The sirens of the ambulances break the eerie silence of the long evenings. Hospital emergency entrances are clogged with people gasping for breath, their relatives pleading with folded hands. Behind them and all around the hospitals are the fatigued, worn-out faces of the front liners and doctors trying their best to handle and serve as many as they could. Amid all this unnerving commotion, old parents, many of whom are all alone in big metropolitan cities which has completely gone online in their regular supplies as they have their e-trainer children far away, sometimes in another country, are struggling to see some light for regular supplies and medical attention over and above the fear of dying unseen during Covid times.
Extraordinary times bring out the best and the worst in people. There are sad stories aplenty. In the neighbourhood, a dog was found tied in the terrace without food and water for two days as the lone owner had passed away. A few houses away, a family abandoned the old and dying Covid positive mother. Along the way, we also encountered sarcastic and bordering-on-insulting words from a reputed doctor in a big hospital when we were begging for a bed. The last one was a direct experience of what hundreds of million common Indians without money or power go through every day. The pandemic has proved to be a great leveller in this very unequal society. In the end, health for all is what matters, not fighter jets or big names.
Our own experience is a book to share. Life changed for my octogenarian father, who is up and about much before the others, sitting in the balcony with his morning herbal honey tea, followed by pranayama. It has always been this way. When we were children, it included a game of tennis and some kitchen gardening before he headed out to his office. A former bureaucrat, who worked tirelessly in and for the northeastern region, he was always on the move, on work. Many years on, this disciplined routine remains. Only the pace is now lower, his frame frailer. A former Delhi University academic and Sahitya Akademy winning writer, Ma’s world comprised her books and the home she set up with her companion over 50 years ago. Giving them company now is Khoku, the loyal mongrel, enjoyed by them for his insatiable greed and gluttony alongside two delightful helpers at home. They chose to settle down in Gurugram, 30 years ago, both leading an active social life, spending time with their children/ grandchildren only as and when they felt their absence. My brother and I counted ourselves lucky that they were happily self-sufficient and more importantly, still healthy, and mobile.
Come 2020, my gift to them was two customised masks as I visited them during the new year. They were just starting to make an appearance at airports. A “certain virus” was on the way, we were vaguely warned by co-passengers. My Ma sternly warned, “We do not want any restriction on the air we breathe” as I handed them the masks. She pushed them in a drawer. The lockdown arrived. Their content little world turned upside down. Captives in their home, they longed for company and all of us. Routine medical checkups stopped. Ma’s health issues multiplied. My father’s creatinine shot up. After eight months when I met them, I saw a different set of parents — vulnerable, insecure, and shockingly aged. When I managed a checkup in November 2020, my father had reached end-stage kidney failure. Dialysis was the only solution. Thrice a week four-hour sessions were needed. So that was how life progressed, in and out of hospitals. I moved base from Guwahati to Gurugram to be with them, much against their vehement protests about disrupting my life and work. The lone sibling lives overseas making it difficult for him with travel restrictions and related issues. When he could finally visit them, he took the prudent step of vaccinating them, taking a chance on any possible complications for my father. What a blessing this was as we are to realise later.
As if the first wave wasn’t enough, the second wave arrived and before we even realised it, my father tested Covid positive on 19 April 2021. Given his frequent hospital visits, this was always a risk but we had no other option. His usual positive demeanour took a hit. Oxygen monitoring and steam inhalation became a routine practice. Very soon Ma tested positive too. The worst possible situation was that at this age parents do have comorbidities. Desperate calls to hospitals followed. There were no beds, no oxygen, and also no nurses and caregivers too. My brother frantically tried to organise home ICU nursing care online and over the phone. Two days of following up with various providers, all of whom invariably ran out of available nurses, yielded nothing in the end. Endless calls were made every uncertain day, every WhatsApp message was followed up on hoping against hope. Well-wishers and friends were informed. But all to no avail. Everyone everywhere faced the same situation. The first deaths of people we knew were already coming in. This was a dystopic nightmare. Delhi/NCR was at war. Period.
There was no time to lose. I called my husband over urgently from Guwahati. The first thing we did on his arrival was to take the booster shot. We became full-time caregivers with little or no experience for patients who needed to be in a hospital under professional care. A friendly neighbourhood chemist was the next help in providing an oxygen concentrator and medicines. Since their regular doctors were too busy to give us regular online sessions, the family physician became a lifesaver. My father’s SPO was just 93 at best, his BP had shot up. His lungs were impacted. Steroids were prescribed. We went about giving whatever was prescribed, running in and out of home for medications. Every day, every hour we heard of familiar people vanishing. There were faces to the numbers now who were dear and cherished.
