U.S. Postal Service Honors Festival of Diwali with a Forever Stamp

Aug 23, 2016 0

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service will commemorate the joyous Hindu festival of Diwali with a Forever stamp. The Wednesday, Oct 5, first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony will take place at the Indian Embassy in New York City, U.S. Postal Service said in a statement.

The stamp design is a photograph featuring a traditional diya oil lamp beautifully lit, sitting on a sparkling gold background. Diya lamps are usually made from clay with cotton wicks dipped in a clarified butter known as “ghee” or in vegetable oils.

Also known as Deepavali, Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Spanning five days each autumn, it is considered by some to be the start of the new year.

diwali-postalOn the Hindu calendar, Diwali falls on the eve of, or on, the new moon that occurs between mid-October and mid-November. In 2016, the main day of the festival will be celebrated Oct. 29 for South Indians and Oct 30 for North Indians.

Diwali is a shortened version of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which roughly translates as “a necklace of lights.” During Diwali, the flickering oil-wick diyas sprinkle the homes of observers around the world.

Before the festival, many Hindus traditionally go shopping, clean their homes, open their doors and windows, create intricate rangoli — a vibrant floor pattern traditionally made from materials such as rice powder, colored sand and flower petals — and light diyas with hopes that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, will visit. In some regions of India, people play games, just as Hindu lore says that the god Shiva did. On the festive main day of the holiday, families pray for Lakshmi, dress up in their best clothes, enjoy lavish feasts and sweets, exchange gifts and light fireworks. Diwali also marks the new year for people in Gujarat and a few other states of India.

Sally Andersen-Bruce of New Milford, CT, photographed the diya. Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, VA, designed the stamp and William J. Gicker of Washington, DC, service as the project’s art director.

The Diwali stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp. This Forever stamp will also be equal in value to the current First Class Mail 1-ounce price.

The Postal Service receives approximately 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas annually from the public. Stamp subjects are reviewed by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. Of that, approximately 25 topic suggestions for commemorative stamps are selected by the Committee for the Postmater General’s approval.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

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US official: India highest recipient of H-1B visas

Aug 23, 2016 0

New Delhi– Despite a hefty hike in fees of US H-1B and L-1 visas, there has been no drop in number of applications from India and the country continues to be the highest recipient of H-1B visas, the highest US official in Washington dealing with international visa issues said here on Tuesday.

Michele Bond

Michele Bond

“Indian citizens receive almost 70 percent of all the H-1B visas issued worldwide,” Michele Bond, US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, said during a media interaction here.

“Overwhelmingly, Indian applicants are the ones who are successful in qualifying for these visas,” she said.

As for L-1 visas, she said that Indian citizens received around 30 percent of all such visas issued.

The US doubled the visa fees to $4,000 for H-1B and to $4,500 for L-1 at the end of last year.

Indian IT bellwethers have most of their employees working on site holding H-1B visas.

Bond said that in US fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015), more than 110,000 H-1B visas were issued to Indian citizens.

“This is a priority for us because we are part of a bilateral India and US effort to grow their economic and commercial ties,” she said.

Asked if there has been any move to revisit the issue of hike in visa fees, she said: “These specific visas where the fees changed — the H and L visas — we have seen no drop in the number of applications for those visas, no lessening of interest in obtaining those visas. It was a legislative change, so we were implementing that law.”

Bond came to India to attend the annual bilateral consular dialogue that was held here on Monday during which issues like facilitating tourism and business and other travel between the two countries, visa assessing, protection of US citizens in India, transparent international adoption, and preventing international parental child abduction cases were discussed.

While she led the US delegation, P. Kumaran, Joint Secretary (Consular, Passport, Visa) in the Ministry of External Affairs, headed the Indian side. (IANS)

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Despite sporting glory, Indian women struggle to rise

Aug 23, 2016 0

By Saumya Tewari

In the 2016 Rio Olympics, shuttler P.V. Sindhu became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal; Sakshi Malik the first Indian female wrestler to win a medal (bronze), gymnast Dipa Karmarkar became the first Indian woman to feature in a gymnastics final, finishing fourth in the vault, and Lalita Babar became the first Indian woman to enter a 3,000 metre steeplechase final, finishing 10th. Eighteen-year-old Aditi Ashok — the youngest golfer from India — also entered the final round of the women’s individual golf event.

