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Policy & Politics

Connecting the dots: Contraband gold and terror funding

It was widely reported by the media from UP on 27 January that ED had submitted a report to Ministry of Home Affairs on Kerala-centred Popular Front of India mobilising funds to finance the cost of demonstrations and gherao against the CAA Bill till 6 January 2020.

Vinod Mathew



Kerala has had a long history of gold smuggling, going back decades. Over the years, the carriers coming from all walks of life have improvised their skill sets, finding stunningly original ways to bring in the contraband, in all shapes and forms, hidden in the most intriguing places including various parts of their body.

Though not claiming that long a history, a few pockets in Kerala, especially the Kannur-Kozhikode-Malappuram region and certain parts of Ernakulam and adjoining Idukki districts had spawned terror since the 1990s.

The early days saw Abdul Nasser Madani’s brand of radicalism that included planning and pulling off terror strikes like the Coimbatore blasts played hide-and-seek with political aspirations through his People’s Democratic Party. His camp follower Thadiyantavide Naseer never hid his true intent, forging ties with the dreaded Lashkare-Taiba. Since then, there have been numerous terror cases such as the infamous palm chopping case of 2010 that had NIA looking closely at Kerala.

But the tide really began to turn in mid-2016 when Kerala had to take cognisance of the tentacles of ISIS terror having reached the nooks and crannies of the state. From Padna and Trikkaripur in Kasargod, Yakkara in Palakkad, Thammanam in Ernakulam and Attukal in Thiruvananthapuram, the intelligence agencies traced 15 educated youth, including four Christian converts and one Hindu among the team of 15 who went to Syria to engage in jihad. Their route of travel to Syria was traced via Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Many of them are reported to have been killed.

That was not the end as in 2017 a number of youngsters from Valapattanam in Kannur were found getting recruited by IS in Syria. Then again in 2018, the state woke up to another bout of IS recruitment from Wandoor in Malappuram. A year later came investigations into terror footprints linking the state and Easter church blasts in Colombo and other parts of Sri Lanka.

So far, the investigating agencies have failed to connect these two strands of anti-national activities – gold smuggling and terror links – in a significant way.

That is precisely what the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has set out to do from Day 1 of its engagement in the Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling through diplomatic channel case that was officially busted on July 5.

 The Customs Department, that apprehended the contraband and followed up with a series of arrests, has been elusive about the source of their alert that culminated in the bust. Meanwhile, the state police have started claiming as to how the whole case began unravelling after their periodic input to the central agencies such as the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) about money trail leading to possible terror funding.

 It was widely reported by the media from UP on January 27 that ED had submitted a report to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Kerala-centred Popular of India (PFI) mobilising funds to finance the cost of demonstrations and gherao against the CAA Bill till 6 January, 2020. ED is understood to have come across the information while investigating PFI’s role in an earlier case registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. PFI had come out with a detailed rebuttal of ED’s charges which it said was false.

The ED had claimed to have found details of Rs 120.5 crore credited to accounts related to PFI, suggesting there was direct correlation between the dates of deposits and withdrawals from these accounts vis-à-vis the anti-CAA demonstrations in different parts of the country. One such payment found its way to an accused in a terror case, Abdul Samad, with roots in Mumbai who was arrested from Uttarakhand and taken into custody by NIA in February 2018 for his role in wide-reaching hawala operations and links to LeT.

“There are a number of instances with men from Kerala involved in cases like recruitment to IS, those with established links with LeT and many accused in terror cases across India. Apart from recruitment, their ground-level operations require serious money. Kerala police have cracked two IS recruitment-radicalisation cases and five cases are under investigation. And there have been a number of smuggled gold seizures we have done outside airports,” DGP-Kerala Loknath Behera told this correspondent.

Therefore, when the case of gold smuggling through the diplomatic route was busted on July 5, it appears the theory of the yellow metal being the new instrument of terror funding had already some traction among the intelligence agencies. This gives credence to the inference that the customs department was tipped off about the contraband gold coming in from Dubai. Sources say this gang had already smuggled in over 200 kg when the bust took place. Some say the gang led by Ramees KT (also arrested) was the man controlling the show and had access to Sarith PS and Swapna Suresh through Sandeep Nair. And the Dubai side of activities were handled by Faisal Fareed and Rabins Hameed, also from Kerala. Officers familiar with the probe fear 500-700 kg contraband gold would have been brought in by these players in the past one year.

