For real estate players there might be opportunity in the pandemic: Abdullah Hussain, Director, Amaltas India Limited - The Daily Guardian
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For real estate players there might be opportunity in the pandemic: Abdullah Hussain, Director, Amaltas India Limited

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Abdullah Husain
Abdullah Husain

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, Abdullah Hussain, Director of Amaltas India Limited talks about the real estate sector, business insights and his journey so far.

Talking about the key challenges for the real estate sector foreseen in a post COVID world, Hussain said “Right now we are sitting at post lockdown stage and not post COVID stage. So, the lockdown has its own impact on the real estate industry which will take its own time to recover. Firstly, we’ll talk about the financial bodies involved in this, and the need of time, for the real estate sector. For example, I would say that the moratorium period given by the financial institutions was not enough, the real estate demanded for at least 12 months of moratorium period. And unfortunately, the loan restart restructurings did not take place as they were.”

Other than the financial front Hussain shares about how the pandemic affected the sector, “There is a shift of new launches, even in our company, we had five or six projects which were to be launched in FY 20 but now we have shifted them in second half of FY 21. So, this is a very deep issue. We are disposing off our ready to move in properties at very low prices to sustain and manage this crisis. It is breaking the whole cash flow cycle.”

Hussain also addresses the issue of labour shortage and recovery, “the labour and shortage of construction material in this sector has also affected it adversely. So, these all issues combined have adversely affected real estate which would further take a lot of time to recover.”

The Amaltas Group is Bhopal’s premier real estate developer and Hussain throws light on some of the biggest opportunities for this sector in a post COVID world too. “For a few real estate players that might be opportunity time for them because there are lands and very cheap rates and there are many different opportunities like the demand and supply ratio. I feel it will accelerate post-COVID-19 because there is a sense of having a shifting from a rented property to having your own home. So there is a feeling of being more secure and that feeling of safety, developing and growing and everyone’s mind, so that will accelerate the real estate sector.”

Hussain also elaborated on affordable housing as a plus point, “Affordable housing might boom because the middle-aged and middle-class people already have their own home. So, this might make the youngsters to come up with an idea of having their own home and investing in affordable housing, rather than spending on their lifestyles and apart from that We have also got some relaxation home loans and reduction of interest rates, so this will again boost the real estate sector as the overall player essential role to uplift this sector.”

Hussain talks about his own brand and their multi ventures along with key products, “It is a very diversified form of business which is commodity as well as FMCG business. We came up with the idea of this amongst us about multi ventures in 2017. Our vision was that the market was booming at that time and we were doing quite well in Madhya Pradesh. The basic idea was to be in every household, and deliver our quality in every household so we have a variety of products. We have diversified things in terms of categories where we have home care and personal care as well as healthcare.”

On a concluding note, Hussain talks about his company’s role during the lockdown and Modi’s Make in India vision, “Our CSR team has done a lot in terms of distributing masks, sanitisers and food packets. There was a very patriotic feeling starting this company at that time. PM Narendra Modi Ji had a vision of Make in India and one more idea of which we had in mind, was to compete with international players with our brands. We are taking that venture while expanding our name with quality and helping people by generating more and more employment, and being more patriotic.”

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The hunger and nutrition crisis: The dark side of Covid pandemic

Coronavirus has presented itself as a challenge and an opportunity to address our
long-standing problems of food security and nutrition. The current need is to come up with
sustainable solutions to lift millions of people out of the vicious cycle of hunger and poverty.