Women saved the day for India at Rio, and their growing presence was reflected in the 54 female Indian athletes — the largest number ever — at an Olympiad.

While those rising numbers indicate the progress made by Indian sportswomen — many from small towns and poor families — in particular, and Indian women in general, a quick look at five key parameters — working women, education, maternal health, age of marriage and abortion rates-reveals that India’s women are routinely denied opportunities at education, work and even being born.

1. Working women: Lowest in BRICS, 25 million women leave workforce over a decade

Women’s workforce participation in India is the lowest among BRICS nations. A host of other countries, such as Bahrain (39 per cent), Malaysia (45 per cent) and Somalia (37 per cent), do much better, as IndiaSpend reported in March 2015, using World Bank data from 2014.

Dipa KarmakarNo more than 26 per cent of India’s women in India participated in the workforce, according to a 2013 Labour Bureau report. The rate improved to 27 per cent in 2014, according to a 2015 International Monetary Fund (IMF) study that IndiaSpend reported in July 2016. This is a decline of up to 8 per cent percentage point over 14 years; in 1999, up to 34 per cent of women were a part of India’s workforce.

2. Higher education: More women enrolled, outperform men, but drop out later

While more young women are enrolled in higher education than ever before — and apparently more successful in clearing 10th-standard board exams than young men-they are either marrying early or not finding or not looking for jobs, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of various data.

The enrolment of girls in higher education increased from 39 per cent to 46 per cent from 2007 to 2014, but as data above show, female participation in India’s labour force declined to a low of 27 per cent in 2014 from 34 per cent in 1999.

Almost 12 million women are enrolled in undergraduate courses, but few continue to professional courses; 600,000 women were enrolled for diploma courses, according to 2013 data, the latest available. Even fewer women sign on for PhDs and only 40 per cent of PhD candidates are female.

In 2016, girls were more successful than boys in clearing 10th-standard exams of a national education board, a trend that has held over seven years, we reported.

3. Maternal Health: Best ever, but worse than poorer countries

India’s maternal mortality ratio was 167 in 2010-12, according to the latest government data available, a steady improvement.

India’s maternal mortality ratio — 174, according to World Bank estimates — is worse than countries in the neighbourhood, such as Sri Lanka (30), Bhutan (148) and Cambodia (161).

India does worst among the BRICS countries: Russia (25), China (27), Brazil (44), and South Africa (138); according to the World Bank’s latest estimates, which differ somewhat from Indian sources’ 167 but confirm the trends.

4. Median age of marriage: Rising, but 61 per cent married before 16

The average Indian woman is married at 21.2 years, according to Census 2011, an improvement from 19.3 years in 1990, according to a government report.

The mean female age at marriage in rural areas is 20.7; in urban areas, 22.7, according to the latest census data from 2011.

While education is an efficient contraceptive — Indian women with a college degree have 1.9 children during their lifetime, against 3.8 for illiterate woman — it appears to only marginally slow the inevitability of early marriage.

Nearly 12 million Indian children were married before the age of 10 years, as IndiaSpend reported in June 2016; 7.84 million (65 per cent) married children were female, reinforcing the fact that girls are significantly more disadvantaged. Eight in 10 illiterate children who were married were also girls.

Also, as many as 1,403 females never attended any educational institution for every 1,000 males who have not, IndiaSpend reported in November 2015.

5. India’s missing girls: Child sex ratio lowest in 60 years

India’s child sex ratio is the worst in 60 years, indicating that girls continue to be aborted, killed or otherwise fatally neglected.

If India’s child sex ratio does not improve, there will be 23 million fewer women (aged 29-40) than there should be by 2030, according to a United Nations Population Fund projection.

Sex selection was introduced in India to control population growth, based on the premise that since girls are hardier, all else being equal, more survive childbirth than boys. In 1975, a paper in the journal Indian Paediatrics argued that this excess of girls was “unnecessary fecundity and that elimination of girls would lead to population control”, wrote Sabu M. George — a member of a committee to monitor a 1994 law that banned sex selection — in his February 2016 Indian Express column.

But despite the law, rising education levels — and more female role models, such as India’s latest Olympian medallists — the child sex ratio continues to fall.

