher education, career? No one ever interfered, (to be frank my parents were not even aware that in how many colleges I had applied for my degree course study!) Their only concern was ‘good result’. I had tried, but couldn't say whether those had made them happy. (The day my Mass Communication result was out and I stood third, same day my cousin’s result was out from a different university, it was a mega celebration at home as she scored a first class. I too was happy for her, I am devoid a feeling called ‘jealousy’, but no one not even my ma-baba had asked about my result. I felt bad). I moved on, consoled myself by saying that it was a degree and mine was a Diploma only. May be for that... As time flies, my education came to an end. Finished MA in History from JU and joined my first job at ABP. It was a funny experience. After a written test and interview I was selected as a trainee journalist. I was asked in the interview board itself whether I would prefer to join their English Edition! After a thought, I chose to test my hand at Bangla Journalism. It was a learning experience; I found myself as ‘tiny tod’ there... so many big names, altogether a different world. I loved the job, so was the pampering by all the Didis and Dadas. (The advantage of being the junior most). My first boss (though not on paper) Ishani Datta Ray was a lady with a substance. She taught me ABC of subbing and writing. And at the same time she became my closest friend, though almost 13 years senior to me! Later on I realised that she was the best boss I have ever worked with. At times I got angry with her, felt bad sometimes, but it was her cordial and kind gestures which made me forget everything. She is still a big influence in my life. I never had seen such a person of integrity like her. Only for her continuous encouragement, within 4 months of joining I started to write the most important stories of national and international events (barring the major political developments) But a call from IIM Calcutta made me quit this job. I joined the institute and its green campus was enough to fall in love with the place. Being a Trainee Teaching Associate there, was a real treat. I learnt and unlearnt so many things. The funniest thing was, almost all the students were of my age, so I soon befriended them. I had some personal experience there which I preferred not to discuss. But those tough times had actually made me a strong person. Today I can handle any situation at ease, thanks to IIMC. Really proud to be there. As all good things must come to an end, so with IIMC. I left the place and joined Ei Samay (Times Groups' new Bengali daily) before a very short stint with IIFT, Kolkata. Getting into Ei Samay was a journey to remember. After three rounds of interviews (two informal and a formal) and a written test I was offered the post of Senior Copy editor. I must say, it is totally a different set up, nothing to do with my former organisation (other than some people from there). I personally feel, this is completely a professional set-up, where emotions have no place. Some might say, ‘an office must be like that’, yes, so very true. But at the same time if there is no one to share your tears and smile, likes and dislikes, can a person survive there for long hours? The answer is Yes, that is possible. But for that you have to have your own Mantra ‘work, work and more work and turn a blind eye and deaf ear to everything else’. It worked. I am happy to get an encouraging boss, who himself is nothing short of a ‘Living Legend’ in Bengali journalism. Some other talented people are around, from whom one can learn so many things. I can say it for sure, my jobs have wiped away a bit of my loneliness. Music and books too are good therapy. There is a persistent question thrown at me, why am I not getting married? Well, that’s a personal choice, I want to be single forever. Please don’t read between the lines and draw your own conclusion that “I must have had an affair which didn't happen, thus...” No, I never had any affair or something like that. But I have always scored a duck in trusting people. It has started from my school and still going on, whoever I trusted as a friend or so, within months I found I was nothing but a ‘use and throw’ material for them. Once the work done, people forgot me. (Though few exceptions are there). And marriage is all about Trust, so I don’t want to throw myself into the fire. I love to be with people and want to move on like that.. and I have a peculiar character; If someone is uncomfortable with me (be it in professional or personal life) I completely withdraw myself from their lives. It might hurt me, still... However, crossing the bar is a sole responsibility of an individual & in order to win the battle called life, one has to embark upon the journey alone; for I believe, the show must go on...