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C ovid-19 has transformed into a silent pandemic of hunger and starvation as a result of millions of people pushed into the vicious cycles of economic stagnation, loss of livelihood and worsening food insecurity. The World Bank has estimated that 71 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty across the globe as a result of the pandemic. As per the State of Working India 2021 report by the Azim Premji University, about 100 million lost jobs during the nationwide April-May 2020 lockdown. Most were back at work by June 2020, but even by the end of 2020, about 15 million workers remained out of work. Incomes also remained depressed. As we saw the deadly second wave of Covid-19 ravaging our country and leaving families devastated, the oxygen crisis overwhelmed the entire system while the crisis of hunger and starvation kept becoming grave each day. The CMIE Unemployment Data reveals a grim picture of unemployment spiralling to 12% by the end of May 2021 as compared to 8% in April 2021. Breaking this down further over 10 million or 1 crore people lost their jobs because of the second wave of coronavirus alone and 97% of households’ incomes have declined since the beginning of the pandemic last year. In a country like ours where a majority of the workforce is in the informal sector, people have not only been massively affected by the pandemic due to loss of jobs but also because they have no access to the benefits that come with formal employment and are out of the ambit of the social security schemes. The daily wagers, construction workers, street vendors, domestic helpers are the people who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and lockdowns and are living a life of uncertainty and disrupted incomes.  Agriculture is the primary occupation in the villages but due to frequent lockdowns, there has been a disruption of the supply chains and access to the market for the sale of agricultural produce impacting the income of the rural households.  World Food Programme estimates that an additional 130 million people could fall into the category of being food insecure over and above the 820 million who were so classified by the State of Food Insecurity in the World Report, 2019. In the 2020 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 94th out of the 107 countries. The pandemic has worsened this hunger crisis in India. With higher food inflation combined with reduced incomes, more and more households have to cut down on the quantity and quality of their food consumption. The impact is the worst on the low and middleincome household spend a large share of their incomes on food expenditure. The First Phase of the National Family Health Survey (2019-2020) has revealed alarming findings, with as many as 16 states showing an increase in underweight and severely wasted children under the age of 5. Ever since the advent of Covid-19, the pandemic has risked becoming nutrition crisis, due to overburdened healthcare systems, disrupted food patterns and income loss. And the disruption of programmes likes the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and the mid-day meal programme.  The current crisis highlights the importance of the existing welfare schemes like MGNREGA, PDS, and PMGKY etc which put cash and relief directly into the hands of the most vulnerable people and help them tide over the economic distress. There is an imperative need to improve food security by increasing local food production and strengthening food supply chains. The availability of high food stocks presents a bright opportunity to ensure the strongly advocated universal PDS which is the need of the hour. As the second wave has led to many young people who were the breadwinners of their families succumbing to the virus, it is of utmost importance that support is provided to these families with adequate cash and food support and building employment opportunities to prevent them from slipping further below the poverty line.  Like the first wave, it has been the collective endeavour of several citizen initiatives and NGOs to complement the efforts of the administration to mitigate the hardships and provide immediate relief to the most marginalised communities who have been the worst affected by the pandemic. At Samarpann, we are focusing all our resources on the rural areas keeping in view this alarming crisis. Until now we have distributed 2.6 million meals across India since the advent of the Pandemic. When our team visited the villages in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Kashmir, and Mizoram we realised that nothing had changed for these families in the second wave as compared to the second wave. The second wave has worsened the conditions for most of these households as there has been a loss of livelihoods and depletion of savings due to medical expenses. The people have either not been reinstated into their jobs after the first lockdown or have suffered major pay cuts leading to reduced incomes. Though we provide immediate relief in the form of ration and sanitation kits, it is important to start rebuilding the lives of these families, especially those who have lost their earning members. Hence, we are purchasing the relief material from the women Self Help Groups (SHGs) so that it increases their income sources and providie the material in the community itself. We believe that the solution to the hunger crisis should follow a twofold approach of addressing food insecurity as well as providing livelihood opportunities to the people whose voices have largely been left unheard in this second wave of Covid-19. Each ration kit includes wheat flour, rice, two types of pulses, sugar, cooking oil, spices, and salt which is sufficient to take care of a family’s need for 15 to 20 days. There is also a sanitation kit that has soaps, sanitisers, and a packet of masks. Some of the villages which we are targeting are Rathkankara, Borabas, Kolipura, Girdharpura, and Bhairopura in the Kota district in Rajasthan which is mostly inhabited by the indigenous communities of tribal. In Kashmir, with our partner organisation, we are targeting villages in Anantnag, Baramulla, Pulwama, Bandipora, and Kulgam while in Uttarakhand the target areas are the women in the Khatima block of Udham Singh Nagar, who are single earning members coming from very poor families. Mizoram hosts its own problems, being tribal predominated and situated in the arduous terrains.   Covid-19 pandemic has presented itself as a challenge and an opportunity to address our long-standing problems of food security and nutrition and the current need is to come up with sustainable solutions which help us tide not only over the current crisis but also lift millions of people out of the vicious cycle of hunger and poverty.  ‘One Nation, One Card’ across the country is a long term solution aimed at bringing a large number of excluded households into the ambit of social security. Similarly, diversification of the food basket under PDS and ICDS would go a long way in addressing malnutrition and reducing the disease burden in the country. The task at hand is a humongous one that needs to be dealt with at multiple levels by various stakeholders coming together to minimise the adversities and develop long term strategies for addressing hunger and malnutrition.  Dr Ruma Bhargava, Lead Healthcare, World Economic Forum and Founder, Samarpann & Dr Megha Bhargava, Deputy Commissioner Income Tax, Govt of India.