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Apple buys health startup founded by Indian-origin duo

Aug 23, 2016 0

New York–Taking its interest in the digital health sector to the next level, tech giant Apple has quietly acquired personal health data startup Gliimpse founded by two Indian-origin entrepreneurs.

According to media reports, the acquisition reportedly happened earlier but was not publicly announced yet.

An Apple spokesperson has now responded, saying: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not

Anil Sethi  (Photo: Linkedin)

Anil Sethi (Photo: Linkedin)

discuss our purpose or plans.”

Founded in 2013 by Anil Sethi and Karthik Hariharan, Gliimpse provides a secure platform where consumers can manage and share their medical records and info.

According to Sethi’s LinkedIn page, Gliimpse — like many startups — was born of a personal need.

In recent months, Apple has acquired HealthKit, CareKit and ResearchKit startups that allow patients, doctors and researchers to access important health and wellness data via a range of mobile devices.

Apple has also released its HealthKit app which helps users monitor personal health and fitness data on iPhone 6.

Karthik Hariharan

Karthik Hariharan

The Cupertino-based company has recently been making a push into artificial intelligence through Siri personal assistant and related technologies.

It acquired the machine learning platform Turi for $200 million earlier this month.

Apple also bought machine learning and AI startups like VocalIQ and Perceptio and facial recognition startup Emotient, among others. (IANS)

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Patients and Healthcare Professionals Divided on Responsibility and Cost in Healthcare

Aug 22, 2016 0

NORWALK, Conn.–Healthcare research released from Xerox shows large disconnects between patients and healthcare professionals providing and insuring their care. This research suggests that across all participants in the U.S. healthcare system, there is still much to be settled regarding the transformation driven by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Who is responsible for consumers’ health?

Nearly 50 percent of consumers say they take complete responsibility for their health, whereas less than 6 percent of healthcare professionals believe this to be true. In addition, less than 5 percent of consumers say they don’t know how to take charge of their own healthcare, but nearly 40 percent of payers and providers say consumers don’t know how to take charge.

Moreover, 90 percent of payers and providers say patients need encouragement and help from their healthcare provider to make living a healthier lifestyle a priority, but only 55 percent of patients say they need such encouragement.

The study, conducted by Y&R’s BAV Consulting on behalf of Xerox1, surveyed 761 U.S. adults who purchase health insurance and are healthcare decision makers for their households and 204 healthcare payers and providers.

Rohan Kulkarni

Rohan Kulkarni

“Consumers and healthcare professionals have very different views on patient empowerment and control,” said Rohan Kulkarni, vice president of Strategy and Portfolio, Xerox Healthcare Business Group. “Payers and providers are much less likely to believe patients are taking responsibility for their health than what patients perceive to be true. The results suggest that improved communication could allow healthcare professionals to better showcase to their patients how they’re a partner in their health.”

One solution that can help is Xerox’s Virtual Health Solutions that allows providers to communicate and connect with their patients anytime and anywhere by overcoming interoperability challenges and powering front and back office services.

Are patients shopping around?

The research also found discrepancies between patients and professionals regarding a patient’s willingness to shop for healthcare.

Only 34 percent of consumers are more likely to shop around for a provider than they were one year ago, but more than 71 percent of payers and providers think patients are shopping.
When asked what consumers consider the top priority when selecting a provider, consumers said quality of care is number one. But payers and providers believe whether or not they take the patient’s insurance plan is the top consideration.
Ninety-five percent of payers and providers believe patients are not seeking or delaying treatment due to cost concerns, but only 42 percent of consumers say this is true.

“A lot of payers and providers think patients are shopping around for the best healthcare, but it simply is not the case,” continued Kulkarni. “The industry is clearly still adjusting to the shift toward consumer-centricity, and payers and providers may be best served to focus on patient retention by enhancing their communication channels.”

What is the solution?

Over 63 percent of consumers wish their pharmacist, healthcare provider and insurance company were more connected on their personal health. While interactions with each stakeholder are often transaction-based, Xerox’s Health Outcome Solutions offering can help the effort to coordinate care. The solution, currently available for providers and accountable care organizations with a payer solution coming in the future, offers a customized combination of analytics, clinical, technology and administrative services that help improve the health of patient populations.

