Amrit Kaal calls for broad and bold approach - Business Guardian
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Amrit Kaal calls for broad and bold approach



The Budget 2022 bears the trademark professionalism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s seven-year rule. The government has consistently desisted from populist measures and stayed the course of fiscal prudence, yet working towards unlocking the potential of the Indian economy.

Simple but far-reaching reforms like allowing self-attestation of residential and other proofs have improved ease of doing business. They have helped India move firmly towards weeding out the pernicious presence of middlemen from every sphere.

Readers here will recall former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s famous lament when he said that only 15 paise in a rupee reaches the last person in the queue. He was talking about the leakage and pilferage in the delivery mechanism of the government when it came to providing the benefits of the central schemes to the citizens of the country.

The JAM trinity or the Jan dhan bank accounts for the poor, their linkage with Aadhar and Mobile phones have played a pivotal role in bringing down the pilferage and by conservative estimates the government has saved $12 billion in subsidies to phantom beneficiaries while increasing the efficiency of the delivery mechanism. Today almost all the monetary benefits to the citizens reach in their account with no interference from the middlemen.

The trend of ease and effectiveness can also be seen in the corporate world where the introduction of GST and lowering of corporate taxes have resulted in better compliance and bigger mopping up of tax collection.

Time to Address Population Issue

Far reaching as they are, yet, the reforms now need to shift gears and address fundamental issues like population explosion and unemployability as well as low productivity of our work force.

India is in a unique position to be the world’s largest economy in the next 25 years when it celebrates 100th year of it’s Independence. Its demographic dividend is said to last till 2055.

But this window of opportunity may be eclipsed by the same assets which are perilously poised to become liabilities.

Population expanding beyond a point can have disastrous impact on our limited natural resources and can also overwhelm educational and health infrastructure. We may be able to feed a large population but with its low productivity and health it would be difficult to graduate from a low income to even a middle-income country in the next quarter of a century.

However, the issue is mired in controversy due to the infamous legacy of forced sterilization during the Emergency Era. Yet it needs to be addressed if we are to progress and achieve our true potential. We are not advocating any draconian or punitive measures like China’s one-child policy. Not at all. India’s total fertility rate (TFR) has already come down to replacement levels (2) and in 13 states it will start to fall. But five states – Uttar Pradesh (2.4), Bihar (3), Meghalaya (2.9), Jharkhand (2.3) and Manipur (2.2) have higher TFR then the replacement levels. UP and Bihar with higher population base pose special challenges. Also, within the society and groups there are huge variations.


In the next 10 years India should pursue a policy of indirection aimed at improving health and education. In terms of health, all the developed nations as well as emerging economies or Asian Tigers (South Korea, Singapore etc) have devoted huge sums of money in creating quality health infrastructure.

Historically India’s health budget has been one of the lowest in the world. Efforts have been undertaken during the last seven years to address this lacuna. Yet the total outlay for the healthcare sector in the budget is still at 1.35 percent. Compared to our allocation China allocates 7 percent of its budget for healthcare and South Korea invests close to 8.4 percent. Developed countries like Germany and Japan invest more than 10 percent. Granted that these countries are cash rich. But we should understand that an enhanced investments in healthcare improves the chances of a child’s survival convincing the parents to have fewer children.

We propose that India should steadily increase its health budget from the current 1.35 to at least 10 percent in the next three years. The results of this bold move will pay for the investments done today.


Similarly, we propose that India should allocate 9 percent of its GDP towards improving education both in terms of reach as well as quality. Readers may be shocked at our proposition but they should remember every country in the world that has made strong, steady and stable progress has invested heavily in the two primary sectors. Studies all over the world have shown that more than financial improvement it’s the access to healthcare and education that helps in improving the human capital of a country. It also has a direct correlation with a woman’s enhanced confidence and her ability to limit the size of the family.

Along with access the curriculum needs a qualitative improvement. Education can never be value agnostic, there should be a strong element of ethics and character building. Moral education should also be a part of the curriculum. We need to increase the stature of our teachers as society builders. Like in Scandinavian countries teachers whether in primary education or in secondary or higher education are one of the highest paid professionals. India should adopt the model. It will not only attract the best of talent it will also overhaul the image of the teachers in the society. Later their work will speak for themselves and further enhance their stature by feeding into a positive feedback loop.


Recently the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network released its World Happiness Report 2021. India ranked at 140th place out of 149 countries. This brings into sharp focus our efforts in environment conservation, forest development and climate compatible development.

The framework offered by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals should now be embedded as default framework for any policy formulation. These are administrative matters that can be achieved in short time.

We propose something more fundamental if we intend to improve our position in World Happiness Index over a period of time and be among one of the happiest countries. Once again, the investment in quality value-based education will play a pivotal role in this regard. People’s happiness depends largely on three broad premises – access to good healthcare and education, easy affordability of a roof over their head and a perception that their opportunities or resources are not being siphoned off by corrupt and powerful.

We can again take a cue from Scandinavian nations where the society’s moral compass is so strong that people indulging in corrupt practices are shunned by the society. A corrupt and rich individual or a family can’t expect to become social, political or business leaders. An idea that was deeply embedded in Indian psyche till about a couple of generations ago when a town’s rich and the most respected person weren’t necessarily the same.

