To bring in a system of performance audit: Gadkari

May 16, 2016 0

New Delhi–Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday said that he intends to bring in a strong system of performance audit and accountability for the road construction industry.

The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Gadkari spoke at the highways sector stakeholders meet here.

Nitin Gadkari

Nitin Gadkari

The minister appraised the industry stakeholders of the many policy changes have been brought in to streamline procedures and ease out roadblocks like land acquisition, environment clearances and paucity of funds.

According to the minister, the road transport sector has immense potential, given the high traffic density and adequate availability of resources.

Besides, Gadkari launched three information technology (IT) platforms of the road transport and highways ministry.

The minister further said that technological initiatives have been brought in like satellite-based road asset management system, use of concrete for road construction and electronic toll collection, among others.

“All these are aimed at making the road building procedure faster, more transparent and more efficient, and all officials and other stakeholders should make maximum use of the innovations relevant to their areas of operation,” Gadkari was quoted in a ministry statement as saying. (IANS)

 

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India unveils new, modern intellectual property protection

May 13, 2016 0

New Delhi–India has unveiled a new National Intellectual Property Rights Policy to safeguard commercial interests arising from creativity — like music, books, industrial drawings, software and even drugs and pharmaceuticals.

IT industry body Nasscom welcomed the policy.

The country, in the process, also wants to meet its global obligation towards protecting innovation, while also placing it at the core of industrial progress. The new policy will serve as a vision document to ensure synergies between the statute and institutional mechanisms.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

“When there are new inventions, when there is growth in trade, commerce, industry, an intellectual property rights regime must be there for protection,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Friday, a day after the cabinet gave its nod to the proposal.

“We have a robust trademark law in place that deals with commercial identity of products. The one underlying principle is a person should sell products under his own identity and name — stealing identity should not be possible,” he added.

“If you steal somebody’s identity and piggy-back on it, it’s called commercial theft,” he said, but assured intervention when needed.

“We need this so that medicine costs don’t get affected. Patents may give rise to a monopolistic situation. Hence a balancing act is needed.”

He said unlike earlier where copyright was accorded to only books and publications, the recast regime will cover films, music and industrial drawings. A host of laws will also be streamlined — on semi-conductors, designs, geographical indications, trademarks and patents.

A strong regime on the subject was among India’s commitment to the World Trade Organization under the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement. At the same time the new policy also has flexibilities to protect its developmental concerns, an official statement said.

On one hand it seeks to foster creativity and promote entrepreneurship, and on the other, wants to enhance access to healthcare, food security and environmental protection, among other sectors of vital social, economic and technological importance, the statement added.

“These objectives are sought to be achieved through detailed action points,” the statement said.

“The action by different ministries and departments shall be monitored by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, which shall be the nodal department to coordinate, guide and oversee implementation and future development of intellectual property in India.”

Jaitley also said that by 2017, the time taken for trademark registrations, “which takes very long, sometimes years”, would come down to one month.

Protection of intellectual property has been an assurance which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been giving to the global investor. “I am personally convinced and want to assure you that India is committed to protect Intellectual Property Rights of all innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Noted intellectual property rights expert, Pravin Anand of law firm Anand and Anand told IANS that he was pleased to see a huge change in India’s approach in this area in the past two years. “One of the most powerful things being done in 50 years is on intellectual property rights.”

The new policy lays down seven objectives:

– Create public awareness about the economic, social and cultural benefits

– Stimulate Indians to generate material for intellectual property protection

– Have strong, effective laws, balance the individual and national interests

– Have a modern and service-oriented administration

– Create value from protected innovations through commercialisation

– Strengthen enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms

– Promote capacity building through human resources, institutions training and research.

Welcoming the policy, Nasscom said it “applauds it for encompassing the entire value chain spanning across IPR awareness, generation, legislative framework, administration, commercialization, enforcement and adjudication and human capital, comprehensively covering all aspects of the domain”.

“The Policy has reformed the current administration by making Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion the nodal point. The proposed Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) to be constituted under the aegis of DIPP, would be an important connection with the inventors and innovators,” it said in a statement.

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Bankruptcy code will aid investors: US-India Business Council

May 12, 2016 0

Washington– The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, passed by parliament on Wednesday, will improve the ease of doing business in India for both domestic and global investors, the US-India Business Council (USIBC) said in a statement here.