In August 2019, the DRI arrested Rahul Pandit, inspector in the customs preventive division at Kannur airport for his involvement in gold smuggling at Kannur airport. Three other officers who assisted him too were held. Pandit was suspended from service, probe against others initiated. In November, 2019 the DRI arrested B Radhakrishnan, senior customs officer and former superintendent, Customs Air Intelligence Unit, Thiruvananthapuram on the charge of aiding and abetting import of large quantities of contraband gold through the international airport while manning the X-ray scanning machine. Again the volume of gold smuggled is put in excess of 500 kg before they were caught.

The sleuths are trying to separate the grains from the chaff – the large volume operations held together by operatives owing allegiance to organisations known to engage in anti-national activities and the regular carriers bringing in the contraband for shady jewellers. It is also suspected that all big operations had the same set of key players in the background.

 In retrospect, it was no surprise that the MHA showed no hesitation in asking the NIA to investigate the gold smuggling case. Naturally, the inference can only be that NIA is working the case backwards towards funding of anti-national activities by connecting the dots. And hence its confident assertion in its remand petition filed before the special court in Kochi that the accused in the gold smuggling case were using the proceeds for terror funding. The state police brass admits the gold-terror nexus theory announced by the NIA was not implausible.

 “Most terror outfits have sleeper modules in Kerala. This was the purpose behind reviving the Kerala Anti-Terrorism Squad last year, exactly along the lines of the NIA. That is why we have a dedicated unit within the ATS to track fund flow, mainly connected with gold and real estate. But we have limitations of jurisdiction and often need the help of central agencies. We already have shared a lot of data with NIA,” Behera said, adding there was a good likelihood that gold smuggling in Kerala has links with the sleeper cells of radical outfits with pan-India, even international footprint. And it is not surprising that links are emerging connecting terror funding with gold smuggling, as the yellow metal has always been a source for mobilising money, along with drugs and counterfeit notes. Clearly, those agencies involved in terror activities need funds to fight their court cases and other activities which cannot be raised only through donations, he said.

As per records available from sources in the Customs Department, the figures for gold seized in Kerala clearly indicate a rise in smuggling of gold. One of the reasons cited is the rise in import duty on gold from an already high 10 per cent to 12.5 per cent in 2019, apart from 3 per cent GST. The tax on gold in UAE at 5 per cent is perhaps the lowest in the world.

2019-20 – 540 kg (4 airports)

2018-19 – 251 kg (4 airports, Kannur started function in December 2018)

2017-18 – 103 kg (3 airports)

It has been the contention of some of the investigating agencies that smuggling cannot happen without the support officers in the Customs Department.

 The state government has come under considerable heat because of the alleged involvement of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former principal secretary and top bureaucrat M Sivasankar with some of the accused in the gold smuggling case. Quick to distance itself from the likely political fallout, the state government suspended the officer. The NIA has got the custody of many suspects arrested by the customs department for gold smuggling. The agency also grilled Sivasankar for two full days this week.

Now, as the NIA tightens the screws and builds a watertight case by connecting the dots between gold smuggling and terror funding, there will be many casualties. Sure, the central agency sleuths are working the case backward, but there is nothing untoward in that as long as the basic premise is on solid ground. It may be a matter of time before it emerges that gold is the new instrument of transaction for terror, especially given the backdrop of meagre liquidity in the postdemonetisation days.

The big question is whether there will be a more comprehensive investigation that covers aspects that do not fall under the purview of the NIA. Because, the smuggled gold could also have gone as payment to officers and politicians for favours rented. Then, the investigation should bring under its purview corrupt practices allegedly followed in awarding lucrative contracts, loss to the state exchequer by way of appointing big consultants and the connection between these two strands.

Just as the NIA strives to link gold smuggling with terror funding, it will take the involvement of another agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to connect the dots. Because, there seems to be a lot of dubious looking dots that appear all over the place and this simply cannot be coincidental.

Kerala’s terror cases and NIA

Kerala has had a long tryst with the NIA right from the days of its inception following the 2008 Mumbai terror attack to combat terror in India. Founding Director General Radha Vinod Raju, though from the J&K cadre, hailed from Kochi. In that team, heading the terror financing and fake currency cell was another officer from Kerala cadre Loknath Behera, now DGP-Kerala.