The views expressed are personal

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Reflecting on refugee pasts and possible future

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India has had a stellar history in welcoming refugees and sheltering them. Independent India saw us handling an unprecedented refugee crisis of 1947. In fact, as a child of 1947 refugees, I can’t but applaud that part of our nation-building history. India had hosted Tibetan refugees from the 1960s and in the 1970s we welcomed refugees from western Africa, later from Afghanistan and then from Sri Lanka. Most recently, we are hosting Rohingya refugees from Myanmar emerging from the persecution against their community from May 2015 and refugees fleeing from the February 2021 crisis in Myanmar. 

India’s example holds true for much of the global south. As UNHCR data notes, more than 86% of refugees were hosted by developing countries, with more than 73% by the neighbouring countries. In general, societies in the south have welcomed refugees as equal members of society. Countries of the North on the other hand have never embraced refugees in the same spirit of solidarity and responsibility, though it can be argued they carry much of the responsibility of the global refugee crisis. They need to be called out for that.

ActionAid Association has been at the forefront of responding to the emergency needs of forcibly displaced communities for over four decades now. ActionAid Association prioritises the needs of women and children and builds the resilience of marginalised populations. We have supported displaced minorities from Pakistan, living in Rajasthan, and internally displaced persons from Chhattisgarh settled in Andhra Pradesh. In partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees India, we continue to extend support to people from the Rohingya community settled in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Working in collaboration with social organisations, we have been offering humanitarian assistance to refugees from strife-ridden Myanmar too.

We need to recognise that in this century there has been a reversal in the perception of refugees. World Refugee Council calls it “a shortfall of humanity and empathy”. With growing xenophobic tendencies, stronger border controls, the rise of nativistic “sons of the soil” movements, as well as rising economic inequities which stoke fears of “risk from refugees”, host communities have become insecure and elected governments voice these insecurities, without resolving them; this comes at a time when the need is for addressing the refugee crisis in the framework of leaving no one behind.

With some exceptions, in general, there is a fast-growing antipathy towards refugees. The conscience of the world was struck by the tragic visuals of drowning refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea and of Rohingyas and other Myanmarese ethnic groups fleeing atrocities but governments have not been so easily moved. Rescuing drowning migrants became a crime in Italy; sheltering refugees from Myanmar a matter of political debate. Spectres of “dangers and threats” posed by refugees basis race, religion and economic competition that is propelled by fundamentalist actions of vested interest groups from both refugee and host communities groups, are raised to stoke xenophobia.

Let’s understand that refugees or for that matter any other groups, could become a threat to national sovereignty, only when the state has retreated from its welfare and caring orientation. To any government whose main focus is the increased physical, social, economic, and mental well-being of its people, care for people seeking refuge poses no threat. This has been demonstrated in ample measure by our collective past of accepting and integrating refugees. 