In between, an angel miraculously stepped in, in the form of a dear friend who helped us get a seat for my father at a leading Gurugram hospital. But within three days, he was discharged because he had “no oxygen requirement”. Earlier that morning the lady who shared his room had passed away even as my father looked on from his bed. We had nothing to say when asked to take him back home, so his age and comorbidities had taken a backseat now. And given the situation, we could sort of understand anyway. On the very next day of his return, he felt a lot worse and an urgent lung scan revealed high-moderate/ low-severe level Covid pneumonia. But by now, a pot of gold was easier to find than a hospital bed (and a lot less valuable!).
Some doctors who go beyond duty even during Covid fears are God’s soldiers on earth. The role of the wonderful dialysis ward staff and doctors at Narayana Hospital, Gurugram, who would wait for “uncle” to arrive on the appointed days, remains unforgettable. In between, there have been quite a few moments of panic when father’s oxygen dipped dangerously, and innumerable moments of prayer and invocations to the Almighty for his help. Everybody is now living on a prayer and we know we have been so much luckier thus far than the thousands of families so utterly devastated around the country.
New times are described with WhatsApp voice messages and images. Motivational wishes and helpful information both have flowed in from many, some of whom were themselves suffering from the outbreak. This is when enlightened citizens have come together on messaging forums and even in-person to help one another. The much-maligned WhatsApp University has always brightened mornings and evenings to give a feel of togetherness and shared suffering. Every single time, this shining evidence of our common humanity provides more strength and moral support than one may suppose.
Families who never cared for each other have started family WhatsApp groups to connect to their ageing members in the family and to provide them hope in such depressing times as their partners in work and morning walks are lost. It’s heartening to see many younger nephews and nieces and their children keeping the elderly upbeat over countless jokes, family anecdotes, and music sessions. Let no one’s elderly parents’ love for life and sense of humour fade in the face of this deadly pandemic.
Children who may sometimes not be so young should still feel that providence has given them a chance to look after their parents at least this one time. Nursing, cooking, cleaning, just spending time with their life-givers is perhaps the most fulfilling thing they have ever done. Caretaking with appropriate precautions never kills. I write here to share my story and the thoughts with those who are abandoning their old parents, not visiting them when they are needed the most, letting them die in isolation of a dark, ill-cared nursing home or even scared to give them a just last rites for justifying their fears. Children should rise as primary caregivers to their elderly parents and battle the situation to do everything for them. We do not know what the future holds or how long this will go on. But we need to internalise an age-old lesson, parents are the epitome of this socio-culture ecosystem we breathe in and a pandemic horror should never dictate to children an escape from their prescribed moral and ethical responsibilities towards them. The virus and the oximeter will pass but our negligence towards them will hang our heads in everlasting shame if we abandon them today.
The writer is a travel historian & communication officer at the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, Guwahati, Assam.
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E-commerce may grow by 45%-51% in 2023 in Asia-Pacific region: StoreHippo CEO
Rajiv Kumar Aggarwal, Founder & CEO, StoreHippo spoke to The Daily Guardian about his company and its growth plans as well as the e-commerce market.
Q. Tell us about the company and the services that your company offers?
A. Started in 2014, StoreHippo is the most flexible SaaS-based enterprise e-commerce platform. The fully-integrated platform built on MACH architecture enables enterprise brands to launch, pivot, and scale their B2B, D2C, B2B2C, or hybrid business models from one single platform Designed to accelerate the digital journey of enterprise brands, we have been building the most innovative and powerful solutions for brands across industry verticals.
The company has been driving the successful digital transition of enterprises with its 300+ inbuilt features, 120+ seamless integrations, inherent flexibility, and agility. The company makes it possible for brands to build personalised and conversion-oriented omnichannel buyer journeys for both D2C and B2B buyers. StoreHippo’s fully integrated solutions enable enterprise brands to integrate ERP, CRM, accounting, payment, and any other software or services of their choice. The company also provides the most accessible, reliable, and robust shipping solutions to its merchant clients with end-to-end logistics and fulfilment support.
Q. What were the company’s goals and objectives when it was founded?
A. StoreHippo was envisioned with the goal to offer cutting-edge enterprise e-commerce solutions for brands that could be easily customised for unique brand requirements. The aim was not to offer just an e-commerce solution but to offer a complete ecosystem with support for different business models and every aspect of the business operations, marketing, and growth. The company has been helping enterprises ever since to create a niche for their brand with future-ready solutions that help them go to market in record time.