Friday, 15 March 2013

New Anti Rape Bill --- Nirbhaya's unfinished journey

We have spent thousands of words in dicussing the various provisions of new anti rape Bill, which is soon going to be an act.. But the question lies. Tougher law is always a welcoming step if implemented properly. But that couldn't answer the basic question. Will this new one will be useful enough to contain the crime against the women? Well, in paper it could. But in practice, it's tough, really tough. Many eyebrows could be raised by this explanation. But in my view, I believe no law single handedly could make any difference. Had it been so, India wouldn't have any murder, dowry death and so many other things. For each of these crimes, stringent laws are in place. But did it stop all kinds of crimes? My hunch feeling is, same is going to be happened in the amended Criminal Law too, where anti rape is a section. Actually, the problem lies elsewhere & precisely, that's our patriarchal society. A girl child is still a matter of shock. In some belts of India, female foeticide is a regular exercise and moreover, the general notion about women is 'they are for pleasure and raising babies.' The moment you are accepting the fact that women are for pleasure,knowingly or unknowingly you are joining the bandwagon of objectifying the female clan. Take for example, be it cinemas or advertisement, the vital stats of a woman is harped upon. Not the product, but the woman body is selling! Enjoying a lady becomes a natural right of a man. Be it within the marriage or outside the marriage. The frustrated men couldn't keep their libido in control, so rape has become THE TRUTH for Indian society. By violating a woman's body, the man (beast, I mean) is getting a sadistic pleasure by showing his manliness. And then there is our society, which is in slightest occasion always raised a finger at women. As if the girl is responsible for getting raped. And I am not surprised that Marital Rape is not mentioned in the new Act, how could it be? Our society believes, marrying off means right of a man to make sexual advances to his wife, even if the wife is unwilling. Many of us don't even understand the very logic of 'marital rape'. Even sometimes Court had said, 'how could a husband rape his wife?' So, we cannot expect this provision to be included in the proposed Act. Strangely enough, kids of 9-10 years have become a rapist! Where from are they learning this? Have we ever thought of this? Here, we cannot deny the role of television media and online games. It brings us to the question of the age of the juvenile. An under trial of horrific Delhi Gangrape case is little less than 18-year-old, so he couldn't be tried under existing law! But he can rape a girl twice!! & he is clever enough to claim immunity under the ground of his under age. And it puts another decision in question, why did the age of consent lower to 16 years. Legal age of marriage is 18 and 21, even so there are rampant child marriage. Now lowering of the age of consent will result in more and more under age marriages and sex crimes. A section of a society will try to experience 'adventure' by physical contact. New law is good, but more importantly we need to awake the society. It is like a sleeping dragon. If it raised to the occasion and fight for the 'CHANGE' to change the attitude towards the women, then Nirbhaya will be the happiest. The brave girl from a distant will have a smile on her face and will feel proud that her pain, atrocity, death had actually woken up a careless nation. Not to forget, we had already seen glimpses of that! Now it's our turn to pay her tribute, not in paper but in practice too, not only by passing the law but also by standing on our own and combating the social evils.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Oh Nooooooooooooooo!! Bangla...

“To me, there’s no difference between French and Bengali!’’ a 13-year-old Bengali girl uttered these words in a most stylish way! She took great pride in the fact that she can’t read or write her own mother tongue!
Bengalis otherwise branded as an ‘educated and intellectual class’ has these exclusive characteristics of taking pride in not knowing their own language. ‘Banglata na thik ashena (I don’t know Bengali properly) is the most common feature of the urban youth, who don’t even know their favourite English in its actual form! There’s no denying that knowing the correct English is too important for communication, career etc. as it is considered the connecting language for both India & abroad!
But the irony is, ‘International Mother Tongue Day’ is the outcome of ‘Bhasha Andolan’ (Bengali Language Movement) which was fought by the students of the Dhaka University in order to recognise Bangla as the official language of Bangladesh (the then East Pakistan) against West Pakistani government’s imposition of Urdu as the official language of East Pakistan! Today is the 61st year of ‘Bhasha Andolan’ and Bengali has become the most neglected language and an ‘embarrassment’ for a large number of people in Kolkata itself! I am excluding the Diaspora chapters for some other connotations.
India too has experienced its own sort of language movement. Potti Sriramumulu’s ‘fast-unto-death’ and consequently his death sparked off the major re-shaping of Indian state boundaries. Sriramumulu demanded Telugu-speaking-state. Through the act of Reorganisation of the states, 1956, the old states were dissolved & new states were created on the lines of shared linguistic and ethnic demographics. Thus, Telugu speaking Andhra Pradesh, Malayalam-speaking Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Marathi-speaking Maharashtra, Gujarat and Punjab were created. Bengal never has to fight for its language, it was automatic but it is the state which has least respect for its native language.