NIA turned its lens on Kerala when Thadiyantavide Naseer with his LeT connections was found scouting for wannabe jihadis to fight wars in Iraq and Syria. It was NIA that busted terror camps in Vagamon, Narath and Kanakamala. By unravelling the deep-rooted terror links involving young couples getting converted the terror way to turn jihadis in distant lands, NIA ruffled the feathers of quite a few mainstream politicians in the state.  

The special court for NIA cases convicted 13 of the 31 accused in the infamous `palm chopping case’ of July 2010 (members of the Popular Front of India had attacked T J Joseph, then professor at Newman College, Thodupuzha, and chopped off his palm for compiling a question paper that contained material insulting the Prophet). It was widely discussed as to how the masterminds walked free. 

In  November 2019, the NIA court in Ernakulam awarded 14 years› RI to the first accused in the Kanakamala IS case – for hatching a conspiracy, including through social media platforms and later meeting at Kanakamala in Kannur on October 2, 2016, to plan terror attacks in Tamil Nadu and Kerala against Jews, RSS leaders, BJP leaders, judges and police officers.

The Gold Trail

According to World Gold Council statistics, demand for gold in India declined from 760.4 tonnes in 2018 to 690.4 tonnes in 2019, though in value terms it was up three per cent, from Rs 211,860 crore to Rs 217,770 crore respectively. But gold imports, that account for the entire requirement, apart from smuggled gold, as per the Ministry of Commerce and Industry data, gold imports in June 2020, were down 77.42 per cent against a year ago. And things were no better in the preceding months, mainly on account of Covid-19.

However, much of the gold that comes into India finds no place in official records. IMPACT, a Canadian agency that tracks worldwide movement of contraband gold, says in its November 2019 report titled ‘Golden Web: How India became one of the world’s largest gold smuggling hubs’ that India meets 25 per cent of its annual requirement of 1,000 tonnes via the smuggled route and cautions that the leading global gold manufacturing centre must take action to address the weakness in its supply chain. The report acknowledges that refined gold is being smuggled into India primarily from the UAE. ‘’India is at the heart of a web of illicit trade of gold, with threads spanning the gold and almost certainly financing conflict and corruption,’’ highlights the report.

Excerpts from the remand petition filed by NIA’s chief investigating officer on 21 July

‘’It is submitted that Swapna Prabha Suresh (A-2), Sandeep Nair (A-4) and other accused had conspired together and separately at various places in Kerala to damage the monetary stability of India by destabilising the economy by smuggling large quantities of gold from abroad and it is suspected that they had used this proceeds of smuggling for financing terrorism through various means. These deliberate acts of using the diplomatic baggage of UAE as a cover to transact illegal business may have serious repercussions in the diplomatic relations with the government of UAE and it is prejudicial to the monetary and economic security of India as well. Further, the involvement of other people in to this crime as well as the end users and beneficiaries need to be ascertained.

 It is further submitted that during the custodial interrogation the role played by other associates came in to light including one Ramees KT who is one of the kingpin in this case. Sandeep Nair (A-4) stated that Ramees KT insisted for smuggling gold in large quantity and maximum numbers during the lock down period as the financial position of the country is weak etc. A-4 also stated that KT Ramees commands and always moved with a group of persons and have contacts abroad. Steps are under progress to join the said KT Ramees in the investigation of this case.’’ (sic)

Timeline of the diplomatic channel gold smuggling saga

June 30: Diplomatic baggage consignment containing 30 kg of gold from Dubai, addressed to the UAE Consulate (Thiruvananthapuram) Charge D’ Affaires Rashed Khamis al Shameli, reaches Trivandrum International Airport. Customs Department refuses clearance based on alert.

July 5: Consignment opened, after getting necessary MHA, UAE Consulate clearance, 30.25 kg of gold found hidden along with plumbing materials.

July 6: Sarith PS, former PRO of UAE Consulate who had turned up to get consignment released, taken to Customs Office, Kochi for questioning, arrested. Co-accused Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair found absconding.

July 10: NIA files case to investigate terror finance behind gold smuggling case.

July 11: NIA takes into custody Swapna, Sandeep from Bengaluru.