By taking care of higher investments in education and health and reverting to our own santan code of ethics we can once again create a society that’s poised to harness its natural talent to be the biggest economy and the most progressive society by 2047.

(Dr Anil Agarwal is the BJP’s Rajya Sabha Member and Santosh Mangal is the President Global India Collaborative. Views Expressed are Personal. With Inputs from Keshav Chaturvedi)

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Kejriwal unveils ‘Guarantee’ for LS Polls: AAP’s pledge for change



On “Kejriwal ki Guarantee”, he said 24X7 power supply, good education and health facilities, and arranging two crore jobs for youths every year are part of it.

Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal declared “Kejriwal ki Guarantee” on Sunday, outlining 10 urgent initiatives to be pursued swiftly, including the liberation of Indian territory from Chinese control, should the INDIA bloc come to power at the Centre. This opposition alliance, comprising parties like AAP, Congress, Trinamool Congress, and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, was established to challenge the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the Lok Sabha elections.

A day after his release from jail on interim bail, Kejriwal on Saturday said the INDIA bloc will form the next government and his AAP will be part of it. Addressing a press conference on Sunday, the AAP leader said people will have to choose between “Modi ki Guarantee” and “Kejriwal ki guarantee”. The latter is a “brand”, Kejriwal said.

On the announcement of his guarantees, Kejriwal said, “I have not discussed with my INDIA bloc partners about this. I will press upon my INDIA bloc partners to fulfill these guarantees.”

Kejriwal said while the AAP has fulfilled its “guarantees” of free power, good schools, and Mohalla Clinics in Delhi, “(Prime Minister Narendra) Modi has not fulfilled his guarantees”.

On “Kejriwal ki Guarantee”, he said 24X7 power supply, good education and health facilities, and arranging two crore jobs for youths every year are part of it.

“We worked on management to ensure 24×7 power supply in Punjab and Delhi. We can do it in the entire country. The government schools in the country are in a bad shape. We will arrange good quality education across the country. We know how to do it,” he said.

Kejriwal also promised to end the Agniveer scheme and ensure that farmers get MSP for their crops as per the Swaminathan Commission’s report. “Rashtra Sarvopari is our guarantee. China has occupied our land and we will free it from their occupation,” he said. Kejriwal also promised to provide full statehood to Delhi.

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Macro & financial stability, boost to infra, extended PLI likely key areas in Modi 3.0



If one were to go by the Central Government’s poll manifesto which has stayed aligned to the pre-poll interim Budget, a strong adherence to the path of macro and financial stability as priorities, marked by low inflation, strong external balances, high growth, and fiscal prudence, appears to be the likely scenario if it comes back to power. A DBS Group research by Radhika Rao, senior economist, DBS Group Research and Taimur Baig, MD and Chief Economist, DBS Group Research indicates that the government will continue with the infrastructure push, policies to expand the manufacturing sector, and establish the country’s position as a voice of the Global South.

On the first, the focus will be on improving physical and digital infrastructure, marked by new metro networks, new railway tracks, new-age trains, improved connectivity, new bullet trains, roads, and energy infrastructure. Concurrently, besides expanding the 5G network, improving rural broadband connectivity, exploring 6G technology and the digitization of land records, amongst others, were highlighted in the to-do lists, as per Rao and Baig.

Secondly, Make-in-India and PLI schemes are likely to be expanded, with an emphasis on employment creation, simplification of regulatory processes, appropriate infra for manufacturing hubs, and R&D. A mix of traditional and new-age sectors will likely be prioritized, including a globally competitive food-processing industry, and core sectors (steel, cement, metals, engineering etc), besides a push towards indigenous defense manufacturing, pharma, new age & chip manufacturing, auto and electric vehicles, amongst others.

Existing social welfare programs are likely to be enhanced with better outreach, including, a middle-class focus through the provision of high-value jobs, quality healthcare and infra to improve ease of living, amongst others. Also on the radar is affordable housing program expansion with a focus on slum redevelopment, sustainable cities, etc. The PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana is to be a priority, which will continue to provide free foodgrain ration to about 800 mn residents. On healthcare, Rao and Baig see continuity to provide quality free health treatment to up to 500,000 poor families under Ayushman Bharat.

The economists are also of the view that the PM Ujjwala Yojana, which has already benefited 100 mn with cooking gas connections, will be expanded. Subsidies for solar panels on roofs of 10 mn households up to 300 units/month under the PM Surya Ghar Muft Bijli Yojana, unorganized workers, farmers and continuation of financial assistance to farmers under PM Kisan, farm self-sufficiency, etc.), start-ups and micro-credit enterprises, will be the other focus areas to boost the economy from a bottom-up approach.

Rao and Baig foresee limited fiscal implications from these announcements as part of these were included in the interim budget and the manifesto did not outline any new big-bang reforms or fresh social welfare spending programs. “We maintain our FY25 fiscal deficit assumption at -5.1% of GDP with the existing borrowing program,” says the economists.

A broad-based push towards more contentious structural reforms (land, labor, farming, etc.) did not receive a mention in the manifesto, which may still be prioritized if the party returns for a third term. In our view, the incoming government is neither limited by nor will be restricted by the poll promises. To that extent, the scope of reforms can be wider than what has been laid out in the respective manifestos.

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Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals



The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability



The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border



India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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