Refugees need safety during travel when fleeing oppression, hunger or fear. They need safety, social protection, and care in the spaces they flee to without discrimination, and a right to return to their native lands, should they so desire. Their children need access to continued education, and families need non-discriminatory access to healthcare, education, and all public services. Women need protection against violence and discrimination. Enabling conditions to earn livelihoods are critical, even when there is no right to employment; else how can their families survive. 

The lesson for us is not to mirror the countries that have regressive colonial attitudes to refugees and migrants. India should remain true to its warm non-discriminatory history of welcoming refugees. To the global community, that would be a message and an action demonstrating principled leadership —one that is morally, socially, politically and strategically defensible, and inspirational for others to follow.

Let us, however, remember that stellar pasts don’t automatically lead to glorious futures. Futures need active construction with humane people-centred politics and policies, set in a frame of a caring welfare state. Existing treaties and protocols need to be signed up to and newer societal imageries of futures based on solidarities, co-existence, and commons of humankind are needed, as are sensitive refugee policies and actions.

Sandeep Chachra is Executive Director of ActionAid Association and Joseph Mathai is Senior Manager – Communications of ActionAid Association. The views expressed are personal.

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NATHEALTH & ACHE present a gripping discussion on ‘The Evolution of COVID-19 Variants’

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NATHEALTH and American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), as part of its joint initiative, recently organised an engaging session to hear different perspective from India and US, on the evolution of Covid-19 variants and strategies to better understand their impacts. Moderated by Dr. Harsh Mahajan, President, NATHEALTH & Founder and Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging and comprehensive discussion by two panel speakers Dr. David Perlin, Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President of the Centre for Discovery and Innovation and Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFl), the session centred around the variants of coronavirus, its impact and ways to tackle it.

It provided an enhanced and well-rounded understanding to the topic at hand. In addition to discussing the current science on Covid 19 variants in U.S and globally, the panel also assessed the mutations embedded in the virus variants, examined the public health implications of covid 19 variants in India and globally and also focused on the way forward.

Molley lowe, Director of content strategy for the American college of healthcare executive (ACHE), welcomed everyone to the webinar and expressed her unique pleasure of having an international audience. She introduced the distinguished panel of speakers of the day.

Dr. Mahajan initiated the session by explaining the need for global collaboration to fight back the pandemic. He said “Researchers and epidemiologists around the world have been predicting various models for the potential spread of Covid-19 pandemic which has devastated world in the last 18 months. Facing a big challenge of continuous mutations of corona virus which make it difficult to predict how the pandemic would unfold in future. Various models give different pictures about loss of lives in upcoming months. Rates of infection and deaths are declining in US, in the last 2 months we have seen devastating surges of the virus in India and other countries.”

He further reinforced the need to have a global collaboration to contain and finally end the current pandemic. He added “while the future of pandemic and its projections remain uncertain, vaccination rates are increasing. Yet there are inequities in vaccination across the globe. Hence, it would be useful to know the most likely outcomes, the best and worst case scenarios to guide local and national decisions those can lead us towards the end of pandemic.”

Next, Dr. David Perlin was invited. He talked about some of the science behind the evolution of generation of SARs COV variants of concerns and what are the concerns we should be worrying about. He addressed questions like what should we know about variants transmission, their health effects and impacts on potential therapies and vaccines? He further explained the process of how any airborne virus like corona attacks the respiratory and immune system. He said “the key to viral infections is binding of the virus to its receptor. We know that when the infected host cell responds to form neutralising antibodies that are directed against the receptor binding domain, so that virus is no longer able to interact with its host cell.”

He additionally explained “In terms of virus variants, we recognise that RNA viruses like SARs CoV2 rapidly generate mutations compared to lower rate of mutations in humans. RNA viruses replicate a million to 10 times to 10 million times more rapidly than humans. Each mutation has potential to change viral properties for the next generation of viruses. The antibodies generated against the receptor binding domains can have one of the 3 possibilities: 1. Leave virus unchanged; 2. Decrease or loss of virus functions leading virus to disappear and 3. Gain of virus functions making it more transmissible and infectious. We are worried about the 3rd possibility. If there’s an increased interaction of the virus with its host, the antibodies don’t bind as readily leading to consequences like mutations can enhance the infection rates, reduce the potential effectiveness of vaccines and natural antibodies or may facilitate reinfection.”