In almost all the Indian states, learning the state-language is mandatory. Be it Maharashtra or Gujarat, Kerala or Andhra, you have to have learn the language of the state you are residing in. The exception is west Bengal, where Bengali is not even compulsory as third language! So it’s of no surprise that Marathis or Gujaratis, Punjabis or Tamilians or Malayalis have great pride for knowing their language! Bengalis are probably the only tribe who prefers English over Bengali while communicating in a social gathering! Showing-off has become a normal practice for most of the Bengalis! Parents feel satisfied if their kids get less marks in Bengali or if the school doesn’t teach Bengali at all!! Kids can’t be blamed for disrespecting Bengali, because this is the culture their parents are implanting in them! They are simply following the ‘global practice!’
Rabindranath Tagore believed, English should be skillfully and thoroughly taught as a second language, the chief medium of instruction in schools (and even in colleges up to the stage of the university degree) should be the mother tongue. He has four reasons for this belief: first, because it is through his mother tongue that every man learns the deepest lessons of life: second, because some of those pupils who have a just claim to higher education cannot master the English language; third, because many of those who do acquire English fail to achieve true proficiency in it and yet, in the attempt to learn a language so difficult to a Bengali, spend too large a part of the energy which is indispensable to the growth of the power of independent thought and observation; and, fourth, because a training conducted chiefly through the mother tongue would lighten the load of education for girls, whose deeper culture is of high importance to India. He holds that the essential things in the culture of the West should be conveyed to the whole Bengali people by means of a widely diffused education, but that this can only be done through a wider use of the vernacular in schools.
One must not misunderstand me, I am not telling that in name of saving own ‘cultural distinctiveness’, everyone should follow Siva Sena’s path, forcefully imposing alien languages to others, abusing other language speaking people. My point is simple; one must have respect for his own language! Caution is especially for the self-forgotten Bengalis, because ‘’Everyone loses if one language is lost because then a nation and culture lose their memory, and so does the complex tapestry form which the world is woven and which makes the world an exciting place…”. Even Gandhiji firmly stated, “Any nation that cherishes its individuality must love its own language and feel proud of it. The learning of English must come second to learning one's mother tongue.”
I am proud to be a Bengali. I am proud that I can read, write and speak in Bengali. I never feel ashamed of that. Some of the best literary creations of the world is in Bengali, great movies were made in Bengali by eminent film makers like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak. Noble Prize, for the very first time came to India for a Bengali, Oscar too followed the same path! One Bengali had unfurled his jersey at the Lord’s Balcony, innumerable examples are there! Still, most Bengalis don’t know their mother tongue, they feel ashamed in speaking in Bengali.
It’s a question for them… very recently Bengali bashing has been a regular practice in most places of India. Don’t they think that actually their disrespect for their own language has actually widened the path for this insult? Have they ever thought that each Indian has to sing two Bengali songs, namely Jana Gana Mana’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ at least once in their life?
Now,take a look at our neighour. The Morning Star of the Language Movement, this year have chosen to 'celebrate' the occasion on a different note. In a close affinity with the Arab Spring, Shahbag Square is burning bright with the candles. The war-cry being 'hang the 1971 terrorists'. 'Amar Ekushe' (21st February forever)is the driving force of Bangladesh. They know, they fight for a cause, unlike India where one Nirbhaya Case shook the conscience of the nation and within weeks die down! Bangladesh knows how to ensure justice, we must take a cue from them! I am sure 90% of the people would give a blank look if you ask the significance of the date!