“The Bill is another feather in the cap of the government’s drive to improve the ease of doing business for both domestic and global investors,” said council president Mukesh Aghi.

Mukesh Aghi

Mukesh Aghi

“The passage of this Bill will establish an entrepreneur-friendly legal bankruptcy framework for speedy, efficient and consistent resolution of insolvencies for companies and individuals,” he said.

The USIBC will welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the guest of honour for its 41st Annual Leadership Summit here on June 7 at the gathering of senior Indian and American leaders from the public and private sectors, the statement added.

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday gave its approval to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2015, following its passage through the Lok Sabha last week.

The Insolvency Bill proposes to enact a single bankruptcy code and set deadlines for processing insolvency cases, thereby cutting down the time it takes to wind up a company or recover dues from a defaulter. It has proposed a timeline of 180 days, extendable by 90 more days, to resolve bankruptcy cases.

The code will provide a specialised resolution mechanism to deal with bankruptcy situations in banks, insurance companies and financial sector entities.

The code is quite a positive reform for India’s financial sector, especially for state-run banks heavily burdened with stressed assets, as it will give creditors a legal path for recovering their dues in a time-bound way, Japanese financial services firm Nomura said in a report last week.

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Six Indian startups shortlisted for Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Program

May 12, 2016 0

New Delhi–Internet behemoth Google on Thursday announced it has shortlisted six Indian startups under the Google Launchpad Accelerator Program for mentorship at its headquarters in Silicon Valley, California.

Taskbob, Programming Hub, ShareChat, RedCarpet, PlaySimple Games and Magic Pin are the six startups which will start the programme on June 13, 2016.

Google“The six month long mentorship programme for mid to late stage start-ups will include $50,000 in equity-free funding, a two-week all-expenses paid bootcamp at Google headquarters, six months of ongoing mentorship and access to Google’s full suite of Launchpad initiatives and connections and product credits including Google Cloud and other products,” said a Google statement.

Google India program manager Paul Ravindranath said, “Access to good mentoring and advice at early to mid-stage has been a big gap which we are looking to fill. In our experience many startups struggle with UX, building scalable architectures and go to market strategy.”

He said the Launchpad Accelerator Program brings together mentors and experts from Google and outside to help the startups see success.

Mumbai-based Taskbob offers a range of home services, while Programming Hub, also from the same city provides an app to learn as many as 15 programming languages like Python, HTML, C and others.

ShareChat from Bengaluru is a social networking chat platform in Indian languages, which enables sharing videos, jokes, songs, images and others.

PlaySimple Games, also from Bengaluru, empowers a user to build simple and fun social games, the statement said.

While Delhi-based startup RedCarpet gives instant credit for online purchases to be paid by in installments.

MagicPin, another startup up from the national capital, enables users to discover local merchants and transact with them, it also provides a platform to offline merchants and shows their promotions and loyalty programs in real time.

As part of the second class of Launchpad Accelerator Program, the six startups will join 18 others from Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico.

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India moving to be world leader in scientific research

May 12, 2016 0

New Delhi–President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday asserted that India is moving towards becoming the world leader in the field of scientific research.

“India is enviably placed among the top five nations in the field of space exploration. It is gradually inching towards becoming the leader in the field of scientific research,” Mukherjee said in his address at the National Technology Day celebrations.

Pranab Mukherjee

Pranab Mukherjee

He congratulated the entire community of Indian space scientists for their unique “Made in India” accomplishments.

“ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its 35th flight recently, successfully launched a 1,425 kg satellite into the orbit. This was the seventh and the final satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System enabling us to enter an exclusive club of nations,” added the president.

He also emphasized that India must not rest on its laurels as the recent achievements should propel the country to further upgrade the existing technologies.

“With rapid changes occurring in science education and research, only those countries having a technological edge will emerge successful in the fiercely competitive global market,” Mukherjee said.

The president asserted that innovation is the antidote to stagnation.

“The youth of our country are brimming with ideas and enterprise. They are harnessing technology to find solutions to day-to-day problems of the common man,” he said insisting, “Ingenuity aided by technology can bring substantial welfare benefits.”

“With an estimated 4,300 start-ups, India is the third largest start-up eco-system in the world today. A central feature in this ‘start-up movement’ is the greater involvement of our youth,” Mukherjee said.