He concluded by saying “virus evolution has been an important component of Covid-19 pandemic; variants of concerns (VOC) like delta are more transmissible, some variants may impede antibody development but can be controlled by existing vaccines and lastly the best way to control VOCs is by broad vaccination.”

The moderator then welcomed Prof. K. Srinath Reddy for his comments on public health implications of Covid-19 variants in India and globally. Prof. Reddy began by appreciating Dr. Perlin’s excellent exhibition of the science of Virology and immunology as it pertains to SARS COVID-19 virus and its variants. In his part, he tried to deal mostly with the public health perspective with a little throwback to evolutionary biology as an additional perspective.

He said “Indeed when variants do come up, one of the biggest questions we ask ourselves particularly when we are looking at the implications it has for public health response is, is it more infectious than the wild virus or any other relevant virulent while any other variant that preceded it, is it more virulent, is it more capable of vaccine evasion or escape and also is it less responsive to therapeutic interventions? While we are trying to answer that, we also have to understand how so many variants are arising in the different parts of the world and of course transmitting themselves with great ease to the other parts of the world.”

He added “We are generally tended to look at the viruses and variants in a very linear fashion but viruses are complex adaptive systems. Joshua Lederberg called the father of microbial genetics wrote a seminal paper in science in 2000, in which he said it is our wits against their genes. So we have to try and overcome their inevitable attempt.” To sum up his talk, he said “our response in terms of public health has to be to protect ourselves from easy entry of virus into our body, to obstruct the virus in terms of its transmission by not allowing super spreader events, vaccinate fast and wide and develop new vaccines with innovations which can match the new virus variants.”

The session was wonderfully wrapped up by addressing some pertinent questions raised by the audience.

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Innovation is spurred when there is a challenge: Vikram Khurana

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special series NewsX India A-List, Vikram Khurana, Chairman of the Toronto Business Development Centre spoke about how they supported India’s fight with the Covid-19 pandemic, their Start-up Visa Programme and more.

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As India is fighting the biggest enemy the world has seen so far, the global community is doing its part vehemently. The Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC) supported India’s fight with the Covid-19 pandemic by providing 5000 ventilators and other medical supplies. In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special series NewsX India A-List, Vikram Khurana, Chairman of the Toronto Business Development Centre spoke about their beneficial initiative and shared his insights with us.

Talking about the initiative, Khurana said, “These ventilators have been donated kindly by the province of Ontario and the province of Saskatchewan. The ventilators are made to survive on their own. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of global relations among the nations. The virus doesn’t recognise any borders; it is evident that it moves freely, in the air. We cannot build any borders around this pandemic unless we’re able to build walls in the air.”

He explained about the organisation that facilitated the supply of ventilators in collaboration with Air Canada. TBDC is the oldest business incubator in Canada that support entrepreneurs with all their needs. While talking about giving rise to 9 Unicorns, Khurana said, “Our current focus is on India. We think that there is a great amount of innovation and start-ups coming from India.”

He also threw light on their Start-up Visa Programme, which is extremely helpful for young and new entrepreneurs. Khurana continued, “While there is a great discussion on brain drain, there is not as much discussion on business expansion. Start-ups that grow internationally become multi-national. To facilitate this, Canada started the Start-up Visa in 2013. It essentially allows entrepreneurs to move with their families, be closer to their markets, and access technology and sources easily. Currently, about 2500 entrepreneurs from all over the world migrate to Canada under this program.”

“Innovation does not go to sleep, and innovation is spurred when there is a challenge,” he said when asked about some innovations he saw during the pandemic by Indians. Khurana pointed out that one of the most considerable collateral damage of Covid-19 has been on seniors citizens. Khurana applauded several start-ups helping to solve the problem faced by senior citizens and start-ups to find vaccine sites by diverting and balancing traffic among those vaccine sites. He mentioned the fact that most of the time, entrepreneurs executed these initiatives without concern of making money which is a very noble way of entrepreneurs giving back to society.

