I have visited Kashmir Valley a number of times and have travelled the Valley in almost all seasons. Everytime I visited the Valley and saw the implausible beauty nature has endowed it with, the words of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir expressed about 500 years ago started resonating in my ears. Jahangir had said in Persian, “Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast”, which means ‘if there is a heaven on Earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here’. But then I am reminded of the present situation in Kashmir and the question starts popping up in my mind as to who has cast an evil eye on this ‘Paradise on Earth’. Why do the sounds of bombs, grenades and bullets resonate across the Valley where Sufi tunes reverberated once?
Now the big question is how will peace return to the Valley? The new initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is certainly welcome and it is a matter of comfort that the leaders of all the parties of Jammu and Kashmir have shown a positive attitude towards this initiative too. No one pointed out that they were put under house arrest, so why should they come for a discussion? From Farooq Abdullah to Mehbooba Mufti everybody attended the meeting. The Prime Minister assured the leaders that the democratic process will start at the appropriate time. Appropriate time simply means that the situation is completely under control. Anyway, there has always been the cooperation of the Centre in the governance of Jammu and Kashmir. The main issue in the Valley is that of infiltrators. They come from Pakistan and wreak havoc in the Valley. There was a time when the American agencies used to disturb peace in the Valley and later Pakistan kept doing it with the help of Taliban. For this, Pakistan sometimes raised Jaish-e-Mohammad and sometimes took Lashkar-e-Taiba in its lap. The US intelligence agency CIA no longer appears to have any role in the Valley, but the presence of intelligence agencies of Pakistan and China is well known to all. It is a matter of concern that the Islamic State is very active in Kashmir now. Infiltration is happening from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
However, the Indian Army, paramilitary forces and the police of Jammu and Kashmir are engaged in breaking the back of the terrorists and have achieved a lot of success. Now the situation is improving. Otherwise we have seen that period too when, for 24 years, Kashmir was broken from the whole country. An entire new generation grew up in closed rooms. People’s homes were destroyed. The business had collapsed. Tourism was destroyed and lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of their homeland.
The leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi certainly took a commendable decision by abolishing the provisions of Articles 370 and 35A. Abrogation of these provisions was the need of the hour. Once upon a time, some special provisions were made to keep Kashmir with India. That was the need of the hour then. There was no point in continuing with them when they were no longer needed. I have always been a supporter of the fact that there should be only one flag in a country. It has always been my belief that action must be taken against those who work against the country and also those whom we suspect to be so, irrespective of who it is! But there is also a need to understand that not all people or all leaders in Jammu and Kashmir are terrorists. The Prime Minister has given a good message by keeping the supporters of terrorism away from the meeting that their dream of separating Kashmir from India can never be fulfilled.
I feel that if we eliminate terrorists on one hand and streamline the democratic system on the other, it will help improve the situation. Reinstatement of statehood and the State Legislative Assembly is very important. There may be elections but the government should not be dependent completely on the lieutenant governor for decisions. We are witness to what is happening in Delhi. There is a state government but all the powers are with the lieutenant governor. Democracy has no meaning if the people’s representatives are not able to make decisions freely for their people. Keep in mind that people’s representatives certainly understand the sentiments of the people much better. The command should be in their hands.
As far as Kashmiri people are concerned, what have they got to do with politics? The most burning problems before them are unemployment, education and the health of the children. Kashmir is still grappling with these problems even today. Whatever the statistics may say, how can the ground reality be ignored? Today, if the youth of the Valley join terror outfits and take to terrorism, the biggest reason for this is unemployment there. For Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 a month, they risk their lives because they neither have a job nor business. Do not trust the job figures as they show contradictions. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had reported in September 2020 that the unemployment rate in the country is 6.7 per cent while in Jammu and Kashmir it is 16.2 per cent. The same organisation reported this year that the unemployment rate had come down to 9 per cent at the end of March 2021. Can such a big difference be brought about in just six months?