Wake up Bengalis… we must not forget our very own Bangla! After all, ‘amar bhaiyer rokte rangano ekushe February/ ami ki bhulite pari?’ (My brother has shed blood on 21st, how could I forget that?). Let’s think of those young, brave boys and then look at ourselves. I can assure, if we have emotions, we will feel pity and ashamed for ourselves only! The 'sweetest tongue' is allover my body and soul...('Amar Bhitor o Bahire, Anatare, Anatre Achho tumi Hriday Jure' the immortal lines by Rudra Muhammad Shahidullah, penned during the Bhasha Andolan), so let's embrace it. No shame in knowing your own language!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Economics Vs. Politics: Didi's Way

It’s again Politics versus Economics. Experts would call it ‘bad politics, good economics’ but there is a huge mass, known as the backbone of Indian democracy will cheer the decision of Mamata Banerjee- to pull out from UPA II on Friday, if her demands of diesel price & LPG price rollback is not met. Manmohan Singh government has to say ‘No’ to FDI in multi-brand retail! Mamata loves to portray herself as a ‘messiah of the poor’ and her line of action in withdrawing support from UPA II is completely in sync with her image. But at the same time Mamata is a shrewd politician, she knows her arithmetic well. So she has deliberately kept an `escape route’ till Friday. What could be the possible calculation for this? Mamata clearly knows where she is standing and making this gesture at this point in time will make congress panicky & will increase her value in the national politics! Congress will try to reach to her through a heavyweight leader, and even if there is a tiny rollback on increased prices, she would agree to stay back in the UPA II, may be by providing with outside support only. At present, she wants to buy time only. Two messages emerge out of this. If there is a Mid Term poll, Trinamool Congress will come with more strength. Though, in West Bengal her government is facing major criticism for various reasons, but those `anger’ is not enough for the Left to regain their previous status. Going to Loksabha poll in early 2013 means, TMC will call the shots to a large extent in the centre! She wants to make her presence felt in the centre. If Mamata comes out of UPA II, how could Congress continue in state assembly? This is also a question of ego. Congress, in past few months, too have threatened to withdraw support from the government, she didn’t bother to care as TMC on its own have 2/3rd majority! This is a message for Left as well. Left is again trying to reconnect with the poor by going to the roots. Mamata hampers their plan in a small way by this gesture. UPA II, which could be nicknamed as ‘SCAMmohan Singh Government’ is in trouble for various corruptions. The scams are coming out like gushing soda. Finding the opportune moment, big, small, tiny allies are playing their cards which make Congress blink first! It is said, economics always takes a backseat in political crisis. Reform is best option in single party rule, not an ideal one for coalition government. Seeing Mamata’s gesture, Lalu, Nitish, Thackerays all have congratulated her and extended a warm hand. Three-day is a big time in Indian politics. Let see who emerges as the winner, Manmohan Singh, the Finance Minister, 1991 or the Manhmohan Singh, the Prime Minister in this Great Indian Tamasha!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Regulatory Scenario of Foreign Direct Investment in India

14th September, 2012 is historic in a sense. After the watershed year of 1991, India has not seen such a ‘reformation bonanza!’ Amongst widespread protest, UPA II government has nodded 51% FDI in multi-brand retailing, 49% in aviation & 74% in DTH. India is now a preferred destination for investment for its political stability, natural resources, and a large number of English speaking populations, well-regulated financial markets, tested legal systems and above all an investor-friendly attitude of the government. Some statistics might help in understanding the same. Cumulative amount of foreign direct investment (“FDI”) inflows into India from 2000-2012 is US$ 243,055 [Source: Fact Sheet on FDI, Aug. 1991 – Jan 2012 of Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (“DIPP”)] Investors are attracted towards India because it has the largest democracy in the world along with skilled & competitive labour market & liberalised foreign investment regime. Coupled with large domestic market & highest return on investment, it has become the second largest emerging market of the world. Countries like the USA, the UK, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, Singapore, Mauritius, France and others did not waste much time to grab the opportunity to tap the potential market in India. As there were (are) several sectoral caps in FDI, most of the initial investment was in the form of Joint Ventures (“JV”).With regular changes in FDI norms, the nature of investment too has witnessed a change. There are some advantages as well as disadvantages of FDI. Infrastructure & technology transfer, increased productive efficiency due to competition from MNC subsidiaries, faster growth of output & employment, threefold consumer benefits (price, quality, and varieties), increasing export, investments & savings are some of the advantages. On the other hand the disadvantages are dominance of industrial sector in domestic market, dependence on foreign technology sources, disturbances of domestic economic plans in favour of FDI-directed activities, cultural change by means of ‘ethnocentric staffing’ (infusion of foreign culture & business practices). Foreign investments in India can be made through five channels, namely: i) Foreign Direct Investment ii) Foreign Portfolio Investment iii) Foreign Venture Capital Investment iv) Other Investments (G-SEC, NCDs etc.) v) Investments on non- repatriable basis Different modes, through which FDI in India can be made, are • By direction (Inward & Outward) • By target( M&A, Horizontal FDI, Backward & Forward Vertical FDI) • By motive (resource-seeking, strategic asset-seeking, market-seeking & efficiency-seeking) India has its own distinct policy for promoting foreign investment in the country. As on date, there are some regulatory hurdles for insurance & multi brand retail segments, as there is no consensus of allowing FDI in these sectors. This seems to have given a wrong message to investors from USA, as American President Barack Obama had commented on 15th July, 2012, “They (US business community) tell us it is still too hard to invest in India. In too many sectors, such as retail, India limits or prohibits the foreign investment that is necessary to create jobs in both our countries… there appears to be a growing consensus in India that the time may be right for another wave of economic reforms…” Indian Commerce Minister, Anand Sharma has reassured that the ‘foreign investment environment is conducive. As a result of assurance, FDI in Multi brand retail has been approved by CCEA on 14th September, Friday, 2012. So far, it could not be implemented due to wide political protests, although the Government has allowed it up to 51% under approval route ('Circular 2 of 2011- Consolidated FDI Policy', dated 30.09.2011, issued by the DIPP) almost a year ago. There is immense fear among the small traders & farmers, that once these giants with ‘big discounts’ flooded Indian market, they would lose their livelihood & most of the political parties, both national & regional are supporting their concerns. India has already revised its earlier stand on single brand retail trading. By issuing press note PN- 1/2012 (10th January, 2012), the Government of India has reviewed the extant policy on FDI and decided that up to 100% FDI, under the government approval route, would be permitted in Single-Brand Product Retail Trading, subject to specified conditions. IKEA, world’s largest furniture manufacturer is coming to India with a promise of investments worth 1.5 billion Euros (R10, 500 crore) in two stages via its Indian subsidiary. The company will invest 600 million Euros (around R4, 200 crore) in the first stage and an additional estimated FDI of up to 900 million Euros (around R6, 300 crore). These conditions are as follows: FDI in Single Brand product retail trading would be subject to the following conditions as prescribed in the Master Circular of April, 2012: (a) Products to be sold should be of a ‘Single Brand’ only (b) Products should be sold under the same brand across the world (c) ‘Single Brand’ product-retail trading would cover only products which are branded during manufacturing. (d) The foreign investor should be the owner of the brand (e) In respect of proposals involving FDI beyond 51%, mandatory sourcing of at least 30% of the value of products sold would have to be done from Indian small industries/ village and cottage industries, artisans and craftsmen. This 30% clause, however, has been opposed by several foreign retailers. The government is also considering allowing the foreign companies to undertake local sourcing through a separate entity from that of the retailing venture. As per the present government norms, both the activities have to be undertaken by the same entity. As soon as notification has been made by the Central Government in single brand retail trade, IKEA didn’t waste any time to investment. Now, IKEA has demanded certain ‘favours’ from the Indian government: • It wants India to tweak a clause that will require it to source 30% of the value of goods sold in India from domestic small industries whose investment do not exceed Rs 5.5 crore. • Local firms, which will supply its inventory, should continue to qualify as small industries even if their investments exceed Rs 5.5 crore after their association with the Swedish giant. • It also wants the compliance of the mandatory 30% sourcing condition to be calculated over a cumulative period of 10 years and not annually. • The export value of materials sourced from Indian MSMEs should be included. In simpler terms, this means IKEA can source raw materials from domestic MSMEs but export it to other markets. However, as of now no changes in the single-brand retail policy has been implemented. DIPP has referred the IKEA demands before FIPB. The DIPP will take a decision on any change only after receiving the views of the FIPB. Very recently, the Commerce Minister of India has said that, the process of reconstructing the definition of small and medium enterprises is underway, in order to help the foreign retailers meet the MSME criteria. After much deliberation, IKEA has agreed to comply with India's local sourcing conditions by the seventh year of its operations and has said that it is willing to sell food items under the eponymous brand at its stores. However, there are some issues between the Swedish company's plans and the current government policy, which need to be sorted out before the final nod from the government. However, not all foreign investments meet with such regulatory hurdles. For instance, the Reliance Industries Ltd. - British Petroleum joint venture, which is the biggest FDI in India ever. But on the other hand, the