Q. How do you see the e-commerce market by 2023?
A. E-commerce is going to continue its upward climb in the years to come. Ecommerce will keep growing in double digits even in 2023 and the highest growth will be seen in the Asia-Pacific region which will grow by a whopping 45-51%. With Covid induced better adaptation for online buying and selling even traditional, offline brands will hop on the commerce bandwagon. Amazing things are in store in days to come, in terms of hybrid business models and revolutionary tech solutions that would make customer journeys more personalised, immersive, and frictionless.
Q. What were the major challenges the company has faced till now?
A. Initially, the major challenge we faced was convincing clients that e-commerce is the way forward, and adopting the model sooner can actually give them a strong footing in the competitive market. Also, we had to do a lot of handholding as back in 2014, the e-commerce market was still in its nascent stage and customers were also a bit sceptical about purchasing online. However, things changed rapidly after 2016-2017 and enterprises have been lapping up the concept of going digital not only on one channel but across channels like online stores, mobile apps, mobile stores, social commerce, or any other new-age customer touchpoint that can be made commerce-enabled. Also, brands no longer stick to one business model, rather they are strategising the business to run either a hybrid business model or different business models from a single platform (like, D2C+ B2B or multi-vendor marketplace with hyperlocal e-commerce, etc.) StoreHippo’s well-rounded solutions with inbuilt solutions for a variety of business models have been able to handle all such challenges from enterprise brands easily.
Q. What are your growth plans for the next year?
A. StoreHippo is aiming to accelerate growth in untapped global and domestic markets along with solidifying its presence in its existing markets. We are aiming for a 250% growth in the coming year by offering innovative enterprise solutions to brands from diverse industries.
‘GAGANYAAN’ OFFERS A RIVETING ROADMAP TO THE CHALLENGING JOURNEY OF INDIA’S HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT PROGRAMME
Produced by Miditech Studios, the new Discovery+ documentary titled ‘Gaganyaan – Bharat ki Antariksh Udaan’ offers a riveting roadmap to the audacious and challenging journey of India’s human space flight programme, from developing the country’s own state of the art cryogenic engine, testing of flights, rigorous astronaut trainings to the final preparations and anticipation before its launch in 2023.
The 45-minute long documentary is supported with archival footage and modern graphical representations of the complex processes and tremendous dangers of human space flight. This fascinating original also recaps the ground-breaking engineering that enabled India to successfully test an unmanned flight with the crew module from launch to re-entry in 2014.
‘Gaganyaan – Bharat ki Antariksh Udaan’ features three eminent astronauts viz. Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to go into space, Sunita Willaims, the elite record-holding woman astronaut of NASA, and the Russian Cosmonaut, Oleg Kotov. Along with them, various experts namely, Dr G Madhavan Nair (Former Chairman, ISRO), Air Cdre (Rtd) Ravish Malhotra (Former test pilot, IAF), Asif Siddiqi (Space Historian), Dr Brigitte Godard (Flight Surgeon, European astronaut centre), and other distinguished professionals also lend their expertise on the subject.
This is just the kind of content one expects from Discovery+, the country’s first and leading aggregated infotainment streaming platform, which is famously known for engrossing cosmology content among other fun and facts-based content from more than 55 sub-genres. In doing so, Discovery+ becomes the first OTT platform to bring to the Indian public this historical journey which will put India on the world stage with other spacefaring nations: Russia, China, and the United States. ‘Gaganyaan’ joins a formidable lineup of successful and immensely popular cosmological titles like – ‘India’s Space Odyssey,’ ‘How The Universe Works,’ ‘Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman,’ ‘Space Titans: Musk, Bezos, Branson’ and many more.
Gaganyaan was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15 August 2018. But no one at the time saw the pandemic coming less than two years later, with scientists and aerospace engineers realising that going ahead with a manned mission, a complex endeavour with a life at stake even at the best of times, was not something to be rushed.
But despite the uncertainty created by the pandemic, the ISRO is marching toward its ambitious India’s maiden human spacelift mission in 2023. It has completed one more crucial test, which will boost the confidence of the scientific community to push the project further.
On May 9, ISRO completed a test called a static test of a human-rated solid rocket booster, simply known as HS200, for the ‘Gaganyaan Mission’. The test was conducted at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. In simple terms, the test was conducted to see the weak spots, if any, in the rocket to be launched. In this process, human intelligence and scientific knowledge are simultaneously applied to check or anticipate weak spots in a spacecraft. Preventing possible accidents is billed as ‘Human Rating’. The process involves several tests with many variables to ensure the safety of a manned spacecraft to reach the goal and return safely to earth. In a way, it’s analysing and understanding the reliability of human-rated rockets against non-human-rated rockets. During the test, ISRO checked 700 parameters and found them all normal.