Xerox also offers Care Integration Services that help healthcare payers identify members who need support and engage them with timely and personal clinical interventions. This enhanced member outreach service increases payers’ ability to assist their members in maintaining wellness and managing chronic medical conditions.


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Indian-American Led Commercial Bank of California Establishes New Regional Office in Santa Monica

Aug 22, 2016 0

SANTA MONICA, Calif.– Commercial Bank of California (CBC), a BauerFinancial Five-Star Superior Bank, has opened a new regional office at 805 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica.

This is the first new branch opening since the completion of the merger with National Bank of California earlier this year. The milestone was marked last week with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony and a warm welcome from local dignitaries and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.

Ash Patel

Ash Patel

“Santa Monica is very a special place for Commercial Bank of California. Our connection with this community is very strong,” said Ash Patel, president and CEO of Irvine-based CBC. “Not only do we have relationships here with local residents and small business owners that go back decades, but the trajectory of Santa Monica as a hub of innovation is uniquely aligned with our mission as a bank founded by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs.”

The new office in Santa Monica represents a homecoming for the branch’s leadership team, comprised of three experienced bankers who all have long histories in the city.

“It is truly a thrill to come home to Santa Monica,” said CBC Executive Vice President Richard Lawrence. “This community is like a family, and we look forward to providing our customers here with the best banking services possible.”
Lawrence was Executive Vice president and Chief Credit Officer for Santa Monica Bank from 1982 to 1993. He has also served as President of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Family YMCA, and Santa Monica College Associates. He was joined by the CBC Santa Monica team, including Regional Vice President Rick Mateus and Vice President Kathy Irby.

Mateus – a banker with more than 35 years of community banking experience in the region – has served in various positions with associations and organizations such as the Rotary Club of Santa Monica, Encino Chamber of Commerce, International Guiding Eyes and Calabasas Chamber of Commerce.

“Although Santa Monica is a leading destination within one of the world’s biggest metropolitan areas, it is still a small town in many ways,” Mateus said. “It’s a close-knit community full of small business owners and residents who have lived here for many generations. To be a banker and trusted advisor is our goal and a responsibility that we make a priority as we help our clients meet their business and personal financial goals.”

Irby has served several Santa Monica nonprofits, including the local Kiwanis Club and Police Activities League.
“We love the people of this community,” Irby said. “It is truly an honor to be here and work with them every day.”
Before moving to Santa Monica, the trio had worked together for 15 years and forged personal relationships with clients from all over the Westside, most recently from CBC’s Brentwood Regional Office. Joining in the move to Santa Monica are CBC Vice President Jennifer Irizarry, a loan underwriter and business development officer, and Assistant Vice President Chanthan Pom, the operations manager.

As part of the homecoming, the Santa Monica Regional Office is hosting open houses throughout its inaugural year to meet new clients and reconnect with old ones. However, the homecoming is not just about reuniting with friends from the past. It’s about forging new business relationships for the future as well.

Santa Monica is home to a thriving startup scene fueled by the mobile internet technology boom. Nicknamed “Silicon Beach” for its tech savvy and proximity to the ocean, the economic cluster spreads as far as Long Beach and rivals the celebrated Silicon Valley of the San Francisco Bay Area. It also shares the same entrepreneurial spirit of Orange County’s startup culture, which is largely rooted in the CBC headquarters city of Irvine.

Recognized as a “Five-Star Bank” by BauerFinancial, Inc. for its financial strength and stability, the new regional office solidifies Commercial Bank of California’s position as a market leader in Southern California.

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Indian Olympic spend a third of UK’s — and falling

Aug 22, 2016 0

By Abhishek Waghmare

India’s last Olympic gold-medal winner, Abhinav Bindra, recently pointed to United Kingdom’s spending on athletes at the Rio Olympics, emphasising the money needed to convert performance into medals.

An IndiaSpend analysis of spending on Olympics in particular, and sports in general, reveals that India spends roughly a third to a fourth of the money spent by the UK, which won 67 medals, compared to India’s two — and central funding to sports federations is falling.

The UK spends money on fewer athletes compares to India, where spending is diffused among numerous federations and athletes, according to our analysis.