 July 13: NIA probe team gets Swapna, Sandeep in custody for 8 days till July 21. Customs team arrests known offender Ramees K T, said to be the brain behind the smuggling racket and one who was pushing large volumes of gold during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

July 14-18: Customs pick up a number of suspects, many of them known gold smugglers.

 July 19: News break of Faisal Fareed arrest in Dubai police on Friday. Allegations made about his involvement with known names in Malayalam film industry.

July 20: The name of yet another link surfaces – Rabbins from Muvattupuzha, said to be the man sent to Dubai by the hawala dealers in Kerala to supervise Fareed,

July 21: NIA gets custody of Swapna, Sandeep extended till July 24. Stage set for DRI to enter fray as records emerge of illegal holdings in land, deposits in bank lockers.

July 23: NIA questions senior bureaucrat M Sivasankar about his relationship with the main accused in the case, Swapna, Sarith and Sandeep, seeks CCTV footage of his office adjoining the CM›s office in the Secretariat.

 July 27/28: Sivasankar questioned by NIA in Kochi; no clean chit even after 25 hours of grilling over three days.

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Policy & Politics

Where did the farm laws go wrong?



The three new agriculture laws implemented by India in September 2020 with little public or legislative debate have piqued the world’s curiosity. The initiatives were portrayed as a gift to farmers by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, but farmers in various Indian states, headed by smallholders in Punjab and Haryana, have refused to accept them.The three laws are:

• The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act,

• The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act and

• The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.

The court stated that dozens of rounds of negotiation between the Centre and farmers had yielded no breakthroughs, despite the fact that senior individuals, women, and children among the protestors were exposed to major health risks caused by the cold and COVID-19. It was stated that deaths had already happened, not as a result of violence, but as a result of illness or suicide. The court praised the protesters’ nonviolent character and indicated that it did not intend to stop them.Essentially, in the midst of a pandemic, with a critical vaccination drive underway, the government appears to be employing a two-pronged strategy to break the impasse: reaching out to farmers to bridge the trust deficit in farm laws, and combating disruptive forces that are attempting to take advantage of the situation.

Farmers are concerned that agriculture sector changes would result in the abolition of the minimum support price (MSP) system and the abolition of APMC markets. The government buys farm commodities at a fixed price under the MSP framework. The MSP guarantees that farmers are guaranteed a set price, regardless of supply and demand limits. Farmers have been calling for legislation to ensure that agricultural food is purchased at the MSP. They also urge the government to repeal the Electricity Act modifications.Farmers are concerned that it would lead to the corporatization of agriculture, which will eventually force them out of the industry. They contend that the sale of agricultural produce would be governed by contracts, rendering the MSP regime ineffectual. The law permitted farmers to engage into a direct arrangement with the buyer before to the sowing season and sell their goods at the agreed-upon price at the time of contract signing.

What were the main issues in THE FARMER’S PRODUCE TRADE AND COMMERCE (PROMOTION AND FACILITATION) ACT, 2020 OR THE FPTC ACT as regarded by the farmers?

Though farmers objected to all three agricultural laws, the main issue was this Act, commonly known as the ‘APMC Bypass Bill.’ Cultivators were concerned that its provisions would undermine the APMC mandis.

Sections 3 and 4 of the Act permitted farmers to sell their goods in regions beyond the APMC mandis to purchasers from inside or outside the state. Section 6 barred the collection of any market charge or cess under any state APMC Act or other state law in connection with trading outside the APMC market. Section 14 overruled the contradictory sections of the state APMC laws, while Section 17 enabled the Centre to make regulations for enforcing the law’s provisions.

Farmers were concerned that the new laws would result in insufficient demand for their goods in local marketplaces. They said that moving the produce outside of mandis would be impossible due to a lack of resources. This is why they sell their goods at prices lower than MSP in local marketplaces.

Farmers were also upset with the provisions in Section 8 of the law that stated that a farmer or merchant might approach the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) to reach an agreement through conciliation procedures. While farmers claim they lack the right to enter SDM offices for conflict resolution, others say this amounts to seizure of judicial authorities.


Sections 3-12 of the statute attempted to provide a legal framework for contract farming. Before the planting season, farmers might get into a direct arrangement with a buyer to sell their products at predetermined pricing. It enabled farmers and sponsors to enter into agricultural partnerships. The law, however, made no mention of the MSP that purchasers must provide to farmers.