“In fact, 72 percent of the start-up founders in India are below the age of 35 years. The combined might of this talented breed of new-age entrepreneurs is there to be tapped,” added the President.(IANS)

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Deadline for TiE ScaleUp is May 20

May 11, 2016 0

CAMBRIDGE, MA—TiE-Boston is now accepting applications for its TiE ScaleUp program, which creates a new model for entrepreneurs looking to grow their business beyond seed financing. The deadline for filing an application is May 20.

Satish Tadikonda (Photo: INDIA New England)

Satish Tadikonda (Photo: INDIA New England)

TiE ScaleUp works closely with select companies and mentor them to refine their business model, obtain access to capital and tap into a peer network for ongoing support.

Satish Tadikonda, an entrepreneur and TiE-Boston charter member, said the TiE ScaleUp program started in 2015 and has been very successful.  Fourteen companies have already graduated from this program.

Tadikonda, who has been one of the main organizers of this program at TiE-Boston, said that many companies fail even after getting early seed stage capital.

“They need to learn how to refine their pitch and think through their future financing needs,” Tadikonda told INDIA New England News. “We made an assumption that after starting a company and raising the seed capital, the entrepreneur has passed the early test and now needs focused mentoring, and that is what we provide at TiE ScaleUp.”

He said a number of experts from various business disciplines and entrepreneurs come together and create an intense five-month program. The next TiE ScaleUp program starts in June. The deadline for application is May 20. For more information, visit www.TieScaleUp.org.

TiE ScaleUp begins the program with an initial pitch to venture capitalists and angel investors, and then taps into Boston’s academics and subject matter experts to deliver a curriculum tailored to the challenges faced by companies looking to scale.

The five-month program also includes mentorship, access to funding sources and executive roundtables, culminating with a Demo Day to leaders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, according to the organization’s website.

The companies which have been part of this program include Antera, ArtLifting, Biena, Birdzi, DropWise, Energysage, QMedic, Repsly, RueBaRue, Spot, Streetscan, VocalID, Zakipoint Health, and ZyPit.

The program consist of 10 workshops, 800 hours of mentorship over five month, 2 invite-only demo days with over 100 investors from top venture capital firms and angel groups from New England, 6-plus new investor connections per company, and five sessions of peer-to-peer learning through CEO roundtables.

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Setback for Amitabh Bachchan in KBC tax case

May 11, 2016 0

New Delhi–In a setback to Amitabh Bachchan, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a plea by income tax authorities challenging the Bombay High Court order permitted the mega star tax relief in earnings made from ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ (KBC).

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan

An apex court bench comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Prafulla C. Pant said: “We are of the opinion that the present is a fit case for exercise of the suo motu revisional powers of the CIT (Commissioner of Income Tax) under Section 263 of the (Income Tax) Act.”

Restoring the income tax commissioner’s order, the bench set aside the August 28, 2007 order of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) and the August 7, 2008 order of the high court.

Disposing of the plea by the income tax department, the bench said: “However, we have to add that as the re-assessment order dated December 29, 2006 had not been tested on merits, the assessee would be free to do so, if he is so inclined and so advised.”

The matter relates to the assessment order passed on March 30, 2004 in respect of the star’s income from the popular quiz show KBC in the fiscal year 2001-02.

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GM India rolls out first Beat for Argentina market

May 9, 2016 0
Chevrolet Beat-Green

Chevrolet Beat

Mumbai– General Motors India on Monday rolled-out the first left-hand drive Chevrolet Beat for export to Argentina.

According to General Motors India, Argentina is slated to become its sixth major export market.

“In keeping with our commitment to the Make in India program, we are proud to celebrate the roll-out of the first vehicle for Argentina,” said Kaher Kazem, president and managing director, GM India.

“In 2016, we plan to export over 50,000 vehicles, compared with 21,000 vehicles last calendar year, reinforcing our commitment to the Indian market and our strong local supplier base. This is part of GM’s strategy to make India an export hub for global markets and will help increase capacity utilization at our Talegaon plant.”

The automobile manufacturer said that it already exports the left-hand drive Beat to countries including Mexico, Chile, Peru, Central American and Caribbean Countries (CAC), and Uruguay.