Khurana talked about the collaboration with Air Canada that made this initiative a success. “Many people of the crew were Indians living in Canada for a while and have roots in India like Captain Rash Pal who piloted the aircraft that carried those ventilators along with many other supplies with great pride. Every member of the team took great pride and went above and beyond to make this happen,” he said.

Talking about the world being caught flat-footed by the virus, Khurana said, “There are a lot of lessons learned on the fly”. He concluded the conversation by talking about having a front window view of great ideas coming from all around and the dominance of AI, data modelling, and machine learning in the area of innovation.

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Self-executing crypto contracts: The advent of smart law

Relying on a distributed consensus model, smart contracts have the DNA of blockchains and run on platforms similar to cryptocurrencies. These technology-enabled innovations in law are being watched closely as they make contracts more reliable, simultaneously making it difficult to evade execution.

Brijesh Singh and Khushbu Jain

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Smart contracts enable the execution of trustworthy transactions and agreements between anonymous parties and without the need for a legal system. Smart Contracts will bring in changes, not as fast as some predict, but will surely change the way we are used to working, as per Kai Schiller, author of the German blog blockchainwelt.de.

You would have heard of blockchains. In our last two articles, we spoke about Non-fungible Tokens and Ransomware attacks, this one is the third in the series concerning blockchains. Apart from cryptocurrencies and NFTs, there is a much more serious and beneficial application of this technology, namely smart contracts.

SMART CONTRACTS VS (TRADITIONAL) CONTRACTS

We are aware as to what entails a traditional legal contract — a document that details an agreement that parties execute with an expectation of being legally binding with a structure that includes offer, acceptance, consideration, and date with the parties signature. The endgame is Judicial Enforcement. Whereas, smart contracts bypass and ignore the legal mode and judicial enforcement is not their endgame. In contrast, smart contracts are computer programs filled with clauses “if/then” laying out every eventuality and obligation. These computer programs, once created and formally accepted by both parties, can be self-enforcing, running in the cloud. Continuous monitoring of key performance metrics determines when one of the “if/then” clauses suddenly switches from false to true, triggering automatic enforcement. Through auto-enforcement, smart contracts can add efficiencies for many kinds of agreements. This includes rental, intellectual property, financing, shipping, and manufacturing contracts.

First proposed in the 1990s by Nick Szabo, the concept of smart contract entails contract clauses written in computer programs. These are to be automatically executed as and when predefined conditions are met. Smart contracts are stored, replicated, and updated in distributed blockchains with logic consisting of transaction status. The integration of blockchain technology with smart contracts has made the dream of a “peer-to-peer market” come true.

LEGAL STATUS

For an enforceable legally binding contract, the common law requires four elements to be present: (a) offer; (b) acceptance; (c) consideration and (d) intentions to create legal relations. The law takes a wider approach and will enforce any promise in whatever form it is in, if the above criteria are met and if there are no vitiating factors such as misrepresentation or duress to taint the contract. Practically a contract concludes upon the agreement of a future contractual performance, which then generates rights and obligations for all parties.

The lingering question of whether smart contracts carry the same legal validity as traditional contracts warrant a definitive and authoritative answer, instead, it instigated a never-ending debate amongst academics and practitioners.

TECH, FUNCTIONALITY

Imagine a self-executing contract that digitally enforces, verifies, and facilitates the performance or negotiation of a contract. Blockchain technology and its distributed nature are used to foster transaction credibility between contracting parties without the necessity of third parties as exhibited in regular contracts.

There are several steps involved in a blockchain-based smart beginning with agreement identification, defining setting conditions, scripting the business logic, encryption with blockchain, execution and processing on event triggers, and finally updating the network status.

Thus contractual performance obligations are memorialised in code using a strict and formal programming language, then they are executed by members of a blockchain-based network. Once a smart contract is triggered via a transaction by one of the parties, the smart contract itself acts as the parties’ agent that is deputised to assist the parties with their arrangement.