Though the Centre claimed that the law was intended to liberate farmers by allowing them to sell anywhere, farmers were concerned that it would lead to the corporatisation of agriculture. They were also concerned that the MSP will be eliminated. Critics also claimed that the contract system would expose small and marginal farmers to exploitation by large corporations unless selling prices were continued to be regulated as they were before to the new law’s implementation.


Despite the potential benefits, both parties were unable to reach an agreement on the farm laws, which resulted in their repeal. Farmers who have been protesting at Delhi’s borders and in their states since last year have rejected the Central government’s offers to alter the contentious new agriculture rules. They said that the plan was insufficient and accused the administration of being “insincere,” while also warning the Parliament to step up their protests. Parliament approved these Acts during the monsoon session in 2020. Farmers have long feared that the Centre’s farm reforms will pave the way for the demise of the MSP system, leaving them at the whim of large corporations. However, no resolution was reached, and no date for the next round of discussions was set for the first time. Following the failure of these discussions, the Supreme Court suspended the execution of these farm legislation. Farmers were overjoyed when these rules were removed on November 19, 2021.

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Policy & Politics

Declaring vaccination mandatory in India: A last resort towards battling Covid-19



With the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the globe, there is hardly any country which has been able to protect its citizens from it. During this unprecedented situation which has persisted more than a year, this pandemic has claimed as many as 3.18 lakh lives in India itself, making the situation abysmal and chaotic in the country. But a silver lining arose on January 03rd, 2021, when the Government of India approved emergency authorization for Covishield and Covaxin for effectively tackling the pandemic situation.

Till date, around 160 crore people have been vaccinated out of which around 4.24 crore have been fully vaccinated. As can be evidently seen, India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive is alarmingly behind schedule, especially when India is facing an unforeseen situation and it is the need of the hour to rustle up the vaccination drive. Indubitably, the government has miserably failed in procuring vaccines leading to an inordinate delay in inoculating people. One of the reasons behind such a delay is an acute shortage of supply of vaccines from the manufacturers. But there is another hidden but known facet which has conspicuously reduced the percentage of vaccinated population despite vaccines being available at local vaccination centers. Suspicions and myths pertaining to vaccines in general are creating mistrust among people, especially for those residing in rural or marginalized areas, who are very skeptical about getting inoculated. Due to such fear and apprehension, people are not registering for vaccination and even after scheduling an appointment, they are not turning up for vaccination at the centers leading to wastage of thousands of doses raising a cause for concern in the entire country.

First and foremost step to be taken by the government is to initiate an awareness drive throughout the country by educating the people residing especially in rural and marginalized areas about the various personal and community health benefits of getting vaccinated. However, in case there is timely and unhindered supply of vaccines and yet people refuse to take it then the government must promulgate laws making vaccination compulsory in the nation. Although, it is not always necessary to go through the trouble of making vaccination compulsory but it should only be kept as a last resort to tackle the problem. It is well within the legislative powers of the State Legislature to enact such a law related to public health and sanitation. (vide Entry 6 List-II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution on India). Here, a focus needs to be drawn to a similar step taken by the British Government to make smallpox vaccination compulsory by way of the Vaccination Act of 1892. Another example was laid down by the US Supreme Court which upheld the law made by the State for compulsory vaccination stating that is well with its police power for the protection of public health.


The Epidemic Disease Act of 1897 contains provisions empowering the government to take whatever measures it deems necessary to prevent the outbreak or spread of an epidemic disease, provided the existing laws are not sufficient to deal with the situation. Moreover, a collective reading of numerous provisions of the National Disaster Management Act of 2005 shows that the Central Government is empowered to constitute a National Disaster Management Authority which can lay down the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management for ensuring timely and effective response to a disaster. The Central Government has invoked its power under Section 6 (2)(i) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 directing the State Governments to restrict the movement of people and various other activities in the beginning of the pandemic and those can be applied for the process of vaccination too. Under such laws, the government can formulate policies for compulsory vaccination during the current unprecedented situation in India.