You can understand the unemployment scenario from the fact that two years back, five lakh youths had applied for 8,000 vacant posts of class IV employees in Jammu and Kashmir. We have to understand that statistics never help a dream come true! The figures which deal with reality only can write the success story. We should hope that the Central government will not only speed up the restoration of democracy, it will also provide employment to the youths so that none of them picks up a gun hereafter. The whole country is waiting for the guns in the Kashmir Valley to fall silent. Let Sufi tunes resonate again so that we can once again tell the world, “If there is a heaven on Earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here!”
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.
The need of the hour is to restore democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir without any further delay. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a good initiative, and the good thing is that leaders of all the parties there have shown a positive attitude. A lot of blood has been shed in Kashmir. Generations have been destroyed. Peace should now return to the ‘Paradise on Earth’ called Kashmir.
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INDIA TO ADD 50 FRESH UNICORNS IN 2022: STUDY
In India more than 50 startups have the potential of entering the unicorn club in 2022 as showcased in a new study. This will take the total tally of India to well over 100 startup unicorns(those well valued over $1 billion each). The year 2022 has shaped up nicely to become a matrix and a petri-dish of startups and with each success the chances of others joining them becomes well over-precedent. The growth of startups can be attributed to various national economic policies and the ease of doing business norms. The shopping capabilities and buying parameters of the people also has to do a lot with this, the report by a consultancy firm suggested.
Amit Nawka, partner(deals and startup leader) in PwC India, which conducted the study said that, “ We can say that the base of these companies in growth stage and late-stage deals have improved have improved significantly in the calendar year 2021, depicting a stronger base of companies having the potential to reach the unicorn status. With market sentiments favourably inclined towards startups, and the large base of scaled startup companies at the end of CY21, we expect the startup’ unicorn tally to go well beyond 100 by the end of 2022.” Over $10 billion was invested in the Indian startup ecosystem in the October-December quarter alone, according to the report.
81 is the total number of startups in India as of now with a total valuation of 4274 billion. Of these 44 unicorns with a total valuation of $89 billion were born last year, shows data from Invest India, the national investment promotion agency. The PwC report shows that in the fourth quarter, startup funding crossed the $10 billion mark.
If we talk about categorisation, Fintech startups raised nearly four times more funds last year as compared to the previous year. Edtech followed closely with a growth of 86% compared to $2.2 billion raised in 2020. Software as a service came in a close third. Growth and late-stage deals comprised around 85% of the total funding. Among the most persistent and active investors were Sequoia Capital, Accel and Tiger Global. A December 2021 report by the Hurun Research Institute had mentioned that India is the third largest home for unicorns globally but trails the US and China by a wide margin.
Bengaluru and the Nation Capital Region witnessed nearly three-fourth of the total funding by venture capital and private equity funds, the report said. In its list of 50 potential unicorns it placed companies like Khatabook, Whatfix, Practo, Ninjacart, Inshorts, Pepperfry as among the candidates because of their history of having raised over USD 100 million to date.
Effect of high rated fuel on country’s economy
High fuel taxes combined with a recovery in international crude oil rates has affected millions of people, slowing down the recovery of the country. The price of petrol and diesel hits a new record everyday. In Mumbai, petrol can be bought at Rs 109.98 per litre and diesel costs Rs 94.14 for one litre as on 18th January.
Experts have warned that rising fuel rates could severely derail India’s economy, which is already under pressure due to the impact of the second Covid-19 wave. High petrol and diesel prices have not only impacted vehicle owners, but also people who do not own a car. Rising fuel prices have resulted in a sharp rise in retail inflation, making a host of essential commodities and services costlier for citizens.