 

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Indian woman claims lawsuit win against Wipro in Britain

May 4, 2016 0

Bengaluru– Shreya Ukil, a 40-year-old Indian woman who was formerly a senior techie at the Wipro back office in London, claimed to have won a lawsuit in a British tribunal against the IT major for sacking her on the grounds of gender discrimination, unequal pay and victimisation.

Wipro, however, said the tribunal upheld the dismissal as appropriate and rejected claims of adverse cultural attitude towards women in the organisation.

Shreya Ukil (Photo: Linkedin)

Shreya Ukil (Photo: Linkedin)

“Wipro leadership team, including its (then) chief executive T.K. Kurien, conspired to push Ukil out of her job and her role in Britain,” her lawyers Slater & Gordon said in a joint statement from London on Wednesday.

The judgment of the London Employment Tribunal found that the direction (to sack her) had come from the very top and was followed through with considerable resolve.

“Ukil was victimised by Wipro’s leadership for speaking up about sex discrimination, unequal pay and a culture of sexism,” the statement asserted.

Wipro, however, contradicted Ukil’s claim, and said in a statement later that “it was pleased the tribunal had upheld the dismissal of the complainant from the services of the organisation as appropriate and rejected claims of adverse cultural attitude towards women in the organisation”.

In an e-mail response to Wipro’s statement, Ukil told IANS that she had won on her claim for equal pay, as she did same work as her male peers in same grade and that she was paid significantly lower than her male colleagues.

“The court also ruled in my favour on sex discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal,” Ukil reiterated, adding that the verdict on her charges was published on April 18, while the verdict on equal pay was published on July 7, 2015.

Enclosing parts of the judgment’s operative portion to contest Wipro’s counter-claim, Ukil said the tribunal found that the company’s rejection of her resignation in September 2014 was an act of victimisation and that she was dismissed unfairly.

“The tribunal found that I was a victim of acts of sexism and racism, as the company did not upheld the well-founded complaints of discrimination against me,” Ukil said.

The tribunal also accepted that Ukil was asked to sign an indemnity to prevent from bringing claims against the company in October 2013 as an act of victimisation.

“The court verdict is in public domain. There is no out-of-court settlement,” she affirmed.

Ukil, who worked with Wipro for almost 10 years and won multi-million-dollar contracts for it, started raising concerns in 2012, which went unheeded.

Instead of addressing Ukil’s concerns, a series of decisions were made by the management behind the scenes, including chief legal counsel Inderpreet Sawhney, human resources global head Saurabh Govil and Kurien in a bid to remove her from her role in London.

Ukil sued the Bengaluru-based outsourcing firm in October 2015, seeking one million pounds compensation for gender discrimination, unequal pay and harassment.

“Compensation (referred to as ‘remedy’) will be decided at a later date,” Ukil noted.

Sacking Ukil and her superior Manoj Punja, 54, the company said then that they were relieved from service after an internal inquiry established that they were into a relationship but did not report about it to the company as a policy.

Ukil, who was sales and market development manager for the back office operations in London, filed the lawsuit with the tribunal, claiming she was forced into an affair by Punja, a married man, who was head of its business process outsourcing (BPO) office in London.

Having lost all faith, Ukil raised her final grievances with Wipro chairman Azim Premji, who assured her of a fair and impartial investigation.

When she resigned from her role in September 2014 in an e-mail to Premji, her resignation was not accepted and she was fired four days later whilst still on sick leave.

The tribunal found that comments made by Wipro employees, Sid Sharma and George Joseph on separate occasions reflected an “extra undercurrent of sexism in their attitudes” towards Ukil, with remarks that aceplainly conveyed a sexist innuendo”.

“I hope that following this judgment, companies will again reconsider their treatment of female employees, ensuring they are treated fairly and equally,” Ukil added. (IANS)

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56.4 percent of Indian rural households own no land

May 4, 2016 0

By Sumit Chaturvedi

Land

Photo: INDIA New England News

Why it is difficult to reverse more than half-a-century of land-reform failures?