Interestingly, PM Modi discussed the ‘Gaganyaan Mission’ in his first Mann Ki Baat of the new year and the new decade. “Gaganyaan mission will be a historic achievement in the field of science and technology for India in the 21st century. It will prove to be a milestone for New India,” he had asserted while praising the four pilots of the Indian Airforce who have been selected as astronauts for the mission and their forthcoming training in Russia. “These promising youngsters symbolise India’s skill, talent, ability, courage and dreams. Our four friends are about to go to Russia in a few days for their training. I am confident that this would script another golden chapter in India-Russia friendship and cooperation,” he faded further.
Watching the documentary one can appreciate the meticulousness that has gone into making it. Discovery+ must be commended for making an important documentary film about India’s human space flight programme. Here is an offering that needs to be watched by each and every India.
‘MEMMO ENABLES MEANINGFUL FAN TO CELEB CONNECTIONS VIA VIDEO MESSAGES’
The platform helps connect famous celebrities with their fans and has users book out a personalised video message to create lasting memories.
Memmo is one of the leading entertainment platforms present at the global level. The firm is an online platform that offers personalised video messages from thousands of well-known celebrities and prominent personalities to their fans and followers. If we talk about personalised videos, these videos are customised for individual viewers and play a major role in developing trusting relationships.
It is the biggest marketplace for personalised videos from thousands of celebrities (sports, actresses, comedians, artists, YouTubers, and so on) that are shared with fans and businesses. The brand›s CEO & co-founders Tobias Bengtsdahl & Gustav Lundberg Toresson, conceptualised the venture with the mission to help connect celebrities one-to-one with fans and businesses. The firm also hosts prominent angels in the business industry by customising videos of celebrities for the marketing campaign, virtual events, team celebrations, and cold sales outreach.
In an interview with The Daily Guardian, Abhishek Sarkar, General Manager and Head of India operations, Memmo spoke about the company’s goals, challenges, growth plans and the factors behind the growth of the personalised celebrity video messaging industry.
Q. Tell us about the company and the services that your company offers?
A. Memmo is the biggest marketplace outside of the US for personalised videos from thousands of celebrities (athletes, actors, comedians, musicians, YouTubers etc.) to fans and businesses. Personalised videos are the first step on our mission to tech-enable and democratise access to talent to offer a wide range of products and services to fans and businesses. The platform helps connect famous celebrities with their fans and has users book out a personalised video message to create lasting memories.
Q. What were the company’s goals and objectives when it was founded?
A. After thinking for a long time about the positive and emotional effect that occurs when you have personal contact with inspiring people, the idea of this company came while attending a wedding dinner. During many lengthy speeches, often a little too internal for everyone to appreciate, the evening suddenly stopped. A video clip featuring the bride’s celebrity crush was presented, with some playful lines about how it could have instead ended up being the bride and him–with a big congratulations to the lucky groom. All of the wedding guests suddenly sat in unified laughter and amazement. The question arose–how had the gifter managed to get hold of such a video, and could there be a way to share these experiences of the fan to talent connection more often? One question led to another, and it quickly became apparent that getting in touch with the people we look up to is not something that’s accessible to everyone, but rather the opposite. On the other hand–the inboxes and DMs of these people have never been as busy with requests from their fans as they are today. This identified opportunity to enable more meaningful fan to talent connections was the starting point for the memmo.me team on the journey to becoming the global destination for talent to connect with fans and brands on their terms.
Q. What are the factors behind the growth of the personalised celebrity video messaging industry?
A. In the last two to three years, this space has been growing. There is also a unicorn in this space and the demand is huge across every country we operate in. In India alone, there are over five to six companies in the same space and each has its own top celebrity earning thousands of dollars per month. Top celebrities on our platform earn anywhere between US$ 15K to US$ 20K monthly and this truly goes on to show the demand is high, as long as we are able to follow up with good supply, great products and impeccable service, the sky’s the limit. Fans from around the world want to be connected with their favourite artist, sportspersons and have no platform to get up close and personal, our company helps bridge that gap. This is welcome by both fans and celebrities. A lot of celebrities look for multiple sources of income especially after the pandemic due to lower shootings and such platforms have proved to be great sources of alternate income.