Cairn-Vedanta deal had a long story of facing various legal barriers before it commenced business in India. RIL-BP Deal A 50:50 joint venture formed by the RIL-BP for sourcing and marketing gas in India, taking the overall investment in the partnership to $20 billion or Rs 90,000 crore. BP is taking a 30% stake in 23 RIL-operated PSCs in India, including the offshore producing KG D6 block. This is the single-largest FDI flow into India ever and a multi-year commitment. Valuation was justified with analysts having valued RIL’s upstream business at around $30 billion implying $9 billion for a 30% stake. Cairn-Vedanta Deal Vedanta Resources wanted to buy a 51% controlling stake in Cairn India for $9.6 billion. Vedanta Resources was in talks with Cairn Energy, which had a 62.4% stake in Cairn India, to buy a controlling stake in the unit in August, 2010. The deal was done in 2010 but got stuck due to ONGC and Government of India. ONGC and Cairn India had started oil drilling operation in Rajasthan under a Joint Venture. Cairn owned 70% and ONGC 30%. So Cairn had sought an NOC (No objection certificate) from ONGC for this deal with Vedanta, which was denied by ONGC by using the Right of First Refusal or Preemptive Rights as per Companies Act, 1956.But, ONGC did not provide that at the first go citing the issue of royalty for Rajasthan Block, which was supported by government of India, as ONGC wanted to buy the controlling stake. In 2011, the petroleum ministry gave “in-principle” approval for Vedanta Resources’ $9.6 billion acquisition of Cairn India with a set of 11 preconditions. Despite Cairn India's reservations, its current and future promoters -- Cairn Energy and Vedanta, respectively -- accepted the government conditions, following which ONGC waived its preemption rights over the deal. Vedanta Group now holds 60 per cent in Cairn India, while Cairn Energy retains about 22 per cent. The Supreme Court in July, 2012 said, it will be difficult to reverse the deal. Both the deals are valuable examples of the legal issues one might face while doing business in India and an in-depth look at the cases brings to light a substantial number of nitty-gritty’s existing in the current business environment. Both Cairn-Vedanta and RIL-BP are equity-based partnerships. Unlike RIL-BP deal, Vedanta-Cairn stake sale faced a number of regulatory hurdles as the issue of controlling stake was involved. Because of this very issue of controlling stake, the issue of national interest had been raised by the parties as well. According to the SSPA (Share Sale & Purchasing Agreement), an acquisition in this case does not need any approval per se. The acquired entity maintains its individuality. But, once a company wants to buy out more than 50% of the equity stake in the target company, it involves a change in the management and control of the company. In the Cairn-Vedanta case, this was exactly the situation. Vedanta wanted 51% controlling stake in Cairn India where the change of management would be inevitable. Initially Cairn had claimed that its deal with Vedanta was a corporate transaction and not a transfer of stake and hence did not require the permission of the GOI. Subsequently it agreed, albeit reluctantly to the government clauses. Analysts are of the view that the two deals (RIL-BP and Cairn-Vedanta) were completely different. In the RIL deal, the Indian company was selling a significant minority stake; Reliance would remain in charge of operations and retain a majority stake. On the other hand, the Cairn-Vedanta deal involved a transfer of ownership. Besides, the Cairn-Vedanta US$ 9.6 bn deal was a transaction between two London-listed companies and the money would not come into India. The RIL-BP deal, in contrast, is the single-largest FDI in India. Also, the non-existence of a party like ONGC in the deal is another positive sign for the RIL-BP stake transfer. Foreign companies come to India as an incorporated entity by floating a company under the Companies Act, 1956 through JVs or Wholly Owned Subsidiaries. According to the existing norms, more than 49% investment by a foreign company needs prior approval of FIPB. But RIL-BP deal does not need any clearance as only 30% stake is being sold to BP and hence no change in management is expected. Aviation too was a highly debated sector regarding the inflow of foreign money. India allowed 49% FDI by foreign investors i.e. foreign airlines can buy stake in local carriers. Till September 13, 2012 foreign airlines are barred from buying stakes in domestic carriers. Why FDI is so important? FDI refers to capital inflows from abroad that are invested by the foreign entities in a domestic economy to enhance the production capacity of the economy. Presently there are two entry routes to invest in India. Those are:- • Automatic Route • Approval Route/Government Route There are four slabs of FDI ranging from 100% to a complete bar in certain sectors. The slabs are 100%, 74%, 51% & 49%. Some sectors are there where no FDI is allowed. Automatic Route Under automatic route, to invest in India, does not require any prior approval either by the Government or RBI. The only requirement is to notify the Regional office of RBI within 30 days of receipt of inward remittance and file the required documents with the office concerned within 30 days of issue of shares to foreign investors. The conditions are, • The company has complied with the procedure for the issue of shares as laid down under the FDI scheme as indicated in the Notification No. FEMA 20/2000-RB or its subsequent amendments • The proposal is within the sectoral cap Approval