It is certainly not advisable to impose penal action like imprisonment against an individual who refuses to get inoculated. There are several ways through which the government can enforce mandatory vaccination on such individuals. For instance, it can impose fine on people who refuse vaccination. Another way can be by imposing a reasonable restriction on the movement of an individual within any part of this country since the freedom to move freely within the territory in India is subject to reasonable restrictions as laid down under Article 19(5) of the Constitution of India. Moreover, for the people who are visiting India, vaccination must be compulsory upon failure of which can lead to restricting the use of their passport by the Government by exercising its powers under the Passport Act, 1967. Alternatively, if a person still refuses to get vaccinated upon his arrival in India, he shall be mandatorily kept under 7 days institutional quarantine as per the guidelines for international arrival issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). Moreover, for foreigners who are not vaccinated, the government can pass an order under Section 3 (2) (e) of the Foreigners Act, 1946. For example, people applying for immigration to the United States need to show their vaccination certificates. Otherwise the applicant must be given those vaccines at the time of medical exam.


Making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people can have some serious legal concerns. A person can claim that the legislation making vaccination compulsory is violative of the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The term privacy has been interpreted in its widest sense so as to restrict the government from infringing it by way of an unfair, unjust and unreasonable laws and regulations. But it is pivotal to argue that the right to privacy is embraced under the right to life and personal liberty which may be restricted according to the procedure established by law. Therefore, the right to privacy can very well be curtailed by the government by way of enacting just, fair and reasonable law which is in interest of public at large (vide K.S Puttaswamy v Union of India). Further in the case of Evara Foundation vs Union of India in the affidavit it was stated that “It is humbly submitted that the direction and guidelines released by Government of India and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, do not envisage any forcible vaccination without obtaining consent of the concerned individual”.

At this juncture, it is also pertinent to give reference to Hohfeld’s theory of jural relations. As Hohfeld says, if a person has a right, then that right is accompanied by a duty to protect the rights of others. In other words, the people are guaranteed the right to privacy which can be restricted by making the vaccination compulsory for the people refusing to take the vaccination for collective public interest, since COVID-19 will continue to spread if people do not get vaccinated. For instance, if majority of the population in the Country is vaccinated then it will obviously break the chain of the spread of the virus and the positivity rate will come down.

Moreover, there are many developed countries across the world like U.K., Australia, France, Italy, who have made the vaccination mandatory for their citizens despite the fact it is not the last resort but it was the only way to break vicious cycle of waves of the virus. In addition, India is a developing country where the health care system is ineffective to cater the vast number of populations. So, India should also follow the footsteps of the developed countries in order to save the lives of its citizens.


In order to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating a large number of people either by way of voluntary vaccination or forced vaccination, equitable distribution of vaccines is a pre-requisite, failure of which can render the former otiose. There is an obligation on part of the government to ensure that there are no obstacles or impediments in providing vaccines all across the nation without any discrimination.

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Policy & Politics


Goyal says start ups to build solutions for local & global markets: AI, IoT, Big Data, etc.

Tarun Nangia



Piyush Goyal

The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal today called upon the Indian industry to aim for raising 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th anniversary of Independence next year.

“We have added 43 unicorns added in 45 weeks, since the start of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ on 12th March, 2021. Let us aim for atleast 75 unicorns in this 75 week period to 75thAnniversary of Independence,” he said, while releasing the NASSCOM Tech Start-up Report 2022.

Goyal said Startup India started a revolution six years ago and today ‘Startup’ has become a common household term. Indian Startups are fast becoming the champions of India Inc’s growth story, he added.

“India has now become the hallmark of a trailblazer & is leaving its mark on global startup landscape. Investments received by Indian startups overshadowed pre-pandemic highs. 2021 will be remembered as the year Indian start-ups delivered on their promise, – fearlessly chasing opportunities across verticals – Edtech, HealthTech & AgriTech amongst others,” he said.

Goyal lauded the ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) industry including the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector for the record Services exports during the last year. “Services Export for Apr-Dec 2021 reached more than $178 bn despite the Covid19 pandemic when the Travel, Hospitality & Tourism sectors were significantly down,” he said.