Q. Tell us about your business success so far?
A. We just scaled to three new markets after launches in North America, Europe, and Australia, and are looking to launch more in the coming months. Currently, our company is a market leader in most markets it operates in. The company has grown 10x from last year in terms of total order volumes and the roster of celebrities is increasing every single day. This only shows the demand from users for a product like this and celebrities do not want to miss out on this unique opportunity to stay connected with fans as well as generate additional revenue streams. We have thousands of celebrities who trust us as their go-to platform for on-demand personalised shout-outs to fans from across the world.
Q. What were the major challenges the company has faced till now?
A. The challenge is localising content, offering and celebrity base for each market to cater to the needs and demands of that specific market. We spend a lot of time understanding each market and the nuances it has to offer. The biggest challenge so far has been identifying the right set of celebrities to launch a market with and gain traction. Once we are able to figure these things out, the market is ready for take-off. The space is filled with a lot of competition, so keeping products, offerings, and services top-notch and evolving is yet another ongoing challenge.
Q. What are your growth plans for the next year?
A. We just scaled to these new markets: India, Mexico, and Brazil. The plan is to establish a stronghold in these operating markets, improve on offerings and increase the roster of celebrities to cater to the large audience from the respective countries and the world. The plan is to continue market dominance and keep growing year on year and build more memories for the world.
IN DEEP FINANCIAL MESS, ANDHRA NEEDS TO PUT ITS ACT TOGETHER BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE
Andhra Pradesh has earned for itself the sobriquet of “Annapurna” or Rice Bowl of the country, which symbolizes the entrepreneurial spirit that the hard working citizens of the state are known for. At present, Andhra’s GSDP is projected above Rs. 13.38 lakh crore and the state revenue comprising own tax and non tax revenue stand at Rs. 76.55 thousand crore and its share in Central taxes at Rs. 32.24 thousands crore along with grant-in-aids from Central Government for Rs. 53.17 thousand crore for the financial year 2022–23 as estimated in the state budget, with an estimated size of the budget at Rs. 2.56 lakh crore. However, the fiscal deficit for this period is estimated at Rs. 48.29 thousand crore.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy during the foundation stone laying ceremony of the world’s largest Integrated Renewable Energy Storage Project (IRESP), in Kurnool on 17 May. ANI
Post-bifurcation, the financial health of the state suffered for initial two to three years and, thereafter, the average growth the state registered was remarkably sound, while leaving behind other states in ease of doing business (EODB), even though there were several constraints. After 2019 general elections, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP came to power with a huge majority. Though the growth of the state has been registered constantly above national average in many parameters, it has failed to attract major new domestic and foreign investments for the past three years, lagging behind in EODB rankings. With an increase in suicides of farmers, a huge debt without productive asset creation, diversion of funds and a huge debt-to-GSDP ratio at 38%, the state is deep in financial crisis so much so that even it has paled a state like Bihar.
The present financial outlook of the state is bleak as per analyses by experts of key financial indicators as per the prevailing systems, procedures and methods of the Finance and Accounting Guidelines and Standards as stipulated by the CAG, Finance Commission Recommendations and Union Finance Ministry parameters. With around 60% of new net debts of the state spent on servicing existing debts alone, there is no debt balance available to repay the principal, thus adversely impacting its credit rating. According to financial experts, Andhra Pradesh has fallen in serious debt trap and needs immediate remedial measures to extricate itself from an impending financial emergency.
Notwithstanding the statements pouted by Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, state Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy and others saying the situation is under control, the debt burden of the state has reached alarming proportions. A cursory look at the figures is enough to draw such dire inferences:
(A) Debts as on 2nd June 2014 soon after state bifurcation:
Budgeted debt: Rs. 90 thousand crore
Corporation loans: Rs. 18 thousand crore
Total debt: Rs. 1.08 lakh crore as on 2nd June 2014
(B) Incremental debt from 2nd June, 2014 to 31st March 2019:
Budgeted debt: Rs. 1.79 lakh crore, including outstanding bills of Rs. 25 thousand crore
Corporation loans: Rs. 31 thousand crore additional loans were raised
Total incremental debt: Rs. 2.10 lakh crore of total additional debt was raised between 2014 and 2019
Total outstanding debt as on 31st March 2019 was Rs. 3.14 lakh crore.
C) Incremental debts from 1st April 2019 to 30th April 2022:
Budgeted debt: Rs. 3.40 lack crore including outstanding bills and other liabilities of Rs. 1.69 lakh crore raised
Corporation loans: Rs. 1.46 lakh crore additional loans raised
Total incremental debts: Rs. 4.86 lakh crore raised between 1st April 2019 and 30th April 2022
Total outstanding debt as on 30th April 2022 was Rs. 8.00 lakh crore.