Route In many cases, foreign investors need consent from Government of India prior to investments. It is known as approval route. The FDI, which doesn’t come under the automatic route, requires following this step. Such proposals are considered by the FIPB. Government approval is required in the following cases: • In sectors with caps, including inter-alia defence production, air transport services, ground handling services, asset reconstruction companies, private sector banking, broadcasting, commodity exchanges, credit information companies, insurance, print media, telecommunications and satellites, Government approval / FIPB approval would be required in all cases where: • When an Indian company is being established with foreign investment and is owned or/and controlled by a non-resident entity or • When the control or ownership of an existing Indian company, currently owned or controlled by resident Indian citizens and Indian companies, is being transferred to a non-resident entity as a consequence of transfer of shares and/or fresh issue of shares. Other than automatic & approval routes, the foreign investments can also come to India in various other ways, like: i) Acquisition of shares route (since 1996) Under the Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) Scheme, investments can be made in shares, mandatorily and fully convertible debentures and mandatorily and fully convertible preference shares of an Indian company by non-residents through Automatic & Approval routes. ii) RBI’s non-resident Indian (NRI’s) scheme There are several schemes for the NRIs to invest in India. NRI and erstwhile OCBs may transfer by way of sale or gift the shares or convertible debentures held by him or it to another NRI. A person resident outside India can transfer any security to a person resident in India by way of gift. Person resident outside India can transfer shares / convertible debentures, by way of sale under private arrangement to a person resident in India. A person resident in India can transfer by way of sale, shares of an Indian company in sectors other than financial service sector (Banks, NBFC, Insurance, ARC,) under private arrangement to a person resident outside India iii) External Commercial Borrowings (ADR/GDR) route Indian companies have been granted general permission for conversion of External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) into shares / convertible debentures, subject to the following conditions and reporting requirements: (RBI Master Circular). Indian companies can issue equity shares, fully, compulsorily and mandatorily convertible debentures and fully, compulsorily and mandatorily convertible preference shares subject to pricing guidelines/valuation norms prescribed under FEMA Regulations. In this regard, a limited two-way Fungibility scheme has been put in place by the Government of India for ADRs / GDRs. Under this Scheme, a stock broker in India, registered with SEBI, can purchase shares of an Indian company from the market for conversion into ADRs/GDRs. Two-way fungibility implies that an investor who holds ADRs/GDRs can cancel them with the depository and sell the underlying shares in the market. The company can then issue fresh ADRs to the extent of shares cancelled. An Indian company can also sponsor an issue of ADR / GDR. The relationship between FII and FDI is intertwined. Number of reforms was initiated in the end of 1990s to attract FDI. FDI is also allowed through FII’s by way of private equity, preferential allotment, joint ventures and capital market operations. However, there are some sectors where FDI is completely prohibited both via automatic route or approval route, primarily from the perspective of national Security concerns & Consumer/industry interests. (a) Lottery Business including Government /private lottery, online lotteries, etc. (b) Gambling and Betting including casinos etc. (c) Chit funds (d) Nidhi company (e) Trading in Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) (f) Real Estate Business or Construction of Farm Houses (g) Manufacturing of Cigars, cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes, of tobacco or of tobacco substitutes (h) Activities / sectors not open to private sector investment e.g. Atomic Energy and Railway Transport (other than Mass Rapid Transport Systems). (i) Foreign technology collaboration in any form including licensing for franchise, trademark, brand name, management contract is also prohibited for Lottery Business and Gambling and Betting activities. Though there are some complaints against India’s FDI policy, the government has been continuously trying to make it more flexible and investment-friendly. By relaxing certain policies, India has successfully attracted foreign investments in 2011-12, as compared to the previous year. It is believed that the recent decline was temporary. Courtesy: • The Economic Times • The Hindu Business Line • The Business Standard • The Mint • Website of DIPP (Consolidate FDI Policy, 2012, Press Notes, FDI sector wise chart) • Website of RBI • Website of RIL • Website of BP • Website of Cairn India • Website of Vedanta Resource • Website of ONGC • Website of IKEA • Slideshare • http://www.unctad-docs.org/files/UNCTAD-WIR2012-Full-en.pdf • http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GCR_Report_2011-12.pdf

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Chronicle of a ‘Reluctant’ TTA