The code of the smart contract is stored on each miner’s computer and each smart contract is assigned a blockchain-based address. Parties can initiate a smart contract by sending digitally signed “transactions” to the smart contract’s address. The transactional record is stored on the blockchain, the saved record then triggers the smart contract’s execution. Owing to the consensus-based distributed architecture the smart contract’s code is run by all miners supporting the network simultaneously. The transaction in this case is a record that includes the variables necessary for the code to run, along with a digital signature of the sending party.

ERROR IN CODE — RISK EXPOSURE:

Smart contracts also suffer from material shortcomings. Any vulnerability or even an error in the code may bring consequences. And one such example is when the DAO raised more than $150 million, an individual discovered a loophole in the code and diverted almost $70 million worth of ether and it was observed that the hacker did not maliciously hack the code, but rather used the terms of the existing smart contracts to accomplish something others later found objectionable, i.e. the diversion of their money. Thus, it is evident that the systemic risks exposed by the DAO hack have fuelled the argument that raises several concerns about the functionality of smart contracts. Broadly speaking — the hack reveals that the foundational characteristics which make smart contracts attractive ought to be questioned.

RELATION WITH CRYPTOCURRENCY

Centralised form of transactions may have a single point of failure that has been solved by using blockchain technology, which provides a peer-to-peer transaction without the need of a third party. The Bitcoin decentralised cryptocurrency, released in 2009, has generated great interest in blockchain technology applications. The blockchain technology that used to be applied only for bitcoin peer-to-peer transactions has been also usable for other purposes, such as smart contracts.

In the last few years, there has been significant development in technology related to blockchain-based smart contracts that have been accumulating over the years. It ranges from various platforms that facilitate blockchain-based smart contracts, applications that utilise smart contracts and tools in developing blockchain-based smart contract applications.

While a cryptocurrency is used as a secure medium of exchange due to the use of strong cryptography for ensuring verifiability of asset transfer, control of unit creation and even evasion of regulations as well as oversight by governments across the world, smart contracts are self-executing contracts that utilise blockchain technology to digitally enforce, verify, or facilitate the performance or negotiation of a contract.

COSTS AND ADVANTAGES

Smart contracts provides for many benefits as compared to the traditional contracts: (a) Speed as smart contracts use software code that automates tasks that are typically accomplished manually; (b) Enhanced Accuracy as due to automated transactions the probability of manual error is reduced; (c) Cost-Effective as less human intervention, fewer intermediaries and thus less cost: (d)Auto-enforcement as Smart contracts are unique in their enforceability since these clauses are embedded in the applicable software itself; (e) Reducing risks. Smart contracts cannot be arbitrarily altered once they are issued due to the immutability of blockchains. All the transactions stored and replicated are traceable and auditable.

Despite the advantages mentioned hereinabove, the enforceability of more subjective obligations such as ensuring commercially reasonable efforts is affected by the inherently digital nature of smart contracts.  

SMART CONTRACT AND ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

The dispute arising out of smart contract demand for non-judicial remedy systems that are cross-jurisdictional, extra-legal, and efficient hence the smart Developers and Entrepreneurs are swiftly moving to create solutions for resolving smart contract disputes and accordingly reliance over online dispute resolution systems in the blockchain. Generally, Online Dispute Resolution models have been online arbitration, AI-powered resolutions, and crowd-sourced dispute resolution. It is no surprise, especially given this history of resorting to extra-legal resolutions, that developers have turned to online arbitration for resolving blockchain disputes. 

Relying on a distributed consensus model, smart contracts have the DNA of Blockchains and run on platforms similar to cryptocurrencies. These technology-enabled innovations in law are being watched closely as they make contracts more reliable simultaneously making it difficult to evade execution.

The ‘autonomous’ nature of these contracts does not require a third party to evaluate execution and even obviates the need to engage lawyers and experts to estimate execution in a granular fashion.

Despite obvious advantages, blockchain-based technologies have not shown great success as a business model. There are serious concerns about the non-green nature of computing needed to run the blockchains and some security issues which have cropped up despite the self-healing nature of blockchain nodes.