• “Let us aim for at least 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th Anniversary of Independence”: Piyush Goyal

• Goyal lauds the ITES industry including the BPO sector for the record Services exports during the last year despite the pandemic

•  Piyush Goyal says the PM’s interaction with Startups a week ago has supercharged our innovators

• The next “UPI moment” will be the ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce) – Goyal

• New India is today being led by new troika of Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship (ITE), ‘India at 100’ will be renowned as a Startup nation: Goyal

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Policy & Politics

Subhas Chandra Bose statue to be installed in India Gate, announced PM Modi



Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday that a grand statue of iconic freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will be installed at India Gate. This announcement came ahead of the 125th anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his statue will be installed at India Gate to honor his contribution to the independence movement.

The Prime Minister further said that Bose’s grand statue will be made of granite and will be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him. “Till the grand statue of Netaji Bose is completed, a hologram statue of his would be present at the same place. I will unveil the hologram statue on 23rd January, Netaji’s birth anniversary” PM Modi tweeted

“At a time when the entire nation is marking the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I am glad to share that his grand statue, made of granite, will be installed at India Gate,” PM Modi tweeted on Friday. “This would be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him.”

The statue will be installed under the grand canopy near which the Amar Jawan Jyothi flickers in remembrance of India’s martyrs. The eternal flame, which has not been extinguished for 50 years, will be put off on Friday, as it will be merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.

The canopy, which was built along with the rest of the grand monument in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, once housed a statue of the former king of England George V. The statue was later moved to Coronation Park in Central Delhi in the mid-1960s.

The announcement was hailed by many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, Union ministers and civil society members.

“Great news for the entire nation as PM @narendramodi Ji has today announced that a grand statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, will be installed at the iconic India Gate, New Delhi. This is a befitting tribute to the legendary Netaji, who gave everything for India’s freedom.” Amit Shah tweeted.

“Netaji is an epitome of India’s true strength & resolve. Congress has left no stone unturned to forget the immortal contributions of India’s brave son. PM @narendramodi’s decision to install Netaji’s statue at India Gate on his 125th Jayanti will inspire our generations to come.” Amit Shah added in his tweet.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a 216-foot statue of Ramanujacharya, a 11th century saint and a social reformer, in Hyderabad on February 5. The statue described as the ‘Statue of Equality is located in a 45-acre complex at Shamshabad on the outskirts of the city.

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Policy & Politics

‘US, India should set bold goals to attain $500bn target’, said Keshap



Having achieved a huge success in their bilateral relations, two of the world’s greatest democracies – India and the United States of America should opt in favour of setting bold goals in order to take their relationship to a new high thereby achieving the ambitious target of $500 billion in bilateral trade echoes retired American Diplomat Atul Keshap, who recently became the new president of the US India Business Council (USIBC).

“I think it’s vitally important that we show that democracies can deliver; that the United States and India can be a driver of global growth and a model for prosperity and development in the 21st century,” Keshap said.

During his illustrious career, the veteran diplomat has served in various capacities with the US State Department. He has been the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives and has also served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

In 2021, he took over as the Chargé d’affaires of the United States mission to India and has been instrumental in shaping the US-India ties under the Joe Biden administration.

“I feel it’s critically important that we show that open societies powered by a free enterprise can be relevant for their people and can help power the world out of this pandemic. I tend to agree entirely with President Biden and PM Narendra Modi that the US India Partnership is a force for global good and it’s going to have a huge impact on economic growth,” he said.

Keshap feels that USIBC is the podium where he can give his best and help the people from both countries. “We need to move forward on the global trade agenda. We need to ensure the prosperity of the future, especially after this pandemic,” he said.

The 50-year-old diplomat reflected on the vision set by Biden, about potentially having a $500 billion trade in goods and services between the US and India. “That’s a very ambitious number and I believe in it. It is a great idea to try to have ambitious targets, else we are on a standstill” he said.

Having donned the new role recently, Keshap said he wants to help meet that $500 billion bilateral trade goal. “This is where the government and the private sector have to work together hand-in-hand,” he said.

“We have to articulate the benefits and have to convince all our stakeholders that there is value in lowering trade barriers, in creating strong standards and in creating positive ecosystems. There is value in dealing with small technical issues that might be creating a blockage to greater prosperity between our countries,” Keshap said.

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Policy & Politics

Coal crisis: How private sector can power India’s growth

Tarun Nangia



India has been reeling under a coal shortage crisis and the situation got aggravated in October 2021 leading to a lot of concern amongst various stakeholders including government bodies, thermal power plants, industry and investors. The shortages, triggered by global factors, of course with Indian peculiarities, threatened supplies to thermal-based power plants, leading to an alarm.