Elevated tax levels are playing a major role in the current record high prices in India. The central government had last year increased levies on petrol by Rs 14 per litre and on diesel by Rs 16 per litre to shore up revenues as the pandemic forced a sharp slowdown in the economic activity. Central and state taxes currently account for about 53.5 per cent of the pump price of petrol and about 47.6 per cent of the pump price of diesel in Mumbai
The rising crude oil prices, and the higher taxation impact, have also contributed to the prices of petrol and diesel regularly setting new record highs across the country in 2021. Petrol in nation’s capital is priced at Rs 95.41 per litre while diesel in the national capital is retailing at Rs 86.67 per litre. India has seen a faster recovery in the consumption of petrol than of diesel after pandemic-related restrictions with petrol consumption up 9 per cent in September compared to the year ago period but diesel consumption remaining 6.5 per cent below 2020 levels. Diesel accounts for about 38 per cent of petroleum product consumption in India and is a key fuel used in industry and agriculture.
India has long pushed for Middle eastern countries to remove the Asian premium that Asian countries have to pay for crude oil as key oil producers set higher prices for India than for the US and European countries. Despite a 40 cent per barrel cut in the official selling price of light crude to Asia, Saudi Arabia is still charging a $1.30 premium on the benchmark price for light crude sold to India compared to a $2.4 discount on the benchmark price for European customers.
Experts have noted that countries like India do not have much bargaining power in the current market scenario where supply is lower than demand and that India’s bargaining power may be reduced further if we try to further diversify crude oil procurement. Also, the level of output and pricing benchmarks are decided by cartels such as OPEC.
So, Experts believe that the government should cut excise duty to some extent as it will provide some relief to customers and lead to higher sales and revenues which will accelerate the economy. But economic recovery will become tricky if the government continues to ignore rising fuel prices. If the commodity becomes too expensive, it would see a sharp decline in revenue.
India-born top the list of founders among US unicorns: Study
It is not only in India but in the US too that Indian founders are creating unicorns.
A study by Professor of Finance at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Ilya A. Strebulaev researched that 90 out of 1,078 founders and entrepreneurs across 500 US unicorns were born in India which signalled a significant presence of Indian-Americans in the country’s startup and tech economy. He tweeted that, “Over four out of ten unicorn founders are first gen immigrants”. Indian born founders were followed by the ones from Israel and Canada with 52 and 42 founders respectively.
Some of the Indian origin founders of prominent unicorns include: Rohan Seth of Clubhouse, Baiju Bhatt of Robinhood, Dheeraj Pandey, Mohit Aron, Ajeet Singh of Nutanix, Apoorv Mehta of Instacart, Aayush Phumbhra of Chegg, among many others.
The research undertaken by Strebulaev is ripe at the time when India based technology want to return back home. Indian immigrants in the US are increasingly leaving their American dream behind because of visa issues and also because of the allure of a thriving startup culture in the home country. America has had a history of extremely successful Indian-origin entrepreneurs including Kanwal Rekhi, Pramod Haque, Sanjay Malhotra among others. India born executives are not only fueling the startups of the US but they are the executives of the most powerful tech giants.
U.S based Kaufman Foundation 33.2% of the co-founders of technology and engineering founded by immigrants in the US were Indians. Kaufman Foundation found out that Indian immigrant contribution in tech and startup industry was the only one that increased, all other immigrant contributions saw a decline. Another finding showed that 33 of the top 50 AI companies have at least one first generation immigrant founder. And 53 of the 125 founders are first generation immigrants. India and Israel were the largest senders of immigrant AI founders followed by the UK, China and Portugal.
India has a vibrant and an ever growing startup ecosystem. A recent report by venture capital fund Orios Venture Partners said Indian startups raised $42 Billion in 2021 up from $11.5 Billion in the previous year. The newly minted unicorns include ShareChat, Cred, Meesho, Moglix, MPL, Grofers(now blinkit), upGrad, Mamaearth, Acko, Spinny and others. India with 90 unicorns is the third largest unicorn hub behind the US(487) and China(301) and ahead of the UK(39). According to the report Flipkart was the most valuable unicorn($37.6 Billion).
India has seen four decacorns(companies with a valuation of USD 10 billion and above) so far- Flipkart, Paytm, BYJU’s and Oyo Rooms. While Bengaluru was the ‘Unicorn Hub’ with 18 unicorns emerging from the city in 2021 and 35 in all. It also happens to be the seventh largest unicorn city in the world.