Ethereum has been an excellent example of a platform based on blockchains for smart contracts and the evolution of standards as well as tools for developing applications and utilities will pave the way for wider acceptance of these innovations. On the whole, the world is watching these innovations with caution filled with expectations.

Brijesh Singh, IPS, is an author and IG Maharashtra. Khushbu Jain is an advocate practising before the Supreme Court and a founding partner of law firm Ark Legal. They can be contacted on Twitter: @brijeshbsingh and @advocatekhushbu. The views expressed are personal.

Ethereum has been an excellent example of a platform based on blockchains for smart contracts and the evolution of standards as well as tools for developing applications and utilities will pave the way for wider acceptance of these innovations.

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We take pride in trying our best to save lives: Marina Shaikh & Nandini Singh Jhabua

Marina Shaikh and Nandini Singh Jhabua from The Rising World Foundation recently joined NewsX on its special series NewsX India A-List to share how they helped thousands of people across India during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Rising World Foundation (RWF) is a not-for-profit charitable organisation dedicated to relieving the impact of Covid-19 on India’s most vulnerable communities. Marina Shaikh, Founder of The Rising World Foundation, and Nandini Singh Jhabua, Communications Director of The Rising World Foundation recently joined NewsX for its special series NewsX India A-List to speak on how they helped thousands of people across India during the second wave of the pandemic.

Marina, an experienced social organiser and philanthropist with international experience began the conversation and said, “I was in Brussels since 2017 when I found this organisation and it was my work with the international development committee in the European Parliament that gave me much understanding of what kind of work I wanted to do basically. I did a lot of public service projects and worked a lot with the international government. But I also realised that I wanted to come back and serve the people of my own country and hence The Rising World Foundation was formed.”

Nandini threw light on their collaboration and said, “Marina and I belong to Madhya Pradesh, our families are two generation’s friends and we grew up together. We both always liked community service as children. I remember we used to always plan that we’re going to do something and serve a community in a way that we wanted to, especially to the needy, to the marginalised community.”

Through her work with Marina and the RWF, Nandini hopes to combine her two greatest passions: her family’s connection to tribal art forms and giving back to the community. Talking about how the foundation operated and helped the community at large, Marina said, “The rural is our target. Rural communities in Madhya Pradesh is what we have been targeting and recently we have started with a fundraiser for oxygen supplies in Madhya Pradesh.”

“We have been working on that lately, as we got a lot of calls from a lot of villages that we have been working in for the past whole year. We started a fundraiser with Milaap. We hope a lot more people can contribute to this cause and you know help the state,” she added.

Elaborating on the working of RWF, Nandini said, “We have been working for the past year and a half ever since Marina started the NGO in 2015. The pandemic hit us and at that time we weren’t sure how would we start, we were immediately started relief works. Between Marina and I, we covered five different states along with Madhya Pradesh.”

“It was amazing the kind of work we have done along with drives including the educational, agricultural drives and breast cancer awareness drive. It was really nice that we were able to reach out to almost over 1 lakh people with information, mask sanitisers, hygiene kits, so I think we have made a tremendous difference in these five states,” she added.

Marina told us about her on-ground experiences during the devastating second wave of the Covid pandemic, “It’s extremely intimidating going to hospitals and distributing to their families, food and hygiene kits for women. It’s been very intimidating with whole new black fungus. I mean I’m glad that we’re doing whatever we can and yeah it’s very tough for us. We are trying our best to save lives and I take pride and say it’s alright to just go out. Somebody has to do it.”

Talking about their ongoing fundraiser, Marina said, “We have people who supported us from across the world. We have received about 20 lakhs and our target was 30 lakhs. We have already donated 26 oxygen concentrators to various districts in Madhya Pradesh.”

On a concluding note, Nandini mentioned how one can reach out and support the ongoing cause of RWF, “They can DM us and follow The Rising World Foundation. We hope every individual put the tools they need to thrive. The sky is vast the opportunities are limitless. Come out and support us to help us in every way to save lives, as many as we can.”

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