Recovering from Covid-19-induced reverses, the global economy has rebounded and gathered steam. This was one of the prime reasons why there was an acute shortage of coal and sources of energy, worldwide. Global coal prices have risen by 40 per cent.

Port based Indian power plants normally rely on imports. Given the global conditions, and the sharp rise in coal prices internationally, the power plants are now almost solely dependent on Indian coal. It’s in this context that the coal crisis has been amplified by various stakeholders.

While global factors did contribute, did we fail to take necessary action, over a period of time? To highlight one prominent factor: Why should the Coal India Limited have monopoly over coal mining / supplies? Consider the CIL performance in the last few years: Its output was 606 MT in 2018-2019, 602 MT in 2019-2020, and 596 MT in 2020-2021. Contrast this with various governments’ efforts to ramp up Coal production in the 1992-2010 period.

So, why did Coal India Limited fail to expand capacity? This is one big question that must be debated. It can therefore be argued that CIL’s monopoly on coal extraction and supplies (till very recently) is one of the prime reasons why India’s thermal power plants faced a coal crisis.

India has the world’s fourth-largest coal reserve, with around 300 billion tonnes of coal. But it is also true that it imports approximately 250 million tonnes of coal. This is because we don’t mine enough and use our resources optimally.

CIL supplies 80 per cent of India’s coal needs. The demand for coal in India is nearly a billion tonnes a year, and the supply is below 800 million tonnes.

Unfortunately, based on then CAG Vinod Rai’s miscalculations and the Notional Loss theory, the Supreme Court cancelled 214 coal blocks in September 2014. Private players were not given a patient hearing on the issue. Rather than encouraging them, the private sector got punished unfairly for its efforts to strengthen the economy through coal mining. If 100 out of 214 of those mines were functional and each one was producing, say, 4 mtpa of Coal, India today would be a net exporter, not importer, of Coal.

Rai’s theory and the Supreme Court judgment had devastating consequences. The coal production in the country took a hit. The country’s GDP declined by almost 1 per cent. Millions of jobs were lost. NPAs of banks with exposure to power, steel and mining sector rose exponentially. Such is Rai’s credibility that he recently tendered an apology to a Congress leader, who, Rai claimed in his book, “requested him to remove then PM Manmohan Singh’s name from the coal scam”. Taking a cue, if someone sues Rai for his Coal Scam theory and numbers, would he be able to defend his report in court?

Against the recommendations of CAG of incentivizing good performers who produce coal, the Supreme Court imposed an additional levy of 295 rupees per ton on the coal extracted from operational mines retrospectively from 1993. The private miners were directed to deposit more than Rs. 9000 crore as penalty.

The stagnating CIL coal output should be seen in this background. Being a monopoly, CIL could have been a saviour for the nation. CIL however neither ramped up production nor invested in technology or expansion of new mines.

In 2020, in a bold and much welcome development, the Union Government opened up commercial coal mining, thus ending Coal India’s monopoly. PM Modi said that he wanted India to be a net exporter of coal, as he set ambitious targets.

A lesson from the recent crisis is this – the CIL monopoly, along with the no-entry sign for the private sector, harmed the country.

There are lessons to be drawn from the opening up of the aviation sector for the recent coal crisis episode. With a series of measures, the aviation sector was opened up, with the Air India privatisation being the latest example. The economy, the nation and consumer benefitted. When sectors as diverse as Steel, Infrastructure and Healthcare were unshackled, the end consumer, the economy and the nation benefitted.

Similarly, if the private sector in coal mining would have been encouraged consistently, and ill-advised measures like cancellation of coal blocks not taken, the coal situation would not have come to such a pass. In 2014, the private sector was said to be accounting for 90 million tons of coal – a substantial figure. Instead of getting encouraged, the private sector had to fight protracted court cases and spend its time wastefully.

There’s a consensus that Coal would continue to power economic growth for a country like India for the next two decades. It’s important that this abundantly-available natural resource is used optimally. The Private Sector can play a key role here.

The Government has shown intent and commitment. It’s time for all the stakeholders to ensure that the country faces no shortage of Coal hereafter. It’s time we all learnt our lessons and ensure that Coal and Mining booms and fires India’s growth march.

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