KARNATAKA’S ROLE IN BUILDING A $5 TRILLION ECONOMY WILL BE SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER, CHIEF MINISTER BOMMAI
Karnataka is expected to play a significant part in the economy of the country in the future. The state is home to 13,000 of the country’s 54,000 startups. The Karnataka government has taken a number of steps to stimulate the formation of new businesses. The government is providing guidance and scientific support, according to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.
In an online message on the occasion of ‘National Startup Day’ on Sunday, the Chief Minister stated that the notion of a New Karnataka for a New India would be realized. In accordance with the Prime Minister’s wishes, the state has commemorated Startup Day in a meaningful way. The state government will give a major boost to startups, innovation, scientific thinking, and entrepreneurship in the coming days, he added. “Thanks to the Prime Minister’s long-term goal, the number of startups, which was once about 500, has already surpassed 54,000.” He has given a tremendous boost to innovation and entrepreneurs by establishing a forum to assist them and free them from government limitations. “On behalf of the state’s youth, the Prime Minister has been the inspiration for the biggest development of startups in the state,” Bommai added, thanking the Prime Minister.
Bengaluru is home to around 180 science and research institutions in a variety of sectors.
‘WEALTH OF 10 RICHEST INDIANS ENOUGH TO FUND HIGHER EDUCATION OF CHILDREN’
According to a new study, it has been found that the wealth of the 10 richest Indians is enough to fund school and higher education of children for over two decades (approx. 25 years). When most of the country was gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, the combined fortunes of the Indian billionaires more than doubled during this period. The superrich count in the country has now shot up to 142, rising by 39 per cent.
The annual wealth inequality survey reported presented by Oxfam India at the Davos Agenda Summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF) said that an additional one per cent tax on the richest 10 per cent can provide nearly 17.7 lakh extra oxygen cylinders to the country. None of us can forget how there was a huge rush for oxygen cylinders and insurance claims during the second wave that struck last year.
On the other hand, a similar wealth tax on the 98 most-affluent families can finance Ayushman Bharat – world’s largest health insurance scheme, for more than seven years.
The report further finds that 142 Indian billionaires together own a wealth of $719 billion (over Rs 53 lakh crore). The richest 98 amongst them have the same wealth ($657 billion or nearly Rs 49 lakh crore) as the poorest 55.5 crore populace who are placed in the bottom 40 per cent.
It was found that if all of the top 10 richest Indians go on to spend $1 million every day, then it will take them 84 years to do away with their current wealth.
Exports target of US$650 bn within the current financial year achievable: Piyush Goyal
‘$400 Bn target of Merchandise exports is within sight and the Services sector should strive for $250 Bn exports.’
The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyaltoday said the exports target of USD 650 Billion within the current financial year is achievable. Chairing a Review Meeting of all major Export Promotion Councils (EPCs), Goyal said the $400 Bn target of Merchandise exports is within sight and the Services sector should strive for $250 Bnexports.
Expressing his satisfaction that India achieved $300 BnMerchandise exports in the first nine months of the current FY (April-Dec, 2022), Goyal assured the EPCs that his Ministry will do whatever it takes in handholding the EPCs and resolving their issues to attain even higher export targets in the next FY.
Shri Goyal said we can set a much higher goods exports target in the current last quarter of this FY. “In December alone we touched $37 Bn goods exports despite the Omicron fear factor weighing high. This month, in 15 days till January 15th, we have reached $16 Bn.”
oyal said the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has himself set the pace by setting “transformational results” and not “incremental growth”.
The Commerce & Industry Minister urged the EPCs and entrepreneurs to avail of the Government’s initiatives towards Ease of Doing Business such as obtaining clearances through the National Single Window System. He assured the Industry representatives to pursue their demands during the various FTA negotiations.
Speaking of the government’s efforts to improve the ease of living and the ease of doing business, Goyal said that more than 25,000 compliances have been reduced.
“In December alone we touched $37 Bn goods exports despite the Omicron fear factor weighing high” – Piyush Goyal
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