IN DEEP FINANCIAL MESS, ANDHRA NEEDS TO PUT ITS ACT TOGETHER BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE - The Daily Guardian
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IN DEEP FINANCIAL MESS, ANDHRA NEEDS TO PUT ITS ACT TOGETHER BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE

Dinakar Lanka

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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:

(In Crores)

(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.

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An elite force can do well without criminal elements

Shweta Shalini

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Ever since the government announced the Agnipath scheme, a lot of undisciplined protestors have taken to the streets. In a democratic country, anyone is well within their rights to protest against any action of the government. However, the outright hooliganism, destruction of public property and rioting by protestors are not just condemnable but also prove a serious lack of discipline in pressing for their cause. Potential candidates for recruitment into the elite defence service are expected to protest in a civilized manner. By burning down trains and resorting to violence, these protestors are making a case against themselves on how they are unfit to don the elite uniform. The hooliganism and anarchy on display in the streets are enough to debar these protestors from the candidature. An elite force ready to make the supreme sacrifice for the sake of the nation can do well without these criminal elements destroying public property.

The Agnipath scheme is an effective initiative by the government aimed at structural reforms in the armed forces. The defence budget of India has been increased by the Modi government from 2.53 lakh crores in 2014 to 5.25 lakh crores in 2022. Unlike the earlier wars that the Indian army fought and won, the warfare of the future will be primarily a contest of technological prowess. The Modi government has displayed proactiveness in procuring the best available technology to arm the country with an effective deterrent. In a security apparatus dominated by technology, youthful dynamic foot-soldiers well-versed with the latest technology and sheer muscle power are a requisite. A proper meritocratic system where the best talents are retained for a longer-term would ensure that the army gets the best of the best foot on the ground to protect our borders. The Agnipath scheme backed by the three service chiefs would ensure an enhanced youthful profile of the force and result in the reduction of average age from 32 to 26 years over a period of time. A youthful profile for the defence forces will lead to increased dynamism, competitiveness to be retained for the long haul and optimal utilization of the defence budget. The tech-heavy jawan of the future will require multiple skillsets to guard our borders and Agniveers would be ideal for this technological revolution. The world is moving into an era where drones and robotic technology will slowly replace manual interventions. The soldiers of the future need to be dynamic and adaptable to the changes in technology. Cyber warfare is emerging as a huge threat and India has been ramping up its cyber assets toward this end. While the earlier reforms in defence were necessitated by adverse situations or wars, the Modi government has proactively optimized defence without the need for external circumstances. It is notable that the past 75 years have seen 2 reorganisation exercises apart from a few administrative revamps in the wake of Kargil and Op Parakram. The two reorganisations were around the 1960s after the debacle of the 1962 war and following the KV Krishna Rao committee of 1975. The current average age of uniformed officers can be attributed to the recruiting spree following 1962 and the increase in retirement ages. The manpower-heavy recruitment of prior decades was justifiable.

With the Agnipath initiative, the Modi Government in a single stroke recruits dynamism and youthfulness into our armed forces while also calibrating the defence structure in line with new theatres of war. The misinformation regarding this move has fuelled a spate of protests across the country as if Agnipath isn’t in the interest of the country. Whether the vandalism on the streets is by candidates or are the vested interests trying to take advantage by creating a crisis situation, needs to be investigated. The Modi government with the Agnipath scheme has continued to live up to its reputation of biting the bullet on vital reforms. Whether it’s section 370 of J&K or GST or Defence reforms, the Modi government is making good use of its majority, which the Indian citizens handed to the BJP. India always needed a strong decision-maker and reformer and India has got one.

The author is BJP spokesperson, advisor to former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and executive director of Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation, a Section 8 Company of the Maharashtra government.

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THE TRAGEDY OF SANJAY GANDHI

On the occasion of his 42nd death anniversary, we peep into the life of one of the most controversial political characters of our time.