Rio-LogoThe UK has 18 million people aged between 15 and 35, while India has more than 400 million youth in that age group.

The original story in the Guardian, a UK newspaper, calculated a £5.5 million ($7 million) investment per medal by UK Sport, a government body that funds and manages Olympic sport.

The UK, in general, spends $1.5 billion (Rs 9,000 crore) on sports infrastructure and training through an annual sports budget, while UK Sport spent about $350 million on Olympics preparation over four years (2013-2017).

In comparison, India spends a third of UK, or $500 million (Rs 3,200 crore) on youth affairs and sports through the Union budget and the states, according to estimates from our review of sports budgets of six large states.

The same Union budget funds — through the ministry of youth affairs and sports — national sports federations (NSFs) and potential Olympic athletes through the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) and Target Olympic Podium (TOP) programme.

The NSDF is also funded through private organisations and public sector enterprises, apart from government contributions.

In India, Rs 750 crore was spent on sport-specific federations, training centres, coaches and other infrastructure over four years (2012-13 to 2015-16), while the spending on athletes is Rs 22.7 crore through NSDF (109 athletes) and Rs 38 crore thought the TOP programme (97 athletes for 2016 Olympics, excluding para-Olympic athletes) over the last four years.

The number of recognised national sports federations has come down from 57 to 49, as of 2016, and their funding has fallen over the last three years.

Of the amount spent on sports infrastructure and coaching, only eight per cent is spent on special coaching to athletes.

Of the 109 athletes supported by NSDF, only 30 made it to the official contingent of India at Rio de Janeiro in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Of the 97 athletes funded through the TOP programme, 68 made it to the contingent, while 29 did not.

The Rs 22.7 crore ($3.5 million) spent by NSDF on potential 109 Olympic athletes translates to Rs 5.2 lakh, or $9,000, per athlete every year in the run-up to Olympics.

Athletes under the TOP scheme received Rs 9.8 lakh, or $16,000, per athlete every year, including cost of training centres and coaching fees.

In the UK, funding of Olympic preparations is four times that of India

The UK, which finished third on the Rio medals tally, spent $350 million on 374 athletes, which is about $1 million per athlete, including infrastructure, training and coaching.

Specific spending on medal-winning athletes went up to $36,000 a year, four times the $9,000 that India spent on its athletes. The UK started specific or targeted spending only after 1997, in the run up to the 2000 games.

There appears to be a direct correlation between money spent by the UK and Olympic medals won. With a funding of £5 million pounds for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where it won a single gold medal and finished 36th, the UK finished second at Rio, its best after a century (it was first in 1908) with 27 gold medals.

The UK stood second in the gold medals tally, while India won one bronze and one silver medal at Rio Olympics 2016, and stood 67th.

Athletes from the US depend largely on private funding. More than 100 US athletes started individual funding portals for donations from the general public.

Only 10 per cent of the US Olympic Committee’s finances are actually spent on athletes, notes a Guardian report. The US topped the Rio medals tally.

China, which came third at Rio, is known for aggressive state-sponsored promotion of sports. After a decade of effort, China — for the first time — topped the medals tally at Beijing 2008. Recently, the Chinese government has called for a review of its medal-focused approach to the Olympics, arguing that it undermines the spirit of sports.

While the role of private funding to the Games as sponsorships and contributions to NSDF is open and documented, the funding to individual athletes is not. Recently, India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited, a public-sector company, contributed Rs 30 crore to the NSDF for three years.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) received donations from Reliance Jio, Edelweiss Financial Services, Amul, Tata Salt, Herbalife and Li Ning and SBJ.

India’s first medal winner in Rio Sakshi Malik thanked JSW Sport, a foundation funded by the O.P. Jindal group, a conglomerate with interests that include mining and power. (IANS)

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Interview: Embracing Cloud can help India master digital era

Aug 22, 2016 0

By Nishant Arora

New Delhi– India is poised to become the world’s leading market for Cloud, and for US software major Oracle, Cloud is a force-multiplier that the country must embrace to leapfrog into the digital era, a top company executive has said.

India is uniquely positioned to benefit from Cloud-based solutions for three reasons. First, there are more than 200 million connected mobile users — with 100 million on social media — in the country; this is an essential building block for a shift to Cloud.