In last few days I have received two phone calls & an e-mail from the prospective TTAs of IIM Calcutta. The query was how to prepare for the GD-PI & what is the job profile of a TTA? Now at the very outset I want to clarify that I was a ‘reluctant’ trainee teaching associate, so my views might not reflect the approach of a ‘serious’ & ‘committed’ person. Now, if your employers know that you are not involved enough in the assigned work(s), it is their duty to wring out from you. It wasn’t any exception for me as well. As the days went by, subjects kept piling on me, sometimes five subjects in a single term of three months, attending each of the classes (sometimes from 8.30am in the morning to 7.15 pm in the evening) earned me a tag of ‘reluctant TTA’. Habitually, I am a friendly person. So I made friend with many of the students. That was actually a potential danger. It could lead you to a huge trouble. Complaints may be raised against you for being ‘close’ to the students! And now, the most essential part of the story. TTAs need to work with one-to-one basis with several faculties. You have to act according to their professional necessities. If there is any friction, you might have to face the consequences. I acquired a name of ‘two sides of a same coin’ as I was not able to meet up the expectation of a certain faculty. It was clearly told that the subject TTA had stopped the students from attending a class of a certain subject. His argument was well accepted & naturally enough, no one was bothered to check the attendance sheet of that day! Had they checked, they would have found actually how many students didn’t attend the class that very day! Anyways these are small incidents which are common to all work places & please keep in mind this was an experience of a reluctant TTA. TTAs, those who are serious, committed, sincere, they never ever had faced this. Deserving TTAs always get their dues & for that you just need to ‘perform’. Actually the job is a total fun. I, being ‘reluctant’ & ‘insincere’ was not able to accrue advantage of being a TTA. But there is immense scope, if you really want to use the opportunity of being a part of this august institution! The first thing is learning. Both in & outside the classroom, there are ample opportunities to learn new things. New subjects, known subjects in a different perspective, developing cases would give you an immense pleasure. It is really fun to see how some of the students go to ‘transcendental meditation’ mode as soon as the class starts. You would find how engaging the lectures could be, it would definitely force you to question so many things! These are inside picture of a classroom. Outside learning could be of many kinds, from good to bad to ugly! The next big thing is the evaluation of answer-scripts sometimes with the answer key and sometimes not. I was among those fortunate people who never ever got an answer key from any faculty, in place I had to solve the answers first to prove my knowledge & competency to check the copies. Don’t worry, these were treatment for a ‘reluctant’ TTA, serious people always get the key (to success). Once the copies are displayed, flock of students would come to request you marks by 0.25 to 0.75 for go to the next grade! This is the biggest challenge I always faced. They bombard you with questions … Now the most crucial part, you have to work with atleast 3 faculties at a time. In my case it was never a less than 7 in each of the trimesters. Now, those who are serious & committed would get a chance of gaining indirect experience of various fields from them. Believe me or not, this rapport is essential in some cases. But keep it mind this is from a ‘reluctant’ person, who was reluctant in this too. After working with some of the faculties, I bet, you would have the feeling ‘what a class!! You won’t even realise that 90 minutes have already gone past!!’ If you wish you can have a baby nap in the class, yes, in normal term, this must not be done in the classroom, but TTAs who had slept/missed the class was never tagged as ‘reluctant’. You must not acquire that tag by keeping your eyes wide open! I used to enjoy interaction with the students. This depends on your nature. You might like it, might not. Actually TTAs are thought to be a bridge between the admin & faculty & students & faculty! One of the most enriching experiences is Institute lecture series. Luminaries from different field come to the institute & share their experiences. It was a great learning. Canteens are spreading across the campus. Some coffee shops too are there. Eat well to run fast. (Sometimes faculty sits so far away from TTA block, that additional calorie is required to take that journey ). Many times you might have to miss your food for pending works, though this is true for a reluctant TTA, not for serious persons. I consider the campus as the most beautiful place. It has a magic in it, so even after I left, I keep going back to there. With seven lakes and caring trees with blooming beauties of known-unknown flowers, you would feel it as a different world. Howrah Bridge toward the Faculty block & Hooghly Bridge towards the newest hostels would definitively give you a feeling of your small world in a single place! I was (am) so deeply in love with the campus that I become a photographer!! I never clicked photos before I came here, now people call me a good photographer! So, not to worry! Step in and be ready to make your own journey! In times to come you will surely discover ‘everything is relative’ here!! I can guarantee, this is going to be one of the most enriching experiences of your life, even if you belong to ‘reluctant’ block! PS: I am dedicating this piece to one of the faculty I have worked with consecutively for five terms. I owe many things to that person.