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Sanjay Gandhi was the second son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was widely believed to be the next heir to her mother’s chair, just like his mother had occupied her father Jawahar Lal Nehru’s chair after his death. There were unconfirmed stories floating around that Mrs Gandhi was grooming her younger son, Sanjay, who was keen to join politics, for the PM’s chair after her. Rajiv, the elder brother and a pilot with Indian Airlines, preferred to lead a quiet domestic life away from the limelight.

Sanjay started his career as Managing Director of Maruti Motors.

Sanjay started his career as Managing Director of a company called Maruti Motors Limited, founded by the Government of India to produce a people’s car in 1971. The 25-year-old Sanjay becoming the Managing Director of a newly formed motor company, having no prior experience to his credit, attracted several accusations of nepotism and corruption from the political class as well the general public. The 1971 victory of Bangladesh liberation that year silenced all the noise against corruption. Significantly, the company under Sanjay Gandhi produced no vehicle till 1975.

After the imposition of the emergency in the country on 26 June 1975, without having any elected official position, Sanjay Gandhi had become the de-facto power centre in the Prime Minister’s office as his mother Indira Gandhi’s adviser, usurping all the draconian powers of the Emergency, as basic fundamental rights of the citizens were suspended. It was rumoured that the government was run by Sanjay and his friends, called the ‘coterie’, who ran the PMO, from the PM’s house, instead of from the PMO authorized officials of bureaucracy. Sanjay declared a five-point programme, which included the abolition of dowry and family planning. Sanjay and his cronies were dreaded names who had terrorized the whole country.

Sanjay was sent to the best schools in India and abroad, but he didn’t enter a university. Instead, he decided to learn automotive engineering, spending three years at the Rolls-Royce automaker in England, as he was very much interested in sports cars. His other interest was in aircraft acrobatics, for which he had obtained his pilot’s license in 1976. He often used to take off from the Safdarjung flying club for his acrobatics practices. On the morning of 23 June 1980, Sanjay Gandhi took off for his acrobatic practice in a new Pitts S-2A aircraft from the Safdarjung airports’ flying club, accompanied by his instructor, Subhash Saxena.

Minutes later his plane crashed over Chanakyapuri while attempting a dangerous acrobatic maneuver, killing Sanjay and his instructor instantly. Their mutilated bodies were taken to RML Hospital for stitching before handing over to their respective families.

Sanjay was the first one of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s family to meet a violent death. Four years later, Sanjay’s mother was next to meet a violent death, on 31 October 1984, when she was killed by the bullets of her security guards after Operation Blue Star in June of the same year. About seven years later, Rajiv Gandhi, the last surviving member of Indira’s family and himself a former Prime Minister, was the last one to die a violent death, in a bomb attack by an LTTE woman while campaigning for elections for a Lok Sabha seat near Chennai on the night of 21 May 1991. Within a span of 11 years, all members of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s family were wiped out in violent deaths. Mrs Gandhi used to get advised by tantrics, astrologers and swamis, but no one had ever predicted that her whole family would be wiped out in such violent deaths in such a short period.

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THE SECOND DECADE: THE ‘IFS’ AND ‘BUTS’ OF NUTRITION

One of the systematic reviews, which looks at 25 different research studies from different countries in the world, found that most adolescents have inadequate fruit and vegetable intake.

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An ironical co-occurrence continues to persist in India, of under and over-nutrition. Globally, this is referred to as a double burden of malnutrition—the coexistence of under-nutrition along with obesity or the nutrition-related non-communicable disease. Few of the recent studies conducted among school-going adolescents from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh talk about the coexistence of the two, indicating poor eating habits and nutritional inadequacies that lead to obesity and diet-related diseases in later years. 