“Secondly, the e-commerce willingness in this market. Lastly, India has the largest IT service businesses in the world across SIs (systems integrators) and they are now looking at adjacent revenue streams like the Cloud to take cost out,” Shailender Kumar, Managing Director, Oracle India, told IANS.

“The government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative can only be successful if Cloud plays a key role. This makes the opportunity huge,” Kumar added.
shailenderCloud computing accounted for about 33 percent of the total IT expenditure in 2015 across the world. In India, the overall Cloud computing market reached $1.08 billion by the end of last year and IT/ITeS, telecom, manufacturing and government sectors accounted for a bulk of this.

Among one of the first MNCs to invest in the country nearly 25 years back, Oracle is bullish on Cloud.

“We are witnessing a strong demand for our Cloud solutions here. Oracle’s Software as a Service (SaaS) business is witnessing the fastest adoption rate with three segments that have the highest growth — Human Capital Management (HCM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Experience led by marketing cloud, service cloud, etc. Platform as a Service (Paas) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) are fast catching up,” Kumar noted.

In April, Oracle CEO Safra Catz announced $400 million of investment in a technology hub Bengaluru, with the opening of the first “Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator” in India’s Silicon Valley.

Several more such centres are slated to be launched later in Chennai, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Noida, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram and Vijayawada.

“Oracle is witnessing a huge appetite for its SaaS, PaaS and IaaS offerings in India even without a physical data centre here. Banks, telecom companies and government agencies are working with us and owing to the strong security infrastructure Oracle provides, we have been able to dispel security concerns,” Kumar told IANS.

While there are a few regulated industries that require data centres in India, there are also customers who are more focused on choosing the right applications and platforms as opposed to where the data centre lies.

To alleviate data security fears, the company recently announced the “Oracle Cloud at Customer” solution.

“The announcement strengthens our play in the market because companies (including those bound by regulatory pressures), can now leverage the Cloud and speed up their business transformation with complete control over their data,” Kumar said.

“Oracle Cloud at Customer” equips organisations to reap all of the benefits of the Cloud — agility, simplicity and subscription pricing — at their data centres and behind their firewall, providing access to the latest Cloud innovations.

“While there are concerns around data security in the country, a lot of the technologists in the country are quite skilled and are aware of what needs to be done. By following practices such as segregation of duties, on-disk encryption, data redaction and robust identity management, India can tackle security constraints,” Kumar pointed out.

The real security issue is when customers take older products that were not built for the internet, rack them and put them on the Internet. This makes those products vulnerable.

“But sometimes, security is also used as a reason to avoid change because shifting to the Cloud involves change. Though worrying, companies that adopt the Cloud can emerge as winners,” Kumar added.

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Indian films make $2 billion but lose $2.7 billion to piracy

Aug 21, 2016 0

By Aparajita Gupta

New Delhi–India’s film industry, said to be the largest globally with some 1,000 movies produced each year, earns around $2 billion from legitimate sources such as screening at theatres, home videos and TV rights. But with $2.7 billion, piracy earns 35 per cent more, and a way out has proved elusive.

Red Chillies Entertainment, a production house promoted by actor Shah Rukh Khan, was a victim of film piracy with ‘Dilwale’ last year. It grossed Rs 148 crore at the box office, but its pirated version, circulated a day before its release, grossed a much higher amount, stakeholders said.

Recent films like ‘Kabali’, ‘Great Grand Masti’ and ‘Udta Punjab’ have all faced similar music.

Uday Singh

Uday Singh

“Content theft or piracy in the film industry originates from ‘camcording’ in cinema halls. Over 90 per cent of new release titles originate from cinemas,” said Uday Singh, Managing Director, Motion Picture Distributors’ Association (India).

“The infringing copies appear online within few hours of a film release,” Singh told IANS, and added: “The Indian film industry loses around Rs 18,000 crore ($2.7 billion) and over 60,000 jobs every year because of piracy.”

This figure is also what the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) brandishes in its magazine, quoting noted filmmaker Anurag Basu. While the Indian film industry is, indeed, flourishing, piracy points toward how much more its stakeholders can make, he said.