Five facts, gleaned from the 2011-12 agricultural census and 2011 socio-economic caste census and this correspondent’s data, summarise the failure of India’s land reforms:

* No more than 4.9 percent of farmers control 32 percent of India’s farmland

* A “large” farmer in India has 45 times more land than the “marginal” farmer

* Four million people, or 56.4 percent of rural households, own no land

* Only 12.9 percent of land marked – the size of Gujarat – for takeover from landlords was taken over by December 2015

* Five million acres – half the size of Haryana – was given to 5.78 million poor farmers by December 2015

What has largely failed nationwide – with the exception of West Bengal – over 54 years since a land-redistribution law was passed is not likely to improve, according to data this correspondent received to a right-to-information (RTI) application filed with the Department of Land Resources of the Indian government’s Ministry of Rural Development.

The average land given to the rural landless is small and falling, from 0.95 acres in 2002 to 0.88 acres in 2015 – a 7.4 percent drop over 13 years – and a slowdown is evident in the process of taking land away from rich landlords, the RTI data revealed.

As of December 2015, land declared “surplus” (meaning, it could be taken away from landlords) across India stood at 6.7 million acres; the government took over 6.1 million acres; and distributed 5.1 million acres to 5.78 million people.

Similarly, the land declared surplus has fallen over the years. Between 1973 and 2002, an average of 150,000 acres was declared surplus, and an average of 140,000 acres was distributed every year. In contrast, between 2002 and 2015, the land declared surplus every year was 4,000 acres, while land in government possession and distributed declined by 29,000 acres and 24,000 acres per year, respectively

This means that there is less land declared surplus every year over the past 13 years and what was once a growing trend of government possession and distribution has reversed.

The slowdown and fluctuations in land-distribution data over the years are usually because of disputes over how much is to be taken away; courts restored some land to original owners; and some land was unfit for cultivation, according to a 2009 report from the Centre for Rural Studies, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie.

The surplus land under litigation increased by 23.4 percent, from 920,000 acres to 1.14 million acres between 2007 and 2009. Some states, such as Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra, created land tribunals to quickly settle such cases.

Irrespective of the fluctuations, the land declared surplus, up to 2015, is 12.9 percent of the 51.9 million acres that should be taken away from landlords, the LBSNAA estimated as cited in the report of the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms from 2009. The land in government possession and land distributed is 11.7 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively of the 51.9 million acres that should be declared surplus.

Why land is important to further economic progress

As many as 570 million Indians, or 47.1 percent (including 6.7 percent in urban areas), still depend on agriculture, which contributes 15 percent to the GDP, according to a 2011-12 National Sample Survey Office 2011-12 report and 2011 census data.

South Korea and Taiwan – and Japan before them – implemented sweeping land reforms before transforming agriculture and moving their people to manufacturing, Jayati Ghosh, a professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, wrote in a 1997 column for the Economic and Political Weekly. As agriculture’s importance diminished, agricultural productivity kept rising.

But as India tries to ramp up manufacturing-through programmes such as Make in India – the failure of land reforms may worsen rural poverty.

India has 101 million landless, equivalent to populations of Germany and Sri Lanka

West Bengal – land-reforms champion – gives rural landless area larger than Goa

The RTI response received by this correspondent revealed that West Bengal has outperformed other states.

It has declared the most land “surplus” (1.41 million acres, or nearly one-and-a-half times the area of Goa), and accounts for 21 percent of such land so declared nationwide.

West Bengal has taken possession of 1.32 million acres, 93.6 percent of land declared surplus statewide, and distributed 1.05 million acres, 79.8 percent of the land in the state’s possession.

West Bengal also accounts for more than half (54.2 percent) of India’s land-reform beneficiaries. As many as 3.14 million of the rural landless got free land over 60 years.

The Draft National Land Reforms Policy has credited West Bengal, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir for having performed best in surplus land distribution.

Jammu and Kashmir is the worst performer, according to data from the RTI reply, which is also riddled with inaccuracies.

The draft National Land Reforms Policy, prepared in 2013, suggests policy correctives:

* Stopping land-holding exemptions to religious, educational, charitable, research and industrial organisations beyond 15 acres

* Allowing smaller land-holdings in states where the existing limit is more than five to 10 acres for irrigated land and 10 to 15 acres for non-irrigated land

* A “single-window” to redistribute surplus land within a specified time

* A crackdown on benami – in someone else’s name – land

* A database of land inventories available for public scrutiny

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Sumit Chaturvedi is an independent journalist and a blogger at opiniontandoor.in. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend.) (IANS)

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