The second decade of life is a period of rapid growth and development for adolescents’ bodies, minds and social relationships. This is also the life period during which the vast majority of boys and girls end their formal schooling, try to make a permanent or semi-permanent vocational selection and adjustment, and attempt to establish themselves as independent and self-reliant units in society, politically and socially as well as economically. Nurturing the second decade has been a longstanding appeal from the World Health Organization. But nothing comes without ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ when one talks about the adolescents of today. They are more independent and have their food choices as per their understanding and convenience. They tend to eat more meals away from home than the younger children. And last but not the least, they are heavily influenced by their peers. While there is little information about dietary patterns and current time trends in adolescents; the available data seem to show that the tendency in the adolescent population worldwide is to increase those dietary factors that are linked with obesity development. One of the systematic reviews, which looks at 25 different research studies from different countries in the world found that most adolescents have inadequate fruit and vegetable intake. One study from India estimated that 97% of girls had inadequate fruit intake and one out of 5 adolescent girls reported eating fast and convenience foods. 

Lifestyle plays an important role in the overall development of adolescents. Triggered by a complex mix of marketing, social, and economic policies, nutrition transition in India is associated with a significant change in the lifestyle and dietary habits in urban India. The transition in dietary patterns among children is driven partly by demand (increased income and reduced time to prepare food) and partly by supply-side factors (increased production, promotion and marketing of processed foods and foods high in fat, salt and sugar). Proliferating multinational fast food companies have influenced both the rural and urban areas wherein traditional home-cooked meals are being replaced with easy-to-cook, ready-to-eat, and processed foods. 

Nutrient requirements – including those for energy, protein, iron, calcium, and others – increase in adolescence to support adequate growth and development. Sound nutrition can play a role in the prevention of several chronic diseases, including obesity, coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The low intake of a healthy diet, particularly iron and calcium-rich foods among adolescent girls is a matter of huge concern. Iron deficiency can impair cognitive function and physical performance, and inadequate calcium intake may increase fracture risk during adolescence and the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life. The impact of nutritional status on the occurrence, morbidity and mortality patterns in infectious diseases like diarrhoea, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV has been well documented but not given enough recognition. Tuberculosis and undernutrition are both problems of considerable magnitude and importance worldwide. 

One of the recent reports of UNICEF in association with NITI Aayog revealed that over 50% of Indian adolescents (about 63 million girls and 81 million boys) in the age group of 10 to 19 years are either short, thin, overweight or obese. Another shocking statement was that over 80% of adolescents suffer from ‘hidden hunger’, i.e. the deficiency of one or more micronutrients such as iron, folate, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Few of the most alarming findings are: Only 2 out of 5 adolescents take milk in their daily diet and 1 out of 5 adolescents take pulses and green leafy vegetables. Information on the economic returns of various types of investment in adolescent development is scarce. However, few countries have done a cost-benefit analysis for various interventions. For example, in the USA, it is estimated that for every kilogram less of weight at birth, an American child will achieve 15 per cent less in adult earnings over her/his lifetime. In settings with a high incidence of goitre, it is estimated that iodine deficiency disorders depress average intelligence by 13 IQ points. 

It is important to understand and acknowledge that adolescence provides an opportunity to correct nutritional deficiencies that may have occurred in early life and enables catching up on the missed growth. Adoption of good dietary behaviours in adolescence goes a long way in building physiological resilience. Adolescent boys and girls can be motivated to adopt nutrition behaviours that improve their looks, school achievement and athletic performance. One of the unanswered research question is the extent to which the inclusion of adolescent boys in nutrition and healthy lifestyle programs will contribute to the improved nutrition and health of women during childbearing and for infants and young children in the critical early years of life. Addressing the double burden of malnutrition should also be seen as a stimulus for enabling policies and programs beyond health, especially regarding poverty and gender inequity.

The author has attained her PhD in Public Health Policy with a specific reference to policies of government of India vis-a-vis the popular, reproductive health and family welfare aspects.

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India’s drone power on display at Paris event

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Displaying India’s drone power, Made-in-India drones flew high at the four-day Vivatech 2022 conference, which was recently held in Paris, France. Among the 65 Indian startups that were selected to display their drones, BON V Aero and Against Gravity Solution drew maximum eyeballs at the recently-concluded conference.

Satyabrat Satyapathy, CEO, Bon V Aero said, “our entire approach is on building a mobility platform that can carry a higher payload. We had innovated a drone which can carry 200 kg of payload to 40 kilometres distance.”