According to the latest KPMG-Ficci report on the Indian media and entertainment sector, the film industry here is projected to grow from Rs 138.2 billion ($2.09 billion) in 2015 to Rs 226.3 billion ($3.43 billion) by 2020 at an annual growth rate of 10.5 per cent. But piracy could also grow exponentially unless checked.

“Currently, the government is focused on inclusive society initiatives, aimed at connecting villages via broadband. This has the potential to incentivise piracy, as people would find it much easier to watch a movie on their laptop than travel to far off theatres,” the report said.

“Hence, there is need for a collective, structured, scientific, multi-pronged and proactive approach to combat piracy.”

umrao jaan posterAdding another dimension, Patrick Kilbride, Executive Director for International IP with Global Intellectual Property Center of the US Chamber of Commerce, said piracy also limits the economic contribution which creativity can make in India.

“Issues such as copyright infringement, film piracy, camcording and content leakage weaken the industry by hampering the deserved revenue production,” said Kilbride.

Stakeholders said some sophisticated technologies like the watermarking of prints, which allow producers or rights holders to monitor the usage and movement of each print across the globe, have also not been able to stop piracy.

“New technologies, including digitisation of film prints, have cut the cost of recording, storing and copying of films for distribution. Risks involved in leaking and piracy have also increased manifold,” said Lavin Hirani, Head of Legal Affairs, Red Chillies Entertainment.

“Unfortunately, these technologies are not enough to protect the clandestine recording of pirated versions — done 90 per cent of the times with a camcorder or high-quality mobile camera in a low-light setting of a cinema theatre, or from the projector room,” Hirani said.

Sholay-posterThere is also the recent prevalence of pirated versions of Indian films swarming the market and the Internet a day or two before their actual release, since distributors opt for a simultaneous global screening, which requires the dispatch of prints some 10-12 days in advance.

“Some territories like in the UAE, they release films a day prior to the Indian release date — which is typically a Friday. This is one of the reasons why a film is leaked before its actual release,” he added.

Rajkumar Akella, Chairman of the Anti Video Piracy Cell, Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce, echoed a similar line of thought.

“Earlier, one odd film would get accidentally leaked before release date. But these days, pre-release piracy leaks have become a recurring feature, which is very alarming for the industry,” Akella told IANS.

What then is the solution?

Anurag Basu told WIPO that people need to understand piracy is a crime. The state blocks Web sites that allow downloads of pirated films, which is good. This apart, DVD versions must be available within a week or two after the formal release, as a wait of three-four months is a bit long.

“Piracy is working because people can buy a (pirated) DVD for Rs 100 and a whole family can watch it. We have to offer that kind of entertainment at that price. It has to be as easy to get an original DVD as it is to get a pirated one,” he said.

Hirani said there’s no single method or step. “Possible measures would require concerted efforts by all stakeholders, including the state and central governments which lose tremendous amount of money in taxes from the sale, distribution and exhibition of films.” (IANS)

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Bankers welcome Raghuram Rajan’s successor Urjit Patel

Aug 20, 2016 0
Urjit Patel

Urjit Patel

New Delhi– Banking industry captains on Saturday welcomed Urjit R. Patel as Raghuram Rajan’s successor at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The government on Saturday named economist and banker Urjit Patel the next Governor of the apex bank to succeed Raghuram Rajan.

Patel, 52, a Deputy Governor since January 2013, will take over as the 24th chief of India’s central bank on September 4.

Arundhati Bhattacharya-SBI

Arundhati Bhattacharya

“Appointment of Urjit Patel comes as a welcome move. Dr. Patel has been at the helm of institutionalizing the inflation targeting regime in the monetary policy framework.

“His appointment signals continuity of policy intent, both on part of RBI and Government,” said State Bank of India’s Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya.

Congratulating Patel, ICICI Bank’s MD and CEO, Chanda Kochhar said, “Urjit Patel has played a key role in developing the new monetary policy framework that has focused on reigning in inflation and has imparted stability to the currency.”

She also said his appointment would ensure a smooth transition and continuity in monetary policy, as India puts in place major structural reforms to transition to a higher growth path.

“I am confident that this transition will ensure efficient monetary policy management. Patel is an astute economist with a clear vision, who will surely continue to de-risk the Indian economy and strike the fine balance between growth imperatives and inflation management,” said Yes Bank’s MD and CEO Rana Kapoor.

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