Analysis of above data is required to be done in a sensible manner taking into account five indicators to assess the health of state’s finances for the last three financial years: revenue deficit, primary deficit – meaning deficit before serving the interest, interest, debt servicing and fiscal deficit – overall deficit in a financial year.
(1) Revenue Deficit : (In Cr) :
2) Primary Deficit : (In Cr)
3) Interest : (In Cr)
4) Fiscal Deficit : ( In Cr)
5) Debt service : ( In Cr )
If we observe columns 4 and 5 above, total budgeted new debts (fiscal deficit) of Andhra Pradesh have been raised for serving the existing interest and instalments only (debt servicing). This means no additional revenue is being generated to serve the existing debts. What about the new debts to be served in the future? Where are the resources that have been generated out of these debts? This all indicates that the state has fallen deep into the debt trap.
Analysis of columns 2 and 3 as depicted in the above table shows a serious financial crisis at hand in the form of a huge fiscal deficit and the biggest financial disease that ails the state exists in the form of primary deficit.
If we examine the above facts, the root cause of the prevailing financial problems of the state lies in the persisting revenue deficit post bifurcation and even 14th and 15th Finance Commissions have assessed and projected the revenue deficit for Andhra Pradesh till 2025. But the problems Andhra Pradesh is beset with are beyond the assessment of revenue deficit alone, since the present government’s approach toward the governance is problematic as it has been on an unproductive spending spree, thus upsetting the balance of revenue and expenditure, leading to an increasing dependence on abnormal debts. Though the 15th Finance Commission estimated total revenue deficit of the state at Rs. 30,497 crore, to be recovered from the Union Government for 5 years between 2021 and 2026, it may be beyond 1 lakh crore. The big question is: Why and how did this huge gap emerge? The only answer is that the government has miserably failed to manage its finances and resources in a prudent manner and has rather used public funds on meeting unproductive poll promises, pushing the state toward an disaster.
Improper planning for application of funds as per budget has led to a situation where funds are least available for incurring capital expenditure, which could have helped the state create productive revenue-generating assets or social infrastructure for better living conditions. Facts and figures pertaining to the capital expenditure is as follows:
(Up to Feb)
The actual capital expenditure incurred by the state government is only 45% of the estimates in the budget on average for the last three years, one-third of which was illegally combined with revenue expenditure in a deceptive manner as pointed out by the CAG. Several questions have been raised. For instance, did the government fabricate speculative assets by showing that it had spent capital expenditure though it was never incurred, according to CAG observations? CAG has pointed out that the government is inflating capital expenditure by showing the revenue expenditure as capital expenditure. This has resulted in the actual revenue deficit being reduced to the extent of inter-transfer from revenue expenditure to capital expenditure, thus artificially raising capital expenditure without creation of any asset and simultaneously scaling down the revenue deficit too. The fact is that the state government had projected a budgeted capital expenditure of Rs 32,293 crore in 2019–20, which was actually incurred for Rs 12,244 crore only. However, if the capital expenditure in 2019–20 was miscalculated to the tune of Rs 4,779 crore, as per the CAG, the actual capital expenditure could be around less than Rs 7,500 crore only. According to state government figures, the revenue deficit was Rs 26,440 crore in 2019–20, but if the revenue expenditure figures are revised as per the CAG observations, the revenue deficit would be Rs. 31,219 crore.
As far as the CAG report for the financial year 2020–21 is concerned, Andhra’s finances have reached an alarming situation as per the following observations: Rs. 1,10,509.12 crore expenditure incurred directly from the consolidated fund without prior approval from the legislature, and utilization of funds from the consolidate fund without the approval of the legislature is unconstitutional as per Articles 204 and 205 of the Constitution. It is noteworthy that payments of Rs 48,281.31 crore were made through CFMS by adjusting the consolidated fund and public accounts with special bills without following the Treasury Code and Treasury procedures. The 15th Finance Commission had recommended that a provision should be made to include corporation loans of Rs 38,312.70 crore and non-budgetary loans of Rs 88,250.82 crore in the budget note. But the state government failed to do so.
Payments made trough AP Centre for Financial Systems and Services, a public sector company, are against the code and making such payments other than though treasury can lead to frauds. The state credit rating was badly hit in 2020–21 as the government maintained 103 days on overdraft, 184 days on ways and means (short-term adjustments), 44 days on special facilities and cash balance on hand is only for 34 days. The situation continues to prevail as of now.
Apart from this, the state government has practiced what is called “single source of income used to raise double debt” in violation of the provisions as stipulated in Article 293(3). This revenue, which was supposed to be credited in the Consolidated Fund, was diverted. Whether the fiscal deficit is under control or not is a big question, as the government has projected it to be at Rs.48,724 crore, 3.64% of GSDP, for the year 2022–23. When the FRBM limits have been violated consistently and it has been agreed to waive nearly Rs. 6000 crore per annum for the next three years from the eligible borrowing limits of the state for the financial year 2020–21, then what about the borrowings to be raised above the limit pertaining to the financial year 2021–22?
While the Union Finance Ministry has raised queries on the various issues pertaining to the state finances, the state government sends inconsistent answers on loans raised by it, which may not be considered by the Centre. The central government seeks information from all the states in the Indian Union on debts and other financial management tools used, the policies of states have bearing on overall economic performance of the country. But the Central government agencies follow strict accounting practices with regard to financial management though there is a risk of deteriorating state finances due to faulty financial management by the state government. As far as Andhra Pradesh is concerned, the debt-to-GDP ratio, which currently stands at over 35 per cent, is set to rise to 70 per cent after the following adjustments are made:
(1) ADJUSTMENT OF BORROWINGS LIMITS FOR FUTURE :
Loans already raised in excess of FRBM limits for the financial years 2020–21 and 2021–22 have to be adjusted against the future borrowing limits, while now the budget for the current financial year 2021–22 is 37,030 crore as per FRBM limits. According to the monthly actual accounts on the CAG website, by February 2022, the state debts had reached Rs. 51,112 crore, which means that at least another Rs 17,000 crore of additional debt had to be adjusted in the future borrowing limits. However, according to the revised estimates for the current financial year, the state government has shown Rs. 38,224 crore as debts. This means that loans made in the last two financial years exceeding the total limit of nearly Rs 35,000 crore may have to be adjusted in the future limits as per a advised by the Central Government.
(2) ADDITIONAL CREDIT LIMIT FOR POWER REFORMS:
The state budget shows that the implementation of reforms in this category will only add up to another 0.5% of the GSDP and make up to 3.64% of the 2022–23 fiscal year, which is likely to result in 4% debt. But is 0.36% for adjustment of excess debt made in previous years?
(3) ASSESSMENT OF NET LOANS:
Based on the statistics of the state Government, the open market debt, loans from the Central government, loans from foreign institutions, the amount deposited by the public in the form of small savings, PF, reserve funds and deposits are all calculated and net debt is assessed. Although this is a simple process of calculating debts, such comments can be made only when the juggling of accounts with internal adjustment is over.
(4) CALCULATION OF PENSIONS AND FUTURE PAYMENTS:
These factors are not properly reflected in the fiscal deficit, meaning that pensions and future state government burdens are crucial at the time of employee retirement. It is said that a credit limit has been set after taking into account the fact that these are not properly accounted for.
(5) CONSIDERATION OF CORPORATIONS AND SPV LOANS:
The fact is that the debts of corporations have already been diverted to state government schemes. Also, corporations and SPVs in the state do not have special income to pay their debts and interest. Budget revenues are clearly being used to reverse these, so future reversals should not be mistaken for taking these companies’ debts under FRBM.
(6) CONSIDERATION OF LOANS MADE THROUGH TAX AND CESS REVENUE:
It is a fact that in the years 2020–21 and 2021–22, the proceeds from the budget would be transferred to AP SPDCL through specialized GEOs and Rs. 25,000 crore will be covered by the FRBM as per the accounting procedures. Also, there is a situation where all such loans are evaluated to settle the loans made beyond the limit.
(7) ELECTRICITY ARREARS:
With power arrears also being brought under the debt limit in the state budget FRBM, the state government is likely to have an impact of the existing Rs. 25,000 crore discom arrears on future credit limits.
Meanwhile, many experts have suggested to impose a financial emergency on Andhra Pradesh as per Article 360 due to irregular practices to raise loan for unproductive uses, but the Central government intends to allow the state government to set right the things on its own with a responsibility. As economists suggests, welfare schemes are required to be implemented with the spirit of Antyodaya keeping in view the financial sustainability of the state. But, there are no checks and balances in place in the governance. Everything is done keeping an eye on electoral dividends. The need of the hour is that the state government should come out with a “White Paper on Andhra Pradesh Finance” to spell out a roadmap for rectification of irregularities and steering the state out the present mess.
The author is a BJP leader.