“We had shown a live demonstration in Vivatech 2022, carrying 50 kg to 20 kilometres. We are building this platform to use in hilly areas. During any disaster, we are the ones who can reach in minutes in difficult terrain where replenishment is not happening because of no road connectivity or where replenishment takes one or two months. By this innovation we can conserve the time to you know a couple of days and two minutes even,” added Satyapathy.

He further added, “We are an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi, backed venture building state of art intelligent electric aircraft which can operate in Hilly Terrains as well as in urban/rural areas for carbon-free, speedy and economic cargo transportation.” Bon V Aero has developed a drone solution for Smart Aerial Cargo Transportation.

Gavakshit Verma, Promoter, Against Gravity Solution, said, “our company has developed two drones which can work in tunnels or mines where is no GPS connectivity. Our First Person View (FPV) drone can fly at the speed of 120 KM/Hour. This has two cameras and with the Virtually Reality (VR) headset you can view feel like a fighter pilot.”

“Second drone solution can be used in tunnels or mines without GPS. This drone is very successful in monitoring mines or tunnels. This can go to inside the tunnel or mines to one Kilometre and is very useful for mines, oil companies,” Verma further said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had kicked off India’s biggest Drone festival- Bharat Drone Mahotsav earlier this year, wherein he witnessed open-air drone demonstrations and interacted with startups in the drone sector. Talking about the potential of India to emerge as a hub of drones, PM Modi said, “At a time when we are celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mohatsav, it is my dream that everyone in India should have a smartphone in his or her hand, every farm should have a drone and every house should have prosperity.”

PM Modi further expressed, “The enthusiasm that is being seen in India regarding drone technology is amazing. This energy is visible and is a reflection of the quantum jump in the drone service and drone-based industry in India. It shows the potential of an emerging large sector of employment generation in India.”

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CM Baghel trying to transform gauthans into rural industrial parks

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In a bid to transform gauthans into rural industrial parks following Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of Gram Swaraj, Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has started a significant initiative to establish small cottage industries in different parts of the state as part of the ‘Bhent and Mulaqat’ campaign. The initiative aims to provide alternative income-generating opportunities for the villagers.

One such rural industrial park has been set up in Kulgaon of Kanker district, which has been named Gandhi Gram. The transformation of Gauthan into a rural industrial park has been done by the district administration of Kanker along with women’s self-help groups. The infrastructure for establishing small cottage industries has been developed and the production work has started by connecting the villagers. More than 13 livelihood-related activities are being conducted in this Industrial park.

Along with this, the forest department has also started a residential training center for villagers based on the value addition process of minor forest produce.

The Forest Department had also given a loan of Rs 50 lakh to Indira Van Mitan group, Kulgaon for the establishment of Gandhi Gram, Rural Industrial Park. On the occasion of its launch, the Chief Minister further announced to waive off the loan of the group in view of the concept and nature of this rural industrial park.

CM Baghel expressed that the state can progress economically by strengthening the economy of the villages.

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‘Pride Month’ is more than the marches, brand endorsements and the rainbow

Though the subject of sexuality in India still remains steeped in tradition, it is mired in bias held primarily by the majority.

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Pride Month is more than the marches, brand endorsements and the rainbow. Many of us have our display images this month with the rainbow colour, in support of the LGBTQ+ cause. There is a movement creeping up silently but steadily among people to stand with each other towards humanitarian issues. But, it still remains a slow growth of acceptance among people. 

One has to proudly admit that India has been making strides towards gender equality. This year, we have much to celebrate in the LGBTQ+ inclusivity. In a historic move, transgenders have been given 1% reservation for government services in Karnataka. 

This is a great move in bringing them into the mainstream, where the age-old practice of transpeople blessing binary couples at their weddings, singing in affluent homes at childbirth, becoming bar dancers to titilate the fetish of the customers seeking sexual services and the meagre earnings from this will slowly but steadily reduce. 