Though the growth of the state has been registered constantly above national average in many parameters, it has failed to attract major new domestic and foreign investments for the past three years, lagging behind in EODB rankings. With an increase in suicides of farmers, a huge debt without productive asset creation, diversion of funds and a huge debt-to-GSDP ratio at 38%, the state is deep in financial crisis so much so that even it has paled a state like Bihar.
Snehalata Memorial Foundation brings Sambhav on Stage at Triveni Kala Sangam
During the last two years, a lot of shows were organized online due to the raging pandemic. Now, most of the organizers have decided to conduct their events offline. Snehalata Memorial Foundation established in the year 1992, is a social organization that aims to spread awareness about classical music throughout the world. Snehalata Memorial Foundation is set to organise Sambhav on Stage with the tagline ‘Gayan Vadan Nritya’. The program is being organized at Triveni Kala Sangam, 205, Tansen Marg, Mandi House, Delhi, 110001 on the 19th of May 2022 from 6 PM onwards.
The program will start with a vocal, followed by a Tabla duet, and end with a Kathak trio recital. The performers have already performed online, this time they would be performing offline. During covid, the upcoming performers have suffered the most and Snehalata has planned to encourage young artists and present their art in front of the audience.
In a candid conversation tabla artist, Saptak Sharma who will be performing in the event said, “It’s completely an honor for me to be performing for Snehalata Memorial Foundation. Especially getting an opportunity after a long gap of 2 years is a whole another experience. I’ve been attached to this organisation and did some online concerts during the lockdown as well. A big thanks to Binay ji and the whole team for making this possible and getting the artists back on stage. It’s a whole different thing to live with the audience in a face-to-face way as compared to the online sessions. The essence of classical music lies in the baithak systems in which the artist is being praised by the audience and the music flowing out of that is completely felt differently. It’s always said music can only be felt and not seen. And that’s the best part about being on stage when you realise your audience feeling your music and reacting to it.”
The event features
Classical Vocal Recital by Abhijeet Mishra
Sarangi – Ejaz Hussain
Tabla – Kamil Khan
Duet Tabla Recital by Saptak Sharma and Ashutosh Verma
Sarangi – Mudassir Khan
Kathak Recital by Harshita Vaish, Disha Gupta, and Sagar Vishwakarma
Sarangi- Ejaz Hussain
Vocal- Zaki Ahmed
Tabla- Shubhan Khan
Padhanti- Aishwarya Rawat
Venue-Triveni Kala Sangam, Delhi
‘WE AT ICCS ARE OFFERING CUSTOMIZED OUTSOURCING SOLUTIONS WITH BEST TECHNOLOGY & INFRASTRUCTURE’
In response to The Daily Guardian, Divij Singhal, Founder & CEO, ICCS, said ICCS’s mission is to outperform the industry by fostering innovation and forming collaborations with the world’s largest brands, as well as enthusiastic leaders and employees. The company envisions being one of the worlds’s most recognized and trusted BPM service provider, offering exceptional value to customers across all industries through cutting-edge technology and world-class service.
Q: What made you launch this business?
A: We looked at the domestic service industry and it was growing in the country and skilled people for voice and non-voice would be needed. We evaluated that there is a niche that can be created in this industry by the amalgamation of people and technology. That motivated us to be a part of this BPO industry.
Q: Goals and objectives when it is founded.
A: The goal was to be a leading player in this space of domestic BPO with the right quality and consistency being delivered to our customers at the right price.
Q: Business success so far
A: Our growth is consistent with the growth of 25% YoY, and something which we really can cherish is all our customers who started with us continued together, and we both grew over time. We believe in high quality and besides, we also give them the technology to improve their customer experience turning into retention.
Q: What will be the industry trends in 2023.
A: New-age technologies are emerging and making their mark in businesses across sectors. We feel that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in particular will be buzzwords and their impact will be such that the BPO sector will witness growth concerning the people in the coming year. The yield per employee will increase and this trend will render a positive impact on the valuation of the BPO industry
Q: What are your future plans?
A: We are indeed joyous that we have had a successful run so far. Indeed, we had our fair share of ups and downs. But we take pride in the fact that we have surpassed them all and are bracing for exponential growth in the future. As far as our growth plans are concerned, we at ICCS are looking forward to expanding our footprints in tier 2 regions as well as in the metro cities. We are also planning to hire 1000+ employees by the end of this year. From the business perspective, our focus is to increase our presence in the healthcare and retail distribution verticals. On the whole, we are striving to bring about innovation as well as foster associations with reputed brands at the global level.
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