Though the subject of sexuality in India still remains steeped in tradition, it is mired in biases held primarily by the majority. Therefore, the minorities face the trauma of the majority and its misunderstanding, reluctance to accept anything outside the limited understanding of non binary individuals. Often the judgement towards them is harsh and sometimes brutal. 

India gained independence 75 years back from the British rule but Britain left back its colonial hangover among the educated and the well-heeled Indians. We forgot the progressive culture we traditionally belonged to. British rule continued to carry forward the criminalisation of the transgenders and most of us unquestionably continued the atrocities passed on by the Brits. 

Indian mythology is richly abundant with stories of transgenders who held senior positions in the Indian courts. This was debunked with the arrival of the missionaries in India who propagated their own faith. The aristocratic society embraced the English way of living. Therefore, with the British rule and its incessant need to colonise our way of thinking, the transgenders or the Hijras were methodically marginalised and became the moral panic of the binary aristocratic people of independent India. 

The British officials had begun considering eunuchs “ungovernable”. Commentators said they evoked images of “filth, disease, contagion and contamination”. They were portrayed as people who were “addicted to sex with men”. Colonial officials said they were not only a danger to “public morals”, but also a “threat to colonial political authority”.

During the British colonial rule in India in 1864 as a legal transplant of the British 1533 Buggery Act, this section criminalised non-procreative sexualities. Historically, it was used to target the weakest of them, which was the transgender community. 

With the reservation in government jobs, we do have much to cheer on towards steps to eradicate the archaic mindset and more progress towards inclusivity as a nation. 

But, this battle is more long drawn and deeper than what meets the eye. Over the years, trans people are used to being treated inhumanly by the binary people who have conveniently forgotten our rich culture of acceptance and all the mythological figures. 

The majority of the population find it difficult in accepting and understanding the non-binary issues of health, sexual drive, need for acceptance or their emotional well being. This trauma of unacceptability is deeply entrenched in their heart of the transgenders due to lack of opportunities, resort to sex work, alcohol and violence. Societal induced seclusion on them turns makes them suspicious and aggressive towards society at large. 

Change is steadily but surely happening. We are slowly beginning to understand that gender fluidity is a reality. 

However, the challenge lies at the grassroot levels where a trans person is denied medical checks up even today. In a conversation with Aryan Pasha, India’s first trans man body builder, he narrated the trauma he faced while growing up of not being able to confide in anyone about his menstrual cycles. Yes! trans men do menstruate and they live in constant panic to not be bullied or beaten up when they need to change their sanitary napkin in a male toilet that doesn’t have privacy and it’s an open space in all public urinals. 

As we progress, education of inclusivity must be incorporated at a basic level. 

With the job reservation for transgenders, the rest of the employees in the government offices must be also be sensitised towards the third gender. Transgenders inclusivity must begin very early on. It must begin in schools with transgender teachers for young impressionable children. This is where the foundation of non-stereotyping of gender will begin its genesis. 

There is also worry about the trauma the transgender might face if they are treated with inequality by the other employees. 

Will there be a law enforced on any transgression or anyone who might show resistance and hostility towards them? 

Joining the mainstream life must be for a secure life for transgenders. It must be economically, emotionally and substantially different for them. There must be an environment of security as opposed to the brutality of begging at traffic signals. 

It must begin with our attitude towards them. To ensure that they do not return to the life of indignity, the working environment must be kind with empathy. The government must put aside a budget for toilets where they do not feel violated or threatened by others. Many transgenders and activists are still emotionally denied love by their parents and very few have healed from their past. 

Sadly, a young 17-year-old transgender committed suicide last month unable to handle the brutality she faced on traffic signals as a sex worker. If only someone could tell her to ‘hold on!’.  

We are at the tip of the iceberg, that is surely and slowly shifting. All non-binary people must embrace and acknowledge that change is the only constant.  

Mohua Chinappa hosts a popular podcast on gender and social issues called The Mohua Show and is the author of Nautanki Saala